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Meet Obinna Ukwuani: The Serial Entrepreneur Transforming Education And Agribusiness In Nigeria

Straight out of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, one of the most prestigious technology universities in the world, Obinna Ukwuani took the path less travelled to open a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) campus in Nigeria to offer others from home the chance he had.

Having successfully launched a robotics summer school in Lagos from 2012 to 2014, Ukwuani is in the process of creating one of Africa’s first STEM-focused schools, Makers Academy. The innovation centre will give about 600 students access to tools like laser cutters, 3D printers, woodworking equipment and more.

Spend an hour with this young sage and you’re left feeling suspended by the wisdom from his fresh perspectives on life and entrepreneurship. The serial entrepreneur says it as it is, a stimulating balance of words from an idealistic and realistic entrepreneur.

Obinna Ukwuani. Photo: Instagram/ Oukwuani

In an exclusive interview with Guardian Life, Ukwuani provides insights into his experiences and ideas on entrepreneurship.

What was the motivation behind starting your companies?
My motivation has always stemmed first from a deep desire to have a large impact on many people over the course of my life.

Secondly, I want to become a significant contributor in our quest to make Nigeria a place where citizens can feel certain that tomorrow will always be better than today. These led me to start Makers Academy (including NESA by Makers).

Obinna Ukwuani. Photo: Obinna Ukwuani

I also learned to seek ideas and markets that can scale indefinitely within the Nigerian context. This led me to start Brük Oil Mills, an agribusiness company.

Best pieces of advice for budding entrepreneurs?
Firstly, invest in yourself. Stay humble and keep learning. Commit to constant self-improvement: reading books, staying fit, attending events, meeting new people, etc.

At the end of the day, people and organisations want to associate with others who create value. This principle manifests as employment, contract and fundraising opportunities. By investing in yourself, you increase your capacity to create value for yourself and others.

Secondly, start small and think big. Being diligent with little allows you to achieve excellence, and subsequently cultivate a great reputation. Embrace the process of getting better and achieving exponentially more over time.

Attempting to do too much or go too big in the beginning increases the likelihood of failure due to inadequate resources and lack of operational experience.

Given the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I would not want to start my career all over. But if by some strange occurrence I found myself at the beginning, I would scale down my short-term goals to expedite traction.

I would also be more about how I choose and relate with partners and team members. Misunderstandings can destroy relationships and can be avoided by clearly capturing expectations in a working agreement and defining them through conversation before things progress too far.

Obinna Ukwuani. Photo: Obinna Ukwuani

What does success now mean to you?
Success is being proud of the life you are living, being able to provide for your family and being in a position to improve the lives of others.

Do you have any concluding words on achieving long-term success?
I believe long-term success is achieved through consistency. The longer you or your product remain excellent, the stronger the brand becomes and the more it is sought after.

Setting up your company to be consistent requires creating processes. Document institutional knowledge because you want the newest additions to your team to have a guide for quickly learning the exemplary practices of the people who came before them.

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