Deaconess Victoria Bolanle Oginni is a pioneer. What all of us know today in Nigeria as pure water (or sachet water if you like) was started by her. This was over a decade ago in Oyo State and after what could be described as her miraculous encounter with an ‘angel’. Forever giving her support to just causes, the mother of four who is married to Engr. Edward Oginni narrated the story of Blessed Water to YES International! Publisher/Editor in Chief, AZUH ARINZE, on Tuesday, September 18, 2012. This was at the new multi-million structure acquired by the company on Kosoko Street, Ojodu-Berger, Lagos. Enjoy…
What makes a good businesswoman?
A good businesswoman must be honest and have the fear of God in whatever she is doing. It’s not basically about profit. Yes, you are in business to make profit, but don’t let profit be the only thing. You must be honest and have the fear of God.
Why do most people fail in business?
There are two ways to it. You know at times you don’t separate yourself from the business – most of the people spend above what they realize. Some people don’t even know that the money they have is not for them, but the business money. They have to separate themselves from the business and they should not put so many things into their mouths. Some people go into many things which may not be okay for them and if you want to be a good business person, there’s no way you will do a business for five years…if you can survive that first five years, you are on top of the business. The first five years is usually the most dangerous period. Because before five years, you can’t get anything; you won’t even know that you are doing business. But after five years, you will start getting money. Now, if you get the money, if you are not careful between those five to ten years, somebody can fall. Because it happened to me. When we started, I saw that the money was coming and we had a lot of money in my account. I felt that people were just like me. I employed so many people. Then it got to a stage, I didn’t know those people that I employed very well. I just bought five cars for my staff in one day! I did that to make them happy. Days later, my auditor asked me to tell them to be paying N10,000 every month for it and I increased their salaries by N10,000. Now, let me tell you the reason for that: I did not separate myself from the business. I didn’t even know how much my profit was then. And since they knew that I was selling and I had a big business, this family member will come I will give him N200,000 and that one will come, I will say ah, uncle, take this car. That’s what kills business.
What is the biggest mistake that most business people make?
The biggest mistake is that they want people to see them and know that they’ve arrived. If you really want to be a business person, you will spend only your own salary from that business. Not the business money. And the other biggest mistake we make is that when we take money from the bank, so many of us feel that the money is free money. We forget that we have to pay that money back. So, when they see too much money in their hands, they dabble into so many things that will not fetch them anything; like structures. Imagine somebody that borrowed N25 million from the bank. You want to use it to put up a structure; your own personal building. You have to do the calculation and ask yourself: am I going to gain N20 million from this? If I’m going to gain N20 million, what are the things I must do? Even if N10 million is free, use the remaining N10 million to do something that will help you to write off the loan. But most people, they will take that money, they will first of all, build their house, buy cars and that’s how the problem starts and the business suffers for it.
Why do most people succeed in business and fail in marriage?
Some people, when they have small money, their wives or husbands become nothing. Men, if they have money, or they are successful, their wives, they don’t appreciate them again. They will be looking for another one and that one will feel threatened. But women! I am appealing. The money is for both of you. Most women who do that don’t have the fear of God and some of them didn’t expect the positions they found themselves in. God just puts some people in certain positions. They are not really qualified for it. Because if you have the fear of God in you, whether Christian or Muslim, when you have money, you should know that the money is not meant for only you. It’s for the family. And some people cannot bear insults because of little money. Therefore, anything that the husband says will mean something else. Some women cannot cook for their husbands again because they are richer. And the man will be feeling somehow, because she’s somebody that used to cook for you; doing everything for you. Now, the person comes back anytime and feels she can be on her own. That’s why I tell my children, and in the church those people that I’m counseling, I tell them that you cannot eat your cake and still have it. Even the Bible said it that you have to respect your husband. And men, when you have little money, remember the person that struggled with you when there was nothing. The new person you want to marry, if not because of your money, the person will not marry you. And some women, after sometime, they feel that their husbands are no longer their match. They will now be looking outside. Money is not everything and money is not meant for one person. It may be from the wife, it may be from the husband. But anybody that God gives it to should remember that it is for both of them.
When you started Blessed Water, what gave you the confidence that you would make money from the business?
