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Alexander Amosu: Suited for success

STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM: Millionaire business mogul Alexander Amosu

HE STARTED from the bottom, wearing second hand clothes form Oxfam and earning just £10 a week doing a local paper round. But now, British-Nigerian Alexander Amosu is a multi-millionaire, responsible for designing the world’s most expensive suit and becoming the first person in Europe to create urban ringtones.

Growing up in a north London council estate, Amosu lived with his grandmother, who would take him to the local charity shop to buy his clothes and shoes.

“I remember going to school at around 12 and I didn’t have the same trainers as everyone,” the father-of-two recalls. “They had Nike and Adidas, but my trainers had five stripes. I was constantly teased.”

Tired of being picked on, but aware that his grandmother couldn’t afford fancy footwear, he decided to find a job. A local newsagents took pity on him, hiring the north Londoner as a paperboy.

For five weeks, he delivered newspapers everyday, earning £10 at the end of each week.

“With that £50, I treated myself and bought a new pair of Air Max trainers with the bubbles and everything. I remember that day when I walked into the classroom wearing them and it was almost like I was the new boy. Because nobody used to talk to me, but that day everybody was my friend.

“A light went off in my head and I thought: ‘Is this really what I have to do to be accepted in this world?’ I realised I didn’t want to be poor anymore.”

Although Amosu aspired to be wealthy, he never resented his family for being poor.

“I never felt any kind of resentment. If anything, I appreciated them more because they spurred me on to be a success. I think if they had given me everything, I would have turned out to be a different person.”

In his teens, he tried several businesses, from cleaning services and running sports tournaments, to organising parties. But in 2000, at the age of 24, he hit upon an idea that saw him quit his degree in computer engineering.

After playing around with a Nokia 3210, Amosu sent his brother a ringtone, which he had just made using the phone’s composing facility. Based on the Jay Z hit Big Pimpin’, it was an instant hit with his brother’s classmates, 21 of whom came knocking at his front door the next evening looking for it.

“I put my entrepreneur hat on and said: ‘If you want it, you’ll have to pay £1 each.’ That evening, I sat there with £21 on my lap and thought, ‘what would happen if I made 100 or 200 ringtones?’”

At the end of his first year, R&B Ringtones turned over £1.6m and the entrepreneur sold the firm three years later to a German telecom company for just under £9m.

Now, Amosu spends his days promoting his luxury self-titled brand, selling clothes to A-list celebrities including Grammy award-winning singer Alicia Keys and actress Queen Latifah. The brand also collaborates with big names like Russell Simmons and has partnerships with Gout De Diamants ¬¬– the most expensive champagne in the world. Amosu was entered into the Guinness Book of World Records after making the world’s most expensive and valuable suit, costing a whooping £70,000. He went on to create the world’s most expensive Apple handset and champagne.

“I knew there were lots of people on Savile Row making suits, but I wanted to stand out and be the best. I thought to myself, ‘I want to make the Rolls Royce of the suit industry,’ so that’s exactly what I did. As an entrepreneur, that’s what you have to do. You have to make your business stand out from everybody else’s.”

Amosu continues: “Being an entrepreneur is like learning to ride a bicycle. The first time you get on it, you’re going to fall – it’s just going to happen because you haven’t learnt how to stabilise yourself. Once you conquer that fear and you can ride it quite comfortably, the next step as an entrepreneur is to be the best cyclist in the world. So you go from riding a bike normally, to doing tricks and freestyles. And the idea is the next stage is to compete, because you want to be the best in the world at what you do. I always want to do better than everybody else.”

Coming from such humble beginnings, Amosu has made sure his two children, aged 10 and 12, understand the value of money.

“They always complain that their friends get £10 pocket money every week, but I give them £3.50 each,” he laughs. “And sometimes I don’t give them anything!

“They need to know that money isn’t always just given, it has to be earned. It doesn’t just land in your pocket. It’s important to make sure I put that discipline in my family. They’ve got to be ready and prepared to go that extra mile to get what they want.”

The businessman’s latest project is Lux Afrique, which he unveiled on From Lagos To London, a Channel 4 documentary exploring extremely affluent Nigerians making London their playground.

Lux Afrique acts as a gateway for luxury brands to connect directly with this audience across Africa – sort of a super fancy Argos catalogue.

“It’s simply a way to showcase and introduce luxury brands to wealthy Africans,” Amosu explains. “But also, the platform is going to be used to introduce luxury brands being borne out of Africa.

“We want to showcase that Africa has a lot of wealth and we should be respected just as the Russians, Arabs and the Chinese.”

For more information, visit: Follow Alexander on Twitter @AlexanderAmosu

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