The Okekes: Two Brothers Ready To Take On The Nigerian Lighting Industry
By Linda Orajekwe
It’s not everyone saddled with the responsibility to take charge of his family at 23 has the guts to accept the challenge and excel at it but that is what Kingsley Okeke has done rebranding his father’s Lighting business from a local store to the Magic Illuminaxions brand that is presently catering to a huge fraction of his community in Lagos state. Joining forces with Stanley Okeke, his brother, and business partner, Kingsley Okeke has raised the bar of expectation with Magic illuminaxions.
In this interview with Allure, Kingsley Okeke talks about his journey as a Lighting Entrepreneur and the opportunities that have come with the responsibility; from having a better relationship with his brother to opportunities on importation and being an author and podcast host.
Let’s talk about the magic illuminaxions journey, how did it start?
When my brother Stanley and I took over our father’s lighting Business in 2014, the goal was clear, we don’t want to play locally. At that point, all we wanted was to push our brand further as much as we can. So we did some rebranding and that includes changing the name of the business to Magic Illuminaxions from a brand that operated without a well-defined name.
What were some of the early challenges faced in the business considering the circumstances surrounding your taking over?
I won’t really say we had challenges. If there were any, then we didn’t take cognizance of it. This might be because our father has been grooming us right from secondary school days, and so it helped position us in taking over with fewer challenges and perhaps seeing every loop as opportunities to explore.
Running a business like lighting in Nigeria, what are some of the challenges you’re facing?
Running any Business at all in Nigeria has its own challenges, obviously because of the poor state of the economy. And the Lighting niche is not exceptional. There is a lot of money going in to purchase diesel for the effective running of the business. The exchange rate has made the cost of getting your goods into the country to be very expensive, amongst others. All these things affect the average business owner in Nigeria.
How knowledgable do you think people in this industry are about the operations and growth of Lighting?
Truth is, the Lighting business don’t have an industry like that, at least none that I know of and this means acquiring knowledge and learning about better ways to run your business is left solely to you as an entrepreneur and that is what me and my brother, Stanley have been doing to take this business to the next level. Also learning in this business has been a great experience so far, exposing us to areas like importation.
Interesting, so as a businessman who’s also an expert in importation, what would you say that part of the business has been like?
Aside from the exchange rate, which has been a major challenge as I stated earlier, it has been good so far. Being into export has given me an edge over some of my competitors, as I am able to get things at a more affordable rate and also sell lower enough to still make a profit. Being into export has also positioned me as an authority in that niche in the demography where our office is situated
What are some of the challenges people face in the importation of goods into Nigeria?
I’ll say the major challenge is funding. 10 years ago, you can import goods with $2,000. Right now, it won’t work, I’m talking in the area of lighting. But what we did was, instead of importing the conventional way, which would be going to China, meeting up with your merchants, purchasing the goods and shipping them down to Nigeria. We had a way around it by embarking on mini importing. This way, we just order our stuff from China without traveling, and get it into the country through trusted agents we already have a relationship with.
How are some of the benefits you derive in running a business and also as an importer?
Aside from the reasonable profit we make on goods, it has positioned us as an authority and giving us an edge over some of our competitors and this isn’t just because we export, it’s also because we’ve been reliable with the products we import.
How do you think the Nigerian economy can thrive from importation?
There is indeed a lot to profit from importation, especially via mini importation. The market is still fresh, not fully tapped into, and there haven’t been any unfavorable regulation from the government so far. As a matter of fact, I have been putting up together some materials to create a course for those in the E-Commerce industry on how to start mini importation, to enlighten people further, especially E-commerce merchants, on how they can tap into this industry sooner rather than later.
As a young businessman, how do you balance work and life without one spilling into the other?
Honestly, it’s not easy and that is partly because I love to be present and fully participate in any project that revolves around Magic Illuminaxions or building my personal brand. But over time, I have learned to trust and delegate duties to people, while I narrow down my focus and that has helped to some extent and also given me time to write a book.
That’s great! What’s the book about?
The book is on entrepreneurship. The word “Entrepreneurship” has been perceived to be the “new cool” to add to one’s title. If you’ll observe, you’ll notice that there has been a misconception of people portraying entrepreneurship to be this glamorous boss life that will make you live happily ever after. Being an entrepreneur at a young age, and being groomed and mentored by one of the best entrepreneurs, which happens to be my father, he has not just thought me and my brother what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, but has also shown us that having a good name in business is what will actually scale your business in the long run, and not being deceptive or through bullying. So in the book, I talked about how the right habits can position you to get a large customer base and when there’s more customer, there’s more money. To complete this, I have a Podcast called The Business Handout which I create weekly to arm SMEs with information resources needed to help them scale to the next phase. To make that achievable, I bring in different experts from different niches to come share from their fountain of knowledge so young entrepreneurs can learn and grow.
Working with family can be a hard task but you’ve been successfully doing so with your brother for years, how has that been?
Growing up, we have our own fair share of sibling rivalry. But you know, let’s just say maturity did set in. We were able to understand each other more, communicate and share our common goals and vision. So far, it has been good and I can’t even imagine not running the business with him. I’m forever grateful he’s my partner and grateful he’s sharing this vision with me.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve had to deal with as a businessman and how did you handle it?
I really can’t think of any now, but that might be selling goods to customers in good conditions, while they return it damaged. And most times we end up just sharing the loss by telling them to pay half or one-third of the price while we give them a new one. That way everyone stays happy and we still retain them as customers. Telling them to do that can be a bit embarrassing, but we’re running a business and if you don’t do that, most people will use and return goods forgetting we can’t return them.
Who are some of the personalities that inspire you?
There are so many people that do inspire me. In Nigeria, the likes of Adaora Mbelu Dania, Yomi Jemibewon, John Obidi, Segun Abiona amongst others do inspire me. Outside the country, I’ll say Richard Branson and Elon Musk, as they both have the ability to create and successfully control chains of companies.
What’s the grand plan for magic Illuminaxions?
Taking it global of course! It started as small can get but our eyes are on the prize which is to be a global lighting brand and we are heavily working on that one day at a time but we’re open to any and every level of growth and making more money of course(Laughs).