How I Went from Being a Bus Conductor to Walking in the Path of Greatness – Mayowa Ekundayo Lawrence

What is one common trait among entrepreneurs? If you guessed, resilience, you are right! Entrepreneurs are resilient people. They are those that go through some of the most difficult circumstances in life, yet they push on without losing enthusiasm. Mayowa Ekundayo is an entrepreneur that experienced torture as a child, worked as a bus conductor at 14, found his way to college and now on the path to greatness. His story is both intriguing and interesting so take your time to read, learn and share.

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1. Please Introduce Yourself to Our Audience

My names are Mayowa Ekundayo – that sounds like a unique combination to any Nigerian flipping through, right? Well, if you think it’s a unique combination, you are right. My name revolves around “Joy”. If you understand Yoruba language, you would know that my parents had something in mind about me, particularly as the first of four children.

I was born on the 21st of October 1987 in Ise, a small town in Northern Ekiti State. I graduated from the University of Ado-Ekiti (UNAD) now Ekiti State University (EKSU) where I studied Economics. Since graduation, I have been on the path to greatness laying my hands on meaningful life-changing projects which I would share in the course of my story. And notably to say that vision is the power that drives all our meaningful actions, hence if we must have anything, it is vision.

I am very inspired to create the best possible future for myself and I’ve worked very hard to set that up. Some of my strengths include being a hard worker, dedicated, self-motivated, and detailed. My weaknesses are that sometimes I hate to be idle or bored; it makes me sick.

At age 24, I founded Mai-Yun Multi-Global Koncept, a brand that offers solutions in Sales and Distribution with a sales channel client base of over 200 in the South West Region – Ekiti, Ondo, and OsunStates – Nigeria. For a fact, many companies have sales issues and are looking for ways to solve these issues.

To bridge the gap, we started a company to provide solutions to the sales problems our clients are battling with. At present, we offer our services to Niyya Farms, L&Z Integrated Farms, and Wilsons Juice-co et al. We specialize in helping companies break into new territories, increase customer base, give feedback on products, create and promote activities to create product visibility, brand awareness, and loyalty.

In addition, I am the Executive Director of SeedAvest Multinational Resources Limited and I also double as a Consultant Volunteer with the Director-General of the Ekiti State Micro Credit and Enterprise Development Agency, as a business content writer.

I love Jazz and Hip-Hop music. I am brave, friendly and I love soccer. My best soccer team is Manchester United (sadly at the moment).

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2. What Was Growing Up Like?

The way I grew up was something no child should pass through. My childhood was that of torture and battered self-esteem. I saw a lot of things that children should not have to. I witnessed verbal abuse, threats, and physical violence from my father, who was a military man.

 I grew up in the barracks and then moved to Ikorodu after my dad retired. Life there was terrible. Every treatment I got from my dad was as though I was a criminal. I woke up too early, slept too late and did chores too herculean for my age. I didn’t match up with my peers in all ramifications. I hope you can relate to that experience or perhaps you had a similar experience or even worse. Thinking about my childhood now, I concluded that my dad expected too much from his son-child. He wanted a “chicken from his chick.

I started my first job at age 14 when I became my father’s bus conductor. At that teenage age! I did not live a normal life as I saw some other kids in my area live. I didn’t live the worst life either, but then mine was among the terrible, too. All I experienced were too bitter for that formative age.

My dad resigned from the military after some years of serving. He probably had great plans for life after retirement but perhaps life just wasn’t fair to him or his plans were not solid enough or the “village people” had him strongly or maybe he just was clouded with the desire to leave the harsh life of the military to start something really awesome – I have no clue right now.

However, I know things went really bad for us. At a point, he had to sell all his vehicles after attempting corporate jobs to no success. He resorted to driving his bus commercially and as the first son-child, I became his bus conductor. 

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 I started working in partnership with my father as his bus conductor. I rode on the same routes that led to my school and apparently most of my classmates were on the bus that I conducted, I got them to pay for the bus fare irrespective. I did that day and night – before and after school.

It was such a terrible experience that utterly killed my ego among my mates. I dared not argue or fight with any of them those days because they will spell my name and history. I hated to be called a ‘bus conductor!’ My father’s retirement really brought about more hard times for me as a child as we virtually could not pay any bill let alone enjoy any fancy life. 

