Young and vibrant Dr. Kelly Izuwa Nwogu, the Managing Director/CEO of Livelihood Homes (owners of Bluesea Estates International) is passionate about contributing his quota to real estate development and Entrepreneurship in Nigeria. In the last five years the serial entrepreneur took the real estate industry by storm developing over twenty three estates spread across the country. The recipient of the Honourary Doctorate from the European American University spoke on the contributions of Lagos to his success story in this interview with Nnamdi Nwokolo.
What has been the role and contributions of Lagos to your success?
Sincerely speaking, Lagos has been a centre of excellence and my success story. Interestingly, I was born and bred in Lagos. My early education was in Lagos and I equally graduated from the University of Lagos before I proceeded to the UK to study Law. So, all my life has been in Lagos and I would say that Lagos has been the city of my success.
Would you say the full potentials of Lagos have been maximized at fifty?
I believe that there’ll always be room for improvement. Even in developed cities of the world, they are always looking for means for future development. Lagos has made tremendous success but I don’t think we are there yet. Lagos has done well thus far, but a lot more still needs to be done if we are going to make Lagos a smart city as proposed. Having said that, I foresee a Lagos that will have a functional and fully developed rail system that will make it easy to reduce the number of hours people spend on traffic in the city. I equally see Lagos growing into a smart city in the next couple of years.
Impact of governance to business success:
Thank you for that beautiful question. Successive governments in Lagos have been business friendly going by the importance they attach to business as they see the private sector as partners in progress. You’ll agree with me that Lagos is the business hub in Africa and it is a reflection of the positive impact of government policies to business success. You’ll agree with me that every family in the country is represented in Lagos and that shows the accommodative nature of the people and government of Lagos. I’d also tell you that the cosmopolitan nature of Lagos contributed to its success.
Is there anything you think government can do differently to help enterprise development especially real estate development?
My take is that government at all levels should device policies that will encourage youth empowerment/development. I commend the Lagos state government of making soft loans available to the youths to enable them start SME’s and earn a living. It is a wonderful initiative from the government of Lagos and I say a big thank you to the man who made it possible, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode. He is doing well and I appreciate the efforts of his team in recreating Lagos of our dreams and I urge them to see to the full implementation of the programme by making sure the soft loans gets to people that actually need them. As a real estate developer in the state, I advise the government to try and make the process of land documentation easier in the state to enable people have access to land. There is no gainsaying that the government needs to support the private sector to move the state to the next level.
When you aggregate all the developments in Lagos, would you say it’s worth celebrating fifty?
Absolutely yes, we should roll out the drums and celebrate as a Yoruba adage says ‘when you thank God for the little he has done, He will do more’. The essence of what I’m saying is that the little developments we see in Lagos today is worth celebrating but I believe we can do more. I want to commend the government of Akinwunmi Ambode for completing the Ajah flyover; it is one of the fastest projects I’ve seen government embark upon in Nigeria and complete on record time. I can see a lot of development going on in different parts of the state and I want to use this medium to thank all the people working with Governor Ambode for a job well done. My prayer is that as we celebrate fifty years, and with the current developments going on in Lagos, the next fifty years will be better.
With your experience, what would you say are the challenge of entrepreneurship in Nigeria? Most people will tell you that the most challenging experience is getting funding to execute estate project development plans. In as much as real estate is a capital intensive industry, I started the company in every sense as a small business. In fact, the first ten acres of land we acquired for development was done without paying a dime. We are the only company that sells a plot of land at #100,000.00 in the whole of the country. Infrastructure is the biggest challenge to enterprise development in Nigeria. Entrepreneurs need to be trained to understand that funding is not the first requirement to start a business. The first thing that is needed as an entrepreneur is the desire to do a particular business at a time as vision attracts provision. They should be encouraged to learn skills that will help them excel as entrepreneurs. Part of what I have done in the last five years is to train people to acquire skills that will help them awaken the spirit of entrepreneurship in them.
From your experience, what are the critical factors for business success?
There’s no organisation that is perfect but when people know you as a trust worthy firm, they’ll learn to endure with you when you are going through some challenges. To build a sustainable business, you have to be patient, focused and innovative. I would say that there are many factors that will combine to guarantee business success including integrity, diligence, focus and perseverance. With the benefit of hindsight, don’t try to copy anybody; be yourself. Integrity and excellent service delivery are critical to business success. Passion is equally critical to building a sustainable business. You cannot build a business around what you don’t have passion for. As the entrepreneur, your passion is what is needed to drive the business. With passion, you’ll constantly look for ways to improve the quality of service of your business.
You’ve achieved a lot at a relatively young age, what does success mean to you?
The true definition of success isn’t perceived as how much money you have in your bank account, but on how many people you helped in your lifetime. No one’s eulogy will include how many cars they had or how big their homes were. You will be remembered based on your generosity, your kindness, the amount of people you helped in time of need. This is how people want to be remembered as they share their life journey as an example to others. Success to me is not having too much money but the fulfillment of one’s purpose on earth. It has nothing to do with neither the wealth you have nor the number of houses you own, but on the number of lives you have touched positively.
What is the driving force?
My mother is crippled and I’m her only child. Having seen the challenges she passed through raising me, I decided to give back to the society by alleviating the challenges that physically challenged people go through every day in our society. I don’t want to be comfortable alone as I want to make as much people as possible to help live the good life. To be a success or a failure depends solely on your mindset, so I advise the youths to have a change of mindset.