• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

From 10years without, to four children in 15 months, ELIZABETH KINGS-WALI’s story spurs hope

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Elizabeth Kings-Wali is on the board as the Chief Executive Officer of BlackStone Capital Limited, an agile unconventional financial service provider. She is a passionate finance professional with over two decades of experience spanning major business areas in retail and SME, commercial banking, and public sector banking, growing investment portfolios and supporting businesses with quality risk assets and advisory services. She rose to the position of Group Head, Retail and SME, Abuja and North Central in a Tier 2 commercial bank in Nigeria.

Elizabeth’s educational qualifications include a Master in Business Administration from the Prifysgol Bangor University Wales (UK), M.Sc. Human Resources & Personnel Management from Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT), and B.Sc in Biological Sciences from the University of Abuja, and an honorary doctorate degree in Business Management and Corporate Leadership from the European American University.

She’s also a member of the MSME committee of the Nigerian-British Chambers of Commerce. She sits on the board of council of Chartered Institute of Information and Strategy Management, the decision makers of the Institute. CIISM is an Information and strategic management training professional body registered in Nigeria with chapters across board.

Elizabeth Kings-Wali is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (FCIB) and an associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers in Scotland (CIBIS), the oldest banking institute in the world. She was recently awarded a distinguished fellow of the Chartered Institute of Information and Strategy Management (DFCIISM), and the prestigious United States President’s Lifetime Achievement Award by President Joe Biden for volunteering and humanitarian works.

What memories of your formative years would you want to share?

I grew up in a very humble home. I am second to the last child from a family of 10. 7 girls and 3 boys. As one of the last, I was pampered by my older ones and my parents. My dad was a police officer while my mum a trader, she sold food stuff like garri, cassava, fufu and Yam. My mum was the first woman to take garri from Edo state to Niger state. She had pickups until she started growing her cassava in Mina and processing garri and fufu herself. At some point, she had a big restaurant called Honesty Food Canteen. She was responsible for feeding Niger state sportsmen, especially handball and volleyball players. She was the state caterer. She was very well known because she was industrious. They called her “Mama Peter”. My dad was mostly in Sokoto serving as the DPO so he wasn’t always around, but I remember traveling by road a couple of times to go and visit him with my sisters, and I always had a nice time when I visited. He retired in 1990 and passed away 2013 while my mum passed away in the year 1999.

When and why was BlackStone Capital formed and what does the company do?

BlackStone Capital came into existence on the 1st July 2019. It was born from my empathy for genuine businesses, the fact that genuine businesses lack support from commercial banks without tangible collateral. I feel businesses should be supported regardless of tangible collateral provided the business is viable. This is why BlackStone Capital was founded.

Blackstone is an agile financial services provider, focused on closing the financial inclusion gap through innovative capital and advisory support to qualified individuals as well as small and medium scale enterprises, across growth sectors of the Nigerian economy, especially in growing but neglected segments of the market. In summary, BlackStone Capital offers micro lending to small and medium scale enterprises and the unbanked in the society, with the aim of reducing the unbanked and empowering the micro and small medium scale enterprises of the economy, while BlackStone Insurance Brokers is focused on all and general insurance business as a broker in the economy.

Share the success story of your company

First, it’s a big achievement to start a business from scratch, took it to this level within 4 years, and birthed another company. Our people are our pride. We try to treat our people well. Our corporate philosophy is to provide an enabling work environment for our staff because we know if they are happy, then we will in turn make our customers happy. We also treat our customers uniquely. Even though we have generic products, we still tweak them to individual satisfaction because we know it’s not one size fits all. So, basically, our success story is hinged on personal service delivery, speed, very short turnaround time and happy staff.

Was there any particular challenge your company faced that you surmounted and you are willing to share?

The major challenges we faced in starting up was firstly, finance. Getting capital to start up the business from scratch and then, human resources, getting the right skill set of people to buy into the vision and run with it. These were the major challenges, others were challenges that comes with the business but to the glory of God, we surmounted it all and are still surmounting as they arise.

What advice do you have for companies when going through turbulent times?

My advice to other entrepreneurs is to be brave and bullish in decision making, start small, dream big and stay focused on your dreams. Always believe no matter the turbulence, it will pass as long as you remain focused, everything and every situation has its expiring date if you keep your eyes on the ball. Also, look for like-minds in the industry and talk to them because you don’t know where help might come from.

As a finance professional with 2 decades of experience, what have you learnt?

As a finance expert of over 2 decades, I have learnt that you have to first be passionate about what you do, there should be no excuse for someone else to be more passionate than you. Secondly, you must be resilient, you have to be willing to pay the price and sacrifice for what you want. I have also learnt that you must dare to dream, and that your mind is your greatest asset, have an open mind and then upgrade your dream to reality by working hard towards it. Networking is also very important, it is your net worth. Lastly, you must have a good knowledge of what you do and a bit of everything around to enable you hold a conversation.

What advice do you have for any young lady who wants to grow her career in banking, especially one aspiring to get to the top?

Anyone who wants to build a career in banking and get to the top must first be hardworking, must have integrity, have an open mind and must be knowledgeable about banking and finance in general. People love and trust people that are knowledgeable. Furthermore, don’t limit yourself to your circle. Finally, be ambitious.

