Entrepreneurial stories come in varying forms and shades; Nimi Akinkugbe‘s journey from the corporate world to doing her own thing is as peculiar as it is inspiring.
Having spent over two decades in banking, this piano-loving personal finance expert decided that it was time to go solo. Not many would think gaming as a first choice business for an experienced banker. But it was this less traveled path that Akinkugbe took, and she’s been the better for it.
Responsible financial management
In fact, her transition to entrepreneurship hasn’t involved a clean break from her financial management past. She says that launching the Lagos version of the Monopoly board game was really about getting children to learn about saving and using money wisely. Beyond the game boards, she targets older people with her articles about personal finance, published in major newspapers and magazines, as well as seminars and other public speaking engagements.
Nimi Akinkugbe is a staunch crusader for responsible financial management. The games, articles and live talks are means she’s devised to pass her message (or lessons) across.
The early days: movement and thrift
‘s early years were spent in several different locations. She was born in Port Harcourt, lived in Lagos until she was seven years old, spent the rest of her formative years in Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania, and schooled in Kenya, Nigeria and the United Kingdom (where she obtained a B.Sc in Economics from the London School of Economics). She went on to get an MBA from the Lagos Business School.
Although her family was fairly well off, she notes that she was trained to be prudent with money.
“My parents were conscious that we learnt about money matters from an early age. We were encouraged to work through the holidays, and we had internships. They were also very frugal and hardworking. These lessons impacted my life.”
Akinkugbe explained in an interview.
After completing the National Youth Service Corps program, Akinkugbe joined IBTC bank, (now Stanbic IBTC). It was the start of an eye opening twenty-plus years in the banking industry.
Managing funds and doling out advice
While dealing with clients’ finances, Akinkugbe found that many people didn’t know how to save or invest properly. Because she worked in positions that gave her a good view of these people’s financial decisions, she could tell what it was that they weren’t doing right. It was clear to her that there was a widespread lack of financial education.
“The most important lessons came from my time as a banker. I saw what people did with their money; some lost a lot of money…I found that many people had no idea how to deal with their personal finances.”
In response to this, she began writing financial management articles and having them published in newspapers and magazines. The articles contained her expert advice for handling personal finance issues, delivered in a down-to-earth, easily graspable way. She still has columns in newspapers, published under the brand Money Matters With Nimi.
Akinkugbe says that she’s gotten positive feedback from her readers, and she’s certain that her articles have helped many Nigerians organize their financal lives for good.
Following her long stay at IBTC, Akinkugbe left for Barclays Bank, where she had a two and a half year stint as the bank’s Regional Director for West Africa. By then, she was already thinking about bringing financial education to children, and considering the great leap into entrepreneurship.
What she had in mind at the time was a game of some sort that would let younger people learn the valuable lessons of keeping and spending money prudently. At first, she assumed that she had to build her own game from scratch. But as she carried on with her inquiries, she found that there was an easier way. She was referred to Winning Moves UK, which owned the rights to Hasbro’s board game Monopoly, and soon there was an agreement which gave her company, Bestman Games, the rights to distribute customized editions of Monopoly in 48 African countries.
Akinkugbe’s departure from Barclays bank turned out to be a smart move. In 2012, Bestman Games launched the first African city edition of Monopoly, with representations of actual locations in Lagos. The Lagos City Edition – as it’s called – has recorded impressive sales at stores across the city. It has also gotten significant media coverage, from within and beyond Nigeria’s borders.
Akinkugbe always points out that Monopoly does a lot to help improve people’s ability to manage their finances.
“The monopoly board game is probably the world’s most famous personal finance game. When you’re playing the game, when you’re going round the board, you’re buying real estate, you’re investing, you go round to collect your salary…you’re also learning how to save, how to invest, you learn about frugality and holding back…it teaches you so many real life lessons.”
Nimi’s Tip for Entrepreneurial Success
When asked what her advice to persons who want to transition from the corporate setting and into entrepreneurship, Akinkugbe has this to say:
“My advice for anyone who’s trying to move….to entrepreneurship is basically to understand what your strengths are, understand your passion, what you’re good at. What you are good at is what you’ll be best at as an entrepreneur.”
Seeing how well she’s done as an entrepreneur, her advice is certainly worth taking.