Mr. Michael Edem Duke is the Visionary leader of Citizen Journalists’ Network, a platform he started to achieve the aim of using the media as a tool for change and development.
His dedication to solving social problems and great acumen for improving social welfare in Nigeria was recognized and awarded by ‘National Humanitarian Awards’, and he was Awarded as ‘Humanitarian Innovative Person of the Year’.
Having shuffled through starting this non – profit community platform and working for someone, the lead consultant of HDMI Multimedia Limited gives wisdom nuggets that would guide entrepreneurs and maybe, just maybe, shorten their journey.
DA: What inspired you to start up CJN?
Michael Duke: CJN is a child born out of curiosity. To be honest, it was more or less an accidental discovery.
I was just dissatisfied with too many questions begging for answers in the mainstream media that CJN emerged as the sum of answers to queries I have asked myself and society for a long time. I have been in the Media for about 7 years since my first professional encounter in 2011.
I have been a radio presenter, broadcaster, writer, editor and public speaker. All through the years, I always wondered how activities of the media could be deliberately directed at solving practical problems for people other than just disseminating information.
I always wondered when the media would actually tell stories about people and not just to them. I questioned how best to determine the right kind of solutions for everyday indigenous problems that bother us.
I was bothered if there was not anything regular citizens could do for each other no matter how little, while waiting for authorities to do something. I became sick of wishing. The hunger in my spirit is what inspired my mind to work.
With all the curiosity, and after much studies and research, I came to the conclusion that the best way to tell a story about a people is to let them chronicle their own lives.
And the best solutions we can grant society are those advocated for, by the members of that society; not a perceived foreign remedy. All of these prompted me to call on like minds – my impeccable team members, and together we modeled a structure that would best serve the social welfare of Nigerian Citizens.
This is the bedrock of Citizen Journalists’ Network – a platform where real people can solve real problems for real people through information sharing.
DA: You started up your business while in school, how were you able to manage it and save up to over 1 million?
Michael Duke: Well, the Media enterprise I now run is not what I always did in University. The major business I actually did in school was selling Blazers and Shoes. For me, I saw a need I already had the capacity to meet. While in school and till date, my fraternity with blazers and shoes has been inseparable. (Of cause, not to the detriment of my grades) *Smiles.
Eventually, after a couple of semesters in school, I became a trademark to those who knew me, and along the line, I just thought to myself, Michael, people revere your taste in shoes and blazers; why not start off a business from that reputation? That was it!
Those who know University of Abuja would also know that at the end of an academic year, each department would usually host a Dinner/Award Party, and my reputation for appearances at those events had already preceded me.
Therefore, I started retailing blazers and shoes to fellow students around this time. People who admired my dress sense generally valued my products. My reputation only meant less marketing and more sales.
A major push to go large scale came one evening when I got a call from one campus magazine at the time in school. It was called LOL! Magazine. On answering my phone, I was told that I had just been nominated for Top 10 Most Dressed in University of Abuja that year.
I never saw it coming. After due assessment and garnering testimonials, I emerged as 1 of the top 10. The official release of that edition fueled me to be more deliberate about my business. I started selling between semesters.
I moved further to selling to non-students, corporate individuals and the rest. I also started visiting organizations whose members of staff would have need for my products, and with the help of referrals too, I had my way.
DA: How were you able to gather your team members and how are you able to manage them?
Michael Duke: Truth be told, an idea is only as impressive as the drivers of that vision. When I was ready to convene CJN, the first bank I looked to was my network.
I have always been deliberate about those in my network. I looked at people I had successfully worked with in the past; I looked for people who would be relevant to the vision at hand; and others who I may have just met but connect with their energy.
I had since understood that a sound idea with a wrong team is failure at arrival.
Where I needed specific skills that were not readily in my network, I would ask reputable sources to refer contacts.
Without disclosing unnecessary details, I would situate casual meetings with these contacts to evaluate their level of depth on the subject matter, their thought pattern, zeal and personal aura.
Once I’m sure I have the right energy, I make a proposition and hopefully we move from there.
Generally, I hate an empty crowd so I always tone down the number on my team to the barest most relevant minimum.
I cannot thank my team enough for being the best backbone.
DA: How do you reach out to investors and what guides you on choosing the right investor?
