As salaam Alaikum Warahmatullaah Wabarakahtu
Wa ‘Alaikum Salaam Warahmatullaah Wabarakahtu
Can you please introduce yourself to us?
Yeah, my name is Folorunso Ewumi Abdul Azeez. I’m a Nigerian but currently doing my PhD in Czech Republic. I had earlier studied Aquaculture and Fisheries management in FUNAAB, Nigeria, and proceeded to Vietnam to do my master’s in Marine Management. Simultaneously, I did a Masters in Sustainable Aquaculture from University of St-Andrews in United Kingdom. I’m the CEO of Emperor Aquaculture Management company, which specializes in fish farming investment management and consultancy.
Can you tell us about your background and how growing up was like to you?
Well growing up, I grew up in Abeokuta, in a polygamous family. My dad married three (3) wives, and I have 4 brothers and six (6) sisters. As a child, I attended Imo Methodist Primary School, then proceeded to Ijemo Titun High School where I earned my secondary school leaving certificate. At the early ages, my parents lived in the village, and I and my siblings would visit them every weekend to help with farming activities while we return to the city Sunday evenings to resume back to school on Mondays. To further help with financial state of the family, my siblings would take part time jobs to take care of other expenses in the family and our school related fees. I also participated by helping my mum to sell some of our farm produces, which are majorly fruits.
How did your growing up motivate you and what impact did it have in shaping your person and personality?
This is a very good question I guess. Because in life, something has to motivate you. In my own case, it’s actually about the growing up. The growing up was a little bit difficult, but the love and support I get from my family always serve as a fulcrum that uplifts me through it. There is always this imagination of how I want to see myself and my loved ones in the future, making me to strive for what I want even in the dark moments. Fortunately, I was raised by staunch Muslim parents whose Islamic doctrines sharpened and clouded your judgement about life situations. All of which sharpens the personality and instilled a better understanding of outcomes of my engagements in the real life.
Furthermore, it might also be interesting to state that I had been thousands of times turned down and considered not good enough, making me to re-energize myself while I draw motivation from positive vibes around. For instance, my first 2 attempts at WAEC were nothing but awful results. My confidence was shattered, and I was thinking I wasn’t really good as I had thought. One of my brothers raised my confidence by reminding me of few things I had succeeded with in the past, while he prepared me for the third and last attempt.
What are your principles in life?
I would like to chip in that there is no perfect life and the principles about to be mentioned cannot be credited for what I am today but Allah. However, one can’t be without certain principles which in some ways contribute to who we are after all. The first is never stop doing something. It may not really be the most important thing you can do but it will be necessary, so never stop doing something. Never. No matter how small it is, never be idle. This keeps me in check a lot, especially during unproductive hours. The second is determination. I am a very determined person that really want to be successful in everything I do. Determination is a big key to every success. It’s the factor that can push one through the difficult moments. This third principle seems to be the most important. Allah. No matter where you are, no matter what you do, no matter what your mind is all about, no matter what you are facing, no matter how good you are at this particular time, no matter what is working for you at this particular time, never go far from Allah. At least, pray daily. This is very important. Finally, I hate to say this, but passion is important. Many people find themselves doing what they have no passion for because of different situations they find themselves. Passion makes the implementation of handwork and determination unstressful.
Can you tell us more about your educational journey?
My first university was Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta (FUNNAB) and I studied Aquaculture and Fisheries Management that was between 2009 – 2014, I graduated in 2014 with a first-class, then I went to NYSC in 2015/2016, I didn’t finish with NYSC before I got a Norwegian scholarship to study Marine Ecosystem Management on Climate Change in Nha University in Vietnam, but before I finish the Masters, I got another scholarship (Commonwealth) to study Sustainable Aquaculture. So, I did the two masters at the same time that was between 2016 and 2018. The Commonwealth scholarship Masters was in University of St Andrews, Scotland, United Kingdom. So after the masters I return to Nigeria. I was in Nigeria for some months before I got my PhD scholarship to study in University of South Bohemia in Czech Republic, so I came to Czech Republic about a year ago. So I started my PhD in Aquaponics; integrated culture of fish and plants. It’s a sustainable system, and we are hoping to bring it to Nigeria.
