On this week’s MoneyRise User Story, we spoke to Courage, a Medical Imaging Scientist who decided to leave his comfort zone to start a side business for the first time in his life. He talks about his love for his profession, how he got scammed when he invested in forex, and his new poultry business, which is now thriving. Read on to know his story.

Hi, can you tell us about yourself?

I’m Courage Smart, a Medical Imaging Scientist. I work with some hospitals here in Lagos. Before I started my poultry business, I had worked only in the corporate field all my life. I’ve been in the medical profession for about eight years now.

What was growing up like?

Growing up was fantastic. I grew up in a medical background; my dad was never really around as he was always on trips, so I was always with my mom, a local pharmacist. It was pretty much going to church and helping in the business, which was also where I learned hospitality. I got interested in helping people. I loved the relief I saw on people’s faces after I assisted them with their medical conditions, giving them drugs that aided in their recovery from any ailment they suffered. Their gratitude when they got better was the thing that drew me to the medical field.

You had an interesting childhood. Did that influence your career choice?

Yes, yes. My childhood majorly influenced what I do today. I got into the family business at about 7, was often left at the pharmacy each time my mom went to the market to restock, and had drugs all around me with price tags on them to make them easier to recognise and sell. There were no phones at the time, unlike there are now. You couldn’t call to find out how much drugs cost, so there was no communication. There had to be a placeholder to help sell or prescribe when someone came in to buy. I just needed to search for the drugs, find them with their price tags, and sell them. At an early age, everyone called me a small doctor, which shaped my path.

Small doctor! I like that. Talk to us about being a medical professional and what the medical field is like

I’m naturally an empath. Often, when a patient visits the hospital, I feel what they feel, and the first question that comes to mind is the best possible way I can assist them or the best thing I can do. Hence, I chose diagnostics, which involves finding out what problem someone is experiencing. Most people would go straight into symptoms. However, there are symptoms, and there are diseases. Someone may have severe malaria or typhoid, and when the person tells a doctor that they have severe pains in their stomach, they prescribe drugs. But what they’ve treated is the symptoms. Those symptoms are there to tell you something is wrong; it’s a part of a larger problem. This was why I decided to go into diagnostics, specifically Medical Imaging, to carry out x-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, MRI, and other body checks to image the body and differentiate the normal from the abnormal, and use the abnormal to give a diagnosis. I’m just interested in discovering the root of a patient’s health issue. That was what drew me into Diagnostics.

What are your favourite things about what you do now? What are your challenges?

One of my favourite things about what I do is being able to help. I’ve been at my current place of work for about two years, and during my first few months here, the hospital assigned me to about eight women with fertility issues who wanted to get pregnant. After some scans and a procedure called HSG, four took in immediately and gave birth; the others are currently pregnant and may give birth in the last quarter of the year. Most of the time, when these women take in and come back to the hospital, I run their scans and antenatal throughout their pregnancy, and when they finally give birth, I feel fulfilled. When they come for immunisation and vaccination of their newborns, they come to see me. They say, “Hey, Dr. Courage, come and see your child,” which gives me so much joy. The experience is exciting and worth it. Some days, you wake up tired and don’t feel like working, but then you remember the journey and how you are trying to do your little part of giving back to the community. It’s worth it. Then sometimes, as someone flexible — I’m not a black or white person as I believe in the grey area between black and white — when I talk to some patients, I try to talk to their minds. I bypass them and their experiences and speak to their mind. I counsel them and try to get them to see a lot of things in a positive light. Once the patient can key into the fact that it is not the end of the world for them and that they can get better, regardless of the doctor’s recommended treatment method, they already have a positive mindset and believe they can get better. It’s a joy for me to see their change in outlook on life; they come in with negative energy but leave smiling and hopeful. Although it can be draining, I enjoy this part of my work.

