How This African Entrepreneur Made Millions From Just $35, Before The Age Of 27
Success is one of the most dynamic elements in life. It comes in many forms, at various times, and to different people, who hustled their way to top in their respective different ways.
To succeed is to first have a purpose, followed with a sheer determination, a smart decision-making process, and the right people around you to keep you motivated every step of the way.
With these, whether your startup capital is very little or more than enough, succeeding at what you set out to do will come a whole lot easier.
This is the success story of Orji Uzor Kalu, a Nigerian entrepreneur who made his first million in the 1980s before clocking the age 26, received a national recognition for his achievements at the time, and built a conglomerate spanning through several countries, before venturing into politics almost 20 years later.
Here’s how he did it:
The Early Life And Education Of Orji Uzor Kalu
Orji Uzor Kalu was born on the 21st of April, 1960 to Mrs. Eunice Uzor Kalu, in Abia State, Nigeria. He attended the Christ the King School Aba, and Government College, Umuahia, after which he proceeded to Barewa College, Zaria, before finally enrolling in the University of Maiduguri to obtain a Bsc. in Political Science.
While a student, Orji Uzor Kalu was involved in the school’s political activities and was eventually suspended from the institution when he and a couple of other student activists participated in the “Ali Must Go” riots, against the then Minister of Education.
This devastating blow got several of the students to come together and take the school to court over their suspension, but Orji Uzor Kalu on the other hand looked elsewhere, left school, and proceeded to build a business.
The Start And Growth Of The SLOK Holdings
To achieve this, at the age of 19, Orji Uzor Kalu proceeded to borrow a $35 loan from his mother, which he used to trade palm oil, by purchasing it from the South Eastern part of the country and selling it in the Northern regions for a good profit.
As his business grew quickly in this less-crowded market, his profits sprouted, and he was able to diversify into the furniture business, having started from agriculture.
He would go on to source quality furniture from Aba and resell in Maiduguri.
Eventually, his furniture business was self-sustaining to the point he abandoned the palm oil business to not just focus on trading furniture, but also in its manufacturing.
While building his business, the university eventually went back on its decision to suspend the students, and he was one of the students pardoned. But Orji Uzor Kalu refused to accept it because all the students went on the protest together, and as expected, everyone had to be pardoned, and not just a few.
On grounds of rejecting the amnesty granted him, he focused full time on his business.
By the time he was 26 years old, in the year 1986, the then military head of state, General Ibrahim Babangida, granted him the national merit award, making him the youngest person in Nigeria to be honored with such.
At this point, in 1987, he registered a company called SLOK Holdings, which went on to grow at an amazing pace.
Over the years, his conglomerate went on to span across oil & gas, hospitality & travel, manufacturing & trading, financial services, media, and logistics, in 11 countries and 3 continents, ranging from Nigeria to Gambia, Botswana, Cotonou, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, South Africa, Korea, and several others.
Some of his notable businesses that collectively employs over 3,000 people across various countries are:
- The Sun Newspaper
- The Telegraph Newspaper
- First International Bank (in Gambia)
- International Insurance Company
- Slok International (logistics)
- Happy Home Furniture Limited
- Neya Nigeria Limited (Metal recycling)
- Bende Export (agri-product sourcing)
- Slok Nigeria Limited (Import & export, and shipping)
- Sun Heaven Hotels And Resorts
- Mak Travels Agency Limited
- Slok Energy Limited
His Achievements Today
Asides the National honor he received from the presidency, Orji Uzor Kalu was further selected as the Nigerian Chamber of Commerce’s Industrialist of the Year, awarded the Humanitarian Award of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka’s Humanitarian Club, the Volunteer Award of the International Association of Volunteers, the National Merit Award, the EU Special Award in Brussels, and the World Bank Leon Sullivan Award.
He also obtained a degree from Abia State University, a certificate in Business Administration from Harvard University, and honorary doctorate degrees from the universities of Maiduguri and Abia State.
He eventually went on to become the governor of Abia State from the year 1999 until the year 2007. And by the year 2014, Forbes listed Orji Uzor Kalu as the 26th richest person in Africa.
To Sum It Up
Orji Uzor Kalu is a prudent opportunist who knows when to take advantage of a situation. His tenacity made him a millionaire in his 20s, and has gone on to build him a business empire that spans through several conglomerates in different countries and continents.
His unrelenting wit, determination, and sheer focus is a cue anyone can learn from him. And his life has taught that no unfortunate situation is a good enough reason for anyone to stop trying to achieve their dreams.
What are your thoughts on this success story of Orji Uzor Kalu? Let me know by leaving a comment below.