• Friday, April 12, 2024
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Investing in women is crucial for societal progress on multiple fronts – Neya Kalu

Investing in women is crucial for societal progress on multiple fronts – Neya Kalu

Neya Kalu is an astute Serial Entrepreneur, Business Executive, and Philanthropist. With a first degree in Law and an MSc. in Financial Services Management from the University of Buckingham, United Kingdom, Neya has garnered over 12 years of experience across various industries; crafting and implementing business initiatives and functions.

She is the CEO of Basecoat: a chain of Nail Salons in Nigeria and the founder of the Neya Kalu Foundation. Neya Kalu also sits as the Chairman of The Sun Nigeria, a reputable Nigerian News Organization, Chairman of Sun Heavens Hotels and Resorts.Apart from being a Business Executive and Entrepreneur, Neya is passionate about solving social issues especially as it relates to women.

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In this interview with Ifeoma Okeke-Korieocha, Kalu speaks about how she is able to wear many hats and manage multiple businesses in various sectors at the same time effectively and efficiently. She also speaks on her passion for women and child development.

You have a lot going on; you wear many hats and operate in different capacities; how would you describe yourself, and what is that thing(s) you want to be known for?

I am someone who thrives in multifaceted roles and enjoys tackling diverse challenges. I am resourceful and very driven to excel in whatever capacity I operate. While I embrace wearing many hats, there’s one thing I aspire to be known for: making a positive impact. Whether through my work, interactions with others, or contributions to projects and initiatives, I want to leave a lasting impression of positivity, innovation, and meaningful change. That’s what drives me and what I hope to be remembered for in the long run.

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You are the Chairman of The Sun Nigeria, a reputable Nigerian News Organization, Chairman of Sun Heavens Hotels and Resorts and founder at BaseCoat. How do you manage these various businesses with different audiences and focus?

Managing multiple businesses with distinct audiences requires effective delegation, strategic planning, and a clear understanding of each business’s goals and operations. As Chairman of The Sun Nigeria, Sun Heavens Hotels and Resorts, and founder of BaseCoat, it has been fulfilling ensuring that each business receives the attention it deserves.

One thing that I’ve prioritised is communication and collaboration among teams within each organisation. Additionally, I rely on competent and empowered management teams in each business to handle day-to-day operations. Delegating responsibilities to capable individuals helps me focus on high-level decision-making and long-term planning, ensuring that each business stays on track to achieve its goals.

Ultimately, managing multiple businesses with different audiences and focuses requires a combination of effective delegation, strategic oversight, and a commitment to excellence in every aspect of operations. With a dedicated team and a clear vision, I am confident in our ability to navigate the complexities of diverse industries and drive success across all ventures.

Given your role at The Sun Nigeria, how do you see the media shaping public opinion on social issues, and what role do you believe media plays in driving positive change in society?

As Chairman of The Sun Nigeria, I see the media as a key influencer in shaping public opinion on social issues. The media can bring attention to important topics through accurate reporting and investigative journalism, hold individuals and institutions accountable, and mobilise public support for positive change. The media plays a vital role in promoting inclusivity, social justice, and transparency by amplifying diverse voices and advocating for marginalised communities. The media is a powerful force for informing, engaging, and driving societal progress.

In your experience as a Chairman, how do you foster effective governance within an organisation, and what principles do you prioritise to ensure the board’s effectiveness?

As Chairman, fostering effective governance within an organisation requires a focus on transparency, accountability, and strategic oversight. I believe in open communication among board members and all necessary stakeholders. This also helps with accountability and builds a sense of ownership towards roles and responsibilities.

Another way I foster effective governance within our organisations is by regular reviews and updates among team members and stakeholders. This spills over into ensuring board effectiveness.

In your role at Sun Heaven Hotels and Resorts, what initiatives or strategies have you implemented to ensure the success and growth of the hospitality business?

There’s a saying that a satisfied customer is the only thing that counts. We’ve prioritised enhancing the guest experience by ensuring exceptional customer service across all our branches.

Within the teams, we’ve also encouraged a sense of ownership by delegating responsibilities and inclusion. Inclusion is essential because there are different perspectives the different genders bring to the table, and I’ve tried to ensure that qualified minds get a seat at the table to share their ideas and strategies for growth.

