Lack of right network affects business growth — Nnaemeka Okwara

dc okwara
dc okwara

I was born in Rome, Italy, but moved back to Nigeria as a toddler.

I attended Early Life Nursery and Primary for my elementary and a bit of secondary education. I then moved to Kabe College and Junifpride International Private School, both in Festac Town, Lagos State.

I later received a diploma in Business Administration from the West London College in the United Kingdom. After getting my diploma, I enrolled at the Herriot Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, to study Business and Finance, but I dropped out in the second semester of my second year to pursue my passion for sports.

Along the line, I trained in Football Coaching through the English FA Learning and Education programme. I also took a football course in a scouting and talent identification programme, which focuses on how to scout potential athletes.

I also developed my passion for fitness and sports through programmes with YMCA in Central London. That was where I learnt about the human anatomy in sports, and how it reacts to training. I also learnt how to develop progressive overloads in athletes. I further enrolled as a football agent through the English FA.

I started Nao Sports as a result of the passion I have for sports and fitness. All my life, I have been passionate about football and fitness. I then decided to use my knowledge in sports coaching, fitness and football scouting to start a sports agency, with a very high network of coaches, scouts and fellow sports agents in Europe.

I actually started the company in the United Kingdom. I then decided to bring back that same knowledge and expertise to Nigeria by opening a consultancy agency for African athletes, sports enthusiasts, and football investors.

The company is into athlete management, including sports contracts in the United Kingdom and Africa . We also help football academies to market their footballers to elite European academies. We are also into Sports technology and sports data analysis, as well as real estate and manufacturing, and other things.

I raised the funds through my savings. I also invested 20-30 per cent of my weekly wages on projects. This has led to us having a huge network of clients from Europe and Africa.

Another way I raised funds was by investing the profit I made back into the business.

I wouldn’t say I faced or I’m currently facing any challenges. That is based on where we are as a business. Initially, the challenges we had included not having the right information and network. That made it difficult to plan and execute projects due to a low network of football business owners and stakeholders at the time. In our line of business, networking is key. Not having the right network stalls the growth of a business.

We have been able to overcome those challenges by engaging in endless research to know what works. We practically carry out research for about nine hours a day, and that is what has brought us to this point. Presently, we work with a Spanish-based football club, Ad Alcorcon, and they have been very professional in their dealings with us. As an independent agency, we broker deals and take football players on trials to them.

These days I have a network of scouts and coaches in Europe and Africa. All I do is observe and pick who I think fits the style of play of a particular football league.

I have had training in sports education and sports management with some of the best awarding bodies in the UK, which include the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, and the English Football Association. However, I believe that the best training one can get is the experience from running a business. And, that comes with time, effort and regular investments.

We have got major support from Nigerian coaches and other stakeholders in the sector; as well as from family and friends.

Also, an ex-Nigerian professional footballer, Chidi Achokwu, who also happens to my cousin, has been of immense help.

It has been tough achieving that though because I barely have enough time. I am constantly working and putting things together for my business. Most days, I wake up by 6:30am, arrive at my desk at 8:30am. I usually close 3:30pm, and get home by 5pm. I take a two hour-nap and thereafter head to the gym. I am usually there from 7pm till 9:30pm. Within that period, I am constantly on business calls or exchanging e-mails with coaches, scouts and various stakeholders.

It is really hard to quit something one loves and does with a burning passion. Quitting has never been an option when creating a legacy, which is what we are doing.

The lessons I have learnt in the course of running this business include being patient, embracing marketing and branding, reinvesting profit, and carrying research, among other things.

Learning is a never-ending process.