The Story Of BAMIDELE & TOLULOPE ONALAJA
Bamidele Onalaja is a real estate tycoon. He’s the MD/CEO of RevolutionPlus Property Development Company Ltd. Mr. Bamidele holds a first degree in Economics from the Lagos State University (LASU) and Masters in Business Administration from the same University.
This goal getter started his career as a Marketing Manager, where he pioneered the sales of the Vivas Homes project.
Three years ago, Bamidele Onalaja floated his property company, to provide affordable housing for people and also bridge the deficit in the housing sector. Within the short period of this company’s existence, it has covered a lot of grounds in terms of land and other landed property it has provided for Nigerians in and out of the country. Now, the company has more than 10 housing estates for sale at different locations and they are all affordable. The company also won Most Reliable Real Estate Firm at City People Real Estate Award 2017 held in Ikeja, Lagos.
Three weeks ago, City People’s Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE and ISAAC ABIMBADE, visited his head office in Ikeja, Lagos and spoke with Mr. Bamidele Onalaja and his wife, Tolulope on how they both co-run the company. She is the Executive Director of the firm, she does office job, while her husband does site work.
What has been the experience since you started real estate business?
(Husband) It has been very, very challenging, but it’s very awesome. Without challenges there would be no history. We started the business exactly 3 years ago at the remote part of Ogun State, Mowe to be precise. That was where we had our first estate. One year after, we moved to Ikorodu, Agbowa. we started the second estate and thereafter we moved to Ibeju Lekki. It’s been challenging and if you are not bold, you can’t do this job because you encounter ‘Omo Onile’, meet government agents and all sort of people. Some people would even come with charms to talk to you. So, with God on our side, because I believe in Almighty God. He has been helping us to progress. And within 3 years, we have done exceptionally well. We have allocated several estates to people. We do immediate allocation. Just 2 week ago, we allocated 3 estates in Ibeju. They are, Lekki Royal Gardens, Lekki Rose Garden, and Lekki Crystal Garden. We gave the alotees their full plots. And last month again, we allocated another 2 more estates. Immediately you move to Ibeju Lekki, closed to the free Trade zone, we have 8 estates there already. In all, we have about 10 estates and we are delivering to our patrons. We provide infrastructure, roads, electricity, water, drainage in all the estates. So, it’s been challenging. Also it’s been challenging on a financial terrain because we didn’t have financial support from anybody. I could remember vividly when we needed support from a bank, exactly August last year, we asked for 5 million naira loan, we were not given. The bank gave us all sorts of stories. Nigerian banks are not supporting growing of estate business.
But you know what! Every morning now, they line up in our office. Three banks have come here today. They came here and when I asked them how they got here, they said: “we heard you on a radio programme.” When I needed bank loan, they didn’t support me. I started this business with zero naira and I keep saying it, but God lifted it from zero to multi-billion naira business. Another thing at RevolutionPlus is our integrity. We don’t play/joke with integrity. What we can’t deliver we don’t promise and God has been helping us. I also have a very wonderful wife, Tolulope, she is the Executive Director of the company. She has been the pillar of support and my friend.
Tell us a bit about your wife and how she has helped the business?
My wife naturally is into Facility management. She has her facility management company.
Last year, when the business was getting big (RevolutionPlus Property) and I couldn’t do several things because most time, I’m on site and I wondered who would do all these things, the administration job, payment, paper-work, talking to clients/customers when I’m at site, and my wife is very intelligent and sharp. So, I said who could fill this vacuum and I said it’s now you come in to play your role as the company’s director. Ever since she came on board she has been very, very supportive even when I was still working as a banker she had always been supportive. She’s my friend. She is the mother of my children and she’s everything to me.
Tell us more about the business, what excites you about the business?
One thing that has kept me going is No 1, Real Estate is something I love because you must feed your passion. When I was working in the bank, I was working for salary but I thank God for the training I had in all those years because I was a mortgage banker. So, mortgage banking exposed me to real estate. So, I now love real estate beyond the money in it. I love it because I want to provide affordable housing for people. Many people are homeless. We have about 25 million Nigerians who are homeless.
So, my vision is to provide affordable houses because government alone can’t do it.
If you were to advise government on how best to make the environment easier for property players to operate, what are the areas you think government should look into?
The first thing is the issue of documentation. Government should make documentation very easy. For instance, I have a property that already has C of O and I want to get governor’s consent, and it’s now taking me 3 years, that is frustrating! As a player in the industry, documentation is necessary because if I don’t get all the documents, the people I want to sell to might not buy. The process for documentation must be cleared. Also, in the area of mortgage, the government hasn’t done enough because the Federal Mortgage Bank, through which the Federal government wants to provide mortgage to Citizens has not done enough. The federal housing mortgage of Nigeria through the programme of National Housing funds disburses funds to people (The highest you can get is N15 million), but several people don’t have access to that money. So, all those areas should be looked into. Then government needs to provide infrastructure such as roads, open up new areas such as Ibeju Lekki, though the Lagos State government is doing so much there.
How did you find working with your husband?
(Wife) My name is Tolu Onalaja. I’m the Executive Director of Revolution-Plus Property Development Company Ltd. Many people ask me this question that, husband and wife don’t get along running businesses. Funny enough, we are very good friends. It’s just normal. Everybody has found his/her strength in the business. My husband does the site job. The first day I went to site I had malaria the next day and my husband laughed at me, saying that is what he does everyday. I wonder how he does it, but he can do Ibeju Lekki 3 or 4 times in a week but if it is the office job, he would tell me he doesn’t have time. I can do the office job day in, day out. Everybody has discovered his/her area of strength. So, I handle administrative part, the recruitment part and office business in general and he does site job. I run our 2 offices , Ikeja and Lekki respectively.
What are the services and products that RevolutionPlus offers?
((Wife) Basically, we acquire a piece of land and we develop it. When we acquire land, we develop it, we fence it and we put gates. That’s our first step when we acquire land at RevolutionPlus. Apart from what I have just mentioned, we are going into housing development. We are starting with bungalows. We are starting with our Eluju housing estate just opposite Amen Estate. The land is sold for N5 million as we speak. We are starting our building there with bungalows and flats. After that one, we are moving to Ajah, close to Lagos Business School to also build terrace houses. So, we are gradually moving into building estates. Those are the basic things we do. We also help people to process documents. For instance, you have a land and you want to process your documents, we can help you do that.
Tell us about your new office here in Ikeja?
(Wife) Our new office is fantastic! When we were looking for a place, my husband insisted it has to be a place close to this existing office and that was a huge challenge because we found so many properties around Opebi in Ikeja, and the rest, but he kept on insisting “I want it to be a walking distance from where we are now” and you know most of Ikeja buildings are old, but as God would have it, we got a place very close to this place, like a two minutes walk from our current office.
We have renovated the place and when you enter our new office, you won’t have any doubt to do business with us.
How do you see your husband?
(Wife ) My husband is a fantastic person. He has a good heart for people. He loves to help people and that’s what drives him. He’s a selfless person and I have never met anybody as selfless as my husband and that’s what attracted me to him in the first place because when I met him, he didn’t have anything. The only thing I saw in him was the man who was selfless. He has not changed since then. If he has his way, he would tell people to come and have houses free. Sometimes, I have to remind him we are doing business, we are not running charity.
Do you know on his birthday he got 25 cakes! People were saying this must be an exceptional man to have got 25 cakes from people and his birthday was celebrated for 4 days. He is a wonderful person and my son has also taken after him.