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Stella Okoli: The woman who built a pharmaceutical giant from a small store

From a chemist store, Stella Okoli has built Emzor pharmaceuticals to become a well-known brand.

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A significant percentage of Nigerians have at some point or the other, had a need for and possibly consumed the Emzor paracetamol, a flagship product of the Emzor brand which stands high above several other pharmaceuticals.

The woman behind the brand, Stella Okoli is the focus of Nairametrics’ Founders profile this week.

A native of Nnewi in present-day Anambra State, Stella Okoli was born on the 30th of July, 1944 in Kano State, to the family of Felix Ebelechukwu and Margaret Modebelu.

READ: Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc laments over poor infrastructure, demands solution

She completed her primary education at All Saints Primary School, Onitsha in 1959, and attended Ogidi Girls Secondary School, Ogidi for the next 5 years. She proceeded to Federal Science School, Lagos where she spent a couple of years.

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She travelled to the United Kingdom where she got her Bachelor in Pharmacy from Bradford University, UK in 1969. A few years later in 1971, she bagged a Masters in Biopharmaceuticals from the University of London, Chelsea College.

Over the years, Stella has also undergone Executive management programmes from notable institutions like the I.E.S.E Business school, Spain; Harvard Business school, USA; and Lagos Business school.

READ: FG loses billions over illegal importation of steel and iron

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After her education in the UK, Stella started working as a Ward/Clinical Pharmacist at Middlesex Hospital in London and later had a brief stint as a Pharmacist at Boots Chemist UK.

Upon returning to Nigeria, she worked briefly with Massey Children Hospital, Lagos, before she joined Park Davies Nigeria Limited (now Pharma-Deko Plc).

The journey of a thousand miles

In 1977, Stella decided to set up a small drugstore – Emzor Chemist – in Shomolu where she lived at the time. It was a pharmacy retail shop where she put her pharmaceutical knowledge to use, in administering and dispensing drugs to her customers.

She started importing the drugs to be sold locally by the turn of the 80s, but it only took a short while before Stella came to the realisation that a lot of the drugs being imported could be produced locally as the raw materials were available.

READ: COVID-19 lockdown significantly impact Guinness Nigeria profits

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“We have no business allowing importation of drugs that we can produce here because all we are doing is importing poverty. There has to be industry where the young pharmacists can fit into after graduation,” she later said in an interview.

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In 1984, Emzor Chemists was incorporated as Emzor Pharmaceuticals to manufacture high-quality drugs locally. Stella, of course, did not have the money to carry out large scale productions, and she approached her father for support.

Talking about some of the resistance to her entrepreneurial move, Stella said “Business is business. There is no special business for man or for woman.”

Using his house as collateral, she secured a loan of N100,000 from First Bank of Nigeria Plc, and pilot productions started in 1985 with the popular Emzor Paracetamol. The company has now grown to become one of the leading indigenous pharmaceutical brands with well over 50 products to its name, including vitamins, anti-malaria, antibiotics, antacid, analgesics, and anti-histamine.

From that single chemist store, Emzor now has offices in Mali, India, Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Subsidiaries

Emzor Group has a number of subsidiaries, such as Zolon Healthcare Limited, a specialty healthcare organisation targeted at providing intelligent solution to the healthcare needs of people. The company’s specialties include oncology, gynecology, biotechnology, cardiology and others.

Emzor Hesco Limited is a total healthcare solution provider, with a B2B business model to provide solutions for hospital equipment and services in conjunction with reputable brands and manufacturers from Europe, America and Asia. The company procures, consults, supplies medical equipment, carries out trainings on best practices, and supplies medical consumables among others.

Emzor Pharmacy and Stores is the retail arm for distributing Emzor Pharmaceutical products to Nigerians, while Life Gate Medicals Limited provides training for healthcare workers and medical tourism.

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Philanthropy

In memory of her late son, Stella Okoli started Chike Okoli Foundation (COF) in 2006, to promote healthy lifestyle and entrepreneurial skills among Nigerian youth.

As part of its activities, the foundation has trained thousands of youths on owning and running their businesses. In 2011, COF built Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, to provide entrepreneurial research, training and education for youths.

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The foundation also gives free healthcare services and lecture people worldwide on effect of heart disease and stroke.

Services and awards

Stella Okoli has served in several capacities including as a member of the Economic Summit of Nigeria and the Health Matters Advisory Boards of Nigeria, as Vice President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

She was once the Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Group and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. In 2010, she became a non-Executive Director of Guaranty Trust Bank.

Stella Okoli is a member of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council.

Her contributions to the Nigerian pharmaceutical industry have not gone unnoticed as she has received due recognitions. She was conferred a Honorary Doctor of Business Administration by Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka in 2011, Women of Distinction and Lifetime Achievers at ThisDay Annual Awards in 2012, and Business Person of the Year at the Sun Newspaper Awards in 2016.

