By Eric Elezuo
Here’s an entrepreneur who has demystified the concept of life starts at 40. He has practically conquered the world of business generally, and clasped like an oyster his chosen field of estate and construction. He is not 40 yet for your information. He is just 39. His name is Sijibomi Ogundele, better known as Sujimoto. He is the Chief Executive Officer, Sujimoto Construction Limited, makers of tasty, luxurious and out of this world apartments.
A strong believer in the principle of nothing is impossible, and holding firm the dictum of ‘Crises are opportunities disguised as problems’, Sijibomi Ogundele was born on April 8, 1981, in Agege, Lagos. It is worthy of note that the neighbourhood is largely non-affluent and basically less than middle class. It is the kind area where no one will expect the calibre of Sujimoto to originate from. The straight talking, positive thinking and focused lad did not let anything hinder his dreams of becoming an entrepreneur in the top echelons.
This is how he introduces himself:
“I speak 5 different Languages and my only passion is Entrepreneurship. My first introduction to business was at a tender age, in Africa’s largest market – ‘Oke-Arin’. Out of curiousity, I would follow my mother to the market, where I learnt every aspect of trading.
“I am the MD/CEO of Sujimoto. We usually say Sujimoto is to architecture what Picasso was to art. We are a dynamic and innovative Luxury Real Estate organization. Our main mission is to revolutionize the Luxury Real Estate sector.
“I came into the Luxury Real Estate Industry at a time when Nigerians were beginning to demand value for their money. My vision is simple; to redefine luxury living by exceeding all expectations. We have gained recognition for being one of the most dynamic luxury construction companies in Nigeria as recorded by Forbes Africa, Channels Television, CNBC Africa, the Lagos State Chamber of Commerce, to name a few.”
Reports had it that Sujimoto lived on a street where only two houses had power generating sets. He practically grew up surrounded by poverty. But unlike most people who abandon reality to fate, he looked at the brighter side, and motivated himself to success. He looked beyond his immediate environment, and that was why as young as nine, he was already visiting the highbrow Ikoyi Island to stay abreast of how the rich live. Of course, the life of opulence cheered, inspired and informed him the way to go. He wanted to test the affluence, and that nurtured his path to life. And so with the simple philosophy of create sugar, and the ants will come, he set out to conquer the business world his own way. He was not just running to highbrow quarters, he also learnt business from his mother who was a marketer for Nestle.
Though Sujimoto was opportune to attend Anglica Ruskin University in the United Kingdom where he studied Law, after he left Model College, Meiran, he maintained that majority of what he knows today were products of reading (books).
Hear him: My first introduction to entrepreneurship was when I read ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill. 10 years in any University would never have given me what I leant in 10 days. This changed my life forever. I understood two things; 1. Look for a product and create a competitive advantage, then, 2. Put customers first. These principles are the foundations of my success.”
He started out his career in risk assessment in 2004, where he moved up to lending in SME’s and then set up Moto finance in Paris which later branched out into Accra, Dubai, Madrid, and New York City, achieving significant Industry Milestones, then later moving into the Nigerian real estate industry.
Regarded as one of the youngest billionaires in Nigeria, Sujimoto has been recognized by Forbes Africa as a brave young entrepreneur. According to records, he cut his first major teeth in real estate when he was living in France. He bought an apartment in Paris, remodeled it, and sold it for double the price to a friend from Qatar. The amount the investment brought within a short time ignited his interest in real estate. He was good to go. His grandma’s lines of ‘there’s no amount of bitter-leaf that can stop the taste of honey’ was basically coming to pass.
His quest for real estate was further strengthened when he met “Akin” at a club in Ikoyi. He invested N50 million into a project for a block of flats in an estate that was being developed. The risk paid off and he raked in over one hundred per cent return at the end of the day.
Having seen how lucrative the business was, he started considering starting a business of his own to take advantage of a new generation of Nigerian consumers who had started appreciating the value of luxury real estate.
