The size of Samuel Adedoyin’s fortune today absolutely belies his humble beginnings. His Doyin Group is an enormous asset by all accounts. An unsuccessful stowaway at a mere twelve years of age, Samuel’s story is inspiring for a number of reasons. For one, it illustrates the merits of grit and faith in the pursuit of one’s dreams. For another, it exemplifies the immense therapeutic benefits of a forgiving spirit even in the face of the worst betrayal possible: that of one’s own father. For young Samuel who refused to dwell on his father’s mistreatment of him, and his eventual success in life owes a good chunk to his refusal to be distracted by the sentiments.
Birth and Early Years
Samuel Adedoyin was born in Lagos in the year 1935. While still an infant, his parents moved to a village called Agbamu in Kwara State. It was there he started his primary school education at the Saint Paul Primary School, Agbamu. His was a polygamous family, with the standing rule that the man of the house would finance the education only of one child from each wife in the household, usually, the first child. Samuel was however sent to school, even though he was the second child of his mother, only because he was a male child. Thus, he gained from the patriarchal order of an age that privileged men over women.
While still a boy, his father and mother had some disagreements that led to their separation. By the time he was in Standard Four, his father could no longer sponsor his education. Worse still, his father’s disagreement with his mother had caused his father to dislike him. Realising the difficulty the unpleasant turn of events posed for him, he decided to go to Lagos from where he hoped he could make it to England as a stowaway. Although his mother was vehemently opposed to his plans, Samuel would not be dissuaded. So, at the age of 12 around 1948, he left home for Lagos.
In Lagos, he made arrangements for his surreptitious voyage aboard a ship. Unfortunately, things did not go as hoped for, and he was caught. There was only one possible destination for Samuel at this point – jail – but somehow, the Indian immigration official who apprehended him chose to be lenient. In exchange for his freedom, Samuel offered the Indian his services as a domestic servant, which the former accepted. However, because Adedoyin had no experience working as a houseboy and did not do well at the job, he was sent away after just 10 days!
He left the officer’s home and went to live with a family from Offa in Kumasi, Ghana. With one pound and 20 shillings payoff in his pocket, he went into trading in Kumasi, selling padlocks, nails, door hinges and other small household items. He would get the goods on credit in the morning and by evening would have sold all of the items. Thereafter, he would pay the dealer who gave him the goods. He was at this for a while, until he was introduced into newspaper vending business. He met a man who sold Ashanti Pioneer newspapers, who introduced him to the publisher’s daughter, who offered him the vendor job and a place to sleep. He soon discovered that that line of business was not profitable for him, and had to return to his trading.
By 1949, he had spent 13 months in Ghana without any member of his family having knowledge of his whereabouts. Now, it was time to return home. By the time he would leave for Nigeria, he already had made about 50 pounds from his petty trading. When he got back home, his mother and relatives were afraid to approach him, thinking he was some apparition. He had some trouble assuring them that he was real. While he was away, his mother had consulted so many diviners to enquire about his whereabouts and fate, and incurred a lot of debts. Samuel paid off the debts and having done so had almost no money on him anymore. When his father learnt about his return, the old man’s hatred for him became deeper, as he had been accused by family members of using his son for money rituals when he could not be found. The only thing that would appease his father was for Samuel to learn farming and wine tapping in order to raise money to return to Lagos.
So, at the age of 14, Samuel Adedoyin began to learn how to farm. He would work on his father’s farm and also go into the bush to find some fruits to eat as he and his mother had very little food and money to meet their needs, his parents still being separated. One fateful day, while still working for his father, he saw an abandoned burnt parcel of land cultivated with cassava. Intuitively, he knew that the burnt cassava tubers still in the soil would serve as manure for increased fertility. He then decided to plant maize on the land. In three months, the crops had grown so big and ready for harvest. He informed his father of his fortune, but his father would not believe until he took him there. Surprised, his father asked him how he came about the land; he explained he had stumbled upon it when he was looking for pawpaw to eat in the bush. He harvested the maize and sold it making fifty-four pounds.
Following his windfall, and still at the age of 14, the Agbamu community requested that he become their councilor. After running the councillorship office for one year, he stepped down to proceed to Lagos. Before then, he gave his mother some money from his windfall for her upkeep and took the remainder to his father for his blessings. His father blessed him and helped to connect him with someone in Lagos, Chief Somorin, who helped him to find a shop to start his trade.
Beginning a Business Career
In Lagos, he was able to secure a two-by-four feet shop where he started trading. He began selling umbrellas and other small household items. He would collect items on credit from an Indian dealer who would later return to get his money. One day, the Indian forgot to come back to claim twelve pounds of his money. At first, Adedoyin was tempted to keep it for himself but was overruled by a conscience trained to uphold honesty. Hence, he returned the money to the dealer who was surprised at his honesty and in appreciation made him a major distributor. The benefit the new appointment brought him was that all other customers who traded in similar goods would have to purchase them from Adedoyin.
He soon became rich, and at just eighteen years of age, he bought his first piece of land and a Volkswagen car for 200 pounds. The good fortune continued and by the age of nineteen, he had built a twenty-seven-room apartment in Mushin, Lagos. People began to spread rumours around that he must have been involved in money-making rituals to be so rich at that age. But as Adedoyin would say, it was all hard work and God’s grace. Not long after, he began to sell bags in addition to the umbrellas. Then he had an idea. He took the imported bags he usually sold, tore it up with a razor blade and studied how the stitches and designs were made. Later, he bought some machines and tarpaulin materials, which was what the bags were made of, and started sewing his own bags to sell at the market. His bags being cheaper and of comparable quality to the imported Lennards brand bags, people came in droves to buy from him.
After some time, he went to England to learn how to expand and build the business. Six months after his return, he secured a new building for his business. Within two years, he built a factory in the Ilupeju area of Lagos to produce in large scale bags and umbrellas. This was in 1968, setting the official establishment of Doyin Group. Not very long after, his father heard of his success, and as in previous times, disbelieved it until he was taken round to see Samuel’s property and other possessions for himself. He then broke down in tears. Overwhelmed by his son’s wealth, the father begged him to build a church in their home community in Agbamu, a request which Adedoyin obliged.
As his business grew, Adedoyin began to diversify to different sectors and other businesses. He also established a bank called City Express, which unfortunately did not become successful and was taken over by new owners. Perhaps in all of his business dealings, the failure of the bank represents the biggest disappointment of Adedoyin’s business career. Today, he is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Doyin Group of Companies, a behemoth of a conglomerate consisting of about fourteen subsidiaries across different industries: real estate, hospitality, manufacturing, and fast-moving consumer goods (FCMG). Its workforce is over 5,000.
Samuel Adedoyin is married with children. He is also a notable philanthropist who often gives to the poor and contributes especially towards church activities and programmes, as he feels indebted to God for all the blessings he has enjoyed. Adedoyin single-handedly tarred the thirteen-kilometre road that leads to the Agbamu community. A consummate businessman, Adedoyin’s remarkable success story lays down a marker for all who struggle that dream, drive, and determination are the 3Ds of success in life.
Aofolaju, Yemisi. “At 19, I Built a 27-Room Apartment in Lagos—Samuel Adedoyin.” The Nigerian Tribune, 19 January 2018. Accessed 17 July 2019.
Edom, Stan. “How a Poor African Farm Boy Built a Business Worth Over $100 Million Dollars.” StartupTipsDaily, 6 June 2018. Accessed 17 July 2019.
“Samuel Adedoyin–Executive Profile and Biography.” Bloomberg. Accessed 17 July 2019.