Ijeoma Nwobi Ubosi

5 minute read

By Ijeoma Agulefo Obunse

Identify your passion and pursue it wholeheartedly. Doing what you love will give you the confidence to overcome any challenges and pitfalls that may arise. ~ Ijeoma Ubosi

In the month of October, we are shining our spotlight on Ijeoma Nwobi Ubosi, class of ‘89, a trained pharmacist and graduate of the University of Bath, UK who decided to follow her passion and launch her own fashion business. Ijeoma is the founder and CEO of Kontessa, a multi-branch fashion retail store, and of Arsenal Ventures, and has been a successful entrepreneur for over a decade.

Ijeoma or ‘Kontessa,’ as she is fondly known in Lagos where she grew up, began her secondary school education at FGGC Sagamu then transferred to FGGC Onitsha in 1986. Ijeoma’s entrepreneurial spirit was first awakened in 1992 after her university freshman year. While shopping at an outlet mall in the United States during her summer vacation, she began to actualize the idea of turning her love of shopping and her keen sense of style into a profitable side business. She purchased several name brand clothing that resulted in quick sales once back in the UK. Inspired by the success, Ijeoma began making frequent shopping trips to the US, and within a few years had expanded her customer base to Nigeria.

In 1997, Ijeoma relocated back to Nigeria and shortly thereafter married Chris Ubosi, the love of her life. Disenchanted with the state of the pharmaceutical industry in Nigeria which was unregulated, Ijeoma decided to put her pharmacy career on hold and focus her attention on her family and on building up her fashion business. To her utmost joy, within a few short years, her company Kontessa was thriving.

Ijeoma at one of her Kontessa stores

Looking back on how far she has come from the early days of her business, Ijeoma recounts the initial challenges she faced. From modest beginnings, selling her merchandise from her “mobile shop”, the trunk of the car she shared with her husband; to setting up shop in her living room on the weekends, where she made the shopping experience more enjoyable for her customers by creating a comfortable, spa-like atmosphere with hors d’oeuvres and drinks, she was able to build up a loyal clientele. Her business quickly outgrew the confines of her living room and she expanded by converting her guesthouse into a store.

In 2000, three years after she began, Ijeoma opened her first store named Kontessa at Elpina Plaza, Victoria Island (VI), Lagos. In addition to the VI location, she now has locations in Ikeja, Lagos as well as in Abuja, Warri and Port Harcourt with plans to open another in Kano by the end of 2015. She believes that great customer service leading to positive feedback was pivotal to her success as her business grew from referrals made by satisfied customers.

A glimpse into one of the Kontessa stores

Kontessa, a medium to high end apparel and leather goods store, initially only catered to the adult market. After a course at Lagos Business School made her aware that the younger generation was a profitable segment with rapid growth, Ijeoma expanded her inventory to children’s fashion. The course also made her see the value of diversification and so she added on two more businesses; Arsenal Ventures, which not only specializes in gold and diamond jewelry but also represents Tumi and Lancel luxury luggage brands, and Nara Camicie, a franchise Italian clothing line for men and women.

Aside from running her various fashion enterprises, Ijeoma is passionate about giving back to the community. She firmly believes that it is crucial to find time to help those that need assistance in the community, and that all your accomplishments in life mean nothing if you are unable to positively impact your environment and society.

Sharing her experiences with those around her and encouraging others to utilize their God-given talents to pursue their goals is extremely important to her, which is why she has become a business mentor to other aspiring entrepreneurs, and been instrumental in helping others set up their own business.

Another way in which Ijeoma gives back to the community is through the Freedom Foundation run by This Present House Church, Lagos where Ijeoma is a member. The foundation supports children unable to afford an education and also rehabilitates prostitutes and drug addicts. Ijeoma not only contributes financially to the foundation but also gives motivational talks to the beneficiaries.

A few years ago, when FGGC Onitsha Alumnae Association’s Lagos Chapter approached Ijeoma about giving back to the school, she gladly contributed toward a prize for the student with the highest score in Chemistry at the annual speech and prize giving day event.

In 2011, at the inaugural Reunion Weekend of the USA/Canada Chapter in Atlanta, Ijeoma followed up with a donation of one million naira toward a school bus for the students. She then made another donation of six thousand dollars at the 2014 3rd Reunion Weekend in Maryland, for the renovation of the school library. Needless to say, the FGGC Onitsha Alumnae Association is extremely grateful to Ijeoma for her generosity and applauds her efforts to support our alma mater.

Ijeoma, far left, receiving an award at the FGGC Onitsha Alumnae Association USA/Canada Chapter's 3rd Reunion Weekend and Gala Night in MD, 2014

So what advice does Ijeoma have for budding entrepreneurs?

She believes the key to a successful business venture lies in identifying your passion and pursuing it whole-heartedly because “doing what you love will give you the confidence to overcome any challenges and pitfalls that may arise”. She also recommends starting small to minimize financial loss and scaling up as your business grows.

While Ijeoma hopes to someday practice pharmacy, now regulated in Nigeria, in the meantime she intends to ride the wave of the successes of her business ventures. And how does she do it all? As a wife, mother of three beautiful children (two daughters and a son), and a multi-business entrepreneur, she says the key to juggling these roles is making a conscious effort to create a good work-life balance.

Federal Government Girls’ College Onitsha Alumnae Association USA/Canada Chapter is proud of Ijeoma, a philanthropist, mentor and visionary who did not stop pursuing her goals and dreams until they became reality, and who has not stopped dreaming and achieving. She is definitely an inspiration to other alumnae, and serves as a constant reminder of the importance of giving back to our alma mater and society as a whole.

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