Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – 15 Questions with the CEO.
Today, we will be talking with Hannah Kabir, CEO and Founder of Creeds Energy Nigeria
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and Creeds Energy as a brand you represent?
I am a renewable energy entrepreneur. I founded Creeds Energy in 2012 with a single vision of enriching lives by addressing electricity and energy challenges with cleaner alternative technologies.
Essentially, Creeds Energy is a renewable energy solutions provider, primarily driven by the need to mainstream green alternatives that are environmentally cleaner, more energy efficient and provide better value for money. Our solar packages are designed to provide electricity, water pumping and heating for homes, businesses, schools, organizations and communities either as back up to grid power or stand alone solutions independent of the grid supply. Creeds Energy also engages in product retail- solar portable lights, improved cook stoves, professional renewable energy advisory, research and consultancy to individuals, national and international organizations.
At Creeds Energy, we are dedicated to providing access, improving awareness and promoting adoption of renewable and energy efficient solutions. In doing so, we are contributing towards setting the pace to realize the development of a green economy, characterized by low carbon emissions, resource efficiency, sustainability and social inclusion
2. How did you get started in Business and what did it take you to get to where you are today?
A lot of support, encouragement and faith to take a leap and keep at it
3. What were you doing before Creeds Energy started and why did you decide to start Creeds Energy?
Before Creeds Energy, I was a business analyst with Galaxy Backbone’s Strategy and Development Department. While at Galaxy, I had literally moved from one department to the other wanting to learn, explore and do different things.
Starting Creeds Energy was not an outright decision; I would describe it more as a journey that led to a path. I’d wanted a break from work to do a Masters, so I applied for a PTDF scholarship, took the exams and got assigned to University of Newcastle to study Renewable Energy Enterprise and Management. At first I was skeptical, not knowing anything about renewable energy, thinking “what will I do with this renewable energy thing in Nigeria? I should turn down the offer”. I consulted with my dear brother and friends who advised me that renewable energy may be useful in the years ahead, you never know. So late 2009 I was off to Newcastle to begin my course. Given the energy challenges we live with in Nigeria, I decided to base my thesis on solar hybrid systems for urban households. The field research, data collection and insights opened my eyes to the need for solutions based on renewable in Nigeria.
4. Did you know you were going to be an Entrepreneur all along, or did it happen by chance? Also, tell us more about your leadership style?
I would say entrepreneurship for me happened by chance- I wanted to be the bringer of light in every home, to tangibly relate my work and efforts to the positive impacts on the lives of people. The only way I could do that was to create a space for it.
I don’t think I have a particular leadership style. I tend to operate openly, I would like to believe I am result oriented and demand that from my colleagues, so when something needs doing we all work as a team to get it done, no airs or labels. Perhaps you would have to ask my colleagues on this one.
5. What do you love most about your business and your life as an Entrepreneur? What drives you?
I like challenges. Every day for an entrepreneur operating in Nigeria comes with a different Pandora’s box. As an entrepreneur, you are simply a Do-It-Yourself person because you get involved in all the dimensions of a business.
I’m an implementer by nature; I enjoy doing rather than sitting back. I like interacting with people, getting to understand their challenges, learning from their experiences and having the ability to offer solutions gives me joy.
6. Creeds Energy operates in the energy sector. What solutions would you prefer to the on-going constant blackout in the energy sector in Nigeria?
Approximately 40% of Nigerians are connected to the grid, even at that, we experience over 28 blackouts every month. We are a nation that self-generates electricity from the “I pass my neighbour generator sets” to the larger ones that have become tenants in our buildings- most homes and businesses have a generator house. Another thing is that fuel costs are on the increase, these and maintenance costs are recurrent year in year out. Considering all these, even from the backup generators, not everyone has them on for the full duration of blackouts.
Now compare this with a solar solution, which may cost twice as much as outright buying a generator but here is the thing, no recurrent fuel costs – the sun is free, no noise and air pollution, no moving parts, capacity can be increased gradually, and it is truly the only uninterrupted power source that provides continuous power when the grid fails, easily replacing the need for your generator.
7. If you had to describe your platform, how does Creeds Energy better the life of the average Nigerian? You are also a Youwin awardee, how has life changed for you since winning the Youwin Grant?
Creeds Energy enriches lives in three ways
Economically– from the very basic solar lighting to a home /office solution, our clients will be making savings on their energy spend.
Take for instance a home that uses kerosene lanterns. In a week they spend about N350 on refills, in a year that is N18, 200 worth up in flames. Now a solar light costing N3500 would provide better lighting, without the indoor air pollution and save up to N14,700 in a year.
