Alhaji Yusuf Owolabi Babalola better known as Amuda Yusuf, is a popular Lagos Business mogul.He is the CEO Eleven07 Lounge/Restaurant, located at Adeleke Street, Allen, Ikeja Lagos. Alhaji Yusuf is also one of the biggest fans of the renowned Fuji act, K1 De Ultimate, who always sings praise to his name. The very industrious man has also invested in real estate business. But before then, not many know that he was abroad for 18 years seeking greener pastures. Recently, City People GBOLAHAN ADETAYO, caught up with the Abeokuta, Ogun State-born business tycoon, and he revealed to us what he was up to during his 18years sojourn in foreign land, why he relocated to Nigeria and his new businesses among others. Enjoy the excerpts:
What have you been up to recently?
I have a beverage production company that will be unveiled soon. We are coming up with some alcoholic and non-alcoholic brands. We are coming up with brands that are of international standards as well. Our farm is also in progress. Eleven07 Lounge, our property business has a different name, but they are all sister companies.
Can you expatiate more on the new businesses?
The plant is being set up and we have been on it for about 7 months now. We have just a few months to unveil the factory. When I came to Nigeria, I realised that Nigeria is still very backward especially when it comes to alcoholic brands because at the time I was coming up with some brands, which I needed to register with NAFDAC, I was told that they don’t register anything that doesn’t have alcohol in it. I was amazed and I had to ask them the reason. They said that there are numbers of products in Nigeria which are basically non-alcoholic drinks. But with the demand we have in Nigeria with the population of over 170 million, the alcoholic brands are not enough, so, that gave me an idea. I am talking about 5 years ago and since then I have had it at the back of my mind that I must do something in that direction. I have about 10 brands that are non alcoholic, they are basically flavour juice and hundred percent juice. I have a brand called Eleven07 Iron Burg and another one is called Eleven07 Insomnia, which is to keep you awake at night. They are not ready yet, but we are working on it. Eleven07 is a household name and we have many things under it. We’ve been working so tirelessly and we put all into the hands of God.
How did you come up with the idea of venturing into alcoholic productions apart from what you heard at NAFDAC office?
I don’t need to engage in a special course before I can achieve that. Where I came from, there is a standard in every developed nation, I don’t want to do things because many people are doing it, I am a man of standard and whatever I want to do, I take my time to do it as well so that I can have a good result in the end. I have got my technical partner from France and you know when we talk about alcohol, I am sure France cannot be pushed aside. So, all these we have been working on for a couple of years now before we got to the final stage. I didn’t know about mixing alcohol but when I decided to do it, I know I can’t just do it the usual way they do it here; I have got to bring in some experts. I want a situation whereby when my brand is out; having a taste of it alone will tell you more about the brand, it’s not just about getting drunk because you wish to.
Will the drink be affordable to everyone or just the elite?
My own research gave me many ideas about bringing a new brand into market. My target now are the masses not the elite. I want to be able do something that the masses will appreciate by not over pricing it. I am sure a lay man on the street will appreciate it especially when you know that the brand is unique.
While you were abroad, what were you doing?
My first few years abroad, I worked in so many areas. Factory, security and what have you. After that few years, I was able to get myself together and start planning a future for myself. I have seen many people who have been there and today they can be pointed at in the society. So, I see them as role models and I really want to do something better in my life also. So, that moment, I started doing so many research and courses that will brush up my knowledge about what I really wanted to do.
At the long run, it got to a stage that I had to start property business as well. The property business doesn’t really give me many challenges because I like to see challenges, I like to know why I am doing that thing. In property business, I see an industry where you invest and make money. People who are very close to me will tell you much about me.
If I engage in something, I want to know the advantages and disadvantages in it, who are the people that will benefit from it?. The whole idea started in Atlanta Georgia when I met a lady who is an American star and we got talking. Every other Nigerian this lady has met were all after her skirt, but in my own situation, she realised that I am a very reserved man and all we were talking about was business and business.
So during our chats I got to know that she is also doing a lot of things for herself too. This lady I am talking about does this business called Casual Slippers Dispensing Machine in some airports around the world. You know most of the ladies, when they are traveling, they go with their high heels and coming down from their first transit point, they get really tired of the high heels already. So, she came up with the idea that she can be selling some slippers through the machine which makes sense and makes money for her.
We got talking about business all the way. Eleven07 is still coming out with our cosmetics too, but that is going to be later, not now. She is one of the partners and through her we were able to get to Paris and do a whole lot there
How many years did you spend abroad before you later came back to establish?
The first time I left this country, was about 18 years ago now, that was when I went to Saudi Arabia. I spent 2 years there and I worked as a factory worker and from there, I went to London where I did all sorts of things. I was a security and anything people do abroad to survive, I did.
At what point did you now decide to return to Nigeria?
Where the whole idea came up was precisely in 2009, I met a man, whom I wouldn’t like to mention his name, he was a Lagos state commissioner for Finance and I see him as my uncle. We got talking and through him I got to meet so many people and all they were interested in was discussing business, and ideas. So, this man, I really picked so much interest and he was always advising me’ asking how long. I have been staying abroad, you need to come home and do a lot of things.
“There are lots of opportunities in our father’s land and all that. The first question he put to me came as a challenge because it was something I didn’t prepare for. He asked that if I go home now, what exactly do I want to do? I wasn’t able to give him a precise answer and I believe when I got home that night, I saw it as a big challenge because I felt that if this man could ask me such a question and I had an answer, that would have created more advantages and benefits for me. So, it got me seriously challenged and at that point when I got home, my wife started meditating on it because she is full of ideas when it comes to business and her own kind of ideas are sometimes unimaginable. She is good and I appreciate her, and she has been the one giving me a lot of motivation to really decide and move forward because the best time to start is now as they say it.
Since then, we started and by the special grace of God, we pray to Him that we will be there someday.
How did you come up with club business?
Eleven07 is not really a club per see, in my first few years when I got back to Nigeria, I was staying around Ikeja and I noticed that most of the gatherings that people go to chill at night don’t have much of what I did at Eleven07 within Ikeja axis. I don’t like loud music, what I appreciate more is to have a relaxation corner where the music will be playing low volume. I want a place where I can take drinks, food and discuss business with my people and that was what brought the idea of Eleven07 Restaurant and Lounge. So, it is not a club, it is just a lounge and we do a lot of activities there. We have a standard swimming pool, as I speak to you; we have a lot of bookings. Many do come to have their conferences, birthday parties and lots more.
How did you get the name, Amuda Yusuf?
I see Amuda was as my nickname because when I born, I was named Yusuf not Amuda, but you know, I have listened to a lot of old school songs from Yusuf Olatunji and the rest and I think it has been like that forever. Anyone bearing Yusuf must have a nickname or “Oriki”. I don’t know how I got the name, I just see people calling me Amuda.