Paul Orajiaka, a 37 year-old Nigerian entrepreneur, is the founder of Auldon Limited, a manufacturer of African-themed toys. Auldon manufactures dolls and other toys which depict, promote and teach Africa’s cultural heritage to children. Orajiaka founded the company 17 years ago with less than $100; it now has annual revenues of more than $10 million.
Apart from Nigeria, Auldon’s toys are now sought after in countries like South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, and some parts of Europe. Last year, Auldon launched the Unity Girl Dolls, a set of multi-cultural dolls clad in the traditional attires of Nigeria’s major ethnic groups. It has been a runaway success and a tremendous hit among Nigerian parents and their daughters.
Orajiaka is currently studying for a Doctorate in Business Administration [DBA] at Henley Business School of the University of Reading, majoring in Entrepreneurship. I recently had a chat with him where he recounted his journey and spoke about his future plans.
Why did you decide to venture into manufacturing African-themed toys?
I grew up in Warri in Southern Nigeria, and I did my secondary school education in Benin state. I recall that immediately after my secondary school education at Igbinedion Secondary School, Benin City, my sole ambition was to travel to the United States to seek the proverbial greener pastures. I never exactly planned to venture into the toy business. I was 18 at the time and determined to leave Nigerian at all costs. So, along with my friends, I made countless unfruitful trips to the American embassy in pursuit of an American visa. Eventually, all my friends were given visas, except me.
Naturally, I became dejected and ashamed. I had no clue as to what my next line of action was going to be. So I decided to stay back in Lagos and not return to my hometown where I would be mocked by my friends. You see, a lot of shame was attached to my disappointment at that time, being the only one out of all my friends who was denied an opportunity to go the U.S. So I decided that the only way out for me was to stay back in Lagos and work with my in-law in Idumota market and that is how that reluctant step taken out of frustration ended up becoming my glorious journey to success and fulfillment.