Former Banker Turns Painting into a Career
‘If it will make your neighbor happy and will earn you a decent income, then by all means go out there and do it’ – Udoka Uju
Most would agree that to be a successful entrepreneur, passion, discipline and determination are key ingredients. However, to be outstanding, an entrepreneur must be willing to take risks by carving out a niche area for themselves, if need be. This could be said for Udoka Uju, known as “The Lady Painter”. She is one of the few to have faced their fears by breaking the barrier in what is considered a male profession. Please read on to discover more about the creator of “Grab a Brush, Colour a Life” initiative.
NMO: Tell us about yourself.
UJU: My name is Udoka Uju. I am The Lady Painter. Nigeria’s number one creative wall designer. I work with my team of professional painters. We paint interiors and exteriors of residential and commercial spaces and provide wall maintenance services. I am a graduate of University of Port Harcourt where I studied Economics.
NMO: What were you doing prior to starting your business?
UJU: I was a full-time banker and part-time interior designer before I became a painter. I worked with one of Nigeria’s leading banks.
NMO: How did the idea for your business surface?
UJU: Hmmmm…first I started with interior design. I used to work for a real estate firm right after my NYSC where we build and sell houses. While I was there, I developed interest in everything that had to do with architecture and design. Hence, I decided then that I wanted to be an interior designer which I continued as a part-time job even after I joined the bank. Being an interior designer, I had to subcontract the paint jobs to some painters, but I wanted more than I was offering my clients and I couldn’t get it from the painters I was using so I decided to do it myself. That’s how I became a painter.
NMO: Tell us more about The Lady Painter.
UJU: The Lady Painter is a registered trademark of Olympas Home Studio Ltd (that’s my interior design company) and has its head office based in Lagos, Nigeria. The Lady Painter is made up of a team of professional painters (male and female) that have years of experience in providing unequaled painting services. We offer different kinds of painting services: decorative & faux finishes, wall maintenance, wallpaper installation & removal etc.
NMO: How do you go about marketing your business/brand?
UJU: I dress like a painter (laughs). When I step out of my house to work, I wear my paint-stained branded t-shirt, stained boots and pants. That’s one way I advertise my business. When people see me in my getup, they take a second look which arouses their curiosity and that gives me the opportunity to tell them about my business. Also, I make sure my business is very active on all the major social media platforms (this has helped me a lot).
NMO: What were your goals when you started?
UJU: Funny, the goal I had when I started was just to paint homes beautifully (laughs). I didn’t really have a big picture. But right now it is way bigger than I thought. Now the goal is to have Lady Painters all over Nigeria transforming homes and lives with colours.
NMO: What were the challenges you faced?
UJU: The challenge of being a woman in a male dominated field amongst others.
NMO: Do you still face any challenges? Competition?
UJU: Yes of course, I still face different challenges but I always get past them as they come and my business is doing great. As for competitors, there are a lot of them out there especially male painters. So, I am still working on getting Nigerians to trust women with painting their homes/offices as good as the men.
NMO: Where do you see “The Lady Painter” in the long term?
UJU: In the next couple of years, I plan to expand the business to have more Lady Painters. I see a good number of women trained to be professional painters. I plan to operate nationwide, so we would be able to transform homes all over Nigeria.
NMO: Tell us about the “Grab a brush, Colour a Life” initiative?
UJU: As part of my desire to give back to the society and really inspire lives, I decided to embark on a community service project themed ‘Grab a brush, Colour a Life’. The project involves beautifying a poorly kept school or location in any local community. The maiden project took place on October 1st, 2016 (Nigeria’s Independence Day) at Araromi Primary School, 50/52, Araromi Street, Mushin, Lagos.
NMO: Who benefited from your first project?
UJU: The students of Araromi Primary school. They resumed classes after the Independence holiday to a colorful school environment.
NMO: Please give us a brief summary of how you went about your first project.
UJU: The project was quite challenging. Three months before that day I never thought I would be organizing such. It seemed easy at first, but when I decided to write down all the plans, I became scared. I put up the e-fliers on Facebook and Twitter requesting for volunteer artists. People indicated interest and then I sent out another e-flier even to my WhatsApp contacts. My friends and family all supported even volunteers that I didn’t know. World Travel Shop Ltd also supported. That day was amazing, everyone had fun and people that couldn’t make it are still asking when the next project is. It has had a ripple effect in people’s lives and that’s the result I was hoping to get.
NMO: What ways can individuals and organizations partner with you or support this initiative?
UJU: Right now ‘Grab a brush, Colour a life’ is structured so that individuals and organizations can call The Lady Painter anytime for partnership and together we can colour more lives.
NMO: How many hours do you work a day on average?
UJU: On the average I work ten hours a day, and when am not out, I work on my laptop all day.
NMO: Describe your typical day?
UJU: I wake up and pack my painting tools and am off to a site or to buy materials or to check out a new project.
NMO: Do you have any hobbies?
UJU: Yes, I love to dance. I used to wish I was a dancer (laughs).
NMO: How has being an entrepreneur affected your life outside work?
UJU: Not so much. I still find time to go out with friends and visit family. But at this stage in the business I can’t make long trips.
NMO: What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
UJU: For me its communication (with clients and employees), branding and sales. These are key skills.
NMO: What have been some failures you experienced, and what have you learned from them?
UJU: Erm…I have had a lot to learn since I started the business. Some have had to do with poor accounting. Now I have learned to keep my books updated all the time.
NMO: What was the best advice you received when you started?
UJU: A friend told me that the road will definitely bumpy, but I should keep my head up no matter what and have a positive mind. That’s exactly what I do.
NMO: What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
UJU: Whatever makes you happy, whatever gives you satisfaction, if it will make you a better person, if it will make your neighbor (in this case your customer) happy and if it will earn you a decent income, then by all means go out there and do it!
The Lady Painter can be reached via:
Phone: 08063275102, 07063453470
Facebook: The Lady Painter