Timilehin Ojemakinde is the CEO of TIMIAFRICA SNAILS, a Nigerian company that processes and packages snail meats both for local and international consumption.
Timilehin is a graduate of computer science from the prestigious University of Ilorin, and he considers himself as an innovative entrepreneur. He is deeply passionate about the Nigerian economy, job creation, poverty alleviation, and Agribusiness.
In this interview with the Nigeria SME, he tells us how he started his business and how he was able to overcome the challenges most business owners face in Nigeria
What’s the secret to being a successful entrepreneur?
Timilehin: First, I’d say God, then you will need to be patient, persevere, determined and be willing to work hard work and remain very prayerful.
In addition, you must understand that no one would believe in you or your idea even your family and friends, but God always does it that he puts someone or two around you who would encourage you. So, believe in yourself and have absolute trust in God that it will all work out someday, maybe sooner or later.
Don’t let making money at first be your priority, build networks, build relationships, build trust with people.
And lastly, let God help you when you feel like giving up. You will make mistakes but don’t dwell too much on the past.
What inspired the idea of snail business
Timilehin: Because I was broke. Then I had a job but usually once salary is paid at the end of the month after servicing all my debts, I discovered I become left with nothing. So I said, is this how I will continue with my life?
For most entrepreneurs, getting funds to start or grow their businesses has always been the main challenge. How do you tackle this?
Timilehin: I started with a seed capital of N10,000 a friend gave me to feed myself because she considered I was suffering too much after I had narrated to her my wonderful idea about snails that was going to revolutionize the Snail industry. She just looked at me and She said, “Timi just go and eat, go and take care of yourself. Go home.”
I took the 10,000 to the market to buy Snails, bought some packaging materials, and did my first label. This was the story in 2016. Today the rest is history.
What other challenge did you face and how do you solve them?
Timilehin: Mentorship. I had no mentor, I possibly would have gone farther than this if I had had a mentor, I made a lot of mistakes while starting up and wasted a lot of resources which was very avoidable if I had gotten someone to guide me.
Nigerian firm TimiAfrica is now exporting snails to Europe. They operate a cold room in Nigeria that processes frozen giant-snail, with a shelf life above a calendar year. Exports pushed, Forex earned,farmers trained,Nigeria wins.💃🏾🇳🇬 pic.twitter.com/Uan0P9azmx
— ᴏᴍᴀsᴏʀᴏ ᴀʟɪ ᴏᴠɪᴇ™☤ (@ovieali) July 16, 2019
Do you think people are born entrepreneurial or is it something you can learn?
Well, I really can’t say if they are born or made, but I believe everything in life is a matter of the mind. You are what you tell yourself you are.
The universe is governed by laws and there’s no vacuum. If you say some are born entrepreneur and they don’t manifest it possibly because they don’t believe it, or they allow fear to limit them, what can anyone do about that? The fact remains even if they were born entrepreneur, if they don’t discover themselves, it won’t manifest.
And if you say entrepreneurship can be learned, what if the person is telling himself or herself she can’t, that it’s too hard?
What I think is anybody can become anything. It’s all a matter of what you feed your mind with- what you think of yourself, what you tell yourself and what you think you can do. Truth always is, we all can be doing better than who we are or what we doing right now.
So for me, I tell myself I am born to do it and the universe is conspiring to help me make it look like it is so and if you tell yourself that you can learn it, it will appear like so.
However, at the end of the day what matters most is for you to just become great at what you do.
What do you most enjoy about running your business?
Timilehin: Alerts, I love the part where I get the alerts. Business is run on money and money is the blood of business.
When I’m making money, I feel the business can still continue running but when we experience draught which we do sometimes, it always gets me worried. Then I begin to ask questions what are we doing wrong, what thing can we improve on and what new thing can we introduce, and this has led us to so many innovations regarding the snail business.
I don’t consider what my competitor is doing, I just keep innovating and finding solutions to existing identified problems. I’m never satisfied with the status quo. I change it. I reinvent myself.
As a business person, you can’t be static because what conquered the world the last time isn’t going to do again. Even God said he will not use water to destroy the earth again. Baba has reinvented himself. You too have to keep innovating yourself and innovation is the response you give to feedback. This is what I enjoy about running my business.
Where do you see TimiAfrica in 5 years’ time?
Timilehin: TIMIAFRICA will be a household name. The last 5years we have only laid a great foundation. We have seen the storm, and some drops of rain, we did not give up. You hearing about us now is a result of our decision not to give up or try something else maybe that might work.
We didn’t come here to gamble, we came deliberately for success. And God’s willing we will all be alive to witness it by his grace. God’s mercy and grace.
What would you advise the government to do to help SMEs maximise their potentials?
Timilehin: I think the government is trying, but I think the youths should be more receptive to grabbing opportunities coming from the government and their policies. Our people love to criticise which is not bad, but some of us have taken it too far believing nothing good can come out of the government or the country.
However, if you ask me, do I feel like running out of the country sometimes, yes I do. Living in Nigeria is tough, and doing business in Nigeria is tougher if there is any English like that but you see this is our country, we have no place of our own.
The government should help us with electricity, roads, and the rails, if all these are working, the cost of production would be lower. Then the Naira, we pray the Naira improves, at least go back N150/N157 it used to be. Then our ports.
Can you recommend one book you think every entrepreneur should read?
Timilehin: Absolutely! The Alchemist. Everyone of us is on a journey. A journey to fulfilling our personal legend. TIMIAFRICA is my own personal legend. I’d encourage every entrepreneur to read this book to either help them discover their path in life and what to expect while journeying to fulfilling that personal legend.
INTERESTED IN PATRONISING TIMIAFRICA SNAILS?
Factory Address: No.3 Hassan Street, Bogije Ibeju-Lekki Lagos, Nigeria. | Telephone: 0706 663 3446, 0811 848 4517. | Email: email@example.com