Dr Ibukun Adebayo-Adedayo is an authority in the field of real estate advisory and development. The chief executive officer (CEO) of Rock Realty Limited and Today’s Bukka in an interview with SAMUEL ABULUDE speaks on her mission to inspire more women to take on new opportunities in the business world.
You are passionate about women and have taken it upon yourself to impact lives through your career, what really prompted this?
Women play a pivotal role in the society and if we realize this deeply, we would understand the importance of utilising our God-given potential to deliberately add value to the society, improve our industries of influence and ingrain quality values in our families. This is the major reason I am passionate about raising hope among women. A woman who believes in herself, despite challenges she may face from time to time, is a woman who can take on her world and productively contribute her quota to the development of her community and her nation. I have become even more focused on building and encouraging women in this period as people are beginning to adapt and re-strategise their lives as a result of the change effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our communities globally.
More importantly, I remind women of importance of the God-factor in everything they do and why it is imperative to lean on HIM as the Rock that never fails. The focus is to always reach the soul & body of women to ensure a wholesome approach to re-orientation. I emphasise the importance of a heart-connection that accentuates the importance of the God in their existence and how they can successfully combine a focus on God with excellence in their career & businesses.
In addition to these, we are strongly advocating the need for women to think outside the box; to create new opportunities that will enable them excel in their current endeavours and to chart newer endeavours/career paths in the new normal that has presented itself due to the pandemic.
Why are you focusing only on women?
We are not focused on only women, but we pay more attention to women. It is generally understood that women are relatively emotional beings; hence, they have the potential to be a bit more emotional about what men would ordinarily pass through without stress. This underscores the fact that women need to be more enlightened about dealing with stressful situations and thriving even during difficult moments by sinking into a deeper relationship with God.
The good thing is that technology has permeated our spaces, so, we have leveraged on it as the tool we use to reach people. We focus on the online media; such that we can reach them even in their homes; especially now that people have largely tilted to online platforms for information and entertainment. We are basically using technology very significantly to bring encouragement and hope to the world.
Women spend a lot more time on emotionally-driven highlights on social media, so, we have targeted our outreach using ideas that are attractive to women to get them engaged in the messages we have for them. One of those outreaches is igniting the spirit of people, especially women with the online daily broadcast tagged: ‘10 Minutes with God’.
You are a doctor, but you’re not practicing. Why did you dump the medical profession for real-estate career?
I didn’t dump medicine but left the practice. I studied medicine at the University of Ilorin, Kwara State and practised for a few years after national youth service. I had a clear understanding of the fact that I really wasn’t enjoying the practice of medicine enough to dedicate the remainder of my life to it and I am glad that I recognised this early in my career. This led me to start exploring other interests while I prayed to God to give me clarity. I did a few things such as interior decoration and so on.
However, clarity came when I took up a near-volunteer job at Investment Management and Training firm at the time (Financial Datanet House Limited) which gave me the platform to venture into the investment management and investment banking space and I built a career in same. The career took me through few notable companies in Lagos such as Chapel Hill Denham Management, after which I moved to The Infrastructure Bank Plc, a development finance bank in Abuja, where most of the portfolios I managed were real estate-related and I eventually became the head of the real estate department at the bank for about six years.
I left The Infrastructure Bank in 2016 to start my real estate advisory and development firm in 2017; Rock Realty Limited; which has a focus on middle-income real estate. Over the years, I have also started some other businesses such as Today’s Bukka and Cuisines Limited and Diva Orders Limited.
Real Estate is known to be a male dominated industry, how has it been easy for you to have headway in the industry?
I can authoritatively say that it has been an interesting journey. However, the keyword is cooperation rather than competition even among opposite sexes. I have also found many male colleagues in the industry very helpful and ready to offer genuine assistance when necessary. In fact, most of the companies that we provide advisory services to are owned by men and many of the home buyers who buy units from us are men.
The company that does construction supervision for us is owned by a man and so on. The most important duty is to understand the values that you operate by and stand firm by them unflinchingly as you deal in the marketplace. However, I am very bullish about making a mark and encouraging many more women and youths to join the real estate investment and development ladder. We are building a model that will help more women get involved in the real estate industry and we would be unveiling a few initiatives along these lines within the next 12 months.
One of these is the launching of a platform called “W.I.R.E” (Women in Real Estate) which is focused on gathering women in the Real Estate business and those aspiring to join the real estate ladder. The platform will provide networking opportunities, capacity building opportunities and investment prospects to them. Also, we are passionate about low and middle income earners owning homes. Consequently, we are constantly inventing strategies to enable them own homes despite the issues we have around our mortgage system in Nigeria.
Finally, I own a restaurant called Today’s Bukka, a brand that started from my kitchen in 2017 and has become notable in the city of Abuja; employing over 40 members of staff. We will be opening another branch in Abuja this year and in Lagos next year.
Has your popular online ‘10 Minutes with God’, really achieved its aim?
Absolutely, I get messages & testimonies from time to time from people whose lives have been touched and transformed by the broadcast and we give all the Glory back to God who does these things by Himself in the lives of the people.
Are you encouraging women to place spiritual life above careers?
There is no such thing as spiritual life above career. The spiritual controls the physical. It is the happenings in the spiritual realm that play out in our careers, homes, businesses, industries and in all we do. So what I do is this; I advise women to control the happenings in their lives from the spiritual realm then get into the day and work on their careers with the confidence that heaven is backing them up powerfully.
What are the initiatives outlined to expand the industry through women?
The W.I.R.E (Women in Real Estate) Initiative will focus on significantly increasing the participation & impact of women in the real estate sector in Nigeria over the next five years.
With your wealth of experience in the real estate investment industry, what is your take on the common challenges in the industry such as land grabbers, authentication of ownership of lands among other problems?
Nigeria is an emerging economy and some of these challenges in the real estate sector are not atypical in an emerging market. However, I always advocate that no real estate transaction should be consummated without appropriate due diligence carried out by a legal expert that has extensive experience and domain knowledge. Also, when land deals are concluded, the landowner should factor in demarcation (fence building costs) into his/her acquisition costs. This would reduce the chances of issues with land grabbers and encroachers. However, the ‘omo onile’ bane is still a major issue in Lagos and would require significant political will to tackle.
A many Nigerians are facing serious challenge in home ownership, what is your position on this?
The major problems lie in the fact that we do not have an effective mortgage system. Mortgage is a major factor in unlocking home ownership in any clime. The major reason is that the larger part of the population is in the middle-income and low-income groups. These groups are able to buy homes more seamlessly with friendly mortgages. However, despite the immature mortgage industry, developers should be looking to reduce construction costs by optimizing architectural designs and also optimizing use of land so that home prices can be reduced. Also, developers need to start looking at affordable housing projects that would be easily accessible to the lower rung of middle-income earners.
The society has become so challenging, especially with many that have lost their jobs as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. How would you advise women on how to invest for more income?
The first thing to do is to declutter their minds! A downtrodden mind cannot be creative. The restaurant, Today’s Bukka was birthed in a moment that I had a cashflow downtime. I started reading about small businesses you can run from home and I came across food delivery services as a good business that can be tarted from home. I started the business in my kitchen and today, it has grown organically into a major food brand in Abuja, and would be spreading across the country over the next two to three years. There are many businesses that you can start with little or no capital if you pay attention to the opportunities that are around you.
In addition, one of the major focus of our empowerment programs, including W.I.R.E is to teach women how to make money from different segments of the real estate value chain; from using your network to galvanize a real estate marketing company to learning how to make money by investing capital in real estate.