Dr. Priscillia Otuya is the co-founder of Swan Dredging Nigeria. As a business woman and Bishop, she firmly believes everyone, including clerics, should work with their hands. Otuya does not believe in relying on tithes for survival. Her dedication towards her work and life has made her an avid reader who believes in doing research to help grow her business.
By Anino Aganbi & Vera Samuel Anyagafu
TELL us about your business, how did you get into it?
I work in the dredging industry together with my husband. We must realise that whatever you do in life has its origin from God. They say that ideas rule the world , ideas are just inspirations from God. I believe that if I am supposed to be a man’s help meet, then I need to know who the man is. I got a revelation from God when I prayed about what sort of business I could go into.
God told me my husband was into dredging ,that I could help him start something and then own it. The idea of beginning the Swan Dredging Company was mine. We began as a consulting firm before moving into fullscale dredging.
I handle the administrative part of the business while my husband does the technical aspect of it. I run my business with my entire family working together as a team. As a minister of God, I realized how people struggle in the Ministry. A lot of people have this orientation that when you are a Minister you must depend on tithes and offerings. I got to realize on time that as a Minister you must work.
I saw the need to augment what I do for God with my own income. I did a personal study on Apostle Paul and saw that he was a tent maker who used his income to sustain his Ministry and forebears. That was what really motivated me into doing my own business and I thank God it worked out well for me.
How were your past working experiences helpful in building your business?
I worked with a medical firm as a sales representative. They were into importation and distributeion of test strips . I learnt a lot while working there. As a housewise, I was used to doing things around the house. I realised that the work place differed. In the crporate environment, you must learn to be punctual, disciplined and committed. As a house wife, the rules differ.
I had people working for me at different points.When I joined the corporate world, I had to wake up early, get to work, get my routine and my work done. It really prepared me for what I do right now.
How have you successfully put those skills you acquired into your business…
It took God’s favour getting that job. Being a hands-on job, I had someone supervising me. I was able to put in my best. It was not too difficult putting this knowledge into my own business.
When it comes to business, I have this serious mind about doing my things well. I discovered that if you don’t put your feet down to do what you need to do, you won’t get what you desire . My husband left a well paid job to start Swan Dredging which was a big risk. We believed that if we didn’t do what was right, we would not come out of where we were. I was determined to make sure things worked out.
A lot of women have issues being disciplined when it comes to business. How can we address this?
More often than not, it is about their orientation. As a bishop, I run an NGO. I work with a lot of women and discovered indiscipline among them. We had a teaching on financial intelligence for the women not too long ago and it was really amazing.
You say you do not have money and that you need money to make it in life meanwhile the little money you have, you spend on frivolities such as Weave-ons and Aso-ebi. This is a Nigerian mentality thing and it is wrong. You want to belong or show off, meanwhile you do not have the means to sustain it. I have attended meetings where people shared their testimonies of having #5,000 to start their business and have become big business women today. It is difficult for you to see an average Nigerian woman who started from a wealthy background.
A lot of women have village backgrounds and the next thing that springs up is marriage. This becomes your highest institution; if you are not careful you will live and die a house wife. I thank God for NGO’s that are trainning women on how to be disciplined. You cannot run a business successfully if you are not disciplined. A lot of people complain about banks being wicked when giving out loans and I laugh. When you are going to get money from the bank, you should put into consideration that the bank is giving you people’s hard earned money.
For them to save the money to give to you, they were disciplined. If you are not disciplined to use the money well or pay the money back, then they will not give it to you. This is what most people do not know because they have not been taught. Without being disciplined, do not even go into business because you cannot make it. The business world is like a very big ocean filled with sharks, you have competitors, you must be above the edge at all times. Discipline is very important when it comes to business. If you take your house wife attitude into business, then you will be in trouble.
How were you able to put structures and plans into place as a business woman?
It may interest you that I am not all that schooled. I attended a training where they asked everybody how they started their business and how much capital they put into it. I began to fidget on what to say because I started with Zero capital. I was at the altar praying and got a leading to call someone up and that was how I started doing business. I had to also start to research and train myself. I spend hour on the internet researching businesses, how they sustain themselves and all that.
I picked a lot from the internet. Your business life is like your child, there is a stage the child will grow up to, and you need to get off infant formular. You introduce adult food and all that. This is how business is, you do not just stay in one place. I discovered that for business to grow, we all have to put a good structure on ground.
From my experience as a leader of my pastorial group, I discovered that putting the peg into the wrong hole is a very serious issue. If you have a good structure put in place, the next thing to do is put the right pegs into the right hole. If you don’t and you employ someone out of sentiment and they don’t know what to do, what happens?
I had to go find out on my own what makes business run , what makes them succeed, how to draw an organogram for my business. I did all of that and put them into practice. Also, I had to draw up a program on how to sort agencies, bills, taxes out because if you don’t, embarrassment comes in. these are some of the things we put in place. We did not achieve them at a go. We had our mistakes, you learn from your mistakes as well.