Monday, 7 September 2009

Banking on Fate

FATE Foundation is one of the most respected and effective not for profit organisations in the country. As it begins the search for the Entrepreneur of the Year 2009, one of the organisation’s officials, Anwuli Ojogwu, opens up to Young and Nigerian the organisation’s work, and of course, plans for young people.

For how long has the award held?
For eight years now. It started in December 2001.

What led to its institution?
The foundation recognised that in despite of the poor economic conditions in the country, there were still entrepreneurs succeeding in their businesses: Entrepreneurs, who had laudable leadership qualities and remarkable achievements, built their businesses from scratch based on high ethical standards, most importantly, made impact in society by creating jobs or enabling people to start businesses. The award was instituted to promote the value of entrepreneurship and celebrate these people. The ceremony also doubles as graduation ceremony, where the organisation showcases its new crop of entrepreneurs.

Past winners of the awards
Frank Nneji, MD/CEO Rapido Group (ABC Transport) in 2002; Abiola Ogunrinde, MD/ CEO, Cosmos Chemicals (Dudu Soap), 2003; Kayode Odukoya, MD/CEO, Bellview Airlines, 2004; Mr. & Mrs. Folu Ayeni, Tantalizers Fast Food, 2005; Nike Ogunlesi, MD, Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, 2006; Ibukun Awosika, MD, Sokoa Chair Centre, 2007; John Momoh, MD/CEO, Channels TV, 2008; Godwin Ehiagiamusoe, ED, Lift Above Poverty Organisation.

Why does it take four months between call for nominations and the award?
The call for nominations is one part of a series of planning stages for the forthcoming award ceremony in December. During the four months, we narrow down the nominations and pick those with the highest number of votes, after which, we submit them to the Fate Model Entrepreneur Award ( FMEA) committee, which does the groundwork or investigations, of matching each nominee against our criteria. It is from that stage that the winner emerges. It is a rigorous process in which we handle meticulously and transparently, for fairness.

Last year’s winner was not an entrepreneur per se, was this as a result of a difficulty in getting nominees?
No. We were not short of nominees. Godwin Ehiagiamusoe, the winner of last year’s FMEA, was nominated along with other profit-based organisations, and he emerged winner. Though LAPO, his company, is a non profit organisation, it is run as a business to ensure sustainability and longevity. The issue about what defines an entrepreneur is quite clear cut— a person who ventures into business, whether for profit or not-for-profit, with the aim to be successful. Ehiagiamusoe won based on his outstanding business credentials.

Apart from these, what exactly made to standout?
It won based on several reasons. First it is business longevity or sustainability. LAPO is a microfinance firm and has been existing for 15 years. It has created hundreds of jobs from Nigeria to Sierra Leone, and impacted on people’s lives by providing finance to enable them start small businesses of their own. His company is also multi-dimensionals, it not only provides capital for people to start their own business, but provide free health and family welfare seminars.

How many entries did you get?
100 entries, spanning Lagos, Ibadan, and even Osogbo, despite the limited publicity.

How many winners have emerged outside Lagos?
One; Ehigiamusoe, from Benin City

The foundation continues to retain credibility in a country where it is easy to lose it — what is most responsible for this?
Our corporate culture, which is defined by our core values: ethics, integrity, service and excellence.

No young person has ever won these awards, what’s responsible?
It is not deliberate. People from different demography voted the past winners. In our bid to get more youth participation this year, we collaborated with The Future Awards.

What are the foundation’s programmes for young people?
We are currently running a programme in collaboration with the International Youth Foundation. It is a Samsung CSR initiative called the Samsung Real Dreams Youth Employability programme. The purpose is to equip them with business skills that will enable them build their own successful businesses. We also have Aspiring Entrepreneur Programme and the Short Entrepreneur Programmes as well.

Do the foundation’s initiatives take Nigeria’s political situation into consideration?
Yes we do. A lot of things are taken into consideration whilst preparing for our programmes every year. We do a lot of research and consult professionals to put together a first-rate training curriculum. We are emphatic that it applies to the Nigerian business climate, especially with our case studies; which are basically Nigerian examples of businesses built successfully.

How exactly do these entrepreneur awards help Nigeria as a nation?
We aspire to set high standards for the kind of leaders that people should embrace and emulate, such as our past winners. Leaders who uphold the tenets of accountability, personal integrity and good ethical practices in their businesses etc.

What do the winners get?
A plaque in recognition of the achievements; free publicity in external and internal publications and a trip to any European country of their choice.
What else is the foundation involved in apart from this programme?
We are an entrepreneurial training school and are fully engaged through out the year with our various programmes.

How is the foundation funded?
It is not- for-profit and is funded by our programmes. Also, there is external funding.

Does the foundation work with government or international organisations?
Yes we do. We work with the government agencies though, and international organisation on different levels. It may be collaborations to train people whom they want to empower or they seek our expertise on an advisory capacity.

Nominations ended recently — after that, what next? What is the process?
We are working towards getting the winner of the FMEA award and preparing for the yearly celebration, which holds on December 3.

What should people expect from this year’s ceremony?
That will be a surprise.

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