BY PATRICK PAUL
Trepscript101: Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your company?
Uvie Ugono: My name is Uvie Ugono. I am the founder and CEO of Solynta Energy.
Solynta energy is a renewable energy company that is creating power in the Nigeria market by installing the best solar product in Nigeria.
Trepscript101: What is the unique selling point of your company?
Uvie Ugono: There are so many unique selling points No 1, the solutions we offer are technically excellent and they work.
2, We are giving our customers both commercial and residential, a way to have to go solar without having to pay money upfront. We are ready to finance our customers by installing equipment for them with no upfront fee. They pay us a monthly fee on an ongoing basis. It takes away the barriers of entry that normally exist when you want to go solar.
Trepscript101: What are some achievements of your company?
Uvie Ugono: To date we’ve manage to sign several very large contracts. They are many more in the works. We‘ve sign a contract with the Silverbird group to power their entire business infrastructure, in Abuja, Portharcourt and in Lagos. And they have several large television networks which we’ve been asked to power. We are speaking with Diamond back to power their entire nationwide branch network. We are also speaking with Ecobank, they’ve given us 5 branches to power as a test run. We are also speaking with Fidelity bank .Those are the key ones. We have some more jobs in the pipeline, worth over $300 million we have identified and signed or about to be sign. We’ve managed to achieve those in less than one year. So I think it is a big achievement.
Trepscript101: What are some of the challenges you had as an entrepreneur and how did you overcome them?
Uvie Ugono: Being an entrepreneur is very challenging from the very beginning. My challenges were family related, being that I have a wife and two children in the UK, and I had to leave my wife and children and come to Nigeria by myself and with not a huge amount of money behind me that was a huge challenge. Nigeria can be a very interesting place to be, and can sometimes not being the easiest place to do business. I had to overcome that challenge. Most of the challenge is the reputation Nigeria has as a place to do business. Nigeria has a poor reputation internationally and raising investment finance was at the beginning quite a challenge because most investors in the western world once they realized there is a tremendous potential in the market they are coming into were worried of their reputation. That was a huge challenge.
Trepscript101: What would you say has been the single best decision you have made on your entrepreneurial journey?
Uvie Ugono: I think becoming an entrepreneur period, is the best decision I have ever made. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you learn and you grow very very quickly and you develop a problem solving mindset once you get into it, it is quite empowering to know that you have a full control of you own destiny. And for me becoming a full time entrepreneur had given me a level of empowerment and independence to get working on something else.
Trepscript101: What are some of the reasons you took to entrepreneurship?
Uvie Ugono: I have always been an entrepreneur, even when I was working in the bank in the UK I have always had businesses on the side, I was very heavily into properties. Entrepreneurship is something that gives you a bunch of excitement. The feeling of creating something out of nothing from the scratch, the feeling of being the captain of your own ship and most importantly the feeling of being able to make a difference in the world someway somehow. I personally noticed this in my professional life as a banker; I never quite felt I was really making a difference in the world ultimately speaking I felt I was replaceable. Whereas being an entrepreneur you know if you are doing something worth the while if you are doing something in a tremendous initial market and you know you can bring something different to the table, you can actually make a big difference in your life and that of your friends and family and those that love you, and the life of others by giving people job, that is a truly rewarding thing. Each time I hire a new member of staff I always feel proud because I am assisting someone to feed their own family. There’s also the opportunity to make environmental changes and changes for the better, I link it with what I do by providing renewable energy. I feel so invigorated because I know I am at the fore front of a change for a better Nigeria.
Trepscript101: What would you say to people who are scared to venture into the business world?
Uvie Ugono: I would say particularly to young people there is no better time to go into business than when you are a young person because you have less to loss than anybody else. Don’t wait until you are married with two or three children with school fees and rent to pay before going into business. Then the stakes becomes really really high. I will say to every young person the only thing to fear is fear itself. Very often things are never bad as they appear in your mind. Go have the courage to follow your conviction and you really do have the ability to change your life for the better.
Trepscript101: What is one characteristic that every leader should possess?
