The year was 2000. The month, can’t remember. The location was the campus post office of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). I had just arrived for my daily delivery of packaged books I wanted to mail out to different clients all over America. And then an interesting open-hearted discussion ensued between myself and the fifty-something year old African-American attendant. But let me not get ahead of myself yet.
Let’s rewind the tape to a few weeks earlier that unknown month 17 years ago. I had just started my first internet based company. Textbooks4less.com was born out of an opportunity I had witnessed while I was a sophomore at SIUE. Whenever a new edition of a textbook was released, SIUE would call back the previous editions and declare a $1 sale. Every single book regardless of the initial cost (from $10 to $200) would be sold at a ridiculously low investment of $1 a piece. This would be the second time an entrepreneurial siren would go off inside my head signaling a moment of opportunity that needed to be seized by fire by force. The first time the siren went off in 1999, I eventually became a stock trader with eTrade and lost thousands of dollars of my banks money. But that is a story for another day. Today we talk about textbooks4less.com
I was destined to make good money. I would walk into the library with $200 and would come out with books that would eventually be sold to other American university students for over $4000. Crazy? I know. I set up the website and partnered with Amazon.com, eBay and Yahoo Auctions to help my business take flight. It was a hit back to back. Seun Akisanmi was making so much money that he was close to buying a Mercedes-Benz 600 SEL (a decision that would have been a lifetime mistake had he not subsequently discovered that the BMW 750I was tied to his destiny).
Fast forward the time back to the post office. The attendant, Flora, asked me what exactly I was doing with all these packed envelopes of books. Thinking about her questions now in retrospect makes me cringe at the fact that I was naive enough to think I would succeed in business without a mentor. That was how I opened the big mouth in this big head of mine and started giving her the full gist. From how I bought the books for $1 to how I sold some for $150, I downloaded my heart at the rate of your mobile data depleting from your phone while you wondered what it is you downloaded.
Flora would eventually proceed to report me to the school authorities for running a business while still being a student and subsequently giving them too much work to do at the post office. I was flabbergasted (glad I could use that word one more time). I was shocked. I thought she was my friend. I thought we were gisting off the record. I was dead wrong.
The school authorities summoned me and one thing led to another…… I was eventually banned from buying more than 10 books at the $1 sale every term. It was then I knew that I was born to be an entrepreneur. It was then that my father’s proverb resurfaced on my medulla oblongata: a monkey falls down from a tree does not mean he should stop climbing trees. Not sure if the proverb was the perfect one for my circumstance, I eventually found a way and continued my business.
That was when I realized that my popularity on campus as a comical-sarcastic-yet-friendly Nigerian had it’s perks. I eventually summoned my admirers and friends, gave them $10 each and asked them to buy some books for me. Waiting at the entrance of the library, I would eventually smile as the 20+ volunteers walked out with my plunder in their care. But I think I have overgisted again.
The point I’m trying to make is the lesson I learnt from talking to Flora. I eventually learnt that not everyone that you think is your friend wants you to succeed. I learnt that one should be wise about how we share our testimonies, victory and strategies with some wolf-friends in sheep-clothing. Put simply, I learnt not to talk anyhow to people I don’t know well about my business matters. And even if I know them well, discretion should be a watchword. After all, there was a Judas in the Messiah’s team. In fact, let me just stop gisting before I talk too much and someone reading this reports me to whoever…
Come to think of it, what would you have done when you chat with Flora the next time you meet her (that is if you’re smart enough to stop using the school post office to mail your goodies)?