SHADE OKOYA: The Elegant Entrepreneur Behind Eleganza’s Enterprise

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Dr. Folashade Okoya of the famous Eleganza dynasty and the youngest wife of industrialist and business mogul, Chief Rasaq Akanni Okoya, is a woman of many parts. She is beautiful, brilliant, industrious, hard-working, fashionable, and resourceful. Her entrepreneurial spirit is second to none. With over 20 years’ experience within the Eleganza conglomerate, she has learned the ropes and gradually becoming a business tycoon running the Eleganza’s factory with multiple lines of productions. Funke Olaode unveils the unique world of Okoya, the deputy managing director of Eleganza Industrial City Limited

The sprawling Eleganza Industrial City Limited situated on 35 acres of Land on Lagos-Epe Expressway cannot be easily missed. Gigantic and expansive, it is a multibillion-naira business estate where household items of various types are manufactured. As you enter the premises the humming of industrial machines of various sizes can be heard churning out finished products. The factory is manned by expatriates and Nigerians totalling 3,000 workers.

In the midst of the sprawling industrial estate is where Folashade Okoya can be found. To an outsider, she is a socialite whose life revolves around fashion and parties. But beyond opulence and extravagance which her status attracts as a wife of a billionaire, here lies a woman with business acumen having learnt the ropes under an industrious husband.

Folashade is an intelligent and hard-working wife and mother for whom her busy schedules have not led to the neglect of being a parent and also her responsibility to domestic obligations. She has built a commendable bridge of good relationships not just with her family but also across society.
Folashade is a well-educated, trained, and experienced senior-level manufacturing executive with a specialization in project management, quality assurance, marketing, sales distribution, material, and logistic human resources administration and management, encompassing technology-based applications.

Born in Lagos on 25 April 1977 into the family of the late Alhaji Taju and Alhaja Nimota Adeleye, from ljebu Ode in Ogun State. The business magnate began her early education at St. Bernadette Nursery and Primary School, Lagos after which she proceeded to Awori Comprehensive High School, graduating in 1991. The well-grounded woman of substance proceeded to Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo where she read Banking and Finance. She capped it with a BSc in Sociology from the University of Lagos graduating in 2004 and was later honoured with an honorary Doctor of Science in Business Management and Corporate Leadership by the senate of European American University. The same year, she bagged the ‘Most Valuable Business Executive’ of the year from the board of trustees and the advisory council of the International Centre for Corporate Leadership for African and Blacks in Diaspora and Accolade International Marketing Limited.

She has been bestowed with various awards and chieftaincy titles such as the Bewaji of Lagos, Otun Aare lyalaje of Ajiranland, Yeye Oge of Epe Land, Ajisewa of Oke Ona Egba, patron of FADAN, Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria, among others.

Since she plunged herself into the many areas of business, holding various positions including managing director of Eleganza Fashion Products Limited, Eleganza Cruise and Travels Limited, as well as a member of the board of directors of Eleganza Group and RAO Investment Property Company Limited, Folashade’s transformation from being a famous pretty face to top-grade business executive, has been a classic example of brains meeting opportunities. Folashade’s endowments have activated to peak performance by her responsibilities at Eleganza Group.

She set a record in the company by producing over 300,000 cartons of the company’s flagship product in a month and consistently achieving over 100 per cent of monthly production target for over five years, reducing the production of waste level and losses from over 2.5 per cent to less than 0.5 per cent without compromising quality and GMP practices, reducing overall factory running and plant maintenance expenses by over 45 per cent and at the same time maintaining high efficiency through strategic optimization.

She has successfully restructured the company organogram which led to an overwhelming effective performance. Actively motivated the software development department to develop widely accepted accounting, human resources, and electronic filling software solutions thereby fundamentally increasing the company’s software productions, exceeded the company’s revenue target by over 50 per cent, pioneered the establishment of an efficient product packaging, materials and warehousing processes and procedures achieving a zero-level record of product theft.

She explains: “Eleganza is a family business that has been around for close to five decades. The whole idea of the newly established EICL is to have household items in one compound. Not only that, we want to be able to give Nigerians and the West African countries what we produce locally at an affordable price. One of the dreams of the chairman, and my husband, Alhaji Rasaq Okoya, is to see that items produced in the new industry become a household name.”

What does she think makes EICL tick?
“It is the quality and standard. When you look at all the items mentioned, they are manufactured locally and Eleganza is the only company doing this in Nigeria. Our new products are modern-day items different from the Eleganza of old. The quality still remains the same and customers get value for their money. It is affordable. In terms of personnel working in the factory, we have both experienced expatriates and Nigerians.

“We are planning to push beauty products for ladies and babies into the Nigerian market very soon. We have over 21 designs of soap that we want to push into the market as well. The beauty of it is that anything my chairman sets out to do, he does it in a unique way,“ reveals Folashade.

She adds, “My husband who is the chairman is a workaholic who is passionate about what he does. What keeps him going is to see his products in every household. This keeps him motivated to do more. I shop in Europe and I know sometimes it costs 200 Euro to get a chair. You can imagine getting the same standard in less than N3, 000 locally. So, Eleganza is about touching lives positively.”
Praising her husband for his commitment to serve humanity, Folashade notes: “Eleganza is synonymous with charity. These days, many of my husband’s activities revolve around religion and service to humanity through his philanthropy. These cut across the various sectors of society. At various times, he has supported medical establishments and hospital homes by donating lifesaving equipment.

“His contributions to the manufacturing sector and the economy of Lagos are immeasurable by giving employment to thousands of people. We have over 2,000 under our employment. He has also assisted many people in establishing various business ventures. We organize an annual pilgrimage for Moslems and feed over 2,000 under-privileged every week.

“My husband strongly believes in quality education and has a foundation in his name. Several undergraduates have benefited from his Alhaji Akanni Okoya Scholarship Awards across the country.”
How would she assess Nigerian career women?

“I am impressed with the way women are going,” she answers.
“They are wonderful and industrious. Nigerian women of these days don’t sit at home like the women of yesteryears. I am lucky to belong to the generation of hard-working women. It means you can become somebody if you are focused and work on your dreams. With little or nothing, if you have a passion for something and you do it with dedication and commitment, the sky is just the beginning.”
Folashade is married to one of the richest entrepreneurs in the world. How is life like being married to a billionaire?

“It is awesome. It is wonderful,” she enthuses. “The marriage has been smooth. I have been enjoying my marriage. He is my best friend. One good thing about him is that he doesn’t lie. When I met him, he said if you wanted the marriage to work, I had to learn the ropes. Learning the ropes means I have to imbibe and embrace hard work. He is a workaholic and every moment with him has been wonderful.”

“He is my friend and role model. He is a wonderful man. He is very industrious. If he doesn’t have the foresight, I won’t be here doing what I am doing now.”
Fair, tall, elegant, and a head-turner, she could pass for a 25-year-old damsel. She is a mother of four.
When she is not in the factory supervising workers or at home with her family, Folashade is either reading, jogging, making friends, or on a trip.
“My children also keep me busy. When I am not in the company of my children, I love to sleep a lot,” she confesses.