A woman of many parts, she has for six years now been the national president of the Business and Professional Women, BPW.  Mrs. Tinuade Oni Ihama, in this interview,  unveils all it takes to be successful in business and talks about all that BPW has been able to put in place under her leadership, among sundry issues.  Her words:

I GRADUATED from the University of Ibadan where I studied French, German and English. Then I joined the federal government as a simultaneous interpreter and translator in training. Later on I was posted to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and after a while, was sent to learn Spanish to English translation at the Institutos Mangold in Spain. From there I went to Paris to polish my skill in French to English translation.

I also spent another year in London at Holborn College for English to Spanish translation and vice-versa. On returning to Nigeria, because I had started a family, I had to resort to business after a while. First of all, I joined Marine & Life Saving Equipment as an administrative director for some years before starting my own business.

Mrs. Ihama...advises that businesswomen should start small

I was one of the earliest suppliers of the National Supply then, and from there went into the sales of light fittings.

Later on, I went into building, and four years later, I opened a travel agency.  I joined BPW thirty-five years ago but became its national president six years ago. We had our regional congress from October 15 through 17, 2009 in Abuja, and naturally, that was supposed to mark the end of my reign as the national president, but because we were unable to hold our election after the congress, my tenure was extended to 2010.  To an extent, I think I’ve achieved lots of my goals as national president of BPW.

Erosion of capital

When it comes to women and business, I don’t think there’s any difference between the Nigerian business woman and the Nigerian business man because we have the same problems. The only edge in the past was that men had more access to finance than women because they had inherited property which they were able to use as collateral.

As it is now, we know how Nigerian banks operate, and this has nothing to do with being a man or woman or how beautiful your business plan is. The problem with the average Nigerian woman in business is that she doesn’t have a lot of capital. Again, the pressure of everyday life disrupts her profitability; and before you know it, she finds that the capital is eroded!

A lot of women experience this; I myself had found myself in that situation before. This happens to us because as home makers, we wouldn’t want to shut our eyes on our homes. But the fact remains that we must be wise!

There are important issues to bear in mind when venturing into business. We should know when to call off a business. When a business is not bringing profit, leave it and face another. That is why it is good to diversify so that as you go along, you’ll be able to discern which is more profitable, and then major more on that. Integrity is the key to success in business.

Lots of people think they can get along in business by cutting corners or being sharp. Agreed! Some may make it that way for a while, but you will agree with me that they usually find it tough in the long run.

I’ll advice you let your word be your bond because I’ve noticed that if people trust you, they’ll stand by you through thick and thin. Integrity holds upper hand than money in business because integrity can get you money.

In going into business, you must have the knowledge of what you want to do; you don’t just go into a business because everybody is going into it. If you want to be selling blouses, know where you want to sell them and know who you’re selling to.

One thing also is that it is good to start small and then grow. If you have the money, it’s okay to start big but the fact is that it’s always good to start small.

Also, you must be prayerful because the hand of God, no matter your faith, is always important in whatever you’re going into. You should also be honest in asking yourself whether you’ll be able to do the business or not.

I’m aware that banks scarcely support women in business, but neither do they support men. The percentage of men being supported by banks is very small. As we’ve seen now, you find people being given money without collateral.

Whereas, there are so many with genuine business ideas that will be feasible who will not get loans because they do not know the bank manager.

The point is that there’s a problem with the banking system in Nigeria. Getting a loan these days when collateral must be required shouldn’t be a problem. It’s just that our banks have not decided whether they want to do banking or they want to trade.

Until they decide to do banking as it is done, things might not change.  For Christ’s sake we have two digits interest rate which is too high.

Even in this meltdown when interest rate is being reduced every where in the world, Nigeria has held on tenaciously to that two digit interest rate. Tell me, how much profit can one make with double digits interest rates?

That’s why there’s a lot of default in the bank; people default in their loans because they just cannot meet up. Frankly speaking, there needs to be a change in our banking system.’


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