In 2017, she received the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum, and also the Silverbird Lifetime Achievement Award in 2018.

Now in her 70’s, Stella continues to drive her pharmaceutical business in addition to other interests. In an interview, she said, “everything I did not achieve before 70, now is the time to get started”.

She is believed to be one of Nigeria’s richest women.

Ruth Okwumbu has a MSc. and BSc. in Mass Communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Delta state university respectively. Prior to her role as analyst at Nairametrics, she had a progressive six year writing career. As a Business Analyst with Narametrics, she focuses on profiles of top business executives, founders, startups and the drama surrounding their successes and challenges. You may contact her via [email protected]

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Profiles

Leo Stan Ekeh, the whiz who launched Nigeria’s first locally manufactured computers

Ekeh can be put in the bracket of visionaries who were quick to see that ICT would define the world in no distant time.  

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Leo Stan Ekeh

Rated as one of the top tech CEOs in Nigeria according to Ventures Africa, Leonard Stanley Ekeh has earned a name for himself through his contributions to Africa’s ICT space. With his tech start-ups dating back to the 80s, Ekeh can be put in the bracket of visionaries who saw that ICT would define the world in no distant time.

This week on Nairametrics Founders Profile, the spotlight is on Leo Stan Ekeh, as he is now popularly known.

Leo Stan Ekeh was born in Imo state on February 22, 1956 to a Dietician mum and Nurse dad. He had his early education in Owerri, and upon graduation from Holy Ghost College, Owerri, he emigrated to India where he obtained BSc. Economics from Punjab University.

READ: Start-up owners must believe in Nigeria to scale, says Ekeh, Zinox Boss

This step marked a turning point in his thought process, as he was exposed to the Indian economy which he described as ‘realistic’. He then shifted from his plans to own “the biggest transport company in Nigeria” and started thinking of more realistic business ideas, which would impact the Nigerian economy. He moved on to England where he bagged a Postgraduate degree in Risk Management at the Nottingham University.

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His return to Nigeria saw him spearhead the creation of several tech companies.

Task System Limited

This was Ekeh’s first start-up in Nigeria. The ICT solutions company commenced operations in 1989 to focus on desktop publishing and computer graphics. Over the last three decades, the company extended operations from Lagos to Port Harcourt and Abuja, implementing several ICT projects across the Oil & Gas, Telecoms, Manufacturing, and Public sectors.

The company has computerized 95 percent of Print media, Publishing houses, and Advertising agencies in Nigeria; with several outstanding industry awards to its credit, including Best Partner Award for Compaq, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard (HP) etc.

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READ: Ekeh, Zinox boss, may retire in 2021

Zinox Technologies Limited

ZInox Technologies is the brand which brought Ekeh to the forefront of Africa’s tech space and for which he is popular for. The company was founded in 2001 and became the first internationally certified branded computer OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) in West Africa.

In addition, Zinox is the first to receive Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) certification, and also the first computer hardware manufacturing company and ICT integration company in Nigeria to receive ISO 9001-2000.

Zinox creates business solutions that uses new technologies to streamline systems, efficiently align, integrate, and maximise productivity. Its products are renowned for their security and IT infrastructure. The company has helped to revolutionize the electoral processes in several African countries like Nigeria, The Gambia, and Guinea-Bissau.

Zinox is the only local OEM partner of Microsoft and Intel corporation in Nigeria. It was recently rated by International Data Corporation (IDC) as the No.1 brand in terms of computer sales amongst local and international brands in Nigeria.

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Ekeh also launched Zinox Computers – Nigeria’s first internationally certified branded computers, which comes with a Naira sign and a power supply designed to be compatible with the country’s unstable power supply.

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READ: Konga’s turnover increases by 800%, as company claims to be self-sufficient

Buyright Africa Dotcom Limited

In 2008, Ekeh founded Buyright Africa Dotcom Limited at a time when credit card and e-payment infrastructures were still alien to Nigerians. The target of the start-up was to resolve funding issues for ICT projects and companies, through partnerships with strong international finance groups.

Within the next couple of years, Buyright Africa launched full operation to help Africans enjoy the benefits of emerging technologies and build technology strength that would allow her citizens, governments, and businesses compete favourably with other strong economies of the world.

Buyright Africa executes and funds ICT projects, equipment leasing, ownership scheme and other related ideas in Africa. It also offers ICT consultancy services and sales of ICT products, infrastructures, and digital tools to educational institutions and governments, through its partnership with international and local ICT companies.

Describing the vision, Mr. Mukoro Emomine, Managing Director of Buyright Africa said the company was out to work with manufacturers, in order to reduce the total cost of ownership of ICT equipment in Africa and also encourage usage.

