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May 17, 2020

My desire to create, add value to more people birthed Green Bliss Projects ― Esther Raphael

My desire to create, add value to more people birthed Green Bliss Projects ― Esther Raphael

Esther Raphael is the Managing Director of Green Bliss projects. She help build and invest in innovative and tech products and businesses. One of the major projects is the Green Bliss Apartments which provides luxury short-let apartments and Fincliff.com — an online marketplace for individuals and businesses to register, sell and advertise their products and services to thousands of potential customers daily.

The online market place which has over 37 partnerships and over 600 vendors, also has an academy and a wedding directory platform to support the education and entertainment industry respectively.

Esther has worked with and headed sales, marketing and online corporate services team of multinationals. She has over 10 years work experience across the telecommunications industry, e-commerce and real estate industry. She brings fun, smartness, innovation, independence, creativity, results to the team.

In this interview with Esther Onyegbula, she talks about her early days, inspirations behind her project, her sojourn into the real estate industry and other sundry issues.

Did your childhood prepare you in any way for what you do now, tell us more about your growing up?

Yes, but not directly in the real estate industry. I grew up with a different family in the Amukoko area of Lagos. Very unhealthy environment to raise kids as I still occasionally have episodes of the stench of the environment, but my then family taught me a lot of things, they introduced me to early reading and interest in books and also ensured I was very much involved in church activities. One of the best gifts they gifted me and also sending me to a very good private school.

By the time I was leaving them as a teenager back to my biological family, I was what a lot of people called ‘ different’. I had a mind of my own, I could make and take decisions on my own and fend for myself. Coming from a nuclear but big family and losing dad to death at eleven, it was every man to yourself. You are either taking care of yourself or nothing.

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With the help of my grandpa, I started farming and got farming gigs(bush clearing, thinning, weeding, planting, bamboo farming, snail and poultry farming) that was how I raised money to continue and finish secondary school.

Less than three years of starting this new life in my hometown, my grandpa died (one of my worst nights) because I lived alone with him and the rest of my family had moved to Lagos after the death of my dad. I lived alone after grandpa’s death and continued the farming business till I was certain it was time to move back to Lagos.

So, my experience in the farming business contributed in my hunger to own businesses. Seeing my age-mates work for me in my farm and I paid them, the joy in their faces was everything and I wanted to see more of that. All of those experiences prepared me greatly towards what I am doing today and will do tomorrow.

What is the inspiration behind Green Bliss Projects?

Green Bliss Projects as an online innovative company was inspired majorly by my desire to create and add value to more people than within a cubicle and nine years in the corporate world convinced me the more that I was made for more. I remember one of my former bosses asking me who I am I or who my father is after I closed the largest deal in the company.

How has the journey been since you started?

We started out as a telecommunication equipment supply company majoring in bulk sales and customization of smart gadgets and accessories, then we diversified into e-commerce and now real estate facility management, short-let apartments. All of these products and services we still offer but with more focus on the real estate; short-let apartments, property management, facility management, investment offers and e-commerce.

The journey has been painful, bitter, sweet, adventurous, fearful and daring but in all, I am focusing on the vision because that is often my motivation. There were days I trekked to my meeting venues and would quickly go into the visitor’s toilet to clean up, so the prospects does not see what they are not supposed to see. I trekked in the rain or more distances to save some money to continue hustling the following day.

It was big time work. There were days I would skip meals or stay awake all night tweaking the website and the blog and making posts and changes on our social media pages till day break. I don’t think I bought any new cloth or accessories for almost three years because I was saving up. Before I started looked so easy. You know when you have that thought of ‘ being your own boss’ and that you will do better than your former bosses and then, you resign on the advice of all the motivational books and speakers you’ve been reading or listening to? They didn’t tell you about the process. Most of them skip this part. There is ‘the process’ and when you are in this stage, you will make the decision of whether to continue or to stop. This stage will test you thoroughly to the point you begin to doubt yourself and lose friends.

