I can never forget the first time I heard Oyinkansola “Foza” Fawehinmi speak. It was at the 2017 Nigerian Bar Association’s (NBA) Section for Business Law conference. That day, she had the audience at Eko Hotel’s Convention Centre feeding on her every word as she spread the gospel of the creative industry upon which her legal practice is built. Her audacity, passion and success as a young person in one of the most traditional professions make her a great fit for this series.
Did you always think you would get to where you are?
Yes. I’ve always known. I was always very sure of my vision and where I was going to be, and I never had doubts about that – I just didn’t know when, but I was very certain of where I’m going; because I’ve seen the vision- I’ve been given the vision; so my journey is all the way down to running and owning a public company.
When did you make your first million?
I honestly can’t remember, but I can remember when I made my first N10 million. That would be 2018.
What did you do to make it?
I did a licensing deal- a bulk licensing deal for a company.
How did it feel?
It felt very good, especially because it’s intellectual property and it’s one of the hardest things to sell in Nigeria because there’s a lot of encumbrances on the property – and it’s not landed property, so it’s a bit weird trying to sell it to people. So it felt very good – it felt very very good. The sad thing is I’ve not been able to enjoy it. I had to think about it answering this question.
Why do you think you have not been able to enjoy it?
I’ve not because before the money came I had reached a peak at the level of where I was and I was getting bored and restless and that was God giving me the next project or idea to embark on. So when that money came, I knew it was not for spending so it went back into my several businesses so I didn’t enjoy it like I got to travel or anything like that. It just went back into the business. Financial investors would say that’s not wise but I treat money like a servant – I send it on an errand to bring back stuff for me.
What would you say are the secret(s) of your success?
I think it’s the constant drive to want to be excellent and the constant drive to give value at every point in my life. So the mere fact that I want to give value makes me hard-working; makes me want to read; makes me seek information. The mere fact that I strive for excellence makes me diligent – those are my secrets for success.
What was your best preparation for business?
I know it’ll sound corny but it’s really prayer. I feel like I always have to be in tune with my spirit because my spirit is my number one comfort. And I need to sharpen my spirit and stay alert while also doing the other physical things like research and development and all that. While doing that, I make sure my spirit is in tune, to be able to identify what needs to be identified.
Your background is in Law- a profession which senior colleagues profess as being about deferred gratification- How have you been able to bypass that and build a business from scratch without recourse to gatekeepers?
To be honest, I feel like it’s a lot of smart work, hard work and grace. I feel like also I got to understand my vision quickly and because I understood my vision and I understood my purpose it was easy for me to function in that realm and it was easy for me to come up with innovative ideas, find solutions and always create value. For me, the fundamental has always been create value and people will pay for it. I’ve never looked at chasing money. I apply a theory in the bible where it says that “Seek first the kingdom of God and every other thing will be added to you”. For me, it’s “Seek first value, seek first excellence and every other thing including money and clients will be yours.”
I know also because I chose from the onset of my career to specialize, you can’t keep hitting on something without it giving you something. I gave myself the target that if I consistently kept at it for another 5-7 years, I would get results. I can’t be bothered about gatekeepers. I bring my own seat to the table. If you don’t want me on your table, I create my table.
This has just been pure hard work.
What experience(s) would you say have shaped your financial attitude?
The days that I was stark broke – so broke that I had just the N1,000 that you can’t withdraw from your account. Before that period I had probably made like N500,000 or N800,000 and after I just realized I just had N1,000 in my account. I think the mere fact that at some point I wouldn’t be able to afford basic needs, shaped my financial attitude because for the longest time I wasn’t on a salary. I’m running my own company and I’m not on a salary and always having to live on either profits or commissions due to me, and that I can squeeze out at any point in time (because the company has to make the bulk of the money at any point in time till it grew enough to be able to afford to pay me some stipend – not salary. I learnt that when I get that money sometimes when it comes in bulk, I should learn to spread it out for a period of at least 4-5 months.
Do you have time for personal financial planning?
