The Ibukun Awosika story, ‘I look for opportunities in challenges.’
In the business world, one common factor all rugged business have in common is that unforeseen challenges would always rise. The difference often between a successful business person and another person who is not so successful is in the way they view challenges.
Seeing just the challenges in business without seeing the opportunities that lie therein is the beginning of the end for any business. Today we take a look at the business story of the CEO of the Chair Center Group, Mrs Ibukun Awosika and how she looks for opportunities in challenges.
Mrs. Awosika was born in Ibadan in 1956 to a Nigerian father and a Cameroonian mother. She had her secondary education at Methodist Girls High School where she was an outstanding student bagging various awards.
Although Awosika had plans to become a medical doctor and later on an architect, she later studied chemistry at the University of Ife, South western Nigeria (now Obafemi Awolowo University).
Not satisfied with her with her course of study, Awosika began taking elective courses in accountancy and Administration in which she performed excellently, even more than her original course of study.
After graduation, she proceeded to Kano state for her one year compulsory national youth service. She got posted to the Kano office of an auditing company. Also during her service year, Awosika took classes on ICAN and even took part of the exams. All was set for her to make a career in accounting.
However, as she continued with the auditing company, she began to like accounting even less. She discovered that the job does not give room for creativity. Everything has to be done by the books.
By the end of her service year, Awosika had given up on accounting. She decided to look for a job in the banking sector. In a bid not to be idle while waiting for the bank job, Awosika got a sales job at the showroom of a furniture company.
After working for about 3 and half months, and mastering the intricacies of furniture making, Awosika set out to establish her own furniture making company. Awosika partnered with a friend of hers and together they set up Quebees. With a team of seven furniture makers and herself, Awosika made her first set of furniture at the back of her father’s house.
Quebees began getting orders from different quarters. With the profits made from supply of these orders, the company began buying some of the working tools it required.
From this point, Quebees fired on and there was not looking back, transforming into the Chair Center in 1989.In 2004, the government placed a ban on the importation of furniture and other materials required for furniture making.
This was a challenge that threatened all furniture makers at that time because majority of them had some of their components manufactured outside the shores of the country.
So the deal was to either smuggle those products into the country or close up shop. Awosika would not have any of the two as they were against the company’s policy and her belief.
Awosika thought up an idea. She approached Soka SA of France with a business proposal of investing in Nigeria.
Soka SA, France’s largest furniture maker did not have any international office outside of France at that time and to them, Nigeria was not an ideal country to begin with due to the various stories being bandied about Nigeria and Nigerians.
Determined to see her business succeed, Awosika remained in discusion with Soka SA and was able to convince them.
In 2005, Soka SA merged with the Chair Center and became Soka Chair Center limited.
In 2024, the company celebrated their 25 years anniversary in the furniture business which was not without challenges.
Some of which according to Awosika includes change in government policy, low availability of skilled labour, the issue of trust in doing business in Nigeria, among others.
However, the company has always found a way out by not focusing on the challenges, but on the opportunities therein.
Awosika whose company has diversified into the production of security and anti-robbery doors with offices in Ghana and other West African countries says that the most important lesson she had learnt in business was that integrity matters.
On her advice to upcoming entrepreneurs, the CEO of the chair group encourages them to build a financial record and maintain a god track record, that they might never know when they need it.
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