As a woman in the property management sector, how do you strike a balance with work and personal life activities?

For me, working in this industry and my personal life activities seem to be so much in sync that I barely notice the difference except of course when I have tons of mails to respond to and other technicalities that comes with the job especially on matters concerning safety, health and authenticity of documents. Most times, I am just having fun and learning while working and visiting our locations.

Would you say the Property sector is favourable to women?

I won’t exactly say so. The property sector is capital intensive. Many women will definitely not want to venture into it at all. And because it is capital intensive, we have more men in the sector. But like a friend pointed out in a recent content she shared with me, there are other ways women can come into the sector and that includes collaborating with companies like ours in property, facility and portfolio management deals, offering cleaning services and supplies.

You also run an online market place to broaden the scope of online market place business, tell us more about it?

finclif.com is an online marketplace created to empower local and international businesses with friendly technology and access to the online global marketplace and our mission is to become a global hub sensation and a choice marketplace for businesses and individuals to buy and sell almost anything, fostering economic growth and business opportunities with a click of button. At the moment we have over a 1400+ signups and over 40 vendors. We are still growing.

What advise would you give to a young woman out there who wants to go into property management?

You must be passionate about Property Management and emotionally prepared before going into it. Because it involves dealing with different individuals from different races, artisans, industrial machines and government bodies, emotional intelligence, constant cash in-flow, emotional stability and keen attention to details in people and the properties is important. So, ideally will be to stay under mentorship or do more collaborations, so you get to learn on the job or to spend the first one or two years spending some part of your capital learning.

What are some of the challenges you experience as an entrepreneur?

Staffing is a major challenge, hiring the right staff who does not dedicate more time on eye-service or hard-work than actual job delivery. Another challenge I experience is access to funds. You see, in the type of real estate niche we are in, it is almost impossible for us to lose money because of the vast options of A, B,C and D and the market demand is high, now the goal is to respond to at least 80% of the demands. Right now, we are meeting less than 20% of the requests we receive on a regular.

Also, knowing how tough it is to access loans in our financial institutions today, we came up with the Partnership Opportunity that allows individuals and companies to financially partner with us and make 5% monthly of what they invested.

Note; partners money is insured. Regardless of economic meltdown, partners still get paid and they can invest for a long as 3 months, 6, 12, 18 and 24 months and request for a payout anytime they want to. Also, we have Property Partners. These are property owners who for the interest of profitability and proper maintenance of their property/facility reach out to us, we renovate and structure these properties to become more profitable for the landlady or landlord.

Mention 3 women who inspire you to be better and why?

In no particular order, Folorunsho Alakija – I often stay and wonder how she has managed to thrive so well in the industry dominated by men and her success in the real estate business too. Ellen D’generes – you can see her have so much fun doing what generates so much income for her. She’s very comfortable in her skin and at 60+ still very fit and playful with loads of amazing close friends like Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama, I definitely want to enjoy such amazing and supportive close circle. Ellen is so fun, humorous and very loving. With all the love she gives to people, family, and employees? My goodness, it is so beautiful for me. Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife TV – This woman’s business prowess I admire so much. Every time I pass her office in Victoria Island, Lagos, I can’t reveal the thoughts that roar in my head. I have some of her pictures on my vision board. There is calmness in her that I find very powerful even as I say it. It is not common.

Your organization recently supported Nigerians in dire need with funds, what inspired that initiative.

I think it was largely inspired by some posts I saw on some of my team member’s Facebook walls. Some of them started panicking on the uncertainty of salary and their feeding during the lockdown as it was not yet salary payment dates, also, I saw lots and lots of people online panicking and worried about how they would survive the lockdown, so, with the support of some of my team members, we decided to do the cash giveaway. Before the giveaways, we paid all team members full salaries and went on to offer our own support to the general public. The numbers of people that showed interest in the giveaway was very alarming but then, it felt good reaching out to those we could.

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