Blessing Chikereuba graduated as an automobile engineer from Anambra state University although she had a merit admission letter to study Petrol Chemical engineering in Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST) . She hails from Abia State in Nigeria, while her husband is from Imo State.
Chikereuba was born in Rivers State, but she lives and works in Lagos State.
The beautiful woman is the Chief Executive Officer, Legend Automobiles, located in Mainland area of Lagos, and the organization deals in Tokunbo cars, fairly used and new cars.
She speaks on her life and career in this interview with nationalsketch.
Can you tell us about your background?
My name is Blessing Chikereuba and I am from Abia State, but I was born in Rivers State.
I attended Nigeria Airport Authority Staff School (NAA) while I went to Isiokpo Girls Secondary School, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where I was the head girl.
After my secondary education, I gained admission into Rivers State University of Science & Technology (RSUST). But deffered it to move to Anambra state University where I studied Mechanical engineering.
I did my National Youth Service Programme in 2007 in Sokoto State. I served as a teacher and taught students in Introductory Technology. It was a nice experience being in the north before all the crisis started in Nigeria.
How easy was the study?
Automobile engineering was not rosy or easy like that. We had many men in the class, we were just six females in my class then out of about 50 students in the classroom. When I was graduating, we were just three ladies that graduated. It was not really easy because we had to go through rigorous exercises; the calculations, jumping from one lecture hall to the other, trying to meet up, it wasn’t really funny. But at the end, we thank God for everything. Sometimes when I recount these, they were not something you wish to go back to; But looking back, it was really worth it because being a lady among men, you are privileged in some things based on the way they carried us. They didn’t allow us suffer, but where you have to stand for yourself, you sure have to be academically sound to be in that field.
Although, when it comes to leisure, they ensured the ladies were happy.
I started out with Mechanical Engineering, but in my final year, one had to specialize, so I specialized in Automobile Design.
But for now, because I’m in Nigeria, and we are not producing or manufacturing any car, I thought about it and considered putting what I learnt into practice, that’s where what I am doing now comes in and I began to sell and repair cars. I don’t produce any vehicle yet, though, we were taught how to produce vehicles in my project so I did something on fiber vehicles then. Currently in Nigeria now, we only assemble vehicles. Even though we have an exception in the east who is partly manufacturing presently.
When I graduated, I worked with a few organizations before Stallion Motors, an umbrella for The Honda Place, Hyundai motors, VW, Skoda and Nissan.
Due to the economic situation in the country People don’t really buy brand new cars now like before, they buy mainly fairly used cars, people just want take care of what they already have., We call it Pimping with detailing.
So my specialization in school being design automobile is really helping me now. I could work on a car, I could do some things. Basically change the lights, upgrade the bumpers, add chromes, running day lights etc and it comes out new, better and very adorable.
How did you get into the business of selling cars?
When I graduated, I worked briefly with an online firm, I was writing for them about cars, gadgets, fashion and I scouted for news for them from events like Grammies and all that. Along the line, something caught my fancy when I went to Choscharis Motors in Victoria island her in Lagos State, in fact, I was not fulfilled knowing full well I did engineering in the university, so because I like writing, I was doing the job like a hobby.
But I knew I had something better coming up later, I resigned, and the Managing Director of the company was surprised, he begged me to stay but I said “no, I needed to move on.” I put on an application letter to Mercedes Benz and The Honda Place., Infact I got about two bank jobs back then but considering time and family factor in the future because I wasn’t married then I declined the offers. Puting the interest of my future family inview.
After sometime, I got a call from Honda Place to come for an interview, I will never forget that day, that was the day I learnt that patience is a virtue, I came around 10am for the interview but wasn’t attended to till 6pm, well it all went well because I received a standing ovation at the end of the interview and was welcomed warmly into the Honda Family.
I was asked if I would like to work in the workshop or showroom, I told them I didn’t want workshop, but showroom because they also repair, and sell cars. I believe that, when you sell cars, you are also in charge of those who repair them. I was in the showroom, and a week later, Mercedes Benz called me to resume work at their office in Victoria Island, Lagos.
But because I had already started with Honda, and I saw a lot of prospects there and the people there are actually very nice, I didn’t want to leave them.
From Honda Place I went to Hyundai Motors, and the all brand though they are basically a Group of Companies ( Stallion Motors., ) I call them the Horse Men.
So, when I moved to where all the brands were sold, over time, things began to change, people were no longer buying brand new cars like the way we used to sell them during the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan. During his time, we sold a lot of new cars, but with the advent of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, things changed, people were no longer buying brand new cars. So, people would ask if I could help them source for fairly used cars, or if I could help them repair their vehicles. At that time, I didn’t have enough time to leave my office to attend to these clients, and they needed my services. Later, I had to move into a freelance agreement with them where , I could still come back, sell for them, earn commissions and do my personal business.,
Before I knew it, I started arranging a space for myself, where I could sell vehicles; whether Nigerian used or Foreign used, That’s basically how Legend Automobiles started in 2017.
How has the business been?
