Dr Taiwo Afolabi is a force to reckon with in the maritime business. He started the SIFAX Group from scratch and built it into a world class business. In this interview, he reveals what young entrepreneurs could do to stand out from the crowd. Below are excerpts, enjoy.
There is a need to build the next generation of entrepreneurs. What role should established business titans like you play?
The reason many people don’t succeed in business and careers is due to a lack of mentorship. They go into business without the guidance and support of mentors who have done successfully what they are trying to do. Mentorship is key for young entrepreneurs in Nigeria. By the way, let me say that the future of Africa is entrepreneurship.
Young people must be encouraged and supported to pursue their dreams. This is going to help in reducing poverty and the high rate of unemployment on the continent. It is the duty of successful businessmen and women across the continent to mentor and support these budding entrepreneurs.
These young entrepreneurs need to be mentored and guided so that Africa can witness true prosperity. I have been involved in this both directly and indirectly. My company supports various platforms and initiatives that identify and nurture budding entrepreneurs. I also have people I personally take under my wings that I support their dreams and mentor as well.
What words of advice do you have for young entrepreneurs?
For the young entrepreneurs, I would say first hold on to God and be honest and patient. What is not enough now will eventually become a surplus for you but there are processes you need to take. There are some factors that help in the journey of entrepreneurship. One is vision. You must have an idea of what you want to do and the impact you want to make. Two, hard work is very important. All successful people are hard workers. Laziness hinders greatness. Three, solve a problem and success will naturally come. Money goes in the direction of value.
Four is persistence. You must develop the courage and resilience to keep going in the face of daunting challenges because the journey is full of different ups and downs. Don’t give up easily. If you fall, rise, take a lesson and continue your hustling.
What is your biggest challenge as a businessman?
Risk. Business is a very risky venture. Even after doing all the due diligence, things can still go bad. It remains a big challenge but no gain no pain. When you lose, you start all over again.
I have done a business in Europe where I lost about €4 million within seven months and that hasn’t stopped me from starting again or investing in another one. Business is a risk, and for those who want to make it big, you must be able to calculate your risk well and make an informed decision, but the ability and the power to overcome after a loss lies in you.