Akosa Machie who hails from Onitsha Anambra state is a 48-year-old entrepreneur, who has thrived to reach his goals. He believes that to be successful, the word ‘impossibility’ does not exist.
In an interview with inland town media, Mr. Akosa the representative of Global spirit and also founder of the Nigerian- Ukraine Chamber of Commerce expressed how his passion to be the best in his business has been a driving force.
He also shared his goals of giving to society and empowering Nigerian youths. He sees the drive and intellectuals in them, however, notes that these values can only be limited when one relents on their dreams.
Mr. Akosa shares his journey as an inspiration and a guide to young business starts ups.
Can we meet you?
I am Akosa Machie, I was born in 1974, and attended primary and secondary school in Onitsha which is my hometown, after which I went to the university of Jos where I studied Economics. Had my master’s degree from the University of Calabar in business administration.
I started off as a banker and have worked with five banks where I rose to the managerial level. The last bank I worked with was the United bank of Africa.
How did you get to start doing business with Ukrainians?
I have always wanted to stand on my own as a businessman. I got an opportunity to meet the former ambassador for Ukraine, who introduced me to some of his colleagues in Nigeria, and then we birthed the idea of having the Nigerian Ukraine chamber of commerce, a bilateral organization that is looking into the trade affairs between Nigeria and Ukraine.
We are a hub that showcases Ukrainian products and businesses to Nigeria and vice versa.
So your business stands as an intermediary between the Nigerian Ukraine chamber of commerce?
Yes, in terms of business it is a big platform that does different types of businesses in hospitality, commerce schools, import and export e.t.c. We started this in 2013 after I left banking in 2012.
What prompted you to drop your banking job and go into entrepreneurship?
I have always been passionate about my job, I wanted to get to the peak of banking. But at a point in my career, I noticed that the pyramid to the top became stiff, it felt like I couldn’t go higher, I needed to move.
I became inspired by some of my customers in the bank, young intelligent boys doing their own thing excellently well. Also, I was inspired by my former boss who urged that I shouldn’t restrict myself to a small environment like banking.
I went into research at that point and got to seize the opportunity of doing business with Ukrainians.
The chamber of commerce became a pivot to other businesses which I am doing today. I am now a representative of Global Spirit in Nigeria. I am the CEO of Wadlyndrinks, where we import Shutstoff alcoholic beverages like liquor, champagne, vodka, and the likes of it from Ukraine. We have been able to franchise and register some products here in Nigeria.
How have you been able to make products known to the public?
I started with direct marketing, now I have marketers in strategic places in Nigeria like Owerri, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Abuja, Enugu, Lagos, and now Onitsha. We go to our target audience and also we have a distributor for now in the north. We are on Instagram @wadlyndrinks_north
I can see you are all about business, have you done any projects in giving back to society?
That is another passion of mine. For the past four years, I have had a project I do almost every year. It started with a group of friends, we get funds together and carry out projects where we give back to society.
Our first project was in a secondary school in Agege Lagos, where we did some renovations, and provided chairs and desks for students.
I have also been able to reach out to motherless baby homes and also provided pipe-born water to a community also in Lagos. I look to make this bigger, after the registration of this NGO. Giving back to society is my goal.
Yes, I am.
Ok, so what do you think about the productivity of Nigerian youth, despite the limited opportunities in the country?
The ingenuity in Nigerian youths is classic. I work with a lot of young people and they bring fantastic ideas to my business. If they can turn these ideas into to tangible businesses the sky is the limit. Any business starts with ideas, what needs to be done is harnessing these ideas into a paper form to present.
I am always open. I want to partner, and even if I am not totally equipped in that field, I’m ready to take those ideas to people that would bring them to life.
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For startups who have been challenged financially, what do you have to say in encouragement?
For me, I started with an ‘idea’. Once an idea is birthed, the key thing is to believe in that idea, nurture it, keep discussing it with like minds, people with positivity, and never be discouraged. You can then bring it in a proposal form, then like minds like myself can then come in financing and partnership.
However, the most important thing for me is the passion that is what drives people to look at your business, as a banker, I look at that before considering any proposal. Family first can be a source of finance, then present your passion to an influential person in a finance house in a way that it can fly.
Do not let finance be a bottleneck to projecting your ideas, just keep talking, and don’t stop talking. You would definitely meet someone who would listen.
I also noticed another challenge is partnership, a lot of start-ups are rooted in a sole proprietorship. Do you think partnership should be ventured into?
You can’t be a big business in Nigeria or anywhere in the world without a Partnership. You need to align with one or two people, if not your business will keep languishing in one space.
Importantly, In partnership, understanding and a defined agreement are key. As a business person, I prefer partnerships to employing people. The partnership brings growth and promotion of business.
Because that partnership I would offer you would make you a part of that business, thereby increasing delivery. I have been able to use this strategy and it has been beneficial.
When bad partners come, do not be hesitant to terminate such a contract.
With the fluctuation in dollar rate as an importer, how has your business been able to stay afloat?
The last time we brought in products before the war started, we had that issue of fluctuation in dollar exchange, what helped the business was also partnership. We had partners we could go to for dollars, they sell dollars to us because we have partnerships instead of going to the bank, where it was hardly even available.
We also looked at adjusting the pricing of some of our fast-selling products, so that when it runs out, we can be able to replenish them because the price of importing these products doesn’t change.
How have you been able to mark up so that the pricing does not affect consumers?
What we do is that we just select some brands we increase, so we can balance the pricing of other products, thereby making them available to our consumers. Consumers are the engine room of any business, so they must be satisfied.
What keeps us going is the quality and class of our products, it is unique and our customers know that.
How about the war in Ukraine, has it affected your business
Not to a large extent, the part of Ukraine that has been really affected by the war is the east but they have been able to sustain their economy from the other areas of the country. Regardless we were affected in some areas.
Are you looking to concentrate more on exports than imports, so as to better the economy?
Well, I would love to look into that but most of my products are produced from raw materials that are not available in Nigeria. However, we are looking into packaging, in the sense that we bring in barrels that can be bottled here thereby creating employment.
I like to experiment a lot so I’ve been looking at substitute raw materials for some of our products so that we can be more productive and export more to the world. Nigeria has the land and manpower. If we go in the direction of such foreign policy, the Nigerian economy can be on the platform of growing the normal way.
Do you have a final remark for start-ups?
As I said earlier pick up your idea, it would never be an easy task. I had numerous struggles. When we started up global spirit it wasn’t easy, along the line some of my partners had to go back to paid jobs. But the most important thing is your focus. Dream of your success and stay in line with it.
When one door closes look for other opportunities and you would find them. Initially my company help people to get admission to Ukraine, but when the war started, that wasn’t possible anymore. Regardless we didn’t stop now we help Nigerians get admission to other countries of the world.
So there it is never stop pushing for your passion, the word ‘impossible’ is only for failures.