On our first edition of Naija Hustle, Mr. Samuel Okon opens up like never before on his personal struggles in life;
- How he made his first money.
- How he lost millions of naira while trying to start many businesses.
- How he survived 3 weeks in a thick forest in Kogi, North-Central, Nigeria, where he had gone to start a wood business after so many failed businesses.
- What he learnt from all his struggles.
- What he would have done differently if presented with same opportunities.
- His personal advice to Nigerian youths who are hustling right now on the street.
If you are currently going through tough time, this edition will give you strength to keep moving because you are not alone on this journey.
Please, don’t give up, we all go through a lot, but let’s grow through it together.
Read and enjoy the interview between Naija Buzz’s Ogbodo ThankGod with Mr. Samuel Okon.
Tell me a little about yourself?
My name is Samuel Okon, I am from Etaim, a small community in Akwa Ibom State.
I was born and brought up in a small town called ‘Mando’ in Kaduna State.
How did you make your first money?
That was in 2009.
In fact, it was on 26 April, 2009, I remember very clearly that I received N5k as my salary.
It was my first pay from my hustle.
What job was it then?
I was a computer instructor at a small computer training centre.
I had just completed my computer training. You know in this naija, learning computer after your secondary school education was the norm then. It was a typical Nigerian thing, you must just go computer school after WAEC… hahaha.
How did you feel receiving your first pay?
Hmm N5k, I won’t lie, for me, it was big money back then ooo.
I was really very happy.
I even buy N500 suya that day sef.
I had to enjoy myself, life is good. Or let me say at least life was good until gari start to shine for my eyes like sharwama.
Tell me something noteworthy you did with the pay you made from your hustle?
A lot ooo… I did many things with my hustle money.
I bought a lot of things for myself; laptops, phones; everything to make me feel like a big boy.
Was that all you did with your salary? You didn’t think about your future, school, business?
No ooo, I have a National Diploma in Computer Science na.
I even tried to go for my Higher National Diploma or a Bachelors Degree, but guy hustles no make me get chance.
I also tried starting an online street fashion blog sef. I had my laptop, did my research and business plan, but guy e no work. I needed some other things like camera, phone with good picture quality etc.
But money yab man I swear.
So your computer instructor job was your first and only job?
No ooo. Ah my guy I don hustle.
I don do plenty things ooo. In fact I don work as banker and as hotel security guard before sef.
Ah banker, guy you be boss ooo!
Forget that thing jor, no even think am. The work na corporate slavery ooo. Hahaha!
You think say na everybody wea wear suit and tie for bank dey collect big money?
So you became a banker after your computer job?
No. I worked in other places.
I worked in a pharmaceutical company while doing my ND. But the job was very exhausting.
I worked for almost 24hours daily for a week for one mumu pay at the pharmaceutical firm.
The only time I had break was when I had to bath or eat.
But I had to borrow brain since I already have legs. Brother I run ooo. Make I hear, I for don die since na.
I also did security job at a hotel in Abuja for 3 months. I was on night shift because I was still doing my ND then.
But I left when they changed my shift to morning because of school.
It was after my ND that I got a job at First Bank, I was receiving N60k as my basic salary.
N60k! so why did you leave? The pay is not too bad for a naija hustler na?
I left because of some reasons.
First the job function was more that the pay.
I was posted to a rural area, one village like that in Kogi State.
There was no light, no water, no social amenities.
All these made me fall ill regularly, plus I was doing 3 persons job for 3 years in the bank. The branch was short-staffed.
It was also risky for me. Banks in rural areas are mostly exposed to robbery.
We lost some of our colleagues due to bank robbery.
I felt I’ve seen enough and it was time to move on to the next hustle.
So what was your next hustle?
Before I left the bank, I had plans to start my own business.
I ventured into gold mining first.
Was the business profitable?
Hmm… I lost all my money.
I invested about N350k but everything follow breeze go.
Ah N350k go just like that? How?
The pit collapsed due to heavy rain fall.
