Osasere Diana Ehanah (Mrs) is a seasoned entrepreneur and author of ‘50 Nuggets of Successful Entrepreneur’. Her quest to become a millionaire at 20 made her start a small business as an undergraduate. That goal was achieved when she was 24 and afterwards she has gone ahead to set up G&D Construction Services Ltd and Handy-Gidi International alongside her husband. She spoke about her interesting adventure into the business world.
What spurred you into writing a book on entrepreneurship ‘50 Nuggets of Successful Entrepreneurs’?
I write and I had a dream to be the youngest millionaire at 20, so I started gathering materials to achieve that target. I started business in my 200 level in the university, so I decided to interview key entrepreneurs in the country. I interviewed Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim, Mrs Cecilia Ibru, Chief Kola Aluko, Chief AbdulRasaq Okoya and more.
I asked them some basic questions about their businesses; their troubles, reasons why they still stand. The book was published in 2008 and that inspired me to go into business. My husband would say, but for you, we may not have taken the bold step into the business world.
Earlier, I went to the University of Abuja where I studied Business Administration.
In my second year in university, I started business; that was a telecoms business. Telecommunication came in 2001 and in 2002, I had two telecommunication outlets, one in Kubwa. We had a phone booth where people paid to make phone calls. And we sold recharge cards as well. I had two people on my pay roll. In school as well, I had a business centre were people could come and type their projects, get photocopy done for them and other transactions. I had a sales girl there and I was managing the business as well.
Remember, I had the goal of being a millionaire at 20. I hit the mark and became a millionaire after my youth service, at 24. I published the book in 2005. That was when I launched my first book officially. That was Winners Watch Word. Mrs Daisy Danjuma was the chief launcher and Mr Peter Igho was the DG NTA then, he supported me. My dad too invited his friends who participated at the book launch. Then, when I calculated the money I got, it was N2.5 million. In fact, I went to camp as a big girl.
It’s good to know that you can start a business while in school. Some people struggle and finish school thinking they will just get a job. But, you can do better after school if you started doing small business while in school which you can continue after school. If you are lucky to get a job after graduation fine, if not you continue on your path of entrepreneurship.
What message do you have for graduates looking for white-collar jobs?
If you have a dream, go for it. We should begin to inculcate entrepreneurship in our educational system to prepare people’s minds.
Why did you decide to go into the building and construction and also furniture making?
For nine years I and my husband thought of a business to go into. We established a construction company. I studied Business Administration and I am an Oracle certified professional, and my husband is into construction. We veered into making doors and other furniture so we can use them ourselves and sell to others. We started by importing some of those doors, but government came with a lot of taxes. So, we thought of producing the doors in Nigeria locally.
How is the patronage for the made in Nigeria doors?
I think the market is becoming interesting because some people prefer our locally made doors to the foreign ones. The good foreign doors are expensive, but the cheap ones are not durable. But, locally made doors are durable and the price is competitive with the best of imported ones. Again, our locally produced doors can cover the door frames better. That gives us an edge.
Our basic challenge is access to materials. We import almost all the materials. So, if we can manufacture our bolts, our screws, and other components we need; that will reduce the cost of production.
Then, our power sector is terrible. We use generator in our factory 24 hours. We even have two generators for standby because it’s a factory and that is how we can work.
How many staff do you have on your pay roll?
We have 22 permanent staff and we have a lot of casual staff. We also have apprentices.
Do you think we have enough skilled manpower to produce the best doors and furniture to stop Nigerians from importing?
We do. But you know in business, your manpower should match your production. The manpower we have can produce what we need.
How has technology helped in your industry?
We now have 3-D doors; locking systems have improved and then we have biometrics doors. We have digital doors as well. In that case, you can swipe an identity card and the door opens. You also open door with your thumbprint and so on. But we have not started making such doors in Nigeria because it takes programming.
What is your advice for young entrepreneurs?
Creativity is key. Don’t exert so much strength on social media, if you have a good business, establish it on the ground and people will talk about it on social media. When your product is good, people will find you and promote that business for you on social media.
How is it doing business with government?
In our business, we don’t sell doors with VAT. It’s inbuilt in the cost. But if you are going for luxury doors, you will pay. In the construction business, the 7.5 VAT is going to make the cost of materials to shoot up. It is going up already.
How has it been managing business with your spouse?
It’s the best partnership ever. We complement each other. He will always watch my back. I combine my job as a business owner with managing a family as well. They work with me and then I have a nanny that helps out too.
We see our brand, G&D construction services going international as a major manufacturer of construction products. Presently, we have four branches in the country.