The lockdown was already in place when MochaBeauty approached Ifeyinwa Anthonia Ikem, the CEO Krsny Nig Ltd. and sole distributor Asian Paints in Nigeria, to share her experience doing business especially in a male-dominated sector such as paints. The Delta-born businesswoman was only too happy to oblige.
We made it happen via phone chat and it is indeed a riveting insight into entrepreneurship in Nigeria which any business-inclined individual would find useful. Find excerpts below:
QUES – In addition to being the CEO of a paint company (Krsny), you also own the sole distributorship for Asian paints in Nigeria. That is no mean feat. What attracted you to the paints sector at all?
ANS – My interest in the paint industry arose from passion and knowledge. Passion, because I have always been attracted to colors and communication and paint provides that space where I can communicate moods and emotions. Knowledge, from my years of work experience as a sales person in the paint industry. The information ordinarily available is crafted to suit the sales needs of paint companies. So my passion and the need to provide accurate information to paint customers for the purpose of knowledge inspired me to build my career in this industry.
QUES – How did you get started?
ANS – The allure of colours was always there and when I decided I wanted to do something for myself in the paint industry in 2014, I surrounded myself with colleagues who were passionate about the business as well. That handled the indecision and procrastination that comes with birthing new ideas or career paths. I also paid an expert to research into paint and paint Business in Nigeria since I didn’t want to fail. So, with my passion and well-researched industry background (knowledge) I incorporated a company, Berge Polisan Nigeria Ltd in 2014, with which I went into a sales agreement with Polisan Boya, in Istanbul Turkey to take on the business of importation, brand representation and applicators training in Nigeria. It became one step after the other. I would say the lines kind of fell in the right places for me.
QUES – How old is the business?
ANS – From when I started international trade and brand representation I am six (6) years old in business. My Brand KRSNY PAINT and Asian paints in Nigeria are three (3) years old.
QUES – What were the main challenges you faced getting started?
ANS – Hmmm. I like this one. I like it because people frequently venture into a business blindly with no real knowledge of what it entails. In my case, because it is an international business that required input from both the regulatory agencies here in Nigeria and the countries I import from, the Nigerian end back when I started did not have enough information to educate businesses on their guidelines and registration requirements hence one fell victim sometimes to fraudsters or wound up paying more than the actual fees via third parties. This increased the cost of doing business.
Another one was gaining acceptance in the industry as a woman in a male-dominated space, with distorted information that provides for painters to cheat clients. It’s still a very big challenge but with persistence, we are making a difference.
The composition of my start up partners (the individuals on board) was a big challenge and from there I learnt that business is not to be used to compensate friends or family members. They are very good people, but didn’t have same vision and passion I do. Building a brand with them became difficult because they were unable to withstand the pressure of low moments.
Additionally, the work ethic of some employees can be quite a big challenge to businesses. My saving grace is my industry and sales knowledge. Some staff will come up with all sorts of tricks to exploit the business. To be in charge, I had to be involved especially at the formation stage. That saved me a lot. Funding is also a challenge. However my survival strategy is, offer good value and the profits will come.
Also the popular adage that a customer is always right, causes some customers to disrespect and frustrate up-coming businesses which are just struggling to build a brand. Over time, I learnt to set the rules and in very clear terms.
QUES – What have been the high points of your business? Would you describe it as a profitable venture?
ANS – The high point for me was when I settled into my brand, KRSNY PAINT. From representing Polisan paints in Nigeria, I grew into My brand, KRSNY PAINT and formed partnership with Asian paints to be the Sole distributor of the ASIAN PAINT brand in Nigeria. These moves helped me own the Business. It is very profitable and sustainable. The paint industry in Nigeria, regardless of the various actors, is still a virgin market if you are creative and available. It is well priced and paid for and you get good value for your time.
QUES – What advice would you give those aspiring to go into the paints business in Nigeria?
ANS – For any kind of business, no matter the size, you must seek knowledge first. It is knowledge before money. You must deliberately develop a positive attitude to life. Always find the good in every bad situation you are faced with. The people you surround yourself with will have great impact on your survival in business.
Make friends that you can learn from. Seek knowledge daily and improve always on what you have. Identify the culture you want to promote in your business, make clear your vision and stick to that. Don’t change it to suit people who are not connected to your goals for temporary gains. Doing that will destroy your purpose.
Be clear on how much you are worth and promote it. Make money with your time, goods and services. No free service unless samples or for marketing campaign. If I paint for my mother on her request, she pays. If I paint for my friends they pay. Separate business from every other thing and relationships.
Know your strength and build on it, accept your weakness and delegate tasks around them to people who are good at it. Find out your responsibility in business and fulfill your obligations towards all the regulatory agencies in your trade. Do not cut corners or compromise standards. My point is, being honest and clean is safer than compromising because dishonesty is actually expensive.
When you have done your part of the work surrender to God who will bless the works of your Hands.
QUES – Who has been your strongest support?
ANS – My strongest support emotionally is my mother, Madam Ikem Stella Chinwe Oby. My strongest support in Business is my Mentor and family friend AIG Hosea Karma.
QUES – What are your plans for the future?
ANS – I plan to set up a world standard paint production factory in the nearest future and have branches all across Nigeria. I also look forward to establishing a paint and renovation Academy to train women and youths on best industry standards in paint application and skills. I also look forward to establishing a paint and renovation Academy to train women and youths on best industry standards in paint application and skills.
Suite 114, MKK Plaza,
Abdulsalami Abubakar Road,
Gudu, Abuja, Nigeria