In 2016 when Tolu was in 300 level, he started making handmade necklaces, chokers and neck beads. He would travel to Lagos to get materials and then make beautiful pieces which he would sell to his school mates and make a little profit. When he started making accessories, he started with only N10, 000. Today, Toluwalase Ishola, a student of Oduduwa University Osun State, is a student entrepreneur who owns a small accessory line on campus – @laced.neck – where he sells eye wears, bracelets and hand-made accessories.
Tolu’s desire to be financially independent and self-employed was what motivated him to start a business even as a student, “I really wanted to start a business because I have always seen myself as a very independent person, and after school I wouldn’t want to subject myself to a 9 to 5 kind of job. I believe before graduation this enterprise would have grown to become a sustainable business”. For Tolu, when he started, it was quite stressful balancing getting materials and making of the beads as his business was eating deep into his study time, but presently, he has employees who make the job less tasking for him.
Having to travel often monthly to get equipment from Lagos then travel back to school is one of the biggest challenges Tolu faces as a student entrepreneur. Due to the fact that his business runs online, some potential customer –outside of campus – were reluctant to pay for an item before delivery when he started the business – they were scared of scammers. But today, Tolu is beginning to gain the trust of people due to his consistency.
Speaking on the strategy he employs to balance school work with business, Tolu says he has a time table he follows strictly, “I work with my time table and schedule, and there is the right time for everything; my lectures, studying and attending to my business. Working according to schedule is what helps me strike a balance between school activities and work”. Tolu targets student and youth who follow modern trends. Being a student entrepreneur, Tolu can hardly afford the cost of traditional media like TV and radio stations to advertise his business. Instead, he employs social media to create awareness about his business, more so that his target audience are always on social media. Using social media to promote his business, Tolu says is working well for his business.
Tolu wants to grow from being a student entrepreneur to become one of the leading fashion entrepreneurs in Africa in 5 years’ time and he believes he can achieve this with hard work, determination and focus.
It is Tolu’s desire that more African students embrace entrepreneurship and start their own small, business while in school because he believes entrepreneurship is the way out of unemployment hence his candid advice: “You have no reason to be afraid. If you know you have something to offer and it is a unique idea that would satisfy people’s needs, then just do it! Although bringing out the capital might be hard for you as a student but if you try, it would pay off eventually”.