My challenge as an entrepreneur (12) – Fola Daniel Adelesi

2004 was a great year for me and I had gradually gathered momentum for the things I wanted to do. My name was fast becoming a household name within the campus community. My articles had appeared in magazines produced by students and lecturers alike. Some of them had pictures and some didn’t. My stickers with very strong quotes were all over the place and they were in a sense strategically placed. I said strategically placed because some of them were on the doors of the lecturers and there was no way you would enter without seeing those stickers. They were right in your nose!

Some even told me about an incident in one of the offices one day. A female lecturer who didn’t like to talk too much was being disturbed by some students. She is perceived to be, and indeed she is, one of the finest lecturers in the department. She was in her office when someone made a derogatory remark. She only came out to show them the sticker that was on the door! Coincidentally it was the sticker I had given to her and the words read, “Some people’s mouth have fetched them money and other’s have fetched them death. What will your mouth fetch you?” It was the perfect answer in that situation so the only she added was that it was one of their colleagues who had produced the sticker and she returned to her office. When some people meet me the first thing you would see on their faces was the surprise that I was so young. They had seen materials from me on different places and had met me without any preparation so the shocker was that I was even very young.

All of these were stuffs I was working on so that I could launch my first conference. I had tried to launch my first conference in 2004 but it was not an ideal time. I had not been able to get some people who would buy into the vision and I had not really studied the campus very well because it was a multi campus system without a resident hostel. Students were everywhere you could a town around the university and in every thing you could manage to call a shelter instead of a house. I also needed to plan my resources and publicity strategy. When I looked at everything I eventually waited till 2005 before launching the first conference. Waiting was hard but it paid off because I had met more people who could give me the required support. I had met people who watched me and tried to understand the things I stood for so it was not difficult to convince them when I wanted to launch out.

My conference was titled “THE RELEVANT PEOPLE” because we wanted to teach people how to be relevant. Adedamola Adewole and Sijuade Otegbeye were the first speakers I invited to share my platform. They had been my big brothers in the faith so it was not a hell trying to get them down. I used my allowance, as usual, to print the small posters we used. I couldn’t pay for a venue so we had to negotiate one but unfortunately my intermediary with the users of the hall didn’t deliver my message. We got into a mess a few days to the conference and were told we could not use the hall or else we would have to pay! All I wanted was the conference so I agreed to pay the money I didn’t have. I had sent out letters to a few people to help us raise fifteen thousand naira (N15, 000) for the conference. Somebody raised my hope by telling me that this is what someone can pay for! The person kept asking me to come back until the conference was over! One day it was it cheque book that was not available and the other days something else would be the issue.

Someone was kind enough to send one thousand naira (N1,000). I took it gladly and moved on. The conference attendance revealed that I had more than a hundred people in attendance. Whao! That was a huge success for a starter! I really had 95 chairs prepared for the people and I remember some people had left because of one personal schedule or the other by the time I was speaking. After the conference my second speaker, Sijuade Otegbeye, told me that his first conference was not this successful so I was encouraged. The speakers were amazing but I had no pay cheques or envelopes for them. I gave them all the honour I could because there was no honourarium for them.

After the conference, my vice president, Adeyemi Johnson Awobayo was stranded in town for about three days because we had given all. Someone even came to ask for alms and we had to give. I tried raising funds during the conference because I knew the people were going for a holiday but it didn’t work. Some people would say they were so poor that the only food they had was gari (grounded cassava). We didn’t even have that. We took empty bowls from one room to another to get the gari that makes some people say they were poor. Some months later I was still paying off debt for the hall we were not supposed to pay for because I delegated a responsibility that was not carried out yet the person concerned assured me that the stage was set. …to be continued.

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