Meeting Omolade Ashabi Sanyaolu-Usman for the first time, you could mistake her for a beautician or a top fashion designer. This is because she looks nothing like a top businesswoman who’s involved in the rigorous exportation business of agro-allied products. Instead, what would probably first attract you to her is her gorgeous look and attractive figure, followed by her glowing ebony complexion. Her fabulous dress sense will also always endear her to many who appreciate top-notch fashion. But don’t be fooled. Behind that pretty innocent look is a tough and rugged woman who has laboured hard and tirelessly to become the successful woman she’s become today.
Yetunde Gbenusi, as she is popularly called, has risen from grass-to-grace to become the CEO of Gbenusi Integrated Investment Ltd, one of the fast-growing Agro-allied companies in the country.
Recently at the City People’s Award for Excellence, Yetunde Asabi Usman popularly known as ‘Gbenusi’ was recognized for her remarkable performance in Business. City People’s SENIOR EDITOR, WALE LAWAL spoke with this shy, business savvy woman and she shared with us her humble beginnings and her success story. Enjoy.
I must say that for a mother of three you look very glamorous. And you’re quite fashionable too. Where did you learn to be trendy and fashionable?
To be honest, I learnt how to be fashionable on my own. Though I can also say that I followed in my father’s footsteps because he was also a very fashion conscious man too. But largely, I learned how to be trendy on my own.
Do you have favourite designers that you really like?
Not really. I’m not so into designers. But once I know your work is good, then I’ll go for you. As long as I’m comfortable with your designs, I will patronize you.
When you’re outside the country, what sort of fabrics do you usually shop for?
I don’t buy fabrics outside the country, every fabric I wear is always bought here in the country. I love to patronize our local brands.
We understand you’re into exportation of agro-allied products, madam, but we’d like to know, how did you get into this line of business that’s usually dominated by men?
Okay, thank you very much for speaking with me. It would surprise you if I tell you that I didn’t start out with exportation. I wasn’t even involved in any business that’s remotely connected to what I am doing now. I was actually into the wholesale business of recharge cards. In fact, I will describe myself as a recharge card hawker on my street in Suru-Lere. That was what I was doing before I met my boss who now took me to Apapa to join him in the agro-allied exportation business. I think that was around 2005 or 2006. I left him to set up my own firm about three years ago.
Kindly let us have a clearer idea of the things you export.
Well, I am into the exportation of wood, Cashew, groundnuts and several other foodstuffs to different parts of the world. That’s basically what I am into at the moment.
What were you doing before you got into business? What were your plans or aspirations years back before you started doing business?
To be honest with you, I didn’t have any particular plan. If I tell you I had my plans all mapped out before I got my big break, then, I will be lying to you and deceiving myself as well. I was working with a printing company in Gbagada several years back. I left them owing to some unpleasant circumstances to start my small recharge card business. I just wanted to be on my own and make an honest living for myself. I didn’t have any plans at all. It was just by a stroke of fortune that my boss introduced me to the agro-allied business.
Tell us, what attracted you to that line of business in the first place?
I wasn’t really attracted to the business in that sense. Like I explained earlier, it was my boss who introduced that line of business to me. We used to live in the same area then. He was the one that insisted I should just come over to join him.
It’s been how many years now that you’ve been in the business?
This is my third year, to the glory of God. I’ve been in the business for three years running now.
And how has it been so far?
Well, I would say things are moving really well. I can’t complain but to thank God.
What were the initial challenges you had to contend with when you first started?
There weren’t so many challenges. God really made everything go easy for me.
You mean things just picked up for you right from the very start?
Exactly, that’s what happened. You know, one thing about this life is that, once you’re blessed, you’re blessed.
Share with us a bit of your background, where were you born and raised?
I was born in Lagos, in Oshogbo street in Itire, Ijesha. My parents are from Abeokuta but I was born here in Lagos and grew up in Lagos. I am married to Mr. Usman and we have three children together, a girl and two boys.
Have you always wanted to be a businesswoman even in your younger days?
Yes, I have always wanted to be a businesswoman.
Did you get your flair for business from your mum?
Not really. You know, I went to Moshood Abiola Polytechnic and studied Business Administration. So, I have always loved business. My immediate plan was to go straight into business but God didn’t make it happen until it got to the right time he had prepared for me.
Having been involved in the business for about three years now, how viable do you think it is? Is it something you can advise a friend to go into with guarantee of getting back their investments?
Sure, yes, it’s a very lucrative business. If God says it’s your line, you will make it in the business.
What are the things involved for somebody who wants to go into this line of business?
Of course, like every other business, you must have good capital to start with. And then you must ensure you have identified your clients who are usually Chinese. You must have them ready and waiting to do business with you before you go into it.
It looks to me like a business that could be stressful for a woman, is that right?
Oh, yes, you’re very correct. It’s very stressful, I didn’t find it funny at first. I was really struggling to cope with the physical demands of the job. But that was at the initial stage. Presently, to God be the glory, I now have sufficient staff who handle the business operations for me and take care of the stress involved.
So, apart from the exportation business, what other business do you do?
Okay, I have about two trailers that I put on the road for commercial purposes. The trailers convey my goods as well as serve commercial purposes.
So, what are your plans to take the business to the next level in the next couple of years?
Personally, I want to leave everything in God’s hands. I don’t want to make any predictions. I will like to commit everything onto God and hope that He will take me far beyond my own expectations. In the next couple of years, I definitely should be greater than where I am now.