Trepscript101: Could you start by telling us a bit about yourself and your company?
Obaro: I am Obaro Akpobasa, I am into supply of essential school materials for schools. I have a first degree as well as a post graduate diploma in education. We are located at Rumuigbo in Portharcout. The name of my company is . We are into the supply of materials, men and consultancy services to schools especially private schools. Under the materials we supplied are the school curriculum, as produced by the National Education Research and Development Council, we also have Montessori phonics books for nursery and primary schools, teachers’ appraisal booklet among other educational frame work for schools like the staff handbooks, operational handbook and magazines. We also assist schools in supplying needed school personnel especially for special subject areas as well as administrative and management staff. I am happily married.
Trepscript101: These books that you supply are they approved by the National Council of Education or the State Ministries of Education?
Obaro: Yes they are, although our books are supplementary books like the phonics books they aim to teach children to read at age five we cannot find this in a normal school system. We also have literature textbooks approved by the Ministries of Education. We have a list we deal on. Most of the books we sell are approved by the Government that is the only reason why schools will go for them. The books are the Montessori phonics books for nursery going to primary teaching them how to read and identified by the use of sound. The others are literature books like Time Will Tell, Lost Hope, and The Tears of a School Girl, approved by the River state government for junior secondary schools. Those are some of the books we are working on now; we are hoping to engage other books.
Trepscript101: As a consultant to schools what are your service areas?
Obaro: Primarily we are into three major areas- they are the marketing campaign, financial planning, and product development. Under marketing campaign basically what we try to achieve is to make private schools more attractive, and you know people like going to where there are attraction. We try to identify the things the schools are doing or not doing that are militating against their attractiveness. By identifying these areas we try to enhance their perception or eliminate any negative perception people may have about the private schools.
Under financial planning which is somehow tied to the marketing plan, as a business man you don’t spend money on what you want but what your customers want and this form a strong basis for your financial planning. If you give your client what they want they will always be satisfy and come back. The third one is product development, you may think that schools don’t have product, but they have the curriculum which comprises of all the activities of the school, at the end of the day a child passing through the school become a product of the school. We help set targets and strategies of meeting the targets and developing a sound school program that will lead to attainment of desired objectives. That basically is what we do as consultant.
Trepscript101: Do you have any input in terms of setting the school physical structure that is the building?
Obaro: Definitely, we are involved in school facility designs upgrades, there’s a particular school I am working on; we’ve identified the need to put certain facilities in place. We have expertise in designing individual spaces in terms of what are expected in a school. The bigger one will be a school starting from the scratch. We have the architectural competence to aid the design and construction of such facilities.
Trepscript101: What are some of the challenges you are facing as an entrepreneur and how are you overcoming them?
Obaro: The initial challenge will be one of acceptance. What I did to be able to overcome that is to provide them with essential and quality school materials, something they need something they must have, and when they are satisfied, their satisfaction will lead them to engage us in other services. That is what I did to solve the problem of acceptance. The other problem is the issue of funding, if you look at the school system they are so many things they need, we can’t get everything for them. That’s why we are trying to build a niche for ourselves in certain areas to be able to better cater for the needs of our clients where we are competent. You can’t be everything to everybody. One of our niche areas is the production of school curriculum which we are currently the major suppliers in Rivers and Bayelsa state. We hope to add more selected products as business improves.
For now we operate from schools where we have our personnel and use those locations as our training facilities. That has reduced the cost of renting a big training facility that we intend to acquire in the not too distant future. Those are the two major challenges of acceptance and finance we are passing through every day.
Trepscript101: Though you have spoken a little about it what are the goals your company what to achieve in the next five years?
Obaro: In the next five years we have plans on ground to be a major distributor of some of these educational materials in River state and the south south region, though we’ve achieved some of them. We are currently the major suppliers of curriculum and the phonics books in Rivers and Bayelsa state, so as we pick on new products we intend to be the major stockiest in the south south region.
Another of our goal which is very dear to us is to set up a training facility, like I said if we have a training facility we can then review our training program and let people know about it. For now since it is not there we are working with schools one on one. When we set up a training facility we would have a fully stocked library and multimedia equipments to aid the training of school personnel. Those are the goals we planned to achieve in five years.
Trepscript101: What would you say to people who are scared of going into the business world?