My mother used to say something and I respect my mother very well. It’s just a pity that she had me when she was very old. I think she had me at the age of 52 or 53. My mother said you must work hard. If you want to dress well, you have to work hard. So, I put that one at the back of my mind; that anything I put my hands to do, I will prosper. I have done many businesses. I have a big poultry, I have a big boutique and my husband used to be a General Manager in WAPCO before he retired. A long time ago when I was teaching, this was in 1975. One woman, it was raining that day and one taxi splashed water on her. I bought a bottle of water. That was when they used to put water in bottles and sell. It was a kobo per bottle then. So, I bought one and I cleaned the woman up. The woman was holding a Bible. She said ah, my daughter! This water that you used to help me, your mother did not tell you to do that. Ah, that’s the only thing you can do in this world and you will make it. And immediately, I said God, why did I help this woman? How could she pray for me that I will be selling water? It’s ‘bottle water’ O! The water that you pour into a bottle! That’s what they were selling then. I said God, why did I help this woman? But later on, I started doing lolly pop, doing so many things. One day, my son did not go to school, so he took the nylon of lolly pop and just sealed it. When I came back, I wanted to beat him because he had wasted all the nylons. But from no where, I heard don’t forget what that woman said. Interestingly, after that encounter with the woman, she just disappeared. It was as if she’s an angel. That was how I got the idea. So, the printer that was printing the lolly pop nylon, I went to him, I said can you change this thing into a bigger one for me so that I can start something else. The man did it, but it’s not up to half of what we are using now. Nobody accepted it, so I now discussed with a friend. It’s only Ragolis and Swan water that were available then. So, somebody now said that he had seen something like what I had in mind, but it was juice; in Denmark. Incidentally, my husband was about to go to Denmark. So, I told him to please help me to buy those things. So, when he brought them, I had to explain to the printer how to modify it because the machine we were using was different. He did it and I started. And that was how I pioneered sachet water business in Nigeria. So, I know that there is nothing you lay your hands on, if you are hard working, you are going to succeed. But you may not see the profit immediately; it may be rough at the beginning. I started with my boutique, doing buying and selling. But with the help of God, you can see where we are today. You have to improve on what you are doing. I do ask questions, I tell my children, they will go to internet. Even my children abroad, they go to seminars for me and when they come back, they say mummy, this is the new idea we want to try, this is what we will apply. So, we work together and when you are not selfish, you want others to grow with you, you are going to succeed.
How does it feel to have pioneered the pure water business in Nigeria?
I feel very happy, I feel great, but I pray to God that…because so many people, when they enter the business, before three years, they can’t face the challenges. They will just dump it and run away. It’s not like that. We too faced a lot of things. We paved the way for them. So, I feel very great that I started this business and many people are into it today. The problem we are having is that people don’t stay in the business for long.
What is the best way to overcome the challenges that come with the business?
They have to put it at the back of their minds that it’s not immediately they will get their profit. You will run it for at least one year without any salary. You will even struggle to pay your staff salaries and at the same time, you have to build the quality; same for the people. Because some people want to cut corners. When you cut corners, the people taking your water know, because they are not fools. Because when you take something today and it’s not palatable, tomorrow you won’t patronize it again. Presentation also matters a lot. If you see where some people are producing their water, you will feel sorry that they are into the same business with us. And some people in the business lack good education. Not education as per going to school. But to learn from other people. You ask, you grow. If they cannot learn, they cannot grow. Some people will just go and get a consultant. A consultant is somebody, may be a clerk that they employed in one pure water business, he stole their money, they sent the person away, the person will now go out; if NAFDAC sacks somebody, he will say he’s a consultant. Those are the people they are running after. So, those are the things.
With how much did you start Blessed Water?
Why do most people give up in life, business, marriage and so on?
It’s lazy people that give up on things. My dear brother, God forbid bad thing, if anything happens to Blessed Water today I can use N5000 to start my life again. It’s lazy people that depend on other people. How can I be begging when I can use my two hands to work? Do you know that there are a lot of opportunities in Nigeria that people cannot see? We do not tap one-tenth of the opportunities in Nigeria. The people don’t think and can’t see. When other people are doing one business, everybody will rush there or they have this mind of working for somebody; they don’t have the mind of starting something on their own. They are afraid of so many things. One, they are afraid of not failing. If you don’t fail in one business, you cannot succeed in another business. If one business does not pull you down, there is no way you will succeed in another business. It’s not everybody that can be a producer. There are so many people that buy my water; they have their vehicles. There is one man in Ibadan, everyday he pays like N250,000 into our account. He will use it to collect goods. He has about four trucks, and he’s selling it (the water). There is one man that has a cold room, he’s an engineer. He retired from Chevron. We have begged that man to do other things he refused. He said all he wants to do is the cold room business, ice drinks and sell iced blocks. So, there are so many opportunities in Nigeria that we do not tap.
