Omolara Joseph-Hunvenu is a professional interior designer and the Managing Director of Spring Interiors Limited – a leading interior design brand that provides bespoke interior design solutions and a one stop furniture showroom based in Abuja. With a strong passion for creating comfortable homes through luxury, she chats with PLEASURES
Magazine on her entrepreneurial journey, passion for luxury in interior design amongst others.
Please, who is Mrs. Lara?
I am a mother, a wife, an entrepreneur, and am so proud of all I am doing.
How was your growing up like? Can we know about it?
Growing up was amazing and challenging. I grew up in Abeokuta, Ogun state but I am from Lagos state. My mum is from Abeokuta and my dad is from Badagry. I attended St Benedette Private Primary School in Abeokuta completed my secondary education in Abeokuta grammar school. I furthered my education and I studied Actualscience at the University of Lagos, I graduated in 2002 and I served in Abuja.
However, what I studied back then in the university has nothing to do with what I’m doing now.
Due to the atmosphere I grew up where Both Mother and Grandmother were great Business Tycoons in my Community, I had every Urge to Become a More Successful Business woman, but unsure of which aspect of business,but I kept on with keen Interest. However, my dad was a medical doctor.
Unconsciously, I started my business right from my university days. I would travel to and from Abeokuta and even to Kano to buy goods and sell them in school. I didn’t know that I was just warming up for the big Picture. I did my During my service, I developed a strong interest in travelling and tourism due to the company I was working for, so I started issuing travel tickets and made reservations. I Got retained afterwards, I made sure I was useful by doing lots of research getting ideas and software that would make the job easier. As I would always tell people, passion would drive you to do anything you set out to do well.
After 3 years of work, I was led to start my own Travels and Tour company which gave birth to Spring Travels and Tour Ltd.
The Relationship I had with my boss was so cordial that I couldn’t tell Her I was leaving. But I had to leave, to further my studies. But I ensure to keep the relationship Intact at all cost by still operating with themwhen I can. I didn’t just cut them off completely. Its been over 13 years and the relationship is still solid.
So, I started my own travelling agency. I grew very fast because I was already used to a lot of things. I had three major Business class clients then, but I kept pressing on, because I was convinced there was more, consequently, I got awarded the contract to secure Tickets for the National Sports Commission Nigeria. It was at that point that everything changed for the better.
While still Thriving in my Travels and Tour business, I had a friend that was into Interior designing who has been teaching & encouraging me a lot on interior designs because of my frequent travels and He saw the interest I had in it, so he kept on cheering me on and influencing at every way possible. That was how the urge I had for interior blossomed. One thing I made sure I didn’t leave behind at Spring Travels & Tours is the spirit of Excellence, I made sure I put it in my Interior design business. Furthermore I picked a particular aspect to focus on, so as to Carve a niche for myself, I delved into the Luxuriant aspect of interior designs, reason being that We have a lot of customers with uncommon and unique taste for quality and extraordinary designs, which they believe that they cant get their type of furniture in Nigeria, so instead of them doing the travel to go get those items, I made myself available to bridge the gap and get them the best of the best plus 1.Which I do not Regret at all, because now in Nigeria, everyone selling furniture is an interior designer, but there’s a difference between selling furniture and being an interior designer.
I made sure I didn’t stop there I proceeded to enroll in interior designing courses in Dubai, and also made sure that I attend conferences, exhibitions in different parts of the world, which constantly bring a lot of illumination and creativity to my business.
Let’s talk about the making of the “Spring interior.” How did you come about the name? Take us through it and tell us what you do in Spring interior?
