Razaq Akanni Okoya:
The Tailor Who Became A Billionaire.
Chief Razaq Akanni Okoya. CON, who built his multi-million dollar Eleganza Business Empire from 20 Pounds, was born in Lagos, South-West Nigeria on January 12, 1940 to the family of Tiamiyu Ayinde and Alhaja Idiatu Okoya.
The only formal education he had was at Ansar-Ud-Deen Primary School, Oke-Popo, Lagos.
According to him:
“while in school, I could see my teacher in worn out and often shabby clothes and at the same time, I could see well-dressed businessmen at Dosunmu Street, the then heart of business in Lagos. So it was easy for me to choose business life.”
So, he made up his mind to become an entrepreneur at a very young age.
As he grew up, he worked for his father who was a very good tailor. They weren’t just sewing on-demand clothing for people, but were also making clothes for sale. They also made bicycle seat cover and sold tailoring accessories.
As a tailor, his father was fairly comfortable as he owned a Chrysler, and regularly used it to commute to see his clients. One of his clients was Chief Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, the father of Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
While working for his father, he engaged in his own side tailoring services like mending shirts and trousers for a fee and saved up every penny he made until he had £20, which was the equivalent of 40 Nigerian Naira in those days.
With that money, he decided to startup his own small scale trading.
At the time he started his business, a lot of people weren’t ordering items directly from the manufacturers, but somehow, he had stumbled upon a product catalogue of a manufacturer based in Japan; he studied their products and realised they could sell out, and so he decided to place an order. But he got stuck when he realised the value of the order was £70, meaning he was short of £50.
To make up his capital, he approached his mother for a loan, but being a respectful and submissive wife to her husband, she requested he should first ask for permission from his father for her to give him the loan, which he did.
After making up his capital, he placed the order for the items. Upon the arrival of the shipment, he realised that the quality of the products were far better than what was in the market already and also far cheaper. This helped him sell out quickly and place more orders within a very short space of time.
The quick turnovers helped his business to expand rapidly, and gave him the finance he needed to launch into other areas.
Having travelled to many countries around the world to see how things are done, he decided it was about time he started manufacturing his own goods.
Around this period, his first wife, Kuburat Okoya had an obsession with expensive jewellery. She was importing them at ridiculously expensive prices. He got fed up with the cost of the jewelleries, because of the abundance of raw materials in Nigeria.
Since the local demand for these jewelleries were high, he travelled abroad, bought some jewellery manufacturing machines, brought in some experts, and started manufacturing the jewellery at ridiculously low costs.
Shortly after the commencement of the Jewellery Manufacturing Arm of Eleganza Group, his success was overwhelming. They couldn’t keep up with the local demand since their prices and quality were really attractive. This led to a remarkable major breakthrough.
While he was manufacturing jewellery and buttons, he decided to venture into shoe manufacturing. What he did then, was to pay factories in Italy to manufacture the shoes for him and then export them to Nigeria. While this was going smoothly, his order suddenly stopped at some point, so he immediately flew to Italy to find out why they didn’t send in his goods and to his dismay, he realised they had used his money to settle their factory bills.
This angered him, and drove him to import machines and experts to train his workers on shoe manufacturing.
When asked about what motivated him, he said:,
“My father was a very good tailor and we were selling tailoring materials. We didn’t wait for people to bring materials; we were making clothes and sewing everything to sell. From shirts to trousers to bicycle seats.
My father was very industrious and enterprising. That gave me some inspiration.
I am from Cow Lane in Lagos. I looked forward, then, to becoming somebody in life. By the standards of those days, my father was comfortable. He owned a car, a Chrysler for that matter. Then, I used to ride with him in his car to his clients who were living in Ikoyi and its environs, people like Chief Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu, the father of Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.
I used to tell myself that one day I was going to live in one of those mansions. My main motivation was that I wanted to be rich and I knew I had to work very hard to get there.”
