MEET NOAH IBRAHIM – The Winner of Business Day CEO Apprentice 2016

      I don’t have any money. I simply fund my business by arousing people’s interest in my products, they pay, I deliver, and get my royalty. That extra fund I make is what I use to do big things in small ways.

          1. Why did you decide to be an entrepreneur?

  1. Two things made me decide to become an entrepreneur, the first was necessity, while the second was my nature, my kind of person. So, I will put it like this, it was necessary for me to discover myself, so I can grow to become the kind of person I aspire to be.
  2. 2. What made you choose this type of business?
  3. Back in school, I used to live large, at least large enough to buy the latest gadgets, had a place and a car of my own, and enjoyed life all over the place. Then one day I woke up and asked myself, “what If?”. What If I didn’t have someone to cater for my needs again, then that’ll be disastrous. So, I decided to start something for myself, I started with t-shirt designs for students in school, collected final year t-shirt contracts. Had to source materials and prints from Idumota Lagos, my friend “Ladez Fithy” was a great help. Then, I started bringing Jeans, belts and normal t-shirts from Idumota, got some shirts from India as well. So, by the time we graduated, I moved to Lagos, it wasn’t easy moving from Lagos to Ife, the business was eventually going to die, cos I wanted to appeal to people who could pay me more for my time. Big boys don’t spend much on funny printed shirts, I told myself. So, one of my friends introduced me to the Katangura Second-hand market, popularly known as “Akube Market”. So, I started picking nice casual shoes for cheap to resell, I was making between 500-1500 on each pair, depending on the customer.
  4. Another necessity arose. Someone called me and told me he had a wedding for the upper weekend, and that he wanted a blue suede loafer with black tassel… Naturally, I’m wired to always say yes to opportunity. So, I told him no problems. I didn’t know where to go, or how to go about it. So, I asked around, and I was introduced to the Mushin Leather market. That was how it began. I started using cobblers, started running up and down to deliver. I had a partner on it with me then, Nola Adetola. We then formed Noah & Nola. We faced a lot of challenges along the line, but business was good. I went on to form Noah Ibrahim Perception. I want it to become a household name for top quality shoes.
  5. 3. Can you tell us about your educational background?
  6. I attended St. Leo’s Catholic School, Toyin Street, Ikeja, Lagos, for my primary education, then I went on to Mayflower school Ikenne, Ogun-State, Nigeria, for my secondary education. I did Cambridge A-levels at EAC Ibadan and entered into 200 Level OAU IFE Mechanical Engineering in 2009.  I graduated from Ife 2014 with a Second Class Upper Honors.
  7. 4. You are a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from the Prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), what is it like shunning 9 to 5 jobs to do things yourself?
  8. OAUIFE had always taught me to hustle hard, I get what I work for, and so if I want something I just work for it, my own way. Shunning 9-5 hasn’t been rosy, but it has been worth it.
  9. 5. How profitable is your business?
  10. The business of shoes is a highly profitable one. Your marketing is key, if you get your marketing wrong, everything will go wrong.
  11. 6. What is unique about your company?
  12. The fact that we stick to quality, no matter what. We don’t make shoes for everybody. We’re always up to time, and we also treat our customers well.
  13. 7. How have the recent economic issues affected your business?
  14. Well, it hit us hard, but it has taught us a lot. Especially about timing our production. At some point we got stuck, our products got stuck, they were not selling, so we sat down to figure out other ways to sell, and I must tell you, we’re doing really fine. We currently don’t keep stock anymore, we’re strictly bespoke.
  15. 8. How has it been dropping your academic qualifications for NOAH IBRAHIM PERCEPTION?
  16. Going broke from time-to-time, seeing your friends getting a good salary, with an official car and a place of their own, and you just squatting with some family to survive. But then, with your hard and smart work, you’ll see yourself moving up gradually. At some point, my mom used to hurl insults at me to go get a job and a life. I never listened, and she’s now happy I didn’t listen. I also feel school has exposed me to so many things, I have met so many people, and I have a better leverage to grow my network. The first buyers of my products were my friends.
  17. 9. How have you been funding your business?
