Radeke Kupoluyi is a top clothier in Lagos. She is the owner of Radek Clothing Store on Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos. She recently spoke to City People Magazine Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE about her success story.
She recently turned 50, but Radeke Kupoluyi does not look it one bit. She looks refreshingly young. When she celebrated her birthday recently, that was the question everyone kept asking her. Everyone wanted to know the secret of her young look at 50. “Its the Grace of God”, she told City People. “I feel so great. I feel so happy and I thank God for the gift of life. That is the most important of all. It is when you are alive that you can celebrate. I give God all the glory for making me see the light of the day. Attaining 50 is a big deal to me really. I want to return all glory and honour to God, who has made it possible for me to attain the age of 50. I bless the name of the Lord”.
When she looks back at her life at 50, what are the things that readily come to mind. “I give God the glory because of the life in me, because it has actually been a long journey. The most important aspect of my life has been the journey, the entire transition from the day I was born, through my school years. It has actually been a long journey.”
“I feel happy that I am 50. But people tell me I don’t look 50, that I look 30, or 35. I thank God that he has seen me through and I am happy at where I am at the moment.”
What has been the secret of her youthful look? She does not look 50 at all. “Its a family thing” she said. “First of all, in my family, we don’t age easily, because we have small stature. We are very little in stature in my family. Apart from that, I try to take things easy. I don’t envy anyone. If you buy a house in Banana Island today, I will be happy with you. That does not mean I will start to think that I must buy a house on Banana Island. That is why I work hard to be able to afford anything I want. Anything I wish, I work hard for it and I get it. I think the spirit of contentment in me has helped me. That is what has kept me young”.
Why did she decide to go into the fashion and clothing business at the time she went into it several years back?
“I didn’t intend to go into Fashion at first. Many don’t know I studied Food Tech & Catering Studies from Yaba College of Technology in Lagos. At the time I decided to go into Fashion I was working at Tantalizers. I am one of the pioneer staff of Tantalizers. I was a Supervisor. I was on Leave and I wanted to travel. So I went to Dubai. I decided to go into the Clothing business because it required little Capital then. To go to Dubai then, all you needed was £1,500 dollars to £2,000 dollars then, including your ticket cost. My plan was to do fashion business for a while, it will give me the capital to start Catering. I wanted to do BIG Catering business like Astoria. That was my dream and that was actually why I went into Food Technology. I studied Food Science and Technology because I wanted to do Catering. I wanted to be a big Caterer. But it requires a lot of Capital because whilst I was working in Tantalizer, for every outlet we opened then, it required millions to set it up. So, I couldn’t afford it and i knew how my boss Mr. & Mrs. Ayeni, went about it then and I wanted to be like them. So, I planned to go into fashion business for 2 to 3, 4 years, access a loan and then go into Catering. But getting into fashion, I got stuck. When I got into Fashion, I realised that was my calling and I have been there ever since.” For how many years has she been doing clothing? “I have been doing Clothing for 19 years now. In the 19 years, I have been doing buying and selling of ladies wears, later I went into Maternity wears. I got the inspiration to clothe pregnant women. One day, I had actually wanted to go for dinner with my husband. I was pregnant with my 1st child then. I went everywhere searching for a beautiful dinner dress. I began to wonder, is there no where I can get maternity wear and that was where I got my major breakthrough. Then from there, I graduated into making uniforms for companies, I want to thank God for Globacom. I would never forget Globacom. I make uniforms for Globacom today. From that little girl, from that little capital, today, I think I have made over 10 designs for Glo. For every Glo outlet you go today, they wear my uniform from Monday to Friday, except on rare occasions.”
“I have been doing that. It was from selling ladies clothing, that I got the contact to start making designs for them. Right now, we have another project coming up, I am going to make the uniforms. I redesigned their logo 2 years ago. I have all the pictures with me. So, that is what I do. From there, I have gone into contracts. I do properties. I do supplies. I do buying and selling of things. That is the major thing I do and that is what I have found passion and joy doing”.
How has she balanced out business & family life? (Smiles) “There is no problem with that. As a woman, you are multi-talented and multi-tasking. It is a gift that God has given us. I want to thank God for the family I come from. My father never separated a boy from a girl, or a man from a woman. I come from a house of 35 children. We are just 8 girls, like twenty-something guys, 8 girls. So my father never wanted you to say I am a woman so this is what I can’t do.”
“As I am now, I can kill a snake. I tell my staff there is nothing I can’t do. I can supervise a Bricklayer. I can supervise a Mechanic. At times, I tell my driver to go back home whenever he gets me angry and I drive myself. I once collected the key from him and I drove down from Ilesha to Lagos. There is nothing a man can do, that I can’t do. I have built houses from foundation to roof without any Engineer. I supervised the project. I sleep in the factory. I multitask. I usually go to the factory where I make Clothes in Turkey. In the factory I have like 18 people sewing for me. We might just be 3 ladies there. I usually stay with them. I don’t see any difference between a man and a woman, except when I don’t want to let the male ego go down.”
