The first lesson that quickly comes to the mind of anyone privileged to be at the 50th birthday ceremony of the Chief Executive Officer of Hi-Nutrients (a member of Neovia Group), Prince Olabode Adetoyi, at the Civic Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos, after listening to the story of his life, is that it is only a life without vision, determination, focus and integrity that would end up in mediocrity.
Adetoyi, born February 2, 1969 to the royal family of Ile-Titun in Otun-Ekiti, Ekiti State, had a poor background, grew up with his parents who were farmers, and the situation was so pitiable that as a small boy, he had to go to the farm if he wanted to eat and go to school.
The grand ceremony and launch of a book written by the celebrant, The Entrepreneur, attended by dignitaries, including traditional rulers, also highlighted the reward of perseverance.
Adetoyi’s rise from grass to grace also completely debunks any excuse from today’s youths and his admittance of being “fulfilled” at 50 is a lesson that youths can learn from.
Going down memory lane, Adetoyi said as he grew up, he was determined to re-write the history of the family and indeed, his life, adding, “I decided when I was in primary school that I would re-write the history of my family, because I came from a poor background. I was challenged from my childhood and I began to go to school at the age of four and without thinking of any challenges that came my way, determined that I would be an achiever in life.”
He did not have the mind of being a farmer, though he ended up studying Agriculture at the University of Ilorin.
The initial challenge that stared Adetoyi in the face came after his first degree, when he found himself in Lagos without a job. “I did my national service at the Cocoa Board in Cross River State. I later stayed with my sister in Warri, hoping to be employed by the Agricultural Department of Shell Petroleum, which did not materialise. I was tired of my sister feeding me and decided to relocate to Lagos, where I put up with some people,” he recalled.
The first job he had to opt for in Lagos was hawking tea at Palmgrove Bus Stop, which he did until somebody spotted him and expressed admiration at the way he was joyfully hawking and serving school children.
The then stranger, realising his background, wondered at the humility of such a man with good degree, stooping to hawk tea, and then offered him employment which Adetoyi said exposed him and made him learn so many things which later helped him in life.
His diligence paid off as he was soon promoted and sent to Ibadan to man the company’s office. There, he seized the opportunity to study for his Masters in Biochemistry.
Though he was promoted, with a car at his disposal to execute his duties, he said God soon told him to start his own company and went as far as revealing to him the name of the company as ‘High Nutrients International Company Limited.’
Being very certain that it was God who spoke to him, Adetoyi resigned his appointment in 2003, against the wishes of his co-workers and friends, who believed he was taking a great risk. “I registered my company in 2004.
The journey was rough and as I used to tell people, it is not the money that is needed to float a company, but the idea. When you put down your ideas, your mission and your vision, integrity will see you through.
“Integrity was the money I had, since I have worked for nine years and have known people who also have known me for what I stand for. It was time for me to reap the rewards of integrity,” he reminisced.
Adetoyi, who loves learning, said he began to expand his horizon by attending courses at the Lagos Business School (LBS); University of Stellenbosch Business School in Cape Town, South Africa; PAN Atlantic University, Ajah, Lagos; EDC Atlantic University, Ajah, Lagos; Harvard Business School, Boston, US and The Redeemed Christian Church of God Bible College, Lagos.
From these institutions, he has learnt the key to running a business in Nigeria, including integrity, included knowledge in the chosen field, hardwork and a spirit of perseverance, adding, “As for me, I specialised in animal nutrition and today, my company is the market leader in animal nutrition premix in Nigeria” he said.
Right from the establishment of his company, he set a target for himself, including becoming an employer of labour, taking his company to an international level, putting it on the stock exchange and becoming an author.
“in less than 15 years, all these have come to pass. Today, I am a fulfilled man.” On Monday, June 18 last year, Neovia in France announced that it has acquired a majority stake in Hi Nutrients, the premix market leader in Nigeria. Neovia is the biggest agricultural company in France. “This acquisition allows Neovia to move into Africa’s most dynamic market, in terms of demographic and economic growth, and Hi Nutrients is the first company to do that in Nigeria,” he enthused.
Adetoyi also used the occasion to launch a 423-page book, The Entrepreneur, which he said, tells the story of his life, teaches how to start a company, help those who are struggling with their business, teach business men and women how to raise capital, how to approach banks for assistance and how to package a company to make it attractive to local and international investors.
“Today, at the age of 50, I am a fulfilled man and I would want people to know that opportunity would always meet with preparation. I have also launched a foundation and have given about 400 scholarships to the youth. I give back to society and do a lot of mentoring. I contribute my quota to the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) in terms of mentoring and I owe my success to God as a member of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG),” he stated.
He disclosed that the greatest day of his life was when his company went international, which he believed has done the country proud, noting his book also offers suggestions on how government can tackle the menace of Fulani herdsmen, just as he advised farmers to keep proper records and train their staff often.
Adetoyi, who is the Southwest Chairman and National Vice President (Southwest) of Poultry Association of Nigeria from 2017 till date, is a registered Animal Scientist and member of Nigeria Institute of Animal Science.