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Starting small.

A chance pairing 11 years ago on a senior-class project at the Milwaukee School of Engineering helped forge a friendship between two Nigeria natives that later blossomed into a successful engineering consulting firm.

Theophilus lyasele launched Toki & Associates Inc. on a part-time basis two years ago while working full-time as a civil engineer at an engineering consulting firm. In November 1989, after getting turned down for a number of bank loans, lyasele had to use $5,000 in savings to grow his business into a full-time venture.

In 1990 he convinced his current partner, Olaitan Olapo, Toki's 35-year-old vice president, to leave his position as a civil engineer at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT). The entrepreneurial duo knew they made the right decision once they landed a $100,000 contract to perform structural design and development work for a new elementary school for the Milwaukee public school system.

Toki & Associates, which has seven employees, has since landed contracts with two of Milwaukee's largest architectural firms. The company made $200,000 last year and expects to hit $400,000 by year's end.

Iyasele and Olapo recently put their engineering design expertise to work for themselves when they broke ground on an 8,000-square-foot building. They plan to occupy about one-fourth of the space, lease out half and save the remainder for future expansion. "This move positions our business so that we can grow," the 31-year-old Iyasele notes.

Olapo attributes the firm's success to the business relationships it has built with the larger contractors in Milwaukee. Says Olapo: "We learn the way things are done, and they get a subcontractor they can trust."
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Hyler, Lora
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Column
Date:Dec 1, 1991
Words:272
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