Same for the clean cook stoves- a restaurant owner used to spend N500 per day on firewood, this is close to N183,000 in a year. With a clean cook stove that uses less firewood and emits cleaner smoke, she spends only N100 per day, able to save N400 per day or N146,000 in a year.
Socially– as a social enterprise, we engage in social impact projects that aim to raise awareness amongst youths to sensitize people about what the challenges are, the reasons for even considering alternatives and how they can go about it. We have done two such projects LAHMP Project with secondary schools in 2013 and Green Energy Camp at the NYSC Camp in Kubwa Camp in 2014. Hopefully these initiatives will continue with the right partnerships and support.
Environmentally – we are reducing the impact of climate change by helping to reduce green house gas emissions from kerosene lamps, fuel generators and deforestation as a result of cutting down firewood for cooking.
The Youwin grant was an enabler that provided start-up funding for Creeds Energy. I am grateful because I feel that Nigeria has given me both an education through PTDF and a channel for funding through Youwin to make a good start at entrepreneurship. It’s my responsibility now to give back and make this work.
8. What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business?
A few that come to mind are that one should absolutely love or have a passion for what he/she does, have integrity, be able to take calculated risks and be self-driven.
9. What keeps you and the Creeds Energy team motivated? How do you envision Creeds Energy in 5-10years from now?
Being able to create change by closing the energy gap, we are making change possible in our own little way – a woman should not have to die from taking care of her family while cooking, a child should not have to damage their eyes while reading or doing their homework, no one should have to live or work in darkness or burn money endlessly on fuel for generators.
In the near future, I foresee Creeds Energy as a prominent indigenous renewable energy company synonymous with quality and excellence in service and solution provision. We want to create green jobs for our teeming youth population and contribute to building a greener Nigeria.
10. What are the obstacles you encountered in your business journey, especially unique to operating in Nigeria and how did you overcome them?
Renewable energy is a new space within Nigeria. Many still view it with skepticism mainly because of the lack of professionalism, failed examples due to shoddy design and implementation especially with solar street lighting, and general lack of awareness of what’s available. There is also the absence of a renewable energy policy and standards to safeguard businesses and consumers alike. We hope the efforts by the various stakeholders will streamline operations and service provision within the sector.
For Nigeria, embracing renewable energy should be a logical option because we have the resources (sunlight, wind, hydro, waste streams) in abundance to diversify our energy mix, reach under-served communities and utilize for self generation since we do not have enough supply from the grid to meet our electricity needs.
11. If you had to choose repeatedly, would you decide for or against doing business in Africa? Would you encourage your colleagues to come down to Africa to invest, especially those in the Diaspora? If you had to sell Nigeria to an investor in a few words what would they be?
Africa is the continent of the future. If you consider our population, demographic, spending power and natural resources this is where you need to be. Incredibly, some of the hottest start-ups are from Africa.
Nigeria needs to find ways of capitalizing on what it has, to get to its future destination in a sustainable and equitable manner across board. It is rough and tough but no one is going to develop our country for us if we don’t sacrifice some luxuries now and collectively do it ourselves. I want to raise my children in this country but I want to make it that bit better if I can
I understand that it is hard to see the opportunities within a chaotic setting which is the case for many developing countries and realistically, people prefer societies that are seemingly functional.
Nigeria at first glance is like a rough canvass that has been painted on with so many brushes, some good, some bad, mostly unfinished. When you look deeper, it ultimately surprises you as there is so much it can offer which will definitely appeal to you- This is how I see Nigeria.
12. Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
Many people and personalities have influenced my path and decisions at various stages in my life. I have what I consider my personal board of advisers made up of friends and professionals who I can always reach out to.
13. What was the BIGGEST risk you’ve taken?
Quitting my full time paid job without knowing for certain what would come.
14. What do you think about college education? Should kids go to college now or get into business if they feel it’s a better choice? Considering some of the world’s greatest never had college education, your thoughts?
I continuously have to revise my thoughts on education but here is what I think- education is a means to an end not an end in itself. Although some of the worlds greatest didn’t have to go to college, I think they represent the exception or genius bracket. In most cases, the environment that they live in is supportive of creativity and cutting edge inventions; this is hardly the case here. It is necessary to develop skill sets or strengths which get one through the door(s). However, knowledge and learning does not necessarily reside within the four walls of a classroom or “conventional education system” as we know it.
15. What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
I’ve only been an entrepreneur for three years now, so I am still learning and evolving. My two pennies worth:
Be patient, dogged, focused but flexible. There is no short cut to finding success; it will be hard and testing.
Ask for help, be curious- no one knows it all, and take inspiration from others.
Listen powerfully within and outside – always go back to the reasons why you started, filter out the noise and find clarity within your inner voice.
Own every bit of it- learn from your mistakes and failures, celebrate and share your achievements.
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here