Why I want to empower thousands of start-ups, by Alexandra, Gifted Hands Cooperative CEO
NEWS DIGEST – Alexandra Chineye Jemila Alexander is a multi-talented entrepreneur and Chief Executive Officer, CEO, of Gifted Hands and Thrifts Credit Cooperative Society. In this interview with The New Digest, the successful entrepreneur speaks on her passion for empowering start-up businesses as well as giving back to the society through Corporate Social Responsibilities.
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
My names are Alexandria Chineye Jemila Alexander. I’m from the northern part of Nigeria, from Kastina State to be precise. But my mom is from the Eastern part of Nigeria, she is from Anambra State. I’m a serial entrepreneur. I own chains of businesses. I am the CEO of Alexia Luxury Clothing, Alexia Luxury Hair, and my mother’s business is Alexandria innovations Limited and I am also into the food chain, essentially a major distributor. I have just launched Gifted Hands and Thrifts Credit Cooperative Society which will be supporting start-up businesses across the country.
So what inspired you into entrepreneurship?
I actually want to give back to society. I have been seeing how young men and women struggle out there for a living, especially the SMEs and other start-up businesses. I know that with the COVID-19 pandemic, lots of businesses are suffering and crashing, that is why I want to give back to my community in the form of a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), by offering opportunities like creating jobs for people to be employed, and all that. Presently, my company has over 20 to 30 workers under its payroll – that I think is part of giving back and helping the people eke out a living.
What has been the challenge so far?
We’ve not really experienced big challenges outside what everyday businesses face. Outside that, we’ve been able to manage and create a balance and try as much as possible to manage our risk because while dealing with money one has to try as much as possible to create a level plain ground.
What is all about Gifted Hands and Thrifts Credit Cooperative Society?
The Gifted Hands and Shifts Credit Cooperative Society deals with two types of clienteles. We have the low recipients and we have the investors. We are calling on people to come to invest their money and, in return, they get their profit off it, which is much secured.
Any regrets so far?
I would say the only regret so far is that my company and I didn’t start this business on time because it is baffling the rate at which young entrepreneurs are really suffering in this country. I have seen youths really struggling so hard to make money because they have good business ideas to put in place, but lack the funds to bring these ideas into fruition. I have also seen how so many small and medium scale businesses end up just dying off because of the fact that the likes of these cooperatives are not available for them. So, the only regret I have is that we didn’t start on time because if we had, the impact would have sky-rocketed much more than what we have achieved so far.
How is your client base at the moment?
We have over 600 clienteles now and there no defaulters, I make bold to say. The secret is that we have a very strong means of securing our loans given out to the clients and we do a day-to-day follow-up on the clients’ businesses. You can’t just come and take money for business we just give it to you and you go. We make sure we follow up your business, we make sure we audit your business and we make sure we also help your business grow so you could salvage your interest.
What are your post-pandemic plans for your clientele?
We are working, our PR is on the ground now, because it’s going to skyrocket as virtually all activities will be open. People who want to start business proper, functions, activity, and lots of it will come alive. So, I am working with my PR team, we’re trying to make the publicity go far and be able to educate and tell the people that we are ready for them. We also have our IT teams working so hard in terms of networking and also reach out to a wider range of people. We are also working on a package to enable us to give out loans to lots of people like triple of what we are giving now.
Who are your targets?
My targets are basically small-medium scale business owners and young people because they want to start businesses, they have good ideas, strong minds but the fact that they don’t have collaterals these days to ask for loans from financial institutions, it’s a big deal for them to just startup. My target is basically, for them and with the rate of unemployment, it is not good for a graduate to just sit at home doing nothing.
How many clients are you targeting two years from now?
We should have over 20,000.
How do you hope to attract more clients?
We do the group loan, where like five market women on a street are put together and are given a certain package. So with that, if one person defaults, the rest will suffer for it. In that aspect all trying not to default.
Where do you see yourself in the nearest future?
I hope to see myself and my company getting to a stage where we can help lots of youths, lots of small-medium scale enterprises to an extent where they are independent, where they have their own funds and wouldn’t want to look for extra funds or loans, that will be my highest point. Also, by the grace of God, from the cooperative sector expanding and growing to be one of the most recognized commercial banks in Nigeria and not just in Nigeria but in Africa.
What are your fondest childhood memories?
To be honest, it is the fact that I had no bills to pay. I was just a small girl enjoying life and having parents who catered for me. That’s the fun part of my childhood – no stress, no thinking, nobody is trying to make me do this or do that.
Do you have a mentor or anybody you draw inspiration from?
The former minister of finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is my mentor. I like her drive and she is into finance and I am also working towards becoming a big shot in the finance world, God’s willing. I see her not just as a mentor but as a role model.
What do fashion and style mean to you?
To me, it is a lifestyle. In as much as we try to put in efforts in businesses and work to make ends meet, we should also be happy. Because fashion and style make you happy. So it’s a lifestyle, it should be part of our lifestyle.
What is your advice to young people during this pandemic?
Success doesn’t come from what you do occasionally but what you do consistently. You have to put in hard work and just keep doing it.
What genre of music do you listen to and why?
I do hip-hop, Rick Ross, and Drake (laughs). But I love Wizkid, I love Davido I listen to their music. I have a thing for music, it’s not the sound but the lyrics. I don’t know, for some weird reasons, Rick Ross gives me this vibe I want.