When in November 2012, she made Forbes mention as the 24th on Africa’s 40 richest list, it jolted many. With a net worth of $600m, Folorunsho Alakija was announced Nigeria’s richest woman. If you think this would make her talk about money or how she made hers, you are wrong.
The business mogul is however quick to define wealth in her own words:
“Wealth is beyond money and affluence. It can be classified as a large amount of something, ranging from experience to talent. It is a word that quantifies and qualifies anything. For instance, you could say someone has a wealth of interesting qualities. Many people have said the same to me because there are so many parts to who I am, who I have become and who God has created me to be. I am a businesswoman, a fashion designer and milliner by profession.“The word wealth qualifies and measures one’s success in achieving set targets and goals, prosperity, and blessings. Blessings can be in the form of good health, the education of children and even living to a ripe old age. Therefore, a wealthy woman is someone who has been able to achieve some, all or even more than these because grace for wealth is unlimited from our God. He desires to bless us all on a daily basis. We just need to learn how to key into it so that we do not limit ourselves,” she says.The executive vice chairman, Famfa Oil Limited, she founded Supreme Stitches, which later changed to Rose of Sharon House of Fashion, a fashion label that catered to upscale clientele.
Speaking further about her relationship with God, she said “I heard the call of the Lord into Christian ministry many years ago but I was reluctant to yield to the call.
“I believe that my passion for fashion was hugely responsible as I was definitely enjoying what I was doing for a living, although in hindsight, it was really a fulfilling and successful hobby because I was not dependent on it. The zeal to succeed in whatever I decide to do, drove the business. I don’t design clothes any more except the odd ones I may choose to design when I commission such through another fashion designer.”
She also runs a non-profit organisation, the Rose of Sharon Foundation, which she says has changed the lives of hundreds of widows, their children and orphans.
Born in 1951, to the Ogbara family in Ikorodu, Lagos State, she is from a Muslim polygamous family of 52 children. Being the eighth from her father and second from her mother, she says her relationship with 45 other siblings is cordial. “God gave my father the grace to provide for all of us and send more than three quarter of us to England and America to study. My other sibling and I were the first to go. The four years that I spent at such a young age abroad, impacted positively on my life,” she states.
“I was in boarding school and we were the only blacks in the school. I regret that the school building which is one of the most cherished buildings in Wales, has been sold. If I had learnt years ago that it was up for sale, I would have bought it and turned it into a health club. I remember with nostalgia, the etiquette lessons we got-elocution, horse riding, singing lessons, stamp collection, etc. I learnt a lot in those four years. I had to come back quickly because my father didn’t want me to imbibe the western culture to the detriment of our own culture,” she adds.
Never assume that her successes could hinder a blissful marital life. The mother of four, who is now a grandmother, says the success of any marriage depends on respect and submission. To her, a woman can be successful in business and at the home front.
“Personally, I always make sure I seek the support and approval of my husband in whatever I plan to do, either for the day or for the future. This is because I strongly believe he is the head of our home and God is in the centre. As we honour and respect our husbands, God honours and uplifts the work of our hands. He guides and directs us and prospers our plans as a result. I also make it a point of duty not to shirk my responsibilities to my children,” she states.
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