African countries, Nigeria as a case study, have for long, been faced with numerous economic and socio-political challenges, which economic pundits have identified as the bane of development in all spheres of the existence of almost all African countries. Fielding questions from Ola Babatunde, publisher of Pleasures Magazine, in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, Mr and Mrs Gbadewole Amos, established Nigerian young entrepreneurs, who were in Accra, Ghana, for expansion of their real estate business, spoke in plain language about the teething challenges of youth entrepreneurship in Nigeria and by extension, Africa. They also spoke about how African youths generally can surmount the seemingly insurmountable challenges of starting and sustaining their own businesses in a harsh economic environment that hold sway in Africa as it were. In the interview, Mr Amos Gbadewole, CEO of Crown Allied Global Company, and Mrs Olubunmi Mary Gbadewole, Managing Director of the same company, both of them in their thirties, emphasized that youth entrepreneurship was the catalyst for the development of African economy. They further stressed that until African youths are able to brace the odds and storm the business environment within Africa to bring their youthful skills and modern business acumen to bear in the economy of their various countries, the African continent will continue to be a third world region. In the same manner, Mr & Mrs Gbadewole urged the various leaders of African countries to do more than the rhetoric to make the African business environment more friendly for young entrepreneurs to explore and create jobs for the citizens as well as grow the economy of the region. Hear from them:
I must say that you are a true African entrepreneur, because you seem to be everywhere around Africa, let’s meet you and your mission in Accra.
Well, my name is Amos Kayode Gbadewole. This is my wife, Mrs Olubunmi Mary Gbadewole. She is also an entrepreneur. Actually, she is a Director at the Crown Allied Global Company, in charge of administration. This is not our first time in Accra. We have been here before. We were here for the first time a few years ago for our honeymoon, after our wedding. However, we are not here this time for honeymoon. We are here for business. As I told you in our last discussion, we are in real estate business, providing smart homes for the people of Africa, and our real estate business spans across many borders. We are currently doing expansion, and Accra is one of the commercial hobs of Africa, so, we are here to extend the services of our business to the good people of Ghana living here in Accra. We want to help the government of Ghana provide smart homes for the citizens as well as solve the problem of entrepreneurship by providing entrepreneurial skills to the young people of Ghana. We have quite a number of projects, ranging from commercial plazas to private residential apartments and smart homes, coming up here in Accra.
We learnt you were also in Ibadan and Lagos recently before coming to Accra. What were you in those cities to do?
As I said earlier, we are currently expanding the business in order to extend the services of smart homes to more cities and town across the West African region and beyond. Therefore, we were in Ibadan and Lagos just for that reason. We have a number of projects coming up in those cities as we speak. One of those projects, specifically, the one in Lagos, will habour over one hundred and twenty-five housing units.
To you, Mrs Gbadewole, why are you in this business instead of doing things like cosmetics, fashion, entertainment, banking and so on, which are more feminine? Could it be possible that your husband forced you into joining him in his business?
Not at all, I choose to join my husband in his business on my own. Actually, I am a registered nurse. I hold Bs.c nursing from the University of Ibadan. However, after getting married to my husband and saw his passion for business, I fell in love with entrepreneurship. His passion for business robbed on me, and I decided to join him in his business. Moreover, I have a business background. My parents are business people. I am very passion about the vision of our company, especially the Smart Home Concept. The vision of Smart Home Concept is such that will help women learn and master how to effectively manage their homes and still be in their jobs or do their businesses with relative ease. To be honest, I have come to realize that it is not easy for women to cope with the task of managing their homes effectively and still be productive at work or in their businesses, but smart home concept will help solve this problem effectively. With this in mind, I am with my husband all the way.
Still on you, Mrs Gbadewole, has there ever been a time your husband came up with a new idea for a new project and you felt scared, like, it was, perhaps, too gigantic to accomplish?
As a woman, sometimes one will hear some figures or amount of money mentioned along with certain hectares of land and a tinge of jittery will run through one’s veins. But in occasions like that, when I look at him and see the kind of enthusiasm and confidence that he will express about the new opportunity, I will have no choice than to believe and run with him in the project. My faith is even strengthened more the fact that I know him as someone who always seek God’s guidance in everything he wants to do before he will embark on it. Because of that, we have never known a better yesterday and we have not failed in any of our projects. God has been with us in all that we do.
