Sani Salisu Zawiya is the President/ C.E.O Abure Worldwide Synergy Limited, he is one of the youngest entrepreneurs around. He tells Youths Digest the secret of his budding business and his relationship with Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote. Excerpts:
Q: At what age did you start your first business and how did you source your capital?
A: I was 13 when I first got into business or at least experienced it. I was in Junior Secondary School JSS 3 and that was when Globacom were about to launch their network in Kano and of course, there were lots of excitement and hype about it. I used the little money I had at the time and also got my darling mother to loan me some money so I could buy sim cards from their distributors to sell to family and friends. Interestingly, I made a profit of N50 on each card and I can still remember the feeling of satisfaction I had, each time I sold a sim card.
Q: As a graduate, one would have expected you to start searching for white-collar jobs, just like your peers. Why did you go into business?
A: I started business at a tender age and I have seen the ups and downs of running a private business but there is nothing else I would rather do. I like being independent, able to explore opportunities and taking risks as they present themselves rather than being locked up in a job that I have to wake up early morning and work from 8am or 9am to 5pm. I want to build something for myself, empower and employ people and make my community better in the little way I can. Also, I will like to give something back to the society, and because we do not for how long we would live, I believe business is the fastest and surest way for me to achieve that dream.
Q: You were once into diesel distribution and transportation. Why did you leave that for contracting, building and consultancy?
A: I left the business because it was not favourable for a small entrepreneur; it is capital intensive and comes with a lot of debts, as most clients do not pay on time. Again, I was still doing my degree at the time and doing that business is something that requires time and attention, especially at the beginning plus the supply chain from the distributors has lots of hiccups as well. The business is more favourable to business people who have a huge capital base to start with.
Q: What propelled you into taking such bold step as to delving in this business?
A: My Dad and Uncle were the reason I got into the business. I followed them to their offices sometimes to learn the art of the business; after observing for a while and understanding the intricacies, I thought I could succeed in it as well, and so I got into it.
Q: Are you likely to diversify into other areas soon?
A: As an entrepreneur, one is always looking for new opportunities, ideas, partnerships etc. I have some ideas that I am working on but at present, I am working on a software application. However, I am always open to new opportunities, or do you have any for me?
Q: Do you find this business of yours tasking and challenging?
A: Every business has its peculiarities and challenges. It is never an easy thing being an entrepreneur because a million things can go wrong at the same time especially in this part of the world, but this is what I love, and this is what I shall continue to do.
Q: What is your driving force?
A: There are various things that drive and motivate me, the first of which is my family. My parents have sacrificed so much for me and my siblings that I want to work very hard to be able to take care of them no matter the odds. Being the eldest of eight children, there is so much I dream of doing for my siblings and parents. I do not wish to see the day any one of them will be in any financial problem, and then I would be unable to help them. That can be very heartbreaking. Secondly, my desire to help the less privileged, and the society at large is also a motivating factor. The little beggars on the streets we see every day are a constant reminder of that dream. They push me to strive to work harder in order to be in a good stead to better my society.
Q: As a young CEO, what is your view about hard work or luck as a determinant of success?
A: One can be lucky, but without hardwork, diligence and or determination, the chances of success are gravely limited. There is no substitute for hardwork. There is a famous saying that success occurs when opportunity meets preparedness. I truly believe in that statement as even if luck comes your way if you are not prepared you wont make the most of it but as long as you are prepared, then you are in.
Q: Some businessmen are known to cut corners and subvert the rules. In all honesty, have you ever attempted to subvert the rules?
A: No, neither do I deal with anyone that cut corners. The people I look up to, got to where they are through hardwork and I intend to follow in their footsteps.
Q: Who is your mentor?
A: Well, this might be a cliché for many, but my mentor is Aliko Dangote, the richest man in Africa. He is someone that inspires me a lot as he got to where he is through hardwork. He is a close friend of my dad, and so, whenever possible, I get a lot of advice from him. He has been of great help.
Q: Do you have interest in joining politics soon?
A: I do not know what the future might hold, but for now, my attention is fully on my business. Ask me the same question a decade from now, and maybe the answer might change.
Q: What’s your perception of Nigerian youth in politics?
A: The youth make up about 70 percent of our country’s population and so we need to be involved. How can decisions be made that impact us and we are not involved. It is a welcome development that the National Assembly is trying to reduce the minimum age to vie for political office. However, we must not come into politics with the same mindset as our parents. There has to be a radical paradigm shift; we have to act differently and work extremely hard so we can enhance the fortunes of our country.
Q: Where do you see your company in the next five years?
A: For now, our goal is to be listed on the Nigeria Stock Exchange NSE; be known nationally and then be in a good position to empower, encourage and help others. I dream of a day that someone would look up to me, and want to have a business like mine.
Q: What’s your advice for young entrepreneurs?
A: Work hard; do not try to do too many things at once. Choose what you are passionate about, pursue it, and make your mark then you can get into other ventures. Take calculated risks; you never know what may come out of it. It’s never easy but I promise you, in the end, it would be worth the sacrifice. And ofcourse, prayer is still the major key.
Q: Statistics from the NDLEA shows that drug abuse among women and youth is highest in Kano. What do you think is the solution?
A: It’s as a result of the decadence and breakdown of values in our society. Some parents no longer take care of their children and there aren’t many economic opportunities for the youth so they resort to taking drugs, mostly as a result of depression or as an escape strategy from the vicissitudes of life which is unfortunate. There has to be a collective effort among relevant stakeholders to come up with a holistic solution so that we can give economic opportunities to our teeming youth and rehabilitate the ones that need it so that they can become useful members of the society.
Q: What is your relationship with women? Are you married or do you nurse such plans?
A: I am not married but I hope to be very soon in’sha Allah.
Q: Looking back, any regrets?
A: Absolutely none. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
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