Sanmi Ogedengbe was born on the 5th of December 1985 in Lagos, Nigeria. He did his schooling in Lagos up until when he was to go to university. His university studies were done at the University of Hull in the United Kingdom; however he still frequented his home country during the holiday periods. After he graduated with a degree in Business and Management, he returned to Nigeria to open his own business. According to him, he tried various businesses and was successful at all of them but really wasn’t that passionate about them. He decided to go into the hospitality industry. At the age of 27, he opened one of the city’s best Thai restaurants and lounges called Facade. Facade has ever since been a household name in Nigeria since it’s opening, making the young entrepreneur even more popular than he ever imagined.
When did you start Facade?
I opened Façade to the public on the 21st of December 2012.
What motivates you?
Successfully achieving goals and also solving problems keeps me on the go. The hospitality business is not one for the faint-hearted. It takes up majority of one’s time and one has to be hands-on as regards all aspects of daily activities of the business. There are mandatory things that have to be done on a daily basis and if don’t get done could have a massive negative impact that will affect other things; kind of like a domino effect. There’s various times where problems pop out of nowhere and need to be solved as soon as possible. When I solve these problems I feel more motivated to be ready for the next problem knowing I will successful solve it and achieve my main goal for that period.
Can you tell us what kind of things you did before Facade?
I tried so many things. One thing I really put my heart into was selling cars. I have always been passionate about cars so I invested some funds into my cousin’s car dealership and started selling. We sold a few cars but after I made my money back along with some profit, I decided to quit and venture into something more interesting.
What kind of historical context of your country influenced what you are doing today? Or did you just start out of the fact that you needed to create business or didn’t want to work for anyone?
I have always been passionate about setting up a hospitality outfit. When I was much younger I often imagined owning and running a nightclub, I think it’s because I started going to nightclubs at a young age. As I grew much older, I researched a few things over the years about the nightclub industry and one key thing I learned was that nightclubs had a life span, especially here in Nigeria. I, however, was also interested in restaurants, hotels, bars, lounges, and other businesses in that field, so I decided to set up a restaurant and lounge instead of a nightclub on its own. To answer your question, I started this business because I’m passionate about the hospitality industry and also the entertainment industry.
Who do you admire? Is there someone who influences you so much?
No one person in particular. There are quite a few people I know and move with who I admire based on them being successful in what they do, but really only a handful.
Did you receive some kind of economic support to start Facade?
I have a couple of investors but most funds were self-injected.
You have had the chance to travel around many countries in the world. What kind of things have you learnt during the trips?
I’ve mainly traveled to developed countries and my observations have been that these countries only keep getting better. We as Nigerians need to join hands to make things work and move forward quicker, we are way behind in many aspects. Corruption is probably the main cause of the problems. However, I know we will get there one day.
What lessons have you acquired to help grow your business?
One lesson I learned was to always empower the right people to work in your team. When everyone shares the same vision, goals will be achieved.
What kind of support have you gotten so far from young people in Nigeria towards your business?
A lot of young people often show support by patronizing my venue for various things such as marketing new products, talent shows, and all sorts. I truly appreciate those that have supported and continue to support.
In your own assessment, would you say business is booming?
There is no limit to what an individual can achieve, so for me, even when business is good it can keep getting better.
In layman’s language, what exactly does Facade do?
Façade is a Thai restaurant and lounge. People come to eat, drink, and relax during the day, and mainly party in the lounge at night.
What are your plans in the foreseeable future?
I have many plans but one is to open other branches of my business.
Let’s talk about you as a person. What kind of person are you?
(Laughs) It depends on the situation I find myself in.
How can you define yourself and how do you think people consider you as an entrepreneur?
Those who know me well will say that my business comes first in all that I do. I’m at work at least 6 times a week, only otherwise, if I am not in town.
What kind of legacy would you like to leave in Nigeria?
A legacy that will always be remembered and appreciated by many generations to come.
So far, what is your biggest success or goal you have reached in your career?
Being young, if not the youngest in this industry, I’d have to say the biggest goal I’ve reached so far is to still be in business. At one point things were declining but with hard work and determination things started getting better.
Onyeka Nwelue who is a founding member of The Trent Voices lives in Paris, where he runs La Cave Musik, a record label, specialising in quality music from Africa and the Caribbean.