One of the challenges I face as a medical doctor in Nigeria is the flawed healthcare system. It is every man for himself. Getting equipment, drugs, and all the materials needed for healthcare is complicated as they don’t come subsidised. Patients come in to seek health services, but there are shortages of doctors. There’s also the case of poor health insurance, which not many hospitals offer. Even the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) doesn’t give anything. You’re looking at an investigation that should roughly cost about 5,000 naira, and NHIS will be offering to pay you 500 naira, which doesn’t even cover the raw materials you need to provide the services or doctor going to run the test. It doesn’t even start. So you see many establishments rejecting NHIS. The people who work in government and use NHIS as their main insurance scheme find that even when they come to the hospital, they are told to keep it aside. People are forced to go to expensive establishments that provide good healthcare services.

What is your relationship with money?

My relationship with money has been toxic. It’s a love-hate kind of situation. It’s as though once money comes in, there’s always something waiting to take up that money. Or you find that you don’t even know what you used it for. M I Abaga sang, “Money slow to enter, money quick to go” Sometime early this year, I did a personal financial audit on myself, and I found out that within a year, I received money that ran into millions. You’d expect I’d have a stash stored somewhere, despite spending on necessities. However, that wasn’t the case. I began asking myself, “how did you use all this money?” “What have you been doing with the money?” The only money I had at the time that I could say I had somewhere was in Risevest, as I had invested $1,000 sometime in July last year. At the time, the dollar was about 480 naira. That was it; that was the only money I had set aside. I’m someone who solves any issue that comes up at home for my family. I don’t think twice about it. What it does to me is that I never run out of money. So my money habit is like the rolling stone that gathers no moss.

Does your profession affect how you relate with money?

Not really. I don’t think what I do affects how I relate to money. I’m not the person who puts so much value on money; I place more importance on people and experiences. To me, experiences are like currency. This is why I can travel by road to a place as long as the roads are free and not plagued by bandits and kidnappers, rather than travel by air. It’s all about the journey and not the destination. Everything to me is an experience. I see life as a story; everything you experience from conception is a preface: pregnancy, labour, and time are a book’s preface. The cover of the book bears your name. The doctors make up the acknowledgments, and the experiences you have from the moment you start walking are just pages between the book’s cover and the epilogue. So every single day in my life, I get excited about the experiences that await me that day. As much as money is a catalyst to give you more experiences, I don’t attach so much value to it. That is why I’m just the way I am. People hoard money as much as they can, but I seek the experiences I can get, which have nothing to do with my job. My hands are also very open; if I can give, I give.

How long have you been on Rise and how has your experience been?

I downloaded Rise in 2020 but never really used it, as I didn’t understand how it works. I also didn’t have enough money at that time in my life to put aside. I was barely earning and still trying to find my footing. So I just had the app there until last year when I was ready to use it. I decided to take out some of the money I had been saving in my naira account and transfer it to Rise, where I couldn’t easily access it. I didn’t want a situation where I would withdraw the money whenever I wanted to, thereby squandering it. That was how my journey started, and it’s been amazing. I like when I get updates about dollar rates going up, my investment returns, or when I earn commissions from referrals. I was at the MoneyRise conference early this year, where I had the opportunity to meet many speakers and learn many things. One of my favourite things about Rise is the weekly roundup. I enjoy watching the videos, updating us about what’s going on in the market and with the Rise portfolio.

We see you started a poultry farm with your Rise investment proceeds. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, that’s right. Before now, I was not someone who wanted to do business, even though I had had a couple of business opportunities. I’ve always had this fear of starting a business. Although I have no attachments to money, it’s ironic how the thought of losing money in a business frightens me. I had an experience in July 2019 that affected me. I got into forex, took a loan from someone to add to the 350,000 naira I had, which was quite huge at the time, and started trading. However, things went wrong. It was a scam, so I lost the whole money. It was such a dark time, and it took a toll on me, causing me to lose my bearing. The experience rubbed off on my plans to start a business, so I was sceptical about it. However, between March and July, there was a spike in the dollar rate, and I also kept getting returns on my Rise investment. When I started investing, the dollar was still about 480 naira; around July, it had gotten close to 700 naira. So I comfortably made about 300 naira on each dollar I had based on the exchange rate.