We had to abandon the site.
I wasn’t the only victim who lost money; many people lost their money too.
That’s a big loss
Which big? Me that MMM moved my hard earned N600k to the land of see me no more. Hahaha!
But Mr. Okon, you’ve lost a lot ooo, N950k.
Hahaha… wait first, I never finish.
After that sef, me and a friend did a joint business, we invested about N1million into laterite.
Wetin con happen?
I no fit shout abeg, we lost everything too.
After this one, I am sure you didn’t put your money into any other business?
I did ooo.
I went into cashew business.
Like the others, it was a total disaster.
I invested N500k and I lost over N250k.
Again? What happened this time?
It was due to the cashew nut price fluctuation.
The price wasn’t stable in the market.
So I sourced for more money, added it to the money left from the cashew disaster and ventured into wood business.
I collected N350k loan and added to what I have left to start the wood business.
Please don’t tell me you lost everything again.
Hahaha… wait let me land first.
The wood business was a scary business. You have to go very far into the thick forest to cut down trees.
I normally spend 2 to 3 weeks in the forest before bringing out the woods. We load the woods into a truck and transport it to a company run by Chinese.
It would have been a very profitable business if not for heavy taxes.
We have to pay to Local Government, State Government and security agencies at check points. All these payments affect the profit margin which made it less lucrative.
There are instances where you lose even more. For instance truck carrying my woods fell twice. And it costs a lot to get a new truck and then load the woods all over again into the new truck.
In fact at the end, I usually run at loss after eventually selling the woods.
But the final incident that forced me out of the business was when 200 pieces of my wood were stolen at the wood depot.
Each of the woods cost N1,700.
N1,700 each? That’s about N340k for 200 pieces. Wetin you con do?
I reported the matter to security agencies and the wood union. But all efforts to apprehended the culprits and recover my woods proved abortive.
I tried all I could, but my efforts were fruitless.
I got frustrated, I just had to accept my fate and move on with my life.
So, what next did you do?
Do ke? Do what?
With which money?
I lost everything. I was so broke and frustrated with life.
I just kukuma applied for the Nigerian Air Force recruitment for the 9th time. As usual, I got screened out. That one no too pain me, I would have been surprised if I was taken.
Ah you applied for Air Force 9 times?
I’ve always wanted to become an Air Force personnel.
When I lost everything and went down to zero level, I remembered my first love (the Nigerian Air Force).
Your hustle story is really interesting. What did you learn from everything that happened? What would you have done differently?
Patience is very important.
I learnt that it is very important to be patient and not just jump into any business I know nothing about.
It’s just so unfortunate that I learnt it the hard way.
How do you now picture your future?
I am saying that confidently because I have gathered enough experiences from my struggles and I think I am fully prepared to approach life with more wisdom.
This kind of knowledge, you don’t learn it from school. There is no school, not even Harvard, that can teach you what I have learnt from my struggles in life.
What advice do you have for your fellow Nigerians on the street?
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, said that if he had 6 hours to cut down a tree, he would use 4 hours to sharpen his axe.
If you have plans to start a business, take more than enough time to plan very well.
Notice I said “take more than enough time to plan”, I did not say just; “take enough time to plan”.
Don’t be in a hurry, plan well.
Read a lot of books related to the business you intend to start.
Proper planning and knowledge of the business you intend to start is key.
Forget this get rich quick syndrome. Trust me; you are not in competition with anyone.
Everybody have their own clock.
Don’t try to get rich quick because your friends are rich.
Just take life one step at a time! Take your time!
Ogbodo ThankGod is currently the Managing Director/CEO/Group Chief Editor at Naija Buzz News Network. He was the Chief Editor at NaijaBuzz.News before his new top leadership role. Ogbodo has years of experience in the Nigeria Media Industry and has co-founded some media companies. He is the founder of Ogbodo Solution Nigeria and 1Push.Ng. He loves playing football and is a strong supporter of Lionel Messi who he describes as the greatest footballer of all time.