Thelma Chukwu is a 28 year old Nigerian business woman, Serial Entrepreneur, Seed Investor, and the Managing Director at Telmek Global Resources, an Indigenous fast growing oil and gas servicing company in Nigeria.
She Studied Economics at the University of Portsmouth in England. Prior to starting her own chain of companies, she has built a strong background in finance. She worked as an Equity Sales and Trading Analyst for Primera Africa Finance Group, as an Investment Banker with Chapel Hill Advisory Partners Limited before moving into the Oil & Gas industry where she worked with one of Nigeria’s top Indigenous oil and gas servicing firm, Nestoil, a part of the Obijackson Group.
As a Tech enthusiast, after returning to Nigeria she saw the need to create roomiesconnect.com, a flat mate search platform facilitating the pairing of like-minded individuals as potential flat mates. A licensed web and mobile app platform which she also currently spearheads with a team of young passionate tech entrepreneurs.
Her love for investing in ideas has led her to privately invest in quite a number of start-ups, and also led to the birth of Troidini Ventures; a Boutique VC firm for Tech start ups. Troidini’s main focus is seed funding, concentrating on tech start-ups at idea/prototype stage.
This Queen is an inspiration and we couldn’t help but catch up with her for a quick Q&A session. Read and Be Inspired!
Describe Yourself in three Words.
Fun, Ambitious and Confident
What inspired the creation of your boutique VC firm, Trodini Ventures.
The love I have for investing in Start-ups and young minds inspired the creation of Troidini ventures. I chose to focus on the Tech Industry because in there lies what I am more passionate about.
Please share details.
The African Technology Industry is growing immensely and I believe more great Ideas are still yet to spring up on us. Troidini is an unconventional boutique VC Firm focusing on Founders at idea or prototype stage amongst others. We do not only invest in ideas/products, but also help with transforming mere ideas into Bankable businesses through our in-house operation and marketing team. Our main goal is to grow these businesses to the point where they are attractive to bigger VC Firms.
You seem to be quite the risk taker with your love and interest in investing in businesses that are just starting up. How long have you been investing and what’s the success ratio so far?
Hmm, I am a huge risk taker, I’ve always been a risk taker. I have been investing for such a long time, maybe even while in Uni (laughs). The average success ratio on my investments would be about 85:15, basically I have won more than I have lost. The reason being, I don’t only invest in risky products but diversify my investments.
Since your return to Nigeria, what impact would you say your company has had in the growth of the Nigerian Tech Space as it concerns women?
Troidini which we have been talking about is kick starting early this year. However, before the birth of Troidini, I have invested in a couple of tech and non-tech start-ups which are all run by Women Founders. People would say I am biased in favor of women and that’s fine because I am all about Girl Power. Some of these Founders have also followed me to different conferences and trainings, giving them great exposure and network of professionals.
It can feel intimidating to break into industries that males dominate. With Telmek Global Resources, you have done just that. Can you share a little bit of your experience with us?
It hasn’t been easy at all and to be sincere I am still navigating through the industry till today. At first, it was really tough, as a young lady setting up an Oil and Gas business, I felt like I had to work extra hard to gain respect, then I also had to put in more effort to be heard and to be taken seriously. I remember then, I would walk into meetings and they would be asking who the MD was or when the older ones would try to intimidate me by asking unrelated questions. But reflecting now, even though I had a few difficult people to deal with, I also had other people (Male) who would tell me how much they were impressed with my drive, focus and hard work. I guess, I chose to focus on the positive comments, using that as a motivation to continue. Also, starting with some great set of people who made my work easier. What I have noticed is, if you can prove your professionalism, hard work, Intelligence and confidence, even the most difficult would come around.
What are you doing to ensure the younger women coming into the industry meet less resistance?
Firstly, by giving women easy access to entry, experience and growth in the little way I can using my company as a platform. In Telmek, 75% of management are women and I make sure in their respective roles, they are gaining exposure and interacting with other industry players in a bid to boost their confidence and knowledge of the industry. I also love to Mentor when I have the time to. A lot of times, during conferences, social gatherings, etc, when I introduce myself and my company, some women ask me to share how I did it and I never shy away from doing that. I believe as we build and grow individually at different ages and paces, we can have more women in government, top positions, mid-level and entry positions, then it would become easier for us women to assist ourselves ensure the upcoming younger women meet less resistance in the industry.
What’s your take on “Women Supporting Women”?
If I start talking about this, I wouldn’t stop (laughs). Women supporting women is the major step in breaking the ceiling. I am so pleased when I see Women empowerment programs because I think it’s time we women know what we are capable of achieving if we come together. You know sometimes we talk about how men treat women at work places, etc, but what about how women treat women? We talk about equal status with our male counterparts, if we really want to achieve this then we need to begin with ourselves. I can tell you one thing that drives me mad is when I see women tear and break each other down, I am not sure if doing so makes them feel better about themselves or what, but it really needs to end. I think the more we women encourage and empower other women, the more support we get in return, this is what I see happen with women leaders who support other women.
In summary, if we come together to support ourselves, we can gain unlimited strength to question the status quo.
If you could give one advice to 18 year old Thelma, what would you say to her?
You are going to grow into a beautiful, smart and confident lady. Invest in yourself, always make sure your are learning new things (languages, etc), don’t be afraid to go for what you want, and be patient because nothing good comes easy.
What’s the most important life lesson you’ve learned so far?
The road to success can be lonely and filled with unforeseen holes. If you try to take another route, you might not get to your destination so you are forced to go through that long road, and whenever you fall into those holes, you make sure you climb back up and keep moving, because the more you fall, the more you learn how to navigate through.
What’s the best business advice you have received so far?
Be patient and consistency is key.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I would like to be remembered for impacting people’s lives, that I was their definition of how great they want to be. I would also love to be remembered for building a generational business.
What is your definition of greatness?
My definition of greatness couldn’t be explained better than “Henry Eyring” did. The people who can catch hold of men’s minds and feelings and inspire them to do things bigger than themselves are the people who are remembered in history as great men.
You are great if you can stir feelings and imagination and make men struggle toward perfection.
Connect with Thelma via Instagram