“I believe what a man can do, a woman can equally do. Nowadays, I believe we women are even more versatile. We are more risk-takers, people want to reckon with us because as women we have more Integrity. As a woman, if I want to go into fraud now, I will think of so many things. I will first of all think of my children, husband, my in-laws, and young man. But if it is a man, the man will always say if they jail me, my wife will take care of the children. My husband will always tell me, I would rather anything happen to me, than happen to you because I know when you are around, everything will be ok. I like to multi-task. I like to achieve. I am a goal getter. I am a multi-talented person. I can be the driver, the bricklayer, the plumber. There is nothing a man can do that I can’t do. I give God the glory for this”.
Tell us about your husband. How did you meet him? How have you sustained the marriage? “Oh, my husband. He is a very unassuming guy. The very big wind beneath my wings. I give God the Glory. He is very gentle. He is a very nice person. My husband never takes anything to heart. I actually met him in Punch newspapers.”
“That was when he used to write the Entertainment page in Punch. One of my friends got married and Punch gave her a big coverage, so I went with that my friend. I was the Chief Brides Maid at the wedding. So, I went with my friend to go and say Thank you to them in Punch. Yemi Kolapo is our friend. She used to work for Punch and she was extremely close to my husband then. I sat with Yemi Kolapo on the table and we were gisting. I didn’t know that any guy saw me there. He actually called my friend and told her, I don’t mind that your friend. She now asked, which one of them? We were 3 there that went. One is married. I went with one of my friends Dayo and the one that got married. Yemi now said thank God you people are from Ilesa. She said the guy too is from Ilesa. That is how we met. One thing led to another and we got married. We are blessed with children.”
What is her advice to younger girls who want to be like her? “I mentor so many ladies today. I thank God that I mentor so many of them, even apart from my own siblings. I have a lot of sisters and younger ones in my church, at Alade market where I have been for the past 19 years. What I always tell them is you have to climb the ladder. You can’t jump. Growing is a Transition process. You can’t jump. You can’t start business today and start driving Jeep today. I used to tell them my story when I started. It was difficult to access loans. I wanted to succeed. I just wanted to be independent financially. I had a Starlet car. That was the only car I left Tantalizers with. I had only N120,000 cash. I wanted to go to Dubai for the 2nd trip. My 1st trip was when I had my leave in Tantalizers and I travelled to Dubai. At this time, Xmas was coming and I needed money badly, because I didn’t have a shop, the things I bought, I had to sell out on credit, and I had not collected my money back.”
“I always say this as an example. Because I didn’t have a shop I had to take it to people’s offices. I had to write down the names of people owing me on a piece of paper. So, I now wanted to travel to Dubai for this my new trip and I needed money badly.”
“So, I approached my back, Intercontinental Bank at Ojota. I grew up in Ojota. And my Manager said to me, Oh, you want to take loan. What do you have as a Collateral. I said I don’t have anything. How do you then want to access the loan? How much do you want to borrow? I said maybe N200,000. He said ok, can you park your car with us. He thought I won’t be able to pay. I said Oga, if I open the boot of my car, you will see that this is where I have all my goods that I sell. This is the only shop I have. This is the only thing I have for now. He said if you can park your car here we would give you. But we can’t borrow you loan with no Collateral. He thought I won’t be able to pay back. I said I can give him the key he said No. You have to pack it here.
So, I told my sister to pack my things from the boot. They drove the car to the back of the bank. And I didn’t have a car for one month. And they gave me the money. After 25 days, I went back to the bank to repay the money. I gave him cash and I got my car back and since then I have been getting loans. After that I think I have bought like 8 cars from the business.
To God be the Glory. I have bought cars. I have bought brand new cars (tear rubber). I have built houses from the business. So you have to be patient. I always tell people there is a transition process. You have to grow in the business. I tell my friends that come to me, when their husbands give them N10 to N20 million, they went to start Clothing business. I tell them this is not the way to start. You have to grow in it. There is nothing you do, if you don’t grow in it, even if you reach the peak you will still come down. So, it is always better to start small and grow big, then for you to start big and you now crash the business. It can be painful at times. It can be slow. There are sleepless nights. There are times/cry. There are times I feel frustrated.
But you have to keep going on. You have to persevere. In all, consistency, Perseverance, Integrity, don’t do more than yourself, live within your means, don’t eat up your capital. Don’t live larger than life. Live within whatever you have. Today, I don’t go to the banks to borrow. Banks come to me. I don’t want to sound immodest. Banks come to me to ask me if I need money. I have gotten to a stage in life that I dictate which money I need and what I don’t need. It is because of integrity and because everybody trusts that when they give me their money, I would not mess with it. When I started my business with Glo, I used to insure. They will tell me to insure with a property before I can get the money but now, once Glo gives me a job, I just go to the bank to collect the money to do the job and I just go. They know if I tell them I will deliver in one month I will deliver before the done date. I sleep in the factory with my workers abroad to be able to meet deadlines and timing in Nigeria. I give God all the glory.