Wife of Sen. Adesoji Akanbi, who represents Oyo South in The Senate, Zhikrah A ‘Folake Akanbi, C.E.O LibraGold Travels and Tours Ltd; turned 50 yesterday.
Insideoyo.com‘s Sikiru Akinola traces the success of the versatile business woman, an active member of Women In Management, Business and Public Office, WIMBIZ, a member Nigeria British Chamber of Commerce, Nigerian American Chamber of Commerce, member of the Tourism and Hospitality committee of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, and an alumnus of Lagos Business School, LBS.
Though bred in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, Zhikrah Folake (née Abdul) is from Akokoland in Ondo State. Raised by a business-oriented parents, young Zhikrah has always liked entrepreneurship from childhood. It took her few years to resign from her ‘juicy’ banking job to start travel and tourism business 20 years ago. A good social-mixer, she authored Divine Wisdom for Happiness.
Below is the success story of the initiator and president of Corporate Women in Islam, CWI pioneer female tour operator in the Umrah and Hajj sector.
How She Decided To Go Into Business
”I have always liked challenges. Like I always say, every business or institution has its own peculiarities and challenges. Libragold, which I started 20 years ago, has not been different. We have been an organization involved in all facets of travels and tourism, aviation in general, performing excellently in all our areas of operations, vis; packaged tours, local and international flight ticketing, educational tourism, health tourism and pilgrimage operations, that’s the Umrah and Hajj. My policy in life is to always put in my best in everything I do.
“We have been dealing mainly in retailing of airline tickets, hotels all over the world, as well as the Muslim pilgrimage. So we have trade partners and representatives all over our client’s main destinations. However, for a company with multi-class services like ours, we have had to face challenges and we always overcome them, using our professionalism and experience.”
Is She Surprised Libragold Has Achieved Tremendous Success?
“Oh yes, ‘cause as a young girl, I have always said I would be a successful business woman, even though I didn’t know which direction business would take me. I just loved the art of making money and turning things around, having grown up with both parents who were into business. My parents are successful, very successful, so I thought, if I want to be successful in life, I have to own my own business, meet people, make money and turn things around to my benefit. So it wasn’t a surprise to many that I studied business administration in University. When I was in the banking and financial sector, everywhere I worked, my bosses would look at me and tell me ‘Folake you are not meant to be here. You have so much potentials to explore and plug into your own thing.’ Such phrases also encouraged me to quickly leave the bank and start up on my own, which I have never had any cause to regret.”
How She Copes In A Male Dominated Sector
“In all honesty, in all men dominated sectors, you will still find a woman making waves and in stiff competition with the men. Ordinarily in hospitality business, women are literally endowed more than men in this sector. However, in the pilgrimage tourism sector especially the umrah and Hajj, it’s a peculiar religious tourism that requires, sound knowledge, expertise and professionalism. Aside been a knowledgeable Muslim, you must have sound managerial skills in building and coordinating an empowered workforce. When we diversified into the Muslim pilgrim operations, what we did was to categorise the operation into 3 vis; Admin Operations, Customer relations/welfare and spiritual, and with all these, sincerity of purpose is paramount. These are what we have in I don’t work alone, just that I coordinate my workforce and all the daily activities. We have over the years built a good customer relation’s team and a feedback mechanism, which has helped us tremendously in creating a difference in the sector.”
How She Combines Entrepreneurship With Family
“I would say that my lifestyle and work balance is excellent. God has simplified all things for me. My chairman is my husband and he’s been so very supportive. We share ideas, strategize together and ensure execution effectively and efficiently. I have my space and time. Managing the home front effectively is about time management and not loosing focus. The children are all grown now, so the situation is less tense and I am more relaxed, and over the years I have been able to surround myself with good people who I’ve trained to work at my pace, and of cause with advanced technology, communicating and putting things in order has been a lot simplified for me with video calls, face time, skype and so on.”
Is She Not Bored Being In One Business For So Long?
“Never bored! You know when you are engaged in a venture you are passionate about, and you give your all into it, you will get more innovative and adventurous, and that has been my driving force. Each time I attend training, seminar or conference, I come back as a better person and swing into action, creating avenues for more services to be rendered to our seemingly growing clients.
“I am very passionate about my kitchen. I love to cook and I am always cooking when I am in the house. I also read a lot and love to write. I have been writing ‘Wisdom for Happiness’ as a hobby, using Quranic and Hadith quotations to inspire our daily life. It’s quite educating, motivating and inspiring. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. Though people don’t know I am the person behind those, only those close to me know that I write. I hope to author a book soon.
What Energises Her
“I do between thirty five and forty minute of brisk walking every morning, followed by stretch exercises to rejuvenate the strength in me and like I said earlier, I read a lot and research on new things to be done. I also try, no matter how tight my schedule is, to at least scrub my face and use mask once in a week probably on Sunday. Then, I also visit the spa.
How She Handles Her Three Boys
“I’m a very religious person and as a Muslim, I was taught that before you conceive, there is a special prayer you should say to God for the kind of children you want. And I thank God that he gave me exactly the children I asked for. They are peaceful, not hooligans, loving, obedient and I pray that they remain that way. The most wonderful thing is that, they are equally religious as I am.
“I remember when my eldest son wanted to do his S.S.C.E. I would call him several times to remind him to read. I kept worrying him day in day out, calling him almost every hour. One day when I called him he said, ‘mummy, I am the one that said I want to study architecture…the most important thing is that people should call you mama architect so don’t worry, I will study hard and pass’. So I had to stop worrying him by force. Now he is done, studying civil engineering and he would sometimes call me “mama engineer.”