“Financial institutions should facilitate access to funds for businesswomen” | The Guardian Nigeria News
Ayobami Kareem is the Founder and Group Managing Director (GMD) of WhiteRose International Group, a trading conglomerate. Ayobami, who is famous for her exploits in the real estate industry, has carved out an enviable niche for herself as a high-flying entrepreneur. The success story of WhiteRose Properties, a subsidiary of WhiteRose International Group, continues to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs across the country. She’s a woman of humble beginnings, as she moved from her comfort zone to the nerd island of Lagos where things didn’t go as planned, forcing her to turn her car into a temporary abode when the rains hit. destroyed his rented apartment in Lekki. She has become triumphant as she thrives in the real estate business. She recently unveiled a real estate project, Camelot Mews by WhiteRose, and will soon launch Fresh Water Garden. In this interview with MARIA DIAMOND, she talks about the real estate industry in Nigeria, the challenges of being an entrepreneur and the impact of her humble beginnings on her career path and drive to succeed.
Tell us about your childhood and how it influenced your career path
The entrepreneur in me is innate. I remember when I was in third grade, I started saving in a piggy bank at my school to nurture money and cash gifts. I used the money to start a small business in my father’s house. I was the richest of my siblings, even as a child, so they called me “Iya olowo” (rich woman). My older siblings don’t beat me or send me shopping so I can lend them money. I got married when I was 18 and had my first child from my first marriage. After marriage breakdown, I decided to continue my education and got my first admission to tertiary school at Lagos State Polytechnic. When I realized that my ex-husband had married another woman, I was deeply heartbroken as I was dependent on marriage at the time. When things got tough for me, I went back to meet him to work things out with him and accept the second wife he married, but when I got home I realized he had married a third wife. I returned to Lagos with the resolve never to depend on anyone but to work hard to succeed. Thereafter, I focused on my business and my studies.
What motivated your career choice?
I was propelled by the lack of encouragement from my first marriage. The major problem we had was to dare to be educated and to become autonomous. It inspired me to work harder all the time to achieve success. I then saw a woman run for governor of my state and it also inspired me to realize that I can achieve relevance as a woman. In addition, the environment in which I found myself afterwards greatly helped me to discover opportunities in the real estate sector and I seized them with tenacity. I was once told that three things that impact a person’s life are the environment you find yourself in, the book you read, and the friends you surround yourself with. I never thought about real estate until I came to Lekki.
Why did you decide to get into real estate?
The real estate business gives me the platform to prepare and impact the lives of many young people who want to break free from mediocrity and poverty. It is the inner joy that allows me to go against all odds. Looking back and seeing people who are just as empowered because they were trained by me gives me so much joy. Again, I love being my own boss, and real estate gives you the ability to be your own boss. I like taking on challenges, I like meeting people and I like creating job opportunities. My job gives me all these luxuries.
How was WhiteRose International Group born?
As the saying goes, the reward for hard work is more work. I was diligent in my small beginnings and I remained stubborn against all odds. Therefore, I will say that strong determination to succeed, tenacity, consistency, hard work and above all the grace of Allah brought Whiterose to where we are today. We don’t presume to be there yet, but we are replicating day-to-day success and have made tremendous progress over the years.
As a leading player in real estate, is there any change you would like to see in the industry in Nigeria?
Structure. The real estate sector in Nigeria does not have a defined structure. Anyone can wake up today and claim to be a “seasoned real estate practitioner” without going through a defined, regulated and informed structure that would prepare them to practice in the real estate industry. One of the results of this is that there are many ubiquitous real estate agents who cause so much havoc for innocent investors. There is also a need to properly train and license real estate practitioners to clean up the system and ensure the safety of investors’ investments in real estate. The Whiterose Network has been developed with this in mind, to empower, equip and train future real estate professionals and give them our defined structure with which to operate. We call for the collaboration of the public and private sectors to achieve a clear structure and system for the real estate sector in the country.
Are there any particular challenges you face in your field because you are a woman in what seems to be a male-dominated field?
Yes. People greatly underestimate my abilities because I am a woman in a male-dominated industry. Another major challenge I encountered as a newbie in real estate was accessing finance. I had a lot of dreams, but there weren’t enough funds to establish a solid business model. I was doing a sole proprietorship. The real estate industry is a male-dominated field; it takes a stubborn choleric like me to be successful in real estate. When you see a lady succeed in real estate, respect her. I have to commend some women who are currently daring the heights of real estate and pushing the envelope. However, more awareness is needed to encourage more women to venture into the real estate sector rather than depending on men for their survival.
As an expert in the field, what can be done to educate more women about the opportunities in the sector?
As stated earlier, there is a need to raise awareness about the opportunities that abound in real estate for women. This is because the majority of women believe they cannot survive in real estate for fear that it is a male-dominated industry. Again, there is a need to encourage financial institutions to facilitate access to funds for women in business, especially in the real estate sector. This will help build the productive capacity of women in the sector.
Adequate training platforms where interested people can come and learn the principles of the real estate business should also be provided. Some women indeed wish to be in real estate, but most of them venture into it without proper training and preparation and they fall apart in no time. This discourages them and other people. On our end, we have built a platform known as the Whiterose Network that will help train and equip not only women, but anyone interested in excelling in the real estate industry. To achieve this, I contacted two of my professors at the University of Lagos and we were able to develop a platform for young, success-driven entrepreneurs who aspire to be at the forefront of the Nigerian property market but are constrained by insufficient financial resources and networking. . The platform is a great opportunity for beginners and a golden opportunity for people who aspire to have multiple sources of income. The network platform will also give you access to networking and all the resources you need to succeed in the business.
Tell us about some of the projects you are currently working on?
We have the Kirah Court I of Whiterose, Oakview Estate Lafiaji, Lekki Lagos (sold out). We also have Whiterose Mall on Adewunmi Adebimpe Street, Lekki Phase1 and Camelot Mews by Whiterose, among others. My next projects are Primo bay by Whiterose at Orchid road in Lekki; Whiterose Freshwater Garden, Lagoon District, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos and
Whiterose Freshwater Pearl, Lagoon District, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
Are there any women whose success stories have influenced you?
Yes. Among them are Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ibukun Awosika and Kamala Harris. One thing that is common to these three women is their refusal to settle for anything less than the top. Okonjo-Iweala does not need to be brought into the global economy. The biggest players in industry and business around the world court his attention. Awosika, for his part, is the head of affairs at First Bank, one of the leading banks in the country and beyond, while Harris is the vice president of the mighty United States of America. These women have risen through the ranks, continually breaking their own achievement records, and never settling for more, even at the top. Therefore, they are my greatest inspiration as their lifestyles are akin to my driving force in life.
Where do you see your brand in five years?
To see Whiterose Group become a household name around the world, not only through the giant leaps we will take in real estate and other industries, but also through the many lives we would have touched to succeed through our Whiterose Network.
How would you describe the woman you have become and what is your greatest achievement?
Judging by the many challenges I overcame to get to where I am today without outside help, I don’t consider myself an ordinary woman. I started Whiterose with zero capital but turned it into a multi-billion naira business. This is undoubtedly a rare achievement for a woman in a male-dominated field. Nonetheless, my greatest achievement is actually the many lives I have touched through the empowerment to become great in life. It makes me a better woman.