For Adeola Falomo, success didn’t happen by accident: it was the result of hard work, perseverance, learning and sacrifices and above all, her passion for her new found love. The Chief Executive Officer of Courage Decor and Events is a chartered insurer and was at one time on the board of Lagos State Assurance Company, from where she set out to pursue her dream and accordinding to her, she has never regretted that move. In this interview she talks about her passion for decor, marriage and other issues.
How did your ‘marriage’ with interior decoration start?
First, let me tell you that I am a chartered insurer and I also have a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. But even with these qualifications, I didn’t find fulfilment. I have always loved decorations. I have always loved beautifying things and this made me pursue my dream. Initially, it wasn’t easy because I was working at that time.
Moreover, I had problem with funding. Then I got an opportunity to learn about interior decoration, which I did over four and half days. Then I was sent forth to go and seek contract jobs for myself, and if I got any, I should come back for guidance on what to do. Of course, none of us could get a job and there was no way we could go back to ask for anything. So, I had no choice but to start with family and friends, taking whatever peanuts they gave to me. However, I didn’t let that deter me and I put every effort into whatever they gave me to do.
At what stage did the business start off?
I didn’t leave full time employment until 2009 but before resigning I was combining my office work with the business. You could say that the business has existed for about 10 years. I feel excited because the money I couldn’t make in my profession, I have been able to make in interior decoration. Apart from the money, there is the satisfaction, the connection and more. Everything about décor is beautiful, inside and outside. You are a happier person and when you see something beautiful you created with your hands, the joy that you get from it is boundless.
Was there a time you got overwhelmed by the challenges that you wanted to throw in the towel?
Not really. I thank God for who He is. Anytime I feel discouraged about a job, God will always come up at the nick of time. I don’t need anyone to tell me that I am in the right direction.
What are the memorable moments you can recall in this business?
There was this job that I did for Trendy B, a popular planner, and it was called #Laoye 2015. The amount offered was small but I went to execute the contract. The mother of the groom (who is now late) was someone very close to me. I considered her as a sister from another mother. She knew me and encouraged me to go and use what I had. Meanwhile, the planner had something very different from what I had. It was a bit of a challenge to me but I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to give up and I gave it my best. A whole lot of things came up from that job and I got more than 10 referrals.
What are some of the challenges in this job?
The major challenge we have is space. You can see this big building that we have taken. You need space to store your goods properly. People want to see something neat, very well kept. And you have got to have space to keep them. I can tell you that some of the items we have here date back to 2016, but because we kept them properly, you can always get them in use. So, storage is number one challenge. The second challenge is that some of those things get obsolete and you have to sell them off. Then you have the challenge of competition and people cutting prices just because they want to do something.
How do you stand out in this sector that is highly competitive?
My unique selling point is my ability to interpret the dreams of my customers with flowers. For me, in the last 12 months, I have tried to create a niche with flowers. I have lots of flowers and a lot of people love it. That has helped the brand to stand out. We have very neat and exclusive decorations.
How do you juggle this with family life?
You have to have a very understanding family to be successful. I am 55 and my last baby is 18 years; he is in the university. In the early part, I was working in the office and it was easy to cope. Now that I am on my own, you can see me resting on a Monday because most of the weekends, I am at work. I have been here since yesterday morning, I have not gone home. My husband came this morning with his friend to wish me well. So, I have an understanding husband.
Sometimes, you don’t even know that you are going to sleep on site. You just have to plan ahead. I bless God that I have been able to balance everything.
For a lot of people in business, having good personnel is usually a problem. What is your experience?
It has not been easy. Somehow, I would say that I have suffered in the past. Some would take your stuffs when you are not there.
You travel abroad and before you come back, they go to the store to take things. By the time you discover that those things are missing, you just can’t pinpoint the person who took it. Now probably because I am older, I listen more and I understand them better. When you listen to them, you find out that they are also human. I also train them a lot and the mentoring has brought a lot of changes. I give them motivational talks and encourage them.
What was life like growing up?
I have always been a fashionable person. I love looking good. When I wanted to get married, my mum told my husband that the only thing he can do and I won’t appreciate was if he didn’t have a mirror in the house. Then, I would stand in front of the mirror for so long; I didn’t really like make-up. It was just the natural me standing in front of the mirror, admiring myself or just putting my Indian chain on my head and all that. I just like to stand out.
Did you pick this from your mom?
No, it was my father, the fashionista of the highest order. He had curly hair and he dressed well. He was tall, handsome and he worked with the British Council Library then. He was an administrative officer there. He loved education and he made sure that all his children went to good schools. My mom wasn’t literate but she had to go to adult school at a stage. Her reason was to be able to sign the register for her children when they were getting married. When the first child got married, somebody had to sign for her and that was when she made up her mind to go back to school, if only to sign for her children. She was a full time housewife, but when my father died, she went back to school.
What do you admire about her?
She is my jewel. Today would have been her birthday. The day is so special because my son also turns 28 today.
Where do you see the business in the next five years?
I see it going places. I started with sales but when I had issues with staff stealing, I stopped and went into rentals. But with the space I have and the things I want to do now and the fact that we are growing, I am looking forward to starting the Blossom Courage Event Centre.
What advice do you have for young people who want to go into this line of business?
My advice is that they should, as much as possible, try to satisfy every client. I don’t go to parties; the only way I get my jobs is through referrals.
It is important to be serious with your job. Once they know this, then they would refer other people to you. Also they should not just do the job for the love of the money but do it with passion. I tell people that it doesn’t matter what I am wearing, when it comes to decoration, I can sit on the floor and do my job. I don’t care how much the clothes is worth because I made the money from décor.