After my piece about why students should run startup in school, I reached out to a student just starting out: Fawale Gbolahan, a student of Federal University of Technology, Minna. I got him to share his story and the pains of hitting out as well as the hope for the future.
Fawale Gbolahan’s dorm project is CollegeAdverts.com. It’s a website that allows you to easily find items to buy and sell or rent right your College campus, Polytechnic or University.
Why did you start the project?
I saw a problem I could solve and also want to make a change; do something in a different way and also create something that people who enjoy using and make money. [Laughs]
How did you start – background story?
I had the idea due to what I saw during my national diploma program where students put up small posters on the walls of the hostels to advertise items they had for sale; students also went around selling clothes, bags, shoes and all sort of items. So I thought I could solve the problem of buying and selling and also advertising in higher institutions by creating an online service, but then I had little idea about web designing and didn’t even know how to go about it, so I started searching the internet for e-books to learn web designing.
I started learning HTML and CSS, and later got to know about Content Management Systems which I started experimenting with after my National Diploma Program. During my one year industrial training I thought it would be better to stay at home and learn web designing since I wouldn’t be going for HND program. I had several sleepless nights reading e-books and coding static web pages from the examples given in the e-books and gradually I started doing things after reading several interviews of successful web entrepreneurs who taught themselves web developing and design – including Markus Frind of PlentyofFish.com, and Seun Osewa of Nairaland.
I was encouraged to learn it by myself. I gained admission into FUTMinna and school was so stressful that I couldn’t even think about my startup idea and ways to go about building and launching it. Fortunately (or not) there was an ASUU strike last year and I took this time to start building CollegeAdverts.com on a localhost using wampserver at home. After the strike had been called off, I went back to school and showed the prototype to my roommate and he said it was a good idea and that really encouraged me and after few weeks I got a domain name and hosted it and started building the online version of my website.
I could remember one day when I mistakenly wiped out the stylesheet (css) of my website I had to start most of the coding all over. Sometimes I don’t sleep over night trying to make the design better and more user friendly for the users of my site. I remember after launching I became broke just few weeks after resuming back from the strike but couldn’t tell them at home what I was doing till I got it off the ground and became popular.
What has been the biggest challenge to you as a start-up student Entrepreneur?
Financing and bootstrapping. I used the pocket money which I got after resuming back from the ASUU strike to launch the project such as hosting, domain name registration, internet access and some little things that can’t be really accounted for; also trying to learn new things (programming) with school studies.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned?
You can’t learn without trying or experimenting ideas. In life one has to take risks.
If this project fails, what next?
I will move on to another project. I have some few ideas that could be more promising. I will become a better web designer and developer to build more problem solving startups for Africans and the whole world.