The Story of An Entrepreneur Who Rose From Nothing to a CEO Through Resilience

Imaobong Ekanem Wins Diamond Bank Bet6 Award
Imaobong Ekanem, U&I Palm Enterprises Wins Diamond Bank Bet6 Award

Read the prequel here

The Opportunity that made all the difference

Opportunity they say favours the prepared mind, and so in 2012, the then administration of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR brought up the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) programme specifically for women. Imaobong applied for the programme, scaled through the first round and due partly to her determination to succeed which made her to commit herself fully to the Youwin programme and partly to God’s providence, she scaled through the second round and was awarded the Youwin grant which enabled her to setup her factory, acquire the necessary equipment, hire and train staff and also procure raw materials.

The grant was awarded in tranches with the disbursement of each succeeding tranche predicated on how prudently the preceding one was applied. While some of her colleagues were busy spending the first tranche of the grant on frivolities, Imaobong diligently applied the funds, and thus, was able to receive the entire grant portfolio which enabled her kick start production in earnest.

From then on, she grow the business, establishing meaningful relationships with mentors, partners and customers. She gave her whole life to growing the business, ignoring all enticements by friends to divert the funds to some other “more lucrative businesses”.

The Entrepreneurship Awards

Bet6 Award Winners

Today, her company, U&I Palm Enterprises is a force to reckon with, with its flagship product Ultimate Palm Oil enjoying wide usage across Nigeria. Because of Imaobong’s innovative and purposeful leadership of U&I Palm Enterprises, the Company has won a number of other grants and wards including the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Award, the Diamond Bank BET6 Award, the GEM Big Portal Award as well as the Akwa Ibom State Dakkada Entrepreneurial Award instituted by the Government of Akwa Ibom State to recognize young entrepreneurial leaders who are contributing to the state’s economic development, job creation and poverty reduction.

Imaobong’s rise to entrepreneurial success remains a tremendous inspiration to all young entrepreneurs out there who are overwhelmed with challenges that make them rethink their choice to become entrepreneurs. As Imaobong puts it “the journey of entrepreneurship is a very lonely one. But in such loneliness, the entrepreneur should not see discouragement but an opportunity to focus and achieve success”

Lessons learnt from Imaobong’s Entrepreneurial Journey

  1. No matter your background, entrepreneurship gives you the opportunity to change your narrative to what you want it to be.
  2. Entrepreneurship is blind to gender. Anyone irrespective of gender can become a global leader through entrepreneurship.
  3. Dare to dream and work towards your dream no matter how many people consider it as ridiculous.
  4. You don’t need to have parents who are successful or well-connected in order to be successful as an entrepreneur.
  5. In your entrepreneurial journey, if you’re to work for someone, let it be just for an opportunity for you to acquire some capital as well as hands-on skills that you need to succeed in your business. Once, you’ve acquire these, it’s time to move on and create your own enterprise.
  6. Don’t be enticed by the apparent certainty of salaries. They are just a tip of the iceberg. Being your own boss makes you gain the entire ocean including the iceberg.
  7. Internet provides an opportunity for entrepreneurs to access opportunities. Use it maximally.
  8. Be disciplined in managing your business funds. Invest them in the right causes.
  9. A successful entrepreneur is like a gold fish; no hiding place. Awards will always follow every successful entrepreneur.
  10. Innovation in business is key to remaining ahead of the competition. If you constantly innovate disruptive solutions, your competition will forever be trying to catch up with you, but like the blades of a fan, they never will.
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