BEVERLY HILLS, March 08, (THEWILL) – She is perhaps one of the youngest, if not the youngest, real estate developer in the country. Her brilliancy, entrepreneurial skill and her ability to thrive where others fear to tread has propelled her company, Hav’i-lah Real Estate Worldwide, which she founded less than three years ago, to be one of the most sought-after real estate firms. In light of International Women’s Day, there is no better suited person to grace this week’s cover than Adaobi Precious Okechukwu, who at only 25-years-old, is in a leadership position that took many years to attain. The unshakeable optimist speaks to Ivory Ukonu about her leadership skills and the values she demonstrates as a young leader in her field. Excerpts.
How did your love for real estate evolve?
I wanted to cater to the needs of people by providing affordable but luxurious homes. I saw that not many can afford to own a home and I felt the need to make that possible for many by giving them something within their budget through a mortgage plan or a home at an affordable rate. With our current project, the plan is to make it easy for one to spread payment over a period of 20 years. Our vision is to make the average income earner a landlord.
Like other emerging real estate firms, does your company build and sell besides the usual renting, leasing and selling of finished houses?
We do all and we are currently building our own estate, Havilah Court 1 off Lekki County, and Terrace and Pent houses at Ikota villa. These are our own personal projects built by Hav’i-lah Real Estate Firm and I am happy that I am the CEO of this company in charge of these personal projects. But previously, we partnered with other developers on their own properties; we helped them sell off their finished products
The industry used to be a male dominated one but now more and more women are making their mark in the real estate industry. What do you think is responsible for this?
Women are wiser now and when a woman puts her mind to achieve something, then she really does achieve it. What is the essence of only men achieving greatness in a particular field when women have the ideas, the wisdom and the capacity to do these same things and do them better? Women are actually waking up and taking over in every sector of the economy, and are realising they can do well in these professions.
You were only 23 years old when you started out in the industry. Did you feel intimidated in anyway by the veterans?
The older ones wondered how a young person like me would just come into the industry to take over when they have been around for a long time. But as far as I am concerned, it is not how long you have been into something, it is actually how well you can produce results smartly. I am younger and more innovative and putting smartness into innovation brings results. I wasn’t doing things the way the older ones in the industry were doing, I started by bringing in my own skills and being innovative. I leveraged on technology and social media. So I refused to be intimidated or be afraid of anyone.
What are some of the challenges you have experienced in your line of work and how did you overcome them?
There is no business without its challenges but I don’t let the challenges define me. I just keep pushing to achieve my goals.
We are in a pandemic with most businesses across the world shutting down coupled with the recession. How has this impacted in the real estate business?
On the contrary, the real estate business in Nigeria experienced a boom in this pandemic/recession. I still don’t understand how but that is the truth. The pandemic made people become more open to investing in properties. But I want to believe this is so because real estate is one of the most secure form of investment with very high returns on investment. And you can imagine that it is in the pandemic we embarked on building our own personal projects.
Today is International Women’s Day with the theme, ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World’. As a young woman in a position of leadership, what are the most important values you demonstrate as a leader?
There are several. There is diligence. The bible says ‘He who is diligent in the works of their hands shall stand before kings…..’ Also, I am a hard-worker. I am of the belief that there is always a way and there is no impossibility. One just has to keep trying different options to achieve the desired result. Another leadership value I demonstrate is consistency. You may no see the return/results initially but you have to keep at it until you hit your goal. I believe in staying on a path instead of wavering and being unstable. Another value I demonstrate is being persistent. I do not take no for an answer.
How has your leadership skill impacted on your work force in terms of getting them to understand your vision for your business?
People around me know that I am all about achieving results. I do not condone laid back or lazy people. Dull people can’t survive with me and my team know this. I am result oriented and all these has rubbed off on them, making them better people. My manager who couldn’t talk publicly is now a bold talker and is a good motivator for the rest of the team.
How best do you think women can better position themselves for leadership positions?
Every woman has the potential to create wealth for their family and for themselves and if they put in the work, they will achieve way more than they believe they can.
As a young lady running her own thriving business, who are the people you look up to and what are the qualities you saw in them that made you seek them out as mentors?
One of them is Dr Kennedy Okonkwo, CEO of Nedcomoaks Ltd. He has done a very good job providing communal living spaces for people, including provision of water, security, light for as much as 100 people in a once upon a time empty piece of land turned estate. And he has built several estates like that. I admire him and I look forward to the day I will be able to do same.
Obviously, most young women look up to you for mentorship. Do you have some you have taken under your wings to mentor?
Yes I do and I also believe in giving back which is why we would soon start training sessions for all categories of women. The idea behind this is to create more female ‘closers’ and more female millionaires and with God on our side, we will achieve that.
If you weren’t in this business, which other profession do you think you would probably excel in?
Perhaps a beauty entrepreneur, producing my own brand of makeup. I still intend to do that by building a factory where this can be done.
Covenant University, your alma mata is known for their strong leadership and entrepreneurial acquisition skills. Would you say this, to a large extent, impacted greatly into you doing your own thing from a very young age?
Most definitely. Covenant University was where the foundation for my entrepreneurial skills were laid. In school, we had a course called Entrepreneurial Developmental Skills and that helped to shape our minds to be solution providers rather than to chase after paid employment. It was a place where I was imbued with spirituality, integrity, hard work, consistency. While all of these contributed to propel me to what I am today, grace is that one factor that actually brought me this far.
Other Amazons Making Their Marks In Real Estate
She is a billionaire wife steadily creating her own wealth. Ichechi’s love for real estate began from a young age. Her father is a surveyor. Then she got married to Dr Kennedy Okonkwo whose real estate firm, Nedcomoaks Ltd is the brain behind the strings of Victoria Crest Homes across Lagos State. This further heightened her passion for it. She joined her husband’s company and over time grew to become the sales director of the company despite running her own string of businesses and then later became the Deputy Managing Director. Today, she is the Chief Executive Officer of Victoria Crest Homes (VCH), a subsidiary of Nedcomoaks.
She is the executive director of RevolutionPlus Properties, where she oversees the entire operations of the company’s offices in Nigeria as well as the international office in Dallas Texas, USA. Even though she runs the business with her husband, Bamidele Onalaja, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of RevolutionPlus Group, Tolulope is the face of the real estate firm. She didn’t just dabble into it. A philanthropist, Tolulope possesses over 18 years work experience in Real Estate and Facility Management
She was an actress making her mark in the Yoruba genre of the make-believe world until she left it all and ventured into the real estate business. Today, Ololade has redefined through her flourishing real estate firm, Gracias Global Property Limited which plays big in the Lekki/Ajah axis of Lagos State. To say that she is one of the most successful female players in the real estate sector at only 36, would be putting it mildly. A recipient of multiple awards, Ololade who is a strategic investor is driven by innovation and her ability to turn economic insight into investible ideas. For her impact in the real estate industry, she was awarded a honorary Doctor of Science degree by the Senate and Award Committee of the European American University.