Gorgeous, intelligent, hardworking and enterprising are some of the words that best describe Mrs. Tolulope Onalaja, the beautiful wife of Mr. Bamidele Onalaja, MD/CEO of Revolution Plus Property Development Company. For those who may not know, Revolution Plus Property Development Company is one of the biggest players in the Real Estate sector and Mrs. Tolulope Onalaja runs the firm along with her husband as an Executive Director of the company. And they have done incredibly well for an organization that began operations only four years ago. Some of the accomplishments they have recorded in the industry are things other property firms who have been in business longer than Revolution Plus can only dream of. This is why, at the recent City People Real Estate Awards last Sunday at the prestigious Lekki Coliseum, Revolution Plus Property Development Company was recognized as the Most Enterprising Real Estate Company of the Year. Not only that, Mr. & Mrs. Bamidele Onalaja also won the Best Real Estate Couple of the Year Award. When they stepped out to come receive their award, everyone present agreed they make a smashing couple. You just couldn’t but find them adorable. Shortly after they picked up their Real Estate Best Couple Award, Mrs. Tolulope Onalaja had a chat with City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL, and the very charming lady opened up on how she met her husband and how they both started their hugely successful property development company about four years.
Let us begin by congratulating you on the awards you just picked here tonight, especially that of the best couple in the Real Estate sector, which speaks volume about your enviable marriage. How long have you guys been married to start with?
We have been married for fourteen years.
And how would you describe the last fourteen years of your life?
It’s been a wonderful journey. We’ve been receiving awards. Our lives have actually been an inspiration to a lot of people. It has actually encouraged many people around us in terms of strengthening their marriage and their homes.
Roll back the years for us, tell us about the very first time you saw your husband, what was the first thing he said to you or that you said to him?
We actually met in Ikeja, Alausa precisely, at the mini market opposite the Lagos Secretariat. I just finished serving at the time and was working with my Aunt who was the Iya Oloja of the market. She had travelled out of the country then and I was helping her manage the shop. My husband was working with a telecoms company in Alausa at that time too. So, he walked in that day to do some photocopying because we also had a business centre section of the shop. I was reading a book by Pastor Chris, and he said, ‘oh, you’re reading a book by my pastor.’
And I said that’s my pastor too and that was how we struck a conversation. By the time he was leaving, he collected my number and that was how we got talking and became friends. Actually, he got me my first job in the same company where he was working. He asked me to bring my CV which I did and he submitted it and I was invited for interview. I did well at the interview and subsequently got the job. That was how we started working in the same company but in different branches. After a while, when we wanted to get married, I left to join another company because he was occupying a senior position at the time.
What were the qualities you first noticed about him that struck you and compelled you to think he was the kind of man you could take a chance to spend the rest of your days with?
Truth of the matter is, that is one of the reasons my husband respects me a lot. He actually had two shirts and one trouser then. But the one striking thing that attracted me to him was that I saw in him someone who was very selfless. I’m yet to see someone who’s as selfless as my husband. He thinks of others and put their needs ahead of his own. And I soon realized that he does that to all his colleagues in the office, so it wasn’t that he was doing it to impress me. So, I thought, if someone could be this selfless in the midst of nothing, that means he would do more if he has more. And that was what made me go for him out of all the other suitors I had.
He didn’t have anything. He had no car and was barely managing his twenty thousand naira salary. Some of the guys that were asking me out then had cars, some were working in the bank, so everybody thought I was crazy because he was like the least amongst the guys coming for me.
Even my parents didn’t understand why I made that choice because they had seen some of these other guys. And I told them I like the fact that this guy loves God and I believe that if he has more he would do a lot more and my judgment was just perfectly right. As the years went by and he had more, he was able to do more and the marriage just kept getting better and better. We grew up to have a home where all we know is just to impact on people.
But tell us, sincerely, didn’t you have any fear then that you were taking a big risk?
I didn’t have such fears at all. I am by nature, a risk taker. I am a very daring person and my husband says that has really helped him. I remember when my husband wanted to start the business and needed to resign from his job, he was so scared. He was working in the bank then and we had discussed and agreed he had to resign so he could start the business. Even his colleagues thought he was taking a huge risk, leaving the bank as branch manager with a lot of perks, to begin a business you’re not even sure would succeed.
