In the studio today, we have one of a brilliant Nigerian youth and a serial entrepreneur. This man has started taking risk from his University days with his school fees to fund his first business.
He has started and co-founded three amazing startups, a Tony Elumelu award winner. He is a fashionpreneur but I don’t think he can sew a cloth but runs a successful fashion business. Of course, you still don’t know who we have in the studio today. Don’t worry, chill and read our long talk with Olugbemiga Augustine.
ONE OF THE BIGGEST ISSUES ENTREPRENEURS FACE IN SCALING THEIR BUSINESSES IS FUNDING. HOW DO YOU SCALE THROUGH THIS IN YOUR ENTREPRENEURSHIP JOURNEY?
I started with a dangerous step which I don’t encourage people to do because I did. I funded my first business with my school fee while I was in the university thereafter came the Tony Elumelu Foundation opportunity.
Though I have been making moves before that time, that was the exact time I kick-started my business and the business is all about tourism.
Though I was a success in terms of customer satisfaction, it was a failure internally because my team ended up paying the debt. We organised a tour from Ibadan to Ile Ife and Erin Ijesha waterfall. We had over 25 participants and more potential participants which we couldn’t accommodate based on logistics reasons.
I kicked started the project with my 100 level school fees with the hope of making it back with a profit. But we came back home with N18,000 debt. So I and my team had to do some side hustle to pay back.
Thereafter we moved to empowerment programmes based on public demand and our passion. I have always had the privilege of supportive friends right from my start days.
WE HEARD ABOUT YOUR ONGOING PROJECT IN THE FINTECH INDUSTRY. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FINTECH INDUSTRY IN AFRICA?
Fintech is one of the biggest potentials that will sustainably liberate Africa from poverty and unemployment. It is growing fast more than expected. And it is a big plus to Nigeria and Africa as a whole. In 2018, the Fintech attracted over $150 million investment to Africa.
Presently, there are over 37 million SMEs in Nigeria but less than 7% of them have access to funds needed for their survival and growth. Also, the national bureau of statistics report states that about 40% of Nigerians are currently financially excluded which is one of the main reasons for poverty.
But with the fast growing rate of Fintech startups, barriers to funds and financial services will soon be broken which will in return increase SMEs’ growth, productivity, job creation and wealth.
Suggested Read: Billion dollars tech company is coming from Nigeria
I had an experience about two years ago. My fashion business received a contract to produce and supply about 120 tops to graduating students of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka And I needed some funds as working capital to execute the job. I spoke with nearby microfinance for a possible soft loan. Despite having equipment worth over a million Naira, I couldn’t access a loan of N200,000. They kept giving me paperwork and collateral demand which wasted most of my time before I decided to leave them and sort somewhere else.
This is where a Fintech startup came in to help me. In 2017, I had another business-related need and needed some fund. I have heard of Fintech firms offering quick loan by that time. I applied and received about N50,000 in just less than 5minutes. It met my need, turn it over a few more times before the payday, made some extra profit, paid back and it was a win-win scenario. I made a profit and they made a profit and that’s the power of Fintech.
WHAT PROBLEM IS SHIELD FINDERS SOLVING?
I and my team have been working around the clock on a way to help businesses solve their working capital need without all the barriers created by the so-called formal banks by using the advent of Fintech.
Some of this barriers are:
- Too much paperwork
- They spend too much time
- They demand securities that are not realistic to SMEs and startups
- High-interest rate
And so on
But Shield Finders will be combining technology and group methodology to provide needed funds to these SMEs, individuals, rural communities, employees etc. Our mobile app will be using valuable data available on users mobile phone and social media status to determine their credit score and worthiness. Also, mobile money has not been fully maximized in Nigeria, we shall be combining all these to aid financial inclusion in the Continent. Other aspects include easy fund transfer for individuals and business transactions, using technology to encourage a healthy savings culture and so on.
THERE ARE MANY ENTREPRENEURS STILL WAITING FOR GOVERNMENT TO HELP BEFORE THEY CAN START THEIR BUSINESS. WHAT IS YOUR ADVISE TO THEM AND ENCOURAGEMENT TO STRIVING ENTREPRENEURS?
They shouldn’t at all. And they should stop unhealthy complain because it won’t solve any problem. If you have any complaint about what government should do which they’re not doing, channel it to the appropriate quarter. But move on without waiting for the government to fund your business before starting. It may never happen in our lifetime. There are more channels available to raise fund other than the government. Learn and explore them.
But most importantly, start small in your way. It is nearly impossible for an external body or investor to invest in what you have not spent your personal fund on. Also, it is easier to fund a project with a prototype or at the expansion stage than just a business idea which is still in your head without physical proof.
No one is too poor to start his dream no matter how big it is. If you don’t believe this, you’re not fit to receive anyone’s hard earned money as an investment.Olugbemiga Austin, CEO Shield Finders
ALL WE KNOW IS THAT YOU ARE A BIG BOY ENTREPRENEUR. CAN WE MEET YOU SIR AND HOW CAN YOUR PRODUCT AND SERVICES BE PATRONISED?
Hahahaha! big boy entrepreneur? Not yet a big boy entrepreneur until Forbes Under 40 features me and my team. Not until our solutions become a household name in Africa.
I am Olugbemiga Augustine, people call me by my clothing brand name Sleek. I studied Banking and Finance at Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo state, Nigeria.
I have co-founded 3 startups which Shield Finders is the latest and my most favoured one. We have a clothing line Sleek Wears which caters for quality and affordable formal and traditional wears. We also provide real estate marketing services with the Asset Store and we will be launching our Fintech app (Shield App) in some weeks from now. I have life long friend and business partner Olufemi Abegunde which have always been my first investor and partner.
Wow! It is a long talk with Olugbemiga Austin in the studio today. Hope you have learnt one or two things from this young and talented entrepreneur.