Tony Elumelu: From salesperson to successful entrepreneur, the inspiring story of Nigerian billionaire

Tony Elumelu shares the secret to his success in a lengthy blog post.

Tony Elumelu, TEF Founder

He is known as a successful entrepreneur, the Chairman of Heirs Holdings, the United Bank for Africa and Transcorp.

He is also a philanthropist and the founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation. 

As of November 11, 2015, he was ranked as one of Africa's richest 50 people with a net worth of $700 Million, according to Forbes.

But before all of this, Elumelu was simply a salesman. In a lengthy blog post titled, '5 Years of Spreading Luck - Everyone Needs a Little Help', he shares his inspiring story.

In his words, "I started my career as a salesman, a copier salesman to be specific, young, hungry, and hardworking, but the reality was that I was just one of thousands of young Nigerian graduates, all eager to succeed. How did I get from there to where I am now? Of course, hard work, resilience, a long-term vision - but also luck."

Elumelu's journey to who he now began when he applied to join Allstates Trust Bank a year after earning his Master's degree in Economics from the University of Lagos (UNILAG).

He applied with his 2:2 Economics degree (Second Class, lower division) in spite of the bank's requirement - a minimum 2:1 degree (Second Class, upper division).

"I know I may not have met the qualifying criteria for the advertised roles, but I am intelligent, driven, ambitious and I will make the bank proud. My 2:2 degree does not demonstrate the full extent of my intelligence and ability, and I know I can do so much more," his cover letter read.

This words caught the eye of the Chairman/CEO at the time, who decided to give him a chance despite being "unqualified". 27-year-old Elumelu was hired as an entry-level analyst after passing the due process.

In 12 months, he became the youngest bank branch manager at the time. He credits this to his bosses Toyin Akin-Johnson and Ebitimi Banigo. "They took a chance on me by appointing me as branch manager after an incredibly short time in the bank. My rise to Branch Manager within a short period is a great story but I know in my heart, I was lucky, as well as deserving", he writes.

He adds that this position laid the foundation for the rest of his career including when he led a small group of investors to take over struggling Crystal Bank in 1997.

Now, Elumelu says he is committed to helping others which is exactly why he started his foundation in 2010.

He says, "I promised to leverage the success I have enjoyed, to spread luck and hope, provide opportunities and to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs to succeed.

"Without luck in my early career, I would not be the man that I am today. I am a leader and philanthropist today because I encountered people who gave me a chance early in my career. It has been a lifetime goal to pay this forward in a transformative and impactful way."

The Tony Elumelu Foundation is currently accepting applications for the 2019 entrepreneurship programme.


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