Kimberly Adejumo Amuda: ‘The problem with young women today is that they like easy things’
Kimberly Adejumo Amuda is the head of Kimberly’s Groups of Company, with special interest in short lets, real estate, home management, interior decorations, luxury smart home housewares sales, general constructions and others. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and Public Administration from the Imo State University, and later bagged a Diploma in Terrorism Studies from the University of Lagos. Prior to this, she furthered her education for a year in Basic Law at Henley College Coventry, UK, with another Diploma in Criminology and Law from University of Derby. In this interview with NGOZI EGENUKA, the CEO and Co-Founder of GB and Godyva Events, who is also a Board member, The Sustainable Energy Group, Houston, and Assistant to Regional Director, BenTv, spoke about being an entrepreneur, her journey into property business, and plans to provide sanitary towels to girls aged between nine and 15 among other issues.
What was growing up like for you?
Then, it wasn’t fun; it was like we were suffering. But looking back now, those memories were filled with fun. My parents were disciplinarians; I walked to school from home for 30 minutes. After school, I had to help my mother at the shop; she made sure we hawked something; we hawked ice water, which was tied in nylon. Now, I appreciate that experience because it shaped me to who I am today. If I didn’t grow up like that, I would probably have taken a lot of things for granted; that’s how I am raising my daughter. Growing up made me understand that there is no impossibility.
I was born in Lagos, grew up in Ibadan and then at Ijesha with my grandmother before I was 15 years old; I learnt how to speak Ijesha from my grandmother and I still have friends there. I went to six different secondary schools; my mother kept changing schools in the quest of looking for the best schools, but my father hated that. But the experience made me know a lot of people.
How did you come about Kimberly’s Apartments as a business, what spurred you?
Kimberly’s Apartment started when I lost one of my neighbours; I actually set up his apartment for him. He died three months into his rent and his wife and kids stayed at Cotonu at that time. No landlord would pay back the money from the rent and everything in the apartment was new. I had lived in United Kingdom for a while and knew about AIRBNB. I thought that instead of locking up the apartment, since I lived upstairs, I could use it for short lets and remit the profits to the wife. That way, she was not losing on all sides. That was how Kimberly’s Apartments started and we have 15 apartments that we manage around Lagos Island.
It seems you are focusing more on the Island?
Well, I am not comfortable with locations I cannot get to in a jiffy, especially as an entrepreneur. I am very passionate about the business and it is important for me to look after it. It won’t be great for a property owner to give me a property to manage and I can’t go there in two weeks.
Another reason is that many people in Ikeja, for instance, don’t understand the concept yet. Both the property owner and Management Company have to be on the same page; we are yet to see people who understand what we are doing. For example, the idea is that a property owner gives us his/her apartment and we manage the property and staff for the client. Some people think that we should renovate, furnish and then give them money. It doesn’t work like that because it is still the client’s property and managing it is to their benefit.
Is there rental insurance in this sector in Nigeria?
We are not there yet in Nigeria; it is not also advisable to rent for short lets. The neighbours may not like you and the landlords may get upset, thereby destroying your business plan. So, having your roots in that spot is extremely important to the business; owning the house is key. Many people coming into the short let business now are renting, but it shouldn’t be. The truth about the business is that it takes you about three years to actually recoup most of the money you have invested in. But when you own the property, you know that your house is not going away. When you are renting, there is so much pressure on you. At the end of the day, it won’t favour you.
Seven years down the line, what would you say is the biggest challenge you have faced in this line of business?
People. When I say people, I mean some owners, clients and staff. Some owners want to outsmart you; they call you to manage their property, but what they want is to learn what you do so they can do it themselves. For customers, normally, in our apartments, we don’t allow parties, photo or video shoots, but that’s what they want to do. Some want to shoot pornography, movies and end up destroying things in the house. That’s one of the reasons I pioneered three nights minimum stay in Lagos, which helps eliminate the people with the wrong intentions. The business is for companies expecting expatriates, families renovating their property or fumigating their homes, among others.
What’s really the difference between short lets and hotels?
Hotels give you one room, but short lets would give you rooms ranging from one to as many as seven; it also includes kitchen. It’s a self-sufficient house. Here, when you are renting, it’s for three nights or up to a month.
Having been in this sector for some time now, do you think Nigerians are embracing this new trend?
Nigerians are not so open-minded, especially when we don’t understand or we are not happy that someone is making money from it. We have had an estate where we had disagreements with the neighbours, because they were not happy that our apartment had a nude person inside it. But the person was not inside their compound, so why were they looking into another persons compound?
