By IYABO AINA
Looks are indeed deceptive. At first sight, one would believe any dark-skinned, tall, slim damsel to have built a career in modeling, but that’s not Zaria Mimano. Only in her 20s, this British-born business strategist has rather carved a niche for herself in the oil business! The Founder of Aba Oil LLC, a flourishing oil firm based in New York with visible presence in Abuja, she had left the banking industry after a brief romance with Morgan Stanley and UBS Investment Banks, both in London, to fearlessly tread the oil path. Mimano who is of Kenyan and Ghanaian descent spoke about her business, adventures and values during a recent trip to Nigeria. Enjoy!
How did the big times start?
Business has always been there for me. But if I were to rephrase your question to the good times or fruitful times then it would have been when I started to develop understanding and started to see God’s will in my life. I started my own business while in university, buying and selling cars, which I did eventually have to suspend for a while, in order to concentrate on finishing university.
During and after university, I had an office in London, where we also dealt in latest electronics. Then, before the latest Blackberry and iPhone became available in the UK, we would have them already. Our Middle Eastern customers and the bankers in London gave us great business ideas, but the big idea- exposure- came through travels.
What is behind Aba Oil?
Aba Oil is an African oil and gas company that specialises exclusively in accessing and securing the most efficient and advantageous exploration rights, leasing and servicing for oil and gas block acquisition, both offshore and onshore, across Africa. Our mission is to continue to do this whilst ensuring that the people are also securing the correct value for their assets to support future development in all aspects of their daily lives.
Does your name have anything to do with the city of Zaria in Kaduna State, Nigeria?
Yes. My father went to school in Ghana and during his time there he was always coming to Nigeria. I guess he came to Nigeria and went to Zaria, in Kaduna State. Perhaps he was impressed with something there that made him name me after the place when I was born. My dad is very random but in a special way, he also named my brother after the Emperor of Ethiopia.
You have an impressive portfolio as a business strategist despite being young, how have you managed this feat?
Taking it from scratch, I went to a private school in London. Although, we did not pay tuition due to the fact that one of our old boys was paying our tuition fees. As such, a lot of people within the private school world looked down on us; but we were really smart. However, during my time in school, I was involved in a lot of business competitions, where I was made the managing director, and as a team, we achieved many highs. My early years also saw me having wise mentors who exposed me to a lot business-wise.
What would you say is unique about you?
Like with everyone; my mind. My thought process.
Constantly coming up with fresh unique ideas and strategies is not easy; how do you do it?
That is my job. The fact that it is not always so easy is what makes it fun. Though, the best ideas always come once I consult God first.
You studied Law but have not practiced, was it not a waste of time?
It was not. The four years I invested into studying the course has helped me a great deal in life and in business. It helps me to get into the mind of people I work with and try to look at things from all angles, being as positive as possible with the aim of finishing anything that I start.
You are young and beautiful, have you ever thought of modeling?
I am more interested in being challenged intellectually. For me, at this stage, modeling is not mentally challenging enough; business is.
What are your thoughts on our country the Federal Republic of Nigeria?
As with many places around the world, I think the need to learn to give more before we take, in every aspect, is paramount. Nigeria is special. The country has an amazing amount of potential and the people here are incredibly smart.
What is your take on Nigerian men?
What a question! The Nigerian men that I have come into contact with want me to be dependent on them. When you are not, they say you are arrogant. Those who have money to throw around try to buy you with it. They are not fair to themselves.
What is your ideal man like?
Someone that challenges me intellectually; someone that I know if anything happens to me, I can rely on. The option is there. It is simple. I used to love men who are tall, well-built and handsome; but now, that has changed. Nowadays it is all about a confident, intelligent man. Maybe I may change my mind again one day(Laughs).
So cuteness doesn’t have anything to do with it?
It depends. Although, I do think it is possible to fall in love with somebody you won’t ordinarily think you will ever find yourself with. Well, I have never fallen in love before, so let me not talk about it.
Are you saying that all your life you have never been in love?
I have never. As far as I know, I have never been in love before. But it is something that can grow, right? So, it’s cool.
Are you ready to settle down?
Oh Gosh. Let’s just say God’s speed is always best.
You appear rather too independent; what’s your relationship with your parents llike?
I won’t say too independent. I learn a lot from those around me. I am very close to my dad. He is a very intelligent man. My dad is all about book knowledge, while my mum is more of a common sense person. So, I am influenced by both of them.
What are the key skills or ideals you would say are needed in business?
Confidence and courage. Every challenge is an opportunity. Basically, always seeing the treasure in adversity. Spontaneity, taking risks. Learning to labour and learning to wait. The ability to be able to put things in the pipeline. Patience and self-control. The thought process. Educating oneself. Most are still work in progress for myself even but the aim is kaizen (continuous improvement), learning with each day that passes.