Oluwatoyin Egedi, a civil engineer by training is the CEO of Rullion Capacity Builders, a foremost firm with services spanning from vocational skills training, management training, entrepreneurship training, SME business startup. She is one Nigerian that believes strongly in the powers of SME to drive economic growth. After realizing her passion in empowering people for business startups, she quit her corporate jobs to start the capacity building firm after various courses. She has trained about 1,000 and many of them have engaged in small scale businesses, even employing others. She said with government or international support, her training would almost be free to create more social impact. In this interview, Toyin talks about empowering entrepreneurs, economic benefits and challenges. Excerpts
What is the drive behind starting Rullion Capacity Builders firm?
Rullion is a vocational training centre and focuses largely on empowering women and young people to start profitable businesses from homes. I have a team of 10 staff and we teach skills such as catering and hotel management, make up, skin care, bead making, hats, and event decoration among others. We recently introduced software skills. These include how to design Websites, graphics and social media marketing. The idea of starting Rullion in 2014 came after I quit my job due to pregnancy issues. I learned bead making and decided to start similar training center to empower people. Since then, I have realized that women are hungry as they are tied of staying at home doing nothing. We structure our training to start by 9 am and end 2 pm to make it convenient for our students. We run catering course for 3 months but average duration of other courses is three weeks. In about 30 months we have trained 1,000 people.
How do you select students for the classes?
We have maximum class of 20 students for a course. About 90 percent of our students come from social media. We don’t print flyers, or bulk sms but we use Instagram and Facebook for marketing. Some of our students come from far because we are very affordable. Some of them are in school and they come for the training while on holidays. Our fees are about 70 percent off when compared with others.
Why is the focus on women only?
It is not focused on women only; it is just that women are the ones that turn up. Our catering instructors are men and makeup instructor is a man too. The fashion class incorporates shoe and bag making which is tailored to have men, but they don’t come because they believe the entire programme is for women. We also organize trainings in some other cities including Port Harcourt, Benin and Abeokuta.
How do you monitor the progress of the graduants from your school?
We have a group on Facebook where graduants talk about their businesses. Unfortunately some of them are not practicing the skills they acquired. We have up to 3,000 people on the group including prospecting students.
Apart from the low fees, what makes Rullion unique and attractive to students?
For us, we are affordable; again we have structured our programmes taking in to consideration students’ time. Some other schools offer the same courses like catering and hotel management for a year which we offer for three months but we deliver better than some of them. We have robust class of 20 students for each course and this gives room for better interaction. We are also registered with Federal Ministry of Labour and productivity as a skill training center.
In which areas would you like to partner with Federal Ministry of Labour
We are discussing with them on creating and providing internship for our students. They have connections with some of the big hotels. Again, we would like some kind of sponsorship. This is because we have some indigent people that come. On our own, every year, we offer training programmes for free to three indigent people.
You said some graduants are not practicing their skills, what is the observed challenge?
We have observed that they are afraid to start. In our Facebook interaction, I realize that they don’t know where and how to start. Besides the training, we offer business advisory for free where we bring in motivational speakers and people who have started their business to motivate them on starting. Some of them are confused on which trade to learn but we sit them down for advices.The fear of starting is perhaps informed from risk of failure, not money to start. Some of them reason that after getting office space, get generator and at the end they fail. They think failure first. This fear is a major crippling factor. It is only the students that can overcome the fear with help of motivational speeches.
What other support are you seeking from government?
Our major concern is that we don’t even want our students to pay. Though our training is affordable, but we would appreciate government backing on that little money that they would pay. We have also approached some state governments to assist us on providing location to use for entrepreneuship training. Unfortunately the response is poor.
You also have a running cost, how do you cope with the little fees from your students?
The ridiculous amount we charge students surprises people but for us, it is not about profit alone but about imparting lives. Out of the 1,000 trained, if 400 graduants start their business, then that is commendable and this would impact society enormously. And these 400 would employ more hands and the society would be better for it.
What are the other challenges for SMEs?
One of them is how to source their markets. When they believe that the market is crowded, they begin to fear, but we tell them to carve a niche for themselves and differentiate themselves in the market. The phone device in their hands is a marketing tool not a gossip tool.
Where do you see Rullion in the next five years?
It would definitely grow. I really want Rullion to be synonymous with empowerment, for giving accessible and quality training programmes. Sometimes, we have zero profit, but what matters to me more is the impact we can make.