Mr Gbadewole, you said that your company has just acquired a large expanse of land in Lagos where you are about to commence a new project. How do you normally identify a site, I mean, how do you get to know that a particular site is available for sale?
Yes, we have some of our members of staff whose duty is to go around sourcing for available property for sale. They look for land that has genuine documents, but we also do our due diligent findings to ensure that the documents of any land presented to us are genuine. Many people bring documents to us, but we always make sure that we deal with property/estate agents that have record of excellent accomplishment of integrity and honesty in the business of real estate. This is so necessary because in real estate business, two things are paramount: first, the strategic location of the site; second, the genuine documentation of the property, I mean C of O, or Governor’s consent, as it is called in Nigeria. If the property is strategically located has the right title documentation, it gives the buyers good value for their money. It also gives our company a good image and strengthens our public image and integrity in the public domain. For instance, our nine hectares property in Lagos is located very close to the Dangote refinery at the free trade zone in Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, while the one at Ibadan is located near the popular Bodeja estate in Ibadan, Oyo State of Nigeria.
Mr Gbadewole, you have four estates in Abuja, some in Ibadan, and now, you are starting another in the same Ibadan, Lagos and Accra, Ghana, don’t you think that you are a bit on the faster lane?
No. I say no because as I once told you, our vision is for our company to have footing in all the capital cities and other major cities of all the countries in the world. We have enough competent members of staff who manage the businesses in our absence. So, we don’t necessarily have to be physically present for any job to be done. Once we have put the necessary things in place, we move on and allow the staff to handle the rest, and they have been doing fantastically well. As I speak to you, work is ongoing in all the estates in Abuja without our presence there. So, you see, we are not on the fast lane as you think. We are simply trying to make sure that our dream of having our company’s presence in all the capital cities of the world is achieved as speedily as possible.
What is the project in Accra all about?
The project in Accra is in three phases. The first is to introduce the smart home concept, which will enable women in Ghana to be good wives and mothers at home and still be effectively productive in their various offices. This concept is not yet available here in Ghana. So, we are here to introduce that to Ghanaian women and help the present administration achieve its goal of making life comfortable for the Ghanaian people. The second is the commercial part, where we shall provide office apartments for young businesses and budding entrepreneurs with ease and at affordable rates. This concept will actually make it possible for business managers to rent an already equipped office, and just move in with their staff to start their businesses right away without having to go through the trouble of buying office equipment to furnish the office. The third is the provision of residential homes for the good people of Accra in Ghana. These are the cutting-edge projects that we are bringing to the people of Ghana in Accra.
Mrs Gbadewole, as a woman, what is your contribution to the development of the properties in your various estates?
My contribution is in the area of the location, size, and provision of modern facilities the kitchens. One of our company’s objectives is to ensure that we encourage peaceful homes. For this to be possible, we believe that couples should live as one and do or share things in common at home. A husband, and even the kids, should share time with their wives in the kitchen while she is cooking the foods so that she can feel cheerful cooking the foods. In this wise, the kitchen has to be spacious enough so that it can contain some chairs where the husband and the kids, if possible, can sit and share their time with their wives and mother as she does the cooking. They will also like watch TV while waiting for the food without feeling the heat from the cooker. So, the kitchens should contain all these facilities that will make it convenient for husbands and kids to spend time with their wives and or mothers in the kitchen. I make sure that all those facilities are included in the kitchens while developing the properties in all our estates.
On you again, Mrs Gbadewole, what is the difference between Mr Gbadewole at home and Mr Gbadewole in the office?
Simple, at home, Mr Gbadewole Amos is strictly my husband, and in the office, he strictly my boss. We don’t mix that up in any way.
To you, now, Mr Gbadewole, as a widely travelled young ent repreneur, what would you say entrepreneurship has been to you in Africa?
To be honest, we still have a long way to go in the area of entrepreneurship in Africa. I think that what we have to do to put Africa at par with other nations that are ahead is to bring excellence and innovative technology into our products and services, and that is exactly what we are doing in our company. The technological features we are putting in place in all our estates are such that will make people ask questions ten to fifteen years from this time about how we came about them at the time. We are setting the pace for other African entrepreneurs to follow.