I remember those days clearly. I remember waking up very early to wash the bus. I even sometimes slept on one of the seats of the bus to be woken up with a belt, fuel hose and even some military punches or slaps (I always saw stars after every slap my dad dolled on me). *Scoffs*! I cried plenty of times, but I think my mum cried the most. She cried most times as I suffered in the hands of my frustrated dad.

Sometimes, she got served also trying to help me; we were both helpless. After taking my bath and getting dressed in my school uniform, I wore a very long jacket that belonged to my dad to cover my identity as a student (it didn’t help much). Out on Ikorodu road, we head: KETU, OJOTA, MILE 12!!! I would yell on top of my voice.

If I didn’t yell properly, my dad would say I was forming and even land me some serious slaps just to reset my brain and voice back to shout louder. Once we got to mile 12, I would start another round; OJOTA, MARYLAND!!! This I did till the bus got filled and off we moved.

There was a popular show then on STAR 101.5 FM by Moyo Oyatogun and another on-air host; they had an intro/ theme song by Diana Rose – He lives in you. That song is still one of my all-time best till date. The song brings memories and reminds me of the task ahead (I just downloaded the song again while responding to this interview). The routine continued in the evening and weekends.

Thinking about my story now, there was no way I could have recovered if not for a loving mum who always stood as my succor and encouragement. She was always staying through to whisper some positives into my mind. A loving mother indeed! She inspired a better version of me which negated the way my father trained me.

I remember she would say, “Mayowa, I look up to you” and that is exactly the real words that stood me up fighting and winning. Summarily, growing up was hostility from my dad and love from my mum. I healed many times dancing and listening to music.

But hey! My dad is a great man. He just wanted a chicken from a chick as I said earlier. I love him now because the fear of him helped model my life and I understand now that he only wanted the best version of me that I wasn’t displaying then and he needed a partner in frustration. Lol. I love him now.

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3. How Did Your Parents Influence You?

The rugged nature of my dad and the mild touch of my mum is what I display on every part of me now. 

My dad was the ‘get it done’ kind of man. He always provided for our needs despite the hardship and the lack of opportunities. I got my never-say-die attitude from him, and my willingness to always want to help is what I inherited from my mum.

My dad would do anything legitimate to raise funds. He did not because of those hard times go into criminalities. So, he is my mentor in that area and many other people I look up to.

I don’t give up easily. I have an aggressive tendency to transforming failures to success, and I am very passionate about life. I did not bring regrets from my childhood into adulthood. It never affected my grades at the university (though it did at my secondary school. I was always sleeping in class) and my relationship with people has been very benefiting as I have continuously developed an attitude beneficial to a relationship. 

I consistently look into the failures of my parents in terms of finance, marriage, education, parenting and career as a correctional pointer to how I build my life. 

4. Tell Us About a Major Turning Point in Your Life

There are four (4) major turning points in my life and they are:

a. Being a bus conductor: Seeing other bus conductors in Lagos act the way they did made me not to want to end up like them. So, for three years I was probably the only bus conductor in Lagos who didn’t swear. Instead, I treated customers with courtesy and practiced customer service. Imagine a Lagos conductor saying “Money from the back please (I ensured I spoke in English and sharpened my phonetics)”. I consistently raised my consciousness not to act like a bus conductor.

b. I got into the university with a failure mindset: I remember telling my friends – Niyi Ojo and Adewunmi Oluwaseyi – to remember me when they succeed. This was in 100L first semester o! I am sure it was God who spoke through them that day to bring me back to a reality of positive possibilities. Niyi told me that if he didn’t see something good in me, he would not be friends with me in the first place. They both played the mature roles in first getting me out of the sea of failure that I was in.

c. Meeting my best friend Yinka Amund: he had his final touch of transforming my life and prepared me for the life I live now.

d. Meeting and marrying my wife: She shaped me into an incredible being that I am right now

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5. What Informed Your Decision to Become a Farmer?

I decided to become a farmer, so I can create the solution to the problem of lack of access to the market that frustrates the local farmers in Ekiti. 

