Chief Olumide Falola is the CEO of Sweet Estates Unique Properties and Facility Management Limited. The firm has its head office in Abeokuta, Ogun State. It has branches in Ibadan, Ijebu Ode and Oyo. The company started over two years ago. The CEO told City People he was once a marketer for some real estate companies, which explains why the company has been able to gain people’s trust in the state and has helped it to become one of the best firms in the property sector.
Presently, Sweet Estates is the most popular real estate firm in Abeokuta. Their land is affordable and the mode of payment is convenient for its subscribers.
In this interview with BUNMI MUSTAPHA, Chief Olumide, who is in his early 40s opens up on how the company started and what inspired him into the real estate business. Excerpts.
Can you tell us about Sweet Estates?
Sweet estates, like any other real estate company was established two years ago, and we started our journey from Abeokuta, but we focus more on the low-income earners, especially people who never thought of having a plot of land, not to talk building a house. Another thing that makes Sweet Estates popular is our wonderful payment plan. We are the first Nigerian real estate company to introduce such a payment plan that gives a customer an opportunity to pay as low as three thousand five hundred naira monthly to own a plot of land.
You said the company started about two years ago. What really inspired you into the business?
Before we registered Sweet Estate, two years ago, I was into real estate marketing for some real estate’s companies, but many of them fell and eventually packed up. The mistake they made was that they were not after the success and the benefit of the customers. They were only after the money they were going to make as an individual, as a company.
They were oblivious that in real estate business, the secret of success is that, you must satisfy your customer; anyone that pays for a piece of land must get what he or she has paid for. Secondly, some of them just jumped into the business, they didn’t really do the right things. You must make sure that land is not under government acquisition. You must go to the ministry of land and get an approval, to make sure the land you are buying is free from government acquisition.
Second, you must make sure you do your due diligence in the community where that land is located to make sure that when your customers buy the land, they won’t have issues developing their portion.
You said earlier that people could pay as low as three thousand five hundred naira to own a piece of land. How easy was it for you to be able to convince people that the offer is real and they have nothing to worry about?
Well, when we started, it was not easy because people were skeptical, but when the result started coming up. For example, 10 persons who are potential buyers could tell one of them first buy a plot, while others await the result. Immediately the first person gets his or her land, others will come forward to buy theirs.
So, initially when we started, it was not easy. People had trust issues, but when we earned the trust of potential customers, we came out in flying colours and we are since doing well. As we speak now, we have over 5,000 customers, in and outside Abeokuta, and outside Nigeria too. Countries like America, Canada, Germany, South Africa, people there are patronising us.
How have you been able to cope with the issue of land grabbers?
I would have to give kudos to the Ogun State government for passing a Bill on Omo Onile. If you talk about Omo Onile, these people are not even the rightful owner of the land.
They would just come from nowhere and start disturbing you. Fortunately, there is now a law that say’s if you don’t have a right on any piece of land and you go there to claim anything, no matter how little it is and you are caught, it is twenty five years imprisonment. Based on that law, so many Omo Onile have stepped aside.
We don’t hear about them anymore. As a company, we are for the masses. It is not easy for someone to come and disturb us because they believe that what we are doing is for people. Instead they are putting effort to make sure Sweet Estate does not go down in town.
There is an advert in town that Sweet Estate is going on tour of some Europe countries, what is the package all about?
Before we go to the benefits for the people, I will like to talk about the other phase that was just launched by Sweet Estate, because even after we have got land for people, we noticed that many of them cannot still build their houses.
They still have issues of buying blocks and cement. We have gone a bit further to make sure we build houses for our customers and they defray the cost for ten years. So, as we speak, we have launched a low cost housing by Sweet Estate.
And as at today we have built a twenty unit housing estate Idi Ori, behind Aro Psychiatric Hospital, Ita Oshin, Abeokuta. We have twenty buildings already completed to the roofing level, because we want to sell them the way they are.
The customer will buy and complete it. Our one bedroom flat are selling for, 2.7million a plot of land, so you can still use the remaining portion of land to build whatever you like apart from the one-bedroom flat we sold to you, and we will give two years to defray the cost without interest.
