Building a Business in Nigeria – A Function Of Resilience And Determination, Taking a Clue From Dr. Toni Ogunbor

Being an entrepreneur in Nigeria has remained a herculean task that many have dreaded and unable to come to terms with. This is chiefly caused by fears of the unknown and the unstable dynamics in the business environment. These dynamics cut across government policies, capital, infrastructure, stakeholder management and more.

From a close perspective, the average Nigerian youth or employee is burning with passion with fresh business ideas. However, one is constrained owing to financial limitations amidst other necessities that will enable a business idea to flourish. Where the above is not posing a threat, fear of failure fills the mind forgetting that every business is established to either fail or succeed but what makes the difference is the willpower to succeed.

Risk taking is part of every venture. It takes a broad mind to step into unknown territories to chart a course. But as the saying goes, every journey begins with a single step. In taking risks, one needs to be watchful on where the effect will land the business and the idea peradventure it does not stand the test of time.   This is at the point you map out ‘Plan-B’. The resultant effect of the second plan is to ensure one is not left bewildered and empty in the long run. It is a case of preparing and hoping for the best but casting your mind that the worse could happen as well.

The journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur will be met with numerous challenges. It is never an easy road to travel but it is surmountable.  Dr. Toni Ogunbor, an astute business entrepreneur started out in the ‘80s as a Sales Manager in Unilever and later as the National Sales and Marketing Manager for Union Carbide Nigeria Limited. While delivering on the sales objectives, with keen interest, he observed the enormous market opportunities that exist for products that cater for the people’s needs. He travelled round the country driving sales to achieve market penetration physically unlike today, where sales and market penetration can be achieved using the digital platforms.

With the passion to deliver more tailored services and products to the consumers, he stepped down from his job to incorporate Nosak Agencies Limited in 1985 and ventured into a retail business, selling soft drinks and snacks, production, and sale of ice blocks in Sabo Area of Kano State. Along the line, he started the importation and sales of tyres for motorists. This was not the big picture, but it had to start from a very humble beginning.

Having identified the huge market potentials in the commercial hub of the Southwest, Ogunbor relocated his business to Lagos state in 1989. This began the journey in the ethanol sector with the importation of potable alcohol used as raw materials to produce various household items such as confectionaries, perfumery, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, beverages and more.

To meet the rising market demand, Nosak Distilleries Limited was incorporated in 2001 with a state-of-the-art equipment to manufacture food grade ethanol. The facility today has three plants with a combined capacity to produce a maximum of 500,000 liters per day. At the factory premises in Amuwo-Odofin, there exist a storage plant with a combined capacity of 13.5 million litres and a tank farm with 21 million litres storage capacity at Apapa, thereby becoming the pioneer leader in the ethanol manufacturing sector of Nigeria.

Prior to the discovery of crude oil in 1956, Nigeria was majorly an agrarian economy, which was the main source of her foreign exchange earnings through the exportation of cash crops such as rubber, cocoa and coffee, palm oil and kernels, groundnut among other items. With the advent of oil in 1956, the concentration on agriculture has been impaired until recently when the nation began to backtrack to agriculture to boost food production and to diversify the sources of foreign exchange earnings.

This posited an opportunity and in 1991, Dr. Toni Ogunbor with his business acumen made his first investment in the agricultural sector with the establishment Saturn Farms Limited to explore cash cropping with focus on oil palm plantations. This took off with the cultivation of oil palm fields on over 500 hectares of farmland in Ukhiri-Eresoyen, Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area of Edo state. This was his move to step into the sector and boost food production to meet the growing population of the country at an average of 2.5% annually, while also targeting export opportunities to boost the economy with foreign earnings.

While the plantation was growing, he did not recline, but went on to acquire additional farmlands to increase the plantation and set up a 5 ton per day oil palm milling plant at the heart of Saturn Farms. For every step, opportunities abound and by mid-2000, there was a need to establish a vegetable oil refinery to optimise the over 1,300 hectares of oil palm plantation, which has an average yield of fresh fruit bunch of about 105,882 per annum.

Then, in 2014, Dr Ogunbor and the management of the Nosak Group, went on to establish Nosak Farm Produce Limited, a fully automated 200 tons per day vegetable oil refinery to cater for the rising demand of edible oil in Nigerian where consumption is estimated at 1million tons annually. The plant has 12 storage tanks with a capacity to store up to 2.7 million litres of edible oil. According to Ogunbor, “The establishment of the refinery launched our presence as a Nigerian business into the Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) market with the packaging of Nosak Famili Vegetable and Palm Oil which comes in various SKUs. This initiative is our drive to improve agricultural yields and to boost domestic production of vegetable oil in Nigeria.”

Prior to the early 2000, of course the Nigerian environment gives room for growing opportunities. As an entrepreneur and a visioner, he looks out to identify challenges or problems that require solutions. By 1995 when he spotted the need to boost haulage services, Goods Delivery Services Limited now known as Nosak Haulage Limited was incorporated to render haulage services to businesses.

One driving factor for Ogunbor as a business entrepreneur is looking out for unpredicted opportunities in the economy. These opportunities are mainly triggered by rising population which indicates a rise in the demands for goods and services. On the flip side, optimizing the opportunities through the establishment of enterprises in creating jobs to reduce the ever-rising unemployment ratio of Nigeria.

With resilient, persistent and valor to take risk, which is inevitable in business, Dr. Toni Ogunbor has built Nosak Group as a solely Nigerian business organisation that caters for various needs across the sectors of the Nigerian Economy.  This is made possible after taking on several businesses when opportunities arose. Along the line, he tested several waters in the past and today, the Group has embraced areas of comparative advantage where they have core strengths to deliver and improve the Nigerian economy.