Obinwanne Okeke a passionate Nigerian entrepreneur reaffirms what we have all believed to be the true nature of the average Nigerian -resourceful. With a Masters degree in politics and counter terrorism, this 27-year-old entrepreneur has founded a successful conglomerate in Construction, Oil & Gas and Agricultural development. Obi is is the classic case of aspiration and hasn’t fallen short of becoming the successful business mogul he set out to be. In this interview, the endearing and tenacious young entrepreneur shares with us his thoughts on conducting business in the African terrain, feminism, advice for struggling entrepreneurs and the importance of giving back.
Please tell us about yourself (Full Name, Background, Age, Nationality etc.)
My names are Obinwanne George Okeke and I am 27 year old Nigerian entrepreneur. I have a Bachelor of Arts (Forensic Criminology & International Relations) degree and Masters in International Relations & Counter Terrorism, both from Monash University, Australia.
May we know a little about the type of business (es) you do?
I am the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director of Invictus Group. Invictus Group is an investment holding company with a diverse portfolio and key holdings in Construction & Infrastructure, Agriculture and Oil & Gas (downstream).
How long have you been an entrepreneur? What drove you to this discovery?
From as young as I can remember. I’m pretty sure “entrepreneur” was one of the first words I learnt how to spell. I simply can’t remember not wanting to be an entrepreneur, even though my mother had always wanted me to be a medical doctor. Ironically, it was a desire ignited by my mother who is a primary school teacher but still ran many businesses to make sure that she could cater for her kids. I could say that was the driving force and of course not forgetting the desire to escape poverty.
What habits do you think contributed most to your success?
Perseverance. I say this because after dreams and hard work, without perseverance I would have given up a long time ago. I remember by age 18, I had already ran and closed many businesses, but I didn’t give up because I wanted to succeed and that meant I had to persevere.
Have you ever done business in a foreign country? Did you face challenges in business regarding your age or race?
Yes I have run businesses in foreign countries and I still do. Majorly the challenges I faced never had to do with race (directly), but the protocols never ceased to end. For example, you would need certain permits to run or operate businesses in a country that isn’t yours and the process involved in getting some of these documents take a rather lengthy period. Another might be the inability to access government grants for small businesses. This problem can be overcome by partnering with a local with a local which would in turn soften government restrictions and also give you access to government grants. Aside from the aforementioned challenges, there haven’t been many others I have faced doing business elsewhere.
What unique business challenges did you face there as compared to those you face in Nigeria?
Doing business in Nigeria can be frustrating as well. Firstly, the lengthy and costly bureaucratic system involved in the process of company registration. This is fundamentally different from the stress free registration processes in other countries I have businesses in. That is one significant challenge I believe should be looked into because it will definitely discourage potential entrepreneurs from doing business in Nigera. And of course the epileptic condition of the electricity in Nigeria makes it almost impossible to realistically manage your expenses while running a business. This is a common challenge that anybody who is considering running a business in Nigeria must face.
They say you can tell a lot about a man by his habits. Which would you rather have a Rolex or Cartier.
Rolex. Comparing a Cartier to a Rolex is pretty much like swearing in church.
Guilty pleasures…Politics or Technology?
Politics any day.
High achievers are rumored to be lazier in the mornings. Are you one of these types of persons?
Possibly. The best part of being an entrepreneur is working on my own time and on my own terms. It is as easy as.. “If I don’t work I don’t eat.” That being said, I am a late riser. I get more work done at night. Why I say, “Possibly”.
Do you consider high achieving women aka the independent woman attractive? Do you think many would agree with your answer?
Absolutely. There’s just something more appealing about women who have and can HOLD their own. Anyone who has a problem with my response to this question I think, lacks confidence.
If you were handed $1,000,000, what would you do with it?
Invest it all in real estate development.
Most high achieving people are often misunderstood. What would you absolutely love people to know about you?
I am a man with humble beginnings who has compassion and a desire to help those less fortunate.
You are a well-traveled man. What foreign city stole your heart? Why?
Cape Town, South Africa. Its natural beauty makes it top on my list. Every time I am in Cape Town, I am dazzled daily by the mountains and the sea. The food; Cape Town has some of the best sea food markets and restaurants in the world. And of course the wine.
As an entrepreneur, do you consider the capitalist economic system fair or do you think that a fairer more equal system should be developed to favor the masses?
I definitely think that the capitalist economic system fair, because its definition alone refers to a free market economy in its purest form. I always tell people that no matter where you start in life, everyone has an opportunity to make it big. The basic principle is that the harder you work, the greater your reward. One of the greatest things about capitalism is that it works perfectly with democracy. Capitalism allows the economy to grow exponentially. It is a basic fact of economics that the more money a firm makes, the more it can invest in production, and the more it invests in production, the more money it makes.
Is there any special African charity or NGO that you would love people to donate to?
I have a charity which I have run for almost a decade. It’s called the “Invictus Foundation.” This is the corporate social and community investment side of Invictus Group which focuses on community development and up skilling the less fortunate. We have in the past worked on projects like “the Literacy Africa project” which saw us ship and distribute over 100,000 children’s books to less fortunate school kids across Sub-Saharan Africa countries, and hope to continue to do more. We also work with a lot of orphanages and community centers to reach the needs of the less fortunate among us.
What do you think is the most limiting factor for Entrepreneurs when it comes to doing business in Nigeria? How can it be improved upon?
Like I mentioned earlier, the rigorous nature of company registration in Nigeria tops my list. There are many others like, the electricity situation in the country and lack of government grants to help young entrepreneurs who don’t have the capital to kick start their businesses. The government will definitely be playing a critical role in all of the above mentioned problems, if they can be improved upon.
What is most important in a business, quality products or great customer service?
It definitely should be great customer service because this is what leaves an impression with a client when they leave after patronizing your business. You can have a great product, but without good customer service, your clients will seek alternative solutions.
Please share with us 3 of your best advice for new and struggling entrepreneurs.
– Believe: You have to believe in yourself and your ability to be successful, no matter what. You have to believe in your ability to follow through with your vision and to execute on your dream.
– Perception: Nothing is good or bad “things are only how you perceive them.” Your attitude and perception are going to lead you either to success or failure. It’s that simple. You have to master your mind and that starts with choosing how you perceive the events and circumstances of your life.
– Perseverance: You need to be able to persevere and keep going — no matter what! Prepare yourself for success by knowing that no matter what, you’re going to overcome all odds.
A lot of that comes down to your belief in yourself and your perception of your life. These three abilities feed each other in a continuous loop that will inevitably lead you to success.
Many young achievers are known for their reclusive nature. How do you strike a balance business and personal life? Is it necessary to do so?
I am of the school of thought that as an entrepreneur, you are your business and you must represent what you’re selling. Sometimes it might be very hard for this separation to occur because you’re steadily telling someone about your business and there isn’t any form of marketing more effective than word of mouth. I end up selling real estate in my personal social gatherings. Lol.
How can people get in touch with your business? Social Media, website.
Website: www.invictusconsortium.com, Twitter: @InvictusObi, Instagram: @InvictusObi