BN Making It!: Beauty, Brains & Business! A Day in the Life of Ruth Obih – Lawyer, Serial Entrepreneur & CEO of 3Invest Ltd

Posted on Friday, September 7th, 2012 at 11:00 AM

By Gbenga Awomodu

When Ruth Obih was denied a visa to travel to the UK for a Masters degree in Oil & Gas Law, her life was being redirected for greatness through another path. She would later pass the British test to practice Law, start a Real Estate company, venture into fashion and become a versatile entrepreneur. When she returned home in 2007, started 3Invest Ltd., a Real Estate company specialized in providing acquisition and investment service for private clients and funds looking to invest in Nigeria’s most coveted real estate. In the wake of the global financial meltdown and plummeting real estate value, Ruth found innovative ways to remain relevant in the industry. Thus, in January 2011, she started “3Invest Intelligence”, an innovative division of the company focused on real estate media and advocacy. Through this division, several thousand Nigerians and real estate investors have been empowered with useful and relevant information to make wise investment decisions, via the platform, 3investonline.com. Her hard work and determination to make impact in the industry has even caught the attention of Forbes Africa, which recently profiled her. In this exclusive interview with Gbenga Awomodu, Ruth, who anchors the bi-weekly radio programme, Real Estate ON AIR, talks about entrepreneurship, her journey from the Law school to success the real estate business, and planning the first edition of her brain child, the Real Estate UNITE Conference, Exhibition and Awards 2012 holding this month.

Tell us a bit about yourself – growing up, education and career?
I am a lawyer. I studied Law at the Imo State University and the Nigerian Law School, Lagos. Afterwards, I was exposed to some UK education, did some short courses and returned to Nigeria. I also did an entrepreneurship course at the Pan-African University. I started 3invest in 2007 and since then we’ve been on. Our major milestone has been our radio programme which is Real Estate On-Air on Classic FM and Beat FM.

Could you tell us more about 3Invest – when, why and how you started the company?
3Invest is a real estate company – we do acquisitions and marketing; we work with private investors and organizations. We basically work for the buyer. We don’t stock properties, but we have plans of developing in the near future, but in terms of real estate acquisition, it’s an investment company. That’s all we do; then.
When the downturn happened in 2009, I had the option of either going back to get a job or staying in the industry. My passion for what I do now had grown over the last two years, so I decided to remain in the industry, only I had to stay back in a way that nothing would easily shake me out. I was not just going to be an agent selling property and helping people buy property; that is why I set up 3Invest Intelligence, which is the media advocacy platform that handles the radio, the online portal and our events. We have the online portal for sharing Real Estate information at www.3investonline.com.

In January 2011, we started the 3Invest Intelligence which is a department on its own. Its workings are independent of 3Invest Real Estate works. We have a team of estate surveyors and estate managers working in the Real Estate works department.

What is the size of the team?
For the Real Estate department, we have a team of four and for the advocacy platform we have a team of five.

Do they work from a single location?
We have a virtual office and a physical office on Victoria Island.

Before you returned from the UK, you started one there right?
We started 3invest in the UK, and it ran for a year before I came back to Nigeria to start the same company by myself. I had two partners in London.

Is the one domiciled in the UK still in existence?
No, after a year when I moved back to Nigeria, we just wound it up. So it’s just one 3Invest in the world.

What gave you the confidence to start a real estate company?
I am not a fearful person and I try to put up courage in whatever I do. I just try to make a way, even if it seems very challenging. With real estate, I actually didn’t foresee what I am doing now. I did not see it as a passion when I started. I started it as a way of just making money and being in the industry. Then, I realized the many challenges associated with succeeding in the industry and began to think more passionately about real estate. For example, that is how I came about the advocacy platform, which has exposed me a little bit to media.

Could you describe you regular day and week at the office?
It is hectic. I try my best to have them not put me out all the time by having a day or two working inside the office. My week starts on Sunday when I write my script and prepare for the radio programme. I wake up very early on Mondays to do the news – the Real Estate news comes out on Mondays. I then go to the studio – the radio programme airs on Mondays and Wednesdays. The radio programme involves a lot; from researching and getting the guests for interviews on the show to marketing and all the works, there is so much to do. From the studio on Monday, I start having my meetings. Everything we do is scheduled. Our online news comes out at 9AM on Mondays while the Newsletter has to go out before noon every Tuesday. We have an in-house technical department that does the graphics. This is asides meetings and evaluations/inspections which I might have scheduled for the week. The regular week is a very busy one.

