What can be messier than shit? But Temitope Osuntokun puts much stock in the words of the multimillionaire and founder of Dignified Mobile Toilet (DMT), Mr. Isaac Durojaiye Agbetunsin, popularly known as Otunba Ghadafi, that “Shit business is serious business.” Though the mention of the word immediately turns the stomach of many, the success and attainment of Otunba Ghadafi, and particularly Super Yansh, the entrepreneur in the spotlight of this edition of SME Showcase, has proven that shit is indeed worth its weight in gold.
Temitope Osuntokun is a Microbiologist and Social Entrepreneur with interest that cuts across different fields of social and economic development. Temitope is a TEEP (Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program) entrepreneur. He was able to attract funding for his ideas through business plan competitions like the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) and the Diamond Bank Building Entrepreneurs Today (BET) initiative. His recent works are in Sanitation & Hygiene Education.
Temitope believes “entrepreneurs strive and excel in societal headaches.” So, he started out Super Yansh, which provides toilet facilities in city centres, after diagnosing a major headache in his immediate environment. Due to the skyrocketing population in the major cities in the country, coupled with the dampening economic realities, environmental sanitation and solid waste disposal system have been the despair of Nigeria’s government and citizens. This, in turn, has scaled up cases of cholera, typhoid, and many other killer diseases.
Being in the dither about this environmental challenge, Temitope was left twiddling his thumb to find answers to several questions making his heart thump. “Where will the son (daughter too) of a man shit in a public environment? Where will they shower in a public place? Where are they going to wash their clothes in a public place? What can we do about the waste, in terms of transportation, recycling and reusing?”
Unfortunately, “where a man or a woman will poo have never been of real and genuine concern to a Nigeria leader,” the owner of Super Yansh said. However, “the environmental sanitation policy also gave a room for private sector investment in this sector.” Hence, he was ready to take this cross upon himself, by finding a solution to ‘shit problem’, and in the process, create jobs and make a profit.
‘I decided to be the solution to Open Defecation’ – Super Yansh Boss
The alumnus of YALI Regional Leadership Centre West Africa said, “My driving force was seeing a gap that I can fill and that I am passionate about in my immediate environment. A major incident fuelled my zeal to fill the gap I saw back then. When I was younger, I lost a couple of friends to cholera, typhoid and the rest of faecal related disease. I was going to witness the same thing happen again in my adult environment, but I decided to be the solution to it. Open defecation is bad, and throwing of night soil is barbaric, nothing good can come out of these two practices. But up till this moment over 70million people in Nigeria still practice these two. These acts can only lead to faecal related diseases, infections, illness, deaths, child and infant mortality, reduced productivity, trauma, poverty and lots more. However, an enterprise approach to solving this problem will not only erase all these negativities, but will also create jobs, wealth, and ensure a cleaner and healthier environment.”
He added, “I feel obliged to protect the population from such (faecal related diseases). I also have a driving force to create a system that can generate revenue. I was thirsty for this. So asides wanting to solve a societal problem, I also wanted to generate revenue. Again, I also wanted to create jobs. I hate it when people can’t find job to do. A combination of all these propelled me into business.”
Furthermore, social impact, which is Temitope’s life goal, is not about belonging to a sector nor clinging to a title. It is about finding social needs and being readily available to attend to the needs through innovative ventures. He said, “My personal life goal is to keep creating ventures that can solve problems in any sector, from sanitation and hygiene, to education, to reducing flooding and greenhouse gas emission, to corruption in public offices, to improving the ROI for farmers to affordable housing and to security. I am not particular about a sector. I believe I don’t belong to a sector, I believe if I have the right team I can think through sustainable and commercial solutions to any sector.”
Like the relationship between water and ice, Temitope’s life goal solidified to form his career in entrepreneurship, which is pitched around value creation. He noted that “the creation of value is the purpose of entrepreneurship. It is centred on creating a desired value and offering it in exchange for another value which can be anything from money, deals and so on. Look at it from the angle of solving a problem, filling a gap, manufacturing or service, it all boils down to offering a desired value at a particular price that is profitable and acceptable to both sides.”
Speaking on the entrepreneurial journey and how to identify business opportunities, the certified Social Sector and Entrepreneurial Manager from the Enterprise Development Centre of the Pan-Atlantic University, Nigeria said, “Entrepreneurship is a transformational process, and going through the full length of the process makes one a successful entrepreneur. It is definitely going to start with an interest in something but as you go, change and diversification are constant. As you grow you discover that you have the capacity to do more even beyond your initial area of interest or hobby.”
Opportunities and Investments
Just like Oliver Twist, entrepreneurs always keep their ear to the ground, searching for new opportunities and investments. Temitope is not exempted; so, he highlighted factors one might consider when selecting an investment.
He stated, “I have not been able to successfully identify much in terms of business opportunities and I am still trying every day. However, in my every day trial, I look at a couple of things, chiefly; a) can it generate revenue every day? b) is it for a large number of people? c) can an average/poor person afford the product or services? d) do I have the zeal and the skills to pursue it, or at most, can the skill be acquired? e) do I have enough capable hands within my network to raise a starting team?”
Entrepreneurship is not without hills and valleys. Temitope said, “My entrepreneurial journey so far has been a bit rough. I started from a government regulated sector so it’s been a bit of ups and downs. Entrepreneurship is forever a learning process, trying and trying again is a constant in learning, likewise failing and rising again. I have encountered challenges and lost on some opportunities, but then I have learnt to use those things as a guide in future situations.”
Temitope Shares How He Won TEEP, YouWin and Diamond BET Grants
Meanwhile, Temitope, who has been fortunate to win three different entrepreneurship grants locally and attend international Conferences like the Young African Leadership Initiative, believes that winning grants is a leverage for any serious entrepreneur.
He said, “The whole experience and winning had an extraordinary impact on my business. Winning grants is a positive leverage for any serious entrepreneur. Something about grants is that you are not always there to defend yourself when the decisions are being made. Therefore, you must have an in-depth knowledge of the business and project, and you must be able to write convincingly.”
The story of Temitope Osuntokun attests to the fact that there are opportunities everywhere. But like Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overall and looks like work.” Every problem around you is an opportunity for you to be creative, innovative and to make money. Never be confined in the euphoria of your degrees, or in the shabbiness of your family background. You can achieve great things if you try!