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As a leader in the beauty industry with Basecoat, how do you navigate the ever-evolving trends and challenges in the beauty and wellness sector?

With BaseCoat, being on top of our game is crucial to remaining at the top. I’m vested in doing market research and continuously exploring new products and services we can offer at all our branches.

Another way my team and I navigate the beauty and wellness sector is by remaining customer-centric. We listen to customer feedback, understand their needs and desires and tailor our offerings to meet and exceed their expectations.

Finally, I leverage collaboration and partnerships. That’s one recurring theme that I stand by. For instance, I recently partnered with my very good friend Onyekachi of Beauty Atelier to open a one-stop shop for semi-permanent makeup and nails in Abuja.

How do you see businesses contributing to broader societal goals, and what role can they play in achieving sustainable development?

Businesses are critical in contributing to societal goals and achieving sustainable development. Businesses drive economic growth and create jobs, improving livelihoods and reducing poverty.

But beyond the surface-level changes businesses can do, more businesses should be involved in policy making. You see, businesses can influence policy and advocate for regulatory frameworks that support sustainable development goals. Businesses can contribute to developing policies and regulations that promote environmental sustainability, social equity and economic prosperity.

Why the passion for women and child development?

Why not women and child development? There’s this popular statement that when you train a woman, you train a nation, which is what I’m running with. I believe that once women and children are empowered, societal changes can come even faster.

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What is the importance of investing in women, and how will investment in women lead to societal progress?

Investing in women is crucial for societal progress on multiple fronts. Empowering women economically leads to increased household income and economic growth at a basic level and on a larger scale. Studies have consistently shown that when women have access to education, employment opportunities, and financial resources, they reinvest a significant portion of their income back into their families and communities, thereby lifting entire households out of poverty and stimulating local economies.

Investing in women is not only the right thing to do from a moral standpoint, but it’s also an intelligent investment in the future of societies.

Can you speak to this year’s International Women’s Day theme: Inspire Inclusion?

This year’s theme is the story of my life. I am thankful to my father for being that figure who made sure I didn’t shrink or hide my gifts and talents. He provided an environment that ensured I was included from the start. This gave me a sense of belonging and empowerment.

When compared to developed countries, do you think Nigeria is anywhere near achieving gender equality in the workplace and home front? What are some of the challenges hindering the realisation of gender equality in Nigeria, in your opinion?

I don’t think we are there yet, but I believe we are getting there. While progress has been made in recent years, one major challenge that affects the realisation of gender equality in Nigeria is cultural and societal norms that perpetuate gender stereotypes and discrimination.

Additionally, limited access to education and economic opportunities impede progress towards gender equality in Nigeria.

As an advocate for self-care and relaxation, how do you balance the demands of your various roles while ensuring you prioritise your well-being?

Having a schedule is not just important but essential for easily navigating a busy life. I’ve discovered that compartmentalising things makes things a whole lot more seamless. It creates a sense of balance between my life’s different commitments.

How do you stay motivated and inspired in your multifaceted roles, and what advice do you have for individuals seeking to maintain passion and drive in their careers?

I maintain my drive by consistently envisioning my future and the significant influence I aim to achieve. I’m big on leaving a legacy for my son, and that’s what continually drives me. I also draw inspiration from the incredible people around me who have done amazing things. My advice to people seeking to maintain passion is to always remind yourself of your why. Your why is the fuel that would keep you going.

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Considering your voracious reading habits, are there any specific books or authors that have had a profound impact on your personal or professional life?

⁠ No, because I mainly focus on fictional African tales. So, I don’t know if there’s anything in particular that is profound to me, but I love a good Nigerian author. I’ve read five books this year alone! I love books that transport me from reality to a dreamland, and that’s what Nigerian fiction does for me.

What advice do you have for young women aspiring to enter business and entrepreneurship, especially in male-dominated industries?

I’ll share three things that have worked for me: Believe in yourself, Build a support network, and Be resilient. Recognize that challenges and setbacks are inevitable, and use those moments to fuel your growth and development.

Who are some women you draw inspiration from, and why?

I can draw inspiration from anyone, from the woman selling corn on the side of the road to a Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Nowadays, the source of your inspiration is not limited.