BusinessDay

Why I moved to Nigeria to set-up my business, by Anastasia Malandrenia

Anastasia Malandrenia is a Greek is living her best life at the moment. After a fulfilling career in the aviation industry where she worked for Emirates airline as a flight attendant for more than eight years; the likeable former ex-premium cabin (first class crew) has returned to her first love – real estate. Anastasia, daughter of a top real estate agent and broker, is currently involved in the real estate game. A high-flying real estate agent, Anastasia is also involved in golden visas. She holds six certificates as a semi permanent make-up artist and she’s planning to add more to her educational credentials next year. In this exclusive interview with OBA MICHAEL SOYEBO, she opened up about her private life, business and other sundry issues. Excerpts:

How was growing up like for you?

I come from an upper -middle class family of four and I’m the oldest daughter. I was brought up with so much love, care and was provided with everything I needed. Family traditions are important and we had plenty of them when I was growing up. Whether it was songs before bedtime ,family dinner every night, walks by the beach, movie nights every weekend or handmade vanilla cakes for birthdays the traditions we had in our family provided comfort & consistency instilled in us the importance of family and reinforced our faith and family values . I remember sleeping under one million stars in my home town Kranidi, going for hunting every Sunday morning , I remember hiking snow capped mountains , the three-hour drive every beginning of summer for a three months’ long vacation . Whenever I go home we always reminisce about those childhood experiences. The family unit is the foundation for Greek society and life. A family is to provide emotional and economic support to an individual, and family relationships are close-knit. Social life for Greeks includes their relatives, and extended family also plays a strong role in a person’s life. I am proud to say I grew up with values and love.

Why did you quit as a flight attendant and how was the experience for you?

Nine years, six months , 25 days , more than 75 countries and 9583 hours I can proudly say that I lasted longer than I and my family expected. My chapter had come to an end; I could feel it in my spirit that I was ready for my next big step.

What a journey it has been! I have seen the unimaginable and I have experienced the unthinkable. I have lived a part of my dream, I’m beyond grateful for the places I have seen and the people I have met. The kindness, the smiles, the curiosity and the generosity I have been given. The good, the bad, the ups and the downs, it all played its role for the outcome that was meant for me. I have the best memories to cherish. Thank you to every single one who had been a part of it and of course, I thank Emirates for the opportunity. My heart is full.

How did you establish your beauty business in Lagos?

I just did it. You have to take the plunge. I was ready to be an entrepreneur and work for myself. I had thought about it and talked about it for a long time, I had read books about marketing, semi permanent make up, how to open a salon, etc. I was in customer service for over 15 years and I loved working with people.

There are lots of ways to start a business, but the most common way is by doing something you are passionate about and have a lot of skills in?

I started my business by coming up with an idea that I felt passionate about and then doing my research to find a niche that I could target. I also invested in some quality marketing tools and strategies to help my business off the ground. Once things started to take off, I made sure to stay focused on my goals and keep things moving forward. The lesson I learned is just do it, as long as you have passion and love for your business venture and know what is involved to insure you are successful, that is the secret. So many may have a great idea, or new product they developed, there is a lot more to learn before you make the jump and start your own business.

I personally set realistically goals, I had adequate access to funding, enough to cover my personal expenses and my business expenses, so I recommend to set a spread sheet up listing all such expenses. Mostly sadly fail at their own businesses for they did not learn what is needed before starting their businesses. You must know what you are doing before you do it, and is important for everyone to know before starting any business. Best advice is to start your business part time if possible. It makes the plunge a bit easier and gives you a better shot at success.

For those who still wonder why I chose Nigeria, let’s talk with numbers “Nigeria’s cosmetic market hits N1tr turnover records 14.5 percent growth” as per July 2022; I think these numbers are very impressive.

Read also: As crucial elections approach, are Nigerians tired of their political leaders?

What were the challenges starting up business?

I think for someone like me that used to live in Europe and U.A.E where the government supports small business owners, where if you have good credit it will be very easy to get investors and secure loans and contracts compared to Nigeria that would be the most challenging. I keep telling people that Nigeria is not for the weak. What I mean by that is that one of most frustrating challenges that I ever faced was the constant rate changes of the local currency, naira. I had to change my rates about 5 times in about a year .Another decision that had to be made was to charge in dollars , of course they have the choice to pay in naira but the difference here is that they will pay with the rate of the dollar equivalent to naira on the day .

