My Pivot Journal is a Ventures Africa weekly series documenting people’s career transitions from one industry to another, especially to tech.
Abayomi Ademola is an energetic and innovative individual who enjoys exploring new opportunities. He ventured into the world of real estate just one year after earning his degree in Agricultural Economics from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. Following two years of moderate success, Abayomi ultimately discovered his true calling on the streets, becoming one of Nigeria’s prominent leaders in waste recycling. This is his pivot journal.
How it started
In 2010, I completed my undergraduate studies at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, bagging a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics. Following my graduation, I embarked on the mandatory one-year National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program. I was placed at Alpha Partners, a reputable training and management consultancy firm located in Lagos.
Upon the completion of my NYSC service, I ventured into real estate, joining a company situated in Opebi, Lagos. Although my role as a realtor did not directly align with my academic background, I dedicated two years to this field. Those years in real estate were marked by considerable unpredictability and constant challenges, which kept me on my toes. However, despite the roller-coaster nature of the industry, I built valuable connections and closed a significant number of sales deals back then.
At a certain juncture in my career, I started feeling discontent with my job due to the increasing saturation of the real estate industry. It seemed like almost everyone was pursuing a career in real estate, and this led to a diminishing enthusiasm for my work. I yearned for something more distinct and personally fulfilling, a venture that would set me apart.
This desire for a unique path simmered within me for some time as I continued to search for clients in my real estate role on a daily basis. However, the feeling of dissatisfaction persisted. It was during this time that I crossed paths with an Indian friend who would play a pivotal role in my career. This friend introduced me to the world of waste recycling, which opened up a new realm of possibilities and marked the beginning of an exciting chapter in my professional life.
When I wanted to transition into recycling waste cartons in 2016, I did some research on Google about the business. I sought guidance from Nigerians who were in the recycling sector while following my Indian friend closely.
There were few formally educated Nigerians in the general recycling sector when I started. However, the carton waste sector was predominantly controlled by a handful of foreign enterprises, primarily managed by individuals of Indian and Chinese descent. The lone indigenous participants in the field at that time were uneducated individuals from the northern regions of the country, who would collect these discarded cartons and sell them in modest quantities to recycling companies.
Determined to make my mark in this industry, I sought guidance from my Indian friend who was an expert in the field. He graciously introduced me to his factory and walked me through the intricate process of transforming waste cartons into brown paper. What truly captivated me was the realization that, despite the abundance of carton waste in Nigeria, these recycling companies still resorted to importing carton waste because of supply shortages. Nigeria needs 25,000 metric tons monthly to meet up with the market demand. This revelation fueled my determination to step into the industry and help bridge the supply gap.
Initially, I grappled with feelings of embarrassment as a graduate when I began collecting cartons from the streets. However, I soon put that aside to embrace this task wholeheartedly. Subsequently, I established connections with other waste pickers, pooling their cartons and channelling them directly to me for sale.
How it’s going
Today, I proudly own and lead Demislog Integrated, a thriving waste collection enterprise, serving as its CEO. Our dedicated team consists of five skilled professionals. My primary role involves scouting suppliers and exploring new opportunities within the dynamic recycling industry.
Our waste collection centres are strategically located across the country, ensuring widespread coverage. We’ve successfully established partnerships with waste carton suppliers in all 36 states of the federation. On a monthly basis, we supply over 500 metric tons of waste cartons to recycling companies, contributing to the production of a variety of paper products.
While my journey has seen significant progress since its inception, new challenges have emerged. The stiff competition from Chinese firms, which are expanding their collection centres nationwide, presents a significant hindrance. Additionally, we face constraints in accessing government loans, which could facilitate our expansion, as well as acquiring the essential technical expertise and machinery required to establish our own recycling plant.
Be open to learning from people in whatever industry you operate in. And if you want to venture into waste recycling, I would advise you to study Environmental Toxicology to aid your journey.