Nigeria’s continuing growth lies in its people – Titilola Adedeji, Amber Energy Drinks boss

MS Titilola Adedeji is a serial entrepreneur with interests in FMCG, real estate, Fashion &Lifestyle. She is an outstanding amazon that has worked her way up the corporate ladder in spite of the challenging business environment. In this interview with Marketing Edge’s Kasim Bakare, Adedeji relays her corporate journey trajectories and proffers solutions to contemporary problems bedeviling corporate Nigeria.

Q: As a Nigerian, how do you feel that Nigeria is 60?

First of all, it tells us that we have been able to stay together as a country for 60 years. 60 is a big number and it’s worth celebrating. As a Nigerian, I am happy for Nigeria that we have lasted for this long and we have a lot of people that are proud to be Nigerians. That is an achievement for us.

Q; What are your personal reflections of the country’s progress from your childhood?

I think we have been able to adapt and we are constantly evolving. I know when I was younger there was nothing like mobile phone or e-mail until a certain age. I think as Nigerians, we are willing to learn and evolve as we go along to the level we can. We are willing to get our acts together and work.

Q: How would you assess the country’s economic growth at 60?

One thing that still amazes me about Nigeria is the fact that we have so much in Nigeria. A few weeks ago, I was talking to someone about the fact that we are still recovering the Abacha loot and yet we are still standing as a nation in spite of the humongous money stolen. There is still a lot of money in Nigeria. It’s very hard for a country to withstand the amount of embezzlement that has happened in Nigeria and still survive. It just shows the strength of who we are as Nigerians. In terms of the economic growth, I think it’s more of the people than the actual funds. What has happened is that the people have become the source of economic growth for Nigeria. With every mishap, it has taught the people how to grow the economy with what we have. So, even if are given little, every time, we are able to double it. Our best resource is our people and that is where I see the growth. Money will be valued and devalued but the people can never be devalued.

Q: How would you assess Corporate Nigeria @ 60

I love Nigeria. I think that the influx of people that have western education is making it better for Nigeria. I don’t think we are at our best potentials because Nigeria has a way of sucking people because we often celebrate mediocrity in Nigeria. Even if you come back to Nigeria with some sort of wow idea, you get into a room and they are thinking; why are you doing so much? So, it takes someone that is willing to be different to get the best. Corporate Nigeria is getting better now because they are willing to get some sort of structure. There is still need to get much better though.

How would you assess the Nigerian business environment?

It has the good, bad, beautiful and ugly sides. As challenging as the Nigerian environment is, I do like it. It either forces you to grow or stuck you in. It has forced me to grow. There are many things I have learnt on my way up. Though I don’t think I am up there yet as I am still learning. I realized that because somebody is doing this, you would know it is wrong. So, there are certain things you wouldn’t take. However, if you are in a fully structured environment, it’s easy to become a robot, so you are not evolving or thinking of how you can do it better because you are falling into everything nice. A good example is driving. I usually say, if you can drive in Nigeria, you can drive anywhere in the world but if you can drive anywhere in the world you can’t drive in Nigeria. Nigeria will teach you things other countries can never teach you. So, I think as a business person, I love Nigeria.

Q: How do you think government can help create an enabling environment for businesses in Nigeria?

There are so many things government can do. First things first. Everybody has always talked about government giving us roads and electricity. Secondly, investing in the average Nigerian which means education and not just schools. Nigeria will do schools and not education. It will take someone that has graduated from IT in Nigerian school that there is not a lot they have learnt. Are we getting the education or the schools? That is a different ball game. Once we are able to be real with ourselves and see where the problem is, then we can understand it. We have a lot of problems and they weren’t created today. The basic first is that if you can get good roads and constant electricity. The electricity is better these days though I must confess. If we get support from government for entrepreneurs, not all these funny loans that they give. It’s fine but if you are giving money to someone that doesn’t understand the value of the money, you are just wasting your time. It’s just for show. Let’s dig deep and ask why we are doing what we are doing. Once we can answer those questions in Nigeria, we have the potentials of being the realworld leaders. Covid-19 has shown us something: The world can stand still and every country can provide for itself. That’s what happened. Nigeria didn’t collapse. People started asking questions as to how do you do what you are doing. It means that we need to understand our strengths and harness them as opposed to looking at other people and what they do. If you keep looking at competition, you forget about what you are doing. If you look at yourself, you will do so well.

