This Tuesday afternoon, Chief Folashade Noimat Okoya is busy leafing through different files on her table. Dressed in a striking white sleeveless top, black trousers, a wristwatch dripping in diamond studs, the lady looks relaxed. She stirs the consciences of some of the most powerful women in the society where she goes because of her beauty and well-sculpt figure.
Wearing minimal make-up and with her long, dark hair loose, Shade, who has made sure her life was never a round of dinner parties and social engagements and visits to clothiers and jewellers, says, “since I assumed office as MD of Eleganza Industrial City, I have repositioned the company positively. Eleganza Industries Limited had suffered a major setback in the past, but because my husband, Chief Rasak Okoya, has a passion for the industry, the company came back on board again, bigger and better as Eleganza Industrial City Limited and the new direction is moving towards being a foremost producer of chairs, tables, coolers, baby diapers sanitary pads, luggage, pet bottles, soaps spanning over not just West Africa, but its product will also be exported all over the world.”
She is responsible for the day-to-day management of the company, which started operation in 2012 situated on over 35 hectares expanse of land along the Lekki Epe Expressway.
She gestures to one of her staff to bring a catalogue containing the company’s work, and says softly, “my business acumen and encouragement from my husband has always placed me on my feet. I also thank God for the good health, because without sound health I can’t do anything or plan.”
Born in Lagos on April 25, 1977, into the family of the late Alhaji Taju and Alhaja Nimota Adeleye, from Ijebu Ode in Ogun State, Folashade had her early education in Lagos, where she grew up. She read Banking and Finance at the Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, where she bagged an Ordinary National Diploma (OND). She later studied Sociology at the University of Lagos.
“I grew up in a family, where discipline was the watchword, a family that did not compromise on respect, irrespective of your age. When I grew up under those circumstances, I had no difficulty taking after my grandmother. She was everything to me. May her soul rest in peace,” she says.
The University of Lagos-trained sociologist giggles, “though, people would say that a child brought up by granny would be spoilt, mine was strict.”
The sixth of seven children confesses: “I had a strict, but loving upbringing. My childhood memories are still very fresh. My grandmother was very strict and apart from that, she was a businesswoman. I learnt part of that from her. Majorly, I was determined that I wanted to be a businesswoman when I grow up and make money for myself.”
She says, shrugging slightly, “my grandmother was there for us. I can still remember, in most cases, when I come back from school, my granny will go through my books to ensure that they are complete. Though she was not educated, she embraced education and watched me grow educationally from the cradle. She taught me how to tidy up the house, wash clothes clean and dress neatly.”
According to the lady, “what my grandmother was for us is what my mother is doing for my children. They know their parents are there, but the person the get to see most is their granny.”
She recalls with a wry smile, “my experiences in school were mixed, but I had always been moved by my grandmother to embrace education, remain focused and be prayerful. However, knowing and getting married to my husband catapulted me to my greatness today.”
Best known for her ebullient personality, Shade, who has been bestowed with traditional titles such as, Bewaji of Lagos, Otun Aare Iyalaje of Ajiranland, Yeye Oge of Epe Land and Ajisewa of Oke Ona Egba, has interest in many areas of business. Currently, she is the Managing Director of Eleganza Fashion Products Limited, Eleganza Cruise & Travels Limited, as well as a member Board of Eleganza Group and RAO Investment Property Company Limited.
“One of the greatest challenges of doing business in Nigeria is energy to power the industries, instability of FOREX and the importation of goods that are being produced locally and of high quality. When we were planning all these lines of our business, we never knew Forex was going to be an issue, but we are already in it. We thank God that we are surviving,” she says.
The company has over 2,000 workers thereby providing employment to the citizens of Lagos State and its environs. “Our vision is to be the foremost producer of various household items in Nigeria within the next two years. We also intend to commence the exportation of household items to other African countries.”
She insists, “with good policies on the ground, the business environment will blossom and the economy will improve.” You ask, what has been the greatest challenge of being Mrs Okoya? She says, “I have no challenge being Mrs Okoya. The challenge I have is working in Eleganza as the MD. Things are really difficult in the country now. The economy is not what it used to be. The challenge I have now is being MD of Eleganza Industrial City Company and running it day-to-day.”
She, however, adds: “At the initial stage of our married life, when I looked into the future of the business empire of my husband, but he taught me how to make use of every minute and today, I’m singing another song of success got from hard work and dedication to duties.”
She adds: “I’ve always looked forward to being a businesswoman. Being married to my husband has added to that. I don’t believe in failing. I get a little bit shy of failure. I don’t want to fail in whatever I tried to do. It’s a is a no-go area for me.”
