My name is Emmanuel Odufejo. I am 32 years old, proudly Nigerian and fully Lagosian (my paternal grandfather and grandmother are from Epe and Lagos Island respectively). I have a BSc.Ed. in Biology from The Lagos State University and an M.Ed. in Administration & Planning from The University of Lagos.
I am a passionate advocate for self-development and entrepreneurship among young people. I believe that our national survival and global relevance as a continent depends solely on the efficiency of our strategic youth empowerment initiatives and continuous growth and encouragement of small and medium scale enterprises. I have spent the last six years teaching young Nigerians on how to start, sustain and succeed with small scale businesses.
I’ve always wondered why parents complain about their kids “playing too much” and getting distracted from their academics. Growing up, I was a “jack of two trades & master of both” – playing & reading. I could spend five hours playing football and the next ten hours reading “The Famous Five” by Enid Blyton. As I grew older, I discovered “biographies”, those books opened a new world to me, I never knew existed. Somehow, I had a natural tendency to read biographies of very popular and successful entrepreneurs.
I started my first business in my first year at the university, and of course the only thing I could sell were “books”. I had to stop borrowing books from the library and actually started buying and selling books to my friends. I called it a “mobile library” where you could meet me anywhere and either borrow a book for three days or buy it at once.
After that exciting experience, there was no going back. In my third year at the university, I had teamed up with a friend who was studying Fisheries. He had all the “technical knowledge” while I brought in the business enthusiasm (there really wasn’t anything close to business experience or expertise then and quite frankly, we didn’t care) and we started rearing & selling catfish. We later delved into selling chickens and puppies. We were student entrepreneurs; at that point, we weren’t really concerned about making profits. We just loved selling and making money.
While in school, I also discovered my public speaking abilities and trust me I wasted no time in offering my services to family and friends as a “master compere” or MC, at their various functions, at first for free, but later started earning some money. After I graduated from the university, I began getting offers to mc at wedding receptions and corporate events plus a host of other youth seminars.
In 2012, I met two young teenage orphan boys who were referred to me by a local tailor to help clean my new apartment for a small fee. Junior & Tunde had lost both parents to a boat accident few years back. Consequently, they have been forced to drop out of school & left to roam the streets exposed to a world of crime & juvenile delinquency. Fortunately, they chose to abstain from crimes & instead began to do menial jobs for small fees within their community.
I thought deeply within myself, “How do you help an uneducated, unskilled, & unemployed youth”? How do we deal with the continuous rise of this dangerous army of unemployed, uneducated & unskilled youth In Nigeria?
This gave birth to my first book titled “Dare To Stand Out – for Young Entrepreneurs” & the creation of Master Mindz Afrika, a youth-led NGO platform that provides entrepreneurship & vocational skills training programs for uneducated & unskilled youth.
The long term vision is to build an army of youth with valuable skills set with which they can either find stable employment opportunities or venture out into sustainable small scale businesses.
In 2014, I was introduced to LEAP Africa by an Alumnus of the LEAP Social Innovators Program & Awards (SIPA) and looking back today, I can say I am glad I applied. It was encouraging & enlightening for me to meet, learn from & work with such an exciting team of young change makers all across Nigeria who were working hard at solving practical social issues within their communities. My biggest takeaway from the 2015 LEAP SIPA was learning that the most profitable & sustainable way of running a non-profit is to think & operate like a for-profit. Today, I am more strategic about what specific projects to execute, how to seek for volunteer & funding opportunities etc.
My vision for Master Mindz Afrika, going forward, is to be the foremost youth-led impact investing institution that trains, funds & celebrates young men and women who will become catalysts for social change, sustainable growth and rapid development in Africa.
Thank you LEAP AFRICA for the SOCIAL INNOVATORS PROGRAMME & AWARDS.
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