At present, the name Thelma Chukwu might not ring a bell like that of Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga and Femi Otedola, but the founder of Roomies Connect, in a chat with Temitope Idris, speaks on her desire to make a difference and prove that she can actually set a unique pace in the corner of her world
In spite of having a background in finance, she understands the importance of technology.
What she does may look hard, she has made it easy with sheer innovations, consistency and passion. Her company, Roomies Connect, is an online platform that provides suitable roommates for people.
Speaking on setting up roomieconnect. com, she says when she returned to Nigeria after completing her university education in the United Kingdom, she wanted to share an apartment with someone in Lagos.
It was shocking to her that there was no platform to connect her with her roommate. She said, “I was not staying in Lagos at a time and there was no one or company to help me to get a suitable roommate.
I had to live alone. After a while, my friend complained bitterly about the same issue. I also saw some people who had the same issue. I had actually thought of having this kind of platform for a while, but I guess I was waiting for a push or afraid since I did not know much about technology.”
But after attending a conference organised by Access bank, she became more determined to provide a solution.
“I saw the reason to start something when I went to an Access bank conference, at the Eko Hotel and Suites. The speakers discussed about growing one’s passion and I met many young people who were already into one thing or the other. That was the defining moment for me.” For Chukwu, she is learning the ropes.
Though she is not in a rush, she explains that more people have shown interest in working with her. “The past few years have been all about learning for me. Since I am not a developer or a designer, I have to consult people. When the idea came, I hired a developer to help me actualise it.
This is new for me and I like the experience because I love challenges. Anytime I have problems with my work, I have a close friend who is into IT that helps,” Chukwu shares. From a family of six, she was born and raised in Port Harcourt.
She had a good childhood but her parents felt she would benefit more from getting her university education outside Nigeria.
According to her, she studied Economics at the University Of Portsmouth, England.
She also did a course in Chattered Financial Analysis just as she has dreamt. She, however, insists that there is no way she will abandon finance totally, even if it seems she has diverted. She still reads Financial Times, Bloomberg, among others on a daily basis. She also feels her background in finance will help her to become a better manager.
“In life, the only constant thing is change. I have always been passionate about finance, especially Economics, which was why I studied it. I started working as an Equity, Sales and Trade Analyst on the Stock Exchange and from there, I did Corporate Finance in investment banking.
So, I actually have a finance background. I also went into oil and gas at some point. “I never knew I would like tech, but things happen.
I think tech is actually the next big thing, as everything is now done online. You cannot just wake up one morning and start something; it is about having a problem or identifying a problem and solving it. Ability to do both means you are not just an app developer.
“There were times I questioned leaving a career to start a business on my own. I now believe that I am in the right place, despite all the challenges I have encountered. For me, all those challenges made me even stronger.”
As an entrepreneur in the technology industry, she is aware that one has to invest before money profit comes in. The first and second year, according to her, has more to do with investing in the growth of the business.
“People need to get used to the application and services we render. I started with little savings I had and I am seeing the potentials.
We now have registered users from Ghana, Kenya and here in Nigeria. We hope to get more investors because we are now expanding. So far, we have had over 4000 registered users, excluding those that registered and later deactivated their accounts,” she notes. Roomies Connect works in three segments.
The first segment, she said, has to do with people who need rooms and it saves them the stress of contracting an agent.
“You just want to get someone that has an apartment to spare, so you register and browse through all the people that have existing rooms, communicate with them through the message center, exchange numbers or emails and ask questions.
“The second segment is for people that have extra rooms in their houses and need cash. They come online to look for a roommate.
When they get someone, they go on house hunting together to look for the kind of apartment they want. It is all on the website because we are testing the market, but our mobile application would be launched in June.”
However, schooling abroad is another factor that has influenced her school of thought of setting up roomieconnect.com.
According to Chukwu, her first culture shock is that she had to change her name to Thelma when she got to UK, because they struggled to pronounce her native name. “I am Igbo and people have always called me Ogechi. But it changed when I got to UK.
People couldn’t call my name so I had to switch to Thelma. Even when it came to my pronunciation and accent, it was tough for me at first because I am a Nigerian and we have our distinct ways of pronouncing things. I got corrected many times.”
When she is not working, she stays at home and see movies. According to her, she only goes out when it is necessary. She also likes swimming, yoga and travelling. Chukwu describes her style as simple, which goes a long way in telling who she is. She loves jeans and shirts. But, she states that she can’t also do without her earrings, laptop, iPad and phone.
This might come as a bad news for her admirers, as the young lady said she has no plans to get married anytime soon. “I am yet to get married because I have given myself a milestone and until I reach that milestone, I don’t think I will get married,” she maintains.