Michael Duke: First and foremost, I look out for investors who understand the burden of my vision. When I was younger I used to think getting investors strictly meant finding people who were ready to pump money into your brand.
But my knowledge was limited. These days, when searching for investors, I first source for people with related capacities or resources to pitch my project before financial investors.
It is quite easier for people to support you with their inherent ability and their established on ground resources than to give you money.
The advantage of seeking investors who understand your vision clearly is that it reduces undue pressure and demands. People who understand your vision will most likely appreciate the liabilities and risks involved.
Other times, their shared knowledge in the sector can prove an addition to your course and compliment their finance.
DA: When outsourcing, how do you go about it?
Michael Duke: I implore every means possible. First my network, then referrals, the internet and what have you. I especially love to have the luxury of variables and options to pick and choose from, and covering as much track as possible gives me the pleasure of that advantage.
DA: What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
Michael Duke: Well, with CJN the major challenge has been maintaining focus when dealing with external energies. This comes in two forms. Firstly, there are people who hear the model and feel like it’s too tedious a task to undertake.
Then, there’s the other set of people who are over-zealous.
They have what I call “excess energy”. You share an idea with them and while trying to draft a work-plan they begin to deviate to foreign ideas that are entirely out of the scope of your direction.
My counter attack for both classes of challenges anytime I am tempted to disconnect is to remind myself why I started in the first place. The moment I’m able to connect with the foundation where and why it got started, I usually find my footing and pick up direction.
DA: Who is/are your mentors?
Michael Duke: Proudly speaking, Lydia Mmaeyen Chigozie is my Mentor. I mean a Mentor that actually mentors not just a personality somewhere I just admire. She is a Principal Correspondent with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Just recently she won a Merit Award as the Most Outstanding Correspondent in Nigeria. Incidentally she is my Mum’s younger sister. She is a staunch believer in my growth, that most times, on her own, she hunts for opportunities, platforms and offers for me and makes sure I enroll.
She would prep me where I need and probably even finance when it comes to that. Most times the burden of her belief in my ability to succeed is one reason I refuse to give up in the face of challenging times.
I also revere Robert Kiyosaki and Lee Kwan Yu as role models.
DA: What is the best “book” you’ll recommend to every Entrepreneur?
Michael Duke: Wow. Though choice to pick just one! Well, I’d say “Before You Quit Your Job” by Robert Kiyosaki. This is a piece that greatly changed my fortune. I have the complete series in both hard copy and audio format.
In the past, I struggled for a while between working a job – quitting to start my enterprise – running back to looking for a job – feeling unsatisfied and going back to working on my stuff – and so on. The chain continued until I read “Before You Quit Your Job” and met Kiyosaki through his books generally.
Till date, I play audio series of his books in my home. I mean the same way people slot in movies into their digital players is the way I play his audio books on my home theatre.
DA: What is your advice to young entrepreneurs?
Michael Duke: I still need some advice myself you know, *smile. But, from my personal experience I will advise on two things. These are things I learnt the hard way.
Firstly, don’t hold back any idea or vision. Once it makes sense to you, PUT IT OUT THERE! It does not need to be so clear; most times, the process gives shape to the entire idea. You want to know why? Nature sprinkles knowledge. Chances are, that idea you just had has also been planted in the mind of another by nature.
Just the same way it came to you. It’s just a matter of who first acts on it. So why waste a moment and lose out?
I used to just admire the Tony Elumelu’s quote that says “Think and Act, before it goes obsolete”.
For all I knew it was just an intelligent quote I liked until I experienced an idea I thought was peculiar to me alone executed by another person.
While I was waiting to perfect it, someone else took the initiative to engage and grow in the process. This has happened to me three good times before I learnt tough. Maybe I was even a slow learner.
Secondly, there’s a whole lot to be learnt from humility. Never get complacent. No matter how much you think you know be humble enough to want to learn more.
Most times, when we have a taste of early success our ego sets in and the near-success syndrome catches up.
Entrepreneurship is about learning new ways to solve problems.
That you’re able to solve a problem does not mean that if someone else comes with a more simplified way of doing that same thing you would not be disrupted. So be humble to learn new perspectives.
DA: How can we reach you?
Michael Duke: You can contact me on my official email address email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Or my personal email account, contact – email@example.com
My Facebook page is Michael Edem Duke.