Unemployment in Nigeria is no new plague. Emerging statistics, within intervals, keep reminding policymakers and citizens of how apparent the problem is while prominent individuals have long heaped blames.
Yet, not many individuals have resorted to such uncommon alternatives as Michael Iloduba, a 24-year-old Nigerian, who prides himself as the chief executive officer (CEO) of “Corporate Water”, a registered venture — and hawks his brand of the sachet and bottled water in the Lagos traffic.
What’s more surprising about the entrepreneur is his unrelenting disposition in the midst of the visibly overbearing pressure of public sentiments as he routinely takes to the street to make his sales while dressed in his crisp black (or whatever colored) suit yelling “Corporate Water.”
At about the same time Iloduba featured on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) ‘YoungNLegit‘, he joined TheCable Lifestyle to discuss the idea behind his venture and the prospects that ‘Corporate Water’ holds for him as a young entrepreneur.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Can we get to meet you?
I was born and brought up in Lagos but I hail from Anambra state. I graduated from high school in 2013. My family is one of six: my parents, my three siblings and myself. Dad’s a driver and my mum, a petty trader. After high school, we couldn’t afford college.
Hence, I leverage on menial jobs to make ends meet and support the family. It was hard, being the first son and the first child. I had responsibilities to shoulder. I transitioned from one job to the other until I started Corporate Water in February 2019.
What inspired your ‘Corporate Water’ venture?
‘Corporate Water’ was born out of strandedness. I had spoken to a friend who suggested that I check with some Lagos firms to see if there were vacancies. This was after I had faced the stark realities of joblessness for months, from November 2018 till February 2019.
He couldn’t guarantee I’ll find one but told me where to look. Not long after that conversation, I was headed for Silverbird in Victoria Island, dressed in a suit as my friend suggested. I left home with the last note I could boast of — N500.
With N300, I got myself to CMS but started out on foot after I couldn’t give up what was left of my fortune to commercial motorists. I trekked to Silvervird in high hopes but it turned out there was no job for me. I made my way to Eko Hotels and then to Lekki Toll Gate. The story was the same. No vacancy.
In the end, I found myself trekking back to CMS, hungry. Since N200 couldn’t get me back home, I decided to sell water and continue the job search if I made enough. I once sold a bag for N140. I decided I was going to resell differently.
Not minding my suit, I made my way back into the afternoon sun and yelled ‘Corporate Water!’ To my surprise, the bag of water was sold out in seconds. Even those who were selling alongside me bought, wanting to know what it was that tasted differently.
Hours of buying and reselling saw me clear out about 50 bags. I only stopped to check my sales after the man from whom I was buying had told me there was no more water. With a profit of about N3000 to myself, I bought a meal and thereafter boarded a bike back to my place. I’ve been in business ever since.
How has been business ever since your ‘Corporate Water’ epiphany?
It’s been smooth but very tough as well. Sales always depend on the weather. On rainy, I augment earnings by doing ‘Corporate Conductor’. With this routine, I’ve been able to pay the tuition of my siblings and registered Corporate Water as a brand with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
When I go about my routine, I’ve had many Nigerians ask why I chose to dress in a suit and sell water under the sun. But I’ve never cared. I’ve always had a long-term goal in mind. If I don’t do this thing, I won’t be able to pay my bills, rent, and make ends meet.
If I had chosen to yield to public pressure, I’ll have quit long ago. I plan to continue my education next year. Not because I hope to continue the job search someday. But I’ll be working and studying so it doesn’t affect my business. As soon as the funds come, I look to own my pure water production factory.
I already have my business line and I know the cost of everything. I’ve tried applying for loans but banks would only give you loans for existing businesses. S0 I’ll just continue working my shifts and keep saving up for it. Someday, it’ll yield.
What words have you for the youth, the government?
Job seekers need to get something done. Start from where you are. You don’t need to have millions to start a business. I started Corporate Water with just N200. But now, I’ve been able to pay tuition and meet other financial obligations that I shoulder.
I’ll pick cybercrime over this any day any time.
— Gee Osh (@valleyman8) December 16, 2019
Had it been I had continued waiting to land the big job, I won’t be here by now. To the government, there’s a need to make provision for a structure that would offer collateral-free loans to youths with creative business ideas. This way, jobs will be created and cybercrime reduced.
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