My Money Mistake is a weekly PiggyVest series that explores the worst money mistakes real Nigerians have made, and the lessons they learnt from it.
For this week’s episode of My Money Mistake, we spoke to a former military man who lost a huge sum of money to a business venture that failed. He tells us about how it happened and the lessons he learnt from the experience.
Could you tell me about your money mistake?
I have a diploma in Computer Studies, and I’ve always had the idea of opening a computer business centre. My plan was that as soon as I had enough money, I’d be able to venture into the business.
In 2014, after I returned from a military mission in Sudan, I went ahead to open the business centre in Onitsha. The problem was, I didn’t bother getting advice from any ICT business experts before going ahead.
Tell me about that.
Well, the business was ahead of its time there. There also wasn’t a lot of activity going on, and most of the people passing by were just headed into town. They didn’t really stop to use our services.
After one year, when the lease expired, I moved to a new location. I couldn’t afford to renew the rent in the first place, and I hoped that by moving, things would be better.
Were they better?
Nope. The same thing happened. It’s tough when you’re putting in the effort and not seeing the returns you hoped for. It reached a point where maintaining the business just didn’t make sense anymore. I had lost interest in it.
It’s painful because it’s not what I envisioned after spending one year and some months in the Republic of Sudan. My plan was to open it, leave it for my wife to manage, and face my job. I thought it would bring us some more money to help and grow the family.
That must be really painful.
It’s an experience I can never forget. I was paid $10,000 dollars after the mission, and at the time that was about ₦1.7 million. The dollar-naira exchange rate wasn’t this bad then. I had to settle some people, brothers, sisters, and family members.
Then I put the rest of it — about ₦1 million — into the business, and that’s how I lost all of it. If I knew that the business would end like this, I would have just used the money to sponsor some other people’s children to school. At least, they’d remember me.
How was the family coping when the business wasn’t making money?
I was still in the service, even though I’d moved back to Nigeria. I paid the staff we employed to supervise the business from my monthly salary.
After a while, even the person felt bad for being paid consistently when the business wasn’t making money. She said she couldn’t continue collecting my money.
What did you do after you closed down the business?
I sold the ones I could sell, and I took the others back to my house. Some are spoiled now, and others are infested with cockroaches. My printer is still here, same as my laminating and binding machines. The tables I used, very strong tables that you can’t get around here anymore, are still in my house.
The photocopy machine that I bought in 2014 for ₦75,000, I sold it for ₦10,000 a couple of years later. I had an industrial fan that I sold for ₦8,000, and other items like that, which were bought at huge cost and eventually sold for peanuts years later.
What do you do now?
I left the service after a while. I’m now into Agency banking
Does that cover all the bills?
My wife also has a business, so both of us pull resources together for that. Especially now that I have three boys
What did you learn from your experience with the business?
I learnt to always do proper research before getting into any business. In fact, if possible, hire a specialist in that business. Proper analysis of the risks matter when venturing into a business.