Wife of former governor Abiola Ajimobi, Mrs Florence Ajimobi, has recalled how she got married to her husband in 1980.
In a chat with Awa Ti Ibadan, a personality blog on people who have anything to do with the Oyo State capital, Mrs Ajimobi who recently clocked 61, explained that she had to leave paid job to raise 3 toddlers.
“I got married to my husband, Abiola, in 1980 and in 1982, my husband decided to register a company and called it Grandex Nigeria Ltd. He explained that the “Grand” was for his grandmother – he actually really loved his grandmother and so he said the “Grand” was for her, then he just added the suffix “-ex” to it and that’s how “Grandex” was coined.
The first Grandex store was a structure behind our house on Femi Ayantuga Street in Lagos in 1983. I had just pulled out of paid employment because raising 3 toddlers while being on a full time job was herculean. I had always enjoyed designing and drawing so I took a bold step of getting the contract to supply children’s clothes to the Leventis chain of retail stores. I stocked the small office behind the house with machines and recruited tailors and stylists who worked with me to deliver the clothes to Leventis stores.
In 1983, my husband was transferred from Lagos to Ibadan. We had moved to Ibadan from Lagos and we lived in the house on Awosika Street. The house was a bungalow and it had a boy’s quarters made up of two rooms. I couldn’t just stay home doing nothing, I was too restless to be idle and so in the summer of 1984, I converted the boy’s quarters into what would become the first Grandex store in Ibadan.
In February 1988, my husband was posted back to Lagos and so we moved but I continued to monitor and grow the business. In July 1988, I had up-scaled the business and we had begun to do wholesale imports of gift items and clothing from the UK, Thailand and Bangkok. This was what gave birth to the Grandex Stores on Adelabu Street in Surulere. The store is still there till today as our legacy gift store.
I have been running the Grandex on Adelabu Street since 1988 and interestingly I have lived on Adelabu Street since 1969 and the house which I lived in in 1969 was the space I bought in 2008 and converted to Grandex Store. Right now as we speak, there’s Grandex Bus-stop on Adelabu Street in Lagos.
In the year 2000 I began a postgraduate Diploma at the University of Port Harcourt Distant Learning Centre. The program ran from 2000-2002. As we were rounding off the program, the government cancelled such programs and the study centres were scrapped. The only option left was to go all the way to Port Harcourt which, at that time, was a luxury I couldn’t afford. The good thing was that I was given my transcript by the institution.
In June 2003, I enrolled for a course in Strategic Program for Negotiation and Leadership at Harvard School of Business and this program revived my hitherto lull sojourn in academics.
June 2014, I attended a 5-day program on Strategic Leadership and Change at the London School of Business. In the course of the program my mentor – Emanuella Giangregorio was instrumental to my pushing for a full time Masters in Business Administration (MBA).
With my diploma transcript from University of Port Harcourt and the years I had clerked in in business, a lot of waivers were granted and I got admitted for my MBA at the London School of Business.
That MBA was the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life. Ah, it was tough! My husband was going for governorship re-election and the school would not accept half measures. Group work, up-front reading and even research field work greatly tasked my mental capabilities. My lecturers made sure of it that I put in enough hours for each diet and they told me off whenever I committed blunders.
I am grateful to God for the native intelligence and business experience which I had garnered over the years; they came in handy and helped me pull through. I almost gave up several times but my husband, mother and others kept nudging me on. There were no corners to cut at all so that when I was done, I was thoroughly exhausted.
One of the biggest impacts of the MBA on my business was the transformation in organizational administration of Grandex; it took a radical turn. I had taken courses on Systems Administration and Management, Strategic Management, Accounting and Capacity Expansion. Bringing all of that knowledge to bear on Grandex led to a complete turnaround and the company has been better for it since then.
Over the years, I expanded our retail outlets to Ofin at Isale Eko, Edgarton on a lease from National Bank at Iponri and Elpina Plaza on Akin Adesola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. We once had an outlet at Unilag but it is defunct now. I have done the same business for 32 years and consistently sourced my goods from the same organization for 28 years such that now, they call me for product testing and trials. They have given me credit lines for more than 10 straight years.”