- Abisola Odebode struggled to get a job when he graduated from LAUTECH, where he studied mechanical engineering
- Odebode said his disability hasn't been an impediment to him, as he has grown his business to the stage of hiring employees
- He said Nigerian banks will not give him the loan he needs to scale his business because he can't meet their requirement
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Abisola Odebode was born with an abnormal growth in his bone structure. While this disability has often determined the path of individuals born with it, Odebode is one of those changing the narrative.
He told Legit.ng:
"I don't even see myself as being physically challenged because i do travel for work outside my base (Osun)."
Odebode has been able to overcome what many termed a challenge by investing in his passion, paint production, which has made him an employer of labour, with six employees. But prior to finding his feet in the paint industry, the NYSC trainer had struggled to find a job.
He studied mechanical engineering at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, concluding his NYSC service year in 2015. His focus was to secure a blue-collar job, but in 2016, disappointment in securing a private-sector job pushed him into paint production.
"After my service in 2015, My friend called me and asked me what I was doing to manage but I told him nothing because I was still looking for a white-collar job but one question that he asked me was that did I have any skill but I said no.
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"And this my friend happens to be a mechanical engineer. He acquired roadside mechanic skill before I went to Lautech to study mechanical engineering. So that was how he introduced me to the man that taught me how to produce paint. So I started paint production in Feb 2016."
The paint market in Nigeria has a high entry barrier, as it could be capital-intensive, but Odebode was able to squeeze the capital needed to go independent and establish Biolux Paint. He invested capital from his service year to purchase raw materials and equipment needed to start operation.
With his four years of experience in paint production, the paint maker believes the entry barrier of the paint market can be lower if prospective entrepreneurs don't have the capital to go big at once.
The seasonal trainer's statement is not farfetched as the market is now saturated by small paint makers eating into the revenue of bigger brands like Berger Paint, CAP Plc, and Portland Paints. The competition in the market has proven to be a tough one for Odebode, who admitted the rivalry has a negative effect on his customer acquisition.
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In sharing his challenge, he said:
"There are lots of challenges, competition is one (of) them when you tell your client that your product is so so amount he/she will tell you that Mr A is selling his own at a ridiculous price and you will be like (what the hell). I just let my clients know what makes my products different from others and the reason they need to go for my product."
Aside from having to worry about corporate rivals throwing their weight in the market, Odebode is worried that other small paint makers are offering market revenue to the bigger brands on a platter of gold by producing adulterated products.
He said such practice is discouraging Nigerians from fully accepting small brands:
"It is hard to convince them to accept your product, and I will say it is not their fault, it is because most of the small paint producers produced adulterated paints products that make people question the quality of paints produced by small scale paint producers, I will just advice my colleagues to always produce high-quality products so that Nigerians will be able to accept the products."
With intense competition, he has tried to secure a loan to grow his business, but his attempt has been impeded by requirements demanded by deposit money banks. He said if the government intends to help small paint manufacturers like him, loans should be made accessible for the acquisition of modern equipment and other things needed.
With competition hovering over his head, the paint maker is also battling with the business environment of Nigeria, which he said isn't favourable for small businesses:
"...because people will prefer going for foreign products compare to made in Nigeria products. I will just implore Nigerians to lets us keep patronizing locally made products."
Odebode, who have facilitated paint production for Obafemi Awolowo University, First Technical University, Ojenco Industrial Institute Ada, amongst others, said:
"...long term project is to make paint products a household name that will cut across the Nation and beyond."
He said his short-term goal is to keep offering skills acquisition.
Meanwhile, Legit.ng had previously reported the story of Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, who became the first Nigerian founder to grow a tech startup into a billion-dollar company in Africa.
Aboyeji said the achievement of his payment startup, Flutterwave, has sent a positive message that a Nigerian can lead a tech startup into a unicorn status.
Fakoyejo Olalekan is a Business and Financial Journalist with over three years of experience in covering finance and business activities within Nigeria and offshore. Prior to joining Legit.ng, he worked at Nairametrics where he wrote financial and investment analysis articles. Olalekan is a resourceful and result-driven journalist with a track record for conducting extensive research and interviews to produce articles that provide different perspectives to market activities.