Name: Ezinne Ikejiani
Occupation: Small Business Consultant
Working from CapitalSquare since April 2014
A bit about AFEntrepreneurs!
AFEntrepreneurs! is a platform that empowers, supports and inspires African men and women all around the world to start and grow their businesses and emerge in the world of business as strong pillars of economic growth.
We provide business coaching, training & mentoring, empowerment workshops, business networking events and financial assistance to start-up businesses. We motivate & inspire African women from diverse backgrounds in particular:
- Women with interest to start & grow their own business
- Unemployed women
- Female students and University graduates
- Women in need of flexibility in their careers and family lives
- Stay at home mums
- Other established business and career women
We are raising female business leaders that will change their lives, enjoy financial freedom and positively impact their families and the world.
What do you love most about working for yourself?
I love the flexibility of setting my own working hours. I am very active at night and early in the morning, so working for my company gives me the ability to effectively utilise my most productive hours, and also spend quality time with my family.
Further, I love to do big, new and exciting things. In my years in employment, I moved from job to job because as soon as I knew every aspect of my role, I got really bored. I remember one of my managers saying to me that I would only be satisfied when I start and run my own company. So, the thrill I get from being part of positively impacting my world, and being an inspiration to many out there, makes me happy and grateful to God for the opportunity to start and run my own company.
What’s the hardest thing about being an entrepreneur?
I will say the early stages of the company. This is usually the most challenging stages of the being an Entrepreneurs because of the risks and uncertainties, insufficient funds to employ the required number of staff, so you become the admin, staff, accountant, Creative Director, etc.
Also, leaving a paid job to dive into your own venture with no certainty of a monthly income in the early trading period can be challenging. In fact, you are not only working hard, you also have to make out time to read good books/articles, listen to motivational audios, learn, and stay motivated and creative. For me, when I resigned from a very good and well-paid job to focus full-time on my company, it was like everyone was against it.
At a point, I thought 'maybe I am just crazy', so I decided to get back into employment and keep working on my business part-time. I applied for a few senior finance positions and attended a couple of interviews. But when I got a job offer, I had no peace within me. I was so tired of finance and accounting that I knew the salary and benefits would not be enough to get me back to work. So I politely rejected the job offer. It was hard, but I am so glad I did, because I'm rocking and loving what I do! So as an Entrepreneur, it’s sometimes tough at the beginning but it sure gets better!
What do you wish you knew before you started your business?
I knew quite a lot about business before I commenced my venture, because I studied Business Management and Accounting, read a lot of books, listened to loads of audios and attended numerous business seminars/conferences. So, I will say to an extent that I was equipped before starting my business.
But one thing I may have missed out is how lonely it gets when starting-up. The little staff I had were virtual, based in India, Philippines and Nigeria. So most days, I was all alone and it really did my head in. Back in my employment days, I used to work in an open-plan office, hung out with friends for evening drinks, but I didn’t have that luxury as an entrepreneur because it was just me. But I coped fine from learning how other start-up entrepreneurs overcame this challenge of loneliness.
Why do you do what you do? Where did the idea come from?
Just a little history about myself: I will say I am born to lead, I guess it was wired in my DNA. In my primary school, I formed a drama group and organized short dramas for my school events i.e. Inter-house sports and year-end parties. In secondary school, I joined my school choir, was made an alto back-up singer for a while, I got tired of being at the back, so left the choir and form the school’s first choreography group. I was part of my Church’s choreography group, so I learnt a lot of dance moves to teach my new group. The principal watched us practice and invited us to perform at the senior students’ graduation day and the school’s inter-house sport event. Also after graduating from secondary school, I left my mum’s church and joined a new Pentecostal church; within few months of being there, I was picked out from the crowd and made the Youth ministries’ secretary – Just like that!
But my first ever attempt at business was when my University was on strike (UNIBEN) and I disliked being idle, so my hubby gave me some money and I went to the printers and printed some Christian stickers and went from church to church selling them, but the business failed badly and I just decided I will study hard and get a job in Shell Nigeria. But one day, I walked into a bookshop to get a new bible, and whilst walking past the books aisle, I saw a book title “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. I bought the book, and with God’s help my life was transformed. I knew there and then that I will do great things on earth by running my own venture.
