Sunday, 6 December 2015


Talatu Olulana
Talatu Olulana, the founder and CEO of Raregems Nigeria Limited, is the pioneer dealer in precious metals  in Nigeria. She started the business in year 2,000 with just N5,000 out of her love for jewellery. She is a model of SME success in Nigeria. A woman that looks beyond what will put daily food on her table, she focuses on leaving a mark for the generations behind.

How she got to where she is today
As a young girl growing up, I remember I used to have loads of jewellery magazines though I didn’t have any jewellery of my own. I took interest in looking at the jewellers, especially the stones and I began to learn the names. My first opportunity of  dealing with jewellery came when I was in higher institution. I had a friend who was selling gold and any time she came from Italy, she was giving me some to sell on commission basis and I was even selling more than her. By the time I graduated from school, I already knew I was going to deal in jewellery and I didn’t bother looking for paid employment. I just made enquiries on how to go about it and I was told to go to Cotonou. Because I didn’t have money on my own, my mother gave me N5,000 and I started  buying and selling  costume jewellery. I hawked my goods from shop to shop and to offices. Many times, I sold everything same day I bought them but because of the little capital, I found myself going to Cotonou three times a week. We started branding wedding rings with our logo R&G, on it after four years and later to necklace and earrings with our logo on the hooks.

Talatu Olulana
It was curiosity that brought me into branding and that was what gave me breakthrough in the business. In the course of selling my stuff, a customer ordered for a wedding ring with her name written on it and she gave me pictures of what she wanted. I didn’t have idea of how to do it but I took it as a challenge. That was how I started searching the internet to look for a company which could do it for me and I got one in France. Because of the money involved due to the diamond stone the customer wanted on the ring, I didn’t want to take the risk of sending money and so I decided to travel to get it with the little savings I had. After getting it done, from there, I was introduced to a lot of people which was a major breakthrough for me.

Today, it is not only me, we are a company. I see Raregems as bigger than me because we now have 140 retail partners all over the country. We also have in Dublin, America and France. I did a short course in design when I went to buy the ring which I completed online in Nigeria because of the short period I stayed. I don’t want to take glory for a lot of work being put in by people behind the scene and that is why I like to use ‘we’.

Not satisfying with just buying and selling
Once you put your hands on the plough, there is no looking back.  I realised that there are lots of things to do. We went into precious Metals business in 2010 and, by God’s grace, we are the first indigenous company in Nigeria to do that.  We offer opportunity for people who want to build gold or silver reserves just like the way they invest in building houses and other aspects of investment because they appreciate  in value. The price of gold four years ago is not the same today. One can build it over time, sell and make profit on  daily basis when you see the price increases just like the way people trade in shares and foreign currencies.  Precious metals are tangible than shares because if you buy a piece of gold, you can hold it, it is yours and, in case of emergency or any situation,  you can sell part of it and go to another location to start your life. This you cannot do  in building investment as it is not possible to cut part of a building and sell. Even if you can do it, it will take time before you can see somebody to buy half building.

How do you do it?
We have equipment for casting them which is more of local, but we have higher level which is minting, but because of finance, we can’t do that now. We have the mode where we smelt the gold and cast it. Building a reserve is not like jewellery. You mould the gold bars because the temptation of wearing it is high. If it is jewellery,  it is not pure gold because the stones will be removed when you want to sell it and stones in your gold is not gold. When you have gold bars, it is raw gold which is called professional gold and jewellery does not fall into that category. Another advantage of having gold reserves is that you can cut out of your gold bar and sell to meet immediate needs which you cannot do with your building.

On security
You can talk to your bank to keep it in their vault to avoid theft and, if you can’t, our company can talk to our bank to keep it for you.

To people who wants to invest
For a starter, you can start with gold or silver. It is good because they appreciate and, with Raregems, you are sure of selling it at the current World Stock Price for that day any time you want to sell unlike the gold traders in the general market that toss people around.
We believe that the present government will improve power and also support us to bring in equipment for production of jewellery in Nigeria because we have all the raw materials here. We have the stones, brass and one of the best grades of steel in Nigeria. If we bring in the equipment, it will employ a lot of people.

Impact on young people
After 15 years of growth, we have impacted a lot of people both young and old. We give people the opportunity to be empowered financially. We give jewellery to people to retail and make money. It may not be their main source of income because lots of them work in offices, and they don’t need capital to start because we already have an e-store where we give them opportunity to make up to 50-100% profit on each item. We also have mentoring platform for people who are not in jewellery business because I went through a lot when I started. I didn’t have anyone to go to for mentoring and direction. So, the platform is for young people who have business ideas and they are passionate about what they are doing.

Raregems did not just emerge. A lot of work and structuring went underground and it is not by luck that got us to where we are today. We also teach people how not to eat all their profit, however small it may be. In my family, they used to call me Ijebu businesswoman but I was looking at the future that I had to grow the business to the point where it could sustain itself. So I was saving my profit since I knew I did not have anyone to support me financially. That is part of what we teach people because no investor will invest without seeing anything on ground.

Advice to young people
Nigeria is land opportunities. Our population alone gives us advantage though it maybe a disadvantage to some people. For entrepreneurs, it is a great advantage because there are lots of areas of people’s needs. There is room for people to build new businesses but our young people need to be focused and persistent. Nobody will give them money to start anything and so they should start at whatever level they are. Raregems too took a route before it got to where it is today. Young people should also be opened to knowledge. I learnt a lot from reading. One does not need to go to the four walls of the classroom. They can learn online.

To women
Though I started before I got married, today, I have five children. I am someone that plans a lot. I draw my plan as a project which I heard from my spiritual father, Bishop Oyedepo. He will always tell us to take everything in life as a project which make us to get serious. I prioritise my children first and then my business.

Women can actually work and at the same time protect their home front. Internet has made everything easy, women can work online and still have time to take care of the children. Housewives too can maximise the potentials of the Internet to become what they want to be without having stores or office and make money on daily basis.

It is the fear of God. You cannot put God out of you but to put all your trust in Him. That is where I get my balance from, otherwise, I will find myself swinging and not knowing where I belong. Once you get it right with God, every other thing will be on that foundation. (vanguard)