I pulled out about 350,000 naira, which didn’t affect my initial deposit. I added to some spare cash I had and decided to start a poultry business in the east and handed it over to a relative who runs the business’s day-to-day activities. He ensures that the chickens are well fed. Sometime last month, I travelled to check on them, and that was when I made that video I posted on Twitter. Knowing that I have set up something, keeping my relatives busy, and having something happening somewhere is nice. It is just about the experience for me. Fortunately, it’s been going well. I first started with 100 broiler birds; out of them, I only lost one. The rest have grown so big. Although I’m yet to break even because I built a small house for them, paid for logistics, and spent some amount purchasing them, and the amount I pay to the person running the business, I’m hopeful I’ll recoup the money soon. I’ve sold some of the birds at higher prices ranging from 4,000 to 5,000 naira. And I have recycled the cash to get younger set birds. This will continue till I balance out the money I started with and begin to generate money I can set aside. It’s just like turning over the profit I make; after each cycle, I churn over a certain amount of money, put some aside and reinvest the remaining part. The first target is to get back your initial investment before you begin to expand.

Where do you see this poultry business in five years?

For me, it’s supposed to be a fun project. The first place we used when I started this business was not conducive and spacious enough for the birds. It was like a trial run; we wanted to see how it would turn out. But after seeing that it was sustainable, I realised that we needed a new and bigger place. It was supposed to be just for meat. However, I’m thinking of including layers for egg production. With time and rate of expansion, I’m thinking of going into fishing farming too. So I’m just testing the waters; put in one leg, if it’s good, I dip in the other one and probably even throw my entire body in. I think that in five years, I’d have added eggs and fish farming. That’s the vision for me.

What are your thoughts on investing?

Considering my first experience with investing, which turned sour, and now finding a good place to invest, I’d say people should know what they want and the level of risk they can afford to take. So depending on your risk level, you can decide to start a little and watch what happens, just like I did with my poultry business. Put the money you can afford to lose. It’s also essential to invest money you will not need in a long time, not one you will need soon. As a single person, it’s also a great time to comfortably take some risks as you have no kids or significant responsibilities. When it pays up, you’ll be glad you took that risk. However, if it doesn’t, you learn your lessons, pick up from the pieces and start over again. Investment is generally about taking risks, albeit calculated ones. If you find a suitable investment, don’t overthink it, and begin. It’s all a leap of faith; take it. It may turn out well or not. That’s all I have to say about investing.

What advice do you have for people looking to start a poultry business just like you? 

Firstly, location matters. When starting a poultry business, it is crucial to consider the distance of the market from the poultry farm. Often, customers want to come around and take a look at the birds before they buy, so the farm should be easily accessible. You also have to think about human resources. Who will take care of the poultry and ensure its maintenance? You need someone capable that you can trust to handle the business for you if you don’t plan to do it yourself. It’s also paramount to consider the structure’s capacity you’re erecting. It has to take in the number of birds you want it to after they’ve grown. You don’t measure structure by how many birds it can take in when they are still little. When they grow bigger, it becomes a war for the survival of the fittest, and the structure becomes too small for them to move around freely. You also have to research the poultry farming you want to venture into. It could be poultry for meat or egg production, so choose which one works for you. You can settle for day-old chicks, a high-risk-high reward investment as they could die in droves. You can do month-old chicks to test the waters. 

Also, when doing your research, key in the type of feed for your choice of chicks. Different feeds, different chicks. You need to consider your capacity and how much risk you’re willing to take. I went cold turkey, not knowing all of these, but I was lucky enough to have a helper who did all the research and work.

Finally, it is necessary to have a business plan and personal projection that covers how much you expect at the end of the first farm cycle, how long it will take to break even on your investment, and your expansion within a certain period.

You, too, can be like Courage and invest towards starting a business or reaching your other goals on Rise.

Thank you so much for doing this with us, Courage. It was nice talking to you.