The founder and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Hugs Surprises, Oluwatoyin Oyesanya, tells KEHINDE AJOSE about her entrepreneurial journey, and other issues

What were your childhood ambitions?

At different times, I wanted to become a doctor, lawyer and engineer.

How would you describe your childhood?

It was okay to an extent; I enjoyed my childhood. I had step brothers and sisters; but, I am the only child of my mum.

What are your educational qualifications?

For my elementary education, I attended Chrisland Primary School, Lagos. I went on to Queens College, Yaba, Lagos, for my secondary. I then proceeded to University of Luton, United Kingdom. I came back to Nigeria and completed my tertiary education at Caleb University, Lagos.

How did you start your business?

It actually started out of depression. I was depressed, and I felt like my life did not have any meaning. I was just tired of life, and I wanted to commit suicide. However, someone sent me a cake on my birthday, and it made me feel loved. I felt happy and the act lifted my spirit. I then decided that I could do it for others  too, instead of just staying at home and doing nothing.

At what point did you decide to take it as a business?

I decided to monetise it when orders started becoming too many for me to handle. Many people were calling me to surprise their loved ones. I thought to myself that it could become a business. When I started, the plan was not to plan surprise packages. I just wanted to surprise people with doughnuts. But, I soon expanded it to include other gifts.

What has been the highpoint of the business so far?

Everything has been a highlight for me. However, the one I will not forget in a hurry was when I organised a surprise for billionaire businessman, Aliko Dangote. I felt really good, honoured and useful.

More people seem to be getting into the business every day. Do you feel worried about the tight competition?

No, I don’t. My workload is even too much for me to handle alone. People reach out to me to train them (and I do). People coming into the business is actually a relief for me, because there are a lot of opportunities to go round.

During your surprises, you usually carry people. How do people react to that?

I don’t even know where I get the strength from. I just enjoy seeing people happy. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. I love the way people react whenever I lift them. It is a beautiful thing. Some people cry, while some laugh.

What lessons have you learnt in the course of running the business?

I have learnt to be patient. I have also learnt that love is a beautiful thing, because I see people in love every day.

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What makes you different?

Aside from the grace of God, it is also because we carry people. Our brand is an energetic one. I think Nigerians like things that they are familiar with.

As someone who has experienced depression as a result of unemployment, what advice do you have for youths without jobs?

Don’t give up. God created you for a purpose. You just have to be patient and prayerful. Everything will work out eventually for your good.

What business principle has worked for you so far?

Integrity is one of my business values. One has to be transparent for people to trust one. People need to be able to trust one with their money.

You also organise surprises for celebrities. What impact has that had on your business?

It has helped us in a way. However, some people think that because we organise surprises for celebrities, we must be quite expensive.

On the flipside, because of our celebrity clients, people trust us and are more willing to do business with us.

How have you been able to cope with the challenges of running a business in Nigeria?

I honestly don’t know what I’m doing differently. It has been by the grace of God.

Have you ever felt like giving up?

Oh, yes. Things could get overwhelming at times. Fortunately, I have been able to build a good team. Even I don’t go to the office, the work will go on without me. I trust them enough. Being consistent is the hardest part.

Do you think planning surprises for people strengthen relationships/marriages?

Yes, it does. I have lost count of how many homes we have helped to strengthen with our acts of surprises. There was a time we started a challenge on Instagram. I asked women to kneel before their husbands and say, “I love you”, to them. The videos of the challenge went viral on Instagram. People sent me messages of how it helped their marriages.

How do you love to dress?

 I love wearing joggers. I love being comfortable in whatever I put on. I am not a ‘slay mama’.

How do you relax?

Due to the nature of the business, I hardly find time to unwind. We get orders back to back. However, I relax by travelling.

By Vision

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