Beyond the NYSC Khaki: Nwajie Success' Entrepreneurial Journey


By Dorcas Ilesanmi

After acquiring hairdressing skills, she transitioned into producing liquid soap and later ventured into selling plain unisex t-shirts to sustain herself throughout her educational journey. 

Now, as a Batch A Stream 1 (2024) corps member serving in Abia State, Southeast Nigeria, she has established herself as a driven entrepreneur. Her dedication to business has led to a remarkable achievement - securing a top-three position in the Unity Bank Corpreneurship Challenge held at the Abia Orientation Camp.

In this interview with Observersmag, she recounted her inspiring entrepreneurial journey and how she plans to overcome the challenges of the service year while pursuing her entrepreneurial aspirations.

Nwajie Success
Who is she?

My name is Nwajie Success. I am a native of the Ogba tribe in Rivers State, Nigeria, from the Akabuka community. I come from a Christian family of five, with three sisters and two brothers, making me the second-born and second daughter.

From a young age, I felt an inclination to lead and contribute to my community, although how I would do so remained unclear. I participated in church events focused on these goals. Despite experiencing some delays in comprehension and challenges with assumptions during my early secondary school days, these weren't major limitations. The church provided exposure that helped build my confidence and belief in myself.

My family, especially my parents, played a significant role in shaping my worldview. They instilled in me the desire to work hard and strive for excellence in the face of adversity.

A notable aspect of my story is that I began reading and spelling fluently during my senior secondary school year at Community Girls Secondary School (CGSS) Omoku, Rivers State. My friends from secondary school were instrumental in this. They helped me by holding spelling bees with me. My reading fluency improved because I devoured novels, both African and American prose. This enriched my vocabulary and sparked an interest in writing stories for fun. While I never shared them, thinking they weren't perfect, this passion for writing later blossomed into a career.

Fast forward to my university days. After several attempts to gain admission into the pharmacy program, I eventually secured a place at the University of Port Harcourt to study pure and industrial chemistry. It was a challenging journey with ups and downs. The university experience exposed me to real-life situations. I dabbled in entrepreneurship and became a workaholic to maintain my sanity. However, with God's help, I achieved significant breakthroughs. University life played a crucial role in shaping me into the person I am today.

Can you tell us about your journey into entrepreneurship and what inspired you to start your business?

My entrepreneurial journey began during my university days. Since my family wasn't wealthy, supporting my education alongside my siblings' placed a significant financial burden on them. While they were willing, their resources were limited. Despite some help from relatives, it wasn't enough.

Instead of succumbing to self-pity, I decided to take action. I had learned hairdressing while waiting for admission, so I started braiding and fixing hair for my classmates, going from room to room to promote my services. Hairdressing helped me cover most of my school bills.

I also ventured into producing liquid soap and even created a brand for it. However, I had to put this business on hold because of the increasing school workload.

In my second year, I started selling plain unisex t-shirts, which continued until I graduated. This venture gained me some popularity on campus as I carried my business with me everywhere.

During the extended academic break caused by the ASUU strike and pandemic, I began learning content writing as a side hustle, which I continued until graduation.

Could you share the story behind your participation in the Unity Bank Corpreneurship Challenge? What motivated you to enter the competition, and how did you prepare for it?

I've always had a burning desire to build a home improvement app, but I doubted if it were a valid idea. So, I put the idea on hold while focusing on my brand as an SEO content writer and my t-shirt business.

The Corpreneurship challenge sparked my interest when a friend who won second place in her state of assignment two years ago shared her story. It was the push I needed to validate my idea.

Also, beyond validation, my parents were a major motivator. Winning the prize would be amazing news for them, and I wanted to see them happy.

I've always desired to create a sustainable source of income through my system and becoming an entrepreneur was the only way that could happen. Although the possibility of winning the competition was 50/50, I believed in giving it a shot and hoped for the best.

The Challenge

Preparing for the Corpreneurship challenge was stressful. I had to write a business plan for the first time, following a provided template. As a writer, I wasn't used to this type of document. The research, analysis, and regimented schedule of the NYSC camp made it even more challenging. I pulled three all-nighters to get the plan finished.

I almost got frustrated when I couldn't find a place to print my work. We were instructed to submit handwritten copies that we weren't able to print. So, I hand-wrote the entire 23-page business plan. My belief in the idea and the potential outcome kept me motivated.

Winning third place in the competition is a remarkable achievement, especially as the only female to reach the top three. Can you walk us through your emotions when you found out you had won?

I was initially anxious during the pitching presentation, so winning third place came as a shock. I was speechless! The other presenters were impressive, and at one point, I doubted I'd even make it to the top three. So, when they announced the results, I was stunned –  it felt surreal!  Winning was a huge validation for me. It solidified my belief that I was on the right track.

Being a female entrepreneur has shaped my journey. In Nigeria, there's a great emphasis on equal opportunities for women in entrepreneurship. My gender has never been a barrier. However, in the tech industry, some people hold biases. They might underestimate me because I'm a woman. But instead of discouraging me, this fuels my motivation. It gives me even more reason to succeed and prove them wrong.

How do you plan to utilise the N300,000 cash gift you received as part of your prize? Do you have any specific business goals or investments in mind?

The N300,000 will help me a lot in getting where I want to be. At first, I thought it wasn't much for my big project idea. But then I realized it's a step toward my career goals.

I want to make a phone app for home improvement, which needs a lot of money. So, I want to use this grant to make sure I have enough money to work on my dream.

First, I need a good laptop to research and start gathering a team. I also do writing work, so I need it for that too. While doing this, I'll keep doing freelance work and building my brand online to get more support.

I also want to restart my clothing business. This time, I'm focusing on selling vintage unisex shirts. You might wonder why this choice. By virtue of my service year, I will be residing in Abia state for the next year.  Here, there's a big market in Aba. This gives me a good chance to buy wholesale and distribute from here to my customers. 

These are my plans, and I've already begun working on them.

Your plans for your business and service year are impressive, and would clearly require a lot of hard work. As a National Youth Corps member, how do you hope to balance your entrepreneurial pursuits with your other commitments?

I'm still seeking the best way to manage my time effectively, especially as I balance serving, with my freelance writing career and future vintage clothing business.

I plan to leverage the online market for the clothing business, since I may be constrained due to time. I've studied the status of some businesses also in this line and they are doing so well selling online. So, with effective marketing strategies, I'm confident I can do the same. 

However, maintaining a healthy balance is very important to me. My commitment to the PPA is also a top priority.

What are your future aspirations and goals for your business, specifically in the next five years? 

I hope that my business surpasses my expectations in the next five years, particularly for the clothing line business. The plan is to establish a base here in Abia State that will serve as a warehouse for imported vintage fabrics. We will employ professional tailors who will convert these fabrics into quality shirts to be distributed in major markets where they are needed.

As for the home improvement app, the plan is to assemble a team of professionals who understand the project's purpose and are committed to contributing to its success. To achieve this, I will reach out to organizations for partnerships and sponsorship. With these partnerships, the app will be jointly owned by trusted organizations, prolonging its existence in the next five years and beyond.

In addition, for the clothing line business, I understand the power of e-commerce. Apart from establishing a sustainable base with major marketers across Rivers State, I plan to expand our clothing line online by opening an e-commerce store that will increase our reach beyond physical stores.

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  1. Your story is inspiring, Success. May all your dreams come true speedily!

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