READ: N75 billion Nigerian Youth Investment Fund to be rolled out before end of October – Minister

Konga.com

Konga.com was founded in July 2012 by Sim Shagaya as a third-party online marketplace, and a first-party direct retail in various categories of consumer goods and products.

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In February 2018, Zinox acquired 99% of Konga.com shares just a few months after Konga laid off over half its staff. Three months later, Konga merged with Zinox’s retail outfit – Yudala to form the biggest e-commerce company in Africa. Under the new merger, the brand name Konga was retained.

Other businesses

Leo Stan Ekeh also founded Technology Distribution Limited, Task Direct Limited and ITEC Solutions, using them to drive IT solutions and distribution in West Africa.

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He has also been involved with ICT Brokers, and ICT Connect. News recently made the rounds that Ekeh was the man behind the Healthplus takeover, but Ekeh distanced himself from such rumours,

“Till date, I do not have a kobo share in any of their investment vehicles, including a kobo share in Healthplus. Although, everyone has a right to invest in any company of his or her choice.”

CSR initiatives and recognitions

In line with his interest and devotion to the growth of IT in Nigeria, Ekeh launched the Computerize Nigeria Project in August 2000, to encourage development and sensitize Nigerians in the use of computers. He also launched the CANi Scheme, providing laptops to young Nigerians at a reduced price, with a repayment plan spread across 24 months.

Through his charity organisation, Leo Stan Ekeh Foundation, he has carried out other commendable humanitarian and philanthropic donations across the country.

He was bestowed with the ICON of Hope award by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on October 1, 2002; Nigerian Science & Technology Achiever of the Year 2003; and Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR) in 2004. Ekeh is also a member of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, and holds Life Membership, Nigeria Institute of International Affairs.

He holds Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration from Imo State University, Owerri; Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi; and Federal University of Technology, Owerri and University of Jos. He is a Fellow of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Lagos; Federal Polytechnic, Idah; and Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State.

Only 64 years old, Leo Stan Ekeh is still going strong and there is no telling what sector he might venture into next. He recently called for the declaration of a Tech Independence Day, and confidently said it is only a matter of time before Nigeria starts raising tech billionaires that would rival the likes of Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma.

Ekeh was worth $1 billion as of June, 2018 according to Business Insider by Pulse.ng.

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Profiles

Apple’s CEO’s package has totaled over $963.5 million since 2011

Tim Cook’s package has risen to close to a billion dollar in close to a decade.

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U.S stock futures trade flat, Apple regains $2 trillion market value, Apple iPhone 11, Tax battle: Apple challenges $14 billion court case , Apple to pay $500 million settlement in lawsuit over slow iPhones, Apple supplier Foxconn to reopen manufacturing base in China, Apple donates 10 million face masks to healthcare workers, App developers can now challenge Apple store guidelines 

Since 2011, when Tim Cook became CEO of Apple, his package has totaled over $963.5 million, according to an estimate from Equilar, an executive compensation firm.

Apple’s CEO collected his largest stock grant since 2011, which will reward him with large stacks of stocks through 2025, according to an SEC filing released yesterday.

Apple’s CEO will collect 333,987 units of restricted stock, that will vest as to one-third of the units, on an annual basis starting on April 1, 2023.

READ: Nestle’s parent company increases stakes in Nestle Nigeria in August

In a separate package, Cook will also vest 333,987 units of stock in 2023, which could double, if he meets targets related to Apple’s performance on the stock market.

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If Apple continues to impress as it is presently, Cook will collect 1,001,961 shares of Apple by 2025, similar to the grant of 1 million shares he received shortly after he became CEO in 2011.

READ: Nigerians in diaspora reveal their favourite Nigerian Stocks 

Why Apple is doing well?

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  • Recall, about two months ago, Nairametrics gave vital insights on why global investors and stock traders are placing more bets in growth stocks like Apple, thereby resulting in their astronomical rise in valuations, in spite of COVID-19.
  • These companies also have good macros in their businesses, partly due to low debts, high-profit margins, and the fact that more people are isolated and mostly working remotely on their iPhones and Macbooks.
  • Cook, 59, disclosed five years ago, that he plans to give most of his fortunes away. Already, he has gifted millions of dollars’ worth of Apple shares. His wealth could be lower, assuming he has made other undisclosed charitable gifts.

READ: App developers can now challenge Apple store guidelines 

Although if the world’s most valuable tech company underperforms, it’s also possible that the CEO will get none of such rewards.

At Tuesday’s closing price of $114.09, the maximum number of shares Cook could receive are worth $114 million. That amount will rise or fall with Apple’s stock price.

Tim has brought unparalleled innovation and focus to his role as CEO, and demonstrated what it means to lead with values and integrity,” Apple’s Board of Directors said in a statement.

