Amidst renewed calls for gender inclusion, Ichechi Okonkwo, CEO ofVictoria Crest (VCH), has supported calls for more female participation in the Nigerian real estate industry, asserting that Nigerian women can excel at anything they do if they have the right resolve and are willing to earn their place.
The property mogul was speaking during a recent edition of the Good Citizen radio show on Inspiration FM 92.3, as a guest on the show’s ‘Entrepreneur’ series. Sponsored by Sustainability Consulting firm, CSR – in- Action and Aspire Coronation Trust (ACT) Foundation, a grant making non-profit organization, and hosted by renowned sustainability advocate and consultant, Bekeme Masade Olowola, the Good Citizen show features discussions on pertinent public issues related to corporate citizenship in Nigeria.
“Anyone can excel anywhere, the only difference is your resolve,” said Okonkwo. “Most industries are male dominated. If you want to be there, you will do anything to ensure that you succeed there and earn your place. Find a way to own your place. You need to humble yourself and learn from those ahead of you.”
The Nigerian real estate sector accounts for 6.39% of the country’s GDP and contributes 2.78 trillion naira to the economy. Yet, there is a serious housing deficit in the country. Ichechi Okonkwo, fondly called the CEO of Lagos and her husband, Kennedy Okonkwo, the founder of VCH, are seasoned players in this industry and believe they can make a difference. VCH has provided top notch real estate services for over two decades, building over 3,000 residences and staying true to its vision of making aspirational living affordable.
During the show, Ichechi narrated her journey into the world of entrepreneurship and property development. The Industrial Chemistry graduate of Igbinedion University, Okada, and former banker met her husband, Kennedy Okonkwo, while she was working for Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB). To cater to the laundry needs of busy wives like herself, the mother of three founded Laundry King, now a renowned laundry firm in the Lekki area of Lagos. The business did so well that she had to resign from her job at the bank a few months later.
“After setting up the structures and operations for Laundry King, I got bored at some point because the business could now run on its own. I am the kind of person who likes to take on new challenges and needed to aim higher.”
According to the estate mogul, she kept going through so many business ideas with her husband. She would later join her husband at the Nedcomoaks group, to which VCH belongs.
“At some point, I got involved in one of our subsidiaries and began to handle its marketing. I wanted to be uniquely different. That is how I got into real estate and started working for VCH.”
In 2020, as Nedcomoaks expands its operations into other sectors of the economy, Ichechi Okonkwo was announced the CEO of VCH, with the mandate of taking the company to the next level.
“Your product must sell itself if you actually give the value that people are looking for. Growing up a lot of us wanted to have a lifestyle where we can have all the luxurious amenities like swimming pools, etc. VCH found a way to build this lifestyle into communities so we can grant middle class people access to this kind of lifestyle.”
Okonkwo, who is passionate about gender inclusion and women empowerment in the real estate sector, founded the Women in Real Estate and Development (WIRED) Africa Network to contribute to closing the gender gap in Africa by providing mentoring and networking opportunities for women in the continent’s booming real estate sector.
According to Ichechi, women should learn to adapt to situations to succeed in business.
“I am a fashionable woman; I love to wear high heels. But when I get to site, I pull them off, wear my sneakers or crocs and step into that sunshine everyone is avoiding. I ask the questions that need to be asked and seek the knowledge needed to succeed on the job.”
Finally, she advised women to be the best at handling both their families and their careers.
“You will find a way to integrate every aspect of your work life and family life. Learn to keep all your balls in the air without dropping them while juggling.”