Breaking Barriers and Embracing a Billionaire Mindset: The Inspiring story of Mrs Folorunso Alakija

“Giving up was not an option, Folorunso does not give up, my husband does not give up, my children do not give up. We are a force that has to be reckoned with…… We learned during that period that man will deceive you, man will disappoint you, man will reject you, man will turn their backs on you, but God will always be standing.”

Many are not aware that a Nigerian held the title of the richest black woman in the world in 2014. At a whopping net worth of $2.1 billion dollars, she is richer than Oprah Winfrey, who held the title before her. It is almost unbelievable that from all the 6 continents of the world including the very affluent continent of North America, The richest black woman has to emerge from the “poor” continent of Africa, and even more so from Nigeria.
Whether we believe it or not, Nigeria is rising powerfully and the world is taking note. Remember that in the same year 2014, the richest black man in the world was also a Nigerian in the person of Alhaji Aliko Dangote who overtook top south African magnates like the De boers family and Egyptian conglomerate founders like the Osawiris family.
Today, we shall look at the true story behind the incredible success of our own Mrs Folorunso Alakija, formely the richest black woman in the world (today due to decline in oil price, she is the second richest woman in Africa, and the 3rd richest black woman in the world).

Folorunso Alakija is vice chair of Famfa Oil, a Nigerian oil exploration company with a stake in Agbami Oilfield, a prolific offshore asset.

Folorunso was born in 1951 to the family of Chief L. A. Ogbara in Ikorodu, Lagos State. Folorunso started her career in 1974 as an executive secretary at Sijuade Enterprises, Lagos, Nigeria. She moved on to the former First National Bank of Chicago, now FinBank now acquired by FCMB (First City Monument Bank) where she worked for some years before establishing a tailoring company called Supreme Stitches.

Her true Story!
“….In fact I started out as a confidential secretary, when I came back from England and I worked with Sijuade enterprises for about a year and half, and then I moved to a bank that was just starting out in Nigeria at the time. And I was there for almost twelve years, but then shortly after that I realized that more people were being hired and some were being taken above me, and I decided that it was time to move on. So i decided that i needed to go and setup my own business. I decided that I was going to go and study Fashion designing, I believe in doing things properly, I don’t like half measures, anything worth doing at all for Folorunsho is worth doing well. So i decided to go back to England to study Fashion design properly and setup my own fashion house, which was called supreme stitches at the time. Immediately when I launched my label, I was invited to take part in a Fashion competition and that fashion competition brought me out into the lime light because I won the competition.

Somewhere along the line…I met a friend of mine on board, who had told me that she was involved with a business group that wanted to lift crude in Nigeria….that was the point that anything about oil came into my life. She wanted me to see whether I could get the company that she was involved with an opportunity to lift Nigerian crude, and it was an American company. I went knocking on a few doors to be able to get me an appointment with the oil minister and the petroleum minister told me that the government of the day was not really interested in doing that anymore, but that they preferred to get company to invest in the Nigerian oil industry. I took the message back and they said they didn’t want to invest in Nigeria, so they left. And then I thought to myself after that, that now that I have a foot in the door, why don’t I go back to the oil minister and find out what I can do in the industry. Basically, what was in my mind was to try and get any kind of contract just to earn a little bit more than what I was making in my Fashion business.

So I went to see some relatives of mine in NNPC and they suggested that why don’t you try for transportation of crude. So I did my homework in that area and went back to the minister, he said, well by the time we start connecting pipelines…we won’t be needing the trucks as much as before, so I felt disappointed again.. on another visit, he then suggested to me that because that current government at that time was more interested in getting Nigerians involved in exploiting its oil industry rather than having the multi-nationals continue to cart away the wealth of Nigeria…why don’t I look into oil exploration and production. So I felt rather depressed, dejected and it seemed as if the final door has been shut in my face. I decided to not give up. Folorunso is not the kind of woman that gives up easily. I decided to do some more homework. I started looking for technical partners which I found and we applied for an oil license. It took three years to get that oil license and oil ministers changed hands a couple of times and each time I have to re-apply all over again. Then the license eventually came in August 1993 to our delight. And it was funny that it took another three years to get another set of technical partners because the first set of technical partners that we had did not want to have anything to do with the kind of bloc that we were allocated. It was deep offshore, technology has not reached the water depth of the oil bloc that we had been allocated. ..So we were going round looking for technical partners that will team up with us, and that will be able to not only provide the technical know-how, but also to be able to provide the funds to explore and exploit it. After three years, we got an invitation from Texaco and we negotiated for three months backwards and forwards and I can say that to the glory of God the rest is history.”

