Henley Business School alumnus receives Education UK Entrepreneurial Alumni Award

28 April 2016

Henley Business School alumnus receives Education UK Entrepreneurial Alumni Award

On 5 March 2016, Henley Business School alumnus Gbolahan Fagbure (International Management and Consulting, 2007) received the Education UK Alumni Award 2016 in the Entrepreneurial category in Nigeria. We interviewed Gbolahan on this occasion asking him how he became the successful entrepreneur he is today.

On 5 March 2016, Henley Business School alumnus Gbolahan Fagbure (International Management and Consulting, 2007) received the Education UK Alumni Award in the Entrepreneurial category in Nigeria. The Awards, given out by the British Council each year in a select group of countries, celebrate the outstanding achievements made by business professionals, entrepreneurs, and community leaders who can demonstrate how their UK education impacted on their subsequent success.

Chair of our Henley Business School Alumni Group Nigeria, Flora Omosevwerha attended the ceremony on behalf of the School to cheer Gbolahan on.

We interviewed Gbolahan after the ceremony and asked him about his journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur:

Q: I can see that you have had an interesting path since you left Henley Business School, University of Reading in 2007. After nearly five years of corporate jobs, you joined a start-up in May 2012 which later went on to win the ‘Best New Retail Launch’ at the World Retail Awards in 2014. After this success, you went ahead and founded your own company which was also featured on CNN’s African start-up. What gave you the inspiration to make this change from corporate to entrepreneur?

A: I always knew I wanted to build and run my own business so all the while I was in paid employment, starting a business was at the forefront of my mind. I decided to return to Nigeria because I knew there were promising opportunities here. My business, Supermart.ng, is Nigeria's leading online grocery delivery service and I got the idea when I suffered the frustrations of working late and not having the time to go to the supermarkets. 

I am in my fifth year in eCommerce, and over this period, I have come to appreciate how much value can be added by having a service that allows people to shop more conveniently without having to struggle through hours of road traffic. I knew that as long as I could design an efficient and price-friendly service, Nigerians will see value in it.

Q: How did your International Management and Consulting degree help you to become the successful entrepreneur you are today?

A: The International Management and Consulting degree played a significant role in who I am today. I was interested in the structure of the degree and the opportunities for open learning that I was exposed to from the early stages. The critical thinking that it encouraged, built my ability to assess and analyse complex problems, increased my capacity to think creatively and strategically as well as to work to deadlines and under pressure.

I strongly believe these experiences laid a solid foundation for me to pursue and fully maximise the entrepreneurial ventures I have started. In my course of study, key modules like corporate strategy, business ethics, operations management and organisational change have been of particular impact to me as I have navigated the difficult waters of growing a business.

Q: What, in your view, does it take to become a successful entrepreneur in Africa these days?

Firstly, I don't think you can consider Africa as one homogenous entity because what works in one country may not be applicable in another. Business is not for the faint-hearted anywhere in the world. The challenges may differ by region but they certainly exist in some form or another everywhere. Globally, more businesses fail than succeed so it takes a good idea, an excellent plan, lots of hard work and smart execution to survive and indeed thrive. Nigeria is no exception to this. However, if you understand the importance of building long-term relationships, have an ability to react quickly to difficult situations and most importantly, know how to tailor global solutions to local contexts, then you will find that Nigeria will reward you immensely. Indeed, it is not unheard of for an entrepreneur to start exploring one business opportunity only to encounter challenges along the way and as they work their way through those challenges they find another set of opportunities. This is the beauty of doing business in an emerging economy like Nigeria.

Q: What is your definition of success?

A: In the immediate term, I would feel a great sense of satisfaction to know that a decade from now, my company is a thriving business that customers hold dear and also one that consistently offers decent returns to investors. In the longer term and in terms of a lasting legacy, I will be proud to know that over my lifetime, I would have helped support other young people to build their own businesses through formal education, investments and professional mentoring.

Q: Apart from being successful in business, you have also founded the ‘Speaker Series Africa’, which brings inspiring and successful African business people close to youth and young professionals. What gave you the idea and how easy/difficult it was for you to secure the high profile speakers? What are your future plans for this venture, both for inside and outside of Africa?

A: I had seen similar programmes at Goldman Sachs where I worked and I always enjoyed getting an insight into the lives of interesting people. So when I returned to Lagos I decided to start Speaker Series. Getting the first set of speakers was a little difficult but after a few editions, we had a reputation and a track record that made it a lot easier to get other speakers to attend. 

We will continue to hold the monthly programmes in Lagos and perhaps one day take it to other African cities.

Q: And how about your personal future? Do you have any interesting projects in the pipeline?

A: When you are building a business and trying to establish it in a competitive arena, there is little time to consider much else. It is extremely hard work with long days, long nights, lots of balls to juggle, numerous things to think about. You are constantly working with little or no time off either physically or mentally. The hope is that when you invest so much of yourself at the growth phase you can get to the point where at some time in the future you can have people and processes that do not require your intense involvement. For the foreseeable future, my focus is on growing Supermart.ng to being the undisputed leader in grocery delivery in Nigeria, whether other projects will come along the way, I don't know. Nigeria is an interesting place with ideas constantly calling out to you, deciding which to follow through on and which to ignore is an art in itself that needs mastering.