From 500 Naira To Millions Of Dollars: Here’s The Success Story Of A Nigerian Transport Magnate
Success stories rooted in humble beginnings provide the best inspiration for young entrepreneurs. They show that anything is possible, and that a person with pure resilience, a keen eye for both observing & taking advantage of opportunities, and a disciplined approach to managing their finances can achieve whatever they set out for.
This is the success story is Frank Nneji Uzoawuotu, the founder and CEO of the ABC (Associated Bus Company) Transport Company, one of the largest road transportation companies in West Africa.
Here’s how he started:
The Early Life And Education Of Frank Nneji Uzoawuotu
Frank Nneji Uzoawuotu, a native of Ezuhhu Nguru, in Aboh, Mbaise Local government area of Imo State, was born in Kaduna on the 30th of April, 1960, to a retired Soldier and retired nurse.
After finishing his primary and secondary school education, he proceeded to study Biological sciences at the University of Nsukka, which was a pre-requisite to study Medicine (his mother’s dream for him) at the time, but later switched to Zoology, and eventually graduated in the year 1982.
Upon finishing his university education, Frank, years later, proceeded to the Lagos Business School and subsequently the Wharton Business School in the United States of America.
An Entrepreneur Within The Walls Of The University
While Frank Nneji was still in his early years in the university, he would take past questions of courses being taught from the records office of his university, repackage them, and sell them for a fee to his co-students. Within a year of running his college business, in 1980 which was his second college year, he was able to raise 500 Naira (a substantial sum at the time), which he decided to invest into another venture.
His next trial at entrepreneurship was to purchase a student rebate ticket sold by the Nigerian Airways at the time, took a trip to Italy, and bought fashion items ranging from T-Shirts to belts, jeans, and a lot more, for resale in Nigeria.
He ran is fashion and education business together while still a student, and was able to graduate with a reasonable sum to venture into a larger scaled business.
Upon graduating from the university at age 23, Frank went full-on into the business world, with little to no intentions to follow a career in his course of study.
Using income he had saved up from his time as a student and an additional 750 Naira given as allowance by the NYSC, he founded a company named Rapido, rented an apartment, and started the supplies of educational materials, beginning with white boards, then audiovisuals, and a lot more overtime.
His business eventually broke even when he was awarded a contract to supply a large volume of white boards to the Federal University of Technology (FUTO). This he achieved, by employing his friends to help him execute the contract, in order to keep costs low.
Since funding was low, Frank Nneji would source the cash required to execute his projects from some of his friends, after which they’d share the proceeds from the contract equally.
The Start Of The ABC Transport Company
Frank regulraly experienced discomfort while traveling interstate during his early business trips. He was irked by the fact that most buses always had an overload of passengers, and their staffs, especially the drivers and bus conductors, were utterly rude.
At one point when he was travelling from the Eastern part of Nigeria to Lagos, asides from the fact that he was tightly squeezed in the bus with a woman who carried a baby in pure discomfort, the bus made too many stops to carry passengers. What occupied Frank’s thoughts while in the bus, wasn’t just the fact that they were making too many discomforting stops, but that the mother and especially her baby had to suffer the same fate as everyone else.
This event got him thinking about how the road transportation sector was badly managed and how existing bus companies and business savvy individuals could take advantage of the problems and grow a compelling business out of it.
Trying a figure a way forward, Frank remembered his days in the university as the first campus director of the student union, and how he used to make money by conveying students to various events in his personal car for a fee.
With a glaring opportunity and a strong will, Frank Nneji prepared a comprehensive business plan in 1991 and approached Diamond bank for a loan. The bank cleared with him and provided a credit facility of 1.5 million Naira, which he used to lease five hiace buses to start up is business, which he named The Associated Bus Company (ABC).
At the early stage of his startup, he employed his younger brother Jude, whom was a trained pharmacist, to begin work with his company immediately after his youth service.
His Conglomerate Today
ABC Transport today is a multi-million dollar business holding one of the top spots for road transportation in Nigeria and employing well over 1,200 people. The transport company is the first of its kind to be listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE), and has subsidiaries ranging from ABEX services to City Transit (hospitality for travellers), along with a 50% stake in Transit Support Services, a trading company engaged in the importation, sales of vehicles spares, installation of motor vehicle speed governing devices, and the assembly of heavy duty trucks.
With its exceptional services including air conditioned buses with toilet facilities and their “Coach West Africa”, which takes their business all across West Africa, Frank Nneji has built a conglomerate that has become a defacto thought for a lot of people using the road to commute around Nigeria.
The success of the company also drew the attention of equity investors, with Capital Alliance Private Equity (CAPE) acquiring a 30% stake in it as at 2004.
His Personal Achievements
Frank Nneji’s success couldn’t stay hidden, and eventually got him applaudable awards like the Officer of the Order of The Niger (OON), a 2005 award of excellence in transport management by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), an award as the most outstanding business personality from the Aba Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ACCIMA, 2005), another award as the Auto Personality of the Year by the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT, 2004) in Zaria, a conferment of fellowship award by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, United Kingdom (2004), and also another award from his birth state, Kaduna.
To Sum It All Up
Success only comes to those who are prepared and ready to take on the next big opportunity, people who see solutions where others see problems and disappointments, and people who are always willing to try something new no matter what it holds.
Frank Nneji’s business journey has built up to be a remarkable success story anyone can learn from, and has shown that your background, no matter how poor or rich, does not determine your future. Only your resilience and the will to act can take you from where you currently are to the next destination.
What are your thoughts on this success story of Frank Nneji? Let me know by leaving a comment below.