You aren’t the first to ask me how I got this name. The name came divinely. I was looking for a name. As I told you, I have a travel agency and the name was also Spring Travels and Tours. So the name has been there before I went into the interior designing. And, there’s a Yoruba adage that says when God has a hand in whatever you are doing, He makes it easy for you. When I wanted to register spring travel and tours, I was thinking of a name. One morning, I just woke up and walked into my bathroom and saw a particular bottle of freshener, I noticed and observed what was written on it. Prior to that, I prayed to God to give me a good name, that can be a household name. So, in the bathroom that morning, my gaze fell directly on that bottle of room freshener and I saw “Spring.” I went back to my room and picked up a dictionary. I already knew what the word “spring” meant but I wanted to know more about the word. Spring means a source that can’t go dry. A source that fresh water comes out from. It’s also one of the best seasons. We have summer, winter, etc. Spring time is when the flowers are blooming and everything appears fresh. Spring also means something that happens suddenly. Immediately, I knew it was the name I have been waiting for. Instantly, I called the guy I was working on it with. He asserted that the name was good and we registered it. I have always had the belief that a name someone or something bears affects the person or thing and it has always been so. The business has been springing from one level to a higher one.
What do you do in Spring?
Spring Interior Limited is an interior design company. We design and we sell furniture too. Not all interior designers firm have a show room, but we do. We are also into construction of building from foundation to finishing.
We also give expert advice to our clients, we are always ready to listen and proffer solutions.
How did you get the right working team in the process of starting your organization?
How were you able to get them to understand your visions and to work with you to achieve them? God helped me. When I started, my vision was to do something unique from that of others. I started with my younger brother who’s late now.
He was the one who started with me and we were doing the both the logistics and administrative aspect of the job together as a team. As time went on I hired one more staff who have been with me now for almost 6 years. At this point we could conveniently have division of Labor.
As the business kept on growing the strength of my staff increased, we could hire Architects and every other ancillary staff. Most of my staff have worked with me for long. I can’t say I did anything too special to have a working team. God helped me. I also learnt that if you pay attention to your staff and if they aren’t greedy or selfish, they will stick with you, so long as they are comfortable.
Can you recall your first project? How did you get the client? How was it like?
I had a friend then who was also into travels and Tour. She would always replicate all the designs I introduce to my house back then, but it got to a point that she had to entrust me with the designing of the house. I was amazed at her confidence in me. I was also scared but I did that project afraid and the outcome blew my own mind away, people found it difficult to believe that it was my first project.
What are some questions you ask your clients in order to understand what they really want? Clients can come to you without a specific idea of what they want. How do you handle such?
Everyone wants their house to look good. I make sure I have a physical meeting with my clients and I ask them questions on what they have in mind, if need be I Visit the site immediately so as to proffer my expert opinion, that is in the case where the client doesn’t have an idea of what designs they want to create. However some clients know exactly what they want they even have pictures of their dream home, so we sit discuss it and tweak the picture if need be. We can also show them samples of jobs we have done and ask them if they want something like that. Sometimes when you finish the project without having a full understanding of what the client wants.
He or she might not really like the job. However, about 95 per cent of the time, we are able to understand what our clients want and to do their job the exact way they desire. The truth is that although it’s the client’s idea to explain what they want, we know the job better than the clients. So, we always refurbish the ideas of clients to give them the best service possible.
You mentioned that you did some courses in Italy and Dubai and that you are still undergoing some. So, what’s the importance of education in entrepreneurship?
As I said earlier, this is something I just developed an interest in and I had a passion for. So, I had to learn more so that I can have better knowledge of the field and also better how to create my designs. Entrepreneurs need to be educated, entrepreneurship is not an excuse not to learn, I believe that for you to be an entrepreneur in this new century you must be willing to study as hard as possible, be a voracious reader, consume all articles and courses that are in your field, even the Bible says study to show yourself approved.
In everything, there must be challenges. What are some of the challenges that you faced along the way and how have you been able to scale through them?
I have a factory here in Abuja. When I first started, I manufactured my furniture because that is what I wanted to do. I was doing it excellently well but people were not really patronizing it so for the first one year it was as though the rent I paid was wasted. I didn’t get my money. I got nothing back but when I changed the game, everything changed. Relating with customers has also been challenging. Some customers are difficult to relate with, but God has been helping me.
To you, what is the most important thing in interior decoration? What is the most indispensable thing in this field?
Accessories, they are very important. They are what beautify a house.