Real Estate ON AIR: Ruth Obih interviews a guest

Do you have a print publication as well, or you plan to have one in the near future?
Everything we are doing for now is online. Plans are on the way for rolling out print publications soon.

How much of preliminary research did you do prior to returning to Nigeria in 2007 to start 3Invest?
Before I came back, I set up the company. That was the time when the Real Estate business was experiencing what I’d call “the boom” – I don’t like using that term because those were the days when ignorant people thought they were investing wisely, but I’m sure most people had issues, whereby they bought so much real estate at high prices such that there was no equity. In some cases, there was minus equity on their property. At the time it was sort of booming and you could sell property like every other day; the funding system in Nigeria was still working well, unlike what we are experiencing now… lenders would have to check the pair of shoes you have on before they lend you money.

Which companies were your key competitors when you came in at the time?
My competitors were actually my clients. Reason being that potential buyers who should be my clients, would rather carry out the service themselves. My fellow real estate operators weren’t necessarily my competitors because we were in the same business. Which is why we try to position ourselves in a situation whereby no matter what happens, we are very relevant in the industry.

How would you link your education to what you’re doing now?
I’m a lawyer, so that’s the blessing of being a lawyer – it gives you a broad scope. Advocacy is what we do. Advocating is not a new job to me. Lawyers talk for people. Talking is not a problem because by profession, I am supposed to know how to talk. If you have to go through Law school, you can ask anyone, it’s hectic, so what I do when it comes to leases and agreement, is still Law. The best thing that happened to me is still being a lawyer. I have the choice today to open my eyes and I see myself in one penthouse office running a big law firm and still calling the shots at 3Invest.

As an entrepreneur, what is the place of a Post-graduate degree; would you rather do short courses as opposed to a Masters programme?
I had the opportunity to go for my Masters in the UK, but I was refused visa and I thank the British Embassy for refusing me visa at the time. The best thing that happened to me was being refused visa to go and study for Masters at Dundee. I had gotten the admission to go and study Oil & Gas (Law) which was what my mates were doing at the time. When I was not given a visa, I felt so humiliated, but I turned that into an opportunity to start doing business. That was in 2005. Between 2005 and 2011, trust me; I don’t regret any bit of it. I probably need an MBA now.

When I eventually went to the UK, I passed the Qualified Lawyers Transfer test, but then I founded the Real Estate company, and did some short courses in fashion. I have a fashion line, but fashion is a part-time gig for me. I stock in Designer’s club and the rest of them, as well as private clients who order when they want anything. I also did a Certificate course in Entrepreneurial Management at the Pan African University, Lagos, in 2009.

I’m not saying don’t enroll for an M.Sc. programme or don’t do any MBA. If you have the opportunity to, please do. However you have to realize that doing an MBA or Masters does not make you successful in business, okay? It only gives you awareness; knowledge, which you can get right now wherever you look at. There’s knowledge everywhere. There are certain things they don’t teach you in business school. Success is not about whether you have a PhD or not. A post-graduate degree is in line with what I want to do, but it is not a priority because any sort of information that I need, I could buy a book or go online and read up on.

What key lessons have you learnt starting up business in Nigeria? You can talk about the challenges too.
To me, every challenge is an opportunity. I mean, it is not easy. Prayer is all one needs to work in Nigeria… I mean, when I get on the plane and I leave Nigeria, it’s like I forget my prayers, God forgive me. What you need in this Nigeria is prayers every day. First, to wake up you need to pray; to sleep, you need to pray. When you have that in mind, next thing you need so much is courage because in the midst of difficulty, the only thing that can keep your head up is courage; you just need to pray that you have opportunities and chances and access. You just need lots of access and networks to get where you want to be in Nigeria. If you don’t find for yourself, no one is going to help you out.

Can you mention some specific challenges that you had to surmount?
I don’t dwell on the negative. I try not to remind myself of all that. There are myriads of challenges that we face from getting up today, I’ll give you countless challenges that I’ve faced. From starting 3invest in 2006 to now, I’ll give you countless challenges; it’s as if every client turns into an enemy because it’s a business whereby we try to impress people a lot and when the time to pay comes, money becomes an issue and you can’t be in a business without getting paid. So you see that Nigeria is a place where people want something that they sometime don’t want to pay for. Sometimes you just have to put your leg down and when you do that you also have to remember that customer is always right. These factors and more make running business in Nigeria a lot challenging, especially when your business requires you to relate with people. It’s not easy but it’s also an opportunity.

