Ekaose Nwadiani moved to Canada in 2017 to pursue his MBA, worked as a part-time cleaner, fell in love with cleaning, and now owns a thriving cleaning company in Canada as well as a renowned food company, supplying food to over 2,000 people in Canada and employing several people in Canada.
In an interview with Canadian Dream Podcast, Nwadiani recounts struggles and how those struggles shaped him to become a successful entrepreneur.
I grew up in a family where my parents were into academics and they wanted us to really study. When I finished the university in 2014, my dad wanted me to further my education and do my masters in economics and statistics but I did not find pleasure in that. I realized after University, that I was more of an entrepreneur and wanted to go with my passion. Within one year after of my youth service, I found passion in helping businesses grow. When it was right time for me to go for Masters in 2016, an MBA was simply the best option for me and I started researching for schools to go do the Masters in Business administration, that’s how I made my decision to come to Canada in 2017.
My decision was based on the love for business. Right after University, I felt like I studied economics and statistics just to please my dad. I never really liked that. I was very good at advising businesses to do something different and change the perspective about businesses. I found myself loving this and I never knew I had this in me. When I found out I wanted to do something in education, it was just best for me to go into business. My parents didn’t really have the money to sponsor me, so I had the idea of coming to Canada, working and paying part of the school fees.
When I left Nigeria, I was a young boy. I left my parents and family without knowing anybody. For me, it was the first time entering a plane. We raised all the money to pay deposit for my school fees; about $8,000 deposit for the fees that cost about $38,000 at that time. We all had to run around to put all the money together to come here. So, I came here with almost nothing. I had about one thousand dollars just to sustain myself for a period of time. I had a friend who knew someone here. So when I moved down here, I had to stay with the guy temporarily. I had to sleep on the floor and squat with this guy who agreed that I live with him.
Read also: 12 things to know before heading to Canada
Search for job in Canada
The search for a job was tough. I kept on applying and no one was listening to me. I finally found one job which was not easy. I sold credit cards in gas stations and was earning just a peanut.
I had a second job. I was a cleaner. We used to come in after the concert to clean and mob the floor at an event place. I was a cleaner for about a year plus. I did the cleaning job at night. So I got back home about 6am to 7am. I slept for two hours because I had classes from 10am. My parents never sent me a dime since I left Nigeria. I was living from one pay cheque to another, paying phone bills, rent and buying some school materials. It was tough.
When I was doing these jobs, it taught me how to be bold, how to talk to people and approach people. It helped me to be
more resilient and time conscious. I have to be at work because if I missed a shift, I won’t be able to pay my rent and if I missed an assignment, I may have to repeat the classes. I couldn’t even think about repaying the school fees if I don’t do well in school.
School had the best curriculum at the time. They had great courses that helped people apply those things they had learnt.
First business in Canada
One of my professors in school taught me e-commerce. When we were having the e-commerce class, we were made to come up with a business idea that could solve a problem that was close to us. I worked with a team that came up with the idea of aggregating African stories into one platform to enable people access and purchase their services and food. I loved this business idea and I said to myself that one day, I’ll implement this because I felt there was a gap. The first business I started was right after school. I started a cleaning company. I loved to clean. I always made sure everywhere was neat. The company was called Fresh Extra Clean and I got my first cleaning gig with a company. That was how we started getting more contracts. From one team to three cleaners and more and from one contract to many other contracts. Along the line, I started my other company, which is a food business.
The food business
When I moved to Canada in 2017, I never knew how to cook. But it is funny now when I tell people I know how to cook and I make food, they are amazed. When I came here, I never found my Nigerian food. I had to walk a very long distance to get Nigerian food. I had to start learning how to cook by using YouTube. Sometimes, I call my mum on the phone to ask for food recipes. I started putting efforts in 2017 to start cooking myself. Time and time, people come into Canada and complained they couldn’t get Nigerian dishes, so I said we needed a platform that can aggregates and help us get the food. No one listened to me. So I decided to go ahead anyway. In 2020, when it was COVID, we all started working from home and a lot of people lost their jobs. I had more time to myself. So I started making grilled meat ‘suya.’ I felt this was an opportunity to address that gap that I saw and that was how I created the suya business. Soon, I started making food from my basement and when I realized that I could burn the whole place, I had to go figure out the best way to get the right licencing and standards and moved into a kitchen. It has been three years now and so amazing. We have grown from one customer to more than 2,000 customers.
We started off the business with a catering model where you place an order and we send that to your house but after a while, we went into the food app. You can place an order from the comfort of your home and get it delivered to your doorstep. We will be opening a physical location soon where we will be bringing the Afro-fusion vibe to the community where you can eat good food and have great experience.
Lessons learnt in business
As a start-up, you may have a direction that may not work out. Also, money is key. If you don’t have money, you can’t do a lot of things. We import all our spices from Nigeria and that is a lot of money for me. Getting money to stock up is also a challenge. Finding the right people, managing people amongst others are struggles
My dad is my biggest mentor. He is a people’s person. He helped people a lot and people really liked him. His approach in communicating with people and the impact he has made in people’s lives are things he will continue to be remembered for. These are the values I have learnt from him. I try to be a business person and try to connect a network and helped people as much as I can. My mum is also a peaceful person and I learnt this from her.