Our brand icon, Mrs. Stella-Rita Asogwa, is an entrepreneur extraordinary. She is the managing director of Marcopolo Chinese Restaurant, as well as the chief executive officer of Laritas Beauty SPA, located at 911 Mall, Abuja. A Fellow of the Institute of Brand Management of Nigeria and recipient of the Queen Esther Award for Excellent Entrepreneurial Skills. Mrs. Asogwa spoke with LAURATU UMAR ABDULSALAM and AJEGI EUGENE IJERE in Abuja. Excerpts:
Why did you choose to go into business instead of seeking for a white collar job? How come you chose Chinese eatery?
I have been an industrious woman. My veering into eatery was something that came up at a later stage in my life. I am a lover of Chinese foods. As I and my husband had dinner at the main Marcopolo Chinese restaurant in Lagos we discussed about the food and the strong brand name attached to the restaurant. The thought about going into business came up. We discussed with the management and started planning for it.
How did you come about the saloon and spa?
For the saloon and spa, it has been a passion I’ve had right from time. I started it gradually, selling some cosmetics products. I took my wares from one point to another. Much later, I travelled to the UK. I did a little training on the spa business, then came back and started it at home as a home business. After about a year, I moved it into a rented shop and today here we are.
What drew your interest into this business?
I have always desired to be self employed in life; be my own boss and supervise myself, provide employment for others. It is not as if as if I did not search for work. I actually did, but the drive for self employment was over bearing in me.
Have there been times you thought you made the wrong choice?
If the question is whether I have had teething challenges, the answer is yes. But if the question is if I have allowed myself to be weighed down by any of them, the answer is no. For us here God has been faithful. The saloon and spa has won us several awards in the past four years of our existence. Last year, we won the Best Beauty Salon Award in Abuja.
In the restaurant business we are doing so well. We are rated among the best three Chinese restaurants in Abuja. We hear a lot of positive comments from customers and it keeps driving us to do more.
How do you cope with combining business with home front?
It’s not been easy, but as a woman we know how to multi-task a lot. Women can actually do five things at the same time. It is inborn, it’s natural. What I do is that, I plan my time, start the day with my family, pray, do the house chores, set the children for school and then go out for my business. The two businesses used to be in separate places, and it was a bit difficult, so I had to bring them together. Generally, I try to create time for everything. At lunch time, I go home and ensure things are taken care of, and then I return to the office.
How would you assess women generally, in terms of being business managers? And how do you thing government can encourage women in business?
Women are always wonderful managers. There are a lot of women out there who are limited by the little capital required for them to start a business. All they need is a little soft loan. They don’t really need much; government can come to the aid of such business conscious women. I have assisted some women in this regard in the past, and today when I see them I feel am proud because they are doing really good. So I think government can assist women by giving them soft loans without interest, to be paid over a long period of time.
How well for a woman in a male dominated business environment
Initially it was not easy. Many people seeing me will think I am the personal assistant or secretary to the boss. In the course of time, men have realized that the women are already there with them. Thank God that today, government has started giving women the opportunity to handle very sensitive positions in government circles, and they are doing very well. It is my zeal to deliver that has placed me at par with men I meet in the process of doing business and all of them respect me.
Unique Selling Point
The ambience of my place has been a great advantage to the business. I make my place look good, so that as you come in the first impression you get is killing, and it looks like you are abroad. People who have travelled abroad often compare our saloon with what they see there. Ours is a one stop beauty palace for beauty and complete body treatments.
Likewise the restaurant, people compare it with what they have seen abroad, because of the way I set it up and the quality of items we use, as well as the food.
Running a profitable franchise
A lot of hard work is required to make business survive. I advise women to go into franchise. There are types, but the choice should depend on funds because you will pay for the franchise and put all the items required, based on the specification of the original owner of the business name you intend to use. The person will only give you training for your staff, allow you to use their name and all other things will be from your own pocket.
Advice to other women
Keep doing what you are doing conscientiously, and for those who are yet to go into business there are no lions in the streets. Go out and do something good that will help you help your family. Prayer is also very instrumental to success, pray and pray and pray. Be zealous to be able to convince your husband that you will make a good business person. Put in your best in everything you do.
Furthermore, the old stereotype of African culture relegating women to the home is no longer in vogue; because the world is evolving. Just like we subscribe to new technologies we should also subscribe to new ideas that have positive impacts on the family and society at large.
Filed Under: Brand and Marketing Edge