How This Ex Nigerian Journalist Built A Rice Production Business Worth Over $1 Million Dollars
Every successful entrepreneur starts from spotting a need in the market, after which they go on to either search for or build a product or service that can solve that problem.
Their ability to find an innovative way to build a successful business that prioritizes the satisfaction of prospects over and over again consistently forms the framework that ensures that goes on to guarantee their success.
This is the story of an ambitious ex-journalist who became successful from locally producing one of the most popular staples of the average Nigerian: Rice.
His name is Rotimi Williams, the founder and CEO of Kereksuk Rice Farm, located in Nassarawa State in Northern Nigeria, which currently is the second-largest commercial rice farm in Nigeria.
Here’s how he did it:
The Education Of Rotimi Williams
Rotimi attended King’s College in Lagos, Nigeria, before proceeding to the University of Aberdeen, where he got a degree in Economics. He later went on to get his first Master’s Degree in Economics from the same institution, and then another MSc. in Finance and Developmental Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
Journey Into Entrepreneurship
Rotimi got a job as an analyst at the European Economics and Financial Center in London after graduation. He later went on to work for Euromoney Magazine, where he covered the African space.
His role at Euromoney Magazine required him to make a lot of trips around a few African countries like South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia, where he noticed a strong focus on agriculture by the locals.
This insight compelled him to eventually move back to Nigeria to seek an opportunity in the Agricultural industry.
In the quest to gain knowledge of the Nigerian agricultural space, he took a job at a top bank with the hope of playing directly on the agro-industry through the banking sector, but was unable to achieve his goals on the long run, as efforts to get the banks more focused on agriculture proved futile.
He eventually quit banking and decided to venture into agriculture full time, but was constrained by limited funding, which led him to start a Structured Trade and Commodity Finance company with his partner, where he started consulting for small agriculture companies who sought to raise capital both locally and internationally.
After spending two years searching for funding with little luck, Rotimi partnered with a farm owner to develop 17,296 hectares of farmland with his personal and external funding for a 50/50 split of the profits.
He then went through trials and errors in deploying his online self taught knowledge into his farm, had a poor harvest, but was eventually able to properly restructure the rice farm and set up a small rice mill.
Soon, he was able to grow the landmass to 55,000 hectares but later parted ways with his partner as a result of unaligned views and strategies, leaving him with 45,000 hectares and a new company called Kereksuk.
Rotimi did not start big.
He was a firm believer of starting small and growing your way to the top.
In an interview with Business Day, he said:
“I didn’t start big. That’s the mistake people make. I did a lot of personal fundraising and got rid of a few assets. I started first with a pilot scheme of 50 hectares, then went on to 100, 200, and then 1000 hectares,”
Kereksuk is currently producing about 8,000 metric tons of quality paddy rice for major milling companies all over Nigeria every year, and employs over 600 Nassarawa State natives; with a current effort to expand the project and double output in progress. There has been a focus to develop the land in phases, with a projection for the business to real full optimization in the year 2020.
Nigerians consume more than 5 million metric tons of rice annually, and a major source of the rice are from other countries.
Kereksuk seeks to contribute to the nation’s economy by helping to reduce the need to import rice through the availability of quality rice made in Nigeria.
The business has adopted a number of initiatives to ensure it is run on environmentally friendly measures, such as the use of organic fertilizers and using straw from the rice planted as livestock feed.
Rotimi’s Impact On The Society
Rotimi has often described himself as a social entrepreneur and has attributed it to the inspiration for the number of initiatives he has pioneered; such as the out-of-poverty initiative, which targets secondary school children to spur an interest in agriculture, with provision for education to empower them up to tertiary level, as well as the engagement and empowerment of over 100 Fulani women in rice farming.
In an interview with Forbes, Rotimi said:
“Frankly, my experience working alongside indigenes [natives] of Nasarawa state has been exceptional. I have learnt over the years that if you approach people with respect, even more so while one seeks to set up a business venture. Having a healthy sense of community makes all the difference in attaining one’s set objectives. I lean heavily on the wisdom and cultural approach of the indigenes to carry out farming on such a scale here in Nasarawa.
In the news today, there is a lot of talk about farmers clashing with Fulani herdsmen, but we think our approach has been successful. We created a scheme called the Farm-Out Of Poverty initiative which I will talk about a bit more later. Under the FOOP, we are able to train approximately a hundred Fulani women in rice farming, at the same time, employing their men as our security and finally, feeding their castles from the rice straws after harvest.
Today, we live in peace and all work towards the success of the farm.”
To Sum It Up
The success story of Rotimi Williams is a good example of how opportunities present themselves, but only become game-changers when we pursue them and fuel them with hard work and resilience against all odds.
Rotimi had no prior agricultural background and taught himself all he knew about the business, yet there were several constraints that could have forced him to give up and stick to what matched his qualifications.
Instead, he pushed through and persevered until he became the owner of a highly successful multi-million dollar rice farm.
What opportunities have been showing up around you lately?
Don’t let them pass you by.