Apart from the fact that she dresses well always and that whatever she wears, no matter how casual, speaks volume of her taste and financial independence, nothing else gives away Mrs Gladys Ashemuke as one of the more successful businesswomen based in Kaduna. This is because she is an unbelievably down-to-earth lady whose humility is uncommon amongst women of her status. Warm and soft-spoken Gladys is a woman fiercely driven by a desire to succeed, which probably explains why every business project she’s laid her hands on has literally turned to gold. From her kiddies’ outfit, which is by far the biggest in Kaduna today, to her oil and Gas and office/home furniture business, Gladys has made a huge success of every single one of them. City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL, engaged this pretty and accomplished Delta state born businesswoman after she picked up her recognition award for her remarkable success in business at the recent City People’s Entrepreneurs Awards. She spoke about the story behind her Kiddies’ store called Jessie Kiddies Emporium and why she’s relentless in her desire to soar higher in business.
Thank you for making out time to talk to us, madam. We know you have your hands in a lot of business projects that are doing so very well, but first, take us through a bit of your background. Tell us where you were born and raised.
Okay. I come from a very humble background. I was born in Lagos some 41 years ago. I grew up in Port-Harcourt and had my primary school there, had my tertiary education in Lagos, served in Kaduna, settled in Kaduna. My business actually began when I was quite younger, started from school back in the 90s.
You didn’t say where you are from?
I’m from Delta State.
Okay, please, go on.
So, the business started gradually when I was a student and grew to the level it is today. It started little, but with dedication and hard work and of course, God’s grace, everything has grown well. And I’m still growing, that’s it.
Did you actually start your business big time before you got married or right after you got married?
No, I have been in business way back before I got into the university. Business came before marriage and I’m still in business, And I will always be in business.
Marriage happened when ma?
I got married in 2002.
At the time you got married, what businesses were you running at the time?
I was into gold and boutique.
But now you have a whole lot more, so tell us about the kiddies outfit, the furniture business and all of that.
Okay, by the grace of God, I run the biggest outfit in Kaduna which is known as Jessie Kiddies Emporium. I’m also into Oil and Gas and Logistics, I’m into home and office furniture. I’m into a lot of things really. I do schools and playground stuff, I do recreational ground facilities.
All of them in Kaduna?
All in Kaduna. The Oil and Gas is not just in Kaduna, it’s also in Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Warri.
One would’ve expected that you would also have fancied places like Abuja for some of your other businesses, why have you had them all situated largely in Kaduna? Has Kaduna been that favourable for your businesses?
Kaduna has been a blessed place. I always tell people, you don’t have to do something because everyone else is doing it. Anywhere God plants you, He will water you, that’s my policy. You don’t move because people are moving, no, you’ll miss it. I got my direction in Kaduna and I’ve been there doing great.
The Kiddies stuff, that’s not something anyone wakes up one morning and just goes into. We can understand Oil and Gas, we can understand furniture, how did the passion for the kiddies outfit come about?
Alright, I think I’ve always told this story over and over again. When I was growing up, being the first child, each time my dad gets a gift for everyone, he gets like two for the rest of the kids and one for me. He would say, you’re the eldest, you’ll understand. The next time, your own will be double. But it never came double. So, I said, okay, when I have the money I will go into that and be able to reach out to kids in the similar situation. If you ask people around, they will tell you that about 50 per cent of the stuff in my stores are virtually free. This is because I see that same scenario reoccurring when people come into my store and they buy gifts for the younger one and the eldest will be left out of it and I’m always like this is for you, and that’s it. I could relate to that because it was something I grew up facing and crying over for several years.
And apparently, the business is flourishing?
By the grace of God, yes, the business is doing so very well. We started little. From one store to about six stores now, so that’s a plus.
Okay, now that you’ve told us the story about the kiddies stuff, is there a story to the office and home furniture arm of your business as well as well?
There’s no story (laughs).
Alright, so how did that concept come about?
I just love uniqueness. I don’t like it when I go out and see places that are not looking well put together, and I’m like, in my head, thinking, what can I do to make this place better? That’s just me. That’s the reason I do a lot of things, like how can I affect it positively? I’ll be like, okay, if you people are not getting the best and you know the best, why don’t you do it? There are a lot of people who have the money but really do not know how to go about it.
There’s a whole lot you have on your hands, how do you make out time for yourself because apparently, you’ll be shuttling from one end of the business to the other, trying to supervise and coordinate things, so how do you have time for yourself, for the home, for the family?
To be honest, I really don’t have time for myself and I thank God for the kind of husband I have, he’s very understanding. Like I come in today, maybe I get another tomorrow I’m out of the country and another three weeks I’m not home, you know. He’s really been very, very supportive. He makes everything easy. It’s not just about having the idea or having the money, but you need that support physically, morally and emotionally too because sometimes some customers can be so very annoying that…(breaks into laughter) you know what I’m saying.
Before I let you go, madam, I will like to know, where do you get your drive from? You will agree with me there are lots of women in your shoes who are married to men that are probably not half as financially comfortable as your husband is, yet they just sit back and say to themselves, why do I need to go out there and start bothering myself trying to make money, but here you are, with all the financial comfort you could possibly ask for, still driving yourself hard?
For me, it’s all about setting the right foundation. It’s all about ambition. What do you want for yourself in life? What do you want to achieve? How independent do you want to be financially, without having to depend on your husband for everything? Personally, I believe in husband and wife starting together, like you know yourselves way back when there was nothing. You will value yourself more even when you have the resources. A woman should always respect her husband. But I feel it’s reciprocal, you don’t really have to force respect, it’s something that you earn. And looking at the crazy world we’re in now that everybody wants equal rights, you really don’t need to stress it like you’re my wife and you have to be really submissive, the more you encourage her, the more submissive she becomes.
Last words for women out there?
I will like to tell the women out there that you don’t need to be bossy around your husband. Don’t do what your friends do in their own home, it may not work for you. We have different channels for our destinations, find your route and follow it.