Let’s go into entrepreneurship. Who’s an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur is one who sets up a business or businesses, taking financial risks in the hope of profit. I can say that I am an entrepreneur because the business was started by me and I have been grooming it for six to seven years now while the travel business is around 13 years. If you are able to start a business and, maintain and sustain it, I can call you a successful entrepreneur.
What challenges do entrepreneurs like you face?
Entrepreneurship is quite challenging because all over the world, entrepreneurs are saddled with the responsibility of helping the government by employing the people and molding the country by shaping its economy. We do a lot for the government. This makes it very challenging to be an entrepreneur, especially in a country like Nigeria, where import duties are high, and the prerequisites to get bank loan is so high that upcoming entrepreneurs cant even meet. So far in my business, I haven’t collected any loans from banks. God has just been the one sustaining me and my business. When I was in the travel agency, whenever we made sales, the money always went back into the business. It therefore takes discipline to be able to manage a business to the level where you reap from it. If you aren’t disciplined, you would spend the incoming funds on the wrong things and the business will go down. So far my business has grown. Spring interior has been doing pretty well. From three shops, we grew to five, and from five to nine. Now, we have our own building, all in the space of six years.
Although it’s very difficult to be an entrepreneur in Nigeria, we still hear people say they started their business with 10, 20 or 30 thousand naira. Are they misleading us?
No they might not be misleading the people reason being that, we have different companies and different products that each company sell. The type of the business and the time you have spent doing it has a huge role to play in this. Ask some people who have been entrepreneurs for 10 years or thereabout to tell you what it is or what it takes to sustain a business. Being an entrepreneur, as I told you isn’t so easy. However, if you are dedicated, committed, and focused, you will excel, although it can take some time. Entrepreneurship is a game and everyone is gambling. So, you must be able to sustain whatever you start.
Since it’s so difficult to get help from the government, you have to source for funds yourself, either 10, 20 30, thousand naira, any one you can lay your hands on, like I did in my business I made sure at the start that both the profit and gain goes back into the company, until we were able to stand above the struggle level, if you have a million naira foryour business and you make another one million naira and you use it for other things other than furthering your business, your business is likely to remain the same. But if you want to grow in your business, you have to work with what you have and send the income back into the business to yield more, until the business stands.
About the furniture aspect of your business, most interior designers we have interviewed are not as good as you are in this area. When did the furniture aspect become part of your company?
I knew what I wanted. I knew the kind of business I wanted to build. I had in mind the kind of quality furniture I would want in my show room. I started like most other people but I knew that we would have to improve our quality. We feel safe offering luxurious services; a quality that people can vouch for and I can beat my chest anywhere about the years of warranty you would get after purchasing our products. Beyond making our goods and services affordable, we also pay attention to quality. I rather do something real and of high standard than to do an imitation. I improved my quality by investing my income back into the business. Let’s assume that its costs me a million naira to do something and I profit 300 thousand naira from it. Instead of using my profit for myself or something else, I would invest it back into the same business to improve my quality. In that way, I would be increasing my standard and the quality of my furniture and services. So, if I sell again and profit N500, 000,I still invest it into the same business, for more quality and consequently, more profit. That’s how I have
grown to the point where I am today, where I can buy furniture of 45 thousand dollars for my show room.
Knowing the kind of country Nigeria is who is/are your targets?
Virtually everyone, whoever wants good furniture or interior designs.
How do you get them?
Well, it’s been by words and recommendations. I haven’t really done many adverts, especially on social media. It has been based on referrals. Most people, who come, come after hearing about us from other clients. We are doing a Ghana project now. It was an Artisan that referred us to them.
Let’s talk about you now. When you wake up every morning, what drives you?
