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So Sure Of Her Business, She Put Her Pet Name To It

Published 7 years ago
By Forbes Woman Africa

A lot of women have come up – there are many more rising up to the challenge and a wind of change is definitely blowing. Yes, I am in a male-dominated industry and I’m not ready to back down.”

These are the gutsy words of Nigerian business mogul Ngozi Oyewole, CEO of Noxie Limited – a leading Nigerian diversified service provider.

From trucking and haulage, protective equipment for rigs, to interior decoration, furniture supplies for multinationals and promotional items, Oyewole is a busy woman with a roving eye for ideas, many of which she has brought to life.

There is an infectious exuberance and confidence about Oyewole, one that is just as visible as her business savvy nature and can-do attitude. The evidence speaks volumes in her work, a trait many might not have expected. An Ikwerre princess – born into a the royal home of HRM Eze Frank Eke in Rivers State, Nigeria, who was also once governor – Oyewole is privileged, but that has not made her complacent or idle.

“My father was governor, he is also a king and society expected us to be spoon-fed and lazy but that isn’t the case. I had a thinking head on my shoulders and I wasn’t going to be swayed away by societal expectations or norms,” says Oyewole.

Sitting pretty today, with a fast-growing and diversified business with strong expansionary visions, Oyewole attributes her relentless drive and business acumen to her mother’s strong influence.

“My mother [Evangelist Beatrice Eke] was a very strong woman. She owned various businesses from hotels to beauty salons and she was very entrepreneurial. After school, there were expectations on us to work in similar areas,” she says.

After an undergraduate qualification in business administration and a postgraduate in information technology in the United Kingdom, Oyewole did just the opposite – she plunged into the corporate world and worked with a few UK-based firms, before returning to Nigeria to undergo her National Youth Service (NYSC) Program. Thereafter, she settled into the Nigerian corporate landscape.

“When I got married and had the first of my three children, my husband and I made the decision that I take a break from my career and raise our kids to an appreciable age.

“I started trading in 1993, when my youngest child started nursery school, and I would go overseas to buy clothes, shoes and household items to sell locally. I chose ‘Noxie’ as my business name because it was a pet name my sister-in-law coined for me, when she had difficulty pronouncing my name. I started with a small shop in Ikoyi Hotel and have since grown and diversified into several business interests over the years. I incorporated Noxie Limited in 2001,” says Oyewole

This was the beginning of a journey that Oyewole has found fulfilling and challenging, and yet it highlights the business terrain for women on the continent to be steep and rocky. In the same breath, however, she believes that women can only go as far as they allow themselves. A strong will, self-motivation and competence should be a businesswoman’s creed.

“The challenges I have faced over time are the same most women experience in our type of environment. In a society predominantly dominated by men, most times people don’t take you seriously because of your gender, but once you demonstrate your competence, dedication and professionalism on every job you undertake, they eventually have no hang-ups with dealing with you,” she adds.

Women need a voice within various business sectors and yet the inability to get finance from banks remains a major deterrent. More women should challenge the status quo by proving that they are capable and dependent business leaders.

Oyewole’s passion for entrepreneurship is shaped by her formidable mother, supportive family and her faith in God. All have fueled a healthy restlessness that drives her from venture to venture. Each has comforted her when her professional limits were tested and have pushed her towards self-development.

“Most of the businesses I run, I got into accidentally, after which I developed myself in these areas until I mastered the different technicalities. I have always been restless and enterprising. I’m very comfortable with what I do and it doesn’t intimidate me in any way.”

Noxie Limited has a portfolio that includes: office furniture, interior decoration for office space and the home, personal protective equipment (PPE), uniforms and industrial apparel, promotional items, barge and tugboat leasing as well as trucking and haulage.

As CEO, Oyewole sets the company’s long-term strategy to negotiating major contracts and financing. Having learnt the ropes and earned her stripes, Oyewole’s advice for young upcoming women is: “Have a conviction. Know what you want. Yes, African women do need a voice but self-conviction also goes a long way. The African woman can only go so far if she doesn’t believe in herself first.”

I am keen to find out if and how education has influenced such lucid business gusto.

“You don’t need to be in the classroom or an academic to be educated. It doesn’t take a paper qualification to make a formidable woman. As a woman, look for your strength and what makes you tick. Find what you like to do and do it very well,” she answers.

Noxie, as she is fondly called, may have achieved some grand feats in business but always sets her eyes on bigger projects.

“A major client contacted us to cater to their personal protective equipment business because they were impressed with our performance and track record on previous orders. I was thrilled on hearing the news but my excitement was also short-lived as I began to make assessments of my available resources, both financial and personnel. Although, I knew I had challenges in both areas, within me I believed I could surmount anything that came my way. I quickly realized that I needed to move up to a higher plane in terms of corporate image and presentation. I summoned up courage, took on the challenge head-on and the rest is history!”

Just like any entrepreneur worth their salt, Oyewole has various short, medium and long-term goals in mind. In the near future, she plans to open a showroom for Noxie’s home and office furnishings, and protective gear. Her medium-term goals are to set up a local factory for the office furniture as well as a production line for corporate uniforms, apparel and flame-retardant overalls and personal protective wear made from 100% cotton. Country-wide and regional expansion is on the cards as part of her long-term ambitions.

It might appear a far cry from the cushy comforts of royalty but Oyewole is transcending the myth that women are to be seen and not heard and from all indications, doff your hats as the Queen of gear is here to stay.

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Related Topics: #Academic, #Business, #CEO, #Educated, #February 2014, #Mogul, #Ngozi Oyewole, #Nigerian, #Noxie Limited.