In this interview with Emmanuel Akaolisa and Chikamso Okoye of The News Chronicle, Paramount Sports CEO and Founder, Mr Izuchukwu Benneth Azike, leads readers on his journey into business, the sport products industry and other issues.
TNC: Good afternoon Mr Izuchukwu, it is a to feature you in our interview series. We would like to know more about you and your business, how you started and the journey so far?
Mr. Izuchukwu: Thank you for having me. My name is Izuchukwu Benneth Azike; I am the Chief Executive Officer of Paramount Sports Limited, a shop that deals in all kinds of sporting and fitness equipment. We are based in Abuja and we also have an online shop through which we serve our customers and the rest of Nigeria. We have so many sports and exercise equipment both in our physical shop, online shop and also stocked in our warehouse; like treadmill, table tennis, snooker board, sports clothing, football boots, snickers, and many others.
TNC: What is your inspiration behind this business, why did you choose to venture into a sports shop, is it out of passion, something you studied in school, or apprenticeship. And also what is the Idea behind the name ‘Paramount’?
Mr. Izuchukwu: It is actually something I learnt through apprenticeship, I served and learnt from my boss for some years in Lagos State and here in Abuja, so I got the experience from there and then the passion grew, I enjoy doing the business now. And for the idea behind the name – Paramount; when I started, I had this dream of becoming very large, and of course, paramount means something grand, supreme, leading, and utmost. So that is why I chose the name, Paramount.
TNC: Since you learnt and got your experience from apprenticeship, do you have people that are under you, just like you were under your boss, do you have people that you mentor in the industry?
Mr. Izuchukwu: Well, as of now I do not have people I train in the business, but I have some people I employed that help me run the business. We are five years old now but with time we will look in that direction.
TNC: We know prices of goods incessantly skyrocket due to inflation and the economic situation of the country, how have you been able to manage the price inflation and fluctuation of goods, especially in the aspect of your customers?
Mr. Izuchukwu: Well in business, things like that are inevitable, there are things that are just beyond your control, and in business, your ability to manage that kind of situation makes you a good businessman. Most of the goods we have here are imported and we do not have an option than to trade according to the foreign exchange rate. After getting your goods, you have to balance your book and tag the prices in such a way that you would not go into loss, that makes good business. And for our customers, they really understand the situation; it is out of our control.
TNC: We know there are many businesses like yours in Abuja, and they are trying and devising means be on top, how do you manage that competition from your rivals, what makes you stand out from the rest?
Mr. Izuchukwu: I think what makes us special and stand out from our rivals is our online presence. Not every business, not to talk of our kind of industry, has online shops. The means by which we have approached the business by creating an online presence (e-commerce store, social media platforms), delivery to anywhere in Nigeria, and so on, really makes us special and stand out from the rest.
TNC: You know businesses at some point have challenges of expired and damages goods due to inability to sell out on time, so how do you manage it when you find yourself in that situation, or do you sell out everything on time?
Mr. Izuchukwu: We have not actually found ourselves in this kind of situation because we successfully sell out our goods. In this kind of business, you need to know how to approach it so you do not find yourself in that situation; we invest in necessity and according to consumption. We know the demand of our customers and that is where we invest more. We do not invest in goods without long durability, we invest in quality products.
TNC: Finally, We are really impressed with what you are doing sir. So as an entrepreneur, what is your take on entrepreneurship, what will be your advice to people freshly venturing into business, we know it is not easy to run a business in a country as challenging as Nigeria, what do you have to say to them?
Mr. Izuchukwu: Entrepreneurship is very good and there is nothing compared to it as long as money-making is concerned. It is true that running a business here in Nigeria is hard but it is still a better option than civil service, the freedom that comes with it is wonderful, both physical and financial freedom, it gives you the opportunity to explore and be your own boss. So I would advise people venturing into business to focus, be smart, be consistent, be innovative, and be patient.