I remember my husband had to call me three times the day he was going to drop his letter. He called me in the morning, asking are you sure I should drop this letter? I said, yes, I am, drop it. He called me again around mid-day, asking the same question. He was so scared because his colleagues were expressing pessimism and I was the only one saying he should go ahead and drop it. When he called me the second time, I told him don’t call me again on this issue because we had already concluded. Drop the letter and let’s move on.
And eventually he dropped the letter and went ahead to begin the business. So, I’m that kind of person. If you tell me heavens will fall, I will tell you I want to see that heaven fall. I’m not someone who gets scared easily, I’m like a man. I was not afraid. I told him that it might be rough but somehow we would be successful. That’s how I look at life. Once I believe in something, I go for it.
So, how did you guys eventually start the business?
Well, we started little by little. He left the bank without any money. You know how bankers are, they would take all sorts of loans. So, at the time he was leaving he had no money. That is why he often tells people he started this business with zero naira, and a lot of people don’t believe. But that’s the truth. All he had going for him was the passion to provide affordable housing. He was in mortgage bank and they did a lot of stuffs on housing deficits and all and that was where his passion came from. I believe God just saw his heart and his passion, saw that he was genuine and gave him the means to succeed.
When the business started, I was working. I was actually the Chief Operating Officer of the facility I was involved with. I’m facility management trained. I worked in one of the best facility management companies in Nigeria, and I managed top multinationals like Nestle, Unilever, Promasidor, etc. So, I was actually running that for my boss. My boss was the chairman while I was his COO. I was earning quite well. I had to pay the office rent because he didn’t have money to pay. I also had to let go of my car, the very first car that I bought.
I told him he would need to use the car while going for inspections and besides, I had an official car I was using. At first, he felt reluctant using the car, saying it’s a car I bought with my own money and I told him just go ahead and use it. That’s why, up till now, my husband buys me a car every year on my birthday. He will say you gave me your first car for my business, so I will keep buying you cars and I’ll be like, no, I don’t need it, the cars are okay but he would insist he would keep buying them. So, I really gave him a lot of support.
I will collect my salary and pay both the office and home bills until things started picking. And when he had run the business for about two years, and it started growing, I had to resign to join him. My boss had to reluctantly let me go, he was so pained when I told him I wanted to go and join my husband. Thankfully, today, it has been from one level of growth to another.
How old is the business?
It’s just four years. But within those four years, we’ve been able to do so much that people actually ask us how we have achieved so much in so little time. Some even ask, are you sure there’s no juju somewhere and stuffs like that. Really, we’ve been able to do so much. We bought a property close to N150million naira. Our own property in Ikeja is owned by us. We bought the building, pulled it down and transformed it into a world class facility.
Nobody enters that office and won’t want to do business with us. It’s so glorious and it can only be God, It shows he’s in support of what we’re doing. Even when the challenges come, with government bombarding us with different tax policies, omo onile with their troubles and all sorts, but in all of these, we continue to rise up. Sometimes when the pressure begins to mount, I hear God telling me, just continue to push forward. Don’t give up, I am the one that has gotten you this far and I will not let you down.
Finally, madam, tell us five qualities that stand your husband out?
The first one, like I said, he’s a very selfless person. Second thing is that he’s very God fearing. When somebody is God fearing, he won’t want to hurt you because he doesn’t want to hurt God. He’s also a very friendly person. My husband is quite humorous. Me, I used to I was friendly, but my husband makes more friends easily than I do. He makes friends with both male and female easily.
Then my husband is a reckless giver. I think it comes from his being selfless. My husband tells me there’s nothing he can’t give out. When I go home sometimes and I find something is missing, I know he has given it out. He can give out a N20million naira to someone and think nothing of it. He’ll say all these things are things of the world, why do we need to hold on to them. The fifth one is that he’s very caring. My husband is very caring to his family, to everyone around him. Even with the staff, when they have problems, be it financial or what have you, he gives hem support whichever way he can. He’s just a fantastic person.