Wumi Jubril – Providing Ultimate Wellness Experience
By Yemisi Suleiman
Wumi Jubril is the Chief Executive Officer, CEO of the Seattle Residences and Spa, one of the leading Luxury Hospitality Brands in West Africa. Growing up in a family of Doctors, Wumi who has over 10 years experience in the hospitality industry, working in different deluxe hotels across the country, credits her career path to her family background.
In her current role as CEO of the Seattle Residences and Spa, she has brought on her wealth of experience to build a brand that has become a byword for luxury wellness.
In this interview, she talks about her journey into the industry, her passion in providing both physical and mental wellness to Nigerians, her family life, and more.
What was growing up like for you and how did your journey into the hospitality industry begin?
I grew in up Kaduna, and spent a lot of years there. I have two brothers and a family of doctors. And I think that is where my love for hospitality came from. Being in a family or in a space where all you do is care for people, look after people or pamper people. Although I studied Chemical Engineering because of my mother, I wanted Physiotherapy and Architecture but Chemical Engineering was the only course we could both say let’s just go with this. And after my year one in school, I went to the dean and I said, can I change back to Architecture but he said no, it is too late. So I was stuck with Chemical Engineering for four years in Budapest, Hungary.
I am curious, how did you get to Budapest?
My father was a doctor, and a lot of his friends studied in Budapest; it is actually known to have the best medical schools. So my brothers were there to study medicine, so it wasn’t about me, it was about them. Because my father had friends that studied there, he decided to send us there. That was how, and it is easier for a mother to want all the kids together, so they can watch over each other.
After a degree in Chemical Engineering, I did a few jobs and did a bit of TV that was fun. I like to push myself, I was very shy and I was thinking about what I could do to get out of this box. I went to TV. I did a bit of radio. It was like game shows, quizzes and we were doing it from Budapest and it was being aired here, and then after that, I started thinking of a Master in Hospitality. I went to my mom and told her I want to study Hospitality. She said no way, I am not paying for that.
You know, there is a perception at that time about girls in hospitality. So I went online and started searching and I found International Business. I went with it because I figured with this course I could work anywhere, in any industry. So I did that for about two years, after that, it was NYSC, there were so many options, either to go to America, stay in Budapest or come to Nigeria and I felt like I have done as much as I needed to. I decided to come back home. And then I applied to the Sheraton Hotels. At first my intention was to work there for a year and leave. It was a beautiful experience. Sheraton is like my family, I still go there, I was able to build wonderful relationships, so many mentors I still talk to today and this was ten years ago.
So I did that for some time, about three years, and did some work with Gambia, did Four Points by Sheraton for two years, then worked with a South African company. It was a travel management company that does travel for Oil and Gas Company, it was too technical, I didn’t like it.
Then I did some consulting and then Seattle Residences called me. I started with them, as a director of sales, I did that for a year, and then I was offered the role of CEO. I didn’t know I was a GM when I was director of sales because when the role was offered to me, I told them I wanted to stay as director of sales because it is nice to have somebody there who will be taking the heat (laughs). I am grateful for the experience though.
What qualities do you think you possess that put you ahead of others?
I think I am firm, quietly firm and have a relationship management edge. I am very good with relationships and know how to manage the kind of clients that we need. When the job needs to be done, I get it done. But patience has been a big part of it. I am patient with what I do, I am patient with my staff and I am patient with projects as well. When I need to see things done, I know what I need to do, to get to the finishing line. I am very calm because we need that in hospitality.
As a foremost luxury spa, how do you create an escape experience for your clients?
From the moment you walk in there, everything breathes lifestyle and wellness.
From our security, we ensure that we have the best, in terms of our staff, our standard. At the security point, we have mobile policemen and everything, where we manage our apartment, fully furnished. We furnished the whole building. Just think about how you have a typical hotel, you can order room service, they will bring the food into your room, and then you have a bathroom. So times have gone beyond just having room to stay in. I call those boxes. But now what people are looking for is space, a spacious place that you just come to and you feel at home. It is the actual home away from home that can be considered an escape because a home away from home can still be your typical home. When you come in you have a kitchen that is well equipped, fully fitted with everything you need. You can cook your own meals. We ensure that you have all the kitchen utensils that you expect to have in your kitchen. We have all the coffee machines, sometimes for some reasons you don’t find that at home. But we make sure that you have those things. Once you are here, you have your menu in the apartment, you can order from the restaurant and the room service attendant will bring in your meal for you.
