BusinessDay

I struggle with judgemental comments in my male-dominated field – Shobowale

Damilola Shobowale is the CEO of Midas Integrated Limited, a conglomerate comprising Midas Movers, Midas Scaffolds, and Clothe the Kids foundation, which cuts across haulage, scaffolds, and charity respectively. In this interview with Josephine Okojie, Shobowale takes us through her journey into the haulage and scaffolding industries, describing her creative processes, key challenges, and how she overcame them.

Tell us about your current role and what you like about your career?

Midas Movers is a professional and reliable multi-value moving services firm with services ranging from truck and van hire to home and office relocation, wrapping services, professional loading, and offloading services, while Midas scaffolds deal with sales, rentals, and installation of all kinds of scaffold accessories and services. Clothe the kids’ foundation, on the other hand, is a non-profit organization with a mission to aid underprivileged children having difficulties meeting up with their various needs.

If I could say anything about what I love about my career, I would say solving problems. That’s like the center of what I do both personally and professionally. I love proffering solutions to consumer needs, scaffolding and logistics happen to be two industries where I have excellent knowledge and experience and where I can make the most impact for now.

How has your journey to entrepreneurship been so far?

Honestly, I’d say it’s been good but not all rosy. My journey has been filled with different stages of learning, relearning, and unlearning. Entrepreneurship in Nigeria is not for the faint of heart, there are times when a collage of market, economic and situational conditions will challenge and threaten the existence of your business and as an entrepreneur, you stand alone in addressing and mitigating all these challenges. For example, in the past two months, the prices of diesel skyrocketed by over 90 percent and increased our cost of operation by almost 35 percent. This is a cost that we can’t easily pass on to my clients. Situations like this make running the business stressful and challenging.

My choice of business is capital intensive and I earn a lot from it but as I earn, I have to put the profit back into the business to grow my brand. Initially, I had to handle my bookkeeping myself and kept getting revenue and profits mixed up, but now we use the services of financial experts to help analyze capital, expenses, and profits. As much as I enjoy what I do, I have faced gender discrimination and segregation. Sometimes I get comments that question my abilities and all these are fuelled just because I am a woman and this can affect my job selection. Potential partners don’t even give a listening ear because of their general assumptions about women being incapable of working in a male industry. I had to work in the background for months before I got the courage to put my face to my brand. I have had mixed feelings about running the business and having to deal with this level of challenges and rejections.

How did you get into the scaffolding industry?

My dad is a scaffolder. I grew up learning scaffolding from him right from when I was in secondary school. During my holidays, I would help him draft emails to send to clients and prospects. We drafted quotations together and I used to follow him to the site. When I started my own scaffolding company, he carried me along and put me through the processes right from the paperwork to the execution. There are times when I know I would be challenged when pitching for a contract due to obvious reasons but my dad comes into the picture, he bids for me and assists me in getting them. I call him my supervisor.

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What do you love about working in the scaffolding industry?

Scaffolding has always been in my face. I grew up learning about scaffolding and it has always piqued my interest. As a teenager, I already planned that someday I was going to own my scaffolding company. I like that I make good money from what I do, but more importantly, I like the fact that I’m actively solving problems with my scaffolding materials. The referral and connections in the industry are awesome. It’s practically the primary way we sell today. I can remember when we launched about 16 months ago, my team and I were on our toes to get clients. Surprisingly, it only took two persons to discover the brand and we’ve received explosive bookings through referrals from these two clients to date.

What inspires, motivates, and helps you make each day count?

I believe as an entrepreneur, I have to stay motivated unless I want my money to go to the dust. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted and each day, despite the challenges, I pick myself up and make it work. Problem-solving is my key motivation. As long as I know my service will solve a puzzle, I’m in. It motivates me to hone my skills and elevate my brand. As the CEO of a Haulage company, I render services to people who struggle to move their items from one location to the other. I step in with my team, providing clear descriptions of our seamless and effective moving process, then carry out the moving exercise. The satisfaction it gives to my clients at the end of the day is more than enough inspiration and motivation for me. I always get this great feeling of achievement from within. In a nutshell, customer satisfaction is one of my key driving forces.

What are the challenges you have experienced as a woman working in a male-dominated industry?

As I said earlier, as a woman working in male-dominated fields, I sometimes struggle with discouraging and judgemental comments from prospects. Some prospects are blunt with their opinions for obvious reasons. Most contractors prefer to work with their fellow men. I get a lot of “I don’t think you can handle it” most times even though they know I have good experience and offer quality materials and services. Oftentimes when I pick the customer care line to converse with prospects, it is mostly about my capabilities. There are times when I win their trust, while some other times I don’t. Gender discrimination has been my biggest challenge. Also, local scaffolders have been a handful. They are not professional and never keep to their word. Sometimes, I have to involve the police to settle cases. However, despite all odds, I have been able to break the bias and make a name for myself in my field of choice.

How can female scaffolders break down gender stereotypes?

First of all, I believe in self-determination. As long as you are determined to achieve a particular goal, you should go for it and make it work regardless of any hindrance. Believe in yourself, equip yourself with the right knowledge, and be bold enough to take the steps to achieve your goals.

Outside your professional work area, what are your hobbies and interests?

I love being a mum. I started my business and developed it as a mum. I also love playing long tennis. Tennis is like my safe place. Sometimes, I go to the court just to watch people play. I love to see new places, this can be traveling out of the country or discovering new places within Nigeria.

When it comes to your chosen career, do you have any favourite quotes?

Every move you make is a unique one. Even if someone else has made the move before, the fact that you are making the move makes it unique.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to follow in your footsteps?

Be financially smart! Study the numbers and it’ll give you insight. Business is very interesting, but the moment you don’t understand the financial implications of the business you are in, it looks like you are not doing anything. People overrule that in business and it’s not healthy. Finance is an important part of every business. You might have to start all by yourself, but don’t be scared of the start-up cost, but rather focus on selling and creating continuous demand. Seek professional assistance in areas you are lacking. Pay the necessary people you need to pay, from the legal advisor to the finance expert and every other person involved. My choice of work is capital intensive, if you want to follow in my footsteps, you need to learn how to save and cultivate the habit of putting back into your business.

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