Ehi Ogbebor is the founder of sayeveth interior and hotel - one of the biggest interior design companies here in Nigeria.
She started her career after she got suspended from her day job.
After several years of working and building the brand she has become the go-to person for luxury interior decor in Nigeria.
she had a goal to hire clients from commissioners to speakers of assemblies to folks in the higer class.
The apogee of her craftsmanship was buying a million dollar home as a birthday gift to herself.
She coompletely did the interior work herself to show people what she’s capable of. Her house as a mini showroom a proof of work for her abilities.
Ehi’s background was somewhat privileged - she went to a good school. Her dad was very particular of that. But school had no particular impact on her career.
Doing interior design was something she always wanted to do since 16. She would walk into a space and mentally rearrange it.
She would later become passionate about her hobby that became a full-blown career.
Ehi lost her dad in 2009.
When Ehi Ogbobor moved to lagos in 2007 - she didn’t have enough funds to start anything and didn’t so she joined an insurance company.
Her dad’s death affected her a lot and work suffered severely. By 2010 she got suspended from work after issues with her boss and chose to start chasing her dream.
When she left, she had saved enough money to float her own company so started with the basics like curtains, paintings, beautification - the foundation of interior design.
Ehi’s big break came when she landed a contract to furnish a four thousand square meter home owned by an undisclosed nigerian citizen - A massive 11 living room house.
She was scared when approached for the project after doing a smaller project earlier that impressed him.
So took to his village house in Imo state passing a lot of water to get there.
At the time, she didn’t have that much staff strength then - not even up to 10 so it took over a year to complete that project; even over christmas and new year - and we did a great job.
It was the year 2012 she became a multi-millionaire from designing interiors.
When Ehi Ogbebor decided to open her first store; she wanted to do it big so she chose the location to be in Victoria Island.
She sent out invites to everyone she knew; the creme de la creme of the society - even Wizkid was invited.
A week to the opening her two conatiners were still stuck in the ports.
I contemplated cancellling the event and quitting the business.
She was visiting the ports 3 a.m, sleeping at the ports in the car - it was a horrible ordeal.
The goods were there for three months acquiring so much demurage daily.
After that experience she decided that she would brave whatever shallenges the business throws at her.
She decided to buy a small house and i design it herself.
She then began prospecting for referrals. Her house served as a mini showroom and got her loads of references. It made her very unique.
It was the talk of the town and when she posted it on her birthday - it went viral!
Ehi claims that she doesn’t like to repeat designs because she believes that every individual is different in their own ways.
Her inspiration first of all is that she has to meet the client to ascertain their tastes. That’s always her frst step.
Then the next important thing to for her is to work with colors - know what colors clients like and what colors they can’t stand.
Ehi knew what she wanted in a house and gave herself a year to actualize it. She planned to start it in 2018 her schedule was tight all year.
By 2019 she acquired land in Pinnock Beach Estate and by 2020, immediately the Covid 19 lockdown started she started putting in the work as everybody was at home.
She finished it in a year! The news broke on the internet; “35 year old woman gifted herself a home!”
The design process went something like this: she sat down with her architect. They had previously done a paid design but it didn’t cut it - more of a 70s feel. So she rejected it.
Her vision for the exterior look was a very strong classic; the white house kind of classic.
She went abroad and bought all the finishings; took all the dimensions, the floorings. The only thing she did locally were the ceilings. Every other thing were bought and shipped from abroad.
After the shipped goods landed - work went on so fast because - all that was done was; empty the containers and immediately start work.
Three months after she went abroad again and brought in everything for the interior; kitchens closets etc.
“Artisans, masons, woodwork guys and other creators most times have little to no formal educational so working with them to make them understand the vision can feel very daunting”, she said
“Capacity building in even formal staff is a challenge; it almost feels like you’re training over again and then after you have struggled to do so; they leave!”, she continued.
Dealing with the clients is another challenge she revealed because you have to study and master the act of emotional intelligence and how to manage clients and when to let go.
“There is the issue of quality”, she said. “We can’t sell everything so we have to deal with other contractors and subcontractors and they sometimes compromise on quality.”
The biggest challenge she identified though was; clearing their things from the port - it a long painstacking, overly expensive and corrupt process. “Clearing prices fluctuates week on week. Then you have to carry your clients along” she said.
It’s over 13 years - well more than a decade and she says that these three things really worked for her;
She sources most stuff abroad but she also has very good carpenters in Ota. Her company has a factory in Ota as well. But fabric, accessories are sourced abroad.
culled from an interview by Stephen Ndukwu and Ehi Ogbebor;