However Mrs Folorunso faced another battle, when the government moved in and took possession of the oil bloc, after it became profitable. She then did the unthinkable; she took the government of the day to court! A ludicrous and crazy strategy at the time, which was bound to fail or so everyone thought. Hear her own words.
“During the period that I was trying to get the oil license, I became born-again. I entered into a covenant with God, and I said if you will bless me, I will work for you all the days of my life. So I knew that God will not disappoint me. …. the worst day of my life, was in 1999, when the government of the day decided to come back into our oil bloc by taking 40% of our 60% shareholding, which is two thirds of our ownership. 2/3rd of our ownership of something we had suffered over the years, from 1991 to 1999, 8 years of our lifetime has passed, all our life savings has been put into it. We had taken a sole risk, meaning that if we did not strike oil and strike it in commercial quantity; we could have been wiped out. was after we had discovered oil in commercial quantity that the government decided to come back into our bloc and said that ..ok, now that it is looking juicy, we want a part of that. It wasn’t fair, we felt cheated. We went calling and knocking on the doors of friends who might be able to help us salvage the situation, nobody helped. It seemed as if we had suddenly become the plague. Nobody wanted to have anything to do with us, to the extent that I had friends in high places who when they bumped into me will look the other way or would hold a Newspaper to cover their faces, it was as bad as that..

Folorunsho with her husband Modupe Alakija, four sons and grand daughter

We felt that we had nothing to lose by fighting back….. So we decided to take the government of the day to court. People thought that we were crazy but there was nowhere else to go. Every door has been shut in our face, we were depressed, dejected, upset, angry…it seemed as if it was the end of the world and everything has collapsed in our faces.. I mean this has become a family business, we were all working in it, my husband, my children, myself and the thought of throwing in the towel and giving up …we decided that we would not do that, that we will take the matter to court. People were saying, but you can never win against the government when you go to court, government always wins. We said well, it’s going to be fight to finish. We are going to go all the way, whatever it takes. So we started from the lower court. It took 12 years to get to the point of the final judgment at the Supreme Court.
It was bitter sweet. …My husband played a fantastic role, he is a lawyer. Throughout that 12 years period, he was in court all the time and we were paying huge sums to be represented by other lawyers and chambers in various courts and there were sleepless nights. We were fasting, praying and it was like we were on our own. Friends, relatives were abusing us, and they were saying things like, ..ah! the government took 40%, then came back and took another 10%, leaving us with just 10% of our 60% shareholding, so is 10% not enough for them?…

So that one day in retrospect when we look back, we thank God for taking that bold step to decide to fight back. And why did we eventually win? We had signed a contract at the beginning with the government that they could buy back into the oil bloc, but there were steps and processes that needed to be followed, which the government did not do… they were supposed to give us compensation for whatever they were supposed to take from us but where they went wrong was that they didn’t do any of that. ..What they did was that, we gave the license, we have the right to come into any bloc at any time that we please, and we can take what we want. Meaning they wanted to reap where they did not sow….because we paid for the bloc, all the government dues were paid from the start. Nigeria has a constitution, and nobody, even the government itself is not above the constitution. So it was those arguments that we built on that got us the opportunity to win the case.”