What is the greatest sacrifice you have made for the success of your business?
A lot O! A lot! Because at some point, I had to dispose off my house. Even my mother‘s gold that she gave me, I had to sell it. I had to do certain things. The business grew more than me and we had to expand suddenly. I was so stupid then I took money from the bank and I tied the capital down. It was a long-term project, but I took a short-term loan to finance it, which now tied my hands and made it a little difficult then to breakthrough. But with God and a strong mind that even if I fail I will rise again, I was able to overcome.
Which location exactly did you start Blessed Water from?
From Shagamu (in Ogun State).
When did it now occur to you to move to Lagos, the centre of action?
When we started, I started with my 504. I used to carry it with my 504 and sell. Later, when the demand became too much for me, I bought a small bus. My driver will drive the small bus and I will drive the other one. Later, we bought two cabsters (pick up). One day, the driver did not come and I just jumped into it, I drove it. But at the initial stage when I wanted to move it, it was difficult. But after that day, it became easy. So, since then I could deliver on my own. We were going to Ibadan from Shagamu. But for about three times, the vehicle had an accident and I just felt that why can’t I get a place in Ibadan? That was what made me to open another factory in Bodija, Ibadan. So, the factory in Bodija started and we have two now by the grace of God. The Oshogbo own, there was a brother that I put there. But because he’s a family member, he didn’t do well and I just abandoned it. In Abeokuta, I’m doing very fine there; in Shagamu, if you see my factory, you will thank God for me. The big mistake I made was the Opebi (in Ikeja, Lagos) office. We needed a corporate office, but I forgot to locate it where it would be closer to the consumers. Don’t forget, sachet water is for average people. So, that didn’t serve the purpose. The water at Shagamu is okay and that’s where we are producing our dispensers, because I didn’t want to compromise the quality…
What year did you come to Lagos?
We came to Lagos in 2002. That was 10 years ago.
The name, Blessed Water, how did you come about it?
God did it. One of my daughters, her name is Elizabeth. I wanted to use Lizzy and the sister, Funmi said, mummy, you also have to put Funmi. Dele, my son, said no mummy, it is me. All of them wanted their names. So, I said okay, everybody write your names. They wrote everything. I attached their daddy’s own and my own, Victoria. And I said I wanted an English name; not our local name. So, we started toying with them. But my small boy, he said mummy, I want blessing. Why can’t we use blessed. He wrote it for me and said mummy, take this and I took it and I prayed. I said God, show me the name. For seven days, I prayed, I fasted. Do you know what happened? As if I was in a trance, somebody just brought that name, put it on the wall and now used blessed to cover it. That is why we have all the other names with blessed covering them. But I didn’t see what they wrote under. I only saw blessed and I said yes, I’ve got the name.
Your child, the one that suggested the name, Blessed, what is his name?
What is your dream for Blessed Water?
I will still go to Ghana, because I’ve brought in my first son to assist. He came in from the U.K. He’s now at Ibadan (Oyo State) and my daughter who is working with an investment bank in the U.K, I’ve been appealing to her and the husband that they should please come down and join me because we are taking it to the next level. You know already they are selling our water in the U.K? In Peckham, they are selling Blessed Water. We carry the water from Nigeria to even go and do this expo. We started in 2010. It was only last year that we didn’t go. But we are going this year.
Is there really money to be made from pure water business, because most people see pure water as something for the poor?
There is money in the business, but not immediately. The reason why I said that is because people should be patient. Then, you too have to do a quality work to make money out of it. But if you want to cut corners, that will be a big mistake.
What is the greatest thing that Blessed Water has done for you?
I can’t believe it! So many people don’t even know I’m the owner (Laughs). They think it’s one big woman. One day, I walked into an event. I was putting on a pair of jeans and T-shirt and they said where is your oga? I said when she comes, you will know. And someone that knew me, after laughing, said she’s the one. So, what really gives me joy is the fact that I pioneered something and that thing is moving and that I’m in one business that everybody accepted and it’s really, really, really good.
