In Nigeria, the educational system is so rigid and the economic system is so rugged that it is very difficult for most students (in post-secondary education) to combine full-time schooling with part-time business. (It’s easier for those schooling part-time.)
Most parents, having seen the education pattern and economic conditions of the country, won’t support or encourage their children to combine full-time schooling with business. And some students, even when presented with good business opportunities during vacation periods, would still hide under the umbrella of “I’m still a student” mentality and avoid doing the business.
In as much as it is very difficult and stressful to combine full-time schooling with doing part-time business in Nigeria, in as much as our society has made us to believe that our parents or guardians should be 100 per cent responsible for our financial and material needs throughout our schooling periods, I overcame the challenge and ignored the beliefs.
Yes, I found a way to combine both and here’s my story:
I finished my secondary school in 2002 and in 2003, I fully joined my dad’s business as one of his Sales and Marketing Representatives. Every morning, I would follow him to Idumota in Lagos Island to learn the business. My dad was an importer and general merchant. He started and registered the business (Ginax International Enterprise – RC-861709) in 1992.
I wasn’t done with my schooling yet but I wasn’t interested in just sitting at home, doing nothing and waiting till I get admission into the university. I wrote the JAMB (now known as UME) exam that year (in 2003) made a good score, tried to gain admission into FUTO (Federal University of Technology Owerri) but failed. I was interested in studying computer science, then. I wrote another JAMB exam the next year (in 2004) tried again to gain admission into FUTO, and failed for the second time.
Anyone who has written the JAMB exam knows how frustrating it is. And what made it more annoying is the fact the exam expires after one year. (Heard it now expires after every 3 years.) So, you would have to re-write the exam again if you fail to use it to gain admission within 1 year. To gain admission into a federal or state university in Nigeria is another frustrating chapter.
In 2005, I wrote the almighty JAMB exam again. This time around it was a different news: I had no result. According to JAMB, my result were seized for reasons I know not. My people were now recommending I go to a private university. I had actually gotten admission into 2 different private universities the previous year but I wasn’t interested in going to any of the private universities in the country. My personal reasons being that they were very much expensive (low quality education with high tuition fees) and their degree certificates were not as strong as that of most federal universities in the labour market. So writing the JAMB exam again was a better option for me.
All the same, while JAMB were busy ‘jambing’ me and FUTO were busy frustrating me, I was very much active in my dad’s business. I had learned the business so well that in 2005, when my dad moved the head office from Idumota to the ADA (Articles Dealers Associations) Shopping Mall at Tradefair Complex, I became in charge of the Idumota branch and hired my own Secretary.
In 2006, I left for FUTO to do the pre-degree but I was still very much involved in the business. Every day, I would communicate with my dad and my secretary for business updates. I still wrote JAMB that year and finally gained admission into FUTO but, I wasn’t done with JAMB yet. So continue reading…
Remember I had been trying to gain admission into FUTO to study computer science but lo and behold, I was offered admission to study a course I did not like. For personal reasons, I won’t mention the name of the course.
However, it was during this period that I go to discover about the project management technology (PMT) course being offered by FUTO through a very good friend of mine. Thank you, Collins Amaraegu. The PMT department was actually one of the oldest in FUTO but I wasn’t aware of the course. It also happens to be that there was someone living in the same compound with me who was then a PMT student in FUTO. So, I met him and he told me more about the course.
In 2008, I re-wrote the JAMB exam, changed my choice of course from computer science to project management technology. After all the whole years of stress and disappointments, I gained admission to study project management technology in FUTO and that was how my project management journey began.
I was now running the business on a part-time basis because of my schooling. I communicated daily with my dad and my secretary and would travel to Lagos whenever my attention is highly needed or whenever a new merchandise arrives. It was fun and very challenging to be schooling in one state and running a business in another state. Whenever I travelled to Lagos, I would miss lectures, attendance and even some impromptu tests. Thanks to my very good friends who would keep me updated or sometimes cover up for me when I’m not in school. What are friends for by the way? *laughs*
In 2010, I stopped asking my parents for money and took charge of my financial needs regarding my academic career. It was another added challenge that I enjoyed doing. They supported me in combining my schooling with business, so I decided to support them by taking care of my financial needs. Besides, I was making some profits from my dad’s merchandise.
In 2013, after much considerations, I decided to end the business in Idumota and focus on pursing my project management career. My dad is still running the business at the Tradefair Complex. And in February 2014, I graduated from FUTO. (If not for the 7 months academic strike that happened then, I could have graduated in 2013.)
How Doing Business for 10 Years Helped My Career
There are a lot of things that I learned or experienced while schooling and doing business that has helped shaped my career and prepared me for the real world. Here are some of them:
1. I discovered that it was actually possible to combine full-time schooling with part-time business in Nigeria if you are very much determined and dedicated to do it.
2. Being actively involved in business at an early age helped shaped my thoughts and experiences on doing business in Nigeria.
3. It helped me develop my sales, marketing, product research and business communication skills.
4. I was involved in thinking out new design patterns for some of our products and that helped develop my creative abilities.
5. I learned the business secrets of some products that were part of our merchandise.
6. I learned the importance of having strong business connections, most especially with some of the companies in the countries where you mostly import from, if you want to grow big as an importer.
7. Being actively involved in business for 10 years has made me not to feel like a recent graduate. (Remember I graduated in 2014.) I feel more like someone who decided to change career – From being involved in trading or general merchandising to being involved in project management, and who only went to the university to acquire the knowledge that would help me in my new career.
8. Irrespective of your parent’s or guardians financial capabilities, you can actually train yourself in school if you know how to make and manage money.
9. The real world experience that I got while doing business helped me kick the ground running after graduating and in starting my new career.
Irrespective of the challenges and difficulties you face in life, keep keeping on. I was determined to advance my academic career irrespective of the lucrative business I was involved in and the challenges I faced in getting an admission. And today, I’m a graduate. So, be focused, be determined and be committed to your goals in life.
See you at the top.
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