Our Alumni Spotlight for this week is Aspiring Entrepreneurship Programme (AEP) 57 graduate Anthony Okwuosha. He is the Founder/CEO of STR Interiors which provides high quality home and office interiors.
Anthony graduated from the Federal Polytechnic, Afikpo in 2000 where he got a HND in Electrical Electronics. He also has a second degree from The Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Nigeria where he studied Electrical Power. After graduation, Anthony worked as the Senior Manager, Oil and Gas Unit at Interlinked Technologies which provides Electrical Engineering services for Oil Companies and Electricity providers.
In July 2010, Anthony left interlinked technologies as a Full-time staff because he was not getting satisfaction from the job but he continued to work with Interlinked Technologies for 3 years on a contract basis. Just about this time the oil and gas industry was at the start of the decline of revenue potentials and oil servicing contracts within the Oil and Gas industry which affected business opportunities with his former employer. Anthony began to explore other income generating opportunities and came across the furnishing and interior business, and started importing doors and bath accessories from Spain and China which he did for two years. Unfortunately, he did not find this a profitable or sustainable business model. According to him, “I was not contributing to the Nigerian economy because I want to be able to employ labour and the business was not allowing me do that because there was scarcely enough to sustain the business let alone, pay workers”.
In 2014, he stopped importing doors and bathroom accessories and decided to engage in local manufacturing of doors, windows and interiors with the help of his two in-house technicians, sometimes when he has a large order to fill, he employs more hands for the duration of the contract. The experience he had gotten over the years were very useful to him as he began to gather resources to start his business, but he knew there was a huge gap in his entrepreneurship knowledge so he started looking for business schools to attend. At that time he was running a programme on Business Planning at the Centre for Values in Leadership (CVL) in Lagos. During the programme he met a friend and while they were having a conversation about the life of an entrepreneur and the challenges being an entrepreneur comes with, she mentioned FATE Foundation and how FATE Foundation has helped a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs on the journey to building a successful business. On his way home that day he searched FATE Foundation on Google and found a number he could call, the following day he found the FATE Foundation office and submitted a business plan which was part of the registration requirements for the AEP 57 that was just about to commence.
“I was exceptionally open to learning at every AEP class I listened eagerly because I was very determined to drive my business” he said. At the AEP, Anthony learnt a lot of things that he still applies to his business till this day. How to market his company through Social Media, how to pitch his business to investors with constrained time, bookkeeping and Networking skills. These were things he knew he should be doing for his business growth but the AEP helped him discover ways to accomplish them.
STR Interiors started in October 2014 and in May 2017, they were open commercially, Anthony currently has 4 people working with him full time and 5 ad hoc staff. He is working on creating awareness through social media marketing and FATE Foundation has been helping him do that through the Mentoring assistance. His Mentor, Mr. Dipo Davies, a FATE volunteer mentor helped with a two week advert for his business where he got 17 call backs from organizations needing his service. STR Interiors has a product line ranging from Bullet Proof and Hardwood doors, kitchen interiors, Bedroom Furniture and General Home interiors. To date, STR Interiors has sold over 100 Bullet proof doors and his clients are mainly Real Estate Developers with a growing number of walk-in customers. Anthony’s products are 100% made in Nigeria and he gets his raw materials from the local markets in Lagos. He is currently working with Queens Drive Estate Developers, Ikoyi.
“FATE Foundation is the right place to go, don’t just sit down but push yourself, be consistent, be attentive, seek knowledge, the storm will come but if you are fully equipped you would have the capacity to push through and have faith in your business” those were his exact words as we wrapped up our interview.
For more information on STR Interiors, please visit @STR Interiors on Facebook and the company’s showroom located at Plot 1 Sundays Farm Estate off Cement Bustop Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, Nigeria.