A business partner swindled his father and things almost fell apart in the family financially. It was at this point that the young man gained admission into the university. While all hope was almost lost, his elder sister rescued him from poverty and bankrolled his education at the University of Lagos.
Today, Alaba Olukayode is a name to be reckoned with in the #Nigerian entertainment scene especially when it comes to children’s parties. Popularly referred to as Dr Kay an acronym from his names he goes down memory lane talking about his initial frustrations, overcoming the obstacles and how he made it up the success ladder.
Interestingly, his father a pharmacist wanted him to be a medical doctor. “I started medicine at Unilag between 1985 and 1990. I later changed to zoology and completed the course. I have attended so many seminars and for me it has been purely self-development. Nigerian education is in a state and you have to go all out on your own”. Unfortunately, Olukayode lost his mum when he was just nine years old. “For me being without a mother figure was a challenge.” He takes you down memory lane recalling how it all began. “I served in Kano partly and got redeployed to Ogun. Most of the organisation said there was no place for us to serve. In Ogun State, I served in Osasa Comprehensive School located in Ogunde’s village. It used to be a famed village. It was while I was in Ososa village that I got my inspiration.”
Young Olukayode then began to think of ways to make it in spite of the odds surrounding him. “To be successful you need to think, have a quiet time and that is one of the things you do not have in Lagos. I prayed for a week. I was in the village from March to September. As a Muslim I met a Muslim priest who gave me some verses to read. I read them and dreamt one night. In that dream I saw the picture of Michael Jackson and I knew it had to be entertainment”.
That same week his sister got an additional shop in the Tejuosho market in September 1991. She called him to come and mange the shop. “ But I was worried and I felt how could a whole graduate come and be mixing with market women. So, I had two options, which was to go to the market or sit at home. I opted for the market and we started with toys. Gradually we graduated to gifts, balloons and then balloon decoration which we pioneered”.
Looking back now, Olukayode says it was a very low beginning. “It was a struggle and we moved like a crawling baby initially. We struggled for five years and then things began to change for the better. By the time I spent a month in the market I was making big money. The graduates at that time were making N2000 per month while I made N2000 per week. That gave me N8000 on a monthly basis and I put all my energy into it.”
Interestingly, Olukayode did not go through any training for the job. “ All I did was to go to the Unilag library. I caught an idea in a book titled Successful Retail Sales .In it two men looked out of the prison wall, while one saw the wall, the other looked up and saw the stars. So, I said to myself, even though I am in the market I would aim at the stars. We started small but dream big”.
Now you ask him what his first job was like and he answers this way: “ My first decoration was a disaster. I was not a trained decorator. It was a birthday and I had to write Ola is one .We fixed it on a balloon and got cello tape to fix it together .I spent N1000 and was paid N100. I was too scared to ask for too much”.
When the party ended he was so relieved and just walked away. “ I came back the next day to pick the cloth I used. It was expensive and somebody had gone away with it. However that gave me inspiration to get better”. To make it in any business, Olukayode advise that it is better to have a five-year plan. “If you do not get it in the first five years then you could have another five year plan. The problem is that we are always in a hurry to make it.”
The big break therefore came for him in 1996. “Then Nigerian Breweries just introduced the three varieties of Maltina. They had seen my innovations in advertising. In September 1991 NBL gave me a job for four months. They paid me N5000 per day for their promotions. In those days I would dance all day. I danced until I could dance no more”.
Success was gradual and along the line he moved from one staff to twenty permanent and thirty casual workers. “With that I bought my first bus, a second hand Peugeot 404 and my first car which was Passat and started living big. That same year they just opened NICON NOGA, Abuja and they came all the way to look for me. They saw my advert on TV and I was paid N100, 000 for the job. I had never seen N100, 000 cash before in my life.”
Culled from Sun Newspaper