By Balkis Tijani.
Popular youth development advocate and serial entrepreneur, Olasupo Abideen was on Wednesday, featured by the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
The 25-year-old founder/CEO of OPAB Gas was a 2018 beneficiary of the TEF $5000 Seed Capital, which has metamorphosed into a chain of thriving businesses, created employment for 35 university undergraduates and facilitated the training of 475 unemployed youth and corps members.
In an effort to give back to society, the UNESCO ESD Young Leader, World Economic Forum Global Shaper and Fellow, Young Africa Leadership Initiative (YALI) has helped 5 kids return to school through his #StreetToSchool initiative.
The graduate of Chemistry from the University of Ilorin, who is currently enrolled as a student at Harvard Business School-Entrepreneuship Essential Course, shared his story with the Tony Elumelu Foundation.
He uncovered tales of his humble beginnings, his early venture into gas business, the expansion which came with the TEF intervention fund and his growth/ milestones.
Read full texts of his narration below:
My Humble Beginnings
I watched my mother walk long distances to gather firewood and buy coal to cook for my family in my growing up years in my village in south-west Nigeria, where I was raised. It wasn’t peculiar to my mother; this was commonplace for all families. We all knew it wasn’t safe. We knew that if it made them this uncomfortable, there was no way it was safe, but we didn’t know there were alternatives. After all, this is how our grandparents and their parents before them lived.
It bothered me to see my mother’s red eyes, and the wet eyes of other women in our rural community bothered me a lot. Even though I did not know until recently that cooking with firewood is equivalent to smoking 400 cigarettes per hour, and is one of the three causes of mortality among women and children, I knew there had to be something I could do, but I couldn’t figure it out; or better put, I did not have enough education nor access to information to figure it out.
My Business Idea
The Idea to start my business came from a need that I identified and solving that problem meant a business opportunity. As a student of chemistry at the University of Ilorin, I was exposed – through volunteering – to MDGs (and subsequently SDGs), and I took a keen interest in clean, renewable energy, that could be used instead of orthodox fuelling options, and one of them was Liquefied Petroleum Gas.
After a long time of advocacy for SDGs, as an undergraduate, my SDGs advocacy and youth development organization, Brain Builders International, signed an agreement with the Kwara State University’s Community Development and Entrepreneurship Centre to train young Nigerians on the Sustainable Development Goals, their benefits, and ways toward actualisation.
I noticed that every time I took the 55min trip to Kwara State University to facilitate these training sessions, I would encounter students carrying gas cylinders: either going to fill Gas in Ilorin or coming back from Ilorin after filling Gas. I later learnt that the only cooking gas supplier in the community at that time was exploiting the students by using a manual scale that could be manipulated and also selling at a rip-off price.
Solving the Problem
In 2017, I took a soft loan from a friend, added some of my own money and after conducting intense market research, filing necessary papers, and satisfying ethical and professional standards, we opened our first OPAB Gas station. The services we offered hinged on three things; convenience, safety, and trust. Students could now focus on academics, as we did not only sell gas at the standard rate, but we also offered pick-up and delivery services. We used safe measures alongside a digital scale to address the issue of trust. Within three months we had broken even.
The TEF Intervention
In 2018, I applied for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme but was only selected for the GIZ list to be one of the 210 beneficiaries of the training and $5000 funding. The training provided by the foundation on business planning, financial intelligence, scalability, among others could only be likened to a mini MBA.
Immediately after the training myself and my team we started discussing how to dominate the market in which we operate and capture new markets.
With the seed capital, we were able to expand our business.
Our Growth and Milestones
Expansion: We have expanded the business to 6 stations in two townships to target the student populations and made over $25,000 since receiving the seed capital from the foundation.
Employment: Staff strength – 2 (in 2017), 35 people (2019).
Gas on Wheels: We now own delivery vans and offers delivery services
Digitization: We now take orders on the business’ website in both cities where we operate.
Introduced Customer Loyalty service
Health safety card – to educate users about safety measures.
Customer reward: Points reward system.
we also have a few impact initiatives that we run.
OPAB Gas has trained 450 Youth Corps members, unemployed youth in Kwara State on the economic merits of the Gas economy and the many opportunities that abound in the sector.
In line with the UN SDGs, OPAB student work experience – an internship programme where we train students.
During this internship, they work on Sundays for a stipend. They then receive N10,000 for every 1000kg of gas sold.
OPAB gas student ambassador scheme – delivery service.
The vision for OPAB Gas has always been to solve energy availability and ease of use for everyone across Nigeria so we are constantly working on ways to reach out to more Nigerians.
Our OPAB telemetry solution will allow people to monitor and manage their gas usage, notify them when it is almost finished, connect them to the nearest gas stations and pay for gas with existing mobile money applications.
Phone call/WhatsApp: 07068775529.