Lessons From Ibukun Awosika

Today, Ibukun Awosika chairs the boards of First Bank Limited (first woman to do so since its inception in 1894) and After school Graduate Development Center. She is best known as the founder of The Chair Center Ltd and the MD/CEO of joint-venture company, Sokoa Chair Center Limited. Speaking at the convocation ceremony of the Entrepreneurship Development Center, (See here) she shares a story of incredible fortitude over the last two decades from which everyone can learn a thing or two. Or ten.

We’ve highlighted 10 business-growth lessons from Ibukun Awosika’s address to set things rolling this New Year!

Make your passion pay:

Too many people are choosing to be ‘safe’ when they could be making an above-decent living via their passions. This mogul discovered her passion for the creative process of designing furniture and pursued it despite the fact that she was going into uncharted territory and was barely 25.

From many we become one.

Kick fear to the curb:

As a novice entrepreneur she had enough reason to be scared. There was no capital, factory site or machines. And then there were the times she had to stand up to scrutiny alongside bigger, older companies. She could have turned tail and run but she stayed strong.


Just start:

Her company, now known as The Chair Centre Limited, once delivered wooden trays and trash bins. Ms. Awosika could have chosen to turn that offer down and wait for the high rollers to come calling but she made wise choices like taking ‘small’ jobs and building great relationships out of them. Sometimes you need to get your foot in certain doors to gain a steady stream of clients.


Integrity above all else:

The business suffered a setback when the Texaco job almost went south and the warranty failed. It would have been easier to abandon the customer with furniture that was falling apart but instead she chose to maintain the integrity of her business and replaced them. That singular act portrayed her as a credible business women and earned her many referrals. She has held onto that lesson ever since.


Learn, unlearn and relearn:

Knowledge is never lost even when failure occurs. You have simply learnt a way not to do things. Ibukun Awosika grew her business by being hands on, doing her research and learning what worked in her industry. She never rests on her oars, choosing to earn more certifications and attend seminars/workshops instead.


Stop waiting for ‘the perfect time’:

Nothing was when Mrs. Awosika decided to showcase at a furniture show at the National Theatre. She could have waited until she had more clients or a bigger space yet she chose to invest in space and furniture for the show instead. Her work and presentation got them the attention they wanted.


Quit hiding behind excuses:

You can make it work even though you have to battle corruption or skewed practices. It doesn’t matter that you are an entrepreneur in Nigeria because there are limitations everywhere. The countries that have been labelled corrupt earned those tags because some of their countrymen decided to not play fair and disregard laws. Why not become one of those that will change that?

Be excellent, people notice:

Her company excelled at the show because people were too impressed by their products that there was no room to fixate on the size of their business. Her very words were “At that point no one was dealing with me, they were dealing with the quality of our work.” Every client wants to get their money’s worth whether it’s a customer in need of a single side stool or an oil company placing an order for 66 chairs and tables.

Don’t eat your profit:

Don’t give into the temptation of spending your profit when you would be better off putting it back into the business. Yes we know that social media makes it hard to invest your profit with so much ‘flossing’ going on. Just remember that there will be enough time for flossing but that time isn’t now. Focus!

Niche up:

Finding a niche and sticking to it isn’t the easiest decision you can make when everyone else is doing everything to make profit. However, it makes for better business in the long run and there’s a greater chance of attracting international attention when you are an expert at something.

How about making these your business resolutions for this year and every other year after?

We could be celebrating you on EPO sooner than you think! What do you admire most about Ibukun Awosika?