In my search for Nigerian Role models, she appears to be the first woman on my growing list. Having spoken to her once, and listened to her three times with the last being at the Platform, I count her worthy to grace my blog pages. She really spoke my mind at the platform by pointedly telling people to actually discover before jumping into businesses, if they need to be an entrepreneur or working for someone. Following the international prominence of Obi Ezekwesili and Okonjo Iweala, she’s maintained the passion on the home front. She’s one of the shining stars that have been added to the growing list of women role models. If you come across a Mercedes SLX car whose plate number is engraved with the words “my boss is a Jewish carpenter”, you’ve gotten her car. Called Ibukun by friends, and Pastor Blessing at the Fountain of Life Church, Ibukunoluwa Awosika was born in Ibadan.
She started her education with her primary education in Ibadan and ended it in Lagos, where she also had her secondary education. She then proceeded to the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) to study chemistry. At a programme recently, she identified with youthful passions by admitting she wanted and worked towards being a doctor, Law, and architecture at different times in School. After finally working as an accountant at Alibert, a furniture company, during her service year, she left the place to begin her entrepreneurship career with the founding of Quebees Ltd. in 1989 with the aim of manufacturing good quality wooden furniture for office use.
Armed with a commitment to success, she began to negotiate the bends and obstacles of the Nigerian business environment. To tackle start-up costs and employees, she negotiated with the carpenters, who came with their tools, and sawmills was used as job locations. As starting capital, she insisted clients paid some percentage as deposit, and with this was usually utilized to get the job done. Amongst Quebees’ first set of customers were Prime Merchant Bank and Texaco, which were hitherto patronizing the big furniture companies but got attracted to Quebees’ quality works and presentations. Quebees grew in reputation and fame through referrals, and given the prudence of Ibukun, profits generated by the company were ploughed back for the purchase of new machines and equipment.
As a lesson in managing external change affecting businesses, the Nigerian government in January 2004, introduced a change in policy which resulted in a ban on the importation of furniture, and this affected the business. They then embarked on a strategy that helped maximize the raw materials that existed within the nation: For the office seating line, they approached SOKOA S.A, the largest office seating manufacturer in France, on whose list we were one of the top 10 dealers for almost 8 years. We proposed to them the idea of forming a joint venture to produce office seating locally in Nigeria. That is how SOKOA CHAIR CENTRE came on stream with an investment/ownership structure: The Chair Centre 37%, Guaranty Trust Bank 32%, SOKOA SA 21%, and two individual investors having 5% each.
She recently started a career improvement organization called AfterSchool Graduate Development Center (AGDC). This was created after observing the need to augment government efforts in the production of a career center to counsel graduates train and impart them with the necessary skills to improve their chances of being employed.
Mrs. Ibukun Awosika lives life from the center. She is a Pastor at the Fountain of Life Church, Ilupeju, Lagos; the Host of “Business – His way”, a television program dedicated to teaching biblical principles and values for business; and Chairman, Working Committee of Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ). She is married to Abiodun Oludola Awosika and their marriage is blessed with three sons. “I like reading, and I like spending time with my family. I also derive great joy in helping people to achieve their dreams”. Her strong drive for entrepreneurship and success clearly demonstrate that tough Nigeria may have some unpalatable circumstances; certainly she remains the toast of genuine entrepreneurship.
Well done ma, keep passing the baton.