Nkechi Chima, Abuja
Iyke Kanu is an astute businessman, who hails from Arochukwu, Abia State. He is the Chairman of Icecos Energy Limited, Etoks Communication Limited, National Mandate Newspaper and Magazines as well as the author of Harnessing God’s Grace. In this interview Kanu talks about his background and how he grew from grass to grace in business, his close shave with death and his family among other interesting issues.
Could you tell us a bit about your background?
I was born in Arochukwu, Abia State. I had my primary education in Okigwe, Imo State and then proceeded to Federal Government College, Okigwe, Imo State. Thereafter, I attended Abia State University, Uturu, where I bagged a degree in Chemical Engineering. I served in an oil company in Port Harcourt, and thereafter I set up my own company.
Tell us how you made your foray into business?
I worked in an insurance company as a marketing executive then proceeded to AIICO Insurance Plc. Luckily, I met a friend who imports and sells vehicles from Holland, America and Japan. I I worked with him as a dealer and importer for years, before I ventured into real estate and printing businesses. Thereafter, I registered my company known as Etok Communication Limited, I also own Icecos Energy limited, which operates in the Oil and Gas Industry.
Could you elaborate on how you ventured into business?
Every man who wishes to survive needs to go into business. Honestly, it is difficult getting a job accept through the grace of God, because there is nothing impossible for God. However, instead of waiting for a job, it’s advisable to venture into business to become successful.
How did you get the idea of going into business?
When I was a marketing executive I met a lot of executive directors or owners of firms. Fortunately, as an Igbo man I was able to excite the interest of most importers and dealers in Ladipo and Alaba International Market. So, I started my first business of importation with the money I saved and some money from my father. Thereafter, I ventured into other businesses as I mentioned earlier.
You have various businesses. Is educational qualification the major requirement when you want to employ staff?
Honestly, it is experience. I started with just five staff and an accountant with other professionals in the business. Then we grew and expanded to over 100 staff as we diversified into other businesses. Also, I will soon venture into hospitality business when commission the hotel I am building in the Southeast.
What risks did you take to get to where you are today?
I had to plead with friends to use their licenses to import goods since I had none then. It was challenging, because they could tell you different stories concerning your goods, sometimes it was favorable and other times unfavorable.
At what age did you become wealthy?
I am comfortable not yet wealthy, because I can take care of myself and people around me. I am also a philanthropist; there are people I give free education.
What is your biggest strength?
It’s to overcome poverty! I’m working hard to overcome it in the lives of everyone around me. Also, I intend to affect the lives of the less privileged ones in our society.
At what age did you make your first million?
I made my first million at the age of 24, which was N10 million and I kept the money in the bank. I regularly checked on it to make sure it was safe.
What are your aspirations?
I want a better world! I want to make sure poverty is eradicated in the society. Also, I want to propagate the gospel of God, which I am doing through writing books and evangelizing.
Before you became successful, did you have rough beginning or encounter challenges?
My father got me a job in an oil company where I worked through his best friend who was in charge of human resources. But, my quest to become successful led me to Lagos in search of greener pasture. I lived with some friends in Lagos; unfortunately they threw me out of their house, so I became homeless. I had a rough time earlier, it wasn’t easy. I didn’t find it funny in Lagos, because I didn’t experience hardship as the only child of my parents. I was determined that I would not go back to Port Harcourt; I squatted with friends until I was able to rent an apartment.
So, how was it growing up as a single child?
I didn’t feel lonely as an only child. My father worked with NITEL. I grew up in Okigwe, Imo State. I had lovely grandparents and lived with them alongside other children. I stayed with them until my parents came to take me when I was in primary 6. It wasn’t different and I didn’t feel like an only child, because I grew up living with other children.
How do you feel moving from grass to grace?
Honestly, it’s a great experience. But I am not saying that everybody should pass through hard life, but it is difficult for a successful man with such experiences to fall. A lot of people have failed, probably because of failure to serve God in totality. Some people have never slept outside where there is no roof to provide shelter. They have never woken up without assurance of a meal for the day. So, if you have gone through tough times you will be economical and prudent in your spending and invest wisely. Like I said earlier, my greatest fear is poverty, because I have tasted it; it’s worse than demonic attack, because God will always see you through the world.
What life has taught you?
Honestly, there is no life without God. I had an encounter with God that changed my life totally. You cannot do anything meaningful without the grace of God, because life is being controlled by the spiritual.
What advice would you give someone who is starting out?
You have to be consistent, regardless of the challenges. It is believed that winners don’t quit and quitters don’t win, so you must trust in God for success.
How do you relax?
You saw me relaxing in my hotel room; we came to Abuja for the Actors Guild of Nigeria event, where I was the chairman and got decorated as a patron. I relax when I’m not working by reading my bible, watching soccer or YouTube channel. I also listen to secular music, I go to parties and club for relaxation. Most importantly, I like quite time, if you didn’t come I would have been watching soccer.
Where is your best holiday spot?
I love traveling to Dubai, which is a beautiful place with good weather. I don’t like cold weather so it’s my favourite place. My family partially lives in London, but I prefer the Caribbean or Dubai, because you can also do business.
Could you tell us a bit about your family?
I have a lovely family. I married the most beautiful woman, Blessing Kanu; we are blessed with five children (three boys and two girls.) My girls are in the university in London while their brothers are in secondary school at Chrisland International in Lagos. I’m having challenges at home, because their sisters want my first son to join them abroad for further education, but I want the boys to live in Nigeria (laughter).
What does style mean to you?
I’m a very stylish person. I grew up wearing stylish clothes, my grandfather was wealthy. My children have also followed the trend of wearing designer wears which must have a name.
How best do you like to dress?
I like to dress simple and classic. I don’t like wearing corporate or traditional attires except occasionally.
Do you have any regrets in life?
The greatest regret was my father’s death. Though, he died while I was doing well in business, but not as successful as I have become today.
When did he die and how did he die?
He died in 2013. He was 73 years old. He had lung issues, while they were treating something else, but he was later diagnosed of lung related illness. The day his visa and international passport came out to travel to India for further treatment was the day he died.
In business are you fulfilled?
Not yet! I’m working toward it until I hit my target. Though, I’m so thankful to God for my achievements so far.
Have you had close shave with death?
In 2015, armed robbers attacked my house, they were going to rob a bank in my village, but my house was on the road. We were coming back from a party on that 31st night and I had my mobile police escort with me, so they thought we were coming after them, they were shooting sporadically; luckily we escaped them because my doors are bulletproof.