When it comes to schooling, one of the most challenging phases for students is the final year, where it’s required to do a dissertation. During this stage, students go out of their way to search for materials that’ll help them do a research that’s worthy of an A+.
So, from library to library, from one website to another, they scan and search.
Being in the system, Chinonso Oforbuike has watched this play out, with students running around just to get research materials, and in response, he came up with a solution – ProjectShamba – an online marketplace for projects and research materials.
In this interview, he talks about the startup, and how he copes with being a student entrepreneur.
Tell us a little about yourself
I am Oforbuike Chinonso, my friends call me Uncle Senior because they think I always have this senior man opinion. That kind of an uncle’s guide, that a good uncle provides for his younger ones. I am a blogger. I started as a guest blogger then I became an author at Capital Gist.
I am the founder of ProjectShamba, an online market place for project topics and research works, and a final year student of Communication Technology.
Tell us about ProjectShamba and the solutions you’re offering.
As the name says, ProjectShamba, when translated into English, means Project Farm. The name conceived while I and my team were contemplating on how to provide easy access to project topics and guides to having an outstanding project. That’s where one member of my team said: “you mean like a project farm?”. We substituted the word farm with a Swahili word, shamba. Our solution has been to create a more subtle, easier way to student project work. A lot of people say we provide already made Projects, that is wrong. We provide topics and guides to completing.
What inspired the idea for a project and research material marketplace?
I worked as a clerk in a business organization, D’variyah Corporate Nigeria Ltd. I was later moved to their office and commercial business centre where I managed the business centre. I saw with amazement how students jostled for project topics and project works. I found out that picking a project topic was such mountainous task for many of my final year student clients.
They searched the internet for the topic and in many cases, they paid some forums for topics. I was inspired. I knew very well I would soon be landing my admission into the University and I needed to do something to alleviate this pain. That was how the idea of a Project came in. Ever since, I have pursued it religiously, before I came across others with the same ambition and we formed a team.
How do you source for materials to keep the platform updated?
My team members, including me, contact lecturers and researchers regarding project topic. Before I forget, we initially circulated notes to lecturers in many institutions, informing them of our presence on the Internet. We explained to them what we are here for. We got more response than we expected from willing people who have project works to market.
We analyzed them and filtered out the ones that narrowed down to our goal. That’s how we got as many projects in such a short period of time. In reality, we source for material providers, not the material itself. We are just a marketplace for the providers.
How does ProjectShamba work? Like, what processes does it take for people to get research materials?
One of our greatest weapons is the seamless process of laying your hands on our work. Just search for the topic and we will either provide you with direct matches or other alternatives relating to the search. The client is alienated from the headache of contacting the provider, we handle that. It is quite easy to access our materials.
The only thing we don’t have control over is the price tag put by the seller but we have control over the quality of content, genuineness, and other aspects of such material. Basically, there is no process involved in doing that just meeting the seller’s price is all you need.
How do you market the platform? And so far, what has proven to be the most successful form of marketing?
Marketing has been a lot tricky. There is the issue of medium and methodology. However, as unfortunate as it seems, we have noticed more and more students spend more time on Facebook, so our best marketing platform has been Facebook.
We also have a printed posters on the streets on some states, which can be said to be our second most successful marketing platform. Facebook, has been the most successful so far.
What are the challenges of being a student entrepreneur?
It’s tough for anyone to start out as an entrepreneur building a new business from the ground up.
Being a student at the same time brings a unique set of challenges to the table. I think one of biggest problem was dealing with stress and self-doubt.
The system makes it very very difficult for young entrepreneurs to find their feet but I assure you, being the kind of person that finds entrepreneurship as an important part of me, it has been all fun for me. I won’t write off the challenges I have been meeting along the line, but the more challenge, the more interesting the job is to me.
How are you able to combine running the platform and schooling?
The motivation is looking at the endgame, knowing what my goals are.
When you’re balancing work and school, it can be easy to cut out anything non-essential. As a student, I try to make use of the university resources.
Being a student, I have access to a vast network that I may never see again in my life. Expert faculty members, academic courses and student organizations are all at my fingertips, so I try to take advantage of them while I can.
Tell us the story behind your foray into entrepreneurship. Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is in my gene. I am the type that finds life in engaging myself in anything no matter how small. I have more value for what I make myself than what I am given by anyone. It is more like a religion to me.
Entrepreneurship just comes to me like breathing. It is quite difficult to explain what drives it.
What are your future plans for ProjectShamba?
Our future plan for ProjectShamba is our big business takeover plan and secret. I wouldn’t want to go details here. But one thing I want to assure is that provision of projects is just the announcement of our team.
We can call it our pawn. We are about to change the face of education and access to it in Nigeria, Africa, and around the world.