Shakirat Ayobami Kareem is a successful real estate player, who has done well for herself. She is the founder of WhiteRose International Group which recently unveiled Camelot Mews by WhiteRose and Fresh Water Garden by WhiteRose.
Recently, she told The Guardian her success story. Below are excerpts of the interview.
Did your childhood prepare you in any way for what you do now?
Not at all, I am from a devoted Muslim background, I got married at age of 18 and I had my first child from my first marriage. I decided to further my education and got my first tertiary school admission to Lagos state polytechnic but I realized that my ex-husband has married another wife, I was deeply heartbroken because I depended on the marriage as, at that time, he (my ex-husband) reduced the attention he was giving to me and at some point, he cut off the communication. When things became difficult for me, I travelled back to meet him to sort out issues with him and accept the second wife, but I got home to realize that he has married a third wife. I returned back to Lagos with the resolution that I will never depend on anyone again and that I will never go home until I am successful. I thereafter focused on my business and my education, basically, I lost my first marriage because I decided to further my education.
Tell us more about your inspiring growing-up story?
The entrepreneur aspect of my life is inbuilt, I remember when I was in primary 3 I started saving in a piggy bank from my school feeding money and cash gifts and I used the money to start a small business in my father’s house. I was the richest amongst my siblings when I was growing up to the extent that I was being referred to as “Iya olowo”. My older siblings don’t beat me or send me on an errand so that I can borrow them money (lol).
What inspired you to start in your line of career?
Propelled by the lack of encouragement I received from my first marriage for desiring to empower myself as a woman, I was inspired to succeed in life through hard work. I subsequently saw a woman contesting for a gubernatorial position in my State and that inspired me to a great extent that I can achieve relevance as a woman. However, the environment I subsequently found myself in greatly helped me to discover opportunities in the real estate sector and I grabbed them with tenacity. I was once told before that 3 things will impact your life, the environment you find yourself in, the book you read and the friends you surround yourself with. I never thought of real estate until I came to Lekki.
How has the journey been since you started?
Life is not a bed of roses, challenges are part of life. Deterrents are put in your life to test your resilience, to bring you closer to your life’s purpose. If you don’t know failure, how could you ever relish in glory? I faced lots of challenges even after I started real estate but as a powerful choleric that I am, I don’t give up, choleric will survive even in their last defeat. At some point in Lekki, I was homeless as a result of an unfortunate incident that happened years ago when a telecommunication mast fell on an apartment which I newly paid rent for, lives were lost. I had a car and my family house on the mainland then, but it was a bit difficult to shuttle from the mainland to the Island daily, considering the fact that I will have to face traffic when I am coming to Lekki in the morning and I don’t do friends. Sometimes if the traffic is terrible and I have an early morning appointment, I will look for a quiet estate to park my car, stretch the seat and sleep in my car. I will usually look for a nice eatery to freshen up in the morning and start my day’s business activities. all my clothes were in the car as the rain has destroyed my property in the house that collapsed. Not like I don’t have people I can run to help me sort out my accommodation problem, but I don’t like begging, I prefer to give and I always like to be in charge of my affairs. My family was not even aware of what I was going through, I always like to make everything look perfect even when I am dying. I hate pity and sympathy.
What are some of the challenges you encounter in your line of work?
People underestimate my ability a lot probably because I am a woman in a business sector that is dominated by men. Another major challenge I also encountered as a beginner in real estate was access to finance. I had lot of dreams but there was no adequate fund to establish a strong business model; I was doing a one-man business.
Tell us about your other projects and activities?
Kirah Court I by Whiterose, Oakview Estate Lafiaji Lekki Lagos (Sold Out).
Whiterose Mall, Adewunmi Adebimpe Street, Lekki Phase1. (Now Letting) fully tenanted.
Kirah Court 2 by 4 Bedroom Fully Detached Duplexes with a Room BQ at Mayegun, Jakande, Lekki Phase1 Lagos. (Selling Fast) off plan sales.
Whiterose Court conservation Center by 2nd Toll Gate, Chevron Lagos.( Now Selling) off-plan sales
Camelot Mews by Whiterose comprises of 1bedroom flat, a 2bedroom flat and a 4bedroom semi-detached ( Now Selling) available for immediate possession.
Primo bay by Whiterose comprises a 2bedroom flat and a 4bedroom Terrace at orchid road in Lekki ( upcoming project)
Fresh Water Garden by Whiterose Lagoon district Lekki phase 1, Lagos. (Upcoming project)
Fresh Water peal by Whiterose Lagoon district Lekki Phase 1 Lagos. (Upcoming project)
Polis City by Whiterose (sales on hold)
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Real Estate business gives me the platform to groom and impact the lives of many young people who desires to brake free from mediocrity and poverty, and that is the inner joy that keeps me going against all odds. Looking back and seeing some persons who are equally self-reliant by virtue of being trained by me gives me so much joy. Again, I love being my own boss (laugh), real estate will give you the opportunity to be your own boss. I love to be challenged, I love meeting people and I love creating job opportunities. My job gives me all of these luxuries
Mention 3 women who inspire you and why
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Ibukun Awosika, and Kamala Harris.
