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Published On: Mon, Nov 13th, 2017

BOFE to celebrate unsung heroes in local communities

OluwasolaJesuseitan, a brand and advertising expert, is an advocate of sustainable brand communications. He is also the founder, Business Owners Forum Enterprise (BOFE), a non-profit making organization, which seeks to build the capacity of business owners in and around Akute, Ogun State. He tells FELIX OLOYEDE in this interview of his organization is promoting business networking in a Lagos suburb. Excerpt: 

How did all start?

My mother was a trader. Those years, you have to assist your mother in whatever she was doing. This was opened my opens to business. Though I studied History in the University, but business is in my blood than History. I worked at an investment company, CityTrust Investment Company. During my working years, I discovered that I could sell, because in one of the companies where I worked, I made over a billion turnovers in my seven years there. At a particular period, I sensed God was telling me to leave. So I bit the bullet and in 2012 I resigned and started my business. I have been running my business for five years now. It has been up, middle and down, but I have never regretted it.

What brought about Business Owners Forum Enterprise (BOFE)?

My whole business value proposition is sustainability. The resources are decreasing, yet population is increasing. And one of the values sustainability teaches is that when you are starting don’t out carry many people along with you. It is not until you are wealthy that you can help somebody, you can help somebody without money. By default, as I was starting business, Business Owners Forum Enterprise (BOFE) started. It started as a fellowship in church. I am a leader in my church. I felt why I don’t gather business owners so that we can pray together.

God has just helped me leave 9am to 5pm job, let me also encourage other business owners and pray with them. That was how Business Owners Forum started. It started as Business Owners Fellowship. From there it moved to business clinic, where we counselled that on taxation, business registration, branding and advertisement, because the best branding you can do is to offer quality products and excellent customer services. So, a nucleus of the members of my church is the executives of BOFE. Five years ago, we had the inaugural meeting in November. That was how we started.

In the five years, what have you been able to achieve?

After the inaugural meeting, we felt the need to expand the scope of the programme. So, we invited a senior marketing person who was working with Coca-Cola and a Christian to speak to us. He used Jesus’ ministry to illustrate to us that quality is what will make you outstanding. He stressed that branding is beyond the colours and logos. He reiterated that the people in a community like Akute should network more. That formed the nucleus of what became our value proposition over time. You may not see us taking our seminars to town, because the idea is for the world to come to Akute.  That has its draw back, because that means we won’t be able to attract big sources. But we are resolute, because we know where we are going.

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What do you want to achieve with RISE Akute that is forthcoming?

We decided to take our programme to the next level after the success of our first outing. So, we changed the name from Business Owners Fellowship to Business Owners Forum Enterprise, because we still wanted to retain the acronym BOFE. The next event, we had it out the Church, which have always been our venue. Many people attended and it was a really big event in this community. A man said he never thought that kind of programme could hold in Akute. That was how we started having a seminar series that we tagged: RISE AKute, which means Rediscovering Invaluable Successes Extravagance    in Akute, but shortened to RISE Akute.

The forthcoming event is RISE Akute 3.0, because we could not hold the programme last year due to recession; that is why we are having RISE Akute 3.0 though we have been in operations for 5 years. This event will hold on November 18. During that period in 168 countries, the Kauffman Foundation, which supports entrepreneurship development, they gather entrepreneurs to give them the opportunity to network across the world and there is a business plan competition and they will host businesses in New York this year to come and pitch their ideas so that venture and angel investors can support your ideas. So, we have been having our event to coincide with that event.

Entrepreneurial Development Centre is the signatory for Nigeria for Global Entrepreneurial week. This year we are going to have a panel of discussants, a keynote speaker and different people talking about different things to educate our people. The theme for this year is: Business Sustainability- Understanding the entire value-chain, from ideation to exiting the business. What we are talking about is that every business starts with an idea. You execute it and grow it from selling to friends and family to larger audience. How do you sell to a large scale of people? Face 2 billion people? And at the end, some people abandon the business they do.

Bill Gate left Microsoft, because he has a higher purpose he wants to achieve. So, we will be talking about why should your business outlive you? And this year, we plan to give awards to celebrate the silent heroes in our society. So, we will be giving award to a widow, whose husband had died many years ago, through her small business, she has been able to train all her children up to university level. This is the kind of people we want to celebrate.

How do you fund your programmes?

I run my own business, Patdevella Nigeria Limited. It is from our profit that we have been using to fund BOFE. We have not really had any monetary funding from outside. One year, a company gave us products.

What is Petdavella into?

Petdavella is a company I founded based on sustainability. The resources of the earth are decreasing while population is increasing. The three Rs of sustainability talk about “Reuse- reuse your polythene bags.”  Don’t keep taking your nylon bags all the time. When you reuse them, you are saving your environment from flooding. Nylon bags are the longest to decay. It says “Reduce, think food!.”If you see the amount of food that restaurants waste every day, you will be amazed. There is legislation in France and UK – it is called shelf-buy date. When products have past the shelf-buy date, but they are not expired, you are required to put them out for the less privileged to take them.

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Why can’t we have that kind of legislation in Nigeria? It will take care of poor people. The amount of food Shoprite is wasting every day is mind-boggling. The third “R” talks about “Recycle”. So, I started my business in the energy field. It was called energy efficiency. That is talking about reducing. Reuse is talking about solar. Using the sun that comes out every day, we are reusing the same energy. So, I started with energy efficiency. But the solution we want to get from Germany was an advance solution. When you leave a room, you don’t need to turn off the light yourself. Maybe after 15-20 seconds, the light would trip off. The energy you turn off, you are saving.

The solution is to turn off the energy when you don’t need it. But the Nigerian economy was not ready for it. We don’t even have sufficient energy yet. From there I moved into brand communications. I thought of it, that if I want to do advertising and still be renewable, what can I do? So, we became a proponent of using recycled materials for below the belt advertising. We used recycled material for branded pen, pencils, books etc. We use recycled newspapers and tyres . They even use recycled currents in some advanced countries. But this is not possible in Nigeria for now. We import these products produced with recycled materials for now, because the cost of buying the machines needed to manufacture them is high and we don’t have enough customers yet.

In the last four years that I have been doing this, Sterling Bank has bought the recycled pencils twice, while FirstBank has bought recycled pens and notebooks once. That has taught me that maybe the country is not yet ripe for this or I am not using the right marketing strategy.

Sustainable brand communications is still alien to us in Nigeria, how do you intend to popularize it?

We need people like you in the press to talk about our efforts. And whatever forum I find myself, I try to push it to that more people that this is possible. And we can have this factory in Nigeria. I read a story that a minister said that by 2020 we will be producing pencil in Nigeria. If I have the right funding, I can produce pencil in this country by March next year. And it would be made from recycled newspapers.

My wife is into education and I have also delved into training and consulting. In 2018, that is going to be a strong point of the Petdavella business.

 

 

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