Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.
The 23-year-old student on this week’s Naira Life started his first business in 2020. Since then, he’s tried and failed at five businesses. He doesn’t know what it is, but something keeps pushing him to try again, even though he’s now in ₦2m debt.
What’s your earliest memory of money?
2006. I was seven and my mum sent me to buy something for her. I can’t remember how much it was or what I was to buy, but I lost the money and got the beating of my life. That day, I decided I’d always have extra cash so I wouldn’t be in trouble if I lost someone’s money again.
Where did you plan to get extra cash?
I don’t know o. I just didn’t like the beating. But I’ve lost money plenty of times since then. I still lose money. And most times, I don’t have the extra cash to replace it. So I got beaten a few more times.
Was there money at home?
We were okay. We went to Mr. Biggs almost every weekend. My parents were civil servants who worked with the Federal Road Safety Corps, and my siblings and I went to the best schools wherever we lived — whether it was Lagos, Jos, Kaduna, Abuja or Benue.
Why were you moving up and down?
The government kept transferring my dad.
How did moving around affect you?
I don’t know how to speak my native language. Also, it caused delays that meant I had to finish secondary school at 18.
Did university happen immediately?
Almost immediately, yes.
What did you study?
Was that your choice, or what they gave you?
100 per cent my choice. I didn’t want to be a doctor, engineer or lawyer. I don’t like stress, so I didn’t want a career that would make me think too much. I also hate competition, and I imagined those fields are competitive. When I saw crop production in the list of courses on the JAMB portal, I thought, “This looks great. I even like agriculture.”
What did your parents think?
They loved it. They thought I was thinking differently from people my age. They didn’t know I just didn’t want stress in my life.
How did uni go?
You mean how is uni going? I’m in my final year. There have been strikes here and there, and COVID too. But I’m enjoying my course and can’t wait to be a farmer. Right now, I’m doing business on the side.
When did you start your business?
During lockdown in 2020. I was stuck at home with my parents, and it was the most frustrating period of my life. They had a problem with everything I did. Even if I breathed, wahala. I just thought to myself, “If I want to survive this period, I have to get something doing”. I didn’t want to work for someone because I had bad experiences, so I started selling perfume.
Wait… what bad experiences?
In 2017, right after secondary school, I worked at a cyber cafe, helping people type and register for stuff, for two months. The owner paid me ₦7k monthly even though I made ₦7k daily for him.
That’s how things are in Benue. People aren’t paid well. I know people with university degrees earning ₦80k while SSCE holders earn like ₦20k.
When I said I was leaving, he offered to increase my salary to ₦15k, but I’d already made up my mind to leave, so I went to stay with my aunt in Abuja until uni resumed in early 2018.
There was a strike during my first semester, so I had to return home to find work. I worked at a provisions shop for three weeks and left because the owner and his wife were always insulting and fighting everyone, even customers. Out of the ₦12k they were meant to pay me, they paid ₦8k. Thankfully, the strike didn’t last long.
So when COVID came, I thought, “What can I do for myself?”
How did you decide on perfumes?
A friend from my choir group sold perfumes. He told me he bought the oils for ₦2,500 and sold them for ₦5k — sometimes, ₦6k. When the lockdown was partially lifted, I bought some perfumes and posted them on my status. Whenever I went out, I had them in my bag.
Also, I was doing Virtual Top Ups (VTU).
Wetin be that?
I paid ₦10k to sign up to a website where I got data for cheap and sold to people for cheaper than they’d normally buy. For example, I got 1 GB for ₦220 and sold at ₦350.
Both businesses were bringing in an average total of ₦20k profit monthly for a few months until my other friends started selling perfumes and business became slow. So I switched to shoes.
A friend who makes shoes told me to help him publicise his business on my social media and I’d make money from it. I first brought ten people to him, but my pay was a pair of shoes because he didn’t have money. Then I found another 20 people. After I introduced the first few to him and he messed up on timelines and quality, I started getting shoes from another friend who made them in Jos. This one sent the shoes to me, I sold them and kept the markup. I was making about ₦1,500 per shoe.
This continued until I started another business in September 2020.
A friend was doing POS, and it was bringing him money, so I thought, “Why not?”
I needed ₦150k to start, and I had ₦20k. So I sold my laptop for ₦80k and got ₦50k from my aunt. After building a small shop made of wood and a zinc roof, and getting the POS machine, I still had ₦70k left.
On the first day, a guy came, transferred ₦2k and collected ₦20k. I don’t believe in jazz o, but I don’t know how he did it. I know I saw a ₦20k alert.
What did you do?
I just laughed with my friends and moved on.
How do people that do POS business make money?
To use my POS to collect ₦1k, I charge ₦100. ₦25 goes to the POS company, and I keep ₦75. The higher the withdrawal, the higher the charges, and the higher the company’s commissions.
For how long did you do the POS thing?
Six months. I had to go back to school in late 2020, so I left the business with friends. The first person “lost” ₦100k in her first month. I can’t say she stole it because she’s a friend’s friend and she shouldn’t do something like that. The second person “lost” ₦60k in one month. By March, I just told them to stop.
How much did you make from the business in total?
I don’t know. I wasn’t keeping any books. I was even saving to set up shop in school but that didn’t work out because I didn’t have money. So I just stayed in school until I saw an opportunity to start another business.
I’m not even surprised
I was on my bank app when I saw that because money had been entering my account frequently over the past year, I could take a ₦750k loan. I took it.
What was the plan?
I used ₦350k to buy a plot of land for farming. The remaining ₦400k, I used to set up a cyber cafe on campus and continue my POS business.
How did that go?
In the first month, the photocopier I bought for ₦80k spoilt. I fixed it and continued to do business. I was making like ₦70k profit a month and balling. I was sponsoring friends’ birthday parties and doing zero savings. Big mistake, of course. I should’ve been investing in another business. And it came back and blew in my face.
Remember the ₦750k loan, I was paying back ₦2k every day. Towards the end of the year, the school went on an internal strike. There were no students to patronise me, so I became broke again. They called off the strike during the festive period, so nobody resumed. Then, there was ASUU strike from early February till the end of 2022. Throughout that period, I stayed with my aunt in Abuja and worked as a primary school teacher, earning ₦45k.
How were you paying off your loan?
I wasn’t. They called and called until they were tired. I’d paid ₦100k before I stopped, but they said I now owe over ₦2m because my debt has grown by 200% interest. When I have money, I’ll reach out to them, and we’ll negotiate something.
You’re killing me. What do you do now?
My friend and I have a restaurant on campus.
He cooks, and we have two employees who help to cook and sell. I go to the market to buy goods and do most of the administration.
What happened to the cyber cafe?
By the time I returned after the ASUU strike, the machines were rusty and would’ve cost a lot to repair. So I’ve left that one.
I don’t know what it is, but even though I’m failing at these businesses, I just want to keep trying my hands at different things.
How much do you make on an average month?
Like ₦120k. ₦60k from the restaurant and ₦60k from helping people write their research papers. I charge ₦15k per person, and I help about four people in a month.
How do you break that down in a month?
Tell me something you want but can’t currently afford
A car. I want to start doing Uber or Bolt. I also want to move out of my parents’ house. And I want to start my farm. I’ve not touched that land I bought.
On a scale of 1-10, what’s your financial happiness?
Minus 10. I’m in debt.