By Tony Ogaga Erhariefe
Olawale Faniyi can best be described as a young entrepreneur who knows his onions. Barely in his 40s, he is the Chief Executive Officer of Bite United Limited, a platform with interests in entertainment, manufacturing and ICT.
In a chat with Entertainer, Faniyi declared that entertainment has the capacity to boost Nigeria’s struggling economy if properly exploited.
He says: “Entertainment can revive the Nigerian economy if well tapped. If you look at the industry over the past five years, you will see that the growth is tremendous. Definitely, Nigerian entertainment is going places and it is all private-sector driven.
“If well harnessed by government, it could revive Nigeria’s ailing economy. Across Africa and even globally, our movies are being watched, our songs are being enjoyed. What is left is how to translate this into tangible revenue for Nigeria’s teeming masses,” Faniyi adds.
Revealing what inspired his celebrity hang-out, Bite Billionaire Lounge, he said the dream evolved over time due to his travels abroad: “I have always been a social person right from my university days and I have also done a bit of travelling. When I look at the way things work in other climes and compare that to what we have here in Nigeria, I realise that we are still growing. And so, over time, I decided to do something based on what I’d learnt from my years abroad and that idea was what birthed BBL.”
“The lounge started as restaurant and then subsequently it just grew. We cater to a lot of expatriates who want a serene environment where they can relax around the Ikeja / Adeniyi Jones axis of Lagos.”
Who are his clients?. “Everybody is a client but we tend to keep it premium and affordable. We host private parties, wedding receptions, anniversaries and other social functions. In addition to this, every Thursday, we have a live band playing from 9.00pm to 2.00am. And on Sundays, we have another band performing from 9.00pm to 1.00am. The atmosphere at the lounge is warm and it’s not a place that anyone would go to and feel insecure because of the guy sitting next to you as we try to keep it premium but we do not discriminate.
“The BBL regularly plays host to celebrities and can count TuFace, Olamide, Burna Boy, Adekunle Gold & the Ibru sisters as some of it’s regular guests,”Faniyi adds.
Once upon a time
An indigene of Ilesha, Osun State, was born in the mid 70’s. He obtained a BSc and MSc in Computer Science from Cardiff University, Wales. After he graduated, he worked in the United Kingdom for four years before deciding to come back home in 2004 to establish an IT firm, WorldNet Communication Limited. He would later join the family business, Fanis Nigeria Limited in some capacity while still running WorldNet Communication Ltd.
Hungry for more, Faniyi would later establish another company, Bite United Limited in 2010, bottlers of Bite premium table water. He is also the publisher of Bite Int’l Magazine and in 2013, he added Bite Energy to the Bite Group.
Commenting on his passion, Faniyi says: “I have always been business oriented and always had the dream of running my own business(es). And Dangote is one man I look up to. What I find inspiring about him is that despite having chains of businesses you don’t hear of any break down. He is not like other people who depend on godfathers to make things happen. He is just different.”
Commenting on challenges he faces running his business in Nigeria he continues: “The major challenges apart from the fact that banks don’t really believe in you is that of recruiting trusted hands. For instance, you put your business in charge of someone and you travel for just a few weeks or months and you come back you start hearing another story. So the challenge basically is to get someone that is committed and really wants to work.”
Has he ever failed in business before? “No, and I don’t intend to. It is by the grace of God and not by my power that the Bite Group has come this far. If I set out to do something I make sure I achieve it no matter what it takes, failure is not an option.”
What’s the secret to your success? He smiles as he responds: “Prayer and faith.”
Faniyi has a word for youngsters who want to pursue a career in business and entertainment. He says: “First and foremost, you can’t take away education and experience. You have to learn and get the experience. I have two Masters Degrees. Education basically prepares you.”
“We still intend to expand. Just like I said, Dangote is my role model; he does so many things. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Maybe, in the next one or two years, we might add another arm to the Bite Group.”
Faniyi is happily married with two kids; a son and a daughter and he says his wife has been very supportive. He is a Millennium Development Ambassador, an award he was presented with in June 2011 by the United Nations in acknowledgment of his contribution to growth and development at the grassroots level to facilitate the realization of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).