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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

ENTREPRENEURSHIP: CHAIR CENTRE GROUP START-UP & SUCCESS STORY BY MRS IBIKUN AWOSIKA, CEO & FOUNDER - PART 2

Continued from part 1

Growing the Business
We celebrated our 25th anniversary in business in 2014, and now have well over 300 staff, having also established Furniture Manufacturers Mart Ltd and TCC Systems and Services Ltd. The former is an arm of the business responsible for the production of wooden and laminate processing for our retail business and for other furniture manufacturers.

The latter is involved in installation of bank-way anti-robbery security doors. There’s also The Chair Centre Ghana Limited (TCCGL) based in Accra, Ghana, to cater for furniture needs in the local market and other West African sub-regional markets.
 
Through it all, we have faced challenges but a business has to run despite those challenges. Some of these include uncertainty of government policies and regulations, problem of bribery and corruption in the business environment and the issue of trust in business dealings.

The fact that there is a large unemployable and low skilled labour force in Nigeria is another major obstacle. Also, Nigeria has a market flooded with substandard products due to the distorted psyche of consumers and producers. 
 
At this point of the business, with our industry being one that changes quickly with technology, fashion, and the tastes of consumers, my typical work activities revolve around keeping abreast with developments in the industry and ensuring we make every effort to meet international standards. With the sophistication of the upwardly mobile customers in emerging economies like Nigeria, our competition has stretched beyond the local market.

My present obligation is to build each of the companies that God has used me to set up to a place of no return. My vision is to make them globally competitive, structurally sound, and productively efficient and profitable, such that they can enter the stock market with celebrated prices and an agenda to outlive me.

Contributing to Economic and Social Development
I serve on a number of corporate and not-for-profit boards amongst which are First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Cadbury Nigeria Plc, Convention on Business Integrity (CBI) and the International Advisory Board of IESE Business School, Barcelona-Spain. I also chair the board of FBN Capital Limited and I am a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the Society of Corporate Governance.
 
I aspire to use my opportunities in life to further the greatness of my country which I love dearly.  I am passionate about raising entrepreneurs to create jobs for the large youthful unemployed population and pursue this through various platforms I have participated in or belong to.

These include the African Leadership Initiative, Aspen Global Leadership Network, National Job Creation Committee (NCJC) and Afterschool Graduate Development Centre (AGDC) - a facility which I promoted to help address youth employability and enterprise issues in Nigeria.
 
My interest in social issues also covers women. I am a co-founder and past Chairperson of Women in Business and Management and Public Service (WIMBIZ). I am an ordained Pastor and founder of the Christian Missionary Fund. Through this faith based organization, I work with hundreds of missionaries spread across Nigeria to change lives through provision of medical, educational, and other supplies.
 
The Preparation and Inspiration
Through Jaycees, I had attended conferences around the world visiting countries like Korea, Taiwan, Columbia, and Canada before I left the university. At those conferences I had seen many outstanding young people from all over the world receive awards for the most extra-ordinary achievements through the Outstanding Young Person’s Award programme of Jaycees.

 I had sat under the inspiring talk of men like Edward Heath amongst many others. All of which helped to inspire me to excellence and a desire to be outstanding in whatever I choose to do.
 
At the age of twenty, I was the president of the University of Ife chapter managing over one hundred members, both the ones younger and older than I was. I believe this greatly prepared me for the management of my staff all of whom were men, who were much older than I was in the early years of my business, and to interact confidently with different cadre of people as the business grew.
 
Important Lessons
  If I had been exposed to some counseling and career advice, perhaps I would have really enjoyed my university days. Even though I was in the sciences and passed all my science subjects very well, yet my personality does not match the sciences. And this is what often happens to brilliant students who usually get boxed into the science class.
 
I know people don’t think much about the NYSC scheme; I agree that the scheme needs a lot of restructuring, but it is a laudable initiative. I really believe that it adds significant value.


There are people from different parts of the country I wouldn’t have met or have as friends today if not for the NYSC. Moreover, the preliminary exercises, such as the morning jogging, endurance trek and others have their own value too. Besides, it offers majority of our graduates their first job experience.
 
 Integrity is important; it was a major factor in our favour in getting the partnership deal with Sokoa SA. Guaranty Trust Bank on the other hand had been my banker for a long time and that helped to justify their investment in us. So, I advise all aspiring entrepreneurs to build their financial record and maintain a good track record, you never know when you will need it.
 
And finally, follow your heart, give your all, build on the right value system, build for the long term, and treat all your stakeholders with the fear of God.   
                                                                                                     first published by cdnetng.org

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