What steps did you take to ensure that you could recover more of your funds?
If people owe you, they will pay; when they don’t pay you, you write. In business, there are two ways to try getting your money – it is either you write it off or you go the legal way. As a lawyer, I don’t take people to court, not because I don’t believe in the legal system, but because I don’t see a reason for having to put myself through so much trouble. We make sure that contracts are signed, but we have also had cases whereby we signed contracts and people still didn’t pay. We just write them and tell them whatever it is. What we do is; we try to find out what happened, and how we’re going to prevent it in the future.

You are currently putting together a major programme – Real Estate Unite Conference and Wards 2012. Could you tell us a bit about the conference – its target audience, your sponsors, partners, supporters, and other important details?
It is going to be the most prestigious real estate event in Nigeria. That’s where we are now. It will from September 13th to 14th, 2012. It is a capacity building event and it’s a paid event as well. If we don’t get people to pay for the event, we will probably not be able to host that kind of event subsequently. What we are trying to do is look for a means whereby we can also have trainings for upcoming real estate students; even if they have to pay, at a subsidized rate, so we have them learn the etiquette of doing business; things that would motivate them to build the industry. We believe that the future of Nigeria is in the future of the youth.

What are your projections for 3invest in the next five to ten years?
3Invest is going to be five in December 2012. We try to make sure that in as much as we’ve juggled a lot of things at the same time – doing the radio and all the things I had to do; the next five to ten years, we’re trying to actualize the vision of 3Invest as real estate investment company, having built credibility in the industry through advocacy platforms right now. We believe that 3invest will be a company whose achievements people would be proud of. First of all we believe in building a better tomorrow which is what we are doing in-house. With the vision of being an emerging commercial real estate company in Nigeria, we are trying to make sure that we provide a better livelihood for Nigerians.

Which people in and outside the real estate industry do you look up to as your role models and mentors?
Roland Igbinobia and Barrack Obama.

Thanks for your time!
Pleasure is all mine!
_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Gbenga Awomodu is an Editorial Assistant at Bainstone Ltd./BellaNaija.com. When he is not reading or writing, Gbenga is listening to good music or playing the piano. Follow him on Twitter: @gbengaawomodu | Gbenga’s Notebook: www.gbengaawomodu.com | Facebook Page: Gbenga Awomodu

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  • 52 Comments on “BN Making It!: Beauty, Brains & Business! A Day in the Life of Ruth Obih – Lawyer, Serial Entrepreneur & CEO of 3Invest Ltd”

    Comments
    • Chim September 7, 2012 at 11:28 AM

      So inspiring! I love her opinion on the decision to do a masters. It’s not always the best or necessary step.
      Please change ‘nest thing’ to ‘next thing’ if that’s what you meant in her response to the question ‘what key lessons have you learnt starting up a business……?.

    • pynk September 7, 2012 at 11:33 AM

      I like what she said about being denied a visa one of the best things to happen to her.

    • ola September 7, 2012 at 11:56 AM

      it good to read from you life history…keep it up the sky is yours..more latest news and gist here at http://www.gistyinka.com

    • Nene September 7, 2012 at 11:57 AM

      You’ve done well for yourself< wish you more success

    • brandigest September 7, 2012 at 12:13 PM

      This interview is loaded with substances to motivate a youth to chase his dram no matter the odd. I love to see young people doing great things in this difficult clime. Kudos Girlie
      http://brandigest.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/how-best-to-kill-your-brand/

    • Kingsley September 7, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      No doubt she is Beautiful. . . One just can’t hate on chicks like these! Check me out=> definitelykingsley.blogspot.com

    • kem September 7, 2012 at 12:23 PM

      so young and fresh…..bravo lady and keep doing ur thing

    • faith September 7, 2012 at 12:26 PM

      am inspired as an entrepreneur too…

    • ooooyesshedid! September 7, 2012 at 12:33 PM

      very admirable woman. well done Bella for bringing us such interviews

    • Bella Naija Critic September 7, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      she is inspiring. this made my day, seeing a young successful woman, it is motivating.

