Mercy Bello Abu is an entrepreneur, a change agent, thought leader, consultant, trainer and a sought after clarity coach and a bestselling author.
She’s a woman that is passionate about impacting her world positively.
As a person who is multi-talented, she does a lot of things in order not to waste her God-given talents.
But predominantly, in her career, she trains individual and organizations.
In this interview, share talks about her entrepreneurship journey, her passion, motivations, her books, future plans and more.
Let’s start with your passion
I am very passionate about helping individuals leave a lasting legacy.
This compelled me to write a book on “building a lasting legacy with clarity” that will have individuals & Entrepreneurs get clarity on their journey so they can leave a legacy.
How did your journey into entrepreneurship begin?
I have it well documented in my book, “A Toast To Entrepreneurship”. Actually, I was born into it. My mom was a businesswoman and entrepreneurship has been part of our family. Then, I didn’t know it as entrepreneurship because it was more of buying and selling.
I always love to make money. Not that we were suffering; we were middle class. I remember we had this grass then, I will get it and use it to make sponges and sell. I derive pleasure in doing it and growing up I never lacked money.
All of us in the family knew how to make money and we did not have to learn it, it came naturally because we grew up seeing our parents doing it and we grew into it.
My mom was one of the major distributor of Mouka foam In Auchi then, and she dedicated her life to impacting lives -teaching other people how to do business.
Also, I’m from the Northern part of Edo state and we live with lots of Igbos and being around them also exposed us to the business aspect of life as it was about business with little or no white-collar jobs.
So my journey into entrepreneurship started as a young child which metamorphosed into me gaining clarity.
Many people who want to go into entrepreneurship see funding as a major challenge. So from your experience, what’s the best way to raise fund to start a business and how were you able to raise funding for your business?
That question is always constant. Every time they talk about entrepreneurship, funding is always a topic.
Funding is a lot better these days. Before you venture into any business, you must have done your analysis, ask questions like, do I have a calling for this? Do I have a passion for this?
Passion and clarity are what is going to drive you. When you have gained clarity, it will push you and show you the right way to go. For most people who say they don’t have funding, oftentimes it’s because they don’t have clarity or they don’t know their WHY. That’s why I wrote a book titled ” My Compelling Why. You need to know why you are in that business and not do it because someone else is doing it, but you are doing it because you know this is what you need to do.
In entrepreneurship, three things are important and compulsory:
1. Business is from the market end
2. What is the current trend in the economy?
3. Is there a gap for that product you want to bring?
Let’s look at a 100ml hand sanitizer. Say the companies producing hand sanitizers only produce 100ml and most people can’t afford it. Another company can say, since these ones are not producing smaller quantities that a lot of people can afford, let’s go and produce it in smaller quantities for people who cannot afford the big bottles , that’s observing a gap and filling it.
What’s happening?Currently, it’s health and safety. You can pattern your business around health and safety. Everybody wants to stay safe and healthy.
Finally, the number one thing: is there a market for it? They say if there is a will, there is away. In this case, if there is a market, there is away. If there is a market, you can document everything and sell the idea to someone. You can monetize your idea. That’s why integrity matters in business. Who you know is key in business.
I met this lady at an event I was invited by Access bank to speak to women. She was among the first set of people that arrived at the venue. So I engaged her in a conversation and I didn’t even know she was physically challenged.
During my presentation, I told them about my first daughter who was serving as a corper in 2015/2016. I had told her before she left for service that one year was a time to discover herself.
She said she was on Instagram one day and a product she likes posted an advert and she contacted them and told them she could represent them in Nigeria and be selling their products for them. The company sent her pictures of the products but she didn’t have money to buy. Instead of allowing money to be her challenge, she posted the products’ pictures on Instagram and asked people to pay and get the products in two weeks time, surprisingly people paid..she used their money to buy and deliver to them. When they receive their order, she encouraged them to send pictures and testimonials. That was how she started without money.
Bolanle heard the story and said wow! ”I have learned how to make shoe but for three months now I have been looking for money to start.”
She went home, took pictures of the shoes she already made and posted on Facebook, people ordered and she made N9000.
And that’s was how she started her shoe business in 2016.
I tell people just start. It’s only when you start that people will see what to help you with.At some point, she needed to expand her business and when the CBN loan came, I was all out to help her get it and she got almost 10 million from the CBN loan.
Today, her factory is massive and she employs able-bodied men to work for her in the factory to help meet demand.
The most beautiful part of her story is that she is physically challenged.
And guess what, she gained the skill for making shoes for free through a skill acquisition program.
I tell people that entrepreneurs don’t have money problem but ideas problem.
Let’s talk about the culture that exists in your organization and how you established it.
I develop and teach the people that work with me. Its an error for someone to come and go the same. Even when I was running a supermarket; where I had over 50 staff, I teach them so when they leave, they can stand on their own. That has been my culture.
