By Smart Emmanuel
At just 27, he is already a CEO of two major companies in Nigeria worth millions of Naira. His fashion clothing line, Owambe Clothings, is a well-known brand that promotes indigenous African styles. After graduating from the University, Ola-Abraham Emmanuel decided to go into fashion designing after picking interest in the business during the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and he has not looked back. He has styled personalities like former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, the current Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun and many others; he has about 18 full time staff under his workforce.
His second company is Agriculture, the young entrepreneur has acquired large acres of land in the South Western part of the country which he subsidise for youths and adults who want to go into farming. The interesting thing about his farm initiative is that, he does not only sell the land to would-be farmer, he also has a team who help the individual with the farming, all they need to do is acquire the land and his team will do the farming,
In a chat with Naijaentrepreneur, he tells us how he started and many more…
Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Ola-Abraham Emmanuel, a 27-year old Nigerian and I am the CEO of Owambe clothings. I am one of the few entrepreneurs who changed the face of fashion and agriculture in Nigeria. I am a trained journalist but found love in agriculture at childhood and fashion designing from NYSC orientation camp. After my NYSC, I established my company Owambe Clothings with 18 employees. In less than a year, my company has sewn over 3,000 Nigerian attires. I also design clothes for former president Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, top celebrities,
civil servants and government officials.
3 years ago I organised Africa’s largest fashion show, a show where I featured 112 models from Nigeria, Togo, Benin Republic, Ghana to exhibit my designs in one show and one event. That show had more than 800 guests in attendance, and the Governor of Ogun state was there
I also initiated an agric initiative called own A hectare with 80k. I have encouraged over 50 young Nigerians to go into farming by providing lands at affordable rate and installment payments
That is a great CV within a short time, you studied Mass Communications and now you are into fashion business and Agriculture, what informed your decision to do this rather than journalism?
The media communicates to the people in a bid to change their perceptions. Fashion is the same. Our design changes trend. Speaks to people attention, affection and create attraction or repulsion.. My love for fashion is to change the way we see the world and what we wear. I want Nigerians to wear Nigeria Mondays to Friday. Therefore, in my fashion I’m still doing my media work which is agenda setting. So, as you can see, it is a different field but the same objective.
Nice connection you just did there, we know that money is key to running a business in Nigeria, how did you get your start-up capital?
I had initially approached one of Federal Government SME funds in 2011. But along the line it stopped. Then I raised money with the most important currency in the world. INTEGRITY. Because I possess a tangible amount of integrity I could sufficient funds from friends, families even enemies.
Waoo, let us go back to your agricultural project. Acquiring land in Nigeria has its own challenges outside the capital, the omoonile(landgrabbers), the fund etc, how did you raise the money to acquire big land plus how were you able to deal with omoonile(land grabbers) matter?
I think the omo onile issue is worse and over rated in Lagos.. This is because there are a lot of people and small size of land. In other places, it is not like that. Some of our lands are bought from government; some are brought from people who inherited it. We meet them, tell them our passion and make them believe and buy into it, we negotiate and pay. And about the fundraising, before I bought lands my other business has raised a reasonable amount of money then I also met with friends, families again. Remember I have never disappointed them. So it was easy for them to part with their money too. Some gave their money as investors, others as loan.. Whichever way, we are getting close to our dream.
How are people responding to your agric project? Are people buying into it? Especially youth like me and you?
The Nigerian youth needs help. Tell them to work, they say no job. Give them job they say it is too difficult and time consuming. 80% of the people who have bought into this idea are adults. The young constitutes only about 20%. They are not ready to do anything. They want quick and fast money. Nothing comes easy.. Not even dying.
You said you have about 18 staff working for you, how do you manage them?
I don’t interact personally with all of them and some of them are not in Lagos. We only get to interact twice in a year at our Owambe end of year party and sales/or any other events.
To lead them, each department has its head. And each head report to me directly. They all have tasks they execute. From my experience I learnt that to best deal with staff. You must motivate them, threaten them and also punish them. So that is what I do when necessary.
Since graduation, have you ever worked for anyone?
Since graduation I have not worked for anyone.
Congratulations on your recent marriage, you must be a very busy person no doubt, what has changed in your work routine?
Thanks. Marriage has changed my work routine because it has made it better.. Before now, it is almost like I live and work in the office because most of the time, I sleep here and work round the clock.. Getting married made it more effective. I get more organised, get home to think more and effectively with my partner. Then come to work the following day to effect the plans and the thought we had. Asides that, I write a lot and my wife also helps me with the editing. She does that better than I do.
Reach Ola-Abraham on: +234-08050948681 or +234-08165314466
Send a mail: Abraham3931@yahoo.com