In 2004, young Zion Oshiobugie travelled to the oil-rich city of Warri in the Niger Delta for the first time, to permanently become the houseboy of a distant relative. A second-class citizen.
Slightly over a decade later, he is the CEO of Clever Minds Integrated Services, a consultancy firm offering training and educational services to the public in the same city and its environs, aided by fifteen employees working in three learning centres.
Oshiobugie first conceived the idea in 2010 while working for a private secondary school in Warri, having noticed the lack of quality education in the riverine and poor communities in the Niger Delta. However, he could not immediately implement the idea because of lack of funds.
When he lost that job two years later, he was borderline suicidal. “I almost committed suicide because I felt that all hope was lost I looked at the job then as the only live source for me…I was depressed and frustrated.”
After months of depression, he finally took a stand to become a problem solver and not a job seeker, says Oshiobugie. “I opened my school in Edjeba community of Warri, a poor community in Delta state, offering quality education to them for a very cheap amount.”
He started with just two people – himself and his first student – and things began to pick up gradually, but still at snail speed.
Enter 2015 and the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, with $10,000 seed capital, a 12-week training and mentorship phase as well as other resources including networking and a 3-day bootcamp attended by policymakers and investors.
And Oshiobugie has high praise for the initiative. “The Tony Elumelu Foundatioin Entrepreneurship programme is one programme I will never forget. I will tell my children about it when I give birth [because] it changed my life. Hitherto, cash was a real challenge for me but with the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme 2015, I was able to get seed capital and entrepreneurial training. My business took a different turn for good after Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme 2015.”
“Formerly, I had one learning center in Kosini but after Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme, I now have two more learning centers and I’m planning to open another one in Benin this year. The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme has changed my story. Personally, the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme has made me a public speaker because I gradually became a celebrity in Delta state when people discovered I was selected for the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme. I have been invited to speak about this in over 20 gatherings.”
“My business also gained a lot from the lessons every week. A powerful speech at the bootcamp “Cash is King” also helped me.”
Oshiobugie’s goal is to educate over 20 million children in the next 20 years and “To use education as a tool to end poverty and joblessness”. For only N3, 000 (approx. $10), he is providing education, vocational training, entrepreneurship training, and leadership training at the three centres being run by his company.
The goal is to keep the quality of education at the other end of the spectrum from price. “We will develop a new set of students who will be academically sound, morally okay and most of all technically proficient.”
Another aspect of the business is the Clever Minds Youth Mentorship Programme where the company trains aspiring youth leaders in the community in a bid to transform them into role models for their peers. Even the old are not left out as there are adult training programmes tailored for them during the weekends.
All of this, he says he owes to TEF Founder, Mr. Tony Elumelu for believing in him. “When I got a call that I had been selected, I went berserk…glad was an understatement”, says Oshiobugie who now moonlights as an On-Air Personality hosting ‘Student’s Corner’ on Crown 89.9 FM, Warri these days.
“When others asked for a collateral, Mr. Tony Elumelu simply asked for an idea that can transform Africa. I urge others to apply because it will change your destiny if you are selected.”