READ: This is what you get if you buy the latest FGN Reopening Bond

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”For the first time in nearly a decade, we are awarding Tim a new stock grant, that will vest over time, in recognition of his outstanding leadership, and with great optimism for Apple’s future as he carries these efforts forward,” it stated.

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The stock grant suggests that Cook’s performance over the past decade is viewed highly by Apple’s board, which wants to make sure that he will be paid competitively through 2025, if he continues to be the CEO of Apple.

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Profiles

Scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry is tough work – Ugo Monye 

Ugo Monye takes us through his journey to becoming one of the most popular fashion brands in Nigeria.

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Scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry is tough work – Ugo Monye 

With the large number of business names being registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on a monthly basis, it is easy to assume that starting and scaling a business in Nigeria is a piece of cake. In reality, however, it is a completely different story.

Even after surviving the first few years, scaling for expansion can be a hard nut to crack, particularly in an industry that is still unstructured.  

Ugochukwu MonyeFounder and Creative DirectorUgo Monye Fashion Company was a guest on the Nairametrics Business Half Hour, and shared some challenges of scaling in Nigeria’s fashion industry.  

READ: Konga CEO targets $10 million daily turnover by 2024

He observed that one challenge entrepreneurs have to face in the industry while trying to upscale is the shortage of manpower. 

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“No one wants to work for anybody. People don’t want to be part of another person’s success story, because everyone feels they can as well float whatever it is you are doing. This is part of the reasons the industry lacks structure, and still not fully developed, he noted 

Even when one employs a staff, they only work a short while before they start contemplating how to leave and replicate your businessIn my line of business, the result is many small fashion businesses with few (if any) outstanding brands.  

There is much room for specialization across the value chain, but people cannot specialize, because of the absence of a structure,” Ugo added.    

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READ: Embattled MTN pursues out-of-court settlement with CBN

Discovering Ugo Monye 

Ugo grew up with a mother who owned a fashion business, so he picked interest in fashion early enough.  However, he did not wish to pursue this line, as the realities at the time did not present the fashion industry as a mouth-watering alternative to other well-known professional lines.  

“At that time, there was no glory in being a tailor or a fine artist, he explained.  

His parents wanted him to read Fine and Applied Art in the UK, and hone his skills in Fine Arts, but he refused, opting instead for a course in Business Administration so that he could go into importation business upon graduation. Exposure and knowledge soon showed him that often, a person’s passion and calling had to cross paths.  

He started coming up with creative designs and clothing ideas, drawing inspiration from the things around him in the university.  

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One holiday, Ugo went home and decided it was time to bring the ideas to reality. He linked up with a couple of tailors that worked with his mother, and using some of the old machines still available in the house, they brought the first Ugo Monye clothing designs to life.  

At that time, the business operated with the name CIUCI (a word which he derived from the initial letters of his five siblings), later changing to Ugo Modern Design, before he decided to just stick with his name, Ugo Monye 

He continued with his designs through his university daystill the end of his one-year mandatory service – NYSC, after which he got a job with a Strategic Consulting company. It only took a short while before Ugo realized that, as much as he was earning more than some of his peers at the time, there was no sense of fulfillment in what he did. He turned in his resignation and decided to go all-in on fashion designing. He attended a fashion school to hone his skills further.   

READ: How NNPC saved $3 billion from arbitration 

All hands on deck 

The fashion industry is not an easy place to start, and anyone starting out in the space must be ready to play all the required roles. In this industry, Ugo became a designer, tailor, marketer, brand promoter, and every possible role as he strove to get things rolling.  

“It is not just easy to get people to do these things, because the industry has not attained a structural level, where a person will decide right from school, that he wants to work as a designer with this company, as we see in other sectors, 

There is also the tendency for people to feel that they don’t have a serious job because they are tailors, and sometimes feel ashamed to identify as one. Things are gradually changing as people are beginning to identify with the industry, and this brings hope for more growth in the sector.  

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Monetizing a fashion company takes different forms, designing, clothes making, selling, and even consulting.  

Ugo says that as a brand, the Ugo Monye brand is more about details, “There has to be that touch of finesse in the finishing, and in fact, we pay more attention to the parts of the clothes that people do not see. This is what stands you out from others. 

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READ: Ripple unlocks 1,000,000,000 XRP

A dream still in the process 

Though Ugo Monye has become a brand to be reckoned with among celebrities and notable personalities in the last decade, Ugo says that his dreams for the brand are still yet to be actualised. He sees his brand becoming a force to be reckoned with in the coming years, a brand that every fashion enthusiast would want to be identified with as the industry takes shape.  

“I am not yet wowed by anything I have experienced so far. There are quite a lot of achievements I have made with the brand, but it is still not up to what I dreamed of. There’s no short cut to anywhere that is worth going to,” Ugo concluded. 

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