Even though 26-year-old Opeyemi Awoyemi (pictured) has only been out of school for five years, his resume reads like a seasoned businessman twice his age. The founder of three businesses, Ennovate Nigeria, WhoGoHost, and Jobberman, Awoyemi hasn’t slowed down since the age of 16, when he founded his first business. Face2Face Africa spoke with Awoyemi in order to gain insight in to how he and his business partners were able to think their way in to the worlds of successful entrepreneurship and technology — especially at a time when youth are faced with challenging rates of unemployment — as well as find out important tips youth, job seekers, and entrepreneurs can use to succeed.
When Awoyemi was in secondary school in 2004, he founded brand strategy and web development company Ennovate Nigeria. Awoyemi would go on to serve as the company’s lead strategist, managing web design, application development, brand architecture, and digital marketing, for the next eight years.
As a student at Obafemi Awolowo University, he got his father to pay 3,000 naira for a supplemental graphic design course. According to Awoyemi, even though the session lasted only four weeks, he ended up spending six months with the tutor. Still hungry for knowledge, Awoyemi then paid the tutor an additional 1,000 naira for one hour in order to learn web design.
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Armed with his new skills, by 2006, Awoyemi would found WhoGoHost, a web hosting company, from his college dormitory room. According to Techloy, as of last February, WhoGoHost is the “second largest domain name and web hosting company in Nigeria, with [more than] 2,600 domain names hosted on its servers.”
Barely after graduating from university in 2009, with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science and Engineering, Awoyemi would launch yet another company with co-founders Deji Adewunmi and Lekan Olude. Seeing another opportunity to fulfill a need, Adewunmi proposed the idea of Jobberman to Awoyemi, saying:
Jobs is a space we need to focus on. I think we can create a big impact,” according to Awoyemi.
The rest is history.
With a tagline that reads, “Nigeria’s No. 1 Jobs Website,” Awoyemi and his partners state on their site:
“We set out with a mission to organize, deliver and manage the largest catalogue of jobs in Nigeria.
“We help employers fill their vacancies quickly and cost-effectively by giving them access to the most relevant pool of qualified job-seekers and professionals.”
When Face2Face Africa asked Awoyemi how many employment seekers actually find positions from his site, he added, “I will put it at 0.5 percent to 1 percent, considering that the average applications per job is around 120 or so, but don’t mistake that for a small [percentage] because that translates to at least 5,000 placements per month.”
In addition, SiliconAfrica, in its “Top 100 Websites in Africa” list, ranks Jobberman as No. 14, which is very impressive.
Here, the uberly effective businessman explains his career journey, while providing tips to Africa’s youth, entrepreneurs, and job seekers:
Face2Face Africa: What inspired you to start all of your businesses?
Opeyemi Awoyemi (OA): Growing up, I have always felt I had more to offer society and deeper potential than most people. Indulging oneself in that kind of thinking gives birth to being inquisitive, having weird ideas, and [spurs a] desire to be different.
As I got to my late teens, I did read something about the way to lasting success is finding real needs and solving them, so I set out to look for big problems and provide commercial solutions within my reach.
F2FA: With unemployment being a serious obstacle for youth worldwide right now, what advice would you give to young people who are looking to be productive in spite of this major hurdle?
OA: Be hungry for real knowledge. Learn everything you can learn. Don’t be lazy sitting down doing nothing. Better still, if you can learn one or two core skills outside your normal education go for it. Be competent in speaking, writing, and using digital tools.
Look for a real need in the area around you and solve them commercially with the knowledge and skills you’ve learned, and ask questions from those who have succeeded in your areas of interest.
F2FA: What tips would you give to young people who are interested in starting their own businesses?
OA: Start today with a pilot test phase that does not require you quitting your job or leaving your studies. The results of the pilot will tell you what to do next.
F2FA: What are some of the mistakes new entrepreneurs make?
OA: Believing too much in their ideas. It’s never about the idea, but the execution. They also fail to get capital before starting their business. Investors prefer investing in growing [businesses rather] than a piece of paper.
F2FA: What mistakes do people tend to make when applying for jobs?
OA: They apply for jobs that they don’t qualify for and hope “faith” will make it happen. They also don’t apply with a well-written competitive CV/resume.
F2FA: How can young people who don’t have that much experience distinguish themselves enough to get hired right out of school?
OA: Nowadays there are lots of opportunities to gain skills and experience informally while in school. Students need to participate in activities beyond school walls, i.e., internships, vacation jobs, competitions, and skill acquisitions etc.
F2FA: What does Africa need to do in order to provide enough opportunities for African youth who have the highest youth population in the world?
OA: Nation and state governments need to be in industry creation and enable small businesses. When opportunities are created at scale, jobs erupt. For example, a state can decide to make itself a fashion capital like Milan, or a furniture capital, or even an outsourcer capital like India or Silicon Valley, or they can become a business-friendly location [with lenient taxes on businesses] like Delaware.
As for nation’s approaches to small businesses, they should take a radical approach, with tax relief for all young entrepreneurs straight out of school for two years and/or a create waivers on factory machinery importing so that the number of the manufacturing business can skyrocket. These are just a few examples sincere governments can deploy.
F2FA: From your vantage point, what types of jobs should young people be studying for; what are the top jobs in Africa?
OA: Interestingly, Africa’s skill needs are so diverse so no one can really say this is the one thing you need to study to earn a six-digit pay. Education, as we know it, is also uber-flawed. Schools do not teach students to be good at [the skills] the industry wants. So the key is competence. You really need to be good at whatever you’re doing.