In Nigeria is what could easily be regarded the greatest magic trick ever pulled on mankind, except it is not a trick but a simple operation of the law of nature: hard work earns you magical results. The magician, an African by the name Paul Orajiaka, is as real as they come and he struggled with the problems that are a staple to most Africans but still built a remarkable toy company, Auldon Limited, from nothing more than a little capital, a lot of brain and hard work.
As a young man, Paul Orajiaka was told by his father to, “Activate the trinity of the 3H: the head, heart and hands.” An artist, Orajiaka’s father was aware that the head should conceive, the heart have passion and the hands be skilled enough to create. These were not just words; the young man was taught to carve and sell his work at an early age with the proceeds being deposited in a bank account. Men like Paul Orajiaka do not simply grow out of nowhere like wild trees, they are nurtured to be great and their discipline in carrying out their entrepreneurial ventures is palpable. Paul and his siblings would work on weekends in his father’s craft shop where they were apprentices. No one could have known that an artist from Warri in Delta State, Nigeria had just set up a million-dollar apprenticeship in his humble showroom. Paul’s siblings are also doing very well for themselves.
Auldon Toys was not a premeditated plan to take over the African toy industry but an accident. Orajiaka was meant to go to the United States of America for his tertiary studies but was denied a Visa, which denial is probably one of the best things to have happened to him. He says, “It was at that point that I saw how Nigerians were very entrepreneurial, making a lot of money from very rowdy areas. I got inspired seeing young boys making money and I thought: What am I going to the U.S. to do? If I stay here long enough, work long enough, I will be able to make success out of this place.”
At this point, he was staying with his in-law who was a big-time businessman in Lagos. It is then that he joined a friend of his who was supplying different products to supermarkets in Victoria Island, Nigeria. In one supermarket, he realized supplies for toys were running low and grabbed the chance to be the supplier. Thus the very profitable accident that would become one of Africa’s biggest toy companies came to be. Orajiaka was just a teenager when he went for his first trip to Dubai to buy a consignment he sold to big stores. The journey had just started.
Orajiaka soon opened his own shop to undercut unscrupulous debtors who simply refused to pay on time. He magically built a whole mall from a small counter-shop and such was his story. He took very little and made it grow. In the toy business, Orajiaka would soon add an African flavour to make the wildly popular, industry shaking black Unity dolls which represent Nigeria’s three major tribes. This was no longer just business but a soft revolution coming in African attire, African physique and black skin. He says of the dolls, “We felt there were things inherent about us that we wanted to show off.”
As Margaret Beale Spencer, an American psychologist, said: Toy business is serious business. Toys affect children’s ideas about who they are and influence their confidence, their sense of self and helps them be powerful. Orajiaka is now in the business of giving power to young African girls at a profit!
It is not a surprise that the man has won many awards and has even been featured in Forbes Magazine. He was Entrepreneur of the Year (West Africa) Finalist in 2015 and 2016 and also the Global Titan CEO Award in the SME sector, in West Africa as well as in his country. To the younger generation he says, “Empty pockets do not make you poor, only an empty mind makes you poor. An idea as it is, is money, it is capital.”
Being a total visionary, he recently graduated from Harvard University and is now a holder of a Master in Public Administration because as he says, “Africa is a mess and the right people are not in power.” The next stop is public office so he may give back to his community in Nigeria.