When Mr. Austin Onwumere and wife, Jane, started their real estate business from the corner a friend’s beer parlour as an emergency office, and little did they know that a solid foundation was being laid for the emergence of the first real estate network marketing firm that had taken over 40,000 Nigerians out of unemployment market.
Seven years down the line, their company, Property World African Network Homes (PWAN), has recruited about 100 independent marketers otherwise known as consultants, into the 22 branch offices of the sprawling real estate firm headquartered on the Lekki axis, Lagos.
Relating the humble beginning, Onwumere explained that things were real down for him and his wife after their first business tragically crumbled.
“I lost my initial business in Ikeja, in December, 2009; and was in debt of over N30 million. Different people were calling me, looking for a way to arrest me. l ran to Ajah when I couldn’t pay my rents, my office had expired and things were down,” he said.
Jobless and impecunious, Onwumere and his wife had to squat with his sister in-law while the couple searched for how they could survive.
A chance to earn decent living came their way in October 2011. “We attended Full Gospel Businessmen International Convention at the National Stadium, Lagos. “I found a flier marketing real estate and picked it up; my wife also picked up a copy.”
Back in the car, on the way to their temporary abode, he brought out the flier and realised they could sell land for the people and make commissions to solve some of their financial problems.
Right there, the Onwumeres recognised that as a life line and didn’t hesitate to dial the phone contact on the flier. Two week after the couple joined other land speculators to inspect a large expanse of land in Ibeju-Lekki.
Onwumere recalled that at the end of the inspection, they called the property owner aside and presented their proposal. “We are not here to buy; we are here to sell and if you could give us 120 plots we will sell it off in five to six months”, and that was it. To cut a long story short, the Onwumeres got a breakthrough.
“What we started in real estate is phenomenal. We actually started business in 2013, recruiting and training people through seminars. We give them free training on landed title documents, how to make sales both online and offline. So it attracted people first because of the kind of commission we pay. And when any marketer meets the target that we set, he or she gets a car and travel abroad. As we speak, PWAN Group has over 40,000 independent marketers.”
The PWAN boss stressed that he started the real estate business from the scratch, with his wife who he described as the brain behind all the ideas at PWAN Group.
He continued: “We were doing network marketing with Forever Living Product, Tianshi before I started my own. My brand was in real estate. Nobody had ever done any of such in real estate; no company in the world had ever used network strategy to recruit marketers to market for them. We are the first, we are bold and that is a bold claim. We are running this business as an empowerment organisation; it is no longer a business for me and my wife to eat, drive cars or anything like that. It is now about how many Nigerians we can empower. That is why you see over 40,000 people in our network now. We are the highest; we are the first and the best.”
However business continued on the rosy part until competitors began to spring up. “Between 2015 and 2017, we had very stiff competition when competing firms began to pouch our marketers and staff.
“It was a big problem because that was going to kill the company. We started by paying 10 per cent direct commission, but when our competitors came to the scene; they offered 15 per cent to pull our marketers. We had to pay 15per cent; then they moved to 20 per cent, we have to respond by paying 20 per cent direct.”
Incidentally, the development was unbearable since PWAN was finding it very difficult to retain a healthy income after settling commissions, pay land- owning, family, pay staff salaries, service operations vehicles and seminars. “It drained our income; in fact, we were struggling between 2015 and 2017”.
In as much as PWAN did not want to lose her workforce to competitors, the company was determined to remain in business. It adopted a policy change and moved back to paying 15 per cent commission from 20 per cent.
Beyond other incentives given to who meet varied targets set by the real giants, PWAN devised a system of reward for high performing consultants that makes such invaluable independent market directors of PWAN subsidiary companies.