Turning $1 into $500 million: The story of an Underage Nigerian Apprentice who became Multi-Billionaire – Cosmas Maduka
In today’s Nigeria, the name Cosmas Maduka is synonymous with Coscharis Motors. And why wouldn’t it be since the bearer of the name is the multi-billionaire Chairman/CEO of Coscharis Group of Companies and sole distributor for BMW in Nigeria.
Dr. Cosmas Maduka’s success is one that everyone knows of, but let’s go through his journey to success together.
Cosmas was born in Nnewi in Anambra State into poverty. At age four, he lost his father and had to resort to hawking bean cake (Akara) and climbing palm trees before the age of five, to assist his mother. Three years later, when things seemed to get worse instead of better, he was sent by his mother to his maternal grandparents in order to lessen her task of providing for him and her other three children. At age seven, little Cosmas was withdrawn from Elementary Three to serve as an automobile apprentice to a maternal uncle in Lagos.
Talking about this, he says “My maternal uncle lived at Ebutte-Metta in Lagos and had a store at 88 Griffy Street, near Oyingbo Bus-stop. He took me to work as an apprentice for him, and people laughed at me and questioned what I could learn at my age.
The uncle Cosmas was to learn from had no home of his own but was squatting with a friend, hence, Cosmas had to sleep at the store while his uncle locked him in and went home with the keys to the store.
Cosmas was born into the Catholic faith, however, he had deserted the faith as a young man. He was later to find back his Christian faith when a friend invited him to the Redeemed Christian Church of God at Ebutte-Metta while still in Lagos. It was here he found again his Christian faith and was not ready to let it go again.
The answer to those who doubted Cosmas’ ability to learn the trade was that at age nine, he had effectively mastered his craft and would, on behalf of his Uncle, travel alone to Nnewi to purchase items. At the age of 14, his boss was so confident in his abilities that he sent him to work in one of their branches at Sokoto and later, at Nnewi, where he was born.
All through this time, there was no contract binding himself and his Uncle together. This was later going to cause a fatal setback for him, or the launch pad into his success, depending on how you look at it.
In 1975, while still at Nnewi at the age of 14, Cosmas had a church camp he had to attend. His boss came into town on the fourth day and on discovering his absence, sent for him and his elder brother. Upon their arrival, he gave him N200, asking him to go concentrate on his new found faith. That was how his service in the employ of his Uncle was terminated.
Talking about the event, Cosmas recalls “It was done to punish me, but having known a little about God, I looked at him in the eyes and said, `God hardened the heart of Pharaoh to show His might in the land of Egypt. I served you well, and I don’t deserve this. But if this is what you have to offer me, five years from today, you will be amazed at what you’re going to see out of this”, he painfully recalls.
With this setback, Cosmas embraced a positive attitude. Talking about this, he says, “I’ve always been very positive from my childhood and this often made people laugh at me to scorn. I still recollect those days at Oyingbo Bus-stop when school children would mock me, and I would tell them I was going to be better than them in six years. I do not know why I was so confident, but the truth is that my mother inspired and encouraged me always.”
After his dismissal from his Uncle’s employ, Cosmas teamed up with his elder brother who had concluded his apprenticeship and was ready to set up a company, Maduka Brothers, selling spare parts. This partnership was not to last as they later had to part later due to ideological differences, leaving him with a capital of N300.
It was with this capital that he started his own enterprise of coming to Lagos to buy goods. He had his first breakthrough when he went to Boulous Enterprises to purchase motorcycle spare parts. It was here that he stumbled on a new innovation called motorcycle crash ban. He bought several of this and then removed the address of Boulous from the carton so that others would not know where he bought them from.
Recalling the incident, Cosmas says“I sold everything the next day and joined the night bus again to Lagos to buy more. I did that four times in one week and my capital rose from N300 to over N3,000. I settled down in marriage at age 19, and I ventured into importation with the little capital I had. Lo and behold, I received the wrong consignment and therefore, had a serious setback which left me indebted even to my landlord for months. My shop was also locked.”
This major setback notwithstanding, Cosmas was willing to start over, hence, he searched out a scale which he got as a wedding gift, took it to the market, and from everyone who climbed it, he got 10kobo. Upon knowing what her husband went out to do each day, his wife cried and then decided to pick up a job to support the family.
With proceeds from the scale enterprise, he was able to team up with a friend, David and they set up a company called CosDave. His partnership with David also had to end due to ideological differences which led him to finally set up the popular Coscharis Motors, now Coscharis Group of Companies. Speaking on the idea for the name, Cosmas says “Coscharis is a combination of three letter words from my name and that of my wife, Charity.”
For Coscharis, the real breakthrough came when in 1982, the Nigerian government decided to grant import licenses to 10 Nigerian companies and Coscharis was one of those selected. From then up till now, the company has continued to expand, and as of date has several subsidiaries.
From his experience, Cosmas advises: “You can start any mean job as a stepping stone to where you want to be.”
We can also glean this one lesson that it isn’t about where you start from, but where you end up.
Photo Credit: www.talkmuzik.com