Paul Orajiaka is the CEO of Auldon Limited, a company he founded 17 years ago with less than $100, when he was still 19 years old. Today Auldon Limited makes an annual revenue of more than $10 Million (which is over N4 Billion at today’s exchange rate).
Auldon Limited is a company that makes African themed toys. Paul Orajiaka’s dream early in life, was to travel to the United States of America. When he graduated from Igbinedion Secondary School, he traveled to Lagos with his friends to apply for American Visa at the Embassy.
“I grew up in Warri in Southern Nigeria, and I did my secondary school education in Benin state. I recall that immediately after my secondary school education at Igbinedion Secondary School, Benin City, my sole ambition was to travel to the United States to seek the proverbial greener pastures. I never exactly planned to venture into the toy business. I was 18 at the time and determined to leave Nigerian at all costs. So, along with my friends, I made countless unfruitful trips to the American embassy in pursuit of an American visa. Eventually, all my friends were given visas, except me.
Naturally, I became dejected and ashamed. I had no clue as to what my next line of action was going to be. So I decided to stay back in Lagos and not return to my hometown where I would be mocked by my friends. You see, a lot of shame was attached to my disappointment at that time, being the only one out of all my friends who was denied an opportunity to go the U.S. So I decided that the only way out for me was to stay back in Lagos and work with my in-law in Idumota market and that is how that reluctant step taken out of frustration ended up becoming my glorious journey to success and fulfillment.”
According to Paul, working at Idumota was an eye opener for him. He saw many young people doing well in business, so he resolved that if he worked hard, he too will make it someday. And so he started working for his in-law at Idumota, also during his spare time, he will use his little salary to buy Uk products from friends in Idumota and then supply to Park’n’shop and other supermarkets. He supplied items such as frying pans, rechargeable lanterns and sewing machines. The toy business started as an accident.
“…The toy business was more of an accident. Park ‘n’ Shop had a long process of processing payment. You had to spend a long time in their shopping mall waiting. At one of those times, I noticed a particular shelf where toys were displayed, because I didn’t grow up with toys, I loved them.
I was the son of a wood carver, my dad didn’t spoil us. It wasn’t that we didn’t have the money. Dad wasn’t the type that would buy toys for his children. As a result, my waiting at Park ‘n’ Shop was no longer boring; I would spend time admiring the toys. At a point, the toy shelves started drying up; it appeared the supplier was no longer bringing in the products. One day I went to the management of Park ‘n’ Shop and asked if I could supply the toys not knowing where they sold toys in Idumota. Park ‘n’ Shop obliged me and asked me to bring samples. I went back to my in-law’s office to ask colleagues where they sold toys in Idumota. I combed the streets looking for the kind of toys I saw at Park ‘n’ Shop. Then I ran into one shop and they had the replica of what I was looking for. I approached the woman who owned the shop and bought some samples. But I told her that I would return the toys if the supermarket didn’t like the toys and that she would refund me. She agreed. I ran to my in-law’s office and started fixing the price because I already had an idea of what the price range was. It looked very promising, the profit was good so I went to the Indian man at Park ‘n’ Shop and he was ordering them in dozens. I was like I didn’t even know how to fund these things; I had just some money but it wasn’t enough for the toy business. I went to beg my in-law to stand as a surety and promised to pay the owner of the toys after 30 days and he obliged me. The toy venture became very profitable, so I went into it full-time….”
With more revenue coming from the toy business, Paul decided to travel to Dubai and source for the toys himself. At this time, he was just 19 years old. Very soon, he was importing the toys in container loads and expanded his sales to other supermarkets like Mega plaza and ValueMart. He also opened up wholesale shops at Idumota, which allowed him to play at both ends of the market.
After abandoning school for a long time to pursue business, Paul later returned back and did his first degree in Accounting, followed by a masters degree in business administration both at University of Lagos. He then proceeded to Lagos Business School for a higher diploma, and today he is still pursuing a doctorate degree at a top business school in the UK with focus on SMEs. ( Millionaires Academy has continually challenged young entrepreneurs not to rely on trial and error when starting a business. A comprehensive business training is an essential ingredient of global success. Click here for details on our entrepreneurship school )
On what he thinks are the challenges of SME’s in Nigeria, he said:
“SMEs fail because they don’t pay proper attention. SMEs are not well structured; they give all forms of excuses, just to gamble on little funds, forgetting that not every egg is a bad one. The biggest challenge is not necessarily access to funds; you need to have the moral discipline, integrity capital and desire for success. One doesn’t just wake up and say he wants to start a business because he has failed in a paid employment or has been given the sacked. Business starts from the desire to be successful, like I started off gradually. Most SMEs fail because on their own, they have not done the requisites. Another reason is lack of support from the government; infrastructure is the key – access to funds, low interest rates, policies targeted strictly at SMEs are missing in the scheme of things. Those who make policies in Nigeria hardly sit down with SMEs to know their problems and know how to channel policies that will favour them. These are things that kill SMEs; even the successful ones are bound to struggle when they rely on borrowing from banks that was what almost happened to me. When you are struggling they don’t look at you but when you are making headway they start throwing money at you left, right and centre. Suddenly, the banks are willing to give you global facility, huge money to trade, because all they want to see is their interest. So these are some of the things that make SMEs fail. There are a lot of benefits when you mentor, groom and ensure they grow from one stage to another.”
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