Mr. Cyprian Nwokoro is a young entrepreneur from Imo State in Nigeria. He is from a family of seven children. Studying in England he graduated with a B.Sc Honors in Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Science from De Montfort University, Leicester and gained a Masters degree from the University of Sunderland. Since graduation he has moved back to Nigeria and completed his year of National Service.
Could you please tell me a bit about yourself and what you do as an entrepreneur? How do you ply your trade?
My name is Cyprian Nwokoro and I am an entrepreneur interested in investing in Africa. My aim is to utilize the existing knowledge I have to help the growth of Africa. Along the lines I plan to establish businesses that create jobs and opportunities within the continent.
And in terms of what you’re doing now as an entrepreneur?
Myself and some co-founders founded OffKLodge Enterprise Limited which aims to be Nigeria’s number one student online agency. The platform provides access for landlords, agents and students. Over the last few months we have developed the idea from feedback from students who complained about fraud and availability of affordable housing/hostel accommodation. OffKlodge aims to solve that problem nationwide. Every agent or landlord is working with us to ensure the security and comfort of each tenant.
So you’re definitely about giving back to your community?
Yes, I am.
Tell me more about OffKLodge and what drove you to pursue this dream? Were there some outside influences or did something you saw here, in Nigeria fuel your idea?
Bringing ideas that are available all around the world to Nigeria led us to pursue this dream. We aim to help students find affordable housing and secure locations. Also we have to make sure that people believe in their dreams. OffKLodge started as a dream and is becoming a reality. Nigerians need to just believe that they can do what they put their mind to.
Do you envision OffKLodge affecting the type of houses that people are building in University neighborhoods, especially if students push for more affordable housing?
First of all, OffKLodge is an IT company so we may not directly affect the types of houses being built, but yes it can definitely help tenants know the type of markets that students are targeting. It will show investors some valuable information as well.
Personally, I have visited the site OffKLodge and though some states and schools have not been populated with hostels, it looks like an overall brilliant idea. Could you talk about some of the features you think will attract users’ attention?
Before I get into features I’d like to address your comment on the site not being populated. I have been getting a lot of calls asking about availability in some schools/states. I would like to ask students to please be patient as it’s a work in progress. Our current availability is minimal but we are constantly looking to expand. We are coming to your schools very soon. The support is the most important thing for our growth. My favorite feature is the ability to chat with our in-house customer service Victor. He is constantly there with you on the site and will guide you through technical or otherwise issues. We believe strongly in being able to connect with us to guarantee the best user experience.
Also the utilities in each building, is it fixed utilities in each building? Or does each particular location differ based on its landlord?
It depends on the building. For example an accommodation could have 24-hour electricity and 24-hour water running. 24 hours would be 100% availability of those utilities in this case. If you say there is 10% electricity in your building, it would also state that on the portal. Students would see it and say, “Ah, Nepa no dey dey here o!”
So there is no misunderstanding between landlord and student. They both know what they are giving and getting? No risk of fraud in that regard?
Yes, they know what they are getting. Even after selecting the house on the portal, the students can actually go to the location and note if they want to stay there or not. The houses are open for them to see what they are getting into.
So, Cyprian, you’ve just made this bold step. Have you faced issues along the way? And as far as you wish to discuss, are there any issues you’re facing right now?
Some of the challenges we have faced is in the difficulty for a lot of people to understand the idea. Most non-IT or tech people don’t try out the platform until after much convincing. Agents sometimes refuse to take pictures of the houses they are selling but we have managed to get them to begin to adjust to it because it is stated as one of OffKLodge’s policies that you must take pictures of the property you list for rent. These are important areas to tackle in Student Housing Solutions.
The future of OffKLodge looks bright but what about investors? How is that process going?
We expect to have investors coming in based on the company’s potential, but we would like all investors to know that we are a team and our number one goal is to make life easier for the average Nigerian student. Simplicity is very important to us. And the market we are working with is a very big market. If you want to invest, too, you can also invest.
I’ll definitely look into that when I have adequate money. As I am I’m just a broke young professional trying to survive the Nigerian economy.
Haha. I understand, but we will all survive. Don’t worry.
We will all survive. We just have to sacrifice to build Nigeria up again. We don’t have a choice but to do it together. The economy is too bad to run away.
Any closing remarks? Anything you’d like to say to your country people?
What I’d like to say is this: “Nigeria might seem like a sinking ship but it needs your strength to float to the shore.” Make the best of every bad situation and try to harness what is already there.