Mother of three, Stephanie Geddes is the owner of Stephanie Club. The delectable lady, in a chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly, told the story of disappointments, discouragements and how will power pulled her through to become an emerging force in the male dominated night club business in five years of operations…
Five years of successful operation, how has it been running Stephanies?
First, I have a strong passion for my business and luckily it has been putting me through because it’s a very tough business especially now that we have expanded.
What are the major challenges doing what you do?
I faced a lot of challenges. As you know I relocated to Lagos six years ago and I didn’t know what Lagos was like and couldn’t even find my way from my home in Victoria Island to Apapa talk less of the airport.
When I opened Stephanies Bar N Lounge 5 years ago, a lot of critics, too many to mention, told me to my face that I couldn’t do it! They gave me a lot of reasons including the following, “Oh, you are a woman, trust me it’s not a woman’s job, Please, don’t waste your money, concentrate on your cement business as you can never run both, This bar won’t last more than eight months, you are new in Lagos and don’t know anyone, Who will come to the bar?, you must be well rooted in Lagos and have lots of contacts to run a successful bar and all that”. Everyone I met tried to discourage me but guess what, I ignored them all and went ahead. Another challenge was employing the wrong staff, workers that you have to do all the thinking for while all they do is the stealing from you.
Honestly I had quite some challenges that dwelling on them would just slow one down, but despite all the challenges, I never lost focus and it paid off. We celebrated our 5th anniversary on Wednesday, September 17, 2014. Five years on, we have not only moved on but also expanded, with a more expansive night club to the bargain. I proved all the cynics wrong.
This goes to show that in life, the only person that can stop you is you. Lots of people will discourage and frustrate you but once you are determined to achieve your goals, even a moving train won’t be able stop you.
Most people will put in very little efforts in achieving their dreams and wait on God to do the rest, I don’t roll that way! I always strive to meet God half way by putting 200 percent effort to make God’s job easier, and I get fast results.
Don’t you at times feel threatened operating in an environment that appears to give women little chance of success?
No, not at all. Women need to work as hard as men. There is no business meant for the men folk alone that a determined woman can’t do, afterall, we all have bills to pay. When electricity providers bring their bill to me at the end of the month, they don’t say to me, ‘Hey Steph, you are a woman so we are giving you 20 percent off your bill ‘. When the local government brings their bills for the year, they never take a percentage off because I am a woman, When I buy my ticket from Virgin Atlantic they don’t give me any special discount because I am a woman. The world is changing and most Women have as much bills to pay as their male counterparts. No matter what part of the world you live in, where you are from, your race or tribe. Once you are focused, disciplined, hardworking and you get your priorities right, you can do anything and achieve your set goals, your gender notwithstanding.
What strategies would you say you employed to break the rank of stereotype in continuing to stay in business- and even expanding?
A combination of strategies. Our concept is not only unique, but rare in Apapa, Lagos. Stephanies is unique! Very unique, believe me. It’s a one spot centre for all the fun you crave. We have something for everyone, from cheap beer in the outdoor bar to Ace of Spade, Dom Perignon Rose, Crystal, etc in the VIP/VVIP lounge and the night club! We have three in-house DJs and a hype man. We do African and continental dishes. We also do all sorts of BBQ and Nigerian delicacies.
Our bar and lounge is available for events, launchings, weddings, birthday parties, office get together, bachelors eve and all sorts of private engagements including shooting of home and music videos. We also do outdoor catering! Our kitchen is open 24/7 and our bar only closes when the last customer leaves! Now, tell me. Where would you rather be if and When you find yourself in Apapa?
Gains? It depends on how you define gains here. As I said, I have a strong passion for the business. Lots of my customers have said they don’t always have to go to the Island to enjoy a night out since we set up Stephanies. We practically brought ‘the island’ to their door step. Can you imagine how that makes me feel. We have been commended by lots of people that work and reside in Apapa, Lagos. Again we have provided lots of employment and supported the youth directly and indirectly with our growing contacts and influence.
And the minuses?
The business is very time consuming. If you want the business to flourish, you must be ready and able to dedicate quality time for it. I have sacrificed a lot for this business including my private life as you will always be the centre of side talks, especially being a woman but that doesn’t bother me anymore. I used to be agitated about false stories when I started. Another thing is signing of bills. It amazes me how customers can sign bills and you have to go on a wild goose chase just to get them to pay up but we’ve stopped bills signing for now, since Stephanies Bar is not UNICEF. And then you have the set of customers that would beg you to bring in their drinks to the bar. I always tell customers like that to go Hyde Park instead, but I tell them in a very nice way. We have another set of people that take serious offence If they are bounced.
Some of them go as far as sending me lots of threatening messages. I can go on and on and on but then, it’s just a case of don’t go to the kitchen if you can’t face the heat.
And efforts at administering Stephanies, does it put strains on performing responsibilities as the home front as well?
Of, couse it does. I try as much as possible to manage my time very well. as I also have my cement distributing and marketing company that I run during the day and then come to Stephanies Bar in the evening.
Most days 24 hours Isn’t enough. I have three kids and luckily for me, my two older kids still live and school in England but I need to travel as often as time permits to visit them. They are older and understand that mummy is very busy but the baby of the house is only seven and lives with me in Lagos.
He doesn’t understand why mommy has to work this hard. True, I don’t spend the kind of time with him like a mom would and this makes me feel guilty.
I make up for it whenever I take him to visit his older ones. I spend all my time with them during such travels.
Aside the ones you mentioned, are you involved in other commercial enterprises?
Basically aside Stephanies, I run the company that markets and distributes cement. We sell to wholesalers, property development companies, construction companies, individuals handling huge construction projects but we don’t retail. Our office is on Victoria Island, Lagos. We are open six days a week.
That’s what I do during the day and I manage Stephanies Bar at night. Between the two companies we have 67 staff, that’s why I always run a temperature every month end because you must pay your staff even if you make a loss.
What drives you?
The fear of poverty and failure! The fear of bringing beautiful kids into the world to suffer. The fear of not able to pick up their hospital bills when in need of medical attention. The fear of not able to put food on the table for my lovely kids. Even if I fail in everything thing in this world, I never want to fail as a good mom. The thought alone scares me. I have always wanted to be financially independent from a very young age. Again, I had my daughters quite early. Once I had my twin girls and held them in my hands for the first time, the world changed for me. My thinking changed, my attitude changed, everything changed, I knew it was time to work hard and take responsibility.