Ruth Obih-Obuah: Business is not just about making money
Dreams, they say, die first, but Ruth Obih-Obuah has no intention of letting any of her dreams to slip away unfulfilled. Not only does she have a clear idea of where she’s going, she equally has a roadmap of how to get there.
Ruth, the Chief Executive Officer of 3INVEST, founded her enterprise based strictly on her gut feeling that there is more to explore in the real estate world. This has proven to be true through the innovations the company has come up with over the years.
But Ruth still has more to offer, as she has two big plans – one is for 3INVEST’s forthcoming 10th anniversary, and the other is her give-back-to-the-society before her 40th birthday. She calls it, “the BALL” and invites prospective entrepreneurs, investors to jump the bandwagon.
She shares some of her plans with Clara Nwachukwu, and while charting how to accomplish her goals, she challenges Nigerian youths, queuing endlessly for scarce economic resources and limited jobs, to get thinking, become creative, and catapult themselves out of poverty through innovation.
You’ve been described as, beauty, brains and business, lawyer, eerial Entrepreneur etc. which of them are you, or who is Ruth Obih?
I wish I could change the reading of the question, however, I would say, Ruth Obih-Obuah is a trained lawyer, and a real estate entrepreneur passionate about the way people live, work and invest. I am the founder and CEO at 3INVEST, a real estate Company with an advocacy goal to redefine, educate and promote the Sub-Saharan Africa real estate, exposing its huge potential for inclusive growth. 3INVEST hosts the largest gathering of real estate professionals and investors in Nigeria annually, and has recently launched its corporate real estate model called, Lagos Cowork, providing on-demand workspaces for start-ups and growing business.
How would you prefer people to see you, and how do you combine all these adjectives that have been used to describe you?
Well, we can’t control the filters others choose when they look at us but we can control where and how you chose to be seen. I am an ordinary Nigerian girl who took a decision to try a little harder and use what I learnt to give back to the ones following behind. Most times it’s challenging but I choose to count my blessings. My family and educational background paved the way for me; passion for value kept thus far.
You have organically developed 3INVEST as a brand with strong presence and resources such as Real Estate On Air, Real Estate Unite, REIN and now Lagos Cowork, please tell us how these connect? What have been your challenges?
So far, I started 3INVEST in 2007, and learnt from my first two years’ experience that for this business to be outstanding and successful, it must be built on values.
Business is not just about making money; one should develop invaluable models and focus on what they can do to help or disrupt. As a Company, we leveraged using advocacy by delivering informative digital content, which was lacking in the real estate industry back when we digitised in 2010. We did this through 3INVESTONLINE and our radio Real Estate On Air, which was the first syndicate real estate radio show in Nigeria.
We focused on using content to exposure the industry and gain investor’s confidence. I was certain that the more awareness we create the more business opportunity we would attract for the industry. Here we are today; out of a group of three and within five years, we developed Real Estate UNITE, what has become an annual gathering of most influential real estate leaders, investors and professionals, and is growing to be the largest.
What then is the goal of 3INVEST and what are you doing to achieve it?
3INVEST is an organisation with a collective goal to develop ideas designed to change the way investors approach real estate in the future. This provides a foundation for our core brand values – “Live well, Work right, Invest wisely”. Our business focus is to help people live well by providing secured home investment through our Real Estate Investor Network (REIN). REIN is a network of real estate investors. With 750+ investors from kick-starts to large portfolio investors, we use REIN to grow their property portfolio and create sustainable wealth.
We want to help organisations and individual’s work right through Lagos Cowork. Lagos Cowork is an on-demand workspace provider for start-ups and growing businesses. Our aim is to create a community where people co-work and invest in timeshare investment opportunities. Our plan is to educate organisations on the need for a good workplace strategy.
3INVEST Workplace approach treats the workplace as a strategic asset that enables organisations to align how they plan, use, design and manage their workplaces with the business goals and objectives of the organisation. Finally, we help people invest wisely through our Real Estate Investment Management model. We help investors by maximising and managing their investment management strategies – to control your risks and increase your returns.
Nigeria’s peculiar environment does not encourage women in business, how did you overcome the challenges in terms of access to information, access to funding and others to grow your business?
I always say, success it not enough. It’s about value. I have always believed in myself so whether you believe in me or not is entirely up to you. I started 3INVEST during a downturn and I had to sit up and strategise to build business models that even if my greatest enemy becomes the decision maker, it will never affect my business. Yes, I agree, so I built my business on resilience. My models allow me to access finance from the business.
How would you describe the Nigerian business environment – as one that encourages entrepreneurship, or one that frustrates businesses?
Nigeria is full of opportunities and that makes it easier to gain entrance to new businesses. On the other hand, Government must enable these businesses to grow by creating business friendly policies. My personal mantra is: For every difficulty or frustration I encounter, is an indication that there is a huge opportunity to break the walls that is only when you can make the difference.
What are those things you feel government can do better to encourage enterprise?
By creating an enabling environment and improving infrastructure i.e. power and road networks, create jobs and diversify the economy especially the housing sector.
The Housing sector creates more jobs than any other sector. Why the huge deficit? Why do we have an ailing mortgage industry?
Youths of today lament that there are no jobs, how can they help themselves and the society by becoming employers instead of being employees?
I deployed myself to employ people due to this key challenge facing the Nigerian Youth; the key is a good education, discipline and focus. Every corner of Africa spells opportunity. But we must refrain from copy-copy mentality. My advice remains, think, innovate, create, and break boundaries.
But I have a plan for today’s youth, as my give back before I turn 40, I want to use my success story to help, so I introduce The ROO Series, a coaching platform founded under my personal name, Ruth Obih-Obuah (ROO), to coach the Millennials on how to create wealth through real estate investing. The ROO series’ mission is to transform millennials from dependent consumers to independent investors. The ROO SERIES will help them develop real estate investing skills at an early stage and grow their property portfolio. This is done through workshops, one-on-one coaching and digital training.
Finally, what are your plans for the future and what are you doing to bring them to reality?
At 10, we planned to become operators, not just service providers; and we are almost there. Our vision is to be a leading real estate Company built on trust and delivering excellent investor value. That’s the BALL and our eyes are on it.
Our Corporate real estate strategy is to operate and provide flexible workspaces across Africa. Our goal is to create a sharing community where people co-work and invest in timeshare opportunities. The co-working revolution is transforming real estate. Co-working and flexible spaces are fast becoming critical components of wider Corporate Real Estate (CRE) and portfolio strategy.
Our study shows that a good workplace strategy should lead to effective and efficient workplace that: reduces real estate and facilities costs, improves work performance, increases organisational agility and flexibility, and improves communication and collaboration. This in turn will increase creativity and innovation, increase employee satisfaction, improve employee work-life balance, improve brand, image identity and culture, attract and retain the best talent, reduce environmental impact and improve healthy work environments.
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