Meet 300-Level Unizik student Onyinyechi Nmecha who founded Extraclass.ng at 19
Onyinyechi Nmecha is a 300-level Computer Science undergraduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University (Unizik), Awka Anambra State; who has demonstrated contagious-electrifying technological sagacity.
She spoke during an interview with online news website- TechEconomy.ng- saying that her greatest accomplishments so far were, first, realising the dream of running Extraclass.ng startup while still in school.
The Company she started at the age of 19. Onyinyechi did that despite some challenges like being a female founder, combining running a startup with her academics, limited funds and lack of needed skillset, location and age. Currently, Extraclass.ng is making great impacts and has won several awards.
Secondly, as a software developer Onyinyechi should be very proud for the fact she has mentored so many young girls and women to become successful and trained them to develop some digital skills as well as starting a girl in tech community in Nigeria called “SheTechEast”- for digital inclusion and girl-child empowerment in the south-eastern part of Nigeria..
Apart from that, the 300-level Computer Science student of Unizik, Awka has both in the past and present volunteered to coach young people in programs like the Djangogirls program, Codecamps, catch them young etc.
Currently, she is the South-East (Female) Coordinator of the Nigeria Association of Computer Science Student – NACOSS, the Co-organizer GDG (Goggle Developers Group) Awka and the Campus Director for Hult Prize (New York) Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka Chapter, where they raise student social entrepreneurs that will compete for the $I million prize in New York.
In this interview with Onyinyechi explained how she was able to achieve these and more.
At 19 you were already a startup founder…
…I am happy doing all these because even as a young girl, lots of girls are looking up to me as a source of motivation. I am also extremely happy because I am contributing to the cause that will make my generation greater because I believe in a better future.
Tell us about Extraclass.ng
ExtraClass is the first project (startup) I started working on as a Student. ExtraClass is an Ed-Tech Startup; online platform where learners can access tutors ranging from academic courses-primary schools to tertiary levels; professional courses such as ICAN and others. We included digital skills and other extra-skills like photography, programming, digital marketing and others. These form the first part of ExtraClass.
We have a prep-test engine where the learners after interacting with the tutors can as well have practical skills; that is prompt testing. We also have an online bookstore (Though still in the kitchen) where we can outsource the educational content. Extraclass offers the learners opportunity to participate and learn outside the direct tutorial under the professionals.
We also have school directory that offer parents access to schools as well as present them with the necessary details needed to make decisions where to enrol their wards. The directory enables you compare schools and find the best withi your area as well as the one that matches your budget.
Our concept at ExtraClass is to provide access to people; where you can access learning materials and resources persons with ease. It is a place where kids and adults can access learning even at internet disadvantaged locations. Same time, we are reducing unemployment.
How do verify tutors on your platform?
We use digital identifications such as BVN, NIMC, etc. we also work with the security agencies as well as data registration agencies.
…Are the tutors aware that you conduct such verification?
Yes, it is one of the indicators you see while filling the forms. We also at intervals pop it for you on your dashboard.
Apart from that, we conduct virtual interview with them.
There are a lot of platforms that offer similar services; what sets ExtraClass.ng apart?
The ‘extra’ services and the ‘extra’ learning we offer make the difference. We have a whole lot of services wrapped up in Extraclass platform. We have methods of learning and stages; we don’t just send a tutor to you. We have an Extraclass learning model; there are processes so that anyone who has passed through this platform will have that ‘extra’ benefit. Some other platforms offer just the link between you and the tutor, but we usually engage with you after the classes to pass through the tests.
What has been the experience for you guys since launch in August 2017?
The market is viable, the customers are giving feedbacks so as to enable us improve the quality and type of services. Surviving as a female startup founder hasn’t been easy. Then, being in the kitchen cooking codes trying to satisfy your users is the biggest of them all but in all, it is funfair.
We have a lot of internet-disadvantaged areas, how possible can they access the platform?
It is already being solved in the Beta version yet to be released soon. We now use USSD and offline accessibility to solve that. Just watch out.
Extraclass.ng as a startup based in South East Nigeria, how do you feel about it?
Honestly, it has not been easy in terms of exposure of the people and funding. Also, combining it with my studies has been tough. In like manner, accessing some entrepreneurship mentorship in the region has been far-fetched. My saving grace has been the #StartupAnambra, because through them I could get access to mentors and learn about entrepreneurship.
Before now, I have been coming to Lagos to meet people to guide me. There is no gainsaying that Lagos and Abuja and even Port Harcourt are the startup havens. Even when you meet venture capitalists or mentorship in the field and you mention South East they say there is no market there. They don’t really understand the market, but we down here do know there is market in the South East. Even when we went for our market validation, we found this is actually the pain-point to people here (in the East) and they are subscribing to the services.