We also had another neighbour complaining that their children would be seeing the Hennessey bottles used in the short let apartment; these are some of the flimsy problems. But there are real issues that we are trying to address, like using the apartment for parties, which is not fair on neighbours or they see unknown faces. These are reasonable challenges, which is why most of our apartments are in a self-compound and the ones that are not, we make sure neighbours are not disturbed. Our apartments have rules to help curb some of these challenges, like evicting clients without refund when they throw parties. We make sure our terms are clear before we do business with you.
Working in the short-let industry, how do you handle maintenance issues?
Maintenance is extremely important. In fact, it affects 70 per cent of the industry. When something is faulty, it is important you fix it immediately. If not, it deteriorates and the problem gets worse. One problem we have in Nigeria is lack of maintenance culture; we can’t bring that into this business. We have people at our beck and call, when there is an emergency or something to fix. We also do routine checks before another guest steps in.
What are the major challenges in the property industry?
The problem is land developers; lands are over priced. There is no opportunity for young couples to own houses. How long would you have to work before you can get enough money to buy a property? We don’t have mortgage facilities here. If you get the money, you have to face developers next; they most times don’t build with the end-user in mind. Due to this, when I build, I make sure to have the end-user in mind by asking questions like: Where would she plug her phone? Is the distance from the bathroom to bedroom swift? Do walls hinder network in the house or what quantity would be sufficient? We ensure that in 10 years time, the house would still be in vogue. If developers build this way, putting every family member in mind, we would have better property.
What motivated you to start the initiative of giving out sanitary pads to females across the country?
There was a day I needed to purchase a sanitary pad and it was N650. Then, I thought about how the girls on the street, especially within the ages of between nine and 15 in government secondary schools, would afford that. We want to give one million sanitary pads to people in need. We want to buy 10,000 sanitary pads; we are confident that other brands would embrace the idea. These pads should be made available freely and not be sold. Since condoms are given freely, pads should not be sold. This is going to be something we would always do.
Is this initiative limited to Lagos?
For now yes, but over time, we would like to extent to other states. Sometimes, Nigerians can be funny; you would want to help them, but you will be surprised on how they handle things. We could see people who would want to sell the pads, or people who want 50 packs in their houses. I foresee this as a challenge and we would control that.
What’s your advice to young women who plan to come into real estate or become entrepreneurs?
The problem with young women now is that they like easy things. They don’t want to work, but think it would be easy. Life is not easy; they need to pay the price. It doesn’t mean suffering, but doing things without looking back and learning on the job. You need to give your all. There are times you loose; make mistakes and these experiences would help you grow. Be passionate about what you are doing.
You don’t have to be bitter when things don’t go your way. Disappointment is a very good thing that can happen to you as an entrepreneur; that’s how you learn and grow. The young ones take things for granted and they even have things easy now. You have to serve; the journey was not easy. Go through your own journey, because you can’t be gold without going through fire. With respect, integrity and truth, the sky should be your limit.
According to a recent research, renewable energy would make up less than 10 per cent of Africa’s energy by 2030, is this figure practical?
Yes, for example, in all houses I build, carbon foot printing is extremely important. I always set up a solar panel or windmill, which is an alternative energy for each house. We keep researching for other ways to set up a house, where you don’t solely depend on national grid, which is getting really expensive. If you have alternate source of power, your electricity bill would be reduced. That’s our way of helping Nigeria move into power technology.
Do you think renewable energy can become a household practice in Nigeria?
Most times, Nigerians are not open-minded; they always assume there is so much work in solar. May be we haven’t gotten there yet, because even setting up solar is not cheap, which shouldn’t be. If we can believe in inverters, we should accept solar as well. I also think the government has a part to play too; the awareness on this is not elaborate.
You are into several businesses, what would you say is your forte?
Anything about property, everything I am into is related to property. When I get apartments for short lets, I am not happy with what I see; I am a futuristic person and all the houses we build are smart homes.
Do you think Nigerians are ready for that?
Yes, we have unlimited Internet, but we do not know it yet; there is ipNX and others that offer such plans. All our apartments had smart TVs four years ago; not just TVs but sockets, switches, bulbs. Nigerians are already living outside the government, so once we start doing these things ourselves, you realise you have enough power to control the economy. Once you have a small farm, where you grow all you are eating, you won’t need to buy from the market and the prices would come down.
Starting and sustaining businesses in Nigeria can be challenging, has there been any experience that made you want to give up?
I like starting again. If you want to take everything from me, I will start again because it helps me correct my mistakes.
What’s your advice to startups?
Don’t give up. If you try one business and it’s not working, look for what you are passionate about and try that. You can also change the way you do that particular business to get a different result.
Before venturing into property business, what were you doing?
I have done a lot. I dealt in clothes, TV, jewelry, events, graphics, business cards among others. In fact, if you are looking for zero capital businesses, call me, because I have done a lot of such businesses.
How do you relax?
I love movies a lot; I have seen all the movie series there is to see. I also like eating; so long it’s good food.
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