Peter Owoeye, CEO of BayRoyal International Limited and YouWin Award winner discusses his company’s role within the mining industry in Nigeria. YouWIN (Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria) is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communication Technology, and the Ministry of Youth Development. These ministries launched an annual business plan competition to assist young entrepreneurs in obtaining start-up or expansion capital. The underlying goal of the program is to spark job creation in the country. The Nigeria Ministry of Youth Development documents 68 million jobless youths and in response to the high unemployment rate, the government launched the YouWin program.
What does your company do?
My company extracts and exports on a small-scale, non-ferrous metals such as lead ore and zinc ore and precious metals: tin ore and columbite – the ore of niobium. Right now, we supply in small quantities to middlemen – manufacturers and factories use our products. Most of our customers are based in China.
How do you meet them?
We do a lot of business on LinkedIn and through trading websites.
How does this process work?
It is not as complicated as you might think. We have structured trading lines and clear expectations from both parties. It is quite easy to do business with us. We are very transparent and banking transactions are done online.
We serve as a major reference point in the supply chain. We work in Jos and Lagos. My dream for my company is to export in large quantities these metallic ores. The mining industry is underdeveloped, and Nigeria imports minerals it could refine locally. I would like to see the mining industry develop to a competitive standard that can attract foreign partners, investments, and expertise.
How is it operating a business in Jos?
What I experience in Jos is very different from what the media portrays. Businesses here in Jos are thriving and surviving. Violence is away from commercial activities. Jos if you don’t know is the center of mining activities in Nigeria. As a result of the mining boom in Jos, many young men like myself became involved in the industry informally. Jos also has the largest pool of locally trained mine workers. The mining industry is not the easiest place to be in. The industry is labor intensive and costly. We struggle with the ability to export the ores in large quantities as we cannot afford the heavy machinery needed to do the work efficiently. We depend heavily on manual labor which can be very tedious.
I give credit to Oby Ezekwesili. She was influential in helping young people like myself break into the industry. She helped to transform the process when she served as the Federal Minister of Solid Minerals, a position she held for one year. During her time as Minister of Solid Minerals, Oby Ezekwesili worked hard to reform Nigeria’s mining sector, bringing it up to international standards and making it a globally attractive location for credible mining investments.
What motivated you to apply for the YouWin program?
I learned about the program through Nairaland.com. An online moniker named “Beaf” provided the information so I applied. The process was simple, open, and transparent. I have received the first installment of the prize money through Zenith Bank. The money is awarded to winners as they reach certain milestones. My company will use the money to hire staff and buy machines.
How have you financed your business so far?
I used my personal savings. I have also received some financial support from family and friends. Most banks do not offer financing to young entrepreneurs so it is quite difficult to expand.
How many employees do you have?
I have six (6) staff members and plan to hire nine (9) more. We also have close to 30 part-time employees. The industry is very labor intensive so we need more staff.
What challenges do you face as a small business owner in Nigeria?
• Infrastructural constraints (bad or non-existent roads, no water, no electricity).
• Transportation can be expensive (paying for fuel, trucks and trailers also delay in the delivery time – this maybe due to bad roads and traffic congestion).
• Difficult access to financing.
• Most employees also lack the necessary skills set and are not proactive – you constantly need to supervise and tell them what to do.
What advice do you have for youths looking to start a business?
1. Believe in yourself.
2. Take action – stop waiting for non-existent jobs.
3. Proactively seek opportunities and take advantage of them.
What three things have you learned since starting your business?
1. To succeed, you have to be resilient.
2. Look less at the problem but find the opportunity. In every set back, there is a lesson to learn.
3. I have learned to separate personal finance from business finance.
Peter Owoeye holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Jos.
Email: peter.owoeye [at] gmail.com