By Ayo Alonge
Emmanuel Kelechukwu is the Chief Executive of Kayceelaw Properties Ltd, a fasting growing real estate startup in the country.
In this interview, the entrepreneur bares mind on challenges,competition, funding and patronage in real estate industry.
I would say I have always been entrepreneurial from time. I have many memories of little business ventures, as a child, even while in Law School. I supplied almost all the mosquito nets used by the students in Yola. Basically, I have always had an entrepreneurial flair.
But shortly after my service year, I decided to stay in real estate, because I saw a little about real estate while working at the mortgage bank. I was employed by a private real estate firm where I worked for about a year, and from there I saw the operation of a small real estate firm. I then thought to myself that I can do this if I can start small. So, I began back then with a phone that I had. It was actually a gift, that was when I started my page. I took pictures of houses and posted on Instagram but it was basically on Instagram then. I will take a picture of a house and put the prices up. Gradually, I started getting request to help people find houses for rent. I was doing that, aside being a lawyer. I was also preparing agreement for such documents for such transactions and gradually people started trusting me and I began getting bigger deals.
Our niche is already embedded in our name as a Kaycee Law Properties; the fact that it is being run by a team of lawyers, headed by a lawyer as well. People tend to trust you when they see the title Esq attached to your name.
For the records, KC Law Group has never obtained a loan, personal or governmental. We are strictly self-funded because we believe in slow growth rather than rising and crashing. Our capital literally came from our income. Right from the get-go, we were already selling and getting commissions, drafting agreements, or even renting and getting commissions so growth was coming just as our income was coming. As funds were coming in, we were reinvesting and we were growing slowly.
Honestly, there are a huge number of dishonest people in real estate, which really affects the trust ratio. There are clients who do not trust real estate people because they have heard stories and seen things. So, everybody is apprehensive. When you are talking to a customer, you do 50 percent work for the customer and then you do 50 percent work again, convincing him or her that you are not trying to defraud him. That is almost like a major job in real estate. Even after you start up the business relationship, they still have very little trust and that is because they have lots of experiences. Another thing is that of staffing, Nigeria’s educational system has affected the possibility of getting quality staff and for a startup, we do not go for high-end employees.
Luckily, I am a legal practitioner and that cuts the distrust level by half. My other colleagues might be facing that as well. The moment they find out I am a lawyer, there is a lot of confidence in whatever transaction we are going through. And also, another way is to convince them, show my track record, ask them to visit my page to see what I have done before. Every post on Instagram is still there. We do not delete the posts. If you scroll down, you can actually see the history of our company, so that helps sometimes to make them trust you.
On staffing, the only way we can tackle that is to put in the funds to get really experienced staff and hope they can bring in the input to work that you pay for. So, that is basically a way you can tackle that or maybe get some staff and train them.
I don’t see competition. I see partners and collaborators. I see people I could do business with because real estate is wide. You can’t sell everything. You can’t build everything. You can’t literally get to everyone. Abuja is a big place so I see every other person in real estate as a partner. Yes, and I do business with these partners all the time. It is always a good feeling when we come together and we share our money as real estate practitioners. I do not see any competition. By God’s grace, when we have more projects on ground, I plan to bring in people in the same line of business to market my products so why should I see them as competitors? There is no competitor, just a lot of partners which I appreciate.
Real estate is profitable. Your house is real estate; your office is real estate; your store is real estate; where you cook your food is real estate; every single place you go to as a venue is real estate. Somebody has taken the commission for that place before you got there. It is very profitable and it does not fluctuate, so long as you put in the work.
Patronage amidst pandemic
It is an all-time high for the company. We have a lot of patronage which we appreciate, but we want more, regardless, because we are capable and available to handle more.
No, we have never considered a loan at any point. We want to grow at our own pace with our own self-help. We have never considered any huge loans. Although we may consider partnerships and collaborations which might involve getting a loan as a company, we have never considered getting a loan.
Entrepreneurship and mentorship
I get almost ten messages daily requesting for help, mentorship and guidance. I get such requests all the time. I do a lot of advising, information giving and most times, I make sure you have the flare for it yourself. That is one of the things I look out for when someone comes to meet me. I go through your page to see if you even have a flair for real estate because some people will look at real estate and the first thing that comes to their mind is the money and when that is your focus, no one is going to trust you with their huge funds as a starter. When I meet people like that, I observe if they already love housing. Once I see that you have that flare, I add them to a platform and give them some mentorship.
Fundamentals of investment
Every investor needs to know that the only real estate investment that brings lasting returns. Every other thing is either numbers or files. Real estate is literally the only investment you can stand on and say ‘this is mine’. Your bank account balance is numbers on your phone; your shares are files and numbers in a company; your bitcoin is numbers on your phone.
So, basically, every other thing is not real except real estate and this is the only investment you can do and have peace of mind. Yes I have seen bitcoin people that can’t catch their sleep; I have seen people that have shares witness loss when it drops.