By Okuneye Moyosola
Mrs. Folake Soji-George is a Co-Founder of Al-Hadiat Nigeria Limited. She was one of the Guest Speakers at the 3rd Women In Leadership and Career Empowerment Programme (WILCEP) Africa Mentorship event. In this interview with MMS Plus newspaper, Folake reveals how women can access loans and grants from commercial banks. She also explains how women can succeed in business while managing their homes. Enjoy it:
The job of a truck owner is seen as a man’s job and it is very demanding, how has the experience been for you?
I have been doing this business for almost twenty years and I have risen to become one of the key stakeholders. Before the government comes up with a policy, stakeholders are invited to make an input so that the venture can be successful. We also give advice to them about policies that would be effective.
For me, the line of trucking that I have chosen is majorly cargo lifting and sometimes containers. Cargo lifting is just goods that will be on the flat-bed trailers and it’s not the containerized one that you have to go to the holding bay to drop the empty container or go to the Lilypond Terminal.
The type of trucking that I do is majorly cargo and for that we just go into the port, carry the cargoes, drop them at the warehouse and go back. The new policy of government is that they call truck to come out from their individual garages. They have garages that are registered with the task team that are controlling the traffic in conjunction with Nigerian Port Authority (NPA). The call from the garages and we come out. This has been a lot better for us now.
How have you been able to handle the challenges generally associated with the trucking business in Nigeria?
We have so many challenges that we face but I have realized that they are part of the business. We cannot take some of them away totally but we can reduce them. Even if you have one truck, you will still face these challenges. I heard a man that had only one truck and the driver told him that he was at Isolo meanwhile; he was already at the port to carry another consignment.
However, technology is advancing just as we are improving in logistics and transport sector. One day, we will have a website to show people that have consignments who to address and where to go for trucking services instead of going to look for freelancers. We are working on that as a means of improvement.
What do you think the government can do in providing more access to loans for business women?
Government on their part are doing what they can. We also need to educate ourselves on how to access the provision that government has already made. We have the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), the Bank of Industry (BoI), among others trying to help people. We also have a lot of commercial banks involved in giving loans, grants and providing fiscal interventions for women at reduced rate. The onus is on women to check for these things through the internet or by going into the banks to ask them questions. Do you have any facility or provisions for my type of business? What does your bank do for women? These are the questions that you need to ask. Human beings are timid and like to seat in their comfort zone and we reel out complains without exploring avenues that have been given. We know that even if government has been advocating and making jingles or adverts, there are people who would not pick the newspaper for one month or watch the television.
If you have a bank account, you can go to your bank and ask questions. They have the customer service unit where you can ask questions about what the bank is doing. By doing this, you will know what to do to access the facility that is in place.
How have you been able to manage your business and your family as a woman to ensure there is balance?
My children are grown up. However, when I they were younger I was still a business person. My children were coming to school in Apapa. Fortunately, when I had my first child, the school he attended resumed by 9am. I didn’t have to wake him up early. We went to work together and I dropped him off at school. Nursing mothers usually close by 4pm and I go to pick him up from school. I did this until they finished the primary school.
During their secondary education, they were in the boarding house which is in Lagos. The school usually organized meetings so I had the opportunity of seeing them almost every two weeks. Now they are grown and are in the university. It was easier for me this way because I was a business owner. I can go to work whatever time I like and I leave for home when I want to. I have people who keep the business running for me. I just do follow up. If there is any reason for me to leave the house, to attend to issues after work hours, I have somebody at home that takes care of the children.
What advice do you have for younger women who are coming up as career people and those who intend to effectively manage their businesses?
You have to identify what you like doing. You have to discover your passion. If you have passion for something, you won’t get tired of it even when you are facing challenges. If it’s something that you like doing and it is giving you problems, you will look for a way to solve it and go back to doing it because it is what you like doing. Do not rush. Children of nowadays want to be millionaires in one day, but life is not like that.
You must have the story of your humble beginning. Rome was not built in a day. You have to take your time to grow to achieve success. When you take your time, you will be able to sustain the success that you have achieved. However, if you rush and you want your millions to come in a day without going through any risk or encountering any problem, you will come down just like the way you rushed to get to that position.
Women should take their time and be patient. They should identify what they want and develop passion for it. There is need for them to also have role models that will encourage them and advise them, especially during challenging times. There are always good role models that are willing to help by sharing ideas and thoughts.
When did you make your first million as a business owner?
I made my first million in 1990. You can’t say you want to achieve success overnight. You have to crawl, walk and then you elevate. Most people now are involved in getting rich schemes. Some are involved in ‘yahoo yahoo’ and other shady businesses. Involving in all these kinds of businesses has its own repercussion. Get yourself involved in a legal business and with time, perseverance and hard work, it will yield results for you.