Being married to the industrialist and businessman, Chief Rasaq Akanni Okoya CON, the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Eleganza Group of Companies, however, will pale to insignificance, if she is not a hard worker.
“These days, young people think that to get married to a wealthy man is to eat, spend money and be laid back. I don’t believe in the phrase ‘be pretty, sit down and enjoy.’ My husband made it very clear to me that he was not going to get married to a lazy person. So, I got my priorities right from the day one,” Shade enthuses.
Was it love at first sight for her and her husband?
“It wasn’t love at first sight because I was really young then. He didn’t pretend about the whole thing when he met me. He saw and liked me. He told me he wanted to marry me. I don’t know for him, but for me, it wasn’t love at first sight. I liked him as a person and he was really generous. Those were the qualities and attributes that contributed to where we are now,” the mother of four beautiful children says.
Both of them got married 18 years ago and every day has been love, love and love. She explains, “I met him at a really young age and he liked me and we both respected each other. He is generous to a fault and always very caring. I thank God for my life and it has been 18 years all along. I wish that he would be around for many more years in good health. He is my chairman and I work under him, he gives me my daily bread and thousands of others. I love working for him. Apart from the fact that when I finish from work, I have a wonderful home to go to, I have a happy family. My husband is amiable, full of fun and loving. There is never a dull moment being with him. I must confess that I’m fortunate to have my husband; he is very loving, caring and understanding. My advice to young ladies is to pray to God to lead them to the love of their heart.”
The hardworking wife has not allowed her busy schedules to affect the home, being a parent and her responsibility to domestic obligations. Shade jokes and chats with her children, while simultaneously tidying up, cooking a meal and checking their homework before going to bed.
Just like what my grandmother did for me, that’s what my mother is doing for my children.
“I create time for my family,” she says.
Is she an extrovert or introvert?
She draws a long laugh and says, “I don’t know. I’m both. I’m reserved and also an extrovert. I’m shy to a fault and people take my shyness to mean arrogance. I’m social, accommodative, and I hate to keep words in my mind. I believe that postponed issues remain inconclusive. With this practice, I trash issue and move forward.”
She enjoys attending parties and social functions. She also likes dressing fine, “because I’m a fashionista and a role model for other upcoming female entrepreneurs and high flyers.”
Gossips don’t get to Folashade. She says, “it’s only idle minds that gossip. I know what I do and I believe that people close to me know who I am. Gossips don’t get to me in any way.”
For Mrs. Okoya, “Nigerians are very lovely people, who are ready to render helping hands at times of needs. Very respectful and beautiful people. But I dislike the young ones taking the short route to riches, killing of innocent souls, stealing, fighting and quarrelling. I hate the corruption, fraud and the get-money-quickly spirit.”
On her beauty routine, she has this to say: “I don’t spend time on making myself up, let me correct that impression. I work in the factory, and our offices are still being constructed. I spend about 10 hours here on a daily basis, so, what kind of beauty routine do you expect other than getting home and hitting the bed. I’m a housewife and mother; so, I have to cook for the family. The kind of work I do here trims me naturally. I don’t have to go to the gym for anything else. I don’t compromise on what I want to eat. I’m particular about my food. If you eat right, you will look right.”
Shade Okoya’s hobbies include, cooking – and she loves everything about beans. “I used to eat a lot beans – gardening and travelling. Her best destination is Las Vegas.
The fashionable woman, highly sociable and generous, is also a renowned philanthropist and she is very supportive of her members of staff. She has also built a commendable bridge of good relationship not just with her family but also across the society.
She has been bestowed with awards such as, Most Valuable Business Executive of the Year, in 2014, conferred on her by the board of trustees and Advisory Council of International Centre for Corporative Leadership for African and Blacks in Diaspora, Accolades International Magazine Limited Glamour Woman of the Year Award in 2016 by the Association of Media Woman Rewarding Excellence Women and Change Ambassador by Centre of Change in Community Development & Public Awareness – Dr Joe Odumakin Partnership programmes with United Nation.
She was also given a Lifetime Achievement Merit Award 2015 by Intern Center for Comparative Leadership for African Blacks in Diaspora Newline Communication and Style Personality of the Year 2012 by the Glams ‘n’ Essence. She is also a Patron of FADAN Association of Nigeria and has a Doctor of Science DSC (Honoris Causa) in Business Management and Corporate leadership by the senate of European American University.
Written By Gregory Austin Nwakunor and culled with permission from Guardian.NG