As I am planning to expand in the near feature, I have realised that is extremely hard to find the right staff and what I mean by that is that I find it very hard to manage employees and keep the business running up to my standards. There are professional job seekers whose only real competence is to excel at interviews and get the job. The individuals pass the interview process well, present themselves impressively to the organisation, but perform poorly when they get the job. How do you handle that?

Another major issue has been the poor power supply, bad network depending on the area and the access to fast and effective internet connectivity.

How did you become successful in the line of business?

The definition of success is different for every individual. I believe that a little progress each day adds up to big results. Learning that no success comes without struggles, failures and patience; so, what actually made me successful? (Based on my definition of success).

I followed a career path and I had an end goal in mind ( becoming the best on my field ) and I kept making decisions based on that end goal . If something in my career was not moving me forward towards my goal, I will stop doing it. I turned myself into a lifelong learner. I continually educate myself and expend my horizons.

I invested in quality products and I focus on building relationships. While there is no strong formula for being a successful entrepreneur, those who do succeed tend to have mastered the following set of skills : Good and effective communication, being able to sell both themselves and their idea or product , strong focus , consistency , eagerness to learn and be flexible, and a solid business plan. Here are some tips to become more successful: Don’t take no for an answer; learn from the best; stay hungry and ambitious; never stand still, evolve with the times; nurture long-term business relationships; inspire those around you; give solutions to their problem or needs, and trust your gut instinct, not just your spreadsheet.

How did you diversify into real estate?

One of the top reasons was that I was always fascinated by it from a young age by watching my dad being very successful at it .There is a thrill you get from touring properties and imagining how to transform spaces and build lives within them. Being a real estate agent means that you get to set your own hours and decide for yourself how to manage your tune and priorities. There is earning potential in real estate and it can be very lucrative but what people fail to realise is that it’s a lot of hard work. Once you enter real estate you need to focus on the client and not the money, once you understand your clients needs you will make a sale. For someone like me that gets bored easily and can’t imagine working in an office real estate was the best option. If you like change, new trends, and adapting to different markets, real estate will offer the versatility in a work environment that you crave.

I love to socialise and I get to meet a ton of different personalities. Real estate might be a very hard work but it can be very rewarding.

How would you describe real estate in Nigeria?

There is always space for improvement. The main challenges we are facing in the property investment sector: Expensive residences; naira depreciation; ineffective property protection laws; capital market risk; limited source of funding for developers, and lack of affordable housing.

As a developing country, Nigeria’s real estate sector has huge employment opportunities, investment potentials and guarantees returns on investments.

More generally, the stronger the set of property rights, the stronger the incentive to work, save and invest, and the more effective the operation of the economy. The more effectively an economy operates, the more growth it will produce for any set of recourses.

What are your major breakthroughs in real estate business?

If you are scared, you are not alone. Old strategies don’t work in this new market. You will need to adapt. But if you are willing to learn some new skills, I believe you will not only survive but thrive in 2022. We need to negotiate for our commission; it’s twice as much work. On top of that, it usually means navigating through the transaction as the only agent involved trying to explain things to both parties. It can be difficult, no doubt but is the best way to go about it.

“What lies before us, what lies behind us, is nothing compared to what lies within us.” Fear can immobilise us from taking action like the fear of rejection, failure and of success. Most of us feel a combination of fears but the secret is using our fears instead of our fears using us.

I think a great agent is one that knows their clients and their time frame. One that is proactive with the sales process, knows the local area, they listen and communicate well and regularly with their clients.

What are you business expansion plans?

With the right expansion plan, your beauty brand won’t just grow — it will thrive. What I have in the immediate future planned is to increase advertising, entering new markets, providing new products and services, purchasing new assists, opening new units and adding sales personnel. Expansion can also enhance the impression of greater financial viability : larger businesses often look more appealing to investors and lenders.

Who are your target audience?

My target audience are both male and female, anyone from the age of 18- 65+. This includes older women with alopecia or who have gone through chemo. The true target audience is anyone who is unhappy with their appearance of their brows. Yes, semi permanent make up is a reliable process of getting beautiful lips and eyebrows in daily life. Knowing your target audience will allow you to experience success with various advertising methods such as influencer marketing . Knowing (and understanding) your target audience is essential to marketing yourself as a semi permanent artist.

Where do you see yourself in few years?

“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes,”Andrew Carnegie. I hope I will be able to keep having goals and staying committed to them. Over the next few years I want to explore and develop more skills in Semi Permanent Make up, I want to have gained experience in leading projects for major clients. I will be looking for opportunities to expand my responsibilities within this role to work towards my goal. Dedicated to mastering the craft and being able to share my knowledge to new artists through my own academy.

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