Interview with Starter Story
My name is Roland Oladeji Omoresemi and I’m the founder and CEO of Tezza Business Solutions. Tezza Business Solutions offers end-to-end IT & business value – from promise to proof. Our solutions and services are designed to improve quality, drive customer/patient engagement, increase operational efficiencies, remediate risk, and enhance opportunities to increase market share & revenue.
We started as a software testing company in 2009. We found out 4 years into our journey that it was going to be difficult to survive as a pure-play QA & Testing company. We pivoted into establishing the other services and product areas to ensure sustainability and a future.
Since this change in focus, we’ve added on Timewise Consulting – a boutique consulting arm of our company through which we provide advisory services; DigiTezz – a digital marketing agency focused on helping our clients make sense of their brand, market segmentation, customer profiling, and digital marketing services; TezzaDev – our bespoke software development company. We continue to see incremental growth as we add more logos in the markets we operate in which are East & West Africa and North America.
What’s your backstory and how did you get into entrepreneurship?
I was born and raised in Nigeria; went to high school at Baptist High School, Jos, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria where I studied Agriculture before leaving for the US for further studies in 1991. I attended Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar Missouri where I studied Business Management & Marketing with a minor in Computer Science and graduated in 1996.
I’ve always been entrepreneurial and knew right from the onset of my career that I’d probably end up owning a business and working for myself. That vision was realized In 1999 when I started Tezza Business Solutions in Overland Park Kansas. My primary goal was to find small businesses with a lot of manual processes needing optimization and automation.
I also focused on companies needing to build or rebuild their existing websites. These business opportunities subsequently got me into looking into outsourcing as means of getting more work done at rates that still enabled me to have decent margins. This got me into finding partners in India who I still work with today.
As my career progressed, I realized that I had a liking for Quality Assurance and Software Testing and I made a conscious effort to pour all of my eggs into this basket. This has remained all that I’ve done over the last 20 years. As I grew in ranks within the companies I worked for, I realized that there was a huge gap and need to have other avenues of acquiring software testers. At this point in 2008, most of the resources working at these companies were from India, and considering the quality of resources we were getting and the income potential, this got me thinking about how to replicate the same movement in Africa.
On the brink of bankruptcy in 2009 and with only $150 in spending money and borrowing money to purchase my airline ticket, I embarked on my first trip to Kenya to kick off our operations in Kenya. We started by partnering with AITEC Kenya to offer Software Testing courses to individuals and companies. We did this for a year and on October 5th, 2010, we hired 5 people and rented a dining room of a duplex, and converted it into an office space which remained as our office for the first 2 years of our operation.
Take us through your entrepreneurial journey. How did you go from day 1 to today?
We knew we wanted to be an Outsourcing company with skilled resources to offer to our clients. But without a pool of skilled resources in the marketplace, we had to groom and equip each resource before we could place them at client sites.
The other issue we encountered starting in Kenya was that of not having organizations who saw Quality Assurance and the role of a Software Tester as being necessary to their operations. This became a major hurdle to cross. We needed to find resources who are skilled in testing and since there were none, it meant that we needed to train unemployed resources. Not only that, but we also had to find companies who would hire our trained resources. This was to enable them to get the necessary experience and skills required by the companies in the US which were our end game.
So, our recruitment and training program was extremely crucial at the onset of our operations and this I’d say was the key differentiator for us. To overcome this hurdle, we partnered with local universities and we would go there periodically to speak to their IT students about the importance of Quality Assurance and the role of a software tester. To our surprise, most of the students we spoke to were just hearing about the testing for the first time, including the fact that they could get paid to do a job like that.
We did this for about 3 years until we had built a pool of resources that we could now offer to both local and foreign clients.
Going into other areas of our business wasn’t as tedious as starting. We were able to find skilled software developers, Project Managers, Business Analysts, etc in the market place and we just recruited folks we believed aligned with our culture and who believed in our vision.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
We are constantly in a Startup mode since we’ve had to bootstrap our operations to this point. We don’t have outside investors besides the founders and this has taught us to be nimble and agile.
We also continue to grow by taking advantage of our core strengths and competitive advantages with office placement, availability of resources, cost arbitrage, and niche strategies with our service offerings and products.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Jeez, I could write a book about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and I’d probably start by saying that there’s nothing impossible for man if only you believe and don’t realize your inadequacies. I don’t ever think it dawned on me what I was getting myself into. Who goes to a country where he knows no one, no business plan, no money, no investor, and starts a company? I’d say only a man who believes in God’s unending ability to sustain and provide.
As mentioned earlier, we practically bootstrapped the business relying solely on founder funds and earnings from our efforts. I didn’t take a salary for the first 7 years of running the company and I kept a full-time job the entire time. I utilized my vacation days to make trips to Africa to check up on our operations and I relied on Skype and now Whatsapp for my day-to-day communication with my staff. There were times I got fortunate due to natural events like the Volcanic Dust phenomenon that enabled me to stay longer in Africa than normal. I’d also give credit to some of my bosses who allowed me to run the company on the side; they were happy with my work performance and never saw an issue with letting me continue especially due to the time difference.
Also, we wouldn’t have gotten here without our dedicated employees. We’ve always had some exceptional resources who come in, roll up their sleeves, and do way more than they were hired to do. We spent an enormous amount of time on relationship building. We partnered with major organizations like HP and IBM and organized regional events that enabled us to go to market.
There are two mistakes I made that I definitely won’t make in the future… one is rushing to open up an office in Uganda. I saw the vision but struggled with getting that message sold to our resources. This resulted in us spending a ton of money renovating a building which we eventually had to give up. The second mistake I regret making was investing a boatload of money into renting a space we were not ready for and couldn’t sustain. We had to move out 2 years later without fully realizing the benefits I thought we would realize.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We rely on software testing tools like Inflectra’s Spira Plan and Rapise for Test Management and Test Automation. In our line of work, we don’t always get to choose what tools we use since we pretty much have to adopt and use tools our clients use.
We’ve also recently built some very unique products that our clients rely on for various functionality:
- Connect: This is our Online Reputation Management platform subscribed to by clients to send out surveys to customers and to manage feedback to such surveys
- Kuulimah: This is our Marketing Automation Platform
- TezzaCRM: Our Customer Relationship Management Platform
- AKU: Our QR Code Generation platform
- CrossDash: Our Mobile/Web Claims Processing Platform for the Insurance Industry
- Welkom: Our Visitor Management Platform
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
JUST DO IT… if you have the passion for anything and you desire to make something out of it, you literally just need to start. Start where you are and figure things out as you go along. Surround yourself with people who can advise you based on experience and also have people in your corner who wouldn’t be shy to tell you not to embark on an idea.
You have to be self-motivated. You need to be your cheerleader and should have a ton of threshold for failure because you may need some of that to get to your promised land.
You also need to evaluate your ideas, research, and determine if there’s a place for what you are trying to do. Fail fast to ascertain the viability of your ideas.
Where can we go to learn more?