Queen Martins: Empowering youths
Queen Martins is the founder of Twenty5wishes, an initiative that supports 25 people with training, exhibition and investment opportunities to run their businesses. In this interview with GBENGA SALAU, she spoke on the project, the motivation and why entrepreneurs should be supported.
What is Twenty5wishes initiative all about?
Twenty5wishes is an initiative poised to annually bring into reality the dreams of young people in Nigeria. Committed to developing the human capital of the Nigerian youth, the initiative presents a platform through which dynamic individuals are groomed into successful entrepreneurs through mentorship, with industry influencers and the opportunity to receive tools and funds that facilitate their business endeavours.
To kick-start this process, referrals and personal requests are forwarded to us. Our wish team screens these referrals and requests on their merit, and in order to be eligible, individuals must have demonstrated passion in the particular field, where they desire intervention.
This year, our wishers have shown great interest in various industries, including photography, fashion, makeup, shoe-making, events planning, media, e-commerce and filmmaking. These wishes will be granted in three phases: Training, talent showcase, and business setup with tools.
The ultimate goal of the Twenty5wishes initiative is to set up an endowment fund and build an entrepreneurship training institute with global standards of learning, modern facilities, training equipment and facilitators, which the Nigerian youth can access to develop and broaden their creative talents and sharpen their skill set. We believe the multiplier effect will, overtime, positively impact lives, families, communities and by extension, the nation.
For the training, we reached out to industry leaders and they partnered with us to offer training and across the different phases of the project. For instance, in the field of fashion, we partnered with OFB Fashion School, as well as Africa Fashion Week Nigeria. With regards to photography, we partnered with Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Jide and Morayo Odukoya and an institute, including organisers of Lagos Photo Festival.
In the area of media, we partnered with Beat FM. For make up, we partnered with House of Tara. And for event planning, we partnered with Funke Bucknor. So, we partnered with quite a number of organisations and individuals.
How many people showed interest in the first pitch?
Quite a number of people. We had over 100 people from which we shortlisted. This is in spite of the fact that we did not really make a lot of noise about it. It actually started during my birthday. I was going to turn 25 and I decided to just do something that would be impactful, but it got to a scale that I knew I had to formalise things. That is how we evolved into a full fledge initiative.
What prompted that line of thought on your birthday?
Beyond just celebrating my birthday, there was also a personal conviction as to the reason I am where I am today, and the roles that people have played in getting me there. I know there are other people who have potentials as well, but just do not have the right platform to showcase their skills; they are not in the right network.
Also, there are a lot of people who have good ideas, but not very well skilled in being able to put proposals together to articulate those ideas. So, what we do is try to cut through the red tape and give these people opportunities that they need, help and nurture them that they are able to earn the income they deserve.
What was the feedback like from the first phase of the training?
The feedback was mostly good, but another thing I learnt through the first phase was the fact that sometimes it is not enough to have the skill, you also have to be business savvy, and know how to run a business. The good thing is that because of what we have been able to do and people are following on the social media, a lot more people have decided to come on board to help out with the different phases and mentor people. In all, the feedback has been good.
What was your reaction and experience after the completion of the first phase and the commencement of the second phase?
It is basically picking lessons from the first phase and inputting those in the next quarter of wishes, so that it could be better structured, as well as get more in terms of impact. Of course, there was also the challenge of partners that could come onboard, especially when you are doing something for the first time.
But now, we have the benefit of having done something and we are looking forward to partnering with larger corporate bodies, because the more partners we have, the more wishers we can bring on.
Moving forward, what is the projection?
For the first one, we are able to get partners, and they are not small-scale organisations. So, it is about closing up on what we have already and of course setting up our own training facility, as well. This is so that we are able to conduct some of the trainings within our facility and basically increase the scale. Instead of 25 wishers, we would be looking at 25 people each from different industries. What we have now are 25 people across different industries.
For the last stage, when the wishers are to start practising their wishes, are you giving cash to start their businesses?
After the training, and in the process of getting ready for their exhibition, they go through business seminar, so that they understand what it takes to have a business plan, because they need to have projections. You could give somebody money, but if they do not know what they are going to do with it, it would be a waste.
Therefore, we get them to prepare their business plans, and then pitch such to the angel investors, and based on how convinced the latter are, the trainees would then invest. Already, they had received free training, so they need to know that this is worth fighting for, and not a walk in the park. Succeeding in business demands a lot. You need to go out there, do your market survey, identify your unique selling proposition (USP) and it is only after this, that you have the chance of excelling, and one way to do that is having a business plan.
Has it been a rosy experience?
It has not been entirely rosy. You might be able to accomplish something without money, but to really make impact you need money. Of course, we need money, but I thank the Lord for some of the support we have received. Though it is not financial, but we have received a lot of partnership for some of the things we need.
Another thing is to want to help people and they are able to envision and focus on where they are going and not be distracted by anything along the way. We have had one or two cases of people not following through and it is almost like a waste because somebody else would have benefitted from the wasted slot. Overall, however, we thank the Lord.
What is the motive behind this?
The truth is that there are so many jobs available right now, but with the number of graduates that we turn out daily, there is not enough room in offices. So, people need to look inward and start to think of how they can earn an income. Otherwise, we are going to have a lot more criminals on the roads, as people need money at the end of the day. And if they were not able to earn it, they would look for a way to get it out there.
If we were able to create entrepreneurs, who are passionate about what they do and think on a large scale, we would reduce the number of unemployed graduates, as well as reduce the pressure on corporate organisations to employ all the graduates. And not everybody is cut for office work anyway. There are people who are good with crafts, so all they need is the right platform to earn an income.
Are you looking at partnering with government agencies supporting entrepreneurs?
We are also looking at those organisations, but right now, we have not established partnership with them. However, we are looking at approaching some of them for the next quarter of wishes.
Is the project limited to Lagos?
For the first phase, we had entries from outside Lagos, but we tried to keep it to Lagos for now because we are just starting. As we increase the level of partnership and are able to cater for the needs of people outside Lagos, we would consider entries from outside Lagos.
Do you think the Nigerian environment encourages entrepreneurship?
It promotes dogged entrepreneurs. If you are not determined, you will not succeed in Nigeria because the terrain is not for the light minded. You have to be tenacious and not give up at the first obstacle.
However, people should not give up on their dreams. Though they might have tried to do one project or the other and failed, they should not give up. They should just keep trying, using different approaches, get more counsel, somebody good in that field, to guide and counsel them and they will definitely make a breakthrough.