Passion, and Love for what am doing. It is your passion that puts food on your table, not money. If you are money conscious, you might not do well in business because if the money isn’t coming in, you would be frustrated and wear out easily. Passion on the other hand will give you the faith to push on. You must love what you do in order
to grow in it. It’s just like marrying someone. If you don’t love the person, the union will die off. If financial issues arise, you will look elsewhere because the marriage didn’t happen on the ground of love. Passion drives me. The love for what I am doing spurs me to always continue against all odds. I always go the sites of clients who
have houses, in order to get certain details myself. Details are very important. Only passion helps me do all of these meticulously. Beyond the money, it gives me joy to see clients happy.
You sound tough and strong-willed. Is this a resultant effect of your upbringing? Did your upbringing affect all you are, love, and do now?
Yes. My mum and grand mum played a major role. My Grand Mother built her first house at the age of 23 from her business, thereby raising the standard high for us to follow, When she grew old and didn’t know what
extra business to do, she started selling cars. when we were way younger, I saw how she went about her life. She had both passion and business sense and she was also strong willed, so I’ve been mentored since I was a kid.
I also groomed myself. I started this journey by myself at age 17. I did a lot of businesses, failed, got up till I found success.
Apart from your grand mum, did you have role models? What is the importance of having role models?
It is very important to have a mentor or mentors, in all ramifications of life. In my career, there is this managing director of a company in Turin, Italy, who’s my friend. He sends me pictures of the projects he
carries out. The beauty and glamour inspires me and motivates me to do something of that standard. My pastor, Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo is also my mentor. He’s someone who is an influence on what I do or don’t do.
He checkmates me. It’s good to have someone who you are accountable to. In life, you have to have a mentor who guides you. My mentors are the reason why I grow both in my business and in my spiritual life.
Do you have any program that offers something to new or young people coming into the industry?
Yeah we give back a lot. There’s something I believe in and say. When helping people, keep your camera away. That’s why you don’t see most of what we do online. We only put few online; those that we deem fit for the public. We sponsor random people and teach them fashion sometimes, while still putting everything in place for our upcoming interior school.
Do you have any college for such?
If you check our website now, it’s already there but when you have a standard, you don’t rush things. We are yet to unveil it officially as a school. We are not just doing it as a school of interior designing. We are doing a school of vocational studies. We have big plans towards that and we are in the process.
Looking forward, where do you see your company in the next five years?
We would be global at that time.
Looking back, are you fulfilled? Any regret?
No regret at all. I have no reason to regret. I have a paradigm of not regretting things, even the ills done against me because I believe I can learn from anything that happens. God has always been helping me and things have been amazing and can only get better.
With all of these business engagements, is your home not affected?
Not at all, Learning how to juggle business engagements and Home is something God has helped me achieve. Whenever I’m in the country, I pick my kids from school myself. I might be busy in the mornings, but am less occupied in the afternoons because its family bonding time.
What do you do to relax?
I am either researching or watching good movies. I don’t go out to do that. I do so at home.
How about fashion, what’s it to you?
Fashion is me. I love fashion.
Between shoes and bags, which do you fancy the most?
It has to be shoes. I love shoes.
So, if you have to attribute something to your success, what can you attribute it to?
Of course God, His grace is sufficient, it is just God. That’s why I tell people not to depend on anybody to help them financially. Not even relatives. You don’t even have to look out for inheritances. You must believe in God to help you earn funds for yourself.
If you speak to someone who’s trying to join your industry, what would be your words to the person?
Start from somewhere. As I said, when I started, I had a friend who I asked to work with me. You need to have such people; people who can assist you in carrying out projects. You grow this way. With time, you can get a shop.
It’s not easy bringing in containers containing goods, keeping them and dealing with damages. You have to start from somewhere.
And also, to mothers who are career women, what would you say to them?
Family is important. Don’t let the work take the place of your motherhood. I don’t joke with my kids at all, despite the fact that I’m usually very busy. I travel a lot but I always communicate with them.
Such mothers shouldn’t get carried away with work.
What are your final words to those who will like to do business with Spring?
Spring interior limited is a luxury interior designing company. We transform the dream homes of people into their reality.
Spring Interiors Limited is located at 3rd Avenue Gwarimpa , Abuja , Nigeria
Mobile: +2348091760424 +2348031310821