The business has been wonderful, though, it’s not everyday that we sell, but when it comes, it comes and when it doesn’t come, I have other business I run also.
In a month we could sell three, four, or five cars. Also, a company could ask us to source for a particular number of cars for them. Those are basically corporate clients. In a month, we could sell 10 cars for corporate organizations, while we can sell between three and five for individuals.
Where do you source for your cars?
I have a company that brings in vehicles from the United States of America, and the United Kingdom
I have Toyota and Mercedes vehicles, basically Toyota because for the Nigerian roads, everybody tends toward Toyota brand because it’s strong and rugged.
They are not totally brand new, they are fairly used cars, and they are very okay for Nigerian roads. But for brand new cars, we could go for Hyundai (Korean Vehicles).
The prices of the vehicles range from N2 million to N6 million for foreign used cars. For Nigerian used, you could get for as low as N1.2 million, N1.5 million, or N2 million depending on the usage of the car. Then, if you are talking about SUV, that could be sold for around 6M or 8million naira, depending on the brand and year.
What is your view about the new policy of the government that any car that is older than seven years should not be imported into the country?
The new government policy that any vehicle that is above seven years should not be imported into the country would really affect our business. The economy is affecting us already, we have not been able to bring in vehicles the way we used to bring them before. Some of us look for vehicles that people no longer use. Atimes it could be a company that bought vehicles four, or five years ago, and they wish to sell them off, we buy and repair and sell them off. That’s what many of us do now because the exchange rate is really high. The idea of banning vehicles that are above certain years should not be considered at all since we are not manufacturing cars in Nigeria. We cannot compare what is obtainable abroad to Nigeria, their roads are very okay, they could use a car for 10 years, by the time it’s brought here, it will look very neat. So saying vehicles above seven years should not be brought into the country is not good for our business.
How has it been getting loans from banks for the business?
Accessing loan from banks for the business is not easy. When I tried it, the process was too lengthy. They will tell you to bring this and that and the interest rate is high. What we do most times is that when we buy vehicles, we give the sellers the money we can afford and by the time we sell them, we give them the balance. It’s more like a relationship thing and then business continues, it’s about trust.
How has it been doing business in Nigeria?
Business in Nigeria is good actually, I worked for 10 years with Stallion motors and it was a good time for me for training. You don’t just wake up one day and say you want to be an entrepreneur, you must go through the hurdles of training before you start to understand the nitty gritty of the business.
The salary may not be much, but there’s no amount of money that could be compared with training, knowledge and experience gathered.
I know some of my colleagues, who sold cars for companies, when they left, they didn’t continue to sell vehicles. Some of them started doing property, they sell cloth, and other things. But someone advised me then that Nigerians love cars, and that people want to maintain what they have, though some of them still want to buy new ones.
The fact that the economy is bad does not mean people are not buying cars, and people still build houses. It’s all about being at the right place at the right time. But one needs to be trained before going into any business. When I worked with companies, the way I welcomed customers, the way I speak to them, went a long way to build relationship and trust which still speaks for me till date.
When I speak with road side dealers, they would tell me, ‘you know say you go school for this business. ‘ I do tell them that I am not a street person, and that the fact that I am here with them does not mean I am from the street. So I always advise that an entrepreneur should go through training. If you are a graduate, try and work in a company, no matter how small the salary may be, it will prepare you for what is ahead, get the experience, and when you come out, it helps.
How did you meet your husband?
My husband is a Quantity Surveyor, he is also a pastor, though, he wasn’t a pastor when I met him.
I met him in Sokoto, this brings me back to my NYSC days. He was in Batch B, while I was in Batch A. He was in the set before us, he was the General Corpers Liaison Officer (GCLO). We called him Uncle GCLO; he was the vice president in his fellowship. That’s why we called him uncle. Then my mum just died, I was on the phone with my brother, and he was on phone with somebody else, and I screamed, he was like ‘who screamed.’ As the GCLO, he came to find out what happened. That’s how he started coming to my place, we started talking, praying together, and over time, we became friends and the rest is history. That was in 2007 and we got married in November 2008.
Any regret so far?
You know when you marry someone, you don’t know the person in and out. Marriage is an institution, where you receive certificate without graduating and of course no graduation. Its been awesome, we are blessed with three children.
I have had lots of engagements with people, met different people in the course of my work and business, and my relationship with God, has really helped me.
Do you have any advice for the government?
The different cadres of government; from the local government, to the state and federal government should be responsible on the tasks before them. Their hands should be on deck. In fact, during the lockdown caused by COVID-19 Pandemic, In my compound we had to contribute money for the people around to buy foodstuff for them, and we are not the government, every arm of government should do their job.
What are your hobbies?
I love singing, Dancing and cooking., reading books, watching african movies sometimes, Organizing Public seminars / participating in public speech.
Most times, I just cook and give people to make them happy. I specialise in native foods, and intercontinental dishes also it’s a gift, I didn’t go to a catering school, I could look at a dish and know how to make it., Or taste it and Prepare it richer & better