In a way that beats every stretch of imagination; Prince Yinka Afonja wore a simple yet elegant Dashiki. And a gentle smile. His royal steps into the hall calm minds as it inspires. I don’t know him before. But have heard of him several times. Now, I am about to ask one crucial question that has lingered in me for eon. In the meantime, he would first ask us questions – one about our purpose of attending the program.
Budding business talents and innovators across Oyo Federal Constituency who’ve been gathered for two days by the exceptional Oyo Global Forum are about to listen to top-notch business idea from the source. In case you don’t know, Prince Yinka Afonja is an ex-banker, a ‘hustler’ and the CEO, founder and Chairman of Ace supermarket; a popular one stop shopping mall with outlets scattered across Ibadan, Oyo, Osogbo, Ogbomosho, Ilorin among others. And his duty is to share the yin and yang of his success story – especially in Nigeria and particularly in South West. In other words, his mission is to walk anticipating audience into the exciting and risky yet fulfilling world of financial liberation.
To capture it simply, the attentive participants are about to get their appetite whet by deeply enriching business mind. But to start with, he would begin on a simple, lighter and inspiring note. “I am actually not in the mood to talk much” he would say “I thought I could rest today but here I am again because I am passionate about sharing useful and helpful business tips to emerging business talents”.
The legendary leadership expert, John Maxwell once writes a book with a punchy title: Good Leaders Ask Great Questions where he contends that leadership most times has more to do with asking questions with eyes on answers than anything else. And here, we are about to be inundated with simple yet profoundly powerful questions: one coming directly from our mouths. Like a thunderbolt, the first question landed on the lap of a quiet guy sitting at the extreme right of the Hall. And as expected, the guy answered with gusto walking everyone through the curves and contours of his business startup.
Then my turn. Actually, I was eager and had waited for this moment. I told him I founded Maverick Konsults, an online platform dedicated to training young people on personal development and self discovery. I told him the challenges of scaling from free classes to paid ones – the main reason for attending the program. I told him in numbers, I have trained over a thousand young people on various soft and hard skills but making money online has been literally hard.
He was reflective before telling me what to do. “Model after a successful digital marketer” he says: an expert who make money selling digital products and services. He told me to refine my startup to something on how to help free people from the shackles of poverty and unleash them into the wonderland of prosperity. He was straight to the point, speaking quietly softly to the admiration of the gob-smacked audience.
He then further counsel that I break my online missions into manageable chunks: One that can be measured and tracked. I took his words to heart because he has changed my world. He asked others about their startups and he seems literally impressed by the array of responses. In a sense, what he did that day was more of tweaking on our business ideas. He tinkered with ways we do business, then offered insightful, practical and result driven nuggets. His deep knowledge hooks as it frees. He opened his brilliant mind for all to see. He was doing all these for free, courtesy of Oyo Global Forum!
“Don’t enter business with money” he says without batting an eye “enter a business with either idea or importantly with knowledge”. He went on to tell us to stay focus, remain vigilant, mix with growth minded people, sidestep fear, be on the look out for opportunity plus continuous reinvention while adding variety to whatever we sell or offer.
I started as a banker, he says modestly, but at that time, retrenchment was ubiquitous and I’ve seen senior colleagues struggle to live a modest and decent lives after being thrown into the mouth of shark. “ I don’t want that to be my lot” he says “so, I began saving aggressively on one side while taking time to study what our customers sell on the other”. At that time, he chimes in, I was living a banker’s behind the cubicle and a hustler life on the street.
After work in the evening, in my brand new Prado Jeep, I would remove my well polished suit, and tie then stroll briskly into the market to update my knowledge of market in ways News may not capture. In a way, I was both a hot shot banker and a deep-rooted hustler. Eventually, he told us, I was posted to Warri where I started to pick clues on haulage business. From then, I was ready to invest in that venture which turns out to be decisively lucrative at that time.
I eventually let go of the trucks after some time and due to breach of trust between the manager and I. It was these two bold decisions: selling the trucks and the park that kick-started and led to my resignation from the bank then into the world of running one stop shopping malls across major cities and towns in the South West. “I built a shopping complex for my newly wedded wife at Akobo, Ibadan where she sells provisions”, he enthuses, but surprisingly, the business began to gain traction. I was stunned. Then we unveiled the ground breaking Oyo branch which immediately caught us by surprise with its exponential sales records.
“I said wow”. Then I resigned from that grueling, backbreaking and heartbreaking 9-5 job to focus on this one business. The journey he says has come with mixed feelings though he says it has been worthwhile. “Don’t despise the days of small beginnings” he told the awe-inspired audience “just start with focused attention plus eyes on the big picture, the sky of course, is the launching pad”.