What influenced your decision to set up your company?
The company was founded about 13 years ago. The Chairman (of the company) and I attended a high society wedding reception at Tafawa Balewa Square, Onikan, Lagos, and it was grand. There were over 1,500 people in attendance under many large canopies. That was the era of open tents. There was a mega band, disc jockey, and a lot of food and drinks. We were getting ‘very important personality’ treatment as friends of the couple. As the day got wore on with more merriment, we started observing people urinating along the perimeter. This included females, even in their nice ‘aso-ebi’.
When we got up to look for a toilet, there were no clean toilets at the venue, and there was nowhere next door to relieve ourselves. Sadly, we made the decision to leave the event prematurely, and had to miss the ‘after-party’. Afterwards, we had a lot of heated discussions about the state of parties without clean toilets, such as the one we experienced, including at concerts and even larger events.
What do you consider to be your achievements so far?
I believe our most impactful achievement has been sensitising customers to expect clean toilets, on site or in mobile ones like ours, at events. More importantly, we made guests to expect that while drinks and food are flowing at parties, they don’t have to run home or make a mess of themselves by defecating or urinating publicly.
What are the challenges you face in running your company?
As with every business, there are risks one must mitigate, internally and externally. From outside forces, there is little enforcement of laws against public defecation or urinating. Also, our industry does not abide by public health mandates for the provision of public restrooms, when there is a gathering of people. So, it rests on the customer to insist on getting a clean restroom for large gatherings.
Our overall mission for the business is guided by the desire for better public health.
However, the challenges I encounter in running the business has to do with getting replacements for the materials I use locally. Also, the cost of doing business at the micro level is high.
How do you get people to patronise, you considering that most event centres have toilets in them already?
This evolution is normal and has just started. We welcome it because ultimately, it means people will have cleaner events. There are still many outdoor and indoor events that have capacity issues. So, we are still relevant.
How would you describe the reception your business has enjoyed so far?
How do you intend to sustain the brand?
We will continue to provide relevant services. Ultimately, businesses that survive for decades and outlive their creators and founders must be agile and pay attention to market forces, including policies that affect them. They must also create structures and continue to operate in a sustainable manner. These elements are not unique to our business, and there are proven ways to ensure business continuity. We will continue to apply those methods, keeping in mind that Nigeria has its own brand of adaptation required for survival and growth.
Does your line of business have an association and what are the benefits of belonging to the association?
There is an association of Mobile Toilet Operators, but its still nascent. However, I have benefitted largely from being a pioneer executive member of the Rental Professional Society of Nigeria— an agency for professionals who rent out goods and services, with the aim of normalising ethical business practices.
Also, I am a member of the Association of Party Planners and Event Managers of Nigeria; as well as the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The latter association is a great force on advocacy and policy, and we look forward to partnering with them on the public health issues that our business addresses.
What role does the government play in your line of business?
Currently, they are efficient in the role of taxation; but are not in advisory or support services. Our business falls under the purview of the Lagos State Waste Water Management. It should also intersect with public health agencies centered on public defecation and urination. Ideally, there should be major incentives and public-private partnerships to create mobile toilet access for commuters in public and private vehicles.
We expanded into waste removal services, because there are systems we feel need to be modernised and brought into the current century. This is a role that the government should look into, even though it is a thankless job. The government should look holistically at waste services in large cities. It is a public health nightmare and would remain so if not planned. The rate of waterborne diseases is tied to the quality of drinking water. Then, there are no incentives to improve sanitation services from the government.
Another challenge is the multiple taxation and levies that spring up from time to time, including the touts who disturb our business activities. Government generates revenue from micro, small and medium businesses; and should encourage them by reducing everyday impediments.
What advice do you have for anyone that wants to join your line of business?
My advice to people who desire to be in this line of business is that they should hop on board, so that we can normalise having and using good toilets.
What lessons have you learnt so far?
I have learnt that entrepreneurship requires constant learning, unlearning, ambition, imagination and the gumption to fail forward. It is okay to reinvent oneself, and to expand one’s reach, especially in such a dynamic environment. The opportunities are endless and the pie is as wide as the sky. I am fully convinced that thriving in business in Lagos is not for the fainthearted.
Absolutely. However, whenever I feel like giving up, I usually take a nap and thereafter, I resume work. ‘Thereafter’ might be immediately, or a few days later. Some recovery requires more time.
Who are your biggest cheerleaders?
My biggest cheerleaders are my family members and friends. I have been very blessed to have a tight crew that always have my back, proffering wise counsel and a ready shoulder.
How do you like to unwind?
I go far away from the noise to re-imagine the things I need to do. When things feel insurmountable, it is always good to take a step back. I started gardening, because I felt it would soothe me. The connection to the land and being able to sow and reap is so powerful. I don’t joke with self care too, so I love things centered around healing and soothing oneself, including great food and company.