‘I come from a family where we were taught hospitality’
Angela Okonmah is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Twinwaters Entertainment Centre, a tourist Centre, and first premium ultra-modern entertainment center in Nigeria, at Lekki Phase1. Angela is a natural ambassador of hospitality industry and reflects her competence in the running of Twinwaters, a proudly Nigerian enterprise, targeted towards giving its guests a home-away from-home experience. Prior to her position at Twinwaters, Angela was a strong player in the finance industry, starting her career at Capital Merchant Bank Limited as an Investment Officer in 1989, before joining Pinnacle Commercial Bank Limited, where she served as Assistant Manager of Treasury. She was the Manager of Operations for four years at Associated Discount House Limited, before she undertook her internship programme at Shell Petroleum Development Company, Lagos, in the human resource and welfare department. In 1993, she joined Diamond Bank as the pioneer Manager of customer relations unit, which established a customer experience brand and culture before advancing to a senior manager role as Head of Bank-wide Administration and Property Units under the corporate services division. At Diamond Bank, she served as AGM and Group Head, retail products/ propositions and led the private banking team. This highly skilled and result-oriented professional is now an hospitality ambassador at Twinwaters, using her attention to details, operational skills, efficiency and passion for building up businesses and lifestyle solutions, to cascade the organisation into a first-rate brand of hospitality.
In this interview with Maria Diamond, she talks about the luxury experiences awaiting Nigerians and foreigners at the tourist centre, among others.
Kindly introduce Twinwaters to us, the disposition of the entertainment Centre. What it stands for in the hospitality industry?
Twinwaters is an exceptional entity with a bold and architectural masterpiece that is first-of-its kind; our experiences span five floors in the entire facility. We have Rufus & Bee, the very first gaming arcade in Nigeria, Chai Tang, 788 on the sea – a scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean, The Maradiva and the view Rooftop. Twinwaters features five modern event suites, two fine dining experiences and one casual dining restaurant, a rooftop bar and lounge and a terrace. In a nutshell Twinwaters is a family entertainment place for everyone, it cuts across all ages; there is something for everybody at Twinwaters. The vision is to give guests experiences that last a lifetime, to make sure that every guest who walks in leaves happy and would be a repeat guest.
What is the peculiarity of Twinwaters that can’t be seen or experienced anywhere else?
The reason we say it’s first-of-its-kind is that there’s no entertainment Centre that has the kind of experiences we have in one location. From when you get into our facility it gives you a wow experience of having everything you and your folks need in one facility. We have the gaming arcade sitting right next to a casual dinning and when you leave the down floor, you go up to the Chai tang, a lovely Chinese restaurant and it keeps flowing, so we bring you a flow of entertainments experiences in one place and that cannot be seen anywhere else in Nigeria.
The pride of Twinwaters is the rooftop, which comprises of the lounge, two lovely terraces on the seaside and on the street-side. For the street side you get to see Lagos as it really is and its unique beauty at night, the link road, Ikoyi bridge and all of the lights at night with absolute beauty. The street side is calm at night while the seaside is cool with a refreshing atmosphere. So when you combine all of these beautiful experiences, you can say there is nowhere like Twinwaters.
Why did you take up the challenge of managing a hospitality company having built a career in the finance sector?
I tie this back to my experiences growing up, I come from a family where we were taught hospitality growing up in life and I went to a secondary school where you just had to be hospitable, we were taught all of those things at school and ultimately, while in the finance industry, the sort of roles you have to play in the corporate ladder; all of these involves a lot of customer experiences because that’s what sustains any business. So I’d say I have an inbuilt gift for hospitality and I have been like that since I was a child. So making the decision was something that was easy to do and comes natural to me.
How do you intend to sustain the culture of top-notch experience?
Our sustainability lies in our enduring culture of excellence in service and attitude, with a continuous commitment to maintain our facilities to world-class standards, an environment where employees are helped to excel to their full potential and a culture of happy employees, happy service, happy environment and happy guests. We’re putting in place structures that ensure sustainability, structure for the right workers, which is very important. We ensure to have serious training plans for them and see the value of customer experience, as these guests will stable us for life. We also take feedbacks seriously cause we’re trying to build lifetime guests by ensuring our people serve guests appropriately for them to remember those experiences and keep coming back. So training people, facilities management and having a strategy to deliver our vision is how we sustain Twinwaters culture.
Why do you have more Chinese delicacies?
Generally speaking, I think Nigerians love Chinese food everywhere. In putting up the strategies for Twinwaters, we researched for experiences we know people enjoy Chinese restaurant was on top. Nigerians like Chinese food and I think Chinese food around the world is quite popular, our Chai Tang has proven that it can be very popular as we have a lot of guests coming in to have their events and have family time. So we have delivered what we think Nigerians like to eat. However, we do have nice African meals at Rufus & Bee and our guests who want African meals are taken there. The beauty of Twinwaters is you settle for what you’re comfortable with.
How did you successfully make Twinwaters a refined place despite not being a hospitality professional. Is this an indicator that women are better managers in the industry?
I would not say so. I’d say that for anybody, male or female, when you want to start any type of business and you do your research well, get everything you need- strategies, processes and plan, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re a man or woman, you’d do great. However, hospitality naturally comes really great to women cause they have eyes for details. Women capture every detail however little around hospitality issues- from cleanliness to how the service is delivered, hygiene issues, making sure the team is bonding and many other issues that may seem irrelevant to men. So it’s something that comes natural to women, as they are always hospitable in their day-to day activities.
How do you beat competition? What are the ups and downs?
What sets us apart is the feeling our guests get when they walk in here, people are so delighted, they can’t believe Twinwaters is run by Nigerians, but beyond that, we have provided a place where people of all ages walk in and can settle for an experience that is relevant to them. We have grandmas coming with their grandchildren to Chai Tang, which is one of our most popular family restaurants as it cuts across all ages. Every business has its challenges but with tireless input, you surpass each challenge as it comes.
You have successfully made Twinwaters a place to be for guests in only one year of incorporation, how did you achieve this?
When we first opened in December 2017, it was just an arcade, nobody has delivered the sort of arcade we have here. We have over 100 games at Rufus & Bee. This is a tourist centre, a lot of people who haven’t had the opportunity to visit these experiences anywhere else come in here and they get blown away. So it’s again going back to that careful planning and filling the gap of things that don’t exist in Nigeria, we have guest come in from across the country to explore and enjoy this place.
Do you think Nigeria is doing enough for the entertainment industry, how can government support?
Nigeria is a really huge place and I don’t think we have enough entertainment centres. Every hotspot in the country should have entertainment centers since that’s how people unwind, detox, get exposed and know what’s happening around the world.
There are still a lot of opportunities for entertainment and government can do a lot more in providing the amenities and support the industry more.
Is there any role model in the industry that inspires you?
We actually see ourselves as a world-class Centre, what we deliver at Twinwaters is not just about Nigeria, however, the companies that motivates us are those that have been in existence for years, the hospitality industry that have grown around the world and still thriving. It’s their customer experience that we want to match, we want people to look back at Twinwaters in Nigeria and narrate an experience that is comparable to anywhere in the world.
How do you juggle your responsibilities at home and work?
It’s all about planning. Yes, it’s a lot of work and I love what I do here, everyone on the team manages just well. We push ourselves to the limit; we try and rearrange our personal life around work and our homes.
Do you take a break from all the work to shutdown and breathe?
I try, it’s not easy but within Twinwaters you also find those moments. You’re working but you’re also finding time to relax. Anytime I sit in the restaurant to see guests’ experience is an experience for me, too, and a time to relax.
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