Very recently, history was made in the Nigerian banking sector with First Bank Nigeria naming veteran entrepreneur, Ibukun Awosika, as its new Chairperson. The development as expected threw social media agog with congratulatory messages emanating from different quarters in recognition and appreciation of the woman who claims to live many lives in one life. Ibukun
Very recently, history was made in the Nigerian banking sector with First Bank Nigeria naming veteran entrepreneur, Ibukun Awosika, as its new Chairperson. The development as expected threw social media agog with congratulatory messages emanating from different quarters in recognition and appreciation of the woman who claims to live many lives in one life.
Ibukun Awosika is a woman more celebrated for her entrepreneurial accomplishment than the Chemistry degree she got from Obafemi Awolowo University (Then university of Ife). She is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of The Chair Centre; an organization she founded at the age of 25 just after three months of work as a showroom manager for a furniture company. She also founded Sokoa Chair Centre Limited and TCC Security Systems, which are all manufacturers, and marketers of office furniture, office seating, and Banking Security Systems in Nigeria and the West African market.
A fellow of the Aspen Global Leadership Network, a board member of Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ), and a multiple award-winning entrepreneur, she was the first Nigerian recipient to be nominated for the prestigious International Women Entrepreneurial Challenge (IWEC) Award of the US Department of State in 2008.
An entrepreneurship czarina, Ibukun Awosika shares insights into how she grew her business in these memorable quotes:
You only need a perceptive mind to start your business, factory and cash do not really matter.
“Do I have capital? No. The three and a half months were critical to my life story. Within those months, I saw the inside out of furniture making. I understood what was involved. I had never thought I could go into furniture business. Not for a second did I think of doing that. However, from the onset, I made up my mind that any customer who is interested in my product should pay 70 per cent upfront. The customers provided the capital. Did I have a factory and workers? No I never did. I could only afford to hire carpenters. They operated from their workshop.”
Settle for nothing, save excellence
Take a personal decision to be excellent in whatever you do. A time would come when the person who knows the right thing would come up and when he does, he would judge by what he sees. It doesn’t matter if you can do better, he will judge you by what you have presented to him.”
No customer is too ‘small’ to give your optimal attention
When you deal with one customer, do the right thing. You don’t know the “small” customer who buys a small thing today. The man you deal with today may turn up later in future based on your service; he could come to order 5,000 or 10,000 units of what he bought from you.”
Challenges should spur you to give your best
“There are challenges everywhere. You must have tenacity; you must have strength of character not to cheat. Don’t run at the sight of the first problem. He who confronts challenges wins, you must learn every day, you must seek in order to find.”
Invest in people and be resolute with your decisions
“Your investment in people matters. The people I dealt with many years ago- doing their babies’ chairs and beds, are still around. Even when I said I was not doing any house furniture again, people thought I was crazy. In Nigeria, everybody does everything. They think you increase your chances of making more money than limiting yourself to office furniture. Nevertheless, I stood my ground. Sometimes you have to take a hard decision and when you take such decision, you have to stand by it. It’s not everybody who sees what you are seeing.”
Do not despise the days of humble beginnings
“No amount of money can keep you away from your dream if you stay focused. The best of your business plan is full of assumptions. You’ve assumed your market; you assumed your customers, you’ve assumed taste and level of reactions. It’s better to test your assumptions small. You can grow a business from within the business.”
Build the business first
“What I always tell people is that if you have sand and you play with it, you have sand. But if you make the sand into a block, you have a block. So never, you talk about your sand until you have moulded your block. Sand in this sense is your disposable income. I could buy a car every two months if I wanted to. But the business was my priority. When I decided to buy myself a car, I bought a used car. My friends were harassing me. I simply ignored them. I knew what I was doing- I kept building.”
Nigeria can be your biggest market
“Nigeria is a country with a population of over 170 million people, that’s what they call market. It’s not only the 170 million Nigerians; you are looking at the whole of West Africa. That gives you more than 280 million. These smaller countries have less than the size of Nigeria; just add them to what you have. They don’t have your production capacity either. Go out there and conquer the world.”