And at the end of it, they will help you clean up everything. After your meals, if you want to go downstairs in the evening, you can go down and use the gym, use the pool everything is at your own disposal. There is a bar, there is a restaurant. And we are the only one that make sure that our facilities operate 24 hours. So if you want to go to the spa at 2 am, you can, it is there. In our own case, you just have to book ahead, which is typical of any place. It has happened before, someone called the spa and she said do you have availability, I just said we are booked at the moment, the next available time is 12 midnight. And the lady said 12 in the night? The thing is that you can do that if you are staying in here, it is just downstairs. And you can still have the spa attendant give you the spa treatment in your apartment. If you don’t want to cook and you don’t want to order from the restaurant, you can request for a chef to come and prepare the meal for you. We do all of that, the whole idea is to create an escape, for the client, so they don’t need anything else outside.
At a time when security is a big issue in the country, how do you ensure the safety of your clients?
We have cameras everywhere, I can see what is going on from my phone and what is going on in our other properties from wherever I am, as long as I have WIFI, which is everywhere today. And then we also work with some of the best companies, Bral is our facility management company, they are a UK company and they are here. So they brought in all of their services, security, and facility management maintenance of the apartments. When you call them they are there on time and we have been very lucky with that Even with that, we made sure that we got mobile policemen to support them. So those guys are operating 24/7 to ensure that the clients are safe. Apart from the fact that the staff are doing the work that is expected of them, they can monitor what is going on, so there are no issues whatsoever. We have been very blessed that way.
It sounds like Seattle Residences is redefining what the concept of “luxury” in wellness tourism means altogether. What has helped in that light?
What has helped us is our feedback forms, we always ask and we always do follow-ups. I am not sure of this place, but for an apartment where we are expecting a client to come and stay, there is a back form for clients, to be able to follow. When they are leaving, we always ask them what their experience was like and even after that, we make sure that they attended an event.
The thing is that we find out that when clients come into a space, for example, If you go to a hotel, and you have a bad experience, you are actually irritated to talk about what the experience was like. But if a salesperson comes to your office, or comes to see you, you probably would have relaxed and be ready to talk about it or even if that doesn’t happen. I sent you an invitation to a wine tasting, it is free and of course, you would come if you have the time. And then you meet everybody, it will be an opportunity to open up. You will open up one way or the other, that is how we have been able to get our feedback from the clients.
What motivates and drives you in your work?
I love looking after people, I think it is easy. It is enjoyable, it is fun. When you make them happy, when you are able to solve their problems, it is nice. I love entertainment, I love entertaining and as a young graduate then, I knew that I would love to host people. We used to do picnics and so many things. It is based on these things that you are able to tell where you probably would fit in. I enjoy looking after people.
If you were not doing this, what would you be doing?
I think I will be in food production because I love to watch things grow. When I say food production, I mean food processing, where it starts with growing, then processing and then putting them into the packaging process and exporting. Because I love processes, I like to see things grow.
What is your daily schedule like, how does your typical day begin?
The first thing I do is I go to the gym and I am there for an hour, after that, I go to get breakfast, sometimes coffee, I actually prefer coffee, because I am not much of a foodie. After that, I go to the office for Monday meetings, for instance, using Monday as an example. Monday meetings and then based on that I now figure out where I want to be. The thing is that on Mondays and Wednesdays, I always make sure I go to Seattle to at least keep up to date with what is going on there, Tuesdays and Thursdays, I am here. And then Fridays and Saturdays I am at Clayhall. Basically after the meetings, I try to see what is going on in each department, talk to each one of them by evening time and go out with a few friends, that is it. I am always home at between 10 pm and 10:30pm
How do you take time to relax, when you are not working, how do you spend your ‘me’ time?
I spend it with my friends, I watch movies with them and we go out for drinks. I sometimes go to the spa, I love the beach and just being outside in the sun and I love to spend time with friends.
What’s Fashion for you like?
Oh, I love fashion. I love to wear comfortable clothes, very comfortable but very stylish. I particularly love Funke Adepoju, I love her outfits. Ade Bakare, I am getting used to him, but Funke Adepoju is my number one go-to. Banke Kuku is another one that I am starting to look into. And Adrea Inyama
What inspires you generally in life?
Family, I don’t know if there is anything I love more than my family. My mother especially is the most important person in the world. I wish she knew how much I love her. She is very important to me. She is in Kaduna. The time I spend with her is very important to me. I learn something new every time I am with her.