In 2013, he founded Sujimoto, in partnership with real estate mogul, Mr Yazeed Alrahji, the chairman of DAERM real estate investment company, Saudi Arabia, and named after a Japanese university professor who he attributes a large part of his success to. He identifies the man as the individual who shifted his paradigm and helped him to become the man he is today. Today, Sujimoto is often referred to Donald Trump of Nigeria as a result of the Midas touch he has brought to estate business.
He moved from one prolific transaction to another, and soon landed landed his first big project at Lincoln Avenue in Accra, Ghana. It was a set of 16 townhouses of 4-bedroom apartments, a project he carried out in partnership with Wonda World/Petronia. Soon after, he constructed the elegant and luxurious Medici terraces luxury apartments in Ikoyi, Lagos. The apartments are applauded as having high-quality materials with 24-hour security, art, gym and many more.
In 2016, he birth his most ambitious project called “LorenzobySujimoto”. This was supposed to be the tallest residential building in Nigeria and Africa’s first fully automated residential apartments. It was however stalled as a result investor’s fear of the unknown in the Nigerian environment. However, Sujimoto maintained that like a pregnancy, the project must see the light of the day.
In this new age, Sujimoto, as a person and business concern, has cultivated three three fundamental Ps which are already being implemented: People, Prudence and Projects. This are basically required to stem the tide of post COVID-19 era. The Ps represent:
Projects: We have 3 major projects we have in the pipeline that will bring a minimum of 200% ROI to Sujimoto. Most projects will last a minimum of 1 year, so while other organisations are in limbo, folding their hands and waiting for the Pandemic to be over before they take any meaningful action, we have already started. By the time the world is ready to restart, we will be done!
Prudence: We have instituted a diligent spending culture by putting an Opportunity Per Cost (OPC) strategy to every penny spent. We shall only spend what is necessary NOW!
People: The Job market is saturated with lots of experienced hands who had been let off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is our intention to work ONLY with the best. Therefore, we will be employing ONLY the best and the essential.
At the moment, the company on a ‘small exclusive project that will redefine architecture and luxury living’ on Banana Island. It is a terrace house with each apartment, having its own private elevator, 2 kitchens, fully automated, 3 car parks, 2BQs, and 76% ROI. In his usual characteristics, Sujimoto is giving off-takers 5 years warranty on finishing and 100 years warranty on infrastructure. Such magnanimity!
Mr Ogundele has not ceased in his efforts to give back to the society in the best possible way. In 2018, he held a one day retreat for budding entrepreneurs at his Banana Island venue of his latest project. He practically empowered young business minded individuals and gave out gifts worth millions.
In 2019, he made a dramatic return to his primary school, New Oko-oba Primary School, Agege, after about 33 years. There he stretched forth hands of fellowship towards teachers and pupils. At the end of the day, 50 pupils received instant scholarship while all the teachers went home with one form of goodies or another.
In his remarks on the day, Sujimoto said, “our tithe at Sujimoto goes directly to people who need it the most. For us, giving back goes beyond CSR, it’s an obligation.”
With a pledge to put facilities in the school in functioning order, he promised to take a ‘part of our profits and give back to different public schools, like Ijebu Ode Grammar School, Model College Meiran, Zaria to Jos, and many other schools, because for us at Sujimoto, giving back is an obligation!’
Sujimoto was also instrumental to rehabilitating and improving the standard of living of Jumoke Orisaguna, better known as Jumoke Oni bread. She was the Agege bread seller, who was turned to instant model by the hands of providence.
How much is he worth? So much to qualify as one Nigeria’s youngest billionaires, and recognised by Forbes. His projects cost millions of Naira, so it is not hard to imagine.
For as many that care to listen, Sujimoto is not interested in politics unless it is absolutely necessary. As at today, he sleeps, dreams and eats estate and construction, and if he ever runs, it will be for the highest office in the land.
“For now, I am 100% focused on Real Estate and meeting the construction needs of Investors who have trusted me with their money. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but If I run, I will run for President, and I am 100% certain to win!” He said.
As far as he is concerned, nothing else matters in business other than quality and integrity.
We duff our hats to you sir as our Boss of the Week…congratulations!