One of the biggest investment opportunities globally is the real estate sector, and it is always a delight to see women thriving in this sector. Esther Raphael is one of those women.
Esther is the Founder & CEO of Green Bliss Smart Projects and Resources Limited, she helps build and invest in innovative tech products and businesses. One of her major contributions to Green Bliss Projects is Green Bliss Apartments which provides luxury short-let apartments and finclif.com, an online innovative marketplace for individuals, businesses to register, sell and advertise their products and services to thousands of potential customers daily.
With over 10 years of work experience, Esther has served in different capacities in the corporate world. She has a sales career background of over N3billion sales deal portfolio mostly closed online.
She shares her inspiring story exclusively in this interview with Esther Ijewere, as a woman in the property management and investment sector, and how she was able to rise to the top.
I grew up with a different family in the Amukoko area of Lagos. Very unhealthy environment to raise kids as I still occasionally have episodes of the stench of the environment, but my then family taught me a lot of things. They introduced me to early reading and interest in books and also ensured I was very much involved in church activities. One of the best gifts they gifted me, and also sending me to a very good private school. By the time I was leaving them as a teenager back to my biological family, I was what a lot of people called “different.” I had a mind of my own, I could make and take decisions on my own and fend for myself. Coming from a nuclear but big family and losing dad to death at 11, it was every man to himself. You are either taking care of yourself or nothing.
With the help of my grandpa, I started farming and got farming gigs (bush clearing, thinning, weeding, planting, bamboo farming, snail and poultry farming and so on) that was how I raised money to continue and finish secondary school.
Less than three years of starting this new life in my hometown, my grandpa died (one of my worst nights) because I lived alone with him and the rest of my family had moved to Lagos after the death of my dad. I lived alone after grandpa’s death and continued the farming business till I was certain it was time to move back to Lagos.
So, my experience in the farming business contributed to my hunger to own businesses. Seeing my age-mates work for me on my farm and I paid them, the joy in their faces was everything and I wanted to see more of that. All of those experiences prepared me greatly towards what I am doing today and will do tomorrow.
Inspiration Behind Green Bliss Projects
Green Bliss Projects as an online innovative company was inspired majorly by my desire to create and add value to more people than within a cubicle and nine years in the corporate world convinced me the more that I was made for more. I remember one of my former bosses asking me who am I, or who my father is after I closed the largest deal in the company.
Journey Since We Started
We started out as a telecommunication equipment supply company majoring in bulk sales and customisation of smart gadgets and accessories, then we diversified into e-commerce and now real estate/facility management, property management, investment offers, short-let apartments. All of these products and services we still offer but with more focus on the real estate. The journey has been painful, bitter, sweet, adventurous, fearful and daring but in all, I am focusing on the vision because that is often my motivation. There were days I trekked to my meeting venues and would quickly go into the visitor’s toilet to clean up, so the prospects does not see what they are not supposed to see…hahahahahaha. I trekked in the rain or more distances to save some money to continue hustling the following day. It was big-time work. There were days I would skip meals or stay awake all night tweaking the website and the blog and making posts and changes on our social media pages till day- break. I don’t think I bought any new cloth or accessories for almost three years because I was saving up. I remember contracting the website to an IT firm that refused to build the site to the specification given. Chai, I spent money on website designers o.
One of the most painful things that happened to me then was losing our first website to hackers and paying salaries for almost eight months without generating even 2 percent income. These salaries were largely paid from the savings I made while being a full-time employee.
So, the journey before I started looked so easy. You know when you have that thought of “being your own boss” and that you will do better than your former bosses and then, you resign on the advise of all the motivational books and speakers you’ve been reading or listening to? Wait…they didn’t tell you about THE PROCESS. Yes, most of them skip this part. There is THE PROCESS and when you are in this stage, you will make the decision of whether to continue or to stop. This stage will test you thoroughly to the point you begin to doubt yourself and lose friends.
Being a woman in the property management sector and balancing it all
For me, working in this industry and my personal life activities seem to be so much in sync that I barely notice the difference except of course when I have tons of mails to respond to and other technicalities that comes with the job especially on matters concerning safety, health and authenticity of documents. Most times, I’m just having fun and learning while working and visiting our locations.
Property Sector being favourable to women
Hmm, you know I won’t exactly say so. The property sector is capital intensive. Many women will definitely not want to venture into it at all. And because it is capital intensive, we have more men in the sector. But like a friend pointed out in a recent content she shared with me to work with her on, there are other ways women can come into the sector and that includes collaborating with companies like ours in property, facility and portfolio management deals, offering cleaning services and supplies.
To every young woman out there who wants to go into property management
Property Management is not a business to just get into because you see others doing it or you have the resources. It must be something you are either passionate about or emotionally prepared to get into. And because it involves dealing with different individuals from different races, artisans, industrial machines and government bodies, emotional intelligence, constant cash in-flow, emotional stability and keen attention to details in people and the properties are important.
So, ideally it will be to stay under mentorship or do more collaborations, so you get to learn on the job or to spend the first one or two years spending some part of your capital learning.
Challenges as an Entrepreneur
Staffing. Hiring the right staff, who do not dedicate more time on eye-service or hard work than actual job delivery. Another challenge I experience is access to funds. You see, in the type of real estate niche we are in, it is almost impossible for us to lose money because of the vast options of A, B, C and D and the market demand is high, now the goal is to respond to at least 80 per cent of the demands. Right now, we are meeting less than 20 per cent of the requests we receive on a regular basis.
Three Women who Inspire me and Why
Folorunsho Alakija – I often stay and wonder how she has managed to thrive so well in the industry dominated by men and her success in the real estate business too.
Ellen D’generes – you can see her have so much fun doing what generates so much income for her. She’s very comfortable in her skin and at 60+ still very fit and playful with loads of amazing close friends like Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. I definitely want to enjoy such amazing and supportive close circle. Ellen is so fun, humorous and very loving. With all the love she gives to people, family, employees? My goodness! It is so beautiful for me.
Mo Abudu, CEO of EbonyLife TV – This woman’s business prowess I admire so much. Every time I pass her nearly launched office in Victoria Island, Lagos, I can’t reveal the thoughts that roar in my head. I have some of her pictures on my vision board. There is a calmness in her that I find very powerful, even as I say it. It is not common.
Being a Woman of Rubies
Is that the Proverbs 31 woman? The bible said that my price/value is far above rubies? Every time the chips are down or up, I reach out to the divinity in me. And for me, it is still the making of the woman whose price is far above rubies.
Our Covid-19 Relief Funds
I think it was largely inspired by some posts I saw on some of my team members’ Facebook walls. Some of them started panicking on the uncertainty of salary and their feeding during the lockdown as it was not yet salaried payment dates. Also, I saw lots and lots of people online panicking and worried about how they would survive the lockdown, so, with the support of some of my team members, we decided to do the cash giveaway. Before the giveaways, we paid all team members full salaries and went on to offer our own support to the general public. The numbers of people that showed interest in the giveaway were very alarming but then, it felt good reaching out to those we could.