Etti Mariam is a 200Level student of Lagos State University, Ojo,(LASU) and also an entrepreneurer of almost 10years. Mariam owns the brand ‘Tima Toilet Cleaner’, a product used for killing germs and whitening toilet sinks. In this interview with journalists in Lagos, the Student-enterprenuer bares her mind on challenges Student-enterprenuers like her are facing in growing their businesses, what government can do to help them, how she started from scratch to the level of mass production and also advice youths on enterprenuership. OKUNADE ADEKUNLE was there.
May we meet you?
My name is Etti Mariam Alake. I am a 200Level student of Lagos State University in the department of Political Science and Education. I am an entrepreneurer, an upcoming one to be precise. I am an indigene of Lagos State from Lagos Island, I am a young adult of about 20yrs of age, I was born into the family of Mr. Wale Etti and Mrs. Titi Etti nee – Toriola. I am the one who owns the brand ‘Tima Toilet Cleaner’, a brand that has been in existence since June 19, 2002. This is the little I can say about myself for now.
Tell the world briefly about your product, and what influenced you into producing ‘Tima Toilet Cleaner’?
My product is Tima Toilet Cleaner, this is a product that is specially made for the effective whitening of the toilet w/c sink, killing of germs and bacterias in the w/c and to give a perfect super shine toilet always. Actually, what influenced me to produce this product is nothing more than that I felt I am a student and I will always be in need of finance to support myself in school, so I decided to take this business up since I have the idea and knowledge already from my mummy. Another thing that influenced me is that I want to keep myself busy, and the other factor I could say influences me is that I saw the future of this country and I am perceiving it that entrepreneurship would take lead in the future, because a time is coming when there won’t be enough job opportunities for every capable and well educated youths of this country.
How come you are a student and at the same time an entrepreneurer without any formal entrepreneurship training?
My mummy is an entrepreneurer. she is also involved in the production process of all household chemical products like Izal, Insecticide, Air Freshner, Liquid Soap, Cold Water Starch, Toilet Cleaner and Bleach. She has been in the business for a very long time of 10yrs, so after I passed my WASSCE and got admission into Lasu, I had to discuss with my mom what to do to fetch me money in school, so she brought up the idea of me selling her products in school, I felt it was not really a bad idea and I decided to start the business as soon as I got to 200Level in the institution. So, I can authoritatively say I got my entrepreneurial experience and skills from my mummy.
How do you come about the brand ‘Tima Toilet Cleaner’?
As I have said earlier that my name is Etti Mariam, I thought of what name to use for my brand and I came up with the idea of extracting the last two letters of my surname which is ‘Ti’ and the first two letters of my name which is ‘Ma’, therefore, combining the two together gives me ‘Tima’.
Can you let us know how much is involved in producing the product in large quantity?
The production cost is not really a big deal for me in terms of finance, since I already know how much it costs my mummy and I am also not a novice in the business. I started with #7,500.00, and at the end of the day I got to package as at about 17 pieces of the projects, the plastic I use for the package is #200.00 per one, I got my raw chemicals ingredients too at the rate of #2,600.00, then I got a graphic designer who designed and print stickers to advertise my brand for me at the rate of #50.00 per unit.
What are the challenges you are facing as an entrepreneurer that is into production?
As a growing up entrepreneurer in this business, I have faced some challenges in the aspect of people complaining that the rate at which I sell is too high. I sell each bottle of 500ml Tima Toilet Cleaner at the rate of #600.00, so I decided to stop it since 5 or about 6 people told me that I charge too much, and I should remember I also have competitors in the market. There was a period I felt like giving up on it but my mummy motivated me that even though is just 5 customers I have and is willing to buy at my own profitable rate I should keep selling, that my product will later bring more customers for me in return. This is to say that the poor state of the economy remains a serious challenge for we young entrepreneurs.
How are you able to combine your studies with the business?
I scout for the materials needed for the product on lectures free day or after classes and I have been trying hard to also not derail from my academic. I don’t allow the profit I am making from the business to make me lose focus. I ensure I match the two for my progress.
Who are your target audience and what have been their responses so far?
My target audience are schools, households, offices and hotels or any building that has w/c sink, so i do urge them to patronize me and I’ve been able to sell as at about 30pcs to Lasu Staffs. While some say they have the other brand they do patronize and they are okay with that. Their response is encouraging and is keeping me going as a growing up entrepreneur.
How do you think government can help you in growing your business?
The best way government can help student entrepreneurs is through the establishment of a Student-Enterprenuer Trust Fund in each tertiary institutions. This trust fund will serve as a platform to obtain soft loan for projects like mine. It will be strictly for student-enterprenuers who own businesses while still in school. In other words, I want government to help by giving soft loan to me to enhance the business. The business is a very lucrative one but without enough capital one may be stalk at the middle of it. Again, I think the government can help me grow my business by making a public awareness of the product either through media awareness or bill boards. I mean government can create ‘Product Awareness Agency ‘ specifically for student- entrepreneurs.This will really help us. Lastly, I think if the government can help me to promote the business, either by, buying in large quantities and making use of it in the government secretariat and all other government parastalals.
What is your advice to youths like you and entrepreneurer who want to go in the same business?
My advice to the youth is that, either one way or the other they should get themselves engage in legitimate business that would yield profitable incomes and I also wish to say that ‘an idle hand is the devil’s workshop ‘ if as a youth you are not schooling, learn a trade or do something reasonable with your time so that you don’t eventually end up committing crimes and behaving unruly. The future of this country lies in the hands of the youths and also the economy lies in our hands as young entrepreneurs. With what I am seeing presently and the direction of this country, there might not be in existence any white collar job in the next 20years. Enterprenuership is the way to go.