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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

First Clarias - Esan Teniola #inthespiritofenterprise

Been a while.....

I am more on instagram these days. If you are on instagram, let's catch up. My handle is @mofolusade. I met Teniola at a conference a few months ago. I was thrown off, when he introduced himself as a farmer, because your first picture of a farmer is that of a rugged looking, not so dapper person, #justsaying. This, I have come to find is so not true.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Esan Teniola. (Barr.) I am the manager of First Clarias, Nigeria's First Fish Farming Company.

Academic Background:

I graduated from the Faculty of Law University of Benin where I obtained my LL.B Hons (Bachelor of Laws. Afterwards attended the Nigerian Law School where I was called to the Nigerian Bar as a Barrister and solicitor (B.L Hons). I also hold an advance diploma in Business Administration (Pgd.B.A) from the National Open University, and am a certified Project Management Professional (P.M.P) and Dispute Resolution Specialist.

Life Philosophy:

I live by one word- Wisdom. "Wisdom is the principal thing, and in all thy gettings, get understanding."~Proverbs.

Tell us about your business

My business name is FIRST CLARIAS and we are Nigeria's First Fish Farming Company. We were registered in 2013 however we have been actively involved in fish farming since 2008

We offer three core services:

1. Partnership Farming (Easy Farming(r)) where we help people who want to get into fish farming but do not have the time, know-how, resources or convenience to do so themselves. We make it easy through partnership.
2.We do Fish Farming Consultancy for people who want to startup their own fish farms, we encourage them by rendering consultancy services and publishing materials to help them
3. Supply of Commercial Quantities of Fish to buyers.

Stemming from our extensive experience in the fish farming industry, particularly in the Niger Delta region, we discovered that there was a looming gap in the way fish farming was being conducted, not just in the region but in the larger part of the entire country; lack of professionalism, poor farm management, shabbily structured operations, poor farm yield etc amounted to a lot of people making loss from what is in fact a very profitable industry. Plus a general lack of leadership in the industry was a call to duty to me as a young entrepreneur with a professional background to bring in the much needed professionalism into the industry. So we came in to set the standard. it is a work in progress, but we are making big strides.

What was your inspiration for starting this business?

My inspiration for fish farming is borne out of my business sense. I have always had a keen interest in business and business processes so I am sort of like a serial entrepreneur. I have in fact ventured into a lot of other business ventures and was successful in most of them. I constantly examine various types of business, metrics and probabilities of success. however, I feel very at home with fish farming for various reasons the first reason being that there is no king in this country...the crown is right there for the taking.*smiles*

How did you get funding for your business?

1. The seed funding for my business began from my pocket. I have always had the culture of saving money. In University, every time I was given pocket money by my folks, I saved a part of it. It wasn't much, but it was enough for me to get started on my journey as an entrepreneur. Fish farming is a very capital intensive business and at the time I didn't even think I would ever be involved in it. So I tried a lot of other businesses, which I succeeded at until I finally found fish farming which I fell in love with.

2. Beyond my personal savings, I was fortunate enough to have parents that believed in me and are willing to invest in my dreams. Don't get me wrong, my parents are not rich; but they always did their best to encourage me. So when I went up to my folks and said I wanted to start business, they did the much they could to assist me. As a young person you have to be wise too. Most young people would go up to their parents and ask them for money for something, and use it for something else which would not benefit them positively, perhaps to buy a new phone or to go out with their friends. I would ask my folks for money to do something, and instead of spending it, I would divert it into trying out a new business venture or adding to my capital base. I've always been very frugal. I think i still am.

3. Within a short time I gained the reputation of being very business minded and very good at handling money. Along the line when I began to venture into fish farming, I realized that the money I had saved up was not sufficient to venture into fish farming, so I approached a couple of friends to borrow money. They knew me for my prudence and my sense of responsibility so they didn't hesitate to lend to me if they had. I have always been selective about friends. Most of my friends are in fact business minded. Birds of the same feather I guess. So I would always return money with interest on it. Even if something went wrong, I would make sure that I took care of it so my friends never worried when they borrowed me money.

4. In 2014 I was fortunate to become a YouWin3 awardee under the Goodluck Ebele Jonathans Administration. We received funding from the Federal Ministry of Finance to push our business forward, so we leveraged on that to make our business what it is today.

What opportunities have you been able to leverage on in your business so far?

Fish farming is not a very developed industry so there aren't many institutions that give recognition or award to effort in the industry. Fortunately the country is now be re-oriented towards the importance of agriculture so I guess soon we might start getting recognized for our effort.

In terms of funding opportunities however, sometime in 2010 we were beneficiaries of the World Bank FADAMA program, through the Edo State Ministry of Agriculture. It wasn't much, but it was good to know that we were reckoned with. Later on we applied for the YouWin3 program in 2013 and we were fortunate to be among the awardees. The YouWin Program was in fact a real game changer because of the mentoring and monitoring aspects. It really helped.

What Challenges have you faced so far and how have you been able to overcome them?

The major challenge I have faced in my business is creating something that has never been done before. So every day is a challenge when you are doing something absolutely novel. You have a lot of fish farms all over the country and you have agro-allied ventures, feed production companies but there is no fish farming company.

We are the very first and we are just starting out. Nobody handed us a road map. So doing things that have never been done before is a challenge. Thinking things that have never been thought- or even if thought of have never been actually carried out. Every day we dare.

How will you summarize the journey so far?

The journey has been fun. I wish I knew then what I know now. I would've gotten to where I am now in half the time. However I have no regrets. I wake up with a smile on my face everyday because I know I have something no one can take away.

Given the Chance, will you do this again?

I definitely would. Its the struggle that builds you. I didn't get here by luck.

What lessons have you been able to learn from your journey so far that others should know?

If I could tell young entrepreneurs valuable lessons they would be:

1. Learn a valuable skill. Education is overrated. Certificates are overrated. Your skill is what is important; what can you do? (Please note: This is not to downplay the value of education. It is important)

2. Learn how to run a business. Theres a difference between sewing clothes and creating a fashion label. Know the difference- one makes you self employed the other makes you a business person.

How can people connect with you?

Visit our website on
phone No: 08023026229 (my personal phone number)
address: Queen Mary Plaza, Mofor Udu LGA Warri Delta state.