1 March 2014

Hafiz Adewuyi

Business Series (Introduction)

The first intentional profit I ever made in my life was while I was at Ijanikin (FGCL, High school, Boarding house); final year. Like most other petty businesses that I have run in my lifetime, it was started accidentally. I wonder if that is a good thing or a bad thing (I lean towards the latter).

Well, the goods in this business were sachets of raw Indomie noodles. I had smuggled about a carton of them into the boarding house. It's a wonder how I managed to convince my mum to allow that since she was convinced that eating uncooked noodles causes cancer (duh! We were not allowed to cook at all in the hostel). Besides, she was the disciplinarian mama who would not aid and abet her kid in defying authority. 

So, right now, I'm trying to rack my brain about how exactly I made my first sale.... eeeee... I give up. However, I clearly remember a likely reason why the use of the noodles was converted from personal consumption to profit making. The way noodles were prepared in the hostel (due to the prohibition of cooking) was by soaking it in potable water for about ten minutes. After this period, it would be soft enough to be eaten. Now, noodles prepared by this method, over time, became quite unpalatable to me. I had eaten too much of it at an earlier point of my time in the school. For this reason, I did not eat even one of the noodles. Perhaps, the trade was born by my sensing of the scarcity around me, recognizing it as an opportunity and keying into it by doing a little advertising (which I can't remember how). I also found that it was possible to sell at 5 NGN cheaper than the tuck-shop price and still make a profit. So, I made that my not-so-secret competitive advantage.

Before I knew it, my customer base grew from one to two to about five regular and large volume customers. My carton of noodles was exhausted before I knew what was happening. I was motivated indeed as business was booming. Along the line, I contacted my mum to help smuggle in another carton for business to continue; she agreed. Th next visiting, indeed, she brought them. I was indeed excited, knowing the amount of profit that was gonna be rolling in as a result of this. As a matter of fact, profit was 5 NGN per sachet. But who cares, I was making money legitimately when virtually no one else around me was. Perhaps, my daily allowance back then was so meager, a few multiples of 5 NGN looked pretty good to me. Sales did not ever slow and the business thrived only on word-of-mouth marketing. I was way too timid then anyway, to really try a more intentional method of marketing - I'm a little better off now.

Business went on as usual for a few weeks, until I began to run out of stock once again. I made a prompt call to mum, my supplier as usual. However, during this call, tears were shed. Tears that strained for me to quit the business. Mum had grown all sentimental about this whole making-money-while-in-school thing. The vital part of the conversation (originally in Yoruba) went something like this:

Zifah: Hello mum

Mum: Hello son... Greetings...

Zifah: Mum, the noodles are almost exhausted again. Please, bring in another carton for me next weekend.

Mum: That will not be possible. I have decided to stop helping you smuggle noodles in for sale.

Zifah: Why?

Mum: I want you to stop business in school and focus on your academics. Why are you doing this business?  Do you suspect that I might not have the means to see you through school? Your father is late, agreed. But I assure you of my readiness to do whatever it takes to ensure that I support you and your siblings till you can stand on your own. Tears... Please, stop this trade and focus on your books. I will provide all you need.

Zifah: Okay mummy. Please, don't cry anymore. I will stop.

It was a painful but unavoidable end indeed. For the next few days, I had to live through the pain of telling my eager customers that business was now closed. I could only imagine how much opportunity mum's sentimentalism had forced me to allow to slip by. As mum desired, I focused on my books - factually the only other distraction I had apart from business - happily ever after.

I had no accounting and I did not keep any records. Although, I doubt the profit from the lifetime sales of the business reached 1000 NGN. But it was worth it, I think.

P.S.: In all sincerity, I cannot remember if the business-killing conversation occurred over a phone call, or in flesh. In fact, I kind of suspect that it was in flesh, because I can remember the emotions were transferred very strongly to me when she sobbed. Whatever; since memory has decided to fail me, let us just stick with the story ;-).


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