Wow, first-class, that is amazing. How did you feel when your school didn’t retain you?
Alhamdullilah, I graduated with first-class, but that year the school decided not to retain any first class graduate but it’s been a blessing. Not retaining me has been a blessing, if they had retained me, I would probably won’t have been in Czech Republic presently but at first, I didn’t feel good about it but later I realize it’s been a blessing.
Subhanallaah!!! Allaah has been merciful to you. Your hard work is paying off, Alhamdulillaah
My brother…… Allah’s Grace ni oooo
Any plan to become a lecturer?
I would love to, if Allah wills
In Sha Allah
In Sha Allah
You have a business in Nigeria?
Yes my brother, I have a business in Nigeria, I’m actually a fish guy. I have a lot of passion for fish and as a Nigeria who have been following the fishery production in the country over the years, we are not really so happy over the state of things in the sector. Our government is spending about 500 million dollars on fish importation on a yearly basis. So, I started with fisheries management. While in Nigeria, I was consulting for firm, I had been in the north, south, and on water sometimes. Before I started my PhD program, I set up a small management firm where people can invest. We nurture the fish, sell and share the profit according to quota agreed upon. I have clients in Nigeria and also outside the country.
So you are a consultant. What challenges have you encounter while consulting and how did you overcome it?
Consultancy in Nigeria is so difficult. People might not appreciate your work as a Nigerian. The first thing I learnt from my consultancy in Nigeria is that religion doesn’t mean anything, people are just who they are. Clients can be very selfish and may not respect the terms in the contract just because of their political positions. However, time in the industry accord you the necessary skills to deal with social insignificancies.
Running your own company in Nigeria where is there is high rate of scammers, how do you convince your investors that you are legit?
Consultancy in aquaculture has to do with full professionalism. How do we consult? I will break it down to you, so you will know it’s very difficult to impersonate in this kind of situation.
If somebody has a problem in his farm, the fish are dying or some parameters or some facilities are not producing, when they call us from a very far place, the first thing we ask is for them to send us pictures, when they send the pictures and we see what the problem is, (most times) one of our members will go to the place to see what the problems are, we take pictures, analyse the problems, evaluate the cost, make a proposal based on the analysis and findings.
How do you deal with competition?
Dealing with competition? It is even difficult to talk about competition in fisheries sector in Nigeria and that is because the expertise are actually very scarce. When I first got back into the country after my masters, I saw a firm on the internet, the firm was recruiting experts in fisheries. It’s like a consulting firm. When the firm pay you, the recruiting firm is going to take 60%, you pay vat of 20% and all you are left with is 20%. We were not told when we applied, but when I got to know, I rejected it because that was slavery contract. The expertise in Nigeria is arguably still very crude in fisheries sector. Moreover, the quality of your service stands you out, just like in every sector.
How do you get investor to invest?
It’s just like any other business. You have to convince them that the business is profitable. I write a proposal and give to the potential client. In my own case, this isn’t some Ponzi scheme that I asked people to invest certain percentage. What we do is ask investor to invest in a fish pond, I manage the fish pond for the investor and the reward is shared based on the terms in the contract.
What is/are your advice(s) for those who wish to become an entrepreneur or tow your path?
My advice for those that are willing to tow this path, is that be very determined because you are going to get rejected number of times but don’t give up. When I speak with people about what I can do or what I have been able to achieve in the last few years, people actually tell me I’m been so lucky but it’s been Allah’s Grace, Alhamdulillaah Robbil ‘Alameen. But it does come with some prices too. A lot of people like quoting the phrase ‘believe in yourself’. By virtue of doing something, you will get different outcomes. the different results and the corrections made from your failures would reveal your strengths and your weaknesses, giving you the chance to organise your priorities. So, don’t be scared of failure,
Alhamdulillaah for the journey so far. If they had retain you like you said, it might be hard pursing your scholarships. Allah’s plans are always perfect.
Yes o my brother……………Allah knows the best
Jazaak Allahu khairan for sharing your story with us. I hope and pray it inspires someone out there.
I hope so too. Thank you for letting me share my story with you Emperor Aquaculture Management company
May Allah grant us the best and help us achieve all we set our mind to. Aameen.