She is the elegant, beautiful wife of billionaire industrialist, Chief Razak Akanni Okoya. Shade Okoya, graduate of Sociology from the Lagos State University is now at the helm of affairs at the Eleganza Industrial City. She has helped to repositionthe company with the support of a formidable team of experts.
Today, she proudly displays the innovations which she, in the last couple of years, had brought to bear on the company. In this interview with Allure, she talks about the journey so far and life with her billionaire husband.
Briefly tell us about your upbringing.
I grew up in a family where discipline was the watch word; a family that did not compromise respect irrespective of your age. Growing up under these circumstances, I had no difficulty taking after my late grandmother. She was everything to me; may her gentle soul rest in peace.
Did you have a memorable childhood? What do you recollect about growing up?
My childhood memories are still very fresh in mind. I remember coming back from school and my grandmother would go through my books to ensure that they were complete. Although, she was not educated, she embraced education and watched my every action to ensure that I didn’t derail. She taught me how to tidy the house, wash clothes and dress neat; to be the lady I have become today.
Did you at any time, when you were growing up, think you would become an entrepreneur?
I had, from early age in school, incubated the idea of doing business and I had big dreams to be a successful entrepreneur. However, knowing and getting married to my successful husband, who is a workaholic and has always achieved goals and objectives, catapulted me to where I am today.
As an entrepreneur, do you sometimes think that you are wearing shoes bigger than your feet?
Since I assumed office as Managing Director of Eleganza Industrial City, I have repositioned the company positively. Eleganza Industries Limited had suffered a major setback in the past but as my husband, Chief Rasak Okoya, has passion for the industry, the company came back bigger and better as Eleganza Industrial City Limited in a 35 hectares of land at Km 68 Lekki Epe expressway after Eleko junction in Ibeju Lekki area in Lagos – Nigeria.
The new direction is moving towards being a foremost producer of chairs, tables, school tables, cooling boxes and food warmers, baby diapers, sanitary pads, suitcases, pet bottles and beauty soaps, slippers for both ladies and men, disposables and reuseable products, (which all can be customized / produced in colors to suit customers needs). Its products will also be exported spanning not just West African countries, but all over the world.
A few years ago, Eleganza was quiet. When did you start running the factory and what innovations did you bring in?
As you, know repositioning is the key. Eleganza Industries had suffered a major setback over the past years, but it has returned back bigger, stronger and better under the name Eleganza Industrial City Limited with premium products at affordable prices.
What has been your experience since you began? Share, with us, some of the challenges you encounter running a factory.
One of the greatest challenges of doing business in Nigeria is energy to power the industries; also, instability of naira to foreign exchange and importation of goods which compete with locally produced goods.
A major problem with goods manufactured here is poor quality. Most companies do not have efficient quality control. How do you ensure quality control is top notch?
As you know, Eleganza is all about quality. That is why we set up a quality control department to ensure that all products pass through this department for quality control checking so that our products can compete with any product worldwide
How has the public received your products and which is the most popular?
In the past, Nigerians used to prefer imported goods but with the current economic downturn, Nigerians are and will be more receptive to Nigerian goods as long as the quality is sound
and most importantly very affordable.
I understand you are planning to introduce new products. Tell us about that and your interest in going into skin care. We hear you want to start a skin care line. Would that be your personal range or part of the Eleganza line?
I have a lot of work to do at the moment and every thing is all about Eleganza industrial city Ltd, their is a lot to do daily.
However, one of the new products we are launching soon is our Eleganza range of beauty soaps which will have over 20 names coming into the Nigerian market. I have my name on one of the packs which has four different fragrances. Each soap has been checked to the very last detail to give a very lasting / wonderful experience after each use.
Our soap machine came in from Germany and professional expert are put in charge.
How do you cope with the pressures of work – meeting deadlines, paying workers and selling your goods?
We have a top management team that supports me in various departments –
Project development, HR department, planning / production department, marketing / sales department etc.
Eleganza knows the important of top management and we have high class Nigerian / expatriate staff from all over the world.
Combining CEO of a manufacturing concern like Eleganza, taking care of your children and still being a doting wife must be tasking. What is your formula for managing all and still be elegant and in control?
My husband will always be the CEO of Eleganza groups and I am happy and thank God having the privilege of been his deputy , the challenging side of being a mother is when I have to work late hours or having to go away on business trips. But, fortunately, I have my dear mother to assist me in teaching them the ways of God and maintaining discipline even when I am absent.
Recently, the Senate threw out the Gender Parity Bill which would have given women same rights as men. Their reason was that it would have given women too much power. (Many believe that) as a CEO, because you are female, your male counterpart is allowed more pay and has more privileges, simply because of your gender. What is your opinion on this?
Female leaders in the society have a very important role to play as I believe we are better managers than men. Gone are the days when women are to sit back at home, just being house wives. We have a lot to contribute as leaders in the society. I implore more women to be bold, to embrace their leadership abilities and exhibit their unique qualities for the betterment of the society and admiration of men.
With this kind of thinking, do you see a woman ever being elected as a governor or president in the next 50 years?
Yes, it is possible; because women are now more enlightened, more educated and holding leadership roles in various sectors.
In your experience, would you agree that women are their worst enemies?
That was then, not now.
As a woman who has achieved success, do you have people, especially young girls, that you mentor?
A lot; many have turned CEOs themselves.
What advice would you give to young girls who aspire to be like you?
My advice to them is that they have to be focused, determined and sincere in whatever they do in life. Everything is possible.
Which perfume is your favourite and what is your go to beauty secret?
I travel a lot and I love good designers that put details into their finishing. I wear everything good and I love it when people ask what brand name I’m wearing. There are so many good designers. I just can’t start mentioning names.
Does gossip get to you? How do you react to gossip?
I don’t believe in gossip. It’s only idle minds that gossip.
How are you able to weather the storm?
I thank God for giving me good health and my loving husband for believing in me.
Maybe you want to tell us your experience when you first met your husband. Was it love at first sight or it was a panel discussion with friends and family members before you conceded to the marriage?
It was love from the beginning so when he proposed, I had no difficulty accepting to be his better-half; and, it has been love and care ever since.
What do you enjoy most about being his wife?
My husband is amiable, full of fun and loving. There is never a dull moment being with him.
Considering your experience as Mrs. Okoya, what advice or word of encouragement will you give to young ladies in similar situation?
I must confess that I am fortunate to have my husband who has been loving, caring and understanding. My advice to young ladies is to pray that God leads them to the love of their heart.
What do you love most about Nigeria?
Nigerians are very lovely people; ever ready to render a helping hand in times of need. They are a very respectful and beautiful people.
By Remmy Diagbare