I will say, it takes passion and resilience to thrive in the region.
The idea of ExtraClass came while in your bed at the hostel, how true was that?
Yeah (smiles). Actually, I have been a tutor for some years now; teaching mathematics and physics. During one of the days I managed a tutorial centre I found out how difficult it was for people to get good private tutors, educational contents etc. And how they desperately wish there is a better to solution to it and i started thinking of how to make it easier and better for people. Also, through some personal experiences and encounter with people who come to me or I came across with, I knew something has to be done. One day, as I was brainstorming on my hostel bed the idea of Extraclass came to mind. From that point I started putting the idea on paper and subsequently started the development.
Where was the idea incubated?
First, I was incubating it in my hostel room. I have to be sincere; that was where I first incubated it. It was later I started visiting DevAmplify Hub in Awka. It is an awesome hub that is assisting startups in Anambra.
Also, #StartupAnambra; I can’t tell my story without mentioning them. The community is doing a lot of things. It was through them that I got entrance to DevAmplify hub.
How were you able to raise the seed capital?
I had about N5,000 as a personal savings together with the savings from my tutorial classes. What happened to me that period was very interesting. I had to forgo some pressing personal needs; I was really ‘managing’, it was really hard on me but keep on pushing it. From then, I started seeking for mentors and eventually met the CEO of BigCode, Mr. Pascal Okeke.
If I am to buy Extraclass today, what is the monetary value you will place on it?
No! I am not thinking of selling, so I have not evaluated it in that light. Extraclass is such a platform that will liberate some people from mediocrity, because knowledge they say is power.
Pushing women interest in technology in South East Nigeria, how are you carrying on with this agenda?
I started with a Community called SheTechEast because I found out that community is very necessary to drive such interest needing collaboration, trust and capacity building. The community was meant for us to organise meetups, trainings, coaching and mentorships. there are many opportunities for women with digital skills, just that lack of awareness is a major challenge here. We do not only wish to train the young girls, but we make them to innovate with the aim that they become digital entrepreneurs.
What are the most pressing challenges faced by startups in the South East Nigeria?
The most critical is entrepreneurship education- or simply put- awareness. Forget about the funding, if you know how to build a business or what entrepreneurship is all about; some development models you can use, I think funding is something that will come later. Because when you build a scalable business and have customers, funding will follow.
People don’t really understand what it means to run business, because when you come to the South Eastern part of Nigeria the business model is still locked in ancient mentality- ‘Okeke and Sons Limited’. So, the digital way of doing business is still drawing things back; we need to come out of that mentality. An average Igbo man doesn’t believe investing in startup. So, we need reorientation so that people’s mind-set can be ready for this kind of business model to come in. At that point we can look at the issue of funding and other challenges.
Where should this awareness start?
I think it should start from the schools and government should get more serious by assisting those who have already embraced this type of business model.
*NB: This article was first published by TechEconomy.ng.
Funds, graft, taxes, others bane of entrepreneurship in Nigeria – Muyiwa
BY: Nmerichukwu Igweamaka
Folorunso Muyiwa is the Chief Executive Officer of Divergent Enterprise, the parent company of Nigeria’s biggest pig farm, PorkMoney. In this interview, he talks about the country’s investment climate, economic diversification, among other issues. Excerpts.
The Federal Government of Nigeria maintains its determination to diverse the economy, do you think that is achievable?
It is definitely achievable. The diversification of the economy is probably the only option left for development. This is because the economy continues to rely so much on crude oil. The numbers speak for themselves. Oil accounts for 80 per cent of government’s revenue and 90 per cent of foreign exchange earnings. No country, especially one that is blessed with a lot of natural resources like Nigeria, can totally depend on one economic sector.
I believe that there are great opportunities for non-oil sectors to grow, and this growth has been visible since 2001. Of course, the changes cannot be very quick and the transformation will not happen overnight.
However, the Federal Government can develop different sectors by taking important steps necessary for growth to take place. We can no longer be a mono-economic country.
Could that explain why you ventured into pig farming?
The idea of PorkMoney grew out of the desire to tap into a neglected sector of the livestock farming that has the potential to create value and change the agricultural ecosystem for good. Long ago before PorkMoney was launched in 2018, I visited a pig farm in Ogun State, one of the biggest in the country, and realised how fast the pigs grew and the viability of pig farming system in general. I knew this was something I needed to be a part of and I’m glad for the decision that I took. We are currently the leading pig farming enterprise in West Africa and our achievement speaks for itself.
