Niyi Odejobi, a young budding entrepreneur, finance and technology expert, founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ibadan Hospitality Company (Owners of Hotels, Restaurants, Supermarkets, Short let Apartments and Lounges) in the intellectual capital city of Ibadan and its environs, has attributed his entrepreneurial success and accomplishments to the Governor ‘Seyi Makinde’s unprecedented business drive of the state.
In this interview, he explained how his passion for business made him start working at early age and some of the lessons he has learnt in business and other issues.
Can you please introduce yourself and tell us about your background
I studied Actuarial Science as my first degree with a Second Degree in Financial Mathematics and I’ve got various certifications in Accounting, Investment Banking, Finance, Project Management and Artificial intelligence.
I have been running Ibadan Hospitality Company for about 7 years now which serves as a holding company and owners to various Hospitality Companies like Cafe Twenty-four Restaurant, The House Eleven Hotel, White Vale Hotels and Suites, Royal Heritage Suites and a host of other Hospitality Businesses domiciled in Ibadan, Oyo State.
I have always loved creating aesthetically beautiful spaces with local fabrications and furnitures, and I’ve always had interest in the Hospitality Business, hence the reason why I’m strongly invested in a couple of Hospitality Companies.
I have always loved the great ambience and architectures of restaurants and hotels and I knew one day it was going to happen, and when it happened, God made it possible for us to own a handful of hotels and restaurants around town.
I love what i do and we are extremely hands on. We love each of our customers to have a wow experience when they step into our doors.
You will catch me changing the wrong type of glass served to customers or adjusting the table mats or chairs. I am very passionate about offering the best possible experience and service to our customers.
It would also interest you to know that I also have a 9 to 5 white collar job in one of the biggest technology companies in Nigeria.
As an entrepreneur and a business expert, what informed your decision to go into this kind of businesses looking at Ibadan as though a cosmopolitan city but not in the calibre of cities like Port Harcourt, Lagos, Abuja etc?
So I’m an indigene of Oyo State and to be honest Ibadan had the most favourable business conditions to me at that time in terms of Cost of Capital, Real Estate, Opex, Population, Human Capital and ROI. Ibadan is a very conducive place to do business so I saw alot of opportunities within Ibadan and for me, it was a case of first mover advantage. With these huge opportunities and potentials, after Lagos, Ibadan is the next big city in the south west region.
Most entrepreneurs consider Ibadan as the next big thing after Lagos when it comes to Hospitality, Entertainment, Real Estate, Economic Developments and Lifestyle. It’s not even Abeokuta after Lagos but Ibadan.
So answering your question, I saw an untapped market in Ibadan, I saw a city with huge potentials in Economic Growth and Development, I saw huge migration of residents from neighbouring states which i felt will further drive an aggressive opportunity for business owners. I saw a virgin land with untapped opportunities and some of us decided to tap into those opportunities to create wealth.
The proximity to Lagos has further increased the influx of people into the city. We have noticed now that people can now work in Lagos and live in Ibadan or vice versa. The lagos ibadan express way which is almost at 80% completion is a major reason why we see alot of people and activities happen within Ibadan.
Has the state government created enabling environment for investors like you for your businesses to strive?
So I always argue that The Federal Government might have the most plans, or the greatest plans in the world, but the guys who touch my life and the life of every Nigerian every day are the governors of our states.
So I’m an Oyo State indigene where my mum is from Lagos and I live in Lagos but all my businesses are domiciled in Ibadan. But the most important governor to me in Nigeria is the Governor of Oyo State, in the person of Engr. Seyi Makinde.
Why? Because all my business are in Ibadan where my source of livelihood resides and my life is affected every second and every minute by what he does or what he does not do.
And in reality, when we talk about the equity of trust, you can only get that trust from a people who trust what you do by how you affect their lives and impact their lives every day.
When you gain the trust of the people, they’ll pay more taxes and when you gain the trust of the people by performance and the things that you do, ultimately, you will benefit from it. Speaking on behalf of myself and the business community that I’m part of, Engr Seyi Makinde has gained the trust of the people and this is the reason why you get people like myself invest more in Ibadan because we have the trust and hope in the current Governor.
The business owners now enjoy that ease of doing business, he has created the perfect enabling environment that we need for our businesses to thrive. He has demonstrated transparency, efficiency, sincerity and accountability in his Governance in the last 3 years and we trust and hope that he puts himself forward for re election for another term in office.
For our nation to truly be great, the integrity of our leaders or Governors is critical to our nation building and a man that does not have character does not deserve to be leading any path of our value chain in this state. The current Governor of Oyo State has set an example for the people serving under him in his Government and the people of the state.
Representing the Business Community, i speak the minds of Business Owners that Engr Seyi Makinde considers another term in office as we have tried him, tested him and have confidence in his leadership skills and we are not ready to try anyone for now who we aren’t sure of his character and intentions for Oyo State.
The Governor has sought for commerce with morality in building the economy of the state, he has demonstrated transparency and things are working and there is accountability and people are seeing what he does and even when mischief makers have appeared to turn what he has done upside down, ordinary citizens like myself have risen up to defend the Governor based on how we have benefited from his good governance.
He has applied the resources available sincerely to the needs of the people, even as he does that, ordinary citizens have helped him to think through.
We all need Nigerians to work and it doesn’t matter the state. For me to travel from lagos to Ondo, I’m going to come across alot of states so I need every part of Nigeria to work. To travel to abuja today by road, imagine how many states in Nigeria I will pass through. So every state counts to every Nigerian. We all want this country to work and we are very hopeful that alot of state Governors will take a cue from the Governor of Oyo state who is using the resources of the state effectively and judiciously.
