I have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. I have also had a couple of Information Technology certifications. Prior to moving to Canada, I worked as a telecom engineer with Etisalat Nigeria.
In Canada, I have worked in the telecom and health sectors. I am also a certified salesperson with the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council. Since 2017 when I started Mapleby Autos, I have shipped over 500 cars to people In Nigeria. 80 per cent of those peoploe have never met me in person. They only got to know about my services through referrals.
When and why did you set up Mapleby Autos Canada Inc?
I have always been passionate about cars. My dad was a car dealer and he had a dealership in Lagos. I guess that is where my interest in cars was born. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time at his dealership and this gave me access to many cars— both foreign used and Nigerian used cars. My interest in cars grew from just wanting to check the body type and interior, to opening the hood to have a closer look at the engine, and what made it different from the next car.
I eventually set up the company in 2017 when I got to Canada. I realised there was a market for cars, especially for Nigerians looking to import cars from Canada. Basically, we help Nigerians find the cars they want based on their budget and preferences. The company was set up to make it easier for Nigerians to buy their own cars, rather than going through the stress of searching endlessly for someone to trust well enough to get this done for them.
What are your highlights so far with the company?
That was when a customer that had never met me before, sent money to me to buy a Toyota Highlander. When he eventually got the car, he called to say thank you and he could not hold back his tears. He was impressed not just because of the quality of car but the fact that he gave a stranger money and he got a very good car in return.
What are some of the challenges you encounter in the course of running the business and how do you solve them?
The major one is instability in Nigeria when it comes to government policies. Also, there are too many bureaucratic processes involved to ‘clear’ a car from the Lagos port, and that makes life miserable for one. Lastly, the rate at which the naira consistently falls against the dollar affects our business, in terms of landing cost. We solve this problem by having proper communication with our customers.
Has the purpose for the creation for the company being established?
As a business owner, I love the fact that I can give back an opportunity that someone once gave me. I wanted to create a business that would allow me to give others the opportunity that I was once given to earn money of my own. There are several small dealerships that partner with me. Also, there are some young people who work with me and receive commissions based on the referrals they make. I am always open to partner with any genuine entrepreneur.
How does your company empower youths?
We give back to society mostly through anonymous donations to schools and the underprivileged back in Nigeria.
It is believed that running a business in a place like Canada is much easier than doing the same in Nigeria. What’s your take on that?
Running a business in any part of the world comes with its own set of peculiar challenges. The truth, however, is that in some parts of the world, running a business is different from the way it is run back in Nigeria. For instance, as a car dealer, I know the kind of challenges that my father had to contend with while I was a teenager. In 2016, Nigeria ranked near the bottom of the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ index. That year, Nigeria was 169 out of 190 countries and this reflected the difficulty businesses faced in dealing with things such as getting construction permits, electricity, registering a property, paying taxes and trading across borders. These are some of the factors that make doing business in developed countries quite different from doing the same business in Nigeria. As of 2020, Nigeria had risen 34 places on the World Bank index and was named on the list of top 10 improving economies by the World Bank. We can only hope that in the years ahead, the index would improve and we would find ourselves with an improved standing globally.
What are some of the most important business lessons you have learnt over the years?
Never take shortcuts because it is never worth it. As a business owner, if one must do something, one should endeavour to do it well. Never lie to your customers in order to get jobs. It is important to speak the truth always.
What are the common mistakes people should avoid when buying cars from overseas?
Be careful and do your due diligence. Know the integrity of the person helping you before you release money. When promises are too sweet, it is often an indication of fraud. Also, never buy a car entirely based on how it looks or because you just like it. Rather, you should only buy a car that you know you can afford. Before you buy a car, ensure that it is one you can actually maintain.
A lot of people rush into buying cars that have been involved in accidents, thinking that all they need to do is some minor repairs. But, that is not always the best.
Do you have any plans to relocate and establish your business in Nigeria?
That is not in my immediate plan. As we speak, I have a team in Nigeria that helps with the arm of the business that requires a physical presence in the country. That means I don’t need to relocate to Nigeria to run my business. Most of my clients are Nigerians and for several years, we have been able to keep the business running.
What advice do you have for youths in terms of achieving success in their careers?
It is very okay to fail. One is only a failure when one stops trying. I am very resilient and I don’t give up easily. I believe that with prayers and hard work, everything is possible.