Though the decision to be a farmer was one of my childhood interests. I enjoyed following my grandfather to the farm every time we traveled home for holidays. Life on the farm just seemed so cool with lots to do and eat.

The decision to be involved was birthed after I met Fasakin Aduragbemi in 2018(one of the biggest snail farmers in Nigeria today).  We had a very lengthy discussion one night where he showed me a critical role always already playing- Market Linkage – in the space and how I could step it down to the local farmers. He explained how important my role is in the agricultural space and encouraged me to be a part of the zero-hunger movement.

We co-founded SeedAvest Multinational Resources alongside two other brilliant farmers. SeedAvest is a farmers’-based company that provides agricultural extension services, market linkage and support to farmers. 

With SeedAvest, we have partnered with some organizations like HarvestPlus, Thai-Agro and Cato Foods to train and empower – with seeds and stems- over 1000 farmers in Ekiti for free since we launched on April 27, 2019, till date.

6. What is Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

Our USP is raising informed and millionaire farmers. We are committed to consistently training farmers on the new methods and best practices in agriculture. This, we are achieving by partnering with specialist organizations across the world. We believe if the farmers are better equipped, they will deliver better. Besides, our aim is to have farmers who practice the business of farming, not just practice farming alone.

We have also created the SeedAvest Cooperative Society where we create market linkage opportunities amongst other opportunities for farmer members. We are working really hard on the market linkage aspect and we are making some breakthroughs that are yet to be signed to MOUs. We believe if the off-takers arrangements are in place, we will be able to achieve our ‘millionaire farmers’ vision and this will encourage more youths to come into the agriculture space.

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7. How Are You Able to Combine Family Responsibilities With the Demands of Growing a Brand?

I am married to Mrs. Ekundayo Jumoke, a Medical Biologist, women’s and children’s rights advocate and social entrepreneur. She has made life much easier for me. She complements my effort on every part. Whenever I am not available to play certain roles at home and/or at our family business, she steps up to take charge and I bless God that I married her.

We are both hardworking and dedicated to achieving our collective and individual dreams. We work in sync to handle the responsibilities of the home-front. 

8. Where Do You See Your Brand in 5 Years?

My vision is to operate one of the most successful Sales and Distribution brand with coverage across Nigeria by 2025 while also moving all SeedAvest farmer/members from subsistence to successful “agropreneurs”. In five years, I see SeedAvest being in partnership with USAID, UKAID, IITA, Harvest Plus and other critical strategic partners to help deliver all the solutions SeedAvest offers to end-users. In five years, I see massive processing factories in Ekiti, processing agricultural produce and SeedAvest is in the middle of it all.

9. What Challenges are You Currently Facing and What are the Steps You are Taking to Resolve Them?

Funding: At SeedAvest, one of our pressing challenges is funding. Funding for training and capacity building for farmers in Ekiti. Funding to start our local chicken project and funding for our smallholder farmers for expansion. 

We are currently raising funds from individual directors’ purses for training and we are raising some funds for the organization also from businesses we facilitate through the cooperative society we manage.

The problems with seeking bank loans are really challenging. We are however seeking strategic partners to help mitigate some of the headaches that finances are bringing up. We have been fortunate to meet some strategic partners who supply us inputs and other logistical materials freely and that has really been helpful.  However, we cannot rely on this forever.

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10. What is Your Advice for People Thinking of Becoming Entrepreneurs?

Real entrepreneurs must face the dynamics with tenacity, focus, determination and strong-will. They must always know the reason why they started in the first place.

11. What projects are You Currently Working On?

Local Chicken Project: One of the projects we started but is being thwarted by funding is the SeedAvest Local Chicken project. Working with women and youths (especially in the rural area) by the empowerment of chicks, we want to produce, process and sell a minimum of 10,000 local birds for the South-Western Nigeria market.

Bio-Fortification of Crops: We are working in partnership with Harvest Plus to drive the entire value chain of bio-fortified crops in Ekiti state.

12. How Can People Connect with You?

I can be reached via Twitter or by email ( lawrencemayowa@gmail.com), or by phone (+2348030675412)

In addition, our brand can be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment below.

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