Mark Essien, Sim Shagaya, Bisola Edun… Akintunde Oyebode lists 10 entrepreneurs you should pay attention to in 2014

by Akintunde Oyebode

Bisola Edun

The theme that ran through my head as I picked these names was transformation. On that note, I think these 10 people are building businesses that will transform various sectors, and 2013 was the year they built the foundation for immense success.

Gabriel Okoye


There are very few people who understand the Nigerian film industry better than Igwe Gabosky and that’s the reason I think his company, G-Media Limited will crack the film distribution business in Nigeria. Of course, it helps if you’re able to raise N1.8 billion like this company has done.


The project will go live in January 2014 with 4,000 community distribution stores around Nigeria and a web based database where content owners and distributors can track sales, real-time. I’ll leave you with this thought: anyone daring to improve a N500 billion industry deserves to be watched closely.


Mark Essien


If you are planning to book a hotel outside Nigeria, you’re likely to use one of the booking/reservation websites to select and pay. This is what Mark is trying to recreate in Nigeria with, a web based platform that has over 5,000 hotels listed on it.


It takes a lot to go around Nigeria taking pictures and inspecting hotels for potential occupants; so you must respect the first company to prove it is possible. Still not convinced? Remember Tripadvisor is currently valued at $4 billion, more valuable than 4 of the Top 10 hotel chains in the world.


Bilkiss Adebiyi


What are chances that an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management will end up managing waste in Lagos? Slim, unless you’re Bilkiss Adebiyi who ensured an idea that started during the MIT Global Challenge in 2012 became a full-fledged business called Wecyclers.


The company uses a fleet of low-cost bicycles to offer recycling service in densely populated low-income neighborhoods; and motivate families to recycle plastics and aluminum cans through an SMS-based incentive program. After collection, Wecyclers aggregates and sells the material to local recycling processors. For this initiative, Bilkiss was recently chosen as a Laureate of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award.


Simdul Shagaya


It is rare to meet a founder with the right mix of technology and finance skills; that’s what sets Simdul Shagaya apart from his peers. The former Rand Merchant Bank and Google employee set out to build an e-commerce legacy with Konga, and the early signs are very encouraging.


While revenues are not public, the business has attracted over $15 million from investors, including Naspers and Kinnivik, who are bullish about the future of e-commerce in Nigeria. Various estimates suggest there might be over 10 million people in Nigeria’s middle class, based on the early signs I won’t bet against Konga becoming our local version of Amazon.


Deepanker Rustagi


A big dependency for solving the numerous problems facing SMEs is data availability. That’s why Deepanker Rustagi’s business,, has become invaluable to anyone interested in SME development.


The company is the largest local search engine for SMEs and has over 800,000 businesses registered on its platform. While it unclear how this business will eventually monetize, the sheer amount of data stored on its platform makes revenue generation inevitable.


Tajudeen Adepetu


I first heard of this man because my siblings enjoyed his soap opera on television called Everyday People, but I didn’t realize he was a mogul in the making. Today, his media business, Consolidated Media Associates runs three television stations: Sound City TV and Spice TV on DSTV, and ONTV that transmits on terrestrial TV.


A business that started from a moderate soap opera now streams to over 1 million homes in Nigeria alone, apart from the satellite stations that reach 17 African countries. The biggest compliment I can pay Tajudeen is that he created a platform for Africans to tell their stories; an invaluable contribution to our society.


Bisola Edun


What sets Tae Wool apart from many similar fashion businesses is the ability to combine creativity with an administrative and financial structure. I’ve always thought the tipping point for Nigerian fashion businesses will come when founders/owners learn to separate themselves from the business, and Bisola Edun has succeeded in building her business on this philosophy.


The result is that Tae Wool is the first fashion business to successfully apply for funding from the Bank of Industry (BOI), which will spur the business to build a mainstream prêt-á-porter model in a market used to domestic bespoke models. We might be watching Nigeria’s version of Tory Burch in the making.


Godwin Ehigiamusoe


Mohammed Yunus and Grameen Bank won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for doing what Godwin Ehigiamusoe and LAPO Microfinance Bank are now doing in Nigeria. To illustrate, Grameen Bank provided $1.4 billion to 8 million people in 2012; in the same period LAPO Microfinance Bank provided $100 million to 500,000 people. Baby steps compared to the Bangladeshi behemoth, but very impressive numbers.


With loss rates below 1%, LAPO is succeeding where commercial banks struggle, and its model suggests there is real value lending at the bottom of the pyramid. Like Grameen, LAPO has a bias for women, and prefers lending to cooperative groups. The only thing that surprises me is how LAPO and its simple founder don’t get more recognition in Nigeria.


Mosun Umoru


Farming is backbreaking work, but that didn’t stop Mosun Umoru from starting Honeysuckle PTL using what she learnt as a zoology graduate to optimize farming methods. The farm focused on poultry (and eggs), snails, catfish and vegetables. In a country that is aggressively targeting agricultural self-sufficiency, businesses like Honeysuckle are well suited to benefit from the farmer-friendly fiscal policy.


Apart from running a business that employs young people, Mosun is also involved in training and mentoring young farmers, and has a program where female farmers between the ages of 16 and 35 years can be trained on farm and business management methods.


Professor Olumide Olusanya


You don’t come across a business called C.L.U.B. Housing Cooperative every day. C.L.U.B. is an acronym for “Come Let Us Build” derived from Genesis 11:4. The business is built on this verse of the Holy Bible, and designed to enable a group of people enjoy collective value from the communal development of housing units.


In the pilot project, a group of 10 people developed 10 units of 4-bedroom terraces for N6.5 million per unit using a system described here. According to Professor Olusanya who leads the project, this method will reduce the cost of construction by at least 40%. C.L.U.B. has been awarded the contract to construct a housing project in Ijora-Badiya on behalf of the Lagos State government.








One comment

  1. I love the idea of wecyclers. “Come Let Us Build” is a good idea and I’d be glad to be part of such a nice group of investors…

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail