Meet the Physiotherapy graduate turned Female Carpenter
Buogo Obi is the 26 year old CEO of Wooddesignes, a furniture manufacturing enterprise situated in the busy Yaba area of Lagos, Nigeria. Nothing like the woman I had envisioned, soft-spoken, eccentric and quirky; she asked to gist before the interview started so we could get comfortable. Nearly intimidating with her steady gait and eyes that seemed to take everything in, as she listened to me speak, she directed me to her office which would now double-up as an interview room.
“No matter how smart you are, you need God, I’ve had to learn to humble myself and go in His direction”
Although a family business, Buogo mentions that when she expressed her love for wood and furniture and her interest in becoming a part of the company, she had to learn the reins from the workshop to the show room. She learnt to make furniture and spent days working with her Architect father in the workshop. She mentions that the Carpentry title never really did bother her as she was bent on not just being a daughter inheriting a place in the business, she needed to know the business well enough to make it even more lucrative than the state in which she met it. Her passion and fuel for the business was not dampened by her family either as they pushed and supported her through the whole process. Except for the few men asking for her to ‘work on their wood’, she says her assertive nature tends to fend off the haters and takes the comments with laughter.
A trained physiotherapist, she mentions how the knowledge she gained from getting the degree is not lost on her. She describes how she makes good use of Ergonomics which she mentions is a term that defines the study of man in relation to inanimate objects. She explains that her knowledge on this subject study gives her an understanding of where the customer’s back for instance should fit into a chair or how a bed should best be tailored for a good night’s rest.
“Everything you study gives you an edge”
As the only furniture manufacturing enterprise that is purely Nigerian from raw materials to finishing product, wooddesignes also offers a pay on delivery option to suit the Nigerian spending culture as well as allowing the customer to custom-build furniture on the website and have it delivered. When asked on the hurdles she has encountered as a female boss in a male-dominated industry, she calmly mentions the road blocks she encountered on entry into the business as several insubordinate male workers had to be dismissed for the way in which they responded to her authority. She mentions how she had to let go of her pride and instead learn to be diplomatic and tactful when dealing with workers. She maintains that she never stops learning on the job even in relation to dealing with clients; She’s still mistaken for the sales girl when clients come in for a purchase, they exclaim when the sales persons refer to her as ‘ma’. Instead of taking offence, she’s learnt to take it with a pinch of salt. ‘I’m about the money’, she says. When customers come in and look at her funny when she describes the product, she mentions to their dismay how she nailed the wood and screwed in pieces and can therefore guarantee the quality of the product.
“I take a man with me when I have meetings as certain clients would rather hear from a man even if he is just repeating what I say or I am the one talking. I only care about sales though, that’s what’s important.”
On love, a self acclaimed daddy’s girl. She laughingly described a particular incident in which she was to get taken out on a date. ” He arrived an hour late, so my dad made sure I delayed going outside to join him for an hour and 30 minutes as he was so stunned at the audacity of our generation’s men. ‘You don’t keep a woman waiting’, he stated.” Happily single and content with waiting for the man who will treat her right, Buogo stays focused on her growth as an individual and a career woman. She is persistent with her desire to grow Wooddesignes into becoming the biggest Nigeria-based Furniture making enterprise in revenue and reach. She has a type though: a man who is passionate about God, tall, dark, smart, confident bordering on cocky and driven. She says divorce is off the cards so when she ties the knot, she’s in it for the long haul.
“Women were not given a chance in the past. Now that we are, we need to make full use of it. There are times where it will be tough”, she admonishes, she mentions how she’s had to go back to God and re-request for direction just to be sure she is on the path in which she was destined as the frustration would kick in. She would then remember where she was headed, where she saw the company in a couple of years and latch on to that goal. Under her leadership, Wooddesignes has increased in revenue, quality assurance and is fast-becoming a recognised company in its field.
“Women need to realise that we have the advantage in doing things that men would normally do, you wouldn’t be interviewing me if I were a man. Let us make that work for us”
On leaving a legacy, she had this to say:
“I want to be known as the best, not the best woman at what I do, but the best. Full stop”
Somehow, I doubt that leaving this legacy will pose much of a problem.