A Nigerian man who hawks agidi (corn flour jellos) on the streets of Uyo, the South-south state of Akwa Ibom, has received a N350,000 (about $500) in financial support from a US-based lecturer.
This is the first time he is getting such help, he said.
The agidi seller, Moses Eteng, is a familiar figure in Uyo because of his unique dress – he wears a neat suit with a well-knotted tie every day he goes out to hawk agidi inside a tray on his head, which is what attracted Obasesam Okoi, an assistant professor of Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, US, who stumbled on his photos on Facebook.
Unique marketing strategy
PREMIUM TIMES last year reported on Mr Eteng’s unique marketing strategy and how it endeared him to many.
The wraps of agidi are carefully stacked in the tray; the price for each is N100. A full tray is about N20,000, according to the report.
Except for the tray – filled with agidi – which he carries on his head, one may be tempted to think that Mr Eteng works with a corporate firm.
To sell agidi in Nigeria is considered a low-level business, and those hawking it are usually dressed in less than attractive ways.
“What attracted me to him was his creativity to dress decently in a suit while selling agidi. That made his product attractive to the point that I thought this guy could be encouraged to scale up in his business,” Mr Okoi told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Okoi’s admiration for Mr Eteng increased sharply when the agidi hawker told him he preferred a loan instead of some free money.
“I have never heard that. He told me he wanted a loan. That means he has a sense of responsibility. He is accountable,” Mr Okoi told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Eteng told this newspaper that he preferred getting the money as a loan, not a gift, because it would compel him to work harder to repay it.
The N350,000 was eventually wired into Mr Eteng’s bank account as a gift, both men confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Eteng said he would use the money to set up a kiosk where people can easily visit to buy his agidi instead of leaving potential customers to wonder how to trace him.
But setting up a kiosk would not stop him from continuing to move around with some quantity of the agidi “so that people will know that I still exist”, he said.
Mr Eteng currently produces 300 to 350 wraps of agidi daily and does not intend to increase production immediately until he sees how the market reacts to the new introduction, he said.
“A time will come when I will have other kiosks in different strategic points in the city,” he said.
“Educated agidi” is the special name people call Mr Eteng’s corn flour jellos because of the man’s dress and neatness, and he has taken advantage of this to register his business as Educated Agidi with Nigeria’s Corporate Affairs Commission.
He has taken his marketing strategies further by adding his customers to a WhatsApp group he set up to ease communication with them. He announces when the agidi is ready, takes orders from customers and then outsources the delivery to a local logistics firm.
But there is a snag.
“Sometimes the delivery guys do disappoint me. There is a way you call them, and they say they are busy,” Mr Eteng said. “The challenge I have now is a delivery bike.”
Several people who patronised Mr Eteng have attested to the delicious taste of his agidi.
Key business lessons
Apart from Mr Eteng’s unique marketing strategies, his ability to start small and grow his business is a key lesson in entrepreneurship.
“One thing about business is that you don’t start big,” Mr Eteng told PREMIUM TIMES. “It is how you manage the small scale that will determine how big the business will grow.”
“Whatever thing you know how to do, focus on it, hold it tight, dream about it, remain consistent and do it better to stand out,” he added.
Mr Okoi shares similar sentiments
“The key lesson for entrepreneurs here is that first, you need a vision to succeed as an entrepreneur, and you need to start small. A lot of folks have big dreams, but they want to start from the top.
“When I spoke with this guy (Eteng), he has a big dream, but then he wants to start small,” Mr Okoi told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr Eteng is a self-sponsored secondary school graduate from Yakurr Local Government Area, Cross River State. He began selling agidi for his aunt in 2008 till 2018. He started his own business selling agidi in July 2018.
“I have done this business for 14 years (now). My 14 years in Akwa Ibom State make me 14 years in this business. I started by serving someone. I served a woman for ten years, from 2008 to 2018 when I left her.
“I decided not to stay with her again, so she took me back to my village. I had to gather money and come back to Akwa Ibom. When I came back, I started the business by myself.
“Then, I was still in school, and this is the business I used to train myself from my SS1 to SS3. That is how I started the business,” Mr Eteng told PREMIUM TIMES last year.
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