– Tony Elumelu
In business the role luck plays in success and personal achievement is rarely discussed. If luck is mentioned, it is done with slight condescension, and usually dismissed as a product of hard work, not deserving significant attention. While hard work is paramount – and I have written extensively about the importance of working hard – history and my own experiences show that there is often a large element of success that hard work alone cannot explain. It is simply not true that “you make your own luck.”
I started my career as a salesman, a copier salesman to be specific, young, hungry, and hardworking, but the reality was that I was just one of thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed. How did I get from there to where I am now? Of course, hard work, resilience, a long-term vision – but also luck.
A year later after earning my Master’s degree in Economics from the University of Lagos, I applied to join a new generation bank, Allstates Trust Bank. The bank’s one-page newspaper advertisement demanded a minimum 2:1-degree, but I applied regardless, submitting a cover letter and filled out application with my 2:2-Economics degree.
By a stroke of luck, my application was reviewed by the Chairman/CEO, a painstaking man who carefully read my cover letter and was drawn to the confidence in my words. “I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, ambitious and I will make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more.” He read those words and took a chance on me. Though “unqualified”, he decided to throw me a lifeline, an opportunity.
I was invited to join the shortlist, followed by a long series of interviews and even more tests. At the end of a very rigorous process, I received good news – I had a place as an entry level analyst. Even now, I wonder: What if the Founder had not personally gone through my application? What if my application was rejected at the very beginning? What if I never got the opportunity to work at Allstates Trust Bank?
The story continues: within 12 months at the bank, aged 27, I went from analyst to branch manager – the youngest ever bank branch manager at the time. I was hard working, energetic, creative and prioritised getting things done, but it was also good fortune that my bosses Toyin Akin-Johnson and Ebitimi Banigo took notice, and then, believed in me. They took a chance on me by appointing me as branch manager after an incredibly short time in the bank. They recognised in me the raw materials needed to make a good leader and were prepared to invest in me and my ability. My rise to Branch Manager within a short period is a great story but I know in my heart, I was lucky, as well as deserving.
This position of branch manager was a solid platform which launched me into several top leadership roles. When we, a small group of hungry, determined, young outsiders, took over struggling Crystal Bank, it was as a direct result of the preparedness and exposure that we received early from our superiors and mentors. Without the intervention and goodwill of these people in my career, I would not have been prepared as I was to take on far greater roles. These learning opportunities laid the pathway to future achievements. Put simply, I was lucky enough to be identified and trusted so early on in my career, and this put me on a unique road to success. I keep this in mind – it is humbling and also drives much of what I do today.
When I left UBA as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in 2010 to pursue other interests, I made a vow that through the Tony Elumelu Foundation, I would “institutionalise” luck and democratise access to opportunities for young Africans. I promised to leverage the success I have enjoyed, to spread luck and hope, provide opportunities and to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs to succeed. Without luck in my early career, I would not be the man that I am today. I am a leader and philanthropist today because I encountered people who gave me a chance early in my career. It has been a lifetime goal to pay this forward in a transformative and impactful way.
Over the past three decades I have spent as a banker, investor, and turnaround expert, I have had the opportunity to meet thousands of entrepreneurs, like me. Many of them young people, with incredible dreams and business ideas but without the experience or the access to mentoring and support required in order to build successful businesses. But most importantly, they have not yet been exposed to the right opportunity.
Our entrepreneurs are hard at work across the continent, identifying gaps in the market for specific products and services, and bridging these gaps with their innovation and ingenuity. Yet, many of these budding entrepreneurs often lack the capital, the networks, the training, the support to take their small business to national or regional scale. All they need is a helping hand, some luck, someone to believe in them and take a chance on them.
This is what the Tony Elumelu Foundation offers: a platform that empowers African entrepreneurs– from business management training, to mentoring, to funding to networking – championing their cause and giving them a global voice to actualise their ambitions. This is precisely why I launched the USD$100 million Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs. Indeed, these may be the next UBAs (United Bank for Africa).
So, when I am asked, “Tony, why are you and your family doing this? What is in it for you?” I smile and recount my own story of luck. Luck is real, it is powerful, and I am committed to spreading it as far as I can. I am a beneficiary of luck, and I am passionate about sharing it across the continent, to all 54 countries.
