Standout crew was privileged to have the C.E.O of Solar collections with them. Mr Oladipupo Solaja is a distinguished, intelligent, creative and multi-tasking young entrepreneur. He is a final year student, studying Industrial and Petroleum Engineering in University of Ibadan.
Sir, as the CEO of solar collections, why solar and not ola collection?
Okay, thanks so much. Well, solar has always been the name because ninety percent of people call me solar and I think I wanted my brand to come out of myself so that’s why I chose solar and the collection part came as we expanded from clothing to other accessories.
Solar collections product
UI is a tough school academically and it is a school with little or no social life, despite all this, you still chose a clothing line of business, why?
You raised two questions which is the toughness of University of Ibadan and why I chose clothes business. About UI toughness, first and foremost, I do not believe UI is tough because if you can pass the entrance screening then you can survive on UI soil so it’s basically planning and as per clothing, I used to help my elder brother with electronics while growing up so I am used to those business skills.
Give us a glimpse of your growing up
Growing up was fun. I went to a boarding school and I must emphasize that I came from a business oriented family.
Though business has been part of you since childhood, do you get a saying that ‘go to school and when you are done money will come’ from your parents?
I think most people get that but you see, reality has changed because as a person you should know what you want with your life at a certain stage which no longer counts what someone tells you. However, I make sure I do not bring disrepute to my family.
Would you say UI is a fertile environment for business to thrive?
There is no place that is not good for business; it all depends on the individual involved. I came across a popular saying lately; there are two salesmen in a manufacturing company. The first one was sent to survey a village where the villagers do not wear footwear and he came back to say that there is no prospect in that village. The second one was sent to do the same and he saw the prospect that the first one didn’t and this earned the company a big contract. On this note, UI is a very good place for business.
What are your challenges and successes so far?
Challenges are numerous; looking at the economy of our country Nigeria and the financial capacity of Uites. We have to bring down our prices to the reach of students. On successes, I will not go straight to monetary, but I see it as an opportunity to build myself because with this skills now I believe I can handle a company if need arises then on monetary, it has established that I can always achieve my dreams.
Apart from your elder brother, who else are your role models as an entrepreneur?
Thanks because you have streamlined it to entrepreneurship because I have varying degree of interest. As an entrepreneur …I like the stories of people, who built American, there’s this documentary that’s very popular: Men who built American: Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford and other people, I like them. Although I don’t adopt their business model of killing competition and all, but I think I quite admire their business acumen. One person I also admire is Dangote, everybody sees Dangote today and i’ve tried to follows him closely and look at his story. I realize that it doesn’t matter the way you’re born, it just depends on the thing in you and how much you want to exploit it. Some other people also inspire me, some of my close friends and all.
As an entrepreneur, what is your greatest fear?
That’s a quite technical question to answer, you must understand that I’m a student of the university of Ibadan first and foremost, there’s a time to come into UI and there’s a time to leave and at that time, I don’t want Solar collection to leave with me so I’m trying to train some UITES that will take over when I’m no longer here. Because there are other things to do in life, to explore with and I’m looking forward to exploring too. I hope I’ll be able to, so maybe that would tell you that this is my fear- In continuity but I’ve tried to allay that fear by bringing some UITES to continue the business.
In your own little way, you’ve been able to contribute to the society by encouraging people to come into the business, right?
Yes, to some extent.
So let’s say after graduation, just like you said, if you leave UI, there’s possibility of Solar collections leaving with you but you don’t want that to happen, so you’ve been grooming people and let’s assume these people don’t really have much perseverance and they can’t continue with the business, which means the whole business idea thing is gone. In that case, if you go out there, are you still going to continue your business anywhere you find yourself or is it just a UI thing?
Alright, thank you. Anywhere I find myself, I think I’ll always do business. If I find myself in the United States, I’ll do business. And per-adventure I leave Solar Collections to someone that doesn’t show too much ability to handle it, I’m the CEO, I can hire and fire. Fire this person, bring in someone else. And the beauty of it is that in UI there are more than 40,000 people, there’ll always be this one person that can keep the flag flying.
On that note, how do you view solar collections’ in ten years?
First and foremost, I pray that we’ll all still be alive in ten years to come. Solar collection would have grown to be a corporation in ten years’ time. We hope we are able to achieve our dreams, we’re going to diversify, there’re still so many other aspects. At times, some of my friends say Solar telecoms, solar this and solar that. I tell them, everything good will come. In ten years’ time; solar collection will be a branch of Solar Corporation.
Looking at social media today, there’re so many things going on social media, would you say social media to a large extent as helped your business?
That’s an open secret actually; the world now is just like a village square with social media. When something happens in this part this minute, you can always see it at the other part of the world the next minute. So if you as a business person are not keying into the opportunities provided by the social media, it means you’re still operating in the 20th century. So I tell you, one of my plans presently is to go all out on social media to start selling on social media, I have some plans in the pipeline towards that respect. In fact, it’s something I should have done since like 300level but then so many other things came up and I couldn’t achieve it but presently, I want to fully harness the potentials of social media to get the best.
What do you think is the trend on fashion today?
The trend of fashion on campus keeps changing; I deal with men’s clothing basically. You have people trying to go for vintage wears. You know, people are diverting from palm slippers and shoes to sandals. And myself as a business person, I’m keying into it seriously, now I study what we sell most frequently and I see that in a week, we sell a good number of sandals. I’ve not really been into the vintage wears but I have people that supply me with them whenever I have orders for them. Another thing is the use of earpiece and headphones and anything. These are business secrets that I should not reveal but yorubas’ say that “Oju orun teye fo lai fara kan rawon”(the sky is wide enough for birds to fly with obstructing one another) So these are things that are trending and I believe will still trend for some time before some other new things come up.
In three sentences, give a piece of advice to students out there that want to start up like you, make it like you but have the fear of “I might not make it” or “if I start up, it will affect my academics:”
I’ll just say they should keep going. There’s this popular saying that if you can crawl, crawl. If you can walk, walk. If you can run, run. If you can fly, fly. The view at the top is beautiful. That’s all I have to say.