My Mission To Generate jobs is the can-did story of Yinka Opeke, a development economist. Her personal narratives are published below by OpenLife Nigeria
Smart Gas is a dedication to my father, and now mother, who passed on 11 months apart.
The heart will break, but the broken lives on. Though my father’s demise is the most devastating experience I have had in my adult life, it birthed an idea in my spirit, which has now become my reality. Where do I begin? A vision birthed in grief, and the onset of a global crises, good tidings can indeed come from the most un ideal situations.
I lost my dad on the 22nd of February, 2020, and it seemed my life halted at the time.
His demise shook me to my core, unexpected and painful.
My inability to pay my final respect was the salt on the injury because I was in the US, and international flights were sus-pended.
I missed him so much I cried so often. The pain of the void was so deep, and almost as if he felt it, and was saying I will give you something to distract you, Smart Gas was birthed in my spirit on the 20th of March 2020.
Smart Gas was the distraction I needed to manage his loss. When I wasn’t mourning him, I buried myself in this project, and in no time I had a comprehensive business plan to work with.
Looking at the progress I have made since inception, I have no doubt that God’s hand is in this.
My journey as an entrepreneur started during my NYSC days in Port Harcourt. Upon completion of my undergrad from the premier university, University of Iba-dan in 2004 with a B.Sc in Geography,
I was posted to Rivers State, and served in Panalpina Logistics.
Due to the cordial relationship I had with my co-workers at the time, I would seldom get free or highly discounted tickets to Lagos on some of our partner airlines, go to Balogun market and buy children’s clothes to resell at work.
My flat mate at that time was also ‘corper’ and she made lovely sandwiches. She would sell them to me at N80, and I would go to work and resell at N120. During my entire year in PH, I never had to touch my NYSC allowance because my other side hustles were paying the bills.
After NYSC, I had saved enough to buy a Nissan Primera. I returned to Ibadan to commence my Masters degree in GIS in 2005.
Upon completion of my degree, I moved to Lagos. Due to my prior knowledge of Balogun market, I started selling London wax materials and saved enough to start selling gold.
In 2006, I was employed by Zenith Bank and my co-workers became my main clients. They loved my pieces and would give me post dated cheques against the next pay day. A few months after, I started traveling to London to shop for corporate outfits from Zara, Primark, H & M, Next, and I sold them all within the bank.
In 2007, I traveled to the United Kingdom for my second masters degree in Project Management from Queen Mary, University of London, and upon completion, I obtained my PRINCE2 Certification.
In 2008, I returned to Nigeria, and started working with Stanbic IBTC in Maitama, Abuja.
At that time, I had figured out I wasn’t cut out for a 9 -5 job.
So, I resigned in 2010 to officially start my journey as an entrepreneur.
Photography was my first attempt. I at-tended London School of Photography and Photo Fusion to horn my skills. In the last quarter of 2010, I moved to Lagos and my experiences in photography birthed D’Acero Ltd, a brand consulting firm.
I was opportune to have partnered with UNICEF, Zenith Bank, Stanbic IBTC, AXA Mansard, Ministry of Foreign Af-fairs, Infinity Trust Mortgage Bank Plc amongst others.
In 2013, I started my doctorate degree at Walden University, Minnesota, USA, where I specialized in Entrepreneurship and Organizational Leadership.
I graduated in 2018. I am also an alumna of Lagos Business School and Enterprise Development Centre, both arms of the Pan African University.
In 2014, I explored the possibility of establishing another income stream since I had pretty much stabilized my brand consulting business, and my team members were competent enough to run daily operations.
After much research, I established Drape Kings, an events decor company. I at-tended the Event Décor Academy, Miami and sourced my décor items from different countries. However, upon executing my first contract (which ended up being my last), I know I couldn’t continue that line of business. By the way, kudos to all event decorators out there, I am by no means one to shy away from hardwork but I knew from that first job, I couldn’t cope with that type/level of stress.
I immediately decided to start selling decor items since I already had a huge inventory anyways.
This plan seemed perfect until the dollar increase hit the Nigerian economy. My business was greatly impacted by in-creased freight charges, customs issues, and all the hiccups associated with importation.
As a result of this, I sold off the décor business completely. It was based on this new realties that I decided to look within, something more local content where I could source at least 70% of my raw materials locally.
In 2015, I pioneered Opeke easy-to-tie geles, which happens to be my maiden name and it means fine girl or omoge in Yoruba.
The name seemed apt since my focus was to promote the African beauty, our rich culture and heritage using aso oke to make ready-to-tie, already pleated geles. Opeke was a huge success. We exported our geles to so many states in the US, UK, Canada, Ghana, and different states in Nigeria.
During this period, I also founded Thomas O. Women Network (TOWN), a not-for-profit organization based in Nigeria, focused on connecting, empowering, and celebrating women involved in selfless community service.
In 2016, I moved to the US, continued with the gele but soon had to re-strategize because I was in a different country, with different types of opportunities and peculiarities.
However, when I look at the inventions and re-inventions that have taken place in the easy-to-tie gele industry, I couldn’t be more proud to have pioneered such a great idea.
In Houston, I immediately joined a few chambers of commence and before long, I started learning the culture, business terrain, areas of opportunities etc.