  18. Very simple, I don’t have any money. I simply fund my business by arousing people’s interest in my products, they pay, I deliver, and get my royalty. That extra fund I make is what I use to do big things in small ways. There are several ways to get funding, you can get a loan, or apply for a grant, just make sure you have a bankable business plan, and you know your stuff very well.
  19. 10. You won the Business Day CEO Apprentice 2016, what improvement has that brought into your business? Will you advise budding entrepreneurs to apply?
  20. Of course, young budding entrepreneurs should go for stuff like these, test your ability, meet people, network, and expand your horizon. I knew we were going to win from the start, even though I was surrounded by minors, who knew nothing about business, we still scaled through. There and then, I was more assured than ever that I can face challenges and surpass it.
  21. 11. What aspect of your business is the most challenging?
  22. I have several businesses, most at their early stages. My major problem is time management, and of course adequate funds. But that doesn’t stop me from doing major things in my business. I’m currently taking online classes on time management, and I’m also processing some entrepreneurship loans.
  23. 12. What are your responsibilities as the business owner?
  24. Well, basically, my responsibility as the business owner is to make sure everything works. I tell my guys, I work for you, I am the run-around and fix it, guy. So, I bring in leads, every other person does their part, if something breaks, I fix it. I don’t sit to blame anybody, I don’t even have enough time to blame myself. I fix it.
  25. 13. What are things that you think make your company better prepared to grab market share versus your Competitors?
  26. The passion for starters, we’re just doing our own thing, having fun all the way. We’re not all about the money, we reject jobs if we can’t meet the deadline, or just reschedule for people who want to wait. But they always wait.
  27. 14. How do you advertise your product/service?
  28. Online marketing. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, they’re your engine. The internet is the fuel, it makes everything work.
  29. 15. If you have the opportunity of working in any organization in Nigeria, where would you have wanted to work?
  30. General Electric (GE), I want to build a system like GE, everything works. Hospitality, Oils, engineering, education. It just works. I love being around people and things that work.
  31. 16. What’s the most difficult/challenging thing about running your own business?
  32. The fact that I have to be part of everything, it’s fun though.
  33. 17. Do you have international clients?
  34. Yes, I do, South Africa, UK, US, Canada……We just discuss online, and I use a courier.
  35. 18. If you could time travel back to day one of your startup and have 15min with your former self to communicate, any lessons you’ve acquired with the intention of saving yourself mistakes and heartache, what would you tell yourself?
  36. Don’t work yourself too hard, be smart and perfect your marketing.
  37. 19. Other than deciding to work for yourself, what was the single most important decision you made that contributed to your success?
  38. Trusting my guts.
  39. 20. How did you get your first client?
  40. My friend was my first client. It was simple and basic…. He just had to buy.
  41. 21. Do you still have some of your first customers? Why or how did you make sure they didn’t leave due to the growing pains from your beginnings until now?
  42. Yes. In fact, most of my customers are return customers. We gave them quality, and we kept to time, and also the fact that we are always available.
  43. 22. What other projects are you into presently?
  44. I run a shoe school (Shoetechnic), still at its early stage. I also run Tutpick, a tutor referencing company, basically, we help parents with tutor acquisition. I am currently developing a marketing solution company (Sellerrand). I run other side projects like directing photography and web app development.
  45. 23. Where do you want your company to be in the next five years?
  46. Top Tier, should have gone international, and over a million satisfied customers.
  47. 24. If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
  48. Trust your guts, business is different from family, save to invest, and love yourself very much.

Very simple, I don’t have any money. I simply fund my business by arousing people’s interest in my products, they pay, I deliver, and get my royalty. That extra fund I make is what I use to do big things in small ways. There are several ways to get funding, you can get a loan, or apply for a grant, just make sure you have a bankable business plan, and you know your stuff very well.

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