The Eleganza Group of Companies today employs over thousands of people and has multiple manufacturing subsidiaries in several places like Oregun-Ikeja, Isolo, Alaba, and Iganmu; producing items like seats, shoes, jewelleries, plastics, coolers, cutlery, ice chests, electric fans, cosmetics, pens, and a lot more.
His Group of Companies also includes a multi-million dollar properties investment arm called RAO Property Investment Company, and is generally one of the largest conglomerates in Nigeria today.
Razaq Okoya has an advice for young entrepreneurs,
“There is a huge market. You just need to be focused and know what you want. And more importantly, you have to work really hard to realise your dream.”
The life of this great industrialist is proof once again, that with hard work and dedication, any youth in Nigeria can turn his/her life around. Despite the difficulties and challenges in our environment, such as capital, infrastructures, etc. We also have many opportunities, which youths today can take advantage of.
If men like Razaq Okoya can achieve this much, in an era without mobile phones, powerful laptops, and no internet, Social. How much more can we achieve?
Today, Razaq Akanni Okoya lives in his magnificent and outlandish estate, known as: Oluwa Ni Shola Estate (The Lord Creates Wealth) at Lekki-Ajah Expressway. The Oluwa Ni Shola Estate, which is also described as an expatriates Estate because of the high number of expatriates living there.
The estate is well equipped with uninterrupted power and water supply, marble floors, central air-conditioning, sauna, lush gardens, billiard room, tennis court, swimming pools, expensive sculptures and lots more.
Success rightfully earned, is sweet.
If you are not too young to run, you are not too young to be wealthy.
Name: Razak Akanni Okoya
Born: 12 January 1940 (age 79)
Net Worth: $650 Million (December 2015)
Awards and Honours
Despite not having a formal education, Chief Rasaq Akanni Okoya has been a recipient of so many honorary awards from different higher institutions, some of which are listed below:
Aare of Lagos.
Lifetime Achievement Award of Business Entrepreneur by ThisDay Newspapers. The award was presented to Okoya by Bill Clinton, Former President of United States of America.
Lifetime Achievement Award by The Sun Newspaper
Fellow of the Institute of Corporate Administration by the Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers
Golden Award for Quality by the Nigerian Institute of Standards
Award of Honour by the Nigerian Institute of Estate Valuers
Certificate of Recognition by the Nigerian Real Estate (NREA).
DSc (Honoris Causa) by Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti, Nigeria
DSc (Honoris Causa) by Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Nigeria
DSc (Honoris Causa) in Business Administration by Crescent University, Abeokuta.
Commander of the Order of Niger (CON) the Federal Government of Nigeria
He is the Chairman of the Eleganza Group, and RAO Property Investment Company
Rasaq Akanni Okoya is an affable socialite, he is a staunch member of a number of social clubs in Lagos, including the high-profile Metropolitan Club, Yoruba Tennis Club and The Island Club. As a matter of fact, he has made tremendous contributions to the development and uplift of these clubs, all of which have erected appropriate plaques of recognition within their premises for him.
Eleganza Industries today boasts of thousands of employees spread across the country. He also has multiple manufacturing companies in different parts of Lagos, which produce other items such as plastics, jewelry, coolers, cutlery, electric fans, etc. Eleganza group of companies, through RAO property Investment, has also invested in properties around Lagos. One of such is the magnificent Oluwa Ni Shola Estate, located in Lekki in Lagos State.
“I keep to myself. I do not look at other people. I am content with myself. I do not look for cheap money. I am not interested in contracts and I do not expose myself to intrigues and politics.”
“You do not do business for the ego value. You go for what the people can afford. In business, you have to ensure that the masses are able to afford the cost of your products. That is one of my secrets.”
“My main motivation was that I wanted to be rich and I knew I had to work very hard to get there.”
“I have nothing against education. But at times, education gives people false confidence. It makes people relax, trusting in the power of their certificates rather than in working hard.”
The story of Chief Razaq Akanni Okoya, teaches us that…
There are opportunities for those who are willing to be diligent and faithful in what they can do with their minds and hands.
Be Inspired and Inspire Others.