Uvie Ugono: I think being a leader for me is ultimately about communication. I think your ability to communicate is the single most important factor about being a leader. If you want to build an empire you have to do a wide range of character check. Some people are quite difficult to work with, they may be your client, spouse, they may be a whole number of people. Your ability to communicate and motivate the people around you is the single biggest most important thing.
Trepscript101: What are some goals your company wants to achieve in the next 5 years?
Uvie Ugono: We are strongly focused to become the single largest energy provider in Nigeria within five years. We believe that within five years we are going to install more solar capacity than currently exist in the whole of Nigeria. So that is a very clear goal that we have. In five years Solynta energy will be the largest solar energy provider in Nigeria.
Trepscript101: What in your opinion is the next big trend in the business world?
Uvie Ugono: Here in Nigeria there are so many big trends, but I wouldn’t describe them as trends. I find that in Nigeria you don’t need to have big trend, you just find out what is happening in the rest of the world and replicate it. The opportunity for business growth in Nigeria is huge. There are so many different areas in which the landscape is barren. I will point a few to you, I think the online space is one area that is actually going to be huge in Nigeria, e-commerce is going to be huge, online marketing is going to be huge. I look at Google as a very good example. Whenever I Google a search term in the UK for whatever it may be all of the pages are filled with companies, every link you go to is a company link down the right hand side are always full to the brim. If I Google that exact same search term in Nigeria, will I find the blogs and entries of nairaland?
There’s a very simple reason for that, that is because the whole online marketing space in Nigeria literally have not been tapped, it is a wide open goal for young people to go out there and make a fortune. There’s a lot of other areas link to the growth in the power sector, for me power generation is the single largest area that’s going to take off in Nigeria today, the privatization of the power sector have a profound impact on people than they realize, contrary to what people may believe it is actually the young person that is going to be the beneficiary from this market. The ability to sell power which is a commodity that every single home, every single business, and every single person needs, and it is in a gravely short supply in Nigeria. The ability to be able sell that cheaply is going to make fortune of many many people. A link to that is a whole area of energy efficiency. Nigeria has an extreme higher energy cost. Therefore the demand for energy efficiency is huge, energy consultancy- people who go to businesses, assesses there energy usage and give them a practical way of reducing down their energy consumption, such people are going to be a massive demand.
Trepscript101: Which book or books do recommend for anyone nursing the ambition of going into entrepreneurship?
Uvie Ugono: That is an interesting one. There are several books I can recommend, but there are not necessary books on entrepreneurship directly but they talk more about success. The first book I will recommend is a book titled . HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, by Dale Carnegie. A fantastic book, it talks about communication, the ability to motivate through communication, the ability to get results out of people, in business you have staff you have to motivate your staff to get results, you have clients, and you have to sell your clients without having to sell them if you like. You have to convince with your explanations, with your general conducts and demeanor, you have to know how to get a yes. That is a fantastic book to read about how to motivate people. The other book I will recommend about is a book called THINK AND GROW RICH; it is a classic book by a man called Napoleon Hills, written in the 1920s and 1930s. The lessons of that book is still very important today, it talks about the importance of your mind in becoming successful, it is basically how you can use your mind to process information. Those are the two books I will recommend for anyone who want to go into business.
Trepscript101: A lot of African men and woman who have recently graduated are faced with long term unemployment prospects, what’s your advice to these graduates?
Uvie Ugono: There is no better time to go into entrepreneurship than now, actually no better time because it is you who are going to shape the future of the country. You are the job creators of the future. When you come out of the educational system there are no jobs to go to, go create your own jobs. There are so many ways you can do that, selling of energy is a very obvious way of doing that, link to the engineering field, the tech space is completely wide open and growing rapidly, e-commerce is another huge area you can get into. There are literally a slew of things you can do as an entrepreneur to bring things back into the country. Learning to do things better and more efficiently than we do at the moment is a bane in the country. So I will say to young people go out there look for new ideas and do not be afraid to go out there and execute them, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Trepscript101: How do you relax?
Uvie Ugono: I relax by watching sport, I am an avid Arsenal fan, so I watch football, I read when I get the chance and I travel.