Growing up in Nigeria, Yemi Shodipo always hoped he would one day emigrate to the UK. Emma Brereton talks to him about how he has set up his own business
Thankfully, his ambition to become an entrepreneur means that he now has a successful Preston-based business which is helping small to medium sized organisations enter the global business arena.
Born in the late ’70s, Yemi Shodipo and his brother were brought up in a country that was experiencing political unrest and the government education system did not provide the opportunities that children in the UK take for granted.
“My mother was dedicated to my brother and I getting the best possible education,” says Yemi Shodipo director at Charis Training.
“She was a single parent who had a good job in government as a civil servant so was able to secure us places at a good school. She drove us an hour each way to ensure we went to a private primary school with a respectful reputation.”
You can hear in Yemi’s voice how grateful and proud he is of his mum as this was the foundation for his love of learning. He explains that a private school in Nigeria isn’t the same as a private school in the UK. A state school in Nigeria then, had next to no resources. In many instances, there are only a handful of teachers at the school with hundreds of pupils to educate.
“After six years of private education, we attended a government run secondary school. Similar to a UK Grammar School, we had to work hard to get good results. We stayed at a boarding house and it was like a military camp but it made me who I am today. The teachers were excellent and I made lifelong friends there.”
It was here that Yemi had ambitions of becoming a lawyer initially and later a doctor, but when the time came for him to attend university, there weren’t enough spaces on the courses.
“I decided to study microbiology instead and this is where I was introduced to quality assurance. This degree allowed me to gain a job testing drugs – it was a lot of laboratory-based work and I really didn’t enjoy being cooped up in a sterile lab all day. I yearned for something more practical and moved into food technology.”
“It was at this stage of my career that I decided to look for a master’s degree. Having always wanted to live in the UK, I applied for the University of Teesside and gained my first roles within food manufacturing as a quality manager, eventually training as an international standards auditor.”
Working in food manufacturing in the UK, Yemi was led down the quality assurance route, which is the basis of his business today. Ensuring products meet industry and customer specifications so that they can be mass produced and helping manufacturers gain market share was something he really enjoyed.
Yemi’s grandfather was a vicar in the Church of England linked Anglican Church of Nigeria and he travelled to the UK a lot. Growing up in a commonwealth country and hearing about his grandfather’s experiences here, he always had an ambition to get here himself whether it was through education or work. It turned out to be both and now with his business in its sixth year, he lives in Preston with his wife and two boys.
“I met my wife in Manchester through a mutual friend. She is an engineer and project manager and we have been married for almost 11 years. My family is definitely my biggest achievement so far but in a business context, choosing to go down the entrepreneurial route and establishing a business that makes a global impact, is up there.”
If you’re a small to medium sized business, ambitions to do business on a global level can seem out of reach.
Without complying with International (ISO) standards this simply cannot take place which keeps a business small.
Working with Charis Training, Yemi and his team train, audit and assess businesses and their products so they can sell on a mass-produced scale or in another country.
“I worked with a company that produces jams, sauces and chutneys with ambitions to have stock in supermarkets and not just in farm shops. We helped this business to get certified to the international standard it needed for the likes of Tesco to consider them. Sure enough, Tesco called and they got the biggest single order they’d ever had since opening 40 years ago.”
These results fuel Yemi’s passion for what he does. His business truly has an impact on others in the most positive way.
“If you’re determined enough you will find a way,” says Yemi. “I ensure that I am trustworthy and dependable. If I focus on the people and relationships, then the business follows.”