Once you have paid up to fifty percent, we will give you the house. You can spread the payment of the balance over ten years, as low as fourteen thousand naira monthly. We are now taking this same benefits outside Nigeria, to our customers abroad, who have bought land from us. We want to make sure that between now and 2021, over a thousand customers abroad, will be able to boldly say enough that through Sweet Estate, they are now landlords.
How would you rate Sweet Estates among other real estate companies in Ogun state, and what makes the company different from others?
When we started, one of the benefits we had was that, we had a business agreement with a popular radio station in town called Sweet FM. One of the first things that led us to be one of the best was that, people were thinking that, it was Sweet FM that owns Sweet Estate on which we never argued with them.
Since we started, we never had any issue with any customer, up till today. People still believe that Sweet FM owns Sweet Estate. When it comes to rating, it is not our job to do, it is our customer. Our people outside who can say, Sweet Estate is the number one, but I know we offer the best and no doubt, from the way we receive customers who wants to be land owners through us, no doubt, we are the best in town.
Our next trip is to take Sweet Estate outside the county. Our first Sweet Estate tour will be in July. We will be visiting about seven countries in Europe. We want all Nigerians abroad, especially those who believe that they are being duped when it comes to building houses, we will go there and showcase our company’s package.
Some of them have bought land and houses from us on trust, without seeing us. Some of them will call and tell me they have been monitoring activities of the company and its success story for two years, and we never see them, yet they patronize us. We DHL their documents to them. This motivated us to say we want to come and meet you, so others could physically see us and patronise us.
Can you give us an insight into your background?
I was born and brought up in Abeokuta, I’m from Ago Oko, Oke Ona. I was born in 1979, and I got married when I was twenty six. My marriage is blessed with three beautiful kids. Surprisingly, I never studied anything related to real estate, while I was in school. I studied English language for my NCE and I went to Olabisis Onabanjo University for my degree. I have done a couple of professional courses and master them all.
When I had a company called master it all, we had an office at NUT, Kuto Abeokuta. I was into telecommunications with Airtel, Globalcom and all, and a real estate company came looking for an office. They could not find one, so they asked me to give them part of my office to use. I later became their marketer. As I was doing that for them, I was learning. I did that for a year. I saw the mistake of the people I was learning from, as they ended up folding up on the long run. I worked on their mistakes which have really helped me in the business.
Where do you see Sweet Estate in five years?
God knows where it will be but definitely on. But the first thing I would do is to pray to God that, we don’t want Sweet Estate to die like others. That is the prayer I have been saying to God and that is what led to another thing that Sweet Estate wants to launch. We want to launch an NGO called Taiwo Falola foundation.
Taiwo Falola of blessed memory was my mother. She died when I was still in the struggle, so I decided to float a foundation in her name. We want to use the profit made in Sweet Estate to give back to the people, and also to connect with God. In five years, we would keep on doing our best, in terms of energy and brain God has given to us.
So in the next five years, we want to have record that, anyone coming to Ogun State to buy land, the first company he/she will mention is Sweet Estate. That is where I see us in five years. And we also want to see thousands of Nigerians, especially the people of Ogun State to say, they are among Sweet Estate customers who are living in their houses. And we also want to create many job opportunities, because as we speak, we have over two hundred people, directly or indirectly who are making their monthly income from Sweet Estate.
With all of these workloads, how do you relax?
When it comes to relaxing, many people believe they can do it alone, but the kind of job we do, we can’t do it alone. That is why we have a registered surveyor, who is also one of the directors of Sweet Estate. We have a real estate lawyer, who advises us accordingly whenever we want to strike a deal or make some decisions.
And we have fantastic staffers who make the job less stressful for me. Sometimes, I leave the country to have a week vacation. Sometime weekends, I will leave Abeokuta to rest. I do give myself time to rest. There are some people who are not doing anything and yet they cannot rest. I have never been to the hospital to take any treatment, but when I started Sweet Estate, I had an accident and the car was a right off.
A lot of things had happened to me. You know when you want to do something like this, you encounter different challenges. I was in coma, the car in which I had an accident was the first car that was branded with Sweet Estate, and still in one of the police stations in Abeokuta. In the business, we have been to court, we have been to the police station. The only thing I did is to stand still and made sure Sweet Estate comes out in flying colours.