When we relocated to the United Kingdom, I got into employment, but still wanted to do things for myself, so I got a sheet of paper and wrote the things I could do on the side. From my list I started a packaged food company and registered it as a sole trader. I cooked and packaged food for small gatherings and fellowships, especially for the Christ Embassy Edmonton group. After few months, I couldn’t cope with the orders or the UK Health and Safety laws, and I didn’t enjoy it much, so I started a Bookkeeping business, because I wasn’t then a chartered accountant, so was not qualified to do bigger accounting jobs. From the day I commenced the business, it made me look small - doing books for small businesses like a secretary. So I closed the business!
The idea for AFEntrepreneurs! came when I started my next business – TheEntrepreneurInYou Ltd – a UK registered company providing financial services to troubled businesses in the UK. I derived so much joy and pleasure just fixing problematic businesses and seeing them prosper, teaching and empowering people to pursue their dreams and be counted. I loved advising and helping people, so I knew I had found my passion. I did some work for free, but charged for my services. I just loved it.
When I commenced the business, I got more emails from women in Africa (especially Nigeria and Kenya) than from the UK. A lot of them wanted to start businesses but didn’t know how to go about it. I did some Skype interviews, researched, and decided to diversify into the African market, so AfricanFemale Entrepreneurs was born. We set up our social media platform and the interest was huge, so I discussed with my hubby about running a pilot event in Nigeria to test the waters. The event, which was held in June 2013, was a success and it drew the attention of men, who then emailed me asking why we were only working with women.
After much deliberation with my Hubby and team, we decided to repackage AfricanFemale Entrepreneurs to include both men and women, and bring its headquarters to Lagos, Nigeria. So presently, AfricanFemale Entrepreneurs is known as AFEntrepreneurs! A Creative Haven for Entrepreneurs. The concept of the newly revamped company has changed to include more and better services. Our social media platforms will be deleted and new ones created to reflect the new Company and the website will be shut down temporarily from next month to commence revamp.
How different is what you do now from what you wanted to do as a child?
Growing up was fun, I was Daddy’s girl and Daddy was a Chartered Accountant. So, I guess he influenced my career path.
When I was in secondary school, I wanted to be a Charted Accountant like my Dad, so studied the relevant subjects that will help me achieve my dreams. Finally, my dreams became reality, I graduated and I started working as a Financial Analyst, but then I hated it with all passion. I loved interpreting numbers, investigating and explaining variances, but I was not cut out for doing spreadsheets. I didn’t enjoy the finance meetings. The month of March was our financial year end in the UK; the month to get all relevant books balanced and budgets approved. So I never liked the month of March. In fact the day I resigned, I was very happy and felt liberated.
I know there are lots of money to be made in the world of finance and accountancy, but it just isn’t for me. I was living my Father’s dream not mine. But in all, I am thankful to God and my late Dad for making me study accountancy, because the knowledge and experience has really helped me in my business ventures.
How long have you been working out of CapitalSquare? What has the experience been like? Would you recommend it?
I started working out of CapitalSquare in late April 2014, when a good friend recommended it to me after failed attempts to secure an office space. It’s been great working from here. I love my fellow hardcore, successful entrepreneurs, the serenity of the workspace, the ever helpful and cheerful staff, the cool atmosphere, unlimited Wi-Fi and most importantly the constant power supply #JustSuperAwesome
I will not only recommend it, I have been doing so to my friends both in the UK planning to come back home and the ones here in Nigeria. CapitalSquare provides absolute value for money. Indeed a great place to concentrate and get to work.
If you could share a desk with any two people in the world, who would they be? Why?
- Oprah Winfrey: Because she is an amazing billionaire entrepreneur and one whose life reminds me that if I can believe it, dare to step out in faith and take action, then the sky is just my stepping stone in terms of what my hands could achieve. I am an addicted follower of Oprah.
- The Google Founders - Larry & Sergey: I know they are two separate individuals, but what I love about them is the fact that together they have built the best company in the world within a short space of time and I have followed them, read their books, watched their interviews and currently working on modelling my office space to theirs. Just love them and what they transforming the way we live and digest data.
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
A lion: Because I am very courageous and I love to dominate! I love to take ‘calculated’ risks. However, I hate being put at the back or behind. I make it a habit to sit in the front row, use the first toilet where there are more than one; be the first in the queue, ask questions or challenge assumptions where others are too scared to ask. I just love being in charge! Put me behind and I will step out and start my own thing.
That's all folks!
Want to talk with Ezinne, or have any business problems that she can solve? Get in touch with her via any of the channels below:
Twitter: @Zinnilove (Not a twitter user though)
Phone: +234 817 856 1252
And if you'd like to join Ezinne and the other amazing people working out of CapitalSquare, click here to see our plans and pricing. There'll definitely be something for you.