Meet Amb. Catherine Ugwuji.
A brief introduction
Amb. Catherine Ugwuji, popularly called Kate by all, is an erudite educationist, astute administrator, an iconic educational consultant, the Doyenne of Training and Leadership, a trained and professional Human Resources Practitioner, a Management Scientist, a passionate Career Counsellor, an adroit Success Coach, an affectionate Peoples’ Mentor and a charismatic Inspirational/Motivational Speaker. A graduate of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, she studied Vocational Agricultural Education. She holds an Executive MBA in Entrepreneurial Business Management. She is a Nigerian registered educationist and is also a University of Cambridge certified teacher for Cambridge International Curriculum, Fellow, Certified Business Management Professionals, Full Member, Nigerian Institute of Training and Development and Senior Member, International Summit of Leaders. She is the founder/Chief Executive Director, Kamaben Educational Services LTD and QuantumSuccess360.
1. What inspired you to create your business?
You see, right from childhood, I like helping and encouraging others to succeed in whatever they do. I readily offered my strength and support for the success of others around me. I would turn to a second teacher after classes just to help others understand better what was taught in class then simply because I want everyone to succeed with me. Even when I became a teacher, some teachers and school heads from other schools were coming to me to put them through certain stuff in the profession. Two things inspired me to start a consultancy firm. The first one is to pursue my passion of helping and leading others to success and use my wealth of experience to reposition them for success in life especially the up growing ones. The second thing that inspired me is my desire to fix underperforming schools, and teach them the simple success strategies. It pains me down to the bone marrow when I read and hear about students mass failure in examinations and their indulgence in examination malpractice as a short cut to success or youth involvement in all manner of vices in the name of success. It is either the students, the teachers, the schools, the parents, the society or even the government is not getting it right. This has put me on a mission of creating success structure and culture in schools and other organisations with my pet project called QuantumSuccess360 which aims at rebranding and repositioning of schools, strategic training and mentoring of teachers for effectiveness and greatness, awakening the parental roles of parents in their children’s success, helping the up growing ones to discover their purpose in life, helping the government to offer lasting solutions to the challenges of our educational system and grooming of a generation of students who will write examinations especially their final examinations like SSCE, NECO, IGCSE, JAMB, etc and make all straight A’s in one sitting without examination malpractice and stand out everywhere they are. Yes, it is doable.
2. How did you motivate yourself even when things were difficult?
About how I motivated myself and what kept me going when things were difficult, my motivation came from the success recorded in my works. I see difficulties as detours on my way which shouldn’t deter me from reaching my destination and one of my popular quotes is “if you are uncomfortable working in an uncomfortable environment, you are not ready to succeed in life”. You see, in whatever I do in life, I expect difficult times somewhere along the line but, I don’t allow the difficult times to derail me rather, I use the difficult time as a stepping stone to define my purpose and success by developing a positive attitude of optimism to counter the pessimistic situations that pose themselves as difficulties. In pursuit for success and greatness, hurdles