Though not all come out great, some find it tough.Nobody learns in his/ her comfort zone. Where there is hit, you will learn to think.
Your culture is really inspiring and I celebrate you for setting up a culture that is designed to help people learn and grow. There a lot of successful entrepreneurs but they are not documenting their processes and they are not passing their knowledge to anybody but here you are doing it. I celebrate you.
So how do you define success?
The definition of success is different for a lot of people. For me, when someone’s life is transformed through my message, that’s a success for me. It’s about impacting lives positively.
You recently published two books, “A Toast To Entrepreneurship” and “My Compelling Why”. Why inspired you to write to them?
A Toast To Entrepreneurship is actually my first book, but because of the pandemic, My Compelling Why came and both came out at the same time.
I started A Toast To Entrepreneurship in 2014. It was supposed to be a book of inspiration that people will read and get inspired by my story, but we had to redesign to suit the present-day reality.
What inspired it, as I said, it was a tribute to my mom. Entrepreneurship is hard, I have seen people abandon it and say, “let me go back to the paid job as long as it can feed my family.” But its something that adds value to you as an individual and to the society. So I wanted to share that story, I wanted to share the beautiful part knowing that If i have to make a choice again, I will choose entrepreneurship over and over again. That’s what I wanted to share- that it may no lt be all roses but if you are committed, eventually there will be a joy.
About My Compelling Why.
In the course of training, coaching and engaging people since 2014. I got a revelation about clarity and I was like wow! There is something about knowing why you are here. It changes the narrative.
For a lot of us, we are not living, we only exist. We take anything that comes and we are not purposeful. It will be an error for God to create a masterpiece and you die a nobody. You will die a nobody if you don’t know why you are here.
There is always a why. When you know you’re why you’re how becomes easy.
I have always been the go-to person. Even when I was doing my buying and selling, a lot of men will bring their wives and say, ” teach her how to do what you are doing”, but I didn’t know it was mine why.
And it was easy for me. I started asking why it was difficult for others but easy for me, that was when I realized that in your why, you flow naturally. When I gained clarity on that, it was a mind-blowing experience for me.And we needed to document that because when you are in the part of your why life becomes easy.
What is your motivation?
I want to die as an institution.
For every time I think about death, I think about my legacy. I want to live knowing I impacted lives. That’s my motivation.
Many young people these days see entrepreneurship as an option because there is no job, and sometimes they don’t even know how to get started.
So, what piece of advice would you give to a fresh graduate looking to become an entrepreneur?
Jack Ma said, “for every young person out there, you must have expertise”.
In as much as you want to go into your own business, who have you learned from? Who is mentoring you?Even my children, I told them, you must lean under somebody.
In your area of endeavour, go and learn.
Why do you think that most Igbos traders are more successful? It’s because they have a model- the apprenticeship model.
Most of them do not have a degree, but they have money and they are successful because they pass their trade secrets to others.
Success is not a success until it’s modelled. And success is a success when it can be replicated.
They pass on their trade secrets from generation to generation.
For every young person, look out for where you can serve and learn.
You have one of the most impactful platforms for female entrepreneurs in Port Harcourt, EPI. Tell me more about it.
Entrepreneurs Platform Initiative (EPI) was birthed in 2014. We celebrate Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship.
The story of a woman is not complete until she’s given a platform to share her story. EPI provides a platform for women to share their stories and inspire one another. Also, to debunk that notion that women can’t work together. We have been able to bring purposeful women together for five years now and lives have been transformed.
That’s what the Entrepreneurs Platform Initiative EPI is all about.
How can any woman reading this join the platform?
I tell people, you will be where you are because of the people around you and the books you read.
There are places money cannot take you to but the relationships you have can take you there. You can’t be phenomenal alone. So come and join us and project your voice, and be purposeful.
Come to our office or contact us via our social media platforms.
Coronavirus has affected everyone, every industry, changing people’s and making life difficult for many. How’s it affecting you and how are you coping?
Yes, it has affected us. But we had to channel our energy to something else. As an entrepreneur, we see opportunities, we don’t see challenges. During the lockdown period, I wrote My Compelling Why.
We realized that the online thing was working and we had to be innovative.
It was challenging though, but we thank God that things are getting better.
How can someone buy your books?
We spoke to three books shops last week to distribute our books and we will make it known once we are through with the agreement. You can also come to our office or call us on 08036774360.
What should we expect from you?
We are planning a virtual book launch.I also have another book coming out soon. It’s called, Building a Lasting Legacy.
I’m also birthing a new platform to give back to the society- Mercy Bello Abu Young Female Entrepreneurs Leaders Foundation.A lot of our young girls say they don’t have someone to look up to, so we want to catch them young. We will be going to schools to speak and train them and also give them scholarship while encouraging them to embrace entrepreneurship.
How can our readers connect with you?
My website is www.ihpng.com
I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Linked In and Twitter @iammercybelloAbu (Mercy Bello Abu).