Awakening the spirit of entrepreneurship
Young and vibrant Dr. Kelly Izuwa Nwogu, the Managing Director/CEO of Livelihood Homes (owners of ) is passionate about contributing his quota to real estate development and entrepreneurship in Nigeria. In the last five years the serial entrepreneur took the real estate industry by storm developing over twenty three estates spread across the country. The recipient of the Honourary Doctorate from the European American University spoke on the Focus of a CEO in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.
The industry is significantly influenced by the state of the economy, how has Livelihood Homes fared in the last year and outlook for the New Year? Recession like they say is a period of moving from bad to worse, but as a business man, I know what it takes to make sales. I am a trained salesman which is quite different from marketing. What we have done is that having realized that many people are interested in buying properties, but not many will buy at a particular cost, so we scaled down our price to meet the needs and aspirations of everyone. The implication is that we have passed down a large chunk of our profits to the clients to enable them buy properties from us. For example, if we were making a 100% profit, we try to reduce it and give the profit to the clients and it will amaze you that we still sell some of our lands for as low as N80, 000.00 to enable everyone have access to land. We make sure that we sell no matter the situation. We keep on being in business by studying the situation of the economy and bring down the price to meet the demands of the average man on the street.
With your experience, what would you say are the challenge of entrepreneurship in Nigeria? Most people will tell you that the most challenging experience is getting funding to execute estate project development plans. In as much as real estate is a capital intensive industry, I started the company in every sense as a small business. In fact, the first ten acres of land we acquired for development was done without paying a dime. We are the only company that sells a plot of land at #100,000.00 in the whole of the country. Infrastructure is the biggest challenge to enterprise development in Nigeria. Entrepreneurs need to be trained to understand that funding is not the first requirement to start a business. The first thing that is needed as an entrepreneur is the desire to do a particular business at a time as vision attracts provision. They should be encouraged to learn skills that will help them excel as entrepreneurs. Part of what I have done in the last five years is to train people to acquire skills that will help them awaken the spirit of entrepreneurship in them.
What is your assessment of the industry?
There’s still a lot to be done. Most developers today are focused on the high end of the market which even though is very profitable is becoming overcrowded and limited in market size. The real market is in the middle and low income sector and even in the social housing sector. The future of real estate in this country belongs to the company or companies who can accurately figure out a profitable business model to take advantage of the low to middle income housing sectors in Nigeria. That is what we are poised to do in our Blue Sea Estates across the country. Our ultimate goal is to push and disrupt this market positively in such a manner that as long as you have a job or a business that pays you steady income that’s verifiable, you can become a home owner.
From your experience, what are the critical factors for business success?
There’s no organisation that is perfect but when people know you as a trust worthy firm, they’ll learn to endure with you when you are going through some challenges. To build a sustainable business, you have to be patient, focused and innovative. I would say that there are many factors that will combine to guarantee business success including integrity, diligence, focus and perseverance. With the benefit of hindsight, don’t try to copy anybody; be yourself. Integrity and excellent service delivery are critical to business success. Passion is equally critical to building a sustainable business. You cannot build a business around what you don’t have passion for. As the entrepreneur, your passion is what is needed to drive the business. With passion, you’ll constantly look for ways to improve the quality of service of your business.
In the next five years:
With the level of our growth, we intend to be at the centre of real estate development in Nigeria. We are less than ten years in the industry and we have over twenty three Blue Sea estates scattered all over the country and beyond. With our strategic growth plan, we are the organisation to watch out for in the next couple of years. God willing, our organisation will be floating an airline in the next five years. The concept is to help reduce the high incidence of delayed flights in the domestic route in Nigeria. It is sometimes very irritating to have delayed flights for up to five to seven hours, so our entry in the sector will be geared towards bridging the gap in the industry.
What can government do differently in the New Year to help enterprise development?
The government should simply create the enabling environment to awaken the spirit of entrepreneurship among the citizenry. The population of the country is increasing everyday, so also is the population of unemployed and hungry people. It will surprise you that some people find it difficult to raise as little as N500.00. Government should do things that can enhance entrepreneurship. Our school curriculum should be changed to awaken the spirit of entrepreneurship among young people as the current structure is not doing any good to the youths in particular and the nation at large. I recommend that the government should encourage entrepreneurship.
What informed your interest in farming?
I discovered that farming is the next frontier that will serve as a catalyst for economic recovery. More people should also be encouraged to go into farming to help revive the economy. It will interest you to know that all the cattle I used in empowering the physically challenged people on the first day of January 2017 all came from my farm. I’m trying my best to see how I can help over 23 million physically challenged people in the country who I choose to call special people with special talents. If able bodied men are suffering, what do you think will be the plight of disabled people? What I have done is to empower these set of people by making them see an avenue for prosperity and the way forward is agriculture. My greatest joy is to encourage these people to see prosperity and wealth. The only way to curb youth restiveness in the country is to encourage more people to go onto agriculture.
You’ve achieved a lot at a relatively young age, what does success mean to you?
The true definition of success isn’t perceived as how much money you have in your bank account, but more as how many people you helped in your lifetime. No one’s eulogy will include how many cars they had or how big their homes were. You will be remembered based on your generosity, your kindness, the amount of people you helped in time of need. This is how you want people to remember you and share your life journey as an example to others. Success to me is not having too much money but the fulfillment of one’s purpose on earth. It has nothing to do with neither the wealth you have nor the number of houses you own, but on the number of lives you have touched positively.
What is the driving force in all of this?
My mother is crippled and I’m her only child. Having seen the challenges she passed through raising me, I decided to give back to the society by alleviating the challenges that physically challenged people go through every day in our society. I don’t want to be comfortable alone as I want to make as much people as possible to help live the good life. To be a success or a failure depends solely on your mindset, so I advise the youths to have a change of mindset.
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