‘Youths must start small to succeed in business’
Austin Joseph, the Chief Executive Officer of JC International, set up Growth Academy to build capacity, as well as, help tackle youth unemployment. In this chat with DORCAS OMOLADE ORE, he explains how his academy works.
With the present economy, what gap is the Growth Academy meant to fill?
It is simply to help people in developing their entrepreneurial skills. This is because not knowing what to do is always the major problem of most young people.
What should the government do about skill acquisition and entrepreneurial development for it to make the needed impact?
They should encourage all big entrepreneurs to imbibe the process of corporate governance. Second, is to set aside some fund to help young entrepreneurs to start their own businesses. Then there should be a monitoring team to ensure that there is no diversion of the funds.
How can issues of high unemployment rate, especially through entrepreneurship be addressed?
As at today, there is the huge problem of unemployment. And the drop in oil price is telling on Nigeria negatively, resulting in many organisations downsizing and state governments not able to pay salaries. So until we shift a bit to do something else, other than oil, we would not achieve much in tackling unemployment. However, agriculture is one major area we should look into, just as we have to teach people to be self-sufficient.
What advice do you have for youths who are aspiring to succeed as entrepreneurs?
They must have a clear vision. My vision had always been to set up a company and I didn’t lose focus of that. Next is to chase the vision with full commitment. I was robbed severally and people started saying that wasn’t my vision as it was a clear indication that I was not supposed to be in business, but I never lost hope but persisted.
Those who have the required fund to start a business but needed some guidance, is there room for them to learn under you?
Though you can’t do everything for everyone, but for people who have the desire, thirst and are ready to sacrifice, Growth Academy is out to coach and mentor them and put them in the right direction to achieve their goals.
How about those who do not have the needed fund to start?
In the Growth Academy, there are scholarships for people who cannot afford to pay for the tutelage. However, the scholarship is run on budget, so only those who are qualified are given the opportunity to come in while those who are not qualified for the scholarship can also pay to enroll for the training.
When did you start your own company?
I could say I became an entrepreneur as far back as when I was in primary 3, selling tangerine from which I made over 100 per cent profit. I also helped my mum to sell and hawk goods like food items and other petty things. It was same while in the University, where I sell all sorts of items like okrika clothes and shoes.
However, what became a conglomerate today started with just four thousand naira. After gaining admission into the University, I was persuaded by my aunt to wait till when things will be better financially for the family, but I never gave in to that because I know that I am different from every other person.