In this riveting interview with Stanley Ugagbe of TNC, the CEO of Ovaioza Farm Produce Storage Business, Ovaioza talked about the hurdles that come with venturing into this line of business. She harped on the challenges she faced at the early stage and how she was able to surmount them. She also gave tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.
TNC: First, let me congratulate you for “OFPSB”. We all know it is not easy to set up a business and run it successfully. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself, personal life and your company.
Ovaioza: My name is Ovaioza, meaning one who is compassionate – it was given to me by my grandmother. My mother was going through a lot of miscarriages and in the end, I came and stayed. It is a name I want people to identify with. I am a Muslim convert – converted in 2010. I am a registered midwife. I am running an education programme in Bayero University. I am a hairstylist, I design beads.
I got a vision of this business 3 years ago when I bought oil and stored it for about 6 months. I think it was just two kegs. That was how I started gradually. I will buy egusi, guinea corn, and rice and resell on a personal level. My mum is the brain behind the business – she advised me to do this business. After gathering the knowledge of how to store these goods, I started reaching out to people to invest and that was how we started.
Last year when I left school due to the pandemic, I sat and thought that there are people who have money but they don’t have the business knowledge, strength or ability, why not introduce them to this business? Why not tell them to invest with me? I will just help them to buy, store and resell, and then we share the profit.
First, I built my social media space by writing my life story. After building the space, I started dropping business tips and about 10 of my friends invested though they were skeptical. Sincerely, when I first started, my friends didn’t trust me enough to invest in my business. The challenge of them not trusting me pushed me to register the business.
We buy surplus farm produce and store them for about 3-6 months and sell them but before then, we let our investors know the progress.
TNC: How would you describe the journey so far? How would you describe the growth of the business?
Ovaioza: It’s really tough. I started with one bag and now I have a million bags but it’s very tough considering the number of people I deal with. There are people that you will explain to, even after reading the document they will still not understand. Due to frustrations, there are times I feel like giving up but the motivation is that whatever I tell people to invest in, I invest in it.
To be sincere, the growth is swift. People who have been with me can testify. They usually say how did you do it but they don’t know that I started long time ago. Although I started 3 years ago, my growth became swift 8 months ago. From October till now, the business has really done well for itself and for me.
TNC: In your website, you stated that “Agriculture is a viable sector capable of providing financially for the average Nigerian family”. President Muhammadu Buhari has continued to urge Nigerian Youths to go into agriculture. Do you really think Agriculture should be the hub of the country’s economy, knowing that the world is going digital and that tech is the new normal?
Ovaioza: Everyone cannot do agriculture – if everyone is doing agriculture, who will patronize who? Everyone’s ability is different. You can be perfect in tech and I am perfect in agriculture so we can complement each other. In as much as I encourage people to go into agriculture, you can do it with your money, you can do it by empowering those in agriculture. I do storage – I am empowering farmers to keep farming by buying from them regularly. And I am empowering people who have money but cannot do the business by bringing their money and getting profit in return. Tech and agriculture are two different things. Tech helps advertise agriculture while agriculture helps tech to know what to talk about. They are not the same. We just need to empower people to go into agriculture. Na who don chop beleful dey press computer – if you have not eaten, you cannot do tech so in everything, agriculture comes first.
TNC: How do you connect with difficult clients?
Ovaioza: There is this advise my lawyer gave me, he said ‘no go dey do pass yourself’. If you cannot handle it, don’t do it. So in the business I know when to refund. An investor who will stress you will start from the beginning – they don’t wait till the end before they start stressing you. In as much as I want investors, our peace of mind matters a lot. I don’t want a situation whereby you don’t understand me, I don’t understand you and we are doing business. For instance, banks want customers but if you’re not on the same term with them and you want to close your account, they will willingly allow you to close the account. If I am seeing that this person is difficult to deal with, kindly provide the account details, I will refund. I stay away from anything that brings me out negatively.
TNC: Please tell us about what keeps you motivated and focused on the business – despite the inevitable odds that anyone or any business faces along the way.
Ovaioza: There is a picture of this company I have in my head and until I bring it to pass, I will not allow any obstacle to stop me and I see my company having branches. I just focus on the growth, the picture I have.
TNC: Your posts on Facebook show that you enjoy socializing. Do you socialize with your customers?
Ovaioza: Yes, I do. All my investors are on my WhatsApp. They see my status when I post and they laugh. I have already built a foundation of let business be business and let my personal life be my personal life. I have my private life to live apart from business – everything about me will not be revolving around my business. My family cannot revolve around my business. My friendship with you is different, same with my business with you. You’re an investor doesn’t mean you should dictate how I live my life. I often hear that some people will see your post and will not want to invest with you. But what about people that want to invest with me? Why should I focus on people that don’t want to invest with me? I don’t focus on the bad side. Listen to negativity at your own disadvantage. I focus on who wants to do business with me irrespective of what my personal life portrays. I don’t poke nose in people’s personal life. If you like walk around naked, that’s you. As long as I deliver to you, I don’t see any reason why you should be worried because of my personal life.
TNC: How do you handle male clients that make sexual advances at you?
Ovaioza : It’s the way you want people to treat you that they will treat you. If you make the first advance and I ignore, and then you persist, I cut off that connection – anything at all that gave you the audacity, I will cut it off. I can’t stop anyone from admiring me and as a matter of fact, as a woman, if no man admires you, you have a problem. If I don’t want, I will politely tell you I don’t want and a sensible person should know that a no is no. And me posting whatever I like is not an invitation. I should be able to utilize social media the way I want.
TNC: What is the most difficult part of being in your line of Business?
Ovaioza: The five stages of storage business– when to buy, where to buy, how to buy, how to sell, and how to store. If you don’t know these five basic things, just forget about storage business. I monitor the market and that is how I am able to keep afloat.
TNC: What are some of the glorious moments of the business?
Ovaioza: Let me use egusi for instance – I bought egusi at the rate of 40,000 in July. Egusi now is about 50,000 to 60,000 because I monitor the market cost. Let’s even leave that aside, I buy and sell too apart from storage. I have been buying plantain since February, I have people who partner with me and I group them 1-20. In each group there are about 20 – 30 people. That’s the number of people I can work with at that particular time. And since I started the plantain, it has been massive. Imagine investing 200,000 and within a week, your money produces above 20,000 and that happens every week.
TNC: What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ovaioza: If you don’t have passion for the business, don’t bother trying to be an entrepreneur because the challenges that come with it are enormous. You must also learn the intricacies of the business before venturing into it. With determination and consistency, you can go places.