I decided to quit banking at the age of 40 and start my own business – Olwatoyin Edun
She started her career at Eko International bank in 1999 then proeeded to FSB International bank and joined FCMB in 2005.In 2012 her portfolio was enlarged with the inclusion of commercial and retail activities covering 10 branches of the bank in Ikeja and its environs where she was designated the zonal head. Based on her initial goal to quit at the age of forty she decided to take a bow from the banking sector in 2014 to pursue her dream. She shares her grass to grace journey in this inspiring interview.
I grew up prepared to fly in the world
My childhood was full of optimism about the future. I grew up wanting to be a lawyer but later on I met a Professor of Political Science who influenced my decision to study Political Science, however that is totally different from what I do today. This has taught me that it doesn’t matter where we start from, eventually with our aspirations and as we go along, meet people, interact and deal with issues of life, we will end up at the destination that God has prepared for us. But in terms of academic background and upbringing, I will say that I had enough preparation for the role I am playing now because I was academically inclined as a student and also attended good schools; I was focused very on education with a determination to excel at everything I ever did. I believe I was adequately prepared to fly in the world.
I am the first of five children (4 girls and 1 boy). I grew up in Ibadan where I attended Bodija International School, Queens School Ibadan, International School Ibadan and i graduated from the University of Ibadan with a Second Class Upper division in Political Science. I fell in love with the Banking Industry during my University days and this led me to choose a career in banking. I started my banking career at Eko International Bank from the Human Resources department, proceeded to FSB International Bank and thereafter, Metropolitan Bank Limited. I later joined FCMB in 2005. While at FCMB I started as an Assistant Manager and rose to the position of Assistant General Manager having worked in different departments of the Bank. I retired from Banking at the age of 40 to start my own Real Estate and Hospitality business. I bought into a family business in 2015 where I became a Director and subsequently took over the operations in Real Estate and Facilities management, and also expanded our focus into co- working space with the setting up our Virtual Hub. I also have a keen interest in Tourism and hospitality and I have done quite a lot of work in hotel management, short letting as well as consultancy for the hospitality and tourism sector. Currently, I run a group called the Fusion Group with subsidiaries in South Africa and United Kingdom.
Inspiration behind Fusion Group
While in the banking sector, I realized that I had a flair for Real Estate and got inspired by my own personal experiences especially when I was buying my own home for the first time. I realized that I was very much interested in every detail that went into the home. I got really interested in Construction and at that point, I decided to make what was just a hobby into a profession and business. By the time I decided to quit banking at the age of 40, I started to plan my exit and the first thing that came to mind was for me to pursue business in the Real estate sector which got me buying into a family business that was already into facilities management and to expand the scope to do everything else around the real estate business. I am very passionate about space; I love spaces whether it is your home space, your office space, your hotel space etc! I believe a space tells a lot about the personality of the person so I always like to add a personal touch from designing of partitioning, structuring of space, colour scheme, the furnishings and the management of space. Spaces in general fascinates me and I believe that is what has kept me in the business till now coupled with being a passionate person that does whatever I have to do extremely well.
Biggest risk ever taken as an Entrepreneur
The biggest risk I have taken as an individual is to leave the known for the unknown i.e. to leave the banking industry, where I had everything going for me and to launch out to try to do business and I’ve not had a day’s regret since I took that bold step. In the real estate space and in hospitality.
We started the business at the time when Nigeria was just going into the recession and this really affected a lot of our projections, our business started off on a very slow note, we did not have the kind of clientele that could afford our services so the sluggish start was sort of troubling but we found our way around it and we were able to understand what the market could absorb and packaged our services to attract international organizations who could understand and afford our value proposition and also wanted to come into Lagos, Nigeria to do business. The other challenge was the power issue ,The third challenge is People. We have had our fair share of human resource challenges with staff turnover.
Balancing the business and the home front
I will say this is the popular problem of every working woman and therefore not peculiar to running a business. It is the same challenge I faced when I was still in paid employment. Once you are a working woman, you have to balance the home front with your career. I understood where I was going and I developed a working template, thus I have structured my home in the most efficient manner. I have always had highly professional carers to support me with raising my kids and happy to pay the premium in order for me to focus on my career. I also structured my timing to accommodate quality family time which is the most important thing to me but also ensuring that it does not affect work.
I also made sure that I took out time to attend every important event in their lives, every important school event, every important exam and all of that. Yes, it meant me staying up longer hours and keeping awake trying to juggle all the balls but I believe that once one is organized and you are committed to something, you will always find a way to make it work. Life is all about planning
Fusion group in five years
I see Fusion Group growing in leaps and bounds. Our five year road map is to consolidate our efforts and investment in real estate, in hospitality and tourism as well. We would be developing our own estates and also operating our hospitality school within that period. I see Fusion Group becoming about a $100M dollar franchise within the next five years.
Giving up is not an option
My personal mantra in life is to learn to focus on winning so much that I forget how to fail. Therefore giving up was never an option. I am naturally resilient and tenacious. Challenges bring out the best in me. Like I said, I left banking in 2014 and I knew there was no going back so I always knew I had to keep forging ahead no matter what life threw at me. I must confess that I have had my fair share of daunting challenges and there were times when i felt really overwhelmed but my trust in God sustained me.
Who and What Inspire me to be better
The things that have inspired me to be better at what I do are within me. The desire to excel, the passion for service and the willingness to learn from every experience. I believe that how you do anything is how you do everything.
The person who inspired me to be my best was always my Sister , Dr Adenike Aiyedun , she was also my very first business partner. She gave me a lot of push and support as well. She always saw it in me that I could thrive and excel at business and she was the first to give me her support when I decided to leave the banking industry. She always nudged, assisted, coached and prayed for me. She always reminded me that I have everything that I need to succeed and encouraged me to follow my dream.
Being a woman of Rubies
First, I want to say a shout out to every woman out there who is trying to make a difference in the world, to her society and her family. I believe that I am one of those women. I did not mention at the beginning but I was raised by a single parent and my Mother taught us the value of hard work and why it was necessary for me to able to fend for myself and people around me. Hard work, Dedication, Commitment, Loyalty and Passion were all those words I heard from my mum right from when I was little and those values have positioned me for who I am today. As a person, I believe I mentored a lot of people whilst I worked in the banking sector, I raised a lot of other women because
I believe as women, we must hold and raise ourselves up, we must be able to keep each sister going and I believe this I have done so much of and will continue to do. I also believe that I collaborate very effectively with men in such a way that we all achieve results together.
I believe that as a mother, I have done a whole lot to raise children to understand values, morals and important ethics of life. So in terms of what qualifies me to be a Woman of Rubies, I believe in my personal life, I have been able to showcase that. In my business life, I have conducted myself as a woman of rubies. somewhere. In terms of achievements, to God be the glory; I have been able to record my moderate achievements across board. I believe all this qualify me as a woman of rubies.
Final word for female entrepreneurs in Nigeria and women in general
You need to be very confident, you need to first identify your dream and goal and be committed to it and remain very confident in what you do.
I will tell you for free that you will be intimidated by situations, by people and by the opposite sex as well. You are going to feel like you are at your dead end at different times and feel like you are being taken advantage of. You also have to be upright, integrity is everything in business and you should be known for what you do and be known for what you say.As a woman, you should never give up and never feel we are second rate to anyone.
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