Read Jacob Egharevba’s Story: “How I went from being jobless to owning three different businesses”

Here’s the story of Jacob Egharevba who went from being jobless to owning three different businesses. What happened to him four years after he left school is common to young graduates who leave school yearly but Jacob Egharevba’s response was uncommon.
“I always got invited for interviews but things were just not working out,” Egharevba said. After trying NNPC, NLNG, Shell, Halliburton and Schlumberger, he realised that he could not continue on that path.

The Master’s degree holder in Computer Science from the University of Benin decided to take his fate into his own hands.

He packed his bags from Port Harcourt, where he had been searching for jobs, and moved to Abuja.

“When I was in the university, I used to help out in my father’s shoemaking shop”, he recalled. “During the holidays, I would buy leather for him from Onitsha and we would make sandals for schools between June and September, supplying up to 200 pairs. It was tedious because we did most things manually but we were making money.”

He moved from Port Harcourt to Abuja to squat with a friend, with his laptop being his only possession.

Egharevba recalled, “I remember asking myself, ‘what can I do with my laptop?’ I got some money and printed a sticker that said, ‘Are you computer literate? Yes or no. If no, I can turn you into one.’”
He went from one office to another, knocking on doors in search of clients he could turn into computer geeks. Then, he ran into a woman who, out of pity, offered him a job.

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“I thanked her,” Egharevba said, “but I told her I was not interested in paid employment.”

Instead, he asked for and got a contract to manage the client’s ICT assets, including her website and also the printing and branding of her company’s letterhead stationery.

He made N60,000 from that contract and used it as seed capital to start his own IT company in Kubwa, Abuja, in 2009.

At a stage, his IT firm had a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) for high-speed broadband satellite communication and private networks and other modern tools, which gave customers good data quality at a relatively low cost. According to him, the business was generating between N5 million and N6 million per annum.

The profit margins, however, shrank by almost 50 percent when the major telecoms operators in the country began to invest heavily in data services.

“I was forced to diversify because of the poor electricity supply and the large sums we were spending on power.”

He returned to his roots – shoemaking – and added on laundry services, all under one roof.

Not long afterwards, he launched a completely different line of business – block making, which, according to him, makes a turnover of N15 million, annually though with a relatively small profit margin.

His block-making factory is at a different site and the one-time jobless man, now employs 12 people, including three graduates.

Egharevba has had his moments of doubt. “It’s difficult managing these diverse businesses, running from one location to another and keeping an eye on the staff. Sometimes, I wish I had enough resources to just focus on one big thing.”

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While Egharevba admits that he already has his plate full, he desperately longs for a day when he can start a vocational school.

“We need to help young people right from secondary school to have a clear idea of what they want to do and help them start early,” he said.

Challenges or not, this serial entrepreneur will not trade his experience for anything. “If there’s anything I would have done differently, it would be to have started out as an entrepreneur much earlier. I wasted three to four years after school looking for a job when I could have been creating jobs”.

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