Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Q & A: Udoka Uju - There’s only so much that I can do for myself, I try not worry about things I have no control over.

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." this quote best describes the phenomenal woman who we are featuring on our platform today. Udoka Uju's creativity and strength is an inspiration that challenges us to see beyond the norm and go for what we believe in regardless of how odd it may look to everyone around us. She makes us believe that we can thrive wherever we are planted or where ever we plant ourselves and that a splash of colour can make a whole lot of difference in any dark place... literally and figuratively.

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Who is Udoka Uju?
My name is Udoka Uju, I am The Lady Painter. Nigeria’s number 1 creative wall designer. I work with my team of professional Painters. We paint interiors and exteriors of residential and commercial spaces and provide wall maintenance services. I am a graduate of University of Port Harcourt, where I studied Economics.

What inspired the decision to carve a niche for yourself as a painter especially in an industry predominantly dominated by men?
I was inspired to be a Painter by the desire to find myself and impact the lives around me with my purpose. I felt I was not doing enough with my life working 9 to 5 and earning a good salary. I asked myself so many questions about what my purpose here on earth was. Even my path since I finished the university till I got a job in one of the top banks in Nigeria, somewhat played a huge part in getting me to where I am now as a Painter. I have always loved beautiful homes and work spaces so I thought the one way I could really inspire and positively impact the lives around me is to paint walls with beautiful colours and bold patterns or designs not minding that it was profession highly dominated by men in this part of the world.

So far, what has the support to the growth of your business being like… from women?
I have come in contact with a lot of women since I started off my business as a Painter and they have all been very supportive. My mother, my sisters, my friends and former colleagues have been an awesome support system for me. They are always looking out for paint jobs for me, eager to hook my up with their contacts. And there’s always this sincere expression on their faces whenever they are introducing me to someone as The Lady Painter, the expression on their faces makes me proud of the decision I made and encourages me to keep pushing. Also a lot of women have also reached out to me saying that I am an inspiration to them, now that tells me I am on the right path. All of the clients I have painted for, both male and female, have referred me to another client.

There are a lot of young women out there who love the idea of being a painter but are either frightened by the thought of the work involved or do not know how or where to start. What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I would advise that they start first in building a reputation/clientele and not be out to make profit immediately because they might have to do some jobs for free in the beginning. They should be creative and open-minded. Another thing I would advise is they should be as professional as possible on any job.

What are the challenges faced so far and how do you overcome them?
I face different challenges just like every other start-up business, challenges like proper accounting and competition. These days I try to keep my books clean and my business is doing great. As for competitors, there are a lot of them out there especially male Painters. So because I am aware of my competitors, I make sure that I am ahead of the game by doing my research well on wall designs. I like to be creative, so I make sure I do something new and different on every job I take on. Also I used to have the challenge of getting prospective clients to believe even a woman can do an excellent paint job, these days I let my jobs speak for me.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Life has taught me to trust God’s plan in all situations. There’s only so much that I can do for myself, I try not worry about things I have no control over.

Which is your take on "Women Supporting Women"?
When women support women great things happen, we reach our full potentials. Thankfully there has been a lot of that going on around us lately even in our country Nigeria. There a lot of women networking events or gatherings, you see already successful women opening up on their journey to a successful career or business, these are the stories we need to share to encourage each other and not work against each other as women.

What inspires the various designs you come up with on the job?
Before I come up with a design I consider a lot of things. I have to interview my clients to get some information from them and I walk through the spaces that I would be painting. I could get inspiration from my clients’ personality, their favourite object in their home or office. I try not to impose designs on my clients so most times I give them design options to choose from.
So far what has been your favourite job till date?
I painted a church. It is the most tasking job I have done and at the same time my favourite. It’s my favourite because I painted and designed 9 columns in the church without a clue about what it would look like after I was done. I can say it came out a masterpiece, I am so grateful to God for the grace to do an excellent job in His house.

Time travel or teleportation?
I think I'd time travel to the future where teleportation is already a common transportation method. A win-win for me (laughs)

Who are your role models and why?
My role model is my Grandma, God rest her soul. She was one woman that lived a peaceful life with everyone around her. If there was any one I would want to be like it’s her. But then there are a lot of people I admire a lot and I try as much to follow their success story. People like Omotola Jalade- Ekeinde, Mo Abudu and Richard Branson. These are just a few I can mention, there are a lot of people out there like them. But these people have built lasting brands and their success story is a huge inspiration to me.

What would you like to be remembered for?
I would love to be remembered for using my purpose to make Nigeria and the world at large a colourful place to live in.

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