Obaro: They must know that it is a veritable source of livelihood and it gives them the time for themselves and families. It eliminates the need to having to run out of the house by 6am to resume by 7am and not knowing when you would be back. The idea of being your own boss is attractive enough, but it goes with some serious responsibilities. To start any business you must know the business. The starting point is working in a place that is already running the business where you can know the in and out of the operation and you don’t have to make your own mistakes. Anyone who is interested in business need to engage in some form of apprenticeship whether paid or unpaid, even if it is for six months so that you can know the business very well. If you are going to be stocking products you will know which one to have more and which one to have less because some of these things may be seasonal. The most important thing is that you need to be very well educated in your line of business.
Trepscript101: What are the books you’ve read and can recommend to anyone planning to go into business?
Obaro: Most of the materials I used in the start up of my business are mostly online publication. Of course, I have some other ones I bought and in hard copy that I have read. The first one I will recommend is a book called the secret by Rhonda Byrne-It helps you have a clear mental picture of what you want and how to sustain it. The second book is 50 steps to business success by Peter .M. Cleveland. It highlights the steps it takes to start a successful business. The third book I will recommend is stratetricks by Toyosi Akerele. It talks about the strategy and tricks major companies and businesses have used to grow their business. I consider marketing very important because it’s the soul of business and in starting any business you would first ask your self –who would be my customers? How do I get their attention? How do I make them like me? How do I get them to patronize me? This is what stratetricks is all about. These books and other online publications aided me in starting my business. Interestingly, like someone said we are fortunate in our time because in any line of business you want to go into you can get some form of article on line.
Trepscript101: What characteristic in your opinion should a leader posses?
Obaro: Let’s understand what leadership means, I see leadership as a process of building more leaders. The characteristics therefore would be the ability to delegate, to give responsibilities, to put people in line for leadership through a life of progress. The major characteristics should be that a leader should be able to identify talents and groom these talents to their full potentials. They say that leaders are people who work with people smarter than they are, so a leader should be able to identify their areas of strength and take full advantage of it while at the same time helping them reduce their areas of weaknesses.
Trepscript101: Do you have any message for your clients or would be clients?
Obaro: The message is simple, we are here to help them grow their school business. Like I have said, as consultants we can help them make their business attractive by implementing our strategic marketing plan to grow their schools. Our ads campaign is well thought out, we make sure your ads reflect certain key questions-what are people looking for? What are your strengths? And what is your uniqueness? Those are the contents that should reflect in all your ads. Recently, we started producing newsletters, calendars, and charts for our clients, and the operational handbook, as well as teachers’ appraisal booklet. The operational handbook is very important, for example if someone committed an offence it eliminates the need to set up a panel to look into that. What you need to do is just to take the operational handbook and see the appropriate punishment for that offence. Overall our aim is to help you grow and make your school the best school among its peers.
Trepscript101: A lot of African men and women who have recently graduated are faced with a long term unemployment prospect, what is your advice to these graduates?
Obaro: First and foremost someone once said education for what purpose? Individuals need to identify why they are going to school in the first place. If the picture of why you went to school is very clear, you will perhaps take your education seriously, by choosing a course that will give you an advantage after graduation. Most people go to school because others are going, when they come out they found out that the skills they have is not what is required out there. That’s why it seems there are high rate of unemployment. The first degree is just the starting point; unfortunately most people see it as the end point. I want you to know that it should be the starting point for you to acquire more qualifications, Certifications especially. Though certifications are not cheap but it shows that one is serious about getting a job. On the other hand we also need to acquire business skills and technical skills. Most at times people acquire the trade skills without acquiring the business and marketing skills. Both of them are important, that is why in privatization we talk about the technical partners, and they also talk about the other group who are the business men that would market the business. People should go back or even before they get a degree they should acquire either some trade skills or business skills. The Federal Government is trying to set up entrepreneurship at the secondary school level. I hope the implementers and the schools would take it seriously. There is a list of about 35 trade skills including catering management, printing, GSM maintenance, fishery, plumbing and fittings, electrical installations among others, and a child is expected to do at least one of them. At the end of their secondary school year they must have done three years of a particular trade and have both the technical skill and the business skill. All they need to do is brushing it up by attaching themselves somewhere after the secondary school education. They can be easily employed or easily set up their own businesses. These trades require very little capital to start, for example the GSM maintenance require probably a laptop and ones you have that and other tools which are very cheap, you can begin doing the business. Acquiring these skills can give them the overall advantage when eventually they become job seekers, because companies are looking for individuals who have that extra something to offer.
Trepscript101: Thank you
Obaro: Thank you for having me on you platform.
You can contact Mr Obaro Akpobasa on Email at firstname.lastname@example.org or
on mobile: +2348039390047