‘Women are assets to the society when empowered’

Nike Fowowe continues to prove that age doesn’t have to limit you, if you are visionary, enterprising and diligent. The 27-year-old is the founder and president of Express Multi-Concept Resources (EMR) Group Limited which she founded and established in 2011.In this interview, the young entrepreneur talks about her passion for running businesses, venturing into real estate and women empowerment among other issues.

Can you share with us how you started out in business?
EMR started from Blackberry Messenger (BBM), marketing, social media marketing and direct marketing for friends and loved ones. From that point, we delved into running it as a business, which eventually led to the birth of EMR Marketing. Then we decided to grow bigger and we decided to look for a bigger space in Lekki Phase 1, we came to Lekki and we couldn’t get what we were looking for and I decided to create what we wanted by creating a niche for myself.

We started by having a building with our office downstairs and we discovered that the people needed luxury affordable spaces in smaller quantities, not having to take a full duplex because they couldn’t afford it.

For young and upwardly mobile that reside on the mainland but work on the island, the challenge of being able to afford apartments on the island as a result of the cost became a problem. Therefore, our company decided to bridge the gap by offering luxury affordable apartments and office spaces for young entrepreneurs. So far we are in our 9th building with a minimum of seven tenants in each of the buildings. EMR Properties was created in 2016. I never discovered my strengths in interior decoration until I ventured into real estate.

The second arm of our real estate business is called Theos Luxury Apartments. We were inspired to launch Theos Luxury in May 2017 because we felt the need to create buildings that will enable clients to have value for their money just like our luxury spaces in Lekki Phase I. The request from clients who needed their own affordable luxury homes also birthed Theos Luxury Apartments. These luxury homes construction will kick-start fully by February next year.

What are the challenges of running your business?
The number one challenge is that of managing people. It is very difficult to manage people. One thing one has to accept is that you cannot please everybody. Managing our clients is a major challenge, but we strive to give them at least 70 percent of what they want. Secondly, managing of artisans is another challenge. At times, they exhibit lackadaisical attitude towards work. Over time, I have learnt to manage them well because they make the magic happen.

Thirdly, funding is also another challenge. The economic downturn also affected Nigeria’s real estate sector. Properties are very expensive compared to when we started out. You go to financial institutions and they tell you the property is not yours so there is no collateral. So to grow the business we need to wait for clients to renew their rents. The business is self -funded. Building materials used to be cheap now they are expensive. 2017 has been a very challenging year for us. We have lost lots of funds. Being a woman in this male-dominated industry is not a challenge for me because I have learnt to work like a man, even as a woman in this competitive industry.

What will be your advice to women who desire to go into business?
Lately on social media, there have been a lot of domestic violence cases and reports. If you do your investigations, you will find out that money is a major cause or one of the causes of these incidents. Women are quick to judge their men when they are not doing something with their lives, either running a business or being employed. The moment you know what it takes to make money, you will appreciate money, when someone gives it to you. Truth is that as a woman, you are an asset to your society and to our family when you are empowered. It’s sad when you are trying to give a woman a job and she asks you: ‘How much do you want to pay me? ‘And you tell her its #25,000’. It’s appalling when she rejects the job because she has several boyfriends who can cater to her needs

I do whatever I can to support women. We even go as far as giving them discounts in order to support them. It is important for you to be empowered as a woman. You cannot give what you don’t have.

The other day people were bashing a female pastor who said: “You are a failure as a woman if you cannot support your husband with #1million”. It’s a sad truth. Your husband can lose his job at any time. You cannot be on social media cursing people and all you have I your account is #100,000 and you are busy condemning those telling you the truth. You need to be able to create your own wealth.

What drives you?
My drive is to be successful. My drive is by the time I am 30, I want to be able to travel the whole world and still have my business running. My drive is for EMR to be an industry leader in all the sectors we do business. You are a success as a woman when the home-front and your career/business is successful and thriving. You have to be a 360 degrees woman, this means everything that pertains to you is thriving.

How does your mum inspire you?
My mum is inspiring, she is a strong woman. She single-handedly raised three children. My mum was a force to reckon with when she was still in active service. She broke barriers in her industry. Asides from my mum, there are also other inspiring women. When ROK TV was launched, I thought it was hype till I fell in love with the channel. Mary Njoku is doing a good job.

How do you relax?
Most times I relax via Instagram. I visit some popular Instagram pages and the comments just makes me laugh. I try to swim when I can and I watch a lot of movies, Nigerian movies and American movies. Now I try to dedicate a day to seeing movies

What will be your advice to women?
I would say don’t stop; keep going. This year has been a year of awakening for me, especially towards the year. My resilience has been my winning strategy. I have lost money, but after losing money I still move on to other projects. Don’t stop, when you are not succeeding like you expect to. Be innovative, don’t stop. Support other people. Now in our business, we have gotten to a stage where Lekki Phase 1 is becoming too small for us. We want to expand to other parts of the island and the mainland. You also have to be willing to sacrifice.

What is the greatest sacrifice you had to make for your business?
When we just started, by the time we paid for our rent, my account was on zero. I had to sell two of my phones and my expensive jewellery.

Secondly, I have had to sell my car too. My mum had to give me her car in order to work. Now those things are sorted out. I have also had to be homeless for a couple of months. That period I was sleeping in my office. I just had to sacrifice for the growth of my business. All my social media friends never knew. I slept in my office space for a couple of months. Entrepreneurship is not glamorous like many youths think. I had to endure that period In order to invest in my business.

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