Did the idea of establishing PorkMoney emanate from that?
My visit to that farm was definitely a turning point for me. Before then, I was oblivious of the untapped goldmine that is pig farming.
What challenges did you encounter?
Every business comes with a few challenges. One of the challenges we constantly face is the need to micro-manage casual workers from farm handlers, managers, production managers and other workers. Many of them compromise on set standards by cutting corners, especially in meat processing and livestock welfare.
Another challenge is the religious sentiments in this part of the world towards pigs and pork products. However, this was a more pronounced problem at inception and it is dissipating with time.
Knowing the religious sensibilities of the country, did aversion to pork cross your mind?
Not at all. In as much as there is a religious proscription to the consumption of pork, we cannot ignore its usefulness and benefits to our health and nourishment and just how lucrative pig farming is. I mean, Nigeria is a major consumer of pork and 80 per cent of it is imported. This means that a lot of people enjoy this animal protein. All we are doing is localising its production.
Is it possible to alter negative public perception about pig farming?
Definitely. One of our key responsibilities is to enlighten the general public about the great side to pig farming and inform them of the many benefits of pork consumption. Somehow, our environment and the kind of information we were exposed to as a people have influenced our idea of certain things. There are a lot of things we might need to unlearn as time goes on. So by using all our platforms – our social media, our website and even our adverts, we have ensured that we always show the good sides of pig farming because they are much.
Did you consider the possible health challenges in pork breeding?
Of course, we do. However, we ensure that we take the appropriate steps to mitigate any possibility. We also take proper hygienic measures like vaccination, quarantine and biosecurity, which keep our weaners very healthy.
Are you saying there are no associated diseases?
Livestock farming comes with a risk of epidemics; but if managed properly, they can be prevented. The great thing about pigs is just how resilient they are, compared to any other livestock, to farm. They are simply incredibly disease-resilient.
Vaccines and disease surveillance have always been the bane of animal husbandry. How do you take that observation?
Livestock are very prone to diseases; hence the need to constantly take precautionary measures such as administration of vaccines and disease surveillance activities across the farm to prevent outbreaks. Very recently, China witnessed its biggest animal disease that claimed livestock and cost the country billions of dollars because of its flawed surveillance.
So it’s important for other pork-producing countries to take adequate disease surveillance and testing programmes to detect these diseases early enough and prevent a fast spread.
So far, our farm partners under our management have taken adequate measures that have seen us not witness any outbreak since our launch in 2018. We expect that with our measures, this would continue to be the case.
What would you consider the most limiting factors to entrepreneurship in Nigeria, especially for youths?
Lack of capital is one of them. Aside that the Nigerian environment is not too conducive and encouraging for budding entrepreneurs, access to funds is one of the biggest challenges for youths in business. Another is the unfavourable tax policies, poor management, corruption, lack of training and experience, poor infrastructure and lack of specialised skills to scale one’s enterprise, none of which is insurmountable for a determined person.
How would you rate Nigeria’s Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, compared to other countries like Malaysia?
The SME sector is the backbone of major developed economies and an important contributor to employment and economic growth. Malaysia is doing remarkably well when it comes to the business scene. About 98.5 per cent of business establishments in Malaysia are SMEs, which contribute 36.5 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and 65 per cent of the employment. This is impressive. Despite the significant contribution of SMEs to the Nigerian economy (48 per cent), challenges still persist that hinder the growth and development of the sector. Some of the overriding issues are access to funding, lack of skilled manpower, multiplicity of taxes, high cost of doing business, among others. This proves that there is still much to be done.
As an entrepreneur, how did you overcome initial apprehensions, especially funding, and what areas have you exerted your ideas so far?
When I was starting out in business, I had no capital, training or resources to start my journey. The brilliant ideas were there. All that was needed to execute them was finance, which was lacking, but I had to start small and grow multiple businesses over the years till I was able to afford the capital needed to start my current pursuit.
Operation Amotekun: Southwest Govs stole out idea- Ebonyi Govt.
The Ebonyi State Government on Monday said it was the brainchild of Operation Amotekun security outfit in the South-West that was launched by governors in the region last week.
It said governors in the South-West region ‘stole’ the security idea from it, saying, “When the Governor of Kano State, muted something about this kind of security architecture in the South, recently,” he was referring to the South-East geo-political zone, in particular.
According to the State Government, until the launch of Operation Amotekun, last week, governors and leaders of the South-East zone, had had elaborate and far-reaching security meetings on how to curtail insecurity in the region, saying the South-West zone only ‘borrowed’ a leap from its South-East counterpart, in its establishment.