In 2017, I established Trade Expo Africa (TEXA), a U.S. registered, Houston based company focused on promoting bilateral trade relations, investment opportunities, educational advancements, international collaborations and information exchange between business in the U.S. & Africa.
With my strong business networks with SME focused, public and private organizations in Nigeria, I am able to help businesses penetrate international markets.
I achieve this through exhibitions, study trips, B2B Meetings & trade missions. I was honored to have received Certificates of Recognition from Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, State Representative Shawn Thierry and Mayor of Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner for my tremendous efforts at promoting trade and investment in Houston.
I am also a Managing Partner at TEXA Property Group, a U.S. registered, Houston based company focused on empowering individuals through real estate in-vestments in Texas.
Presently, I hold an executive board position at the Texas West Africa Chamber of Commerce (TWACC) as their Treasurer, Head of Strategy & Corporate Governance.
Together with my team, we promote trade alliances between businesses in Texas and West Africa.
Since the inception of TWACC in 2019, my team and I have hosted the President of Guinea, three Ambassadors, and visited over seven African Ambassadors in Washington D.C and Houston.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I suspend all exhibitions, but continued with my international business consulting and real estate.
On the 22nd of February, 2020, I lost my dad, and that was when the Smart Gas journey started.
Smart Gas is a tech company, established to leverage technologies to solve challenges faced by consumers when purchasing cooking gas, and the dangers associated with it.
We are a technology driven, app based platform, designed from ground up for clients to experience a more convenient way to purchase cooking gas, increase transaction efficiency, and optimize user experience.
Our focus areas are retailing, wholesaling to corporations, LPG logistics, bobtail leasing, and LPG storage tank lease.
Barely 11months after my dad’s passing, my mum also passed on to glory on the 25th of January 2021, it was indeed a tough start of the year.
Fast forward, here I am today, taking it each day at a time. My siblings and I established the Raphael & Rosaline Opeke Foundation (Raph & Rosa) with a focus to supply adult diapers and bed mats (Macintosh) to community hospitals for their older patients.
Our medium to long term vision is to establish senior living homes that will cater for older adults who are generally able to care for themselves, however, assistance from professional care givers will be provided.
Activities and socialization opportunities will be provided within the facilities as well.
Though there is the general believe that our culture frowns at putting our parents in homes, we strongly believe there is a market for those people who prioritize the care of their aged parents above myth and culture.
We solicit donations from, and seek col-laborations with individuals, corporations, and government agencies.
My journey as an entrepreneur has been an eventful and insightful one, with so many highs and lows, but I am better off for it.
The establishment of Smart Gas in Nigeria has being particularly challenging to say the least.
People wonder why I am establishing something this big back home when so many are seeking greener pastures outside the shores of Nigeria, quite honestly I don’t know. I love Nigeria, and hope that ease of doing business will sooner than later be implemented in our processes because right now, it’s none existent.
However, I believe it’s a calculated risk, and as the saying goes, the higher the risk the higher the rewards. Nigeria, be good to me and the entire Smart Gas team.
Smart Gas has become a reality. We are a technology company with focus on LPG wholesale, retaile, cylinder sales among other related services.
Smart Gas is established to leverage technologies to solve challenges faced by consumers when purchasing cooking gas, and the dangers associated with it.
I grew up in a mid-upper class christian family of six, I am the last child with three older siblings , and my parents placed considerable value on education. My mum spent all her life in academia and my dad retired from civil service to join politics.
What differentiates Smart Gas from other gas companies?
A lot actually, from our heavy reliance on technology, to our creativity & innovation, our young & dynamic team, and everything in between. We are the only technology driven, app based platform in the market de-signed from ground up for clients to experience a more convenient way to purchase cooking gas, increase transaction efficiency, and optimize user experience. Our model empowers the public in different ways, job creation for our drivers, business ownership for our distributors, extra income for our referral marketers amongst other inclusive initiatives.
Where do you see Smart Gas in the next 5 years?
A leading brand with presence in key states in Nigeria, intra africa collaborations, technological advancements in service delivery, increased value for clients and other exciting projections.
About Raph & Rosa
The Raphael & Rosaline Opeke Foundation (Raph & Rosa) is the not-for-profit arm of Smart Gas, established in loving memory of our parents. Our focus is to supply adult diapers and bed mats (Macintosh) to senior living homes &community hospitals for their older adults. Our medium to long term vision is to establish senior living homes that will cater for older adults who are generally generally able to care for themselves, however, assistance from professional care givers will be provided. Activities and socialization opportunities will be provided with-in the facilities as well. Though there is the general believe that our culture frowns at putting our parents in homes, we strongly believe there is a market for those people who prioritize the care of their aged parents above myth and culture. We solicit donations from, and seek collaborations with individuals, corporations, and government agencies.
Who is Dr. Yinka Opeke?
I believe I’m quite simplistic for the most part, I nurture good relationships and lead through mentoring. I’m intentional about work-life balance, believe there is the “me” and “God” factor so I hardly sit around ho-ping luck falls on my laps. What I can’t change, I figure a way to thrive, and more recently I have learned to be more expressive about my displeasures. What makes me sleep well at night is the understanding that God’s grace is sufficient through it all.