Tell us in detail the challenges and triumphs of having your children

I searched for a child for over a decade, lost a marriage in the process, afterwards, God blessed me with 4 children within 15months with an amazing husband who supported me all through, telling me there’s nothing God cannot do. Yes! 15 months you heard that right. In 2018, after over 10 years with 9 failed IVFs and a couple of miscarriages, my husband had a heart to heart talk with me advising me on the need to face the issue of childlessness squarely. At that time, I was an AGM in the bank and I was looking forward to becoming a DGM. I resigned and decided to work in church as a children’s church minister after also attending Bible school, and there was no job taking my time anymore. I got pregnant on the first attempt again, and was blessed with a baby boy. While at it, still nursing, I became pregnant again because my doctor thought it was best I tried another IVF since my body was all pumped up and as God would have it, I became pregnant. I didn’t believe it because at this time, I had tried IVF more than 10 times and they all failed. Because I had gotten used to negative results over time, I didn’t believe I was pregnant so I kept testing every other day just to be sure I was really pregnant again. I had more than a dozen sticks just testing and testing and I remember my doctor asking me if I wanted the result to change to negative because I always shared my disbelief with her. However, behold, it was multiple but we could only see 2 babies and they were doing good. Not until 4 months into the pregnancy that we discovered a third baby by the nurse during an antenatal visit. My pregnancy journey was smooth even though I was a high risk patient having had a baby less than a year before. I had to check into the hospital early for monitoring. We couldn’t check for the babies’ gender because of how they were positioned, all I did was to pray it turned out to be 2 girls and a boy and that was what happened. I gave birth to triplets (2 girls and 1 boy) on the 30th of August 2021. Immediately after, as if we took the devil by surprise, my entire system changed 360 degrees for the worst. My kidney didn’t function, I started growing big, couldn’t stand or walk, did all sorts of tests, MRI, CT scan, and so on. I had 4 more surgeries after birth. From having adhesion, retaining fluid and blood, and a whole lot including my stitches opening up again. We had tension stitches at the end. I carried my tummy open for 2 weeks because we needed the tissue to granulate treating it with honey. You could see the inside of me, and at that point, with an opened tummy, I danced to God in thanksgiving and the very next day, my doctor didn’t believe how it had changed for the better. After that, I went in for the surgery, and the healing process started. I stayed 5 months in the hospital all together. 1 month before the babies and 4 months after battling for my life. Family actually confirmed I died at some point but to the glory of God, I am here today.

When you look at your children today, what are you thankful for?

Initially, because I was going into post natal depression, I resented my babies because I felt they put me in that situation, and at some point, I felt I was going to die because of them. It took my doctors and family to talk me out of depression, and I was constantly forced to see them and hold them. But those triplets are the smartest 2 years old I have seen. There is nothing they don’t say and they are super intelligent. The joy I feel when they are all around me is unquantifiable and I can’t explain it. I thank God that I didn’t give up because at some point, due to pains, I gave up, I was tired of all I was going through and didn’t have the will power to fight for life, but with my husband, my family around me, they didn’t let me give up. I am glad I didn’t because the best thing that happened is having my amazing children. They changed my name and completed me as a woman.

What advice do you have for people around couples waiting for their own children?

Please, if you are around people looking for children, don’t ask them triggering questions because it’s hard talking about it most times. Just give your advice and suggestions. For me, the hardest part was, after two weeks of implantation and it turned out negative, I was being asked for the result. This broke me. Just hold up such couples in prayers and shower them with love, don’t judge them, especially in this era of social media. A very close friend of mine actually accused me of not wishing them happy 10th anniversary and I watched her post on Instagram, little did she know I was in the hospital at that time going through procedures in pain. I had just finished crying while laying on the bed and was keeping busy with Instagram. The issue is emotionally draining, so the little you can do is cut them some slack, and don’t expect much because some of us hide out pain and worries in our stride.

What words of encouragement do you have for couples trusting God for their own children?

Please don’t give up. The joy when the children arrive will outweigh the pain. Do all you can but please don’t give up. Seek for advice in the right places, and listen more to your doctor and most importantly, hold on to God. Back then, whenever I pray, I tell God He says non shall be barren and so I won’t be an exception. While you wait, serve God and trust He will turn things around for you. Though it tarries, but it shall surely come to pass.

Tell us about your recent prestigious United States President’s Lifetime Achievement Award by President Joe Biden for volun0teering and humanitarian works

God is indeed good to me. Because of all that I went through and the blessings I have received both financially and otherwise, I know where it hurts the most, so, on my own, I support couples financially looking for children. IVF is not cheap. I do this quietly, and I have widows I support as well and also train children from less privileged in school. This brother of mine that knows this and also because I support his NGO here in Nigeria and in America, he nominated me but didn’t tell me because he wasn’t sure it would be approved as it’s not easy to get the US President’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I was in between flights in America when I got a call from the White House, I initially thought it was a scam call, but after the conversation and the information requested for due diligence, I knew it was real but embraced the news with an open mind. I didn’t even know who nominated me until I wrote about it on my WhatsApp status and the friend of mine reached out asking if I have been contacted from the White House, and confirmed he nominated me. To the glory of God, I scaled through the screening process and my due diligence came back positive and I was awarded. With you here is the United States President’s Lifetime Achievement Awardee.

It’s been great since the award because even in America, it confirms you are a person of integrity. It has added a seal to my profile and person.

What has changed for you after the award?

Basically, I am now a person of influence in America. I can go to certain government places that ordinarily I wouldn’t, my name is known in the country. For me to be awarded the honour means my integrity is not questionable until otherwise. I can make certain cases and I would be listened to. It’s like being a GCON, CFR and other national award holders in Nigeria.

What is your advice to everyone as 2023 draws to an end in preparation for 2024?

Evaluate your relationships, have the courage to let go of people that don’t add value to your life because you are the average of the people you hang out with. We are responsible for who we are and who we are becoming. Friendship is your currency. Create and hold on to your support system, they will always come through for you. In everything you do, please make sure integrity is key and above all, hold on to God for keeping you to see the end of the year. It’s by His grace we are alive.

Concluding words

Be a good person, be kind to people. Have an Olympic mindset and remember always there is nothing impossible with God.