No, I do not have time for personal planning, so what I’m doing or plan to do is get myself a personal accountant who would help me with that, but for the basic stuff, I don’t know how to sit down and enter everything I spend. So I have an account, and I also have a rule of – when for example N500,000 comes in, half the time I disburse immediately to my investment portfolio and just leave what’s left for logistics for the month or quarter.
Another thing particularly common in the legal profession is the side hustle. What’s your approach to “side hustles”? Have you had any and how lucrative have they been?
All my side hustles have converted into business. I used to do a bit of PR when I first started out so I started a PR company where I recruited people who are skilled to run and I just give them the vision and ideas. I enjoy A&R, I set up a management company. I enjoy Event Production so I set up a live production company. All my side hustles, I turned them into companies that can employ people and they develop it while I just look at it. Anything that makes you an extra income is good especially if you can turn it to a proper business. If you’re not a multi-tasker, I would say sharpen your skill at the one that is most lucrative for you so you can increase your pay and it can satisfy you. That’s my theory.
What is your basic business philosophy?
Value and Excellence. Create value, Give value, and Be excellent.
What was the most challenging period of your career?
It would be 2017-2018 when I had to do a lot of capacity training and human development. It’s the hardest thing for a leader to do to transfer the vision that you have to another person. It wore me out; it exhausted me, but the good thing is, I now have a lot of mentees and almost 12 people working for me now – so I think it was fruitful, I guess. We still fight everyday but yeah.
Do you believe in retirement?
Yes, I do. I’m looking forward to retiring from legal practice in the next 3 years and retiring from all this waka waka I’m doing by 50, but I want to have a massive career change by maybe 35/40 and move into another industry. So yes I do believe in retirement.
What would post-retirement life be like for you?
It’s gonna be a lot of- I might go into consultation for the government in terms of just advising on policy. I think also it’s going to involve maybe lecturing for some weird reason, and a lot of traveling, probably trying to learn new stuff.
Have you made any pension provision?
Yes I do. I try to implement that [a pension scheme] for every member of my company last year/this year; for all my staff, so yeah.
Do you believe in giving back to the community?
Yes, I do, we have a lot of CSR projects my company runs and is involved in – mostly geared to creatives where we ensure people are creatively empowered to create wealth for themselves; because that’s the industry I’m focused in. So we have stuff like the Sarz Academy that we run, something called the Digital Creative Economy meeting where we train people periodically for free, and also, I have a lot of mentees.
Your favored form of investment?
Bonds, treasury bills.
How do you save your money now?
I just buy bonds; I buy treasury bills; put it in piggyvest. Another favorite form of investment would also be to go into agriculture. Piggyvest, I don’t put my money in my bank account. The only reason I put money in my bank account is so that when I’m travelling I can have an account to show the visa people but yeah, no.
Did you have any mentors? If yes, how did you find them and how much of an effect did they have on your decision making?
Yes I do, I have Ms. Uduak, founder of Africa Music Law and Ebitilo group; I have Mrs Osagie Osarenz, founder of the Zone Agency, I have Oye Akindeinde, General Manager, Digital Services at MTN Group; Mr. Ayo Sonaiya. Those are my mentors.
Most I found online, actually all of them I found online. I started the interaction from an online discussion; Twitter, basically.
Do you indulge yourself? How?
Travel. I like to travel, so I spend a lot of money on traveling. So in a year, I can travel like 6 – 7 times. I can just wake up and buy a ticket. So I indulge in travel. I’m not really a foodie so it’s just travel.
What one thing do you spend on most?
Your most prudent investment?
I would like to think my car; because I move around a lot and Uber used to be like 90% of my budget in a year, and ever since I got my car, it’s been significantly reduced.
What is the most you have ever paid for a meal?
If it’s just me; about N14,000- N15,000 because I really don’t eat a lot. But if it’s with my friends, I’ve paid as high as – I think £200.
Who are the five people you’ll love to see answer these questions?
Iredumare Opeyemi, Oye Akindeinde, Ayo Sonaiya, James Ndubisi, Bella Disu – Bella Disu is also one my mentors. Chidimma Okebelemachi