Seyi Adekunle, the CEO of Vodi Group has shared an inspiring message via his Instagram handle of how he failed to get a bank job 16 years ago, but refused to give up, as he kept working on growing his fashion business, which he started few months prior.
Today, Tony Elumelu, the founder of the Standard Trust Bank (STB) – which famously took over United Bank of Africa (UBA), where Seyi had applied to, is one of his clients.
Exactly 16 years ago, after writing the Standard Trust Bank (STB) entrance examination with the hope of being employed as a banker, I was sad when the result was released and I wasn’t taken. Meanwhile, my friend, Balami Yerima got the job. However, despite my disappointment, I decided not to give up what had also become a passion at the time and that was the fashion business which I started a few months to that time. That, as it turned out, was just the beginning of my story with Standard Trust Bank though in a direction I never envisaged.
As I pursued my passion in fashion, the STB office on Ademola Adetokunbo Crescent in Wuse 2, Abuja became my major port of call in wooing clients. Many of the staff turned out to be my set of clients by patronising the Aba-made white and sky blue shirts I started out with.
That was how I met friends like Aisha Bubaram (now in First Bank), Niyi Adeseun (now in Heritage Bank), Kunle Oketikun (now in Fortis Bank), Saleh Mohammed and so many bright chaps whom have become respected professionals in their chosen fields.
However, there is a subtext to this story which turned out to be the most important: I met a man who is arguably one of the best entrepreneurs that has emerged from Africa. I am talking of no other than the simple and unassuming United Bank for Africa Chairman, Tony Elumelu. That chance encounter,marked a turning point in my life and career.
That explains why the 5th of March is significant to me for it was on that day about…years ago that I met Mr Elumelu. For me, the encounter was not an accident; it was by some divine arrangement; God orchestrated it. It was that meeting that changed my focus and reenergized my zeal and drive to further the Vodi ambition of emerging as a textiles producing giant in Africa. Being a very busy man, Mr. Elumelu spent no more than ten minutes with me before he made order for a few outfits. But those ten minutes were enough for me to be inspired. Although the Vodi brand has clothed great people across the world in the past 15 years, that particular order was special and personal to me. In between, Mr. Elumelu encouraged me to be the best I could possibly be in the path I have chosen and that there is no limit to what I can become.
The message is to every Nigeria graduate seated at home today hoping to secure a paid job that may not be there or may have been disappointed after several interviews like I was in those days. They must look inside themselves to see what they also can do with their hands (and of course brains) that would bring them both reward and fulfillment. As difficult as things may seem in Nigeria today, the opportunities are still out there if only members of my generation can continue to dream.
When I met Mr. Elumelu, who remains my mentor, I had to tell him the story of how things have evolved for me in the past 16 years since that sad day when I was rejected by STB. I told him how, with no resources, but with God and a tenacity of purpose he and a few other people instilled in me, I have been able to grow the Vodi Group. Just like the proverbial story of the talent.My desire, however, is that I will also be able to inspire other upcoming young men and women that the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.