    • RevvyJ September 7, 2012 at 1:36 PM

      She is doing great for herself which is awesome despite the rough patches in the beginning, reading this post has also inspired me to chase my dream with so much heart and persistence. I am a blogger. Pls Check out ‘ Young and avid minds blog’ on http://www.youngandavidminds.wordpress.com

    • Oma September 7, 2012 at 1:58 PM

      Very inspiring.
      Keep it up
      http://hushitsonlysmalltalk.blogspot.com

    • X factor September 7, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      Absolutely Inspiring

    • cathy September 7, 2012 at 2:20 PM

      really nice to see people living their dreams

    • philip September 7, 2012 at 2:26 PM

      Thats what d country needs not girls uploading semi-nude/nude pix n fb and twitter or walking around with pants and bra in d name of nollywood or fashion parade/beauty pageants.

    • Jay September 7, 2012 at 2:40 PM

      As a fellow female lawyer and entrepreneur, I salute!

      http://www.edifyempower.com

    • MONICA September 7, 2012 at 3:17 PM

      AM INSPIRED… WELL DONE BN 4 BRINGING THIS AND MORE GREESE TO UR ELBOW RUTH OBIH”"”

    • sassycassie September 7, 2012 at 3:51 PM

      Beauty and brains-cant beat that combo! Igbo girls keep rocking! One naija!

    • Stanlee- Maryland, USA September 7, 2012 at 4:37 PM

      Ruth and I went to the same high school, back in Nigeria- Abia State University, International Secondary School. She was such an avid young lady with exceptionally mid-boggling aura of dominance around her. I’m not surprised at all that she’d catapulted up to this height.
      Great job, Ruth.

      Stan (USA)

    • N.O September 7, 2012 at 6:05 PM

      Well done Ruthie. Keep up the good work. Your struggles are well known to us . You have always been a go-getter. Even as a kid you knew how to fight for what you wanted. Jisi Ike nwanne m.

    • huh? September 7, 2012 at 6:32 PM

      @stainlee,we don hear,say you live in US,haba

      • Chi September 7, 2012 at 8:19 PM

        lol!

      • Lovlyn September 9, 2012 at 11:10 AM

        Abeg stop hating, instead concentrate on getting your own God given heart desires. The keyword here is inspiration, abi?

    • eni September 7, 2012 at 8:08 PM

      INSPIRED….I LEARNT SOMTIN FRM THIS…LOTS OF MONEY TO BE MADE FRM NAIJA AND A FOREIGN MBA IS NOT A MUST…..

    • Chi September 7, 2012 at 8:19 PM

      Well done!

      check out my blog fine people! x

      http://africansweetheart.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Pendo September 7, 2012 at 9:08 PM

      inspiring young lady meanwhile i love the curve book shelf in her office:)

    • efe tommy September 7, 2012 at 10:40 PM

      Solid!

    • Dami September 7, 2012 at 10:58 PM

      @huh…..is such a hater….lol…..Nice one babe!

    • Ruth September 8, 2012 at 7:17 AM

      TRULY HUMBLED….GLAD TO KNOW MY STORY INSPIRED YOU. GOD BLESS YOU ALL

      • Rouge vallari September 12, 2012 at 12:59 AM

        Well done Ruth! Inspiring a generation!

    • marvel September 8, 2012 at 9:16 AM

      You would never catch an accountant, investment banker or financial type dead in Hermes belt on a PR photo for her business. This constant need to be noted as one ‘in the know’ is desperately sad.
      Here is a young woman, who is being celebrated for her achievments in the corporate world and in particular, within a field that is dominated by males. Flaunting weaves, make up etc would send the wrong signals.

      The first picture of her in that white shirt speaks volumes. She could be a business woman or a model. The Hermes belt was ill advised. Please, Ruth, you are not a walking billboard during your business events. Try and stick to formal business attire. You do not need to undertake a Masters degree programme but you are in dire need of an entrepreneurial etiquette type course. Lose the labels jor…

      • X factor September 8, 2012 at 12:33 PM

        beef

      • rita September 10, 2012 at 10:49 PM

        So you want her to wear a burlap sac over her head, to show that she’s a modest and not a flashy person.

    • Daniel September 8, 2012 at 12:51 PM

      @Marvel – Dont be so judgmental or presumptious. How are we sure this so called Hermes belt was not bought for her or a gift or something ? In any case, the function of a belt is to hold her trouser & keep it from falling. This belt seems to do just that.

    • Chinazar September 8, 2012 at 1:23 PM

      @Marvel, may be you should achieve something first before you bore us with the dos & don’ts of whatever.

      Interesting interview, and i’ve learnt a thing or two. Ruth’s fashion sense is sooo on point, and she’s very beautiful.

      Gbenga, well done.

