Naira4dollar (Sunej Global Ventures) is about the biggest names in the e-currency exchange industry in Nigeria. Its CEO, Sunday Ejezie is not yet 30. However, the Lead City University graduate shares the secrets of how the business he started a decade ago last month while in secondary school has successfully thrived despite the harsh storms of the Nigerian business climate in this interview with PAUL OMOROGBE.
What was it like when you started?
There were not much people in the business then, and there was nobody to learn from. So I hard to learn on my own; I had to learn the hard way. It was something I loved doing; that was why I was able to survive the challenges. The major challenges then were hackers. Because I was a novice, when I made a little money hackers would clear everything. But because I loved what I was doing and I saw the future, I didn’t give up.
Was the business a dream that you followed or an opportunity that you saw?
You dream of something that you are aware of! This business was more of an opportunity that I saw. I started as (cyber)café attendant. I used to see people then come to ask for e-gold. I didn’t know what was e-gold. Later a man came and dropped a flyer saying that he has e-gold for sale. So I saw an opportunity, so I would tell those that wanted to buy that I could get it for them. So they would pay me, I add my own extra cost to it and go to the man, buy from him and give to them! I saw an opportunity, and luckily for me it was in an area which I loved. I have always loved computers. Even before I knew anything about webhosting and all, I started learning programming with Frontpage. There is nothing like Frontpage now, but then I was learning on the job.
A lot of people started this business around the same time you did, but are now extinct. What makes the difference between you and them?
I would say they started just because they thought there was money in the business; but I started the business because it was what I loved. Money has never been the driving force. For me, it has been about passion, about rendering service, and about meeting needs.
Where are entrepreneurs missing it?
Most entrepreneurs are missing it because a lot people that call themselves entrepreneurs are really not entrepreneurs. Most of them are just opportunity seekers!
(cuts in..) But you saw an opportunity…
What I mean by opportunity seekers is, you are journalist. Suddenly you hear that car headlamps are making sales and you leave your job and jump into car headlamps, meanwhile you don’t know anything about vehicles. You are just looking for where to make money without having proper knowledge. In my case, you could say I didn’t have proper knowledge, but remember it was not about money. No. It was because I loved the fact that people had a need for e-gold and I could stand as a middleman. They didn’t know where to get it and I could get it for them at a profit. But then it was not about the profit, it was about doing something that had to do with what I loved and meeting needs.
How did you survive the risks of the business?
One thing I know is that once you are cleans, as long as you do things in accordance with the law, not trying to cut corners or pull a fast one, and money is not the driving force, anything that comes your way, you will be able to withstand it. A lot of storms have come my way, I was able to withstand them because I know that if there truly is justice, it will prevail and if you hands are clean, you have nothing to be scared of.
What’s the future like for e-currency in Nigeria?
E-currency is the future. The world is a global village now. You no longer have to travel to buy things. From the comfort of your home you can buy anything you want to buy or sell anything you want to sell. You can do interviews, seminars from your house. The internet has brought in a lot of goodies for us. It is quite unfortunate that in this country, it is not well harnessed. People are not yet taking advantage of it the way they should. Even the system is not helping matters. In this country, people think that once you are young and you are rich and you have a laptop, then you are a “yahoo boy”! That’s what’s killing us. I don’t blame people for thinking so, because truly the so-called yahoo boys have messed up a lot of things. But entrepreneurs like us who are talented in computer technology should be encouraged and not discouraged. For instance, a scammer could pull a fast one somewhere, he then comes to buy what we sell, and then the police come to make it look like we are the criminals. That can be discouraging. A lot of people have left the business because of police harassment; whereas for the person harassing us, we may be the ones to employ their son or daughter tomorrow. Whether we like it or not, ICT is the way to go. The billionaires of tomorrow are not coming from steel and raw materials, the billionaires of tomorrow are coming from ICT. A lot of them already exist like Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg and the guy who founded Whatsapp and sold it to Facebook, Jan Koum.