This interview will feature in the maiden edition of our glossy magazine, which will circulate round the world, if for instance, someone reads about your fascinating story in it and is interested in seeking partnership with your company, what would you say to that?
Well, we are open to partnership with anybody or any company or firm anywhere around the world. Nevertheless, I must add that whoever or whichever corporate organization or firm that would want to collaborate with us must have a record of proven integrity. This is because integrity is of essence, not only in partnership but also in success of any business anywhere in the world.
What would you say about doing business in Nigeria and doing business in Ghana and other parts of the world?
To put it straight, the cost of running a business in Ghana in far much higher than it is in Nigeria, especially when it is a foreign company. However, this is not peculiar to Ghana; it is even more costly to register a company in the United States of America than it is in Ghana. However, we have it as a policy in our company that wherever we to do business, we must respect the law of that country and see ourselves as the citizens of the country.
How has funding been like to you and your business?
So far, we have not gone out to source fund from lenders. Instead, we have been empowering young Nigerian graduates with skills and funds to start their own businesses and stand on their own. However, from the story I hear from fellow entrepreneurs, who have had reason to seek funds from financial institutions in Nigeria, I must say that the story has not been encouraging. There is so great deficit in that regard, the government has a lot to do so that young entrepreneurs can be encouraged to apply their business ideas and bring development to the region’s economy.
How would you entrepreneurship in the United States of America and entrepreneurship in Africa?
Actually, I feel saddened any time I think about that. There is no basis of comparison as it stands now. The level of development in USA cannot be compared to the level of development in Africa, and that gives the young entrepreneurs in USA an edge over the budding entrepreneurs in Africa. However, I do not see that as a problem. I see it as a challenge. That is we are here. We are putting in place the technology and innovative ideas that will help young African entrepreneurs an advantage to do business in Africa with relative ease. More importantly, we are creating jobs for scores of hundreds of people and creating business opportunities for thousands of others. I believe that with time, we shall over these challenges and put our continent at par with the developed world.
Back to you, Mrs Gbadewole, how do you balance your role as a wife, mother of two and as the Executive Director of one of the biggest real estate company in Africa?
That has been quite herculean, I should say. Nevertheless, you see, once a woman understands exactly what her goals are, she would know how to plan her time to meet up with all her duties, both at home as a mother and wife as well as in the office. That is the whole essence of the smart home concept. With our smart home concept, mothers can actually work from home, marketing their products or goods to make money while attending to their family needs at home. For me, I draw a timetable for everything that I have to do in a day at home and in the office. I give time to my children, attending to their educational needs, checking their books to see what they did at school and so on. I also make sure that I cook the food that the family will eat for the day. I wake up very early in the morning to do that. In the office, I also ensure that I do my job duteously to set example for my subordinate members of staff. Simply put, I manage my time effectively and I give priority to both my home and my job. I don’t allow one to suffer because of one. There are certain things a woman must not leave to house help, especially cooking the family food. I always do that and other sensitive chores myself.
Where should we expect to see Crown Allied Company in the next five to ten years?
Our dream and ambition as a company is to see that our company, Crown Allied Company is established in at least thirty countries around the world. Moreover, we are going to focus more on the smart home concept to give parents opportunity to concentrate on their work in the office and still be good parents at home. We shall continue to expand the business and consolidate on the present feats. We shall also concentrate on commercial housing structures.
What should the people of Accra, Ghana expect to see from Crown Allied Global Company in a year from now?
In the next one year, Crown Allied Global Company will have its presence everywhere here in Accra, Ghana, and other major cities of this country, especially in the area of commercial housing and the smart home concept. People will see our estates, crown smart cities everywhere around the major cities of Ghana, and people shall feel the impact of our smart home concept.
What is your advice to upcoming real estate realtors?
My advice to them is that they should be focused, creative, innovative as well as be driven by the passion for excellence in what they do. Their first priority should be the satisfaction of their clients. When they do that, they shall have reward for their efforts and passion. But if they choose to focus on monetary gains at the expense of their clients, they will find themselves struggling to succeed in what they do.
Finally, what would be your advice to fresh graduates in Nigeria, and by extension Africa, who go about searching for non-existing white collar jobs?
I advise to shelf the idea of white-collar job and think of what they can do for themselves and their country. They should look inward themselves and think outside the box to discover their unique abilities, explore them and make themselves useful to themselves and the society.