    • RUTH September 8, 2012 at 1:46 PM

      Thanks @Marvel…..Your opinion is noted….xxx

      • Desire! September 11, 2012 at 10:16 AM

        Oh Ruthie, please do not honor Marvel’s comment. She has no idea of what etiqueete entails i bet you. If you had on blonde weaves with red highlights, now that would be a concern. its just a belt!!!! Go ahead and put your worth to it Marvel, some of us do not worship brands like you

    • neon September 8, 2012 at 10:00 PM

      but is that a bottle of vodka in her office…. the red bottle on d shelf? ok then…

    • Micheal September 9, 2012 at 12:24 AM

      hello Ruth, I love that belt…..funny i have one , looking great jare no beef. I realised what you did was turn your lemon to a lemonade. We get a deadly jab sometimes in life below the belt….Sure you’re certainly a mentor, someone i hold in high esteem ’cause we share a similar passion real estate.. keep up the good work….”Twale madame” !

    • Mssexy September 9, 2012 at 1:18 PM

      my story is inspiring as well, how i mOved from grass to grace will share on bella someday soon!

      kudos my lady!

    • C'imaobi September 9, 2012 at 6:06 PM

      Yap you can’t do this kinda work without a bottle of absolute vodka!hanging on the wall

    • Tracy September 9, 2012 at 9:30 PM

      Just seeing this. Cant believe we have such smart girls in Lagos….Keep it up. Please i would like to attend the event. Can you feed me with more information please? I just read your Forbes interview too. KUDOS…..

    • miu miu September 10, 2012 at 3:51 AM

      @Mavel, you clearly are not a detailed person. So out of everything she said, you did not catch the part where she said she’s into fashion and she stocks in designers club. I love that she showed her fashion side too. How will her fashion clients take her seriously as well if she doesn’t dress well.

    • ady September 10, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      marvel ure such a low life,i dont understand how how wearing a hermes belt can make someone look like a walking billboard ruth is well dressed,covering all the necessary places and my dear she is a young woman u dont expect her to wear buba and iro which i presume u wear every day,she earns her money and she can wear anything she can afford to buy,ure just a a jealous fool go get a life,rubbish!!! my dear ruth kudos to u and may u continue to prosper and rock hermes and more hermes in Jesus name.

    • saphyah September 10, 2012 at 4:03 PM

      Nice one Ruth…….. by the way, we female lawyers are fashionable too:-)

    • LaLa September 11, 2012 at 6:41 PM

      Wow! Marvel, Marvel, Marvel… how many times did I call you? No let bad belle kill you o!!!

      Ruth, biko, I salute you! As a young woman trying to find her place in the business world, I am truly inspired by your story. I’m currently applying to B-schools and hope to use the experience to fine-tune my entrepreneurial ideas for West African markets. That being said, I constantly tell people that having “MBA graduate” on your resume is not the goal; for me, it’s simply a stepping stone to achieving my entrepreneurial dreams.

    • Anike September 12, 2012 at 10:28 AM

      My dear Marvel one can be fashionable and still be an inspiration. Shes worked hard to get to where she is abeg if she wants to dress completely in LV Couture let her. and i dont think she was flashy at all. she looked very classy. Kudos dear Ruth and do keep it up

    • poshy September 13, 2012 at 11:42 AM

      @Marvel,you are such a bitter person.Your bitterness could not even allow you to see and appreciate all the good things about Ruth.Better learn one or two things from her story and stop hating.Ruth kudos to you.More Hermes belt for you.

    • LPS September 13, 2012 at 2:00 PM

      Correct babe! I also diverted my Masters sch fees to start up LPS. Best decision ever!

    • Lora Words January 3, 2013 at 10:56 PM

      I’ve always had the issue of juggling my many interest, law, fashion, writing. She just showed me how! I’m inspired

    • HOPE April 19, 2013 at 6:39 PM

      So impressed.

    • Nino August 16, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      Actually guys, Marvel is right, though his tone could have been a little less acidic. The problem with we Nigerians is that we learn things backwards. It’s actually considered crass in the professional environment to openly flaunt branded labels such as the way she wore the H belt and certainly not in a business shot like that. First of all, u are giving the designer serious free press ON YOUR TIME AND SPACE and u’ll be seen as trying too hard to be “in the know” as Marvel said.
      That being said, I like the fact that Ruth took the criticism constructively–certainly a sign of a true professional.No one has monopoly on knowledge so those cussing out Marvel, I hope you took home the lesson.
      Well done Ruth and all the best in your future endeavours!