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.
Until 2016, this 25-year-old #NairaLife subject’s financial plan was, “My dad’s wealth will bankroll me forever.” You know what made her start hustling for herself? The sudden fear of poverty.
Let’s start with your earliest memory of money.
My earliest memory of money is tied to my parent’s divorce when I was five. My mum was a twenty-something-year-old university student and couldn’t take care of us so we moved with my dad to Southern Nigeria. When they were together, we lived in our own house in Abuja and had a maid, so I guess things were okay. Till today, I don’t know what happened to the house. When we moved, things became a bit difficult.
We first had to live with my dad’s brother for almost a year before we got our apartment. In that period, I remember my dad going out in the mornings and coming back looking defeated. Then, I didn’t know what he was doing, but now I know he was going to look for work.
What did he do for a living?
He’s a civil engineer. He was going out presenting his portfolio to people and looking for contracts. He didn’t let his reality affect us though. When he came home, he cooked and played with us like nothing was happening.
Shortly after we moved to our apartment, he rented another building on our street and called it his office. There, he hired people and looked busier than I’d ever seen him. As the years went by, things got much better for our family. First, we started flying to other Nigerian states to see family members. By the time I was 8, we were travelling abroad for holidays. One year, we’d go to multiple states in the US, another year, we’d tour Europe.
I also noticed I got way more pocket money than my mates in school. I was enjoying my dad’s new wealth, but money was having a bad effect on me.
I got greedy. Even though I took more pocket money to school than my mates, I spent it all and wanted more. After school, when I was waiting for either my nanny or my dad’s police escort to pick me up, I walked up to shops, picked up whatever I wanted and started eating it before the seller noticed. I didn’t have any money to pay, so whoever came to pick me up would pay. It became a habit. I don’t even know when or how I stopped.
I also got super proud. In addition to his engineering business doing well, my dad’s brother became a new big name in politics in that town, so my dad was getting favours and contracts. What this meant for me was that my surname was popular. Nobody — not even teachers — could speak to me.
The way I thought about money was that my dad would have it and take care of me forever. I thought I’d never have to work a day in my life.
When did that change?
In my final year of university. Throughout university, I got a ₦50k monthly allowance and flew business class to the state where my school was located, so I didn’t have a reason to think things would change.
I studied architecture. In my final year, in 2016, we had a project that I thought I did really well. When it was time for reviews, the lecturer looked at my project and said, “Yeah, you did okay,” and moved on. Ah! I was in shock. I expected him to bring my project out in front of the class and laud it for its excellence and all I got was “It’s okay”. After crying, I started to think about my life and what I would do after university. If I wasn’t good at architecture, how would I make money? To add to my panic, I was hearing everywhere that there were no jobs and the economy was getting worse.
So I decided to make a list. What were some of the things I thought I could do for a living?
What did you come up with?
Four things. Importing a wide range of nude-coloured shoes for black women, selling hair, interior decoration and selling clothes.
Which of them did you do?
I first tried to sell hair. My dad gave me a ₦250k gift for finishing university, so I used ₦100k to buy hair for myself and ₦60k to import bundles of hair from China. Nobody bought the hair. While I was marketing the hair, I decided to sell chokers because everyone was crazy about them. This was 2016, and we’d moved to our own house in Abuja. I bought 30 chokers for ₦10k and sold them on Instagram for ₦1,500 each, That’s ₦45k in total. It was too easy to make that money. People were begging me to restock.
By the time my new stock came, I had to go for NYSC in the south. Nobody wanted them there. I had to send them to someone to sell them off for me. Like that, business was done.
What was your NYSC year like?
NYSC placed me at an oil company for work. They didn’t need an architect, but they accepted me and paid me ₦50k. I saved all my allwaee because I didn’t need it to survive. In my year there, I solved so many administrative problems that made them more efficient as a company, but I had to leave because they didn’t have a role for me.
When I got back in 2018, I told my dad I wanted to apply for a master’s abroad and he said okay. By the time I got my admission, the fees were a total of $30,000. That was the first time in a long time my dad couldn’t pay for something. It was already too late to find a scholarship, so I just forfeited the admission and started looking for jobs.
Were things bad for him too?
They were not as good as before. He was mainly surviving on investments he’d made over the years.
After months of searching for jobs online, I finally found one at a big architectural firm. It was in Lagos, so I had to travel five times for the five interview stages. I spent my NYSC allawee on those flights. By the time they offered me a salary, it was ₦118k. My dad was furious. First of all, he didn’t want me to move states to work, and now I was going to earn peanuts. He eventually let me go sha, and when I was leaving, I got ₦250k from my family to settle.
In Lagos, I lived with my aunt. It didn’t take me long to realise I hated the job. I hated the daily commute in danfos and I hated the pay. I felt like I was suffering. With our ₦118k salaries, they still told us to go out and have drinks every weekend so we’d meet clients. Still, I managed to save between ₦15k and ₦20k monthly.
Shortly after I started too, an interior decor job I’d been applying for reached out to hire me. The pay was ₦75k.
Did you take it?
I was conflicted. Was I to go for a job I really wanted with lesser pay or stay at a job I hated with better pay? I deliberated for a few weeks and chose the money. Six months later, I quit. I couldn’t take it anymore.
I moved back to Abuja to stay at home. I first did nothing for some time, then tried to learn how to code because I was bored. I didn’t have any money, but I didn’t need money for anything.
In late 2019, a friend got me an interior decor assistant gig. It paid ₦30k. I was there for almost a year and got promoted to a project manager with a ₦120k salary, but when COVID hit, they stopped paying, so I quit.
What were your finances like in this period?
When I was in my architecture job in Lagos, I invested ₦130k in an agrotech company. In late 2019, they paid me back with an interest of ₦44k, so I kept some of the money and invested the rest back. When I lost my interior decor gig, I survived on whatever savings I had and my monthly pocket money.
My dad started giving me money again in 2019 because I moved back home. I think he just feels responsible for me because I still live under his roof. Sometimes ₦15k, other times, ₦30k. These days, it goes as high as ₦50k.
After I lost my job in 2020, I decided to stop looking for jobs and just start my own business. I started by helping a few friends design their apartments, and through referrals, I got extra gigs. My first paid gig paid was ₦400k for decorating a new office. After that, I made between ₦60k and ₦200k every three months from other gigs.
By 2021, I picked up event management. I knew I was good at hosting friends, so it just seemed like a good second hustle to have. At first, I wasn’t charging a fee, all I did was plan the events and charge for transportation. This year, I started a gift concierge business. My family gave me a $3,000 cash gift this year for my business, so I hired a social media manager, bought some interior decor equipment, some crypto, and invested $200 in a Nigerian startup.
How much do these businesses make you in a month?
Between ₦80k and ₦200k in total. It’s not terrible. My three-year goal is to be able to rent my apartment and have a driver. I don’t mind taking on a civil service job on the side to make more money.
Why civil service?
I assume it’s flexible. With a civil service job, I can comfortably do my side jobs, and I’ll be free on weekends. Truth is, I’m 25 and if I can build these three businesses well in the next few years, I’ll make millions from them. People are always going to need all the services I offer.
What are your finances like right now?
I have ₦400k in emergency funds that I never touch, $500 somewhere, ₦120k as my loose cash, $200 invested in a Nigerian startup, and $500 in crypto.
And a breakdown of your monthly expenses?
Is there something you want but can’t afford?
A vacation outside Nigeria and a master’s in business abroad. I want to learn how to do business the right way so I scale up my businesses and make millions.
What’s your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?
I’d say it’s at an 8. I’m satisfied with what I have right now because I know there’s more coming.