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Visionaries - May 25, 2022

How Two Brothers Founded Nigeria’s Biggest Retail Superstore Prince Ebeano

The minds behind the biggest retail superstore Prince Ebeano headquartered in Lekki, have blended their unique experiences of courage and endurance into an amazing story of partnership and business over the course of two decades.

In Lagos, it is widely assumed that Prince Ebeano is owned by two brothers. This presumption isn’t completely incorrect.

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Mr Sunday Egede and David Ojei bond 

Both Sunday Egede and David Ojei come from Agbor, a town in Delta state, but they aren’t brothers in the literal sense. However, their bond has grown stronger over the years.

The younger of the two, Ojei, explains why the prevalent belief isn’t wholly incorrect.

“He is my uncle. My mother is the first child, while he is the last child of the family, born of the same parents. But I don’t like calling him my uncle. Uncle sounds distant. He is a brother and a friend.

Our relationship started from childhood. He is three months younger than my immediate elder brother. But I was closer to him and always took his side whenever a quarrel broke out between him and my older blood brother.”

Egede’s business career begins roughly a decade before his younger brother’s. To him, entrepreneurship is a family tradition that has been passed down for multiple generations.

How it Sunday Egede started 

The pressure on young males in Southern Nigeria to earn an education and pursue white-collar occupations was particularly high in the first decade after Nigeria’s independence. 

This pressure came from parents and extended family members who saw education as a ladder to prominence and wealth, not just a way out of poverty. 

After secondary school, those of Egede’s relatives who took these warnings to heart relocated to Lagos to work as clerks. 

Egede made a decision that would shape the rest of his life when visiting one of his relatives, his elder brother.

He saw differences in the way a businessman spent money and how the salary earner did. 

A child would easily notice that one brother buys him things without much ado while the other is a lot more careful when it comes to spending money and that is because nothing comes into his pocket until the end of the month. 

Egede made the decision that he did not want to work for anyone. He’ll be an entrepreneur and his own boss. He relocated to Lagos after finishing high school and began my business apprenticeship.

Coming out of apprenticeship

Sunday Egede made it through his apprenticeship and opened his first store. His first several years in business were difficult. 

He couldn’t afford to rent a shop and an apartment simultaneously. So he used a wooden board to divide his small room, displaying his products on the side facing the street and sleeping on the other.

In 1991, he began by selling foodstuffs at the Isolo market in Lagos and eventually moved on to selling provisions. 

For about a year, he slept and sold in that shop. He had to get up really early in the morning to take a bath before the market opened. 

Renting a room took him a year and a half. He eventually started hiring apprentices as the shop grew. He quickly rose to the position of a local champion.

David Ojei 

While his uncle was establishing the groundwork for his shop and, by extension, their future relationship, Ojei was being pushed in a different path. He was also exposed to business at a young age. But a business career was the last thing on his mind.

His parents encouraged him to attend school, study well, and obtain a white-collar profession, but school was difficult for him. Because of his lack of interest in his academics, Ojei struggled with his grades.

In 1996, he completed his mandatory NYSC in Jigawa State. He took up a job with a security company after failing aptitude tests to join the following banks, Zenith Bank, GTB, and FBN Merchant Bankers.

He was paid a monthly salary of N7000 from which he was able to save enough to open a barbershop that also paid N7000 monthly.

In June 1998, he resigned from his job because his mother required N100,000, and his sister, a school dropout who works in trading, promptly contributed N50,000, but he, with his degree, was unable to meet the demand.

He closed his barbershop a long time after launching his supermarket business.

Losing capital

After resigning from The Security Company, his first line of business was to travel from Lagos to Fuga in Edo State to purchase Ogbono seeds to resell in Lagos. However, his business came to a halt when his Fuga supplier stole his money. 

After losing his capital in the Ogbono company, he spent three months shadowing his uncle, Sunday Egede, who was already selling provisions, before opening his first shop in Shomolu, Lagos State, in 1999. 

It was a 4-square-metre business, which was the typical size of a shop in Alade Market Shomolu.

He launched a bigger shop ten months later, about 12 to 15 square meters.

Shomolu’s second business was at 3, Anifowoshe Street. At the new location, he started doing business at Ebeano Supermarket.

He expanded his shop in Gbagada as the business flourished rapidly.

Soon after, he opened the groundbreaking Ebeano Supermarket Ikota, VGC, Lagos, which revolutionized the retail industry in Lagos’ Lekki axis.

In 2009, he created a 50-50 partnership with his uncle, Sunday Egede, to launch the Prince Ebeano Supermarket chain of retail outlets, “The preferred one stop retail store”.

Ebeano officially opened a new store in Canada on the 3rd of December 2021. The store is located at 358-360 Ontario Street, St Catharines, according to the supermarket’s website. 

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