How A Former Tailor Built A Multi-Million Dollar Business From Just £20
The backbone of every ambition is resilience. It determines the degree of our will to pursue our dreams no matter what, break down barriers that stand in our way, and ultimately embark on a journey to greatness. While obvious obstacles could deter us from achieving our business and life goals, we must constantly strive to always keep moving.
The most commonly abused excuse used by millions of people regarding why they can’t start a business, is the lack of capital; but still, a tailor somewhere in Nigeria, against all odds, started small, eventually raised as little as £20 from his business, and went on to become a dollar multi-millionaire. His name? Razak Akanni Okoya. The founder and CEO of the Eleganza group of companies.
Here’s how he started:
The Early Life Of Razak Akanni Okoya
Razak Akanni Okoya was born in Lagos, Nigeria, on the 12th of January, 1940. Growing up, he worked for his father as a tailor. They weren’t just sewing on-demand clothing for people, but were also making clothes for sale. They didn’t just stop there, they also sewed bicycle seats and several other items.
As a tailor, his father was fairly comfortable as he owned a Chrysler car, and regularly used it to commute to see his clients. One of such was Chief Ojukwu, the father of the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
While they sewed attires and also sold tailoring accessories, Razak engaged in his own side tailoring services like mending shirts and trousers for a fee. After several gigs and time spent, he was able to save up £20 and decided to venture into small scale trading.
The Start Of The Eleganza Group
At the time he started his business, a lot of people weren’t ordering items directly from the manufacturers. But Razak, who had stumbled upon a product catalogue of a manufacturer based in Japan, studied their goods, realised they could sell out, and decided to place an order. He got stuck when he realised the value of the order was £70, meaning he was short of £50.
To make up his capital, he approached his mother for a loan. Being a loyal wife to her husband, she requested he first gained his father’s permission to obtain the loan from her, which he did. After completing his capital, he placed an order for the items. Upon arrival, Razak Akanni Okoya realised that the product qualities were far better than what was in the market already and also far cheaper. This helped him sellout quickly and place more orders in a very short timeframe.
These sporadic orders and sales sent his business growth on an aggressive run and eventually helped him raise enough money to venture into manufacturing.
His Big Break
Having travelled to many countries around the world to see how things were done, Razak decided it was about time he started manufacturing his own items.
Around this period, his first wife, Kuburat Okoya had an obsession with jewellery. She was also importing them, but at ridiculously expensive prices. Razak got fed up with the cost of the jewelries, because of the abundance of the available raw materials in Nigeria. Since the local demand for these jewelries were high, he travelled abroad, bought some jewellery manufacturing machines, brought in some experts, and started manufacturing the jewellery at ridiculously low costs.
In a short time after the commencement of the Eleganza jewellery manufacturing arm, his success was overwhelming. They couldn’t keep up with the local demand since their prices and quality were really attractive. This led to a remarkable major break.
While Razak Akanni Okoya was manufacturing jewellery and buttons, he decided to venture into shoe manufacturing. What he did then, was to pay factories abroad to manufacture for him and then export to Nigeria. While this was going smoothly, his order stopped at some point. He immediately took a trip to Italy to find out why they didn’t send in his items, and to his dismay, realised they had used his money to settle their factory bills.
This angered him, and drove him to import machines and experts to train his workers on shoe manufacturing.
His Conglomerate Today
The Eleganza group of companies today employs over 5,000 people and has multiple manufacturing subsidiaries in several places like Oregun-Ikeja, Isolo, Alaba, and Iganmu; producing items like seats, shoes, jewelries, plastics, coolers, cutlery, ice chests, electric fans, cosmetics, pens, and a lot more. His group also comprises of a multi-million dollar properties investment arm called RAO Property Investment Company, and is generally one of the largest conglomerates in Nigeria today.
To Sum It All Up
A keen eye for opportunity is crucial for ultimate success, and Razak Akanni Okoya has shown beyond doubt that taking advantage of them early on and breaking the market price through manufacturing can lead to the big break any entrepreneur or visionary aspires towards.
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