Allure Cover: Joy Agbakoba – Living fulfilled
By JEMI EKUNKUNBOR
She is the CEO of Travellers Haven, a company dedicated to luxury travel, destination events and cooperate travel. The graduate of Pitmans College, London, brings to bear on her service delivery, her over 19 years experience in the travel business.
Over a year ago, the mother of two, founded the Women in Business Arena (WBA), the first all-female national e-commerce market hub that facilitates business-to-consumer sales through its website. Last Tuesday, the grandmother of two who loves endless parenting with her two grand daughters, turned 60. But for COVID-19 pandemic that has become a clog in the wheel of joy, the Travel and Tours Consultant would have rolled out the drums for her diamond age; something our new normal forbids.
In this encounter, Joy Agbakoba, former President of Idia College Old Girls Association, talks about her work, life at 60 and the lessons learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why did you feel the need for an all-women business hub?
WBA was born out of the desire to help friends who always turned to me to recommend various vendors. I decided to create a group for my friends and a few vendors. It was planned to serve a few of my friends. But then, I started getting request to add more female entrepreneurs. It was purely as a hobby and pleasure; not business at the onset.
Is it that women can’t play well with men that they have to have their own thing?
The main aim really is to empower women to create wealth. Women move with unbelievable speed once they set their minds to get things done. Many are serial entrepreneurs. Trust is a main factor in every business. I find it easier to trust and transact with women.
How have members’ businesses performed a year after?
Members of WBA community have traded successfully in the past year; some making hundreds and some millions of naira. A lot of business relationships have been cultivated and networking has taken place within the committee.
What major challenges do members face?
Major challenges really are how to access loans or grants. Most businesses are self funded. Other factors are lack of basic amenities like power supply and good source of water supply.
How would you say COVID-19 has affected travel business?
It has completely crippled the industry but we are hopeful the industry will thrive again. There is also a positive effect as many of us in the industry are now thinking of developing local tourism.
What destination in Nigeria would you like to promote immediately?
Obudu Cattle Ranch is top on my list, then Yankari Games Reserve and Osun Sacred Grove to name a few.
Before COVID-19, where was the favourite luxury destination for Nigerians?
We sold more luxurious holiday packages to the UAE; Dubai to be precise.
What in your view would you say has helped Dubai become a destination of choice for many travellers and what lessons can Nigeria learn?
The major factor is good leadership. Leaders who believe the wealth of a nation should be used for the development of the nation, and the good of its citizen. That is the major factor that built Dubai.
Trust and Integrity of our leaders is key. We need to elect leaders we can trust to move our country out of decay.
Where are exotic destinations located around the world?
There are several interesting places: Maui, Hawaii, Fiji, Madagascar, Puerto Rico, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Tayrona National Park, Colombia French Rivera (Nice, Cannes) Monte Carlo, Monaco, Vis, Croatia, French Polynesia, the Yucatán in Mexico, Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia.
Which are your top three and why?
Maui, Hawaii famous for its beautiful beaches, caves, valleys and waterfalls. Monte Carlo; a tiny and only state of Monaco; a country with only one city, famous for lavish wealth and yet near zero crime rate. It is also famous for yacht shows, glamorous events, water sports, cruises and Monaco Grand Prix. Then of course, you have Canary Islands; famous for great weather– sunshine all year round, geat clean beaches, diverse landscapes and amazing beach resorts
You turned 60 five days ago. But for COVID-19 pandemic, how would you have celebrated your diamond age?
A Mediterranean cruise for seven nights was booked for 78 guests on Celebrity Apex. Some of the ports of call are Rome, Florence, Cannes, Monaco, Naples and Barcelona. This has now been rescheduled for 2021. By God’s grace, it will be my celebration of 60 + 1.
Now that COVID-19 has made it impossible to party the way we used to do, what lessons would you say life has taught you?
Life has completely humbled me. We can plan all we want, but God who owns the times and seasons has the final say.
As you get fuller with age, what would you say your priorities are now?
My priorities now is live a stress-free life and make more priceless memories with my family and friends. I plan to do more charitable work as I get closer to my retirement.
Now that families have more time to be together, what values do you think parents should spend time instilling?
To be thankful to God with the breaking of each day. Love yourself. It is only when you love yourself you can love others. When we love our neighbours as ourselves, then we would have a beautiful world. Integrity is a key value to instil; as well as gratitude for everything we have in life.
How does it feel going around parenting your grandchildren (omugwo)?
My greatest and most distinguished title is “grandma” especially being called that by my grand daughters. Omugwo requires a lot of physical and mental strength but, I enjoyed every moment of it and will do it over and over again.
If you had the chance to change your life, what would you do differently?
I love the life that God has given me freely and will not trade it for any other. I am grateful for the life I have.
What is your fondest memory of life so far?
My fondest would be mainly of motherhood and seeing my daughters grow up to become women, as well as the numerous family vacations to various exotic locations. These are priceless.
As a confirmed elder now, what is your favourite saying, parable or proverb?
Never judge anyone until you have travelled their journey.