Nigeria, without doubt, is still a deeply patriarchal society. Shots are not only called by the male folk, but a good number of occupations are seen as no-go areas for their female counterparts. In a society as this, Female commercial taxi drivers, female motorcyclists and female mechanics are indeed sights to behold – as white tigers in the wild.
CEO of Nenis Engineering Limited and serial entrepreneur,Osazoduwa Agboneni, has defied this strong social stereotype by storming head-on into an industry greatly dominated by men – Mechanical Engineering. Within two years, she has built her brand into a force to reckon using her skills, experience and harnessing opportunities that come her way.
Every baby is known to be blessed with a curious mind, but many lose this gift in process of growing. This was not the case for ‘Neni. “Growing up, I had an exceptionally curious mind, wanting to see how devices and gadgets functioned or how stuff works. This may explain how a lady like me developed such a passion for engineering and ventured into an industry dominated by men,” she said.
Agboneni is a 2004 graduate of Mechanical Engineering and a product of the University of Benin. But after securing this highly-coveted degree, she did not stop there. Led by curiosity, she enrolled for the NNPC/PTDF Engineering Design Training Programme and later got a Master’s Degree in Geoinformatics Engineering from the University of Lagos in 2011.
Between 2006 and 2007, she worked as a Service Advisor for Coscharis Motors Limited, widely regarded as the foremost automobile company in Nigeria for another five years, she worked with Reliance Telecommunications Limited as a Maintenance Engineer. Her passion for entrepreneurship however drove her to found Hilltop Travels and Tours Limited in 2012. This was after she had taken courses in travel agency operation and management, and got a diploma in Travel and Tourism.
In 2015, she proceeded to co-found Nenis Engineering Limited, a one-stop shop for car needs with focus on quality and professionalism. One distinctive feature of her startup is its emphasis on women – both as customers and service providers. She currently has in employment up to 7 female mechanics. She believes entrepreneurship allows her to maximise her creative juice, to make huge impact and leave lasting legacies by building a brand through her personal strengths. Today she is the Chief Executive Officer of the company.
One major opportunity that has set Agboneni on the path to greatness is the Tony Elemelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP). The inaugural edition of the programme set the ball for Neni’s Auto Care through a seed capital investment, mentorship and education on business management. In her first year in business, she had already struck partnership with global giant, Uber, to handle professional inspections for over 4000 Uber cars.
According to her, “having a mentor in the start-up phase of my business was very instrumental in making quality decisions and getting useful information on how to position my company [and] having seed capital meant I could focus on business growth rather than being under the intense pressure of loan repayment.”
If there is any lesson at all from the story of Mrs. Agboneni, it must be that passion coupled with knowledge is vital in all endeavours. While passion without knowledge is folly, knowledge without passion is bondage.