From zero to hero
•Obinna Etele dropped out from medical school to attend to his entrepreneurial passion.
Today, he wants undergraduates to be like him
By PETRUS OBI, Enugu
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Photo : Sun News Publishing
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In this interview with Daily Sun, Etele gave an insight into his programme. Obinna Etele is a graduate of the University of Lincoln in the United States of America. Before going abroad, he had to abandon his studies at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he was studying Medicine to pursue his entrepreneurial passion.
I entered the University quite early, and never knew I had a vision better than medicine. When I discovered my talent was more in becoming an entrepreneur, than being a medical doctor, I had to abandon medicine. Today, that desire of becoming a medical doctor has completely died.
After realizing my dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur, with a bachelor’s degree in Business Studies, a diploma in Law in International Trade and a certificate in Information Technology in UK, Obinna returned home with an initiative targeted at changing the mindsets of undergraduates in Nigeria towards entrepreneurship in a programme I call Undergraduate Business Conference.
Take off point
The conference took off in Nigeria in July last year and was successfully hosted in Enugu and Lagos respectively in collaboration with the center for Entrepreneurship and Development Research, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and with the support of the Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Chinedu Nebo.
It is a new initiative that changed the mindsets of undergraduates. At the conference in Enugu alone, we had thousands of people. In Lagos it was the same thing. The undergraduate business conference is one that has come to stay. It has been packaged to change the mindset of people to let them become more entrepreneurial. We believe that students can pursue a major course in the university, but we also believe that its high time our students became more entrepreneurial in terms of thinking because there is no job and the unemployment rate in Nigeria is going higher and higher.
We believe that a student after graduation from the university should be able to think of an initiative, an idea, implement that idea and start work on it. You must not be a business man to do business. You can be a medical doctor and do business, after all many professionals do business. So, we believe that if these students can be given early knowledge while in the university, once they come out, they should be able to stand on their own, and become employees. We cannot continue to have a situation where people spend four to five years in the university only to come out unemployed; there is no difference or gap between you and the illiterate because you cannot find a job; you have wasted your years in the university.
So, the Conference we have founded, which I am the Head, executive council in the UK is an initiative that has come to change the mindset of our people in the sense that we want employment to reign; we want our students to turn into employers rather than be unemployed.
Initially, many people were ready to partner with us in terms of organization, business and companies; but one thing you have to understand when you are in course of making a change is to look out for the best. So, we came in and we saw that UNN was ready both in cash and in mind they were highly ready to support this course knowing that our students need a change in the way they think; it’s a thing of the mind. Now tell me why a student in UK will work while studying, and a student in Nigeria will not work while studying. This is based on the foundation they were given in school. So, we decided to take the university that understand what we are talking about and went into partnership with UNN and we made headway at the first conference at the Protea Hotel, Nike Lake Enugu and the second one at Victoria Island Lagos.
Initially we were focusing on students but at a time we saw that we had a message of change so we expanded it to include university lecturers, professors, fresh graduates, but our main target remains the undergraduates.
At the end of year conference, we were able to distribute thousands of questionnaires; we analysed the questionnaires to find out if the programme was worth it, and we found out that majority of the participants want the programme to spread.
Thus, we are thinking of a bigger conference this year; this time not only a conference but a business training which you can also call a master class, a business plan competition and an award night and dinner to honour people that have shown concern and who have contributed to students entrepreneurship in Nigeria.
The conference will be free to all participants bearing in mind the financial situation in the country and the importance of the message. Our sponsorship comes from With worth Entrepreneurship Consultants, Centre for Entrepreneurship Development, UNN and perhaps other individuals.
Our role model
The conference took after “Business Stardom’ in the UK , which is organized twice a year in Birmingham and London. Etele said it is what he has repackaged and reshaped to suit Nigeria. It is a business conference sponsored by banks and UK government and other independent institutes in UK for every unemployed, and those who have desire to start a business or improve on his business.
We want to, one day, become a converging centre for the whole of African students and young entrepreneurs because our target is the youth.
This year’s plan is based on the success of last year’s conference. It was successful in terms of attendance, the support and the message. We were also able to realize about N1 million; people donated to support the programme. We want to expand the conference and make it more educative. It will be held at the Ekpo Refectory, UNN. The university is ready to host up to 15, 000 people. Experts including successful women entrepreneurs are expected to speak at the conference. We want to teach the people not only what to do but also how to go about it; that’s why we have tagged this year’s conference ‘In search of Financial Excellence’.
Banks are going to be our biggest partners this year. We might not be looking at the bigger banks. The CBN has provisions that every aspiring businessman can obtain loan from the Micro Finance Banks. And, the UNN Vice Chancellor has promised that we would partner with students who have good initiatives. Office of the VC is ready to put pen on paper when these students present their business plans.
They can sign on their behalf. What it means is that they will have part ownership in the business. That’s why we made plans for business plan competition. But, for the students who don’t make it to the final list on the judges desk, we plan to call in the banks. The Centre for Entrepreneurship and development Research is there to give certified reference that these persons have attended the conference. So, we have to teach them how to secure the loans. We shall also teach them how to write a business plan, and a feasibility study because these are the things the banks will look out for.