John Oamen is one of the co-founders of LiveVend, Nigeria’s first construction and real estate price discovery platform.
He is also an expert in Real Estate and Construction. Oamen shares life-shaping experiences in this chat with Sunday Vanguard.

By Charles Kumolu,Deputy Editor

John Oamen


How were you able to distinguish yourself in the real estate sector within a short time?

I started my career with a real estate company working as a realtor. Through sheer desire to succeed and willingness to learn, I rose to become a lead realtor of my team. My primary function was helping people list their homes for sale and lease while assisting people that wanted to lease or buy houses to get their desired property.

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During the process of helping people purchase houses, I found that I had a knack for putting things together, making valuable contributions in terms of arrangement for homes. This got people asking me to help them furnish their homes. The demand for my furnishing skills increased and it dawned on me that I had a potential business opportunity. I started out with the perspective of wanting to add value to people’s homes and in no time the business grew and was able to sustain me.

First opportunity

I pulled out of the job to run Faultless Finish Limited. I did that continuously until I began to penetrate the market and I eventually became known as an interior designer.

Demand for that increased until I got my first opportunity to finish construction projects on a commercial scale. I basically got involved in construction finishing company when I finished multiple units for some commercial real estate companies that build and sell properties.

I spent the last five years of my career doing just that while noticing some gaps in the industry, one of which LiveVend is solving.

Big dreams

I grew up in the city of Port-Harcourt and just like many others, came to Nigeria’s most industrious city with the zeal to build a life. I found the lifestyle of this boisterous city quite different from what I was accustomed to. I remember just thinking to myself how big this city is. You know Lagos is like the London of Nigeria and was a challenge for me. I had to try meeting people, connecting, getting into the space for a breakthrough.

Birth story

As years went by, I became more conversant with the ongoings and had a breaking point which made me, via a partnership, to birth LiveVend.
One of the things that influenced our decision was our meeting with somebody who was based in the US. He was building his home in Nigeria at the time. He showed his spreadsheet of how much he had spent and I wept.

The truth is he had spent a lot more than he should. He could have owned a home at Ikoyi with the amount that he spent yet this house was somewhere in Badore. He could have gotten a lot of value for what his money was worth. If he had paid two or three times the amount and still gotten good quality that could have been easier to swallow but the truth is, he had gone through all these and still did not get a good quality outcome. What is worse than paying more for something and still not getting good quality?

Was that the event that necessitated the birth of your company?

This occurrence made me ponder seriously on how to solve future problems. I was bothered and had to call my partner and said ‘Is it impossible for us to give people prices daily?’.

It was a tough nut to crack. We thought about it for a short while and it seemed like a really big deal but we didn’t throw the ideas away. The drive was on. We kept thinking. The birth of something beautiful continued and we began to strategise.

Strategy sometimes doesn’t need a blackboard or anything. It could be just sitting down in the comfort of our homes, talking over the phone and it began to occur to us that this was possible. Systems are built to deliver consistently and for us. We considered what we can put together to be able to curate market prices? We did that until the problem-solving platform called LiveVend was finally created. Anywhere in the world, you can see the prices of materials and get access to it for free. Even if you need to have someone else overseeing your site, you would have finished your transaction before it gets to them. You would have seen the prices of these things, buy them and just tell whoever it is to pick them up. That’s how we came up with LiveVend.

Common mistakes

One of the biggest mistakes people make when starting a career is not gaining adequate knowledge. A lot of times, we have good ideas about what we want to do and we don’t all take time to study and understand it properly. We venture before we understand it. For us, it was one step at a time, learning, walking through, meeting different people, getting into the nitty-gritty of what I do. I had to learn on the job. After all, these days we take it a step further to say strategy, sometimes, might be better than experience. I am here today and I am grateful.

Survival kit

I always say that life is a journey. It is not an event. Life is life. The important thing is to enjoy life as a journey. The juice of life is in the process. John also says that most times we think that there is one outcome that we are waiting for but we get there and realise there is another one. Once you understand that life is a process, you begin to take it easier on yourself and begin to enjoy that process because the real enjoyment and satisfaction are in the process.

The fact that we have experienced most of the challenges that we now solve is the most exciting part of our story.
While we work towards goals and things, we always want to make sure that we don’t lose sight of today because one day, you are going to wake up and you’d never be able to get time back. If you don’t enjoy the process, you’d probably have a lot of regrets looking back.

Mistakes, vital lessons

One of the things we have learned is that we don’t throw away ideas whenever we have ideas, we basically try to see how to go about them.
We have learned to give out first and let every other thing ride on the back of value. We make mistakes every day, it is a very sensitive process and we are constantly tweaking.

We make sure that the information we provide is credible because what is worse than not having information is having information that is not credible.

Aspiring entrepreneurs

You need to be solving a problem. Make sure you are actually solving a problem. Most times ideas are most fancy in the head of the creator. The question is, is it as fancy as it is in your head to a lot people?” A lot of times, people make up their mind of what they want to do in isolation of the people they want to do it for. “To their shock they may find out that the problem wasn’t even a problem and people are not happy to pay for it.
Another advice is for entrepreneurs to welcome collaboration. I have seen that in businesses, people want to own everything.

Although there are people who have had bad partnerships, the fact that something can go wrong is not a reason not to do it. To solve this, trust is important. Don’t shy away from partnerships or try to do everything yourself. Anything you can do alone is most likely to be a small thing. If you can have a million dollars alone, it means you can have ten million or a hundred dollars from partnerships. However, knowledge is key. One of the things I have had to do with Live Vend is to discuss with friends, mentors, and senior colleagues among others. They ask a lot of critical questions that sometimes make you defensive.

Key points
Just know that wherever you are, you are writing a story. An interesting story has twists and turns. Most interesting stories have a lot of twists. So enjoy your twists. Look forward to the best but take life one step at a time. Continue learning. A wise man said the day you stop learning, you start dying. I learn from everything and everyone. Improve yourself and sharpen your skills. There is someone out there looking for what you have and it is just a matter of time before you find them.


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