“Giving up was not an option, Folorunso does not give up, my husband does not give up, my children do not give up. We are a force that has to be reckoned with…… We learned during that period that man will deceive you, man will disappoint you, man will reject you, man will turn their backs on you, but God will always be standing.”
” …there is no industry or sector that is the exclusive preserve of any gender, make sure that you do your homework, make sure that you look for mentors, make sure that you acquire the requisite skills to enable you to succeed in your chosen venture. Never take no for an answer. I didn’t take no for an answer, I never will take no for an answer. And for me, there is no such word as CAN’T. One of the very first things that one should do is always to ask God first. To ask God where he wants you to be. What he planned for your destiny. And I believe that if you do that, against all odds, no matter what may be thrown at you, you will still be standing, the way I am standing today, to God’s glory.”

Secrets of Mrs Folorunso’s Success:
The secret of successful people are in their stories, the story of Mrs Folorunso Alakija is full of powerful success secrets, let’s look at them:
1. Mrs Alakija is dedicated to whatever she does and aims to do it better than anyone else. Her dedication to her fashion line led to her winning her first fashion show, which propelled her to the limelight and thus brought her to the attention of powers that matter, like former first lady of Nigeria and top people in the society.
2. Before Mrs Folorunso started her fashion business, she went for the best training in that area. Many people simply start a business without training, and that is why they end up being mediocre.
3. Every self-made billionaire today, once started small. Mrs Folorunso started out as a confidential secretary. Don’t be afraid to start small.
4. Don’t remain stagnant for too long. When Mrs Folorunso discovered that she was no longer being promoted, after serving for 12 years in a bank, she did not resign to fate, but decided to do something about her future. This was the point at which she decided to launch into her own business. Pleasures Magazine encourages people to launch into entrepreneurship, especially if you realize that whatever you are doing now, will never allow you to fully realize your potential. Do not remain stagnant, do something, take your destiny in your hands. Enroll for our comprehensive entrepreneurship course and learn a skill and business practices that will allow you to launch out successfully on your own.
5. Take any promotion seriously. If you are already in business, do not joke with any opportunity to promote your business. No one would have heard of Mrs Folorunso if she never took part in the first fashion competition which she won.
6. Billionaires never miss opportunity. When Mrs folorunso had the opportunity to engage into the oil business through a friend she met on a plane. She did so immediately. She didn’t have any idea of the oil industry, but that didn’t stop her from taking the opportunity. What if she had said .. well, I don’t know anything about the oil industry, please try someone else..
Even when her request was rejected by the oil minister, she continued to look for opportunity in the oil industry.
7. Don’t give up easily. The story of Mrs Folorunso is full of her doing the impossible. She knew nothing about oil exploration and production, but went ahead to look for technical partners that had the requisite skill. She had no funding to carry out the massive task, but managed to get TEXACO to invest the necessary sum. When the government tried to take away her shares, she did the impossible and fought them in court for 12 years. She repeatedly used one phrase each time she speaks, ” …Folorunso never gives up..”
8. Learn how to do proper business planning. Before Mrs Folorunso embarks on any new venture, she does her homework first. Many aspiring entrepreneurs know nothing about proper business planning. Without a solid business plan, no one will listen to you. You cannot get a good contract, you cannot get partners and you cannot get investors or loan because no one will invest in an idea that has not been properly laid out on paper and proven to work. Every entrepreneur MUST know how to write a business plan.
9. She involved her entire family in her vision. Remember that you need people to help you. Begin to build a great team and don’t be shy to allow your family or spouse help you. Your family are the only people who will stand behind you when others desert you, just like they deserted Mrs Folorunso in her darkest hours.
10. She had faith in God. This is not about religion; it is about trusting in God. Whatever is your religion, you need to know that God is watching out for you, and to believe in his benevolence towards you. Faith in a higher power is a common denominator of many successful people.

What other lessons can you learn from this great woman’s story? Let’s hear from you. email us:

Who wouldn’t love the opportunity to learn from Mrs Folorunso Alakija? Connect with her today.
Email Address:
Tel: +234 (0) 907 000 4210
Facebook: Rose of Sharon Glorious Ministry International





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Prove you Human *