Allure Cover: Elizabeth Jack-Rich Tein – Passion for Humanity
Words By- Josephine Agbonkhese
Ever heard of anyone that establishes a company simply for want of adequate fund for her humanitarian agenda? That’s Dr Elizabeth Jack-Rich Tein, the Founder/CEO, ELIN Group Limited, and Executive Director, Elizabeth Jack-Rich Foundation.
An establishment with interests strongly established in aviation, real estate, oil & gas, and agriculture across West Africa and the US, ELIN Group was founded in 2018 as a one-stop shop for oil & gas services, one year after the establishment of her foundation.
But trust fate to always smile on genuine enterprises; in only two years of operation, the company has landed Jack-Rich on the world map.
The Nigerian-Isreali has been featured on the covers of notable international magazines, including Forbes China. Earlier this year, the mother of two became the first black woman to appear on the cover of World Finance Magazine.
Only last week, she was honoured by the Federal Ministry of Youths & Sports as the Matron of Nigerian Youths. She is a receiver of the United Nations Global Women for Poverty Alleviation award.
An alumna of Cambridge University, Jack-Rich who holds a degree in Public Finance from the University of Usam, Port-Novo, is currently studying for a postgraduate degree in Strategic Management at Harvard University.
She has also bagged an Honorary Doctorate degree in Leadership and Community from the Institut Superieur De Formation Professionelle, Benin University, Republic of Benin.
In this interview, she speaks of her dream of an Africa that is financially-inclusive, early childhood, marriage, and also relieves her childhood struggles.
How has the pandemic affected your business operations?
The pandemic has really had a great effect, negatively, on our services. Like we are all aware, the aviation industry was closed for a while, while oil & gas prices also fluctuated. However, things are picking up now and we are grateful to God. On the flip side, positively, it has thought my team and I, to diversify and focus on other ventures of ours.
You sit atop a conglomerate with diverse interests; have you found a need lately to rest or dissolve any of these business interests due to the pandemic?
Not at all. Instead, the pandemic has made me realise the value of human consumption ventures; especially the agricultural sector, which wasn’t a priority in my company.
What makes being an employer to a huge number of employees a tough job this period?
It has always been tough because you have to cater for a large number of people. It has however been tough during this pandemic because, I now have to work 10 times more since I wouldn’t want to lay off any staff due to the global economic breakdown we are experiencing in the world. I feel they really need me and the company now; more than ever before. That is a difficult one because as a wife and mother, it is more time-consuming for me.
Do you still see the possibility of actualising your dream of an Africa that is financially-inclusive?
Yes. I always believe that anything is possible if you set your mind to achieve it. This is one of my many dreams I visualise about the new Africa. It’s a possible reality and I see it visualising soon enough.
In specific terms, how has ELIN Group contributed to growing Nigeria’s economy?
We have contributed through employment, education and development of children, youths and women. What many people do not know about ELIN Group is that, it is the major sponsor of my charity organisation. We allocate part of the company’s profit into sponsoring projects of the foundation. It is our way of making sure we invest into the growth of everyone in the society.
Prior to the establishment of the company, what career path did you pursue?
I never really pursued any career path. All I wanted to do was humanitarian services. But the more I rendered myself to humanity, the more I realised I needed fund to keep up. Being one that has never been dependent on anyone, my desire to do more for humanity therefore, inspired the establishment of ELIN Group Limited. So, the company was started as a backbone for financing my vision. ELIN Group is my very first career path.
How did you fund the establishment of the company and what inspired its various interests?
My husband has been my pillar of support. He actually gave me my business capital because he believes in women empowerment. That motivated me a lot to be honest because, the greatest support I can have is from my soul mate.
What gave you the foundational experience for running a business empire of this nature?
Very funny enough, I had always wanted to be a medical doctor. So, all through my school years, I did more of science. My husband owns an oil & gas producing company. So, in 2017, I observed they were seriously struggling to get transportation to the field. They needed a variety of services. I told myself I could be a one-stop shop for oil & gas companies; and that was it.
Aside my first degree, I also took some certificate courses in aviation. Also, I immersed myself in the basic knowledge of the fields I had interest in, and also surrounded myself with professionals in those fields.
Your growth has been phenomenal; what strategies helped?
When we started ELIN Group, we began with just two aircrafts and one jet. But today, we’ve grown from that, through hard work. By God’s grace, we’ve been able to multiply whatever fund was given for the establishment of the business. The strategies that have worked for me are hard work, commitment, the determination to succeed and the fear of failure.
What propelled you into humanitarian work and human capital development?
Although my love for humanity is inbuilt, I also wanted to leave behind a legacy my children will be proud of. I know I can’t help everybody but I wanted my children to be proud of me. I want to define what success means to them; I want to change the perception that you have to be super wealthy to be successful. No; you have to be devoted to humanity to truly be a successful person.
Your foundation moved Forbes to come down to Nigeria for a cover feature on you earlier in the year. Tell us about the foundation’s achievements and future plans?
I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been able to achieve in a few number of years. We’ve fed over a 100,000 persons and sponsored medical bills. We currently have over a hundred students in school, and we’ve also empowered women and youths. Last year, we started our first certificate training in collaboration with the Belema Aid Foundation, my husband’s company’s foundation. We sponsored 1,100 women for a two-week course. We did this with the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN. In fact, that training cost us about 250million. We intend to keep increasing the number of participants yearly but due to COVID, we cannot gather that number of women this year. I am proud of us and I pray for a larger capacity because I know that I’m nowhere near what I want to do for humanity.
Moving forward, we are strategically putting together a more sustainable means of value creation for women, youths and children. This birthed ORUWODI, Opportunity for Rural Women Development Initiative; and this is one project very dear to my existence because of the more sustainable and valuable impact that it will bring to our society.
You were pictured with the Ooni of Ife at his palace in February over your foundation’s proposed empowerment intervention in Osun State. How is that coming on considering the pandemic?
The project is an initiative of my husband’s foundation but due to the pandemic, they decided to sedate things down and be observant. Also, Ooni of Ife is a father to me. So, going to Ife wasn’t all about the initiative but also going back home.
With your good looks, one would think you missed your calling as a movie star. How do you take care of your skin?
Well, I don’t like cameras and I can’t stand them in the first place. As for my skin, I drink a lot of water and I try to sleep as much as possible. I’m very lazy about beauty regime. Most times, I break out once a while like every normal woman. My skin is really not that perfect.
You’re already an inspiration and a role model to millions of people at such a young age; was this a childhood dream?
I would say yes. Growing up, for me, wasn’t a bed of roses. Considering the circumstances I grew up in, I knew I wanted to change my story and be an inspiration to many people out there.
What was growing up and your childhood like?
I grew up in Lagos with my grandmother and I had the privilege of learning a lot from her. She really instilled great values that shaped my life. My growing up was very tough. I hawked, sold used clothes, worked in bukas, trekked to school and even more. Majority of my childhood was a struggle for me. From school, I had to go hawk just for us to eat because I was the only child with my grandma.
I guess you got married early?
Yes. I got married in 2015 at age 22. I missed having a proper family experience; being with mum, dad and siblings. So, I really wanted to have that. I therefore desired to get married early. I met my husband at age 20, we courted for two years and got married when I was 22.
Why didn’t you grow up with your parents?
My mother is from Ondo State and my father is from Isreal. She had me while still schooling. My father died early and my grand mum had to take me so my mum could continue her education. In fact, when my mother wanted to take me away later, I insisted I wanted to keep living with my grandmother.