Q: As a serial entrepreneur who runs several companies, can you give us some insight into some of these companies and what they do?

My wealth manager calls me a “Money Making Machine”(MMM) because I see opportunities in a lot of things. I have my hands in FMCG(energy drink), printing and branding, lifestyle(hair, salon, beauty), logistics, properties. I have my hands in a few pies and this helps me to understand how to deal with different types of people. In each sector, there is a different type of clientele, a different type of style and you need to wear a different type of hat.

Q: What challenges have you encountered in promoting the Amber brand and how were they surmounted?

The first challenge was Covid-19. Covid-19 gave us a halt. It also showed us that there are many ways to an end-point. So, we had to go back to the drawing board. We had to look at the best way and the best route which actually became better than our initial plan. We also had to get to the people and help them understand who we are, what we are, and what we are about and help us win over Nigerians why we love this brand and why we are excited about the brand and why they should love the brand

Q: Any projections for the brand in the next five years?

It would have been a legacy name. Obviously, the way we are going, legacy is the way forward

Q: Who is Titilola Adedeji?

First and foremost, I am a lover of God. I am very prayerful. I am also someone very optimistic. My motto is “Nothing is impossible”. I just want to stay focused on my focus and get the job done. I love fashion, I love pretty things. I love women. That doesn’t mean I date women. I love to empower women as well men. I just feel like it’s very important to see potentials and harness it in every one irrespective of their background. I love to empower and encourage people. I love travelling. I love gifts which is very hard for some people to believe.

Q: How did you begin your journey in the competitive Nigerian corporate world?

When I came back to Nigeria, I started working and did a bit in PR. I already had my companies abroad. So, I was working abroad. My educational background was in Nigeria, U.K and Ghana. So, I had done all of that and did a bit of work in entertainment. My first job in Nigeria was when i was 16. I was the Head teacher in my aunt’s school. So, at 16, I already had the thinking of being responsible even as the last child. My journey in corporate has opened my eyes to see the potentials in Nigeria. There is so much to be done and there is so much to change but you have to be patient and willing to do job There is no free lunch anywhere in the world. Sometimes, when people come to me, and say I want to go to England, Canada and get a job or stuff like that. I always tell them; you are going to face the same problem everywhere you go. The problem is not the country. The problem is you. So, if you cannot deal with yourself, there is a problem. The problem is just going to be wrapped in a different wrapping paper even if you go elsewhere. A company is the staff. You then have to look at the kind of staff you are taking. Then ask yourself; can you be your own staff? If you cannot be your own staff, there is no way forward. So, I always say corporate Nigeria is dependent of the staff and has taught me to train staff to become the best of people they are and that is what Nigeria did for me. Abroad, like I said, because it’s so structured You might not even find your best potentials because you are plugged in to think and you might not need to think. So, they give you KPI, for instance, and they can even tell you how to deliver it. It’s only now that it’s easy you can say you want to think out of the box. Before, there is no box you are thinking out of. I said you are accountant and that’s what you are doing. Even if you say to them; there is something wrong here’, you might be sanctioned because that’s not your job description. Nigeria helps you to see better and bigger than the position they put you. So, corporate Nigeria is a beautiful once you do it right.

Q: How did your background, training, experience and exposure prepare you for this journey?

