Isazoduwa ‘Oduwa’ Agboneni is a woman determined to bring professionalism to the Nigeria auto repair industry. A chartered Mechanical Engineer and an entrepreneur with a vision to be a serial entrepreneur, Oduwa is the cofounder of Hilltop Travels and Tours Limited and Nenis Engineering Limited, an auto care shop in Lagos, Nigeria.
With a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of Benin and a Master’s degree in Geoinformatics Technology from the University of Lagos, Oduwa is dedicated to improving the image of the Independent Automotive Repair Industry through education and by offering quality automotive service.
Using the skills and experience she has garnered over the last nine years, Oduwa intends to build a business that will compete globally with other automobile servicing companies. When she is not spending time at her company or with her family, Oduwa enjoys aerobics, surfing the internet and reading — her favourite book right now is She Wins, You Win: The Most Important Rule Every Businesswoman Needs to Know by Gail Evans.
Tell us about Nenis Auto Care.
Nenis Auto Care is a one-stop shop for your car care needs. At the centre, we provide high level automotive care for our clients including services like car wash and detailing, auto diagnosis and repairs, body repairs, and engine replacement to mention a few. Our services are targeted at women who deserve a car care center that is in a safe, enjoyable atmosphere at the best price around.
Why did you chose to focus on women?
Our focus is on women because we found out that they control over 80% of all vehicle purchases and that close to 80% of all auto repair and car wash errands are arranged, dropped off and picked up by women. Many women clients feel uncomfortable and even intimidated in some auto repair shop and we think women deserve a repair shop they can fully trust, where they will be treated with the respect they deserve.
What has the response from customers been so far
We’ve had impressive comments that put me in the right direction. Ladies are interested in my service and when I exceed their expectations they spread the word about my service center.
Why did you decide to start a business?
When I still had a 9 – 5 job, I started doing online ticketing and reservation for my family members and friends as a hobby and an extra stream of income. Becoming an entrepreneur was my next action when the company I was working with folded up in 2012. I decided it was time to take a radical decision to venture into my own business. I enrolled in an aviation business school where I took courses in travel agency operation and management, went ahead to get a diploma in foundation in Travel and Tourism (IATA DTTF). After my certifications I founded Hilltop Travels and Tours Limited in 2012.
The urge to open a car care center was born during my church’s annual convention, WAFBEC, in January 2014. I have always wanted to provide solutions to people’s car maintenance request in a professional and honest manner, especially in a relaxed and conducive environment. During the conference, I keyed into a prophetic declaration of owning an automobile industry.
Two weeks later when I traveled home, I and my sisters (Osasere, Oyenmwen, Muyi and Osa) were having a discussion with my mum and without them knowing my inner desire of owning an auto garage, they advised me to practice my profession by setting up an auto diagnostics center. With the excitement in me, I shared the news with my husband on phone and he was in full support. I knew I was in the right direction.
I set up Nenis Auto Care where I am in control of the quality of service rendered. There will always be a demand for good mechanics and excellent customer service. My career allows me to be creative and innovative. It provides me with an ideal setting where I can see my own ideas come to fruition, and an opportunity to use my personal strengths and passions to make an impact. Now, I have the ability to set my own life on course and attain career fulfillment as well as leave a lasting and tangible legacy by building a brand that would outlive me. You can’t necessarily do that in a corporate setting.
How did you feel when you heard you made the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) list and what was the most difficult part about applying?
I was super excited. The programme is a breakthrough; it opens doors to business opportunities and improved entrepreneurial practice, and gives a platform to showcase you to Africa, which is good for business.
The lengthy application that had over fifty questions was the most difficult part for me. The time spent answering the questions, although long, was a blessing in disguise because as an entrepreneur you have to be patient in doing things to avoid mistakes.
What has been your number one business challenge and how do you think TEEP will help address it?
Entrepreneurship training. TEEP so far has exposed me to a lot of training that an entrepreneur should go through, especially with the assistance of developing a business model. With the benefits, my business will gain exposure to the world improve our pricing strategy, get access to funds and networks, and learn how to remain ahead of the competition.
Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Whatever you do, do it with the consciousness that something great will come out of it. Every small thing in life has value. Use what you have as your starting point.
Every day for the next few days, we will share the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs whose ideas can change the world. These women are early stage entrepreneurs, with businesses less than three years old, who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.
We are sharing their experiences in hopes that their stories will inspire someone out there to take the leap and go after their dreams. Hope you enjoy their stories as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER or visit cofoundHER for updates.