The light up Oyo Project is another good feat recorded by the current Government and this has recorded huge economic benefits in the state.
Lives and Property are now secured, business owners can now operate their businesses at night or all through the night, Restaurants like Cafe 24 can run a 24 hours service without hitches, some petrol stations, pharmacy’s and supermarkets now run a 24 hours service, hawkers can sell their goods at night, nightclubs, lounges and bars are also able to make sales all night, and the whole MSME ecosystem is expanding.
Things are working under this current government and we appeal to Engr Seyi Makinde to please seek for another term in office to enable but I needed continue to strive.
We have over 500 staff gainful employed in Ibadan Hospitality Company and if a government can continue to support and create an enabling environment for us to thrive, we will definitely float more businesses and create more jobs in the whole process because Government alone cannot create the nunber of jobs that is needed. Government shouldn’t be in the business of creating jobs but what they need to do is to create opportunities and an enabling environment for businesses and Entrepreneurs in turn will create jobs and create wealth within the whole ecosystem.
What inspired this Brand, Cafe 24?
I have always been a foodie, I patronized loads of restaurant from Roberts café to Casa Lydia, La scala, all in Lagos. I was always a regular there I love the experience, the culture, the presentation; It was just a matter of time we opened one. With my background we were able to develop a contemporary space that not only complimented our personalities.
Lets focus on Cafe 24, does cafe 24 attract pop stars or artists who usually trill customers and what special events do you have on a periodic basis:
So I’ll say that Cafe 24 is not just a lounge but is a fine dinning & contemporary restaurant, bar and social house located in the heart of Bodija in Ibadan. We serve a wide range of freshly made local and continental dishes and a vast menu of world-class drinks to choose from!
We are a cute aesthetically pleasing contemporary restaurant, bar and a social house in the quiet end of Bodija. If you are familiar with Bodija, you do know it can be quite chaotic and unnecessary traffic that cannot be explained. However, Cafe 24 is in a strictly residential area and also within the premises, is a wine store, a bakery and a unisex salon. Cafe 24 is quite intimate, cozy and well suited for romantic dates.
For about 2 years now, we have been giving our customers the best services in Ibadan. There is a science to this and we are very meticulous about it, the kind of customers we attract, the kind of music playing, the quality of the sound and volume as well, we even change the music depending on the time of day it is. Like I said there is a science to this and we know exactly how we want to serve our customers and how we want them to feel.
In the past, we have had artists like: Davido, Timini Egbuson, Dakore Egbuson, Flowolf, Dremo, Bad Boy Timz, Oyinkanade, Niyi (Big Brother), Queen Ayo Balogun, Taiye Currency all come at various times to trill our special clients.
The Cafe is a combination of great quality food, and serene and chic lounge “We just want to create good vibes.”
We have also fine-tuned Cafe 24 to give the best customer experience , ambience and food, Our target audience is the working class men and women, so everything we do we put them in mind.
In setting up the business, I went through over 400 CVs and I personally interviewed every staff we hired, we try to build a culture with the team we have here, and we also lead by examples.
What steps have you taken to make sure your brand remains relevant and competitive?
There is a science to this and we are very meticulous about it, the kind of customers we attract, the kind of music playing, the quality of the sound and volume as well, we even change the music depending on the time of day it is. Like I said there is a science to this and we know exactly how we want to serve our customers and how we want them to feel.
We are still evolving, and we hope to build more brands either under the Cafe 24 brand or as a stand alone brand but under the Ibadan Hospitality Company ownership. But we love this space and are excited about the future prospects. We are very much focused on giving customers the best experience.
Where do you see the Cafe 24 brand in 5 yrs- 10 yrs?
I would say more locations as we are currently working on opening more locations in Jericho, Ring Road and on Akala Express.. I wish to take this internationally also and In fact we want to make it a franchise brand.
How do you treat recipes and intellectual properties?
People will always get inspired by other people’s recipes as I did the same. We have Yassa on the menu and this was a result of non Nigerian family friends visiting us over the holidays and cooking it. At the end of the day you have to put your own spin on recipes. I can always create something different. So, all of my staff here know the recipe.
What advice would you give your staff?
Don’t get disgruntled, stay focused. Don’t give up. All it looks like is stumbling blocks and it can become stepping stones.
Tell us about your Work-life balance?
Well, this is pretty much like “work, life and other work – balance”
I’m still trying to strike a balance because i still push my personal white collar job and we have Cafe 24 and Ibadan Hospitality Company to run too and I’m pretty hands-on.
I personally close work by 5:00pm, go to gym or the club for some sort of sports or exercise, and I’m jumping from one business outlet to the other till past midnight.
Can you give us the most challenging experiences you have had?
This project and a couple of other projects we have embarked on under the Ibadan Hospitality Company project was very capital intensive asides that the challenge for us is making sure each and every customer gets exactly the same experience, we had to stretch ourselves financially to make this happen.
The second challenging experience has been staffing. Wouldn’t say we got lucky, but after interviewing over 40 applicants personally, we were able to pick a great team. We have low staff turnover and our management style is leading by example.
What advice would you give the young people?
Just go for it, study; make sure you are passionate about any service you offer. Put your personal touch in the business, that is the best thing ever.
I have a full time job, yet i went ahead to establish a couple of businesses which are strongly managed by my team and I.
I’ll also advise my young people to Research a lot, talk to people and assimilate as much ideas as they can.
Synergy is the driving force. You can’t stand alone and you can’t do it alone. Get a consultant when you can’t handle it. We have consultants for almost everything. Nobody is a master.