From working as a hotel manager, Asakpa Aghogho Susan, a graduate of accounting from the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, resigned her job to become a cab driver in Abuja. The native of Ugheli south local government, Delta State, told Catherine Agbo, the story of her transition in this interview
How did the transmission happen, from being an accountant in a cozy office to becoming a cabby?
I graduated in 2010 with a second class lower and did youth service after which I got a job as a marketer with Standard Chartered Bank. I left after some time and got a job as a hotel manager which I did for three years before I decided it was time to start my own thing. The idea came to me to run a transport business. Naturally just as every girl would think, I thought of giving the cab to someone to drive and remit returns but I did my research and found out that it would be better for me if I managed it by myself so I decided to take the bull by the horn and do it by myself. I remember telling my boss then of the idea and he went “they will spoil your car” and I said “what if I drive it by myself?” and he asked me how, and we left it at that. I didn’t push further; I knew what I wanted to do and my mind was made up. I called up my father, told him about it and he was really supportive. We tried to raise the money to buy the car; we bought the car and started business.
Your father didn’t try to discourage you?
There wasn’t a single word of discouragement. When I called him to tell him about the idea, he just smiled and hailed me in our dialect “omo te Asakpa,” that is Asakpa’s daughter. He asked “what do you want to do” and I said “I will resign my job” and he asked, “why do you need to resign you are getting a car and giving to someone” and I said no, that I was going to drive it myself and he went “Omo te Asakpa” again, and promised to help with the raising of the funds for the car. There was not one word of discouragement and he didn’t even need convincing. I was surprised too, I thought he would say for what but he didn’t say anything.
How easy was it adapting as a cab driver?
It wasn’t easy. I was used to the routine of waking up in the morning, going to the office to sit down and carry out managerial and accounting duties so when I began to have control of my time, something I had not had in three to four years, at first, I misused it. I will work a little in the morning and sleep the rest of the day or just spend the day lounging. This continued till one day, I checked my account balance and the money that used to come in from the routine job wasn’t there anymore and I knew it was time to buckle up. When I started working in the afternoons, I discovered that those afternoons that I used to say people don’t go out because it’s too sunny and they won’t need cab, I was so wrong. The first day I worked in the afternoon was the day I made the most money and from then I started working seriously. The adaptation wasn’t easy at first but it got better.
So how is your typical day like?
My day begins at 6am. I go to church by 6am when I don’t have an early customer and then after church, my business day proper starts at 7am. When I had just started, I didn’t have regular customers so I would just go round from 7am looking for passengers. The strategy is to go to strategic places like offices, banks, etc, where people will need a cab. I didn’t know this when I started. I used to just roam the streets and before I know it, my fuel would have finished and I wouldn’t have made that much money. I now have regular customers so sometimes; I have to even skip church.
Are you registered with the taxi unions in Abuja?
Yes, I registered under Painted Abuja Taxi (PAT) those ones with the orange roof, which is why my vehicle has an orange roof though it does not have the side number.
Why did you choose that particular one?
It was the one I saw most as I was doing the research and they had a phone number through which they could be reached. So it was easy for me to call and make enquiries. I just took the number off the side of one of the taxis I saw on the road and called and I was asked to come to the office and register as a driver and paint my car, which I did.
Were you already driving or you learnt how to drive when you thought about this?
At the time I thought about it no. I didn’t even know how to move a car. It was when I started thinking about it and I was sure I was going to get a car that I learnt. I didn’t even know my routes at first because I used to work and live in Gwarinpa so when people stop me, after asking where the person is going, I’ll ask if they know the place and how much they usually pay to that destination. Of course some short-changed me in the process but I was getting to know my way around town. For the first one month, it was difficult getting around but now I can say I know the town fairly well.
How rewarding is this business?
When most people think of reward, it’s in monetary terms. They want me to say I earn twice what I used to earn in the hotel, that’s not the case right now but I’m satisfied doing this. I like the fact that I can manage my time and do anything I want on the side and I like to drive so it’s interesting. I carry people every day; I speak to different people, that is reward enough for me. It’s not like the money is not good, but not as good as some people want me to say.
How do you keep track of your earning, expenses and profit?
I try to cut down my expenses to the barest minimum. I have a book where I write everything. It is just by my door in my car and I buy as little as N10 sachet water, it goes into that book. If you go through the expenses section, you will laugh because you will see some ridiculous things. I started doing this because there was one month I saw that my expenses were much so I had to look through it to see what exactly I spent money on and after that month, I was able to cut down my expenses.
How do you unwind?
I rest on Saturdays and most of the time, I go out with my friends. I don’t work on Saturdays and Sundays. I also go to the movies a lot, I love movies and I visit a karaoke bar often because I love singing.
Did you lose some friends because of this business?
No, not that I am aware of. Instead I gained more friends
What did your boyfriend say about the business?
I was single and I still am.
Could it be your business has been in your way of getting a man?
Hell no. I have more admirers now compared to when I was a hotel manager. May be it’s because when I was a manager I was always hooked up at work and didn’t go out as much. And these are not necessarily my customers asking me out. Sometimes I meet people and in the process of getting to know ourselves I say this is what I do and he follows up, calling me seriously and wanting to hang out with me, telling me how impressed they are with what I do.
So have you considered any of them or the job takes most of your time?
It is not taking my time but a sister has got to look well so you don’t fall into what you will not be able to come out of. I am taking my time, there is no hurry.
Are you in this for the long haul?
Yes, it’s my big time goal. Before now, I didn’t know the answer to that, I used to be confused. Within me I liked it but people would always see me and be like “I pray you get a better job.” So the society was kind of messing with my head. I was telling myself I will get a better job, I should get a better job I need a better job. But I took time to pray and ask God, “what should I do? Should I stop this, should I grow it?” A part of me was scared, I asked myself, “why don’t you get a job that is more secure?” And then I came out with my answer. I am sticking to this, I am growing it, I am employing more young females I am getting more cars. As I speak to you now, there is a lady that says she is buying a car to give to another lady to use as empowerment and the person will pay her back, with just a little extra. I have a girl on my neck already saying she wants to do the same thing she has been on my neck since January so luckily, she’ll be my first other driver. So in five years, Susan’s cabs will be a big company with a large fleet of cars.
How has social media impacted your business?
A lot. Now I get calls from people asking me to pick them, saying they got my number from the internet. Some call to encourage me. Nigerians are just awesome. I woke up one day and saw 99 plus friend requests on Facebook and on my timeline, a lot of people have been saying a lot of nice things. I hear that others are saying derogatory things but I have not even seen one of them. That is to tell you that the good things are more. Nigerians have been really supportive and social media has done a lot of good to my business. The customer I spent most part of yesterday with called that he was coming from Kano and he needs me to pick him and I did. I am taking him back to the airport today, so business is like that. Someone called me yesterday and I even had to cancel on her which was heart breaking because I really had an engagement for the whole day. Social media has tried; it has helped me in my business.