Dame Olayinka Obaleye, the founder of Oba Foam learnt the art of trading from her father who was a trader. When she got married, she did all manners of business until the day she encountered a Hausa-Fulani hawking grass mattress and that was how her journey into manufacturing foams and mattresses began.
From a retailer to becoming a major distributor, she soon started her own company, competing with big names in the industry. Expectedly, she went through challenges that tested her as a business woman.
In a chat with Punch, she shares five challenges she went through in her foam business.
My business suffered a setback when rats invaded my shop and ate the mattresses. I applied rat poison but it didn’t check the menace. I was then advised to put cats in the shop and that was how my business was saved from total destruction.
In 1989, my factory got burnt thrice in one month. The fire incident, which occurred at the factory in 2012 was also really bad. I lost many things. Because of the frequency of fire incidents, I dabbled into other business initiatives. I went into the hospitality and oil and gas sectors.
Caring For Her Mother
My mother lived with me for a long time before she passed on and I did not want to inconvenience her by moving her from city to city. My siblings live in Lagos but I am content with living in Ilesa.
On one of the occasions when my factory got burnt, my sister asked me to relocate to Lagos. Even if I had hired a home help, there was no way she would care for my mother the way I would.By the time my mother died, I was no longer a young lady and I felt there was no need moving to Lagos.
I was kidnapped on November 19, 2013. I fell sick on November 18 and the family doctor came to treat me. He asked me to run some tests which I went to do the following day. I decided to go to the factory on the 19th because I felt better. I even visited the bank to carry out some transactions but unknown to me, I was being trailed by kidnappers.
Later that day, I went to the medical laboratory to collect the results of the medical test I did the previous day and afterwards, I returned to my factory. As I made to leave the factory at about 6pm, I heard gunshots fired into the air sporadically. As my driver attempted to reverse into the factory, he was shot dead.
Shortly after, a man came to the side of my car and as I wanted to step out, he ordered me to move to the centre and I was flanked on the right and left by kidnappers. One of them told me that I could not come down and that was when it dawned on me that I was being kidnapped.
I did not even know that my driver was dead. When I kept muttering his name, one of them asked his colleagues if he was the man they shot. That was how I knew he had been killed.
They asked me to bend down and they put their hands on my back. They took me to their hideout and they didn’t listen to entreaties to know what they wanted. It was on the third day that they said “We need our money from you.” I asked them how much and they requested $100m. I told them that I had never seen that kind of money in my life. I asked them if we spent dollars in Nigeria.
They told me that they were international kidnappers. They held me for 18 days and when I was eventually freed, they made me promise to send them more money because the ransom they were given was not enough.
Her Son’s Death
My lowest moment in life was when my son died. I felt suicidal but the grace of God prevented me from taking my own life. I had already prepared a cocktail of drugs and I made sure there were plenty of sleeping tablets in the mix.