From a multi-million dollar vodka business to real estate, to series of hospitality enterprises, to mining, amongst others, Ladi Delano is the serial entrepreneur who has embodied the vision of Nigerian youthful entrepreneurs. It isn’t common you hear of an African billionaire let alone one who is a Nigerian, considering all the hurdles and hills one has to overcome to attain such a laudable height.
In a country where most Nigerians at 30 years of age are still flocking the streets hopelessly searching for a job, one can’t help but wonder if the future will ever be bright for them. Nevertheless, a group of Africans including Nigerians are doing so great that they have entered into the billion ranking, breaking the jink and stereotype of either poverty or ill-gotten wealth.
The success of Ladi Delano is a motivational one that is poised to keep aspiring entrepreneurs going the long haul. Delano has managed against all odds to earn the billionaire tag just like other Nigerian billionaires before him such as; Dangote, Femi Otedola, Folorunsho Alakija, Abdul Samad Rabiu just to name a few.
“I just love Nigeria… I want to provide jobs and help the youths develop themselves. It’s an honor to be able to contribute to the economy in this way.”
At 24, Ladi Delano started up Solid XS, a Chinese Premium vodka. He grossed in about $20 million in annual revenue. In due time he sold the enterprise for over $15 million.
Next, the hopelessly optimistic go-getter launched his business presence in Chinese real estate investments with his Delano Reid Group.
He subsequently flipped his vodka company for millions of dollars. Today, he is a co-founder and CEO of Bakrie Delano Africa, a $1 billion investment vehicle committed to making acquisitions in Nigeria’s mining, energy and agriculture sectors.
Ladi Delano was born and raised in the UK but still respects the Nigerian cultural values, thanks to parental grounding which is something that held the young man together and kept him on the path to success.
It is interesting to note that this serial entrepreneur did suffer mild dyslexia and deafness in one of his ears. This affected his learning from an early age, making school a difficult task to pull through with.
With sheer persistence and support from his parents, he was able to make it to the University level. Eventually, he abandoned school during his second year as a political scientist to pursue other interests.
“It became quite clear that I didn’t have a passion for my course. I think that led to me being easily distracted and that, ultimately, culminated in me thinking that rather than flogging a dead horse, it would make more sense to do something I was more comfortable with.
There are two types of education and each form of education is equally as valuable. The academic approach to education is vital, no business can operate and be successful without those who have spent the time to understand the academic side of anything.
However, that approach to education is not necessarily for everybody. And in my case it wasn’t. So, I decided to withdraw from university.”
In 3 years, he had 200 staff working in 6 provincial offices in Hongkong. His Vodka, which reportedly controlled 70% of the Chinese Market, was sold in 33 cities a great feat indeed.
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It is quite arguable that his environment was more business friendly compared to most sub-Saharan countries including his home country “Nigeria.” However while the Africa of today inspires millions to take the entrepreneurial road, Ladi naturally blended into the industry as a matter of an early self-discovery, “a phenomenal business strategist.”
A Nigerian ex-governor and politician had bluntly insinuated that the world’s richest people would not have made it that far if they were in the Nigerian environment. Thanks to oil, every other policy that could favour other forms of businesses have been greatly stifled or abandoned for a long time. Hopefully, with the drop in oil prices and the gradual movement of the world towards a more sustainable source of energy, the Nigeria government can do well to develop other sectors which are equally viable.
Delani’s Indonesian Conglomerate has provided over $900 million worth of funding for investment in Nigeria. In 2012, he was Nigeria’s youngest billionaire and was also named as one of Forbes’ youngest millionaires to watch in Africa.
His story is definitely one which can motivate young Nigerians as well as Africans to strive for the very best because the ability and the potential to be great and succeed, truly lies in everyone; and all it takes is an adept focus, persistence, as well as hard work and the sky will be the stepping stone.