One thing that is common among these three (3) women is that they refused to settle for anything less than the top. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala needs no introduction in the world’s economy, the greatest industry and business players all over the world courts for her attention; Ibukun Awosika on her part sits at the echelon of affairs in First Bank, one of the leading banks in the country and beyond, while Kamala Harris is the current female vice president of the USA, a world power country. These women rose through the ranks, continuously beat their own success records and never got satisfied of achieving more even at the top. Hence, they are my biggest inspiration as their lifestyle is akin to my driving force in life.
Do you think women are well informed in your field?
It is a male-dominated field, it takes a stubborn choleric woman like me to be successful in real estate. When you see a lady doing well in real estate please respect them. I must commend some women who currently dare the heights in real estate and are breaking bounds, however, more awareness are needed to encourage more women to venture into the real estate sector rather than depending on men for survival.
What can we do better as a society to educate women in your work or initiative?
As earlier said, there is a need to create more awareness of the opportunities that abound in real estate for women. This is because the majority of women believe that they can’t survive in real estate because of the fear that it is a Male-dominated sector.
Again, there is a need to encourage financial institutions to make access to funds easy for women in business, especially in the real estate sector. This will help in no small way to boost the productive capacity of women in real estate.
Also, there is need for adequate training platforms where interested persons can come and learn the tenets of real estate business. Some women indeed desire to be in real estate, but most of them venture into it without proper training and preparation, hence, they crash out in no time and become both a discouragement to themselves and to others. On our part, we have currently built a platform known as Whiterose Network, that will assist in no small ways in both training and equipping not only women, but every interested person to excel in the real estate sector. To achieve this groundbreaking platform, I contacted two of my professors in Unilag and we were able to develop a network platform for young driven entrepreneurs who aspire to be in the forefront of the Nigerian property market but are limited due to their financial resources and the networking. The platform is a great opportunity for beginners and a golden opportunity for people who aspire to have multiple streams of income. The network platform will also give you access to networking and all the resources you need to succeed in the business. you can recruit people directly under you to work for you on the platform and your earn referral bonus as you recruit and other bonuses like leadership bonus, performance bonus, promotional bonus and sales bonus which is the one you earn if there is any sale transaction from your down lines. It took us 1year to develop the platform.
How did you build the Whiterose International Group to be a global brand?
As the saying goes, the reward for hard work is more work. I was diligent in my little beginnings and remain dogged against all odds. Hence, I will say that strong determination to succeed, tenacity, consistency, hard work and above all, the grace of Allah has brought Whiterose to where we are currently. We do not presume to have arrived yet, but we are replicating success by the day and have made tremendous progress over the years.
In marking your birthday you launched a highbrow estate in Orchid axis of Lekki, How do you feel with your laudable strides?
As people say, the greatest motivation any man can have is self-motivation. I feel very proud of myself to have delivered this audacious project irrespective of the hurdles I encountered in the process. The lizard fell from a high tree to the ground without getting hurt, it looked at itself and said ‘if no one praises me, I will praise myself for such a feat” (laughs) so I must say I feel proud, happy, motivated and challenged to dare greater heights.
If there is one thing you could change in the real estate sector what would it be?
Structure. The real estate sector in Nigeria has no defined structure. Any person can wake up today and declare his/or her a ‘seasoned real estate practitioner’ without passing through a defined regulated and informed structure that would prepare him/or her to practice real estate. The result of this is that there are many ubiquitous real estate agents out there taking so much havoc on innocent investors of real estate.
There is also need for adequate training and licensing of real estate practitioners, so as to sanitize the system and ensure the safety of investors investments in real estate.
However, as our contribution, the Whiterose Network was developed with this in mind, to empower, equip and train intending real estate practitioners and to give them our defined structure to operate on. We call for the collaborations of both public and private sectors to achieve a definite structure and system for the real estate sector in the country.
Where do you see yourself and the brand in the next 5years?
In the next five years to come, my dream is to see Whiterose Group become a household name all over the globe, not only from the giant strides we will accomplish in real estate and other sectors but also from the many lives we would have empowered to become successful by our Whiterose Network.
What makes you a Woman of Rubies?
Well, judging from the many challenges I have surmounted to come to where I am without external assistance, I do not consider myself an average woman. I started Whiterose with zero capital but I have currently grown it to a multi-billion Naira company, which is undoubtedly a rare achievement for a woman in a man’s dominated business. Notwithstanding, my greatest achievement is actually the many lives I have empowered and currently empowering to become great in life, that makes me a woman of rubies.