I started painting right from my primary school. I couldn’t really do it then but a friend taught me.
However, I soon found out that there were some things I couldn’t paint. I couldn’t paint images. Sculptures were like magic to me. So, I went for training. I was there for four years on apprenticeship between 2008 and 2013. While I was undergoing the training, we didn’t regard house painting as a business. We felt it was something anyone could do. But after I was done with my boss and started getting opportunities to go out and paint, I discovered a lot of more opportunities in the painting industry. I then decided to give it more attention to gain more insights.
Along the line, I also had the opportunity to work in an international paint company on the Lagos Island. I got trained there and I got certified. I equally got some business opportunities from them. They referred me to a gallery to do some painting jobs. But after working there for 3 days, I discovered I’m not the type of person who would want to work under somebody or work for salary. I love innovation. I love creativity. I love to discover new things. I just told them I was no longer interested. They had a good compensation plan for staff which people felt was good. They gave us accommodation and also provided our transport logistics. But to me, I was seeing more than what they were offering me.
When I rejected the opportunity to work for someone, I was initially broke and hungry but an Engineer I had worked with gave me a contract that made me #50,000 same day. So, after then, in less than three months, I was able to get money to get my own office space. In less than six months, I was already talking of millions in the business.
While doing my job, I got to know that Nigeria currently has about 200 million existing structures. There is still a very big gap in the market. Nigeria constructs about 100,000 homes annually. But in order to meet up with the growing middle class, Nigeria needs to construct about 700, 000 homes annually. This is a huge market for the painting industry. When I saw that, I realized I had to do more. And I also met a lawyer and informed him I wanted to turn my idea to a limited liability company. I told him my problem is funding. But the lawyer told me my problem isn’t funding. That I should go back and put down my ideas in writing as a business plan and come back later. I was able to do it after six months. When the lawyer saw it, he said it was not juicy enough for investors, that I should go and work around it again. Meanwhile, as I was doing that, I was looking at ways of scaling up what I was doing. In the process, I got to know about the Tony Elumelu Foundation programme, I applied and I got it. The opportunity from the Tony Elumelu foundation provided not just funding but also clarity on my idea.
In conclusion, young entrepreneurs should be clear about their ideas. Document it. Let it be on paper. You will see the vision clearer. It will energize you. So, in future, when investors come, you will be prepared. But start with something. Open a bank account. Do a business name search. You must also be able to negotiate. Get mentors. There are bad mentors. There are selfish mentors. But get good mentors who will truly support you to succeed.
Phillip Mmaduabuchi, a young Nigerian entrepreneur and MD/CEO of Dignified Brands Colours Ltd