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Naira Diary Session: How I Turned My Passion For Speaking Into A Business – Segun Manuel


In our Diary Session this week, Mr Segun Manuel shares his stories, his motivations, future plans and lots more.

Welcome to Naira Diary Session.

Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?

My name is Segun Manuel, a motivational speaker and entrepreneur.I have been doing this for twelve years now. I’m based in the city of Warri where I run a company known as Smogville Solutions. I’m also the convener of the Delta Youth Summit and Delta Women Empowerment Summit.

How did the idea for your business come about?

Well, as a young man, after graduating from school and moving to Lagos, I noticed a lot of things going on with motivational speaking with the likes of Fela Durotoye, Lanre, and Emanuel Utomi. The public speaking industry in Nigeria was just kicking off at that time and I think this was in 2004 and 2005.

So after I finished my program, I went to Lagos to connect and learn from them. I was able to meet with Fela and during our conversation, I shared everything I wanted to do with him and he gave me his supports.

When I got back to Warri, I wanted to bring everything that they were doing in Lagos to Warri.I have noticed a gap between what was happening in Lagos state and Warri and I wanted to fill it.

I said to myself, “want to be a motivational speaker”.I started following the instructions I got from Fela. I started in Warri and built my brand from there.That’s how my public speaking career started.

Interesting! How did you raise funding to start Smogville Solutions?

Well, for funding for Smogville Solutions, I actually started with the money I got from a speaking engagement. I used the money  to register the company through a friend. But before then, I had already wasted some money trying to get Smogville Solutions registered through someone who probably didn’t know what he was doing.

What problems are you solving with Smogville Solutions?
Smogville Solutions as a company solves training and personal development problems for people in Delta State. People in Lagos have lots of options when it comes to training, but it’s not the same for those in Delta State. So instead of them going to Lagos for training, we provide training for them in Delta. Some times we bring trainers from Lagos, I also train myself.Put simply, we help people in Delta State, Nigeria get the best training without traveling to go to Lagos or outside the country.

How many hours a day do you work on average?

What most people don’t know is that I have a 9 – 5. I’m an employee and go to work every weekday. I use break time, closing hours and weekends to do Smogville Solutions related work.
For an entrepreneur, your business is like your baby and the time you spend on it is not limited.
You don’t postpone calls or mails, you do it as they come.On average, I spend about eight hours on Smogville Solutions everyday.

Can you describe your typical day?

My typical day is hectic. I get ready in the morning around 4 am, I do my devotional and by 5:30 I’m ready for the day.By 6:30 I’m out of the house and I resume work by 7 am. 12 pm is break time, I resume again by 1 pm and work to 4 sometimes 6. If there is church, I go to church, get home, talk to kids, watch TV, if I have an assignment that I need to do for the company, I do it immediately. I also use my break time at work for Smogville Solutions – see clients and all, I use 30 minutes everyday to read.

What were your challenges when you started and how were you able to overcome them?

When we started, people did not believe in us. Many did not understand what motivational speaking was as it was still an emerging market even in Lagos, and cooperate training was not common. Companies that were training their staff were doing internal training. There was also suspicions – “who are you, young man?” I don’t know you, were some of the questions I got asked a lot.

The problem was not money but acceptance and ignorance of what we were doing because the industry was just starting at that time, but we didn’t give up, we put in our best and today it’s a testimony.

What are your motivations?

Growing up in the Niger Delta here, one of my key motivations is to see that young people are empowered and liberated.

I grew up in Warri and a typical young man here is miles apart compared to those in Lagos in understanding and exposure. So my motivation is seeing their minds upgraded so they can think and see things differently from what they are used to here.I want a level of exposure and intelligence that matches those outside the Niger Delta for young men in Warri.

What will you say is responsible for your success so far?

Tenacity. There are times when there is drought and for you to keep going, it’s the tenacity and passion that keep you going.

Do you have mentors? If yes, who are your mentors and why?

Of course, I have mentors. 
Fela Durotoye has been a good mentor from a distance. Lanre , Steve Harris and John Obidi.

But for my business coach, it’s Paul Foh, my number one business coach.

Again, I have a spiritual father and mentor, Pastor Ayo Oritseyafor.

Mr Segun Manuel with Papa Oritseyafor

For life mentorship, I have my mom. I also have people that mentor me on family, and relationships.

What differentiates you from your competitors?

My presentation. It’s unique and you can’t take it away from me. You could teach the same thing but the way and manner I will teach it will be different.
And again, the attention I give to my clients differentiates me from others.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

My most satisfying moments will be when a client told me how something I taught him years ago during one of my presentations  changed his life.
When I get positive feedbacks and results from people I have impacted their lives, it’s very satisfying for me. Getting paid well can be very satisfying as well.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
1. Passion 
2. Excellent customers service
3. Sales

If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

Well, I will get more information. I will get more mentors- strategic mentors and follow their instructions.Not just one mentor because there might be some parts of what one has to offer which may not be preferable to you and you need the contribution of another mentor to help.
Also, i will quickly focus on a niche and become a master in that niche because when we started we were trying to do everything.

What business-related book has inspired you the most? (or, What is your favorite book?)

I have read a lot of books but the one that has been very helpful generally is the “Subtle Art Of Not Giving A Fuck”. It has been a very exciting book.
Another book is ” The School Of Money by Olumide Emmanuel”.

What piece of advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur?

Don’t try to be everything to everybody, find your tribe and feed them. 
You first have to find out that thing that you are good at – find your niche and people in that niche who are your tribe and get them together. Once you conquer that niche you can diversify. The earlier you start, the better.

What should we expect from you?

More training, more conferences. We are having a sales and marketing conference with Paul Foh this year, the youth summit.
We are having the creative entrepreneur masterclass this year as well. I’m also starting my business radio program.

How can people with you?

Anybody can connect with me online through my social media channels @Segunmanuel.


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