Nigeria Business & Finance Updates

Failure happens when you don’t try at all – Umerah

Olisa Umerah, 29, a real estate entrepreneur, is the CEO of Xymbolic. He tells TOLUWALOPE KAREEM about his journey into real estate

How would you describe yourself?

I am a developer, trainer and investor. I studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Port-Harcourt. When I was in school, my dream was to graduate with a first-class and get a very good job.

Along the line, I read Robert Kiyosaki’s book, Rich Dad/Poor Dad, and changed my mind to be an entrepreneur. I realised that I was passionate about creating solutions and driving innovations that added value to people’s lives. I started off trying to provide solutions to problems.

I run a fast-rising real estate firm technologically driven to provide housing solutions in Nigeria. Our services range from real estate advisory to consultancy, investment, and sales.

What prompted the switch from chemical engineering to real estate?

I got interested in real estate when I was in the university. I wanted to be an entrepreneur but did not know how to go about it initially. I started by selling petroleum products (kerosene) but the business crashed.

Three years later, I met someone called Mr Tony Aspire and he basically introduced me to the real estate industry.

How did you start your business?

After I graduated from university, I did not apply for any job. To my mother and friends, it did not make sense that I wanted to pursue a career in business rather than get a well-paying corporate job. They were worried that I was going past the recruitment age. The future did not look so bright as well because I invested all my NYSC allowance on self-development.

However, I became a realtor through Mr Tony. I had to struggle to get the registration fee (which was just a little over a thousand Naira at the time) to join the Billionaire Realtors Group.

It turned out to be a great opportunity as I made my first million from the venture. I could remember that day vividly. I was on a motorcycle when I got the credit alert. My heart was beating so fast and I couldn’t scream even though I wanted to.

I sold a few more properties but the euphoria and excitement did not last long. I was tired of the regular and wanted to be more. I did not want to keep being a realtor. I wanted to develop properties. That was how I started Land and Houses in 2016.

What were the challenges you faced in the beginning?

When one’s eyes are on the prize, challenges are just stepping stones to one’s final destination. The prize, for me, was never the money but being able to add value to my clients and become a disruptive force in the real estate world.

Also Read:  LAPO Appoints Ikponmwosa MD/CEO

That being said, the first challenge was money. I started with little or no capital. There were days I went without food because I was investing all I had on knowledge acquisition. At the initial stage, there was the issue of paying salaries and financing other activities. I had to make more sales to pay my employees. To a point, I forgot to pay myself.

Secondly, the issue of trust became a challenge. The real estate business in Nigeria is finally gaining momentum and individuals are comfortable entrusting developers with their money. I had to show I was capable of selling first as a realtor, before moving on to becoming a real estate developer.

I started the company with two staff from the comfort of my living room which was converted to an office. When I was getting too comfortable and felt the business needed a better structure, we launched Xymbolic in 2019. So, Land and Houses has metamorphosed into Xymbolic.

How have you grown the company from what it was to what it is now?

It is a product of my knowledge tank. At the beginning, I didn’t have any money.

I started a live video channel on Facebook with my phone titled ‘Real Estate Live With Olisa’. I did not know if it was going to help promote my business; I just wanted to help people. I wanted them to know more about real estate investment opportunities. I invited a lawyer to speak on the platform because I was scared that people won’t listen to me at first. 15 minutes into the video, we had no presence online. In the end, we had 37 people watch that video that day.  I consistently created content on the platform. Soon, people started listening to me, and looking forward to the posts. My first few clients came from that platform. Finally, we moved it from Facebook to YouTube.

How much capital did you start with?

I started with a million naira I had set aside from Lands and Houses. Also, a lady invested N2m, and we gave her equity. It wasn’t enough but we had to strategically manage what we had. Today, we have two estates and the business is growing rapidly.

What differentiates your firm from other real estate companies in the country?

We are empathetic and passionate about our clients’ needs. We offer real estate services beyond the functionalities. Being customer-centric drives the business. Our clients are our number one priority. We listen to them and refine our processes based on the feedback we get from them.

Also Read:  Adopt 3-step formula of the rich to make money

What do you think is the future of real estate in Nigeria?

The future of real estate is technology. We are now in the digital era. And that is why my firm is looking towards launching a digital network investment solution, where people can invest from anywhere in the word without any physical ownership. We want to provide a virtual ownership platform that would enable people to liquidate anytime, and this would be backed up by real properties.

This market will continue to grow with continued innovative solutions to real estate. Currently, Nigeria has a population of about 190 million and the housing deficit is still at twenty-two million. According to the chief economist of Price Waterhouse Coopers, by 2050, Nigeria’s population would have increased by an extra two million. What happens to the housing deficit then? How would we solve that problem? It is either we have new real estate developers emerging in the future, the government swings into action to bridge the gap, or a partnership between the government and private sector happens to solve these housing problems.

What’s your advice to young realtors and developers?

Go for it! Failure doesn’t happen when you start something and it didn’t yield the expected outcome. Failure happens when you don’t try at all. I had so many ideas that could have blossomed but I ‘killed’ them because I allowed other people to project their fears on me.

Learn to keep quiet about your goals. Start something first, and when you are halfway in it, you can talk about it to others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CAPTCHA ImageChange Image