I want our young aspiring entrepreneurs to apply. I want you to be a part of this global movement for good. I encourage you to be bold enough to let luck find you. There will be 1260 places open from January 1, 2019. Will you be among the lucky ones this year? Take a chance on yourself. Your future may begin today. Apply now at TEFCONNECT.COM
Tony Elumelu Foundation Opens Applications for 5th Cycle of $100m Entrepreneurship Programme
- Application exclusively available on TEFConnect.com – the largest digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs
- Invitation to join existing 4,470 programme Fellows
- 4th Cycle drew over 150,000 applications from across the African continent
The Tony Elumelu Foundation, the leading African-funded and founded philanthropy committed to empowering African entrepreneurs, is now accepting applications for the 2019 cohort of the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme.
The Programme is a 10-year, $100 million commitment to identify, train, mentor and fund 10,000 African entrepreneurs. The Programme’s objective is to generate at least 1,000,000 new jobs and create at least $10 billion in new business revenue across Africa. Now in its 5th year, the TEF Entrepreneurship Programme has empowered 4,470 entrepreneurs, using a bespoke and robust selection, training and implementation process to create visible and sustainable impact across all 54 African countries.
Outstanding African entrepreneurs running existing start-ups with high growth potential and aspiring business owners with transformative ideas are invited to apply. We are particularly looking to grow representation from French, Arabic and Portuguese speakers, as well as female entrepreneurs.
Inspired by Tony Elumelu’s economic philosophy of Africapitalism and his vision to institutionalise luck and democratise opportunity for a new generation of African entrepreneurs, the Foundation has implemented one of the most ambitious entrepreneurship programmes globally. Selected entrepreneurs from previous years have transformed their businesses and their communities after gaining from the Programme’s 7 pillars: $5,000 in seed capital; business development training; one-on-one mentoring; access to TEFConnect; pan-African meetups; TEF network membership; and participation at the annual TEF Entrepreneurship Forum, the largest convening of the African entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Founder, Tony O. Elumelu, CON, stated: “The private sector must be the core driver of Africa’s economic transformation, but this sector cannot attain its full potential if entrepreneurs are left behind. We call on all stakeholders – policymakers, business leaders and development agencies – to actively commit to creating a better future for our young Africans who have demonstrated intellect, skill, and passion, to empower them to succeed because their success is Africa’s success. The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is by far the most impactful project of my life and represents my commitment to transforming Africa through entrepreneurship”.
Parminder Vir, CEO, Tony Elumelu Foundation, said: “Our entrepreneurs illustrate the Foundation’s commitment to transform the African economy, by building on the intelligence, skills and resourcefulness of Africans. I encourage all ambitious young Africans to take advantage of this unique opportunity”.
The Foundation, which has recently hosted President Macron of France, President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana in dynamic interactive sessions with young African entrepreneurs, is committed to supporting the entire entrepreneurship ecosystem – from the entrepreneurs themselves, governments who must provide enabling environments, to capital, advice and most importantly access and networks.
The TEF Entrepreneurship Programme is open to citizens and legal residents of all African countries, who run for-profit businesses based in Africa that are no older than three years. The deadline for applications submission is March 1, 2019.
Applications will be judged based on criteria including: feasibility, scalability and potential for growth of the product/service; market opportunity for the idea/business; financial understanding, leadership potential and entrepreneurial skills.
Applicants can apply on TEFConnect – www.tefconnect.com – the largest digital networking platform for African entrepreneurs.
Link to the Impact Documentary showing the transformative and impactful stories of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs:https://goo.gl/XcYqCP
Kudos to Tony Elumelu Foundation for blazing this trail
Other Nigerian Billionaires should emulate Mr. Elumelu in usuing their fortune to help the less fortunate in society
Love Mr. Elumelu’s truly inspiring story
This is true religion- God will surely bless TEF!
Tony has the heart of Gold and God will continue to expand his coast
This is a great initiative that our clueless African governments should emulate
@Femi47- I agree with you, the level of youth unemployment in Africa especially is simply unacceptable- it calls for immediate action by African governments
TEF is blazing a trail and setting the pace for others to follow
One person and foundation in Africa with a true desire to see young Africans grow and better their entrepreneurial skills. Keep it up TEF! This will help youths to be less dependent on gov’t.
He’s doing a good. If only we can get more people to help us like this.
That’s a good one from Mr Tony Elumelu. That’s how progress happens…one person climbs up and helps others to climb as well. Thumbs up sir!
An inspiring beginning, live part where he could define the thin line between hard work persistence and ” luck” thanks for the good work empowering young entrepreneurs Sir TEEF.
This is a great initiative ! Kudos!!!
This is a great initiative ! Kudos
Mr. Elumelu be bold and see your outcome as one orchestrated by the Grace of God not luck. God knows your kind heart and has a result empowered you with the ability to enable others with opportunities. I love your endeavor to PASS IT ON. This is what we need, compassion for others