Oh! It did. First thing, my mummy beat me a lot when I was small. And he wasn’t allowed actually because my daddy didn’t like kids being beaten. My mum would wait for my dad to travel, my dad traveled a lot. When he is in England, she would begin to beat you for things you have done for two years and would tell you I am going to beat you before your dad comes back

But it helped because I remembered when I went to university in England. I said, you know what, if mummy didn’t beat me, I would have ended in prison, on drugs, prostitution or something because I looked at kids not well brought up versus me at my age and I can see the clear difference. That also instilled some sort of values. I have values I still say to my mother, thank you, today. Some things I look at today and I say; how does this person think like this? I am not judgmental; I just try to imagine and I get on with life. I feel like the morals and values helped me to where I am today. Plus all my job experiences. The good part about is that the challenges are molding me to where I am going to. So, I am constantly learning

Q: What is your business philosophy?

Impossible is nothing. Excuses mean nothing

Q: Let’s talk about your “new baby” Amber, how is it doing in the market, few months after its launch into the competitive energy drink market?

Amber is doing well better than we expected. As a company, we pride ourselves in building Nigerians. So, that has been our focus and letting Nigerians know that a Nigerian can also do well, quality-wise. We are passionate about the Nigerian and African growth. We are going from Nigeria to other African countries. We are also looking at the quality of staff we are bringing on board. They must understand the vision and run with the vision. The different people that are in the top cadres. So, if you spoke to a manager of mine, he would probably sound like me. That makes me happy. Building the Nigerians away from the stereotypical ‘I don’t care Nigerians’ to people that understands quality and what it is to communicate quality. That baby is being well taken care of.

Do you have role models in business, Nigeria or abroad?

I don’t think I have role models. The reason why I don’t take role models this is because all of us have three faces. The faces I don’t see behind closed doors, the faces people in your inner circle see and the faces you portray to me and outsiders. So, I try not to take role models, hook line and sinker. What I would say is that there are certain attributes I appreciate in different people that I want to have. I remember growing up I used to love Oprah, I still love her but I don’t know her personal life, so I would never say she is my role model but I like what she does.  I like Jeff Bezos. I like him because he has managed to craft something out of nothing. The guy sleeps and wakes up billion dollars richer. I love that, I want that. You know I actually like Buhari. I like the fact that he believes himself strong enough to become the president of Nigeria. Same as Donald Trump. Trump may not be said to be a wise man but he is a determined man. So, I like that determination in him doesn’t mean I like him. There are different people like that thatI pick things from that I would want to emulate but not that their whole lifestyle. So, in that light I don’t think I have a single role model, I just like attributes in some people that I want to apply to myself

Q: What is your advice to young and upcoming entrepreneurs or executives in Nigeria?

First thing is: Focus on your focus. I always say that every time. Some people say they are focused but they are not focused on themselves but focused on another person’s race hoping they become that person. I would like young people to see me and say I like what she is doing not to say I want to be like her. I want to be the best of me. So,it is important for the youths to determine who they are and run that race. Competition sometimes is distraction. There is nothing new in the world. Everything we are doing no now, I am sure in the 17th century or even before, someone had already done it. So, you have to just determine what you want to do. I always give this advice: Disrupt and own. Every category is already available, the question is: what can you do to make it better and own a space. That’s all you need to know. Somebody going up or down doesn’t affect me. Once we can all understand that, life will be so easy. Social media, for instance wouldn’tbe so toxic because I don’t feel I should do this because someone is doing it. Every star in the sky has a space and nobody is fighting the next person. So, my advice for youths or young entrepreneurs is focus on your focus, find your strength, and look for where you can meet a need because the only way you can give value is by meeting needs. People don’t know that. They just think money is something that falls from the sky and you have to be wise or smart. A single need met is additional value and once people understands its value, they are willing to pay anything for value. Once you know that, you are home and dry

Q: Any advice for Nigerians as Nigeria clocks 60

Nigerians, just know that the government is your friend, and not your God.  I like the fact that Nigeria is 60. We are still somewhat unified. If you meet a Nigerian outside this country, they want to associate with you immediately. We still have the spirit of love in us and that is so beautiful. We have the spirit of unity. We have a very competitive spirit. I don’t know whether that is good or bad. I think we should all cut a cake in our houses to say “Happy Anniversary”.


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