The Commissioner for Internal Security and Border Peace, Mr Stanley Emegha, stated this in a telephone interview with our Correspondent, in Abakaliki, on Monday.
Emegha, who disclosed that governors and leaders of the zone, last year, appointed Gen. Obi Umahi, to coordinate the security architecture of the region, added that much was being done to mitigate all forms of insecurity in the land.
According to him, by the end of January, the security efforts and plan of the region would have been made clearer. He added that the creation of the Ministry of Homeland Security, in Abia State, was one of the moves being made by stakeholders, to reduce crimes in the zone.
“The launch of Amotekun in the Southwest is what is already in vogue in Ebonyi State, in particular, and South-East, in general. This is so because traces of insecurity like kidnapping, car- snatching, armed robbery, etc are no longer found in Ebonyi State.
“The actual region the Governor of Kano was talking about for this security initiative, is the South-East, not the Southwest. What they have done is they have just copied what is already in existence in Ebonyi. This kind of security strategy is being put in place and has been made possible by the South-East Security Consultant, Gen. Obi Umahi (retd). But we have been silent about it because we are waiting to launch at the right time.
“Security as a technical endeavour, and that was why many efforts of governors of the zone in this regard, had not been made public. Security is a very serious thing. No dull person can be a criminal. Those who go into criminality are smart and intelligent persons. So we downplay what we do because we don’t want those we are targeting or fighting to cash in on our strategies.
“This is why we don’t disclose some of the things we put in place, in order not to create room for the criminals to strike. Currently, all the happenings in virtual all the Discos in Abakaliki metropolis, are monitored in our server room. Nobody knew when we mounted those cameras and CCTVs.”
Meet 19-year old Ebube Rebecca Okeke UniLokoja Best Graduating Student – Economics
- In this era, sorting isn’t a way out. If you run out of money, you’ll give your body and if they get tired what then do you give? – Ebube
BY: Sandra Ani
Nineteen year-old (19) Ebube Rebecca Okeke has emerged the Best Graduating Students (Department of Economic) and Best Graduating Student from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences with a CGPA of 4:71, at the Federal University Lokoja, Kogi State.
She attributed the feat to the mentorship by her mother, hard-work and prayers, stressing that she learnt a lot, not just academically but also about the environment.
GrassRoots.ng has a chat with Ebube…enjoy the dialogue
Can we meet you
My name is Ebube Rebecca Okeke, a graduate of Economics from Federal University Lokoja. I am 19 years old and I hail from Enugu State; Isi-Uzo Local Government Area to be precise.
Tell us about this big win of yours
To the glory of God; I emerged the Best graduating student from the Department of Economics and the Best graduating student from the Faculty of Arts and Social sciences with a CGPA of 4:71.
I particularly want to thank God for the grace, wisdom and strength. I also want to specially appreciate my mom; my best friend, mentor, role model and teacher. She thought me the value of hard-work, goal setting and goal getting. I’m grateful mom. To all of my lecturers, the entire staff of federal university Lokoja, my friends and family, Thank you for the support
I started this journey in the year 2015 and made straight A’s with a GP of 5.00 during my first semester in the university. That semester was tough and amazing. I learnt a lot, not just academically but also about the environment I found myself and how to make proper and beneficial decisions. I learnt the importance of relationships and diligence too. I made some pretty amazing friends, not just with students alone but with lecturers too and I’m grateful.
Every success story has bumps, but with the help of God, my family and friends I overcame. To everyone reading this, in which ever field you might be in you’ll definitely encounter challenges but don’t let it stop you, keep pushing.
To every student, read like it all depends on you, pray like it all depends on God and get a skill or develop your passion. Improve yourself mentally and other wise. The world’s changing, you should too.
How was it like growing up
I had an amazing child hood; went to the best primary and secondary schools; Spring Nursery and Primary school and Harmony Secondary school. Mom was very strict about the kind of movies and TV shows I watched; my social media activities and all that. It was annoying then, but now I’m grateful
Was there a time when teachers or mom had to force you to read?
Teachers; No. Mom; No. She basically just encouraged me, advised me and helped me through it. She was my lesson teacher. We did all my assignments together. During my undergraduate days, there were courses I didn’t really understand like Philosophy, Mom would read them and make notes/summaries for me.
In this era, some students believe it’s all about sorting, how can one stand out?
In this era, sorting isn’t a way out. If you run out of money, you’ll give your body and if they get tired what then do you give? Be diligent, don’t give the lecturers to put a negative tab on you. Attend classes, write all of your tests and assignments and submit on due dates
What’s your next plan?
To begin the real journey towards greatness. To start living and working towards my dreams and make impacts.
Thank you so much for this great opportunity and the feature.
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