All the challenges one could think of barricaded his plan, but none of them could kill the ambition of Daniel Okezie, CEO, Zeevland Ventures, from being an entrepreneur. The business genius and vice president of Small and Medium Enterprise of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry had many obstacles, including the no-go order from his parents but he nursed and endured until he became an entrepreneur. Now, before the count of top ten security gadget companies in Nigeria, Zeevland will pop up. According to this accountant turned businessman, all he passed through turned to his own advantage and if given the opportunity again he would like to go the same way.
How did you start?
I was the General Manager of a private company, Greadad Nigeria Limited but when I left there, I started by selling fire proof safe and file cabinets over time and then ventured into security and safety. This was after I had attended several trainings and today I am on ground as far as security gadget and equipment is concerned and I have made a name for myself against all odds.
Before you were admitted into the university, did you have it at the back of your mind that you would become a businessman?
I had always had an interest in security and safety. At a point, I wanted to be a soldier or a security agent, then something happened that I had to study Accountancy. As days turned into months and months into years, the dream transformed and the concept of being an entrepreneur was born and nursed. It died at a point, but later the interest came back to life and then I followed it but I could not be a soldier. This time I can be something better. It is still the same thing; they are both saving lives and bringing peace to the society. And that was what prompted me to go into the business.
Initially, did your parents object to your desire to become a soldier?
The only thing my parents wanted me to become was an engineer and when I brought up the security business they were furious and the rest is history.
You ventured into what your people didn’t want and you succeeded, how did you do it?
Passion! It was the passion I had as a child that kept me through and it is still keeping me. I call it a security supermarket where you get all your security gadgets; tear gas, fire fighting equipment, alarm system, life jacket and so on. The idea was to have one shop security and safety shop.
So how have you been surviving in a complex business environment?
I don’t think one can fail. Doing the right thing can’t lead to failure, being an entrepreneur is a right thing to do. So there is no failure in it. This is after the person has done all that is needful.
Is your company where you visualised it to be?
I think we are there but there is still another promised land.
So you see yourself as the biblical Joshua who will take it to the promised land?
Yes, all it will take is more hard work; good business environment. The country right now is not favourable to entrepreneurs and by extension, they are not creating jobs because it is only when a business is booming that one can employ more labour. The factors affecting business includes the infrastructure. This affects all sphere of business. Communication is about to be met but inadequacy is still a problem. The tax is not encouraging, there is nothing like protection of infant companies in Nigeria. A small entrepreneur who operates within the range of One Million Naira is asked to pay N30,000 for television and radio permits, among other taxes he or she has to pay. The same person is also expected to do business registration, rent space and still pay PAYE.
What prompted your exit from your former job?
I think the aim of every individual is to be a boss of his own. But there is a need to start from somewhere. I worked for someone for years and while working I didn’t lose the plan of what I wanted to do as an entrepreneur. The last place I did 12 years, starting as an account officer, rose to General Manager before I thought to move to my own. I know what I contributed for the company to still stand even in these hard times, I said to myself, if I can do this for another person’s company I could do it in my own company.
Are you putting the same effort into your business now, considering the fact that you were young and energetic?
I am not banking on my energy, I am using my work experience to build my own. I don’t think I would have done it differently. Another thing is that I am of the opinion that you reap what you sow and that the level of seriousness one gives to another person’s job determines the level of seriousness one will put to his own job. There was a time I was an accountant but doing the job of sales and PR, I did them to gain experience. Let me tell you, I have not changed, now I do all of those things and more for my business.
So you don’t think one can become an entrepreneur straight from school?
It is possible but it depends on the passion the person puts into it and most especially the learning process. Learning a business is very important. The academic lesson is different but the business lesson is vital to succeed. I graduated as an Accountant but now a security operative businessman. To do that without hitches, I had to go for some training. I had to go for training on security and safety equipment. So this issue of tutelage is very important. For instant, if I want to go into export business like my colleagues, I would have to go for the training to learn the pros and cons of the business. Many businesses perished because of lack of tutelage.
How much have Nigerians embraced security?
An average Nigerian does not think security is important. The average man in Alaba International Market does not know the difference between a file cabinet and fire proof safe, he would just put his money in the file cabinet not weighing the disadvantages. More than 90 percent knows how to use a handcuff. It is the same thing with their personal safety, there is this small safety item called Alertmate, this thing is less compare to its duty. If in a robbery, the Alertmate if used will make the same amount of siren alert of a police vehicle and alter the robbery.
How do you now tackle competition?
In every business environment, competition is needed for growth. The way I look at it is that you need to carry on as if the other is not there. You will have to check what you have in common and work on what you didn’t have that they have and improve what you have that they don’t have. I don’t see my customers as customers but an extended family whose life and property is mine to protect. I also give after sale services.
If you have the option of starting fresh, how would you do it?
I would like to do it the same way again. While I was working for people, I was building my own company in my head. When my brother finished his law school I told him to be under a law firm but he objected and said he wanted to be on his own. But the law is in the court and he needs to practice to be a good lawyer.