Why do you want Blessed Water to do for you that it hasn’t done yet?
Sometimes we have too many challenges. I send too many people to school. I want to do more of that, because without education in this world, you are not somebody. I want to turn ‘nobodies’ to ‘somebodies’. So, what I’m praying for the company to do is to give scholarship to as many people as possible so that they will have their own lives. There are so many people that are coming behind us and I believe that if people can get a little opportunity, they can even be better than Goodluck Jonathan. But because there is no opportunity of going to school, they are stuck.
Tell us about your family?
My husband is Engr. Edward Olajide Oginni. By the grace of God, he spent several years in West African Portland Cement before he retired as their General Manager. My children are Dele, Funmi, Laide and Ope. We (my husband and I) started little, and God just helped us. Right from the time I married him, he was a senior manager at WAPCO. He’s humble and we have been managing our lives. Initially, I had difficulty in bearing children. That’s why I advice people to put their hope in God. But after sometime God took control of that. I had about four miscarriages and my mother in-law said there won’t be any wedding until I took in. My mother also insisted that she will not allow me to move into their house. Anyway, all that is history now. I usually step down for my husband because he is the head of the family. I still cook for my family. Nobody can cook for me. Every Sunday, I go to the Sunday market to buy things, do my purchase, cook for my husband and sometimes if I want to wash my clothes, I carry his own, wash them, then somebody will come and iron for me. I love to do things.
How did you meet your husband and what attracted you to him?
Actually, I don’t know O! (General laughter)
What year did you meet him?
That was 1975. I was about to travel, so I forgot my passport in my hometown. I went to see my mum and I gave it to her to keep. It wasn’t even my husband I wanted to marry. The person I wanted to marry was going to the U.K. But because he (Bayo) was in Lagos, I had to go to my town, Gbagan. I wanted to quickly go, so that we can travel that night. I was teaching then and we were on holiday. And my husband now was going to Ife with his friend. I was the first person inside a commercial bus. I sat in the front and after they got about 18 people going to Ilesha, they asked me to come down and I said no way! You have to manage me, because if I knew that this is what you would do, I would have joined the other vehicles that were going to my town. We were arguing and they were now passing. His friend, Uncle Layi Olowu, said a beautiful lady like you, fighting agberos; let me carry you and I said how much? He said no; that they were going to Ife to see his girlfriend. That they could drop me on the way. I said okay. Because I was in a hurry, I had to join them. Then, things were not as bad as this. I didn’t have any motive O! Honestly speaking. But as we were going, they asked for my name, I said Titi. But in my lesson note, I had to close and I had to give it to somebody. So, as a teacher, I was carrying my pupils’ report. So, I was writing it in the car so that I will drop it for my friend that was coming to meet me. Unfortunately for me, when I wanted to drop, I forgot my lesson note inside the car and my name and the name of my school were all there. They later found the things and the second day, they started looking for Titi. And Uncle Layi now said we shouldn’t even be looking for Titi. Were you expecting that girl to tell you her real name? Check the name on the lesson note and they now saw it and my father’s name, Olopade. They took it to my family compound. My father was the second in command in the town. My people thanked them, but they said they will not drop it; that they must see me. My husband left for the school where I was teaching then (Saint Patrick’s Primary School, Abebi, Ibadan) when they told him that I had travelled. They told him when we were resuming and everything. So, when I came back, I didn’t recognize him again. He asked, do you know me? I said I don’t know you. He said but we helped you. I said you didn’t help me O! And I just walked away. He now said your lesson notes are with me. We were the ones that gave you a ride the other day and I said thank you very much. He said we’ve been to your town and I said why? ‘Do you know that I’m about to marry?’ He said marry who? I said my husband. Please, don’t let my husband see you. You have to go. He said why? I can also be your husband. I said God forbid! He asked if it was because he didn’t bring any car and I said it was not. Which car? But you can see how God works. I didn’t know that we will have problem with the family of the man I wanted to marry. The man was the son of the king of my town and my father was the second in command, and they were not in good terms. They said they will retaliate with me, so they now put all sorts of nonsense on my head. They even said they will kill me. As I was thinking about all the wahala, this one came. So, I told the other man, don’t call me again O, they said your family will kill me. I’ve got someone else. He said he will kill himself. And that was how I started with the new man and before we knew it, God took over, we got married and He has been blessing us since then.
NB: First published December 2013
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