Estimated reading time: 20 minute(s)
The story of Alhaja Simiatu Jimoh, the Chief Executive Officer of Progress Seafood Nig Ltd is inspiring going by her up and down experiences. Shockingly, she did not have opportunity of having formal education because of her poor family background, but she was never perturbed by her family, she was dedicated, commuted and hardworking. Madam Jimoh has become the owner of one of the biggest seafood companies in Nigeria with five branches in different part of the country. She has been to over seven countries like Norway, Germany, Poland, among others because of the frozen food business. Today, her name is ringing the bells and opening mighty doors across the world. Alhaja Jimoh spoke with journalists during the commissioning of her new branch at Arinlese area of Abeokuta in Ogun state. She spoke about the challenges so far and how she was able to overcome some of it. EXCERPT;
Can we meet you ma?
I am Sikiratu Jimoh, the Chief Executive Officer of Progress Seafood Nig Ltd.
Can you tell us a brief about yourself?
I started fish business at the age of 25 years. I started with hawking of fish, I also fried fish. I became a fish supplier when Ghanaians were still in the country. When Ghanaians left, I opened a cold room under a power line at Ladoje in Oko-Oba. The council later came to send us away from there because my cold room was under the power line.
After I was sent away, I went to Abe-Koko, 37 Ipaja road, I saw a half plot which I bought so that I can open a small cold room. The cold rook couldn’t accommodate more than N100,000 frozen products. But, since I don’t have choice, I was managing it. That was how we started struggling till we get to this point.
This branch we are opening today is the fifth branch my seafood company will be having. The Abe-Koko is the first. After the cold room at Abe-Koko, I found a land around my home in Abule-Egba and built another cold room there. But, when I discovered that doing business within your home come with some negative things, I left there and went back to the main road to get a land. I built a big company and it was that place that we are using as our head office at Abule-Egba.
Unfortunately, the government sent us away from the place, they destroyed our building when they wanted to construct road at Abule-Egba. I fell, but rise again, I used the remaining part of our destroyed land to build another little office.
I also have a seafood company at Kuto in Abeokuta before opening another one in Arinlese area of Abeokuta also.
Abe-Koko is the first branch, Abule-Egba is the second branch, Joju in Sango is the third branch, Kuto in Abeokuta is the fourth branch, while this place we are commissioning today is the fifth branch.
Can you tell us about your educational background?
Sigh! I did not go to any formal school because of the state of my parent. But, God gave me the brain of doing business. I have been doing all I am doing with sincerity. It is important to go to be educated, but not being educated does not mean you cannot be successful.
Like how many years have you spent in this business?
I have spent over 45 years in this business. Everything is God’s grace. I am not educated, but I am a core business woman.
You have gone through a lot in this business, what motivates you to keep going?
I have hawk fish in markets; I have suffered in this business. I can’t even narrate all my experiences in this business. It was not a rosy journey; it was full of downfall and rising again.
But despite all the challenges, I keep struggling because I believe this life is full of ups and downs. I am someone that is hardworking and who does not give up easily. I see challenges as part of life and it was the challenges I have faced in life that makes me stronger. I continue doing this because I don’t have any other business I can do.
Why are you opening branches?
This business has become competitive; the business was not like how it used to be when we started. There are so many people in the business now even those that do not know anything about it. We have a lot of seafood companies in the country now. So, I thought that since Mr Biggs, Sweet Sensation, banks and some other companies can have branches in different places, there is nothing stopping me from doing same. I see it as a means of making more money. Before I open a branch, I always investigate the environment by ensuring that there is no seafood company in that environment before. I always look for a place where there is no cold room so that it will not be like I am competing with anyone.
Most importantly, we are opening this branch today because they have marked out cold in Kuto as one of the buildings that would be destroyed if the government wants to construct the road.
How much was the capital you use in starting the business?
I did not start the business with a kobo. I was collecting a slate of fish from a woman popularly called Iya-Ibeji. I did not start with any money; I was collecting it on credit. They were selling a slate of fish at N13 at that time. The truth about the business then is that whether you have money or not you can do the business in our own days. It was because I did not use to owe some of the foreigners that were given us frozen products that made me have a good relationship with many of them even till today.
What are challenges you have faced on the way to success?
There are many challenges I have faced. Is it my building with CEO that was destroyed by the government in Abule-Egba that I want to talk about. Two residential houses, shop complex, 48 shops were destroyed and they have not given me a dime till now. The property involved worth N270 million. But, I was not perturbed because even the God that creates us does not say he will not test our faith. We must know what whatever happen in our life has the knowing of our creator.
Can you link your success to hardworking or grace?
It was not by my power, but the grace of Allah. Those people that are educated that have come into this business sometimes left without having nothing. It is the grace of God that has made me survive the challenges and obstacles I have encountered on my road to success. I did not understand why I am this favoured by God. I am not involved in any Osugbo or secret cult, except Asalatu. There is no challenges I may encountered in this business, it is God that always pull me out of it.
Can you share with us some countries you have visited because of this business?
I have been to Norway, Poland, Germany, but I always went to America frequently because all my children live in America. But, there is no where I can go that I will not return to Nigeria because that is where all my businesses are. I based in this country; in fact, I can’t stay abroad for six months.
Challenges facing the frozen business?
It is always good to learn the job, but many don’t learn and that is why they always have some challenges in the business. You don’t just go to business without learning it. This is a business that you must know and must ask if that is truly your way before starting it.
What do you want from the government?
I will implore the government to always try to compensate people when they destroy their properties. They should not just demolished people property without compensating them. They may face the wrath of God because of this. For example, my properties that were destroyed were valued at N270 million, but they want to give me peanut as compensation. I have not collected the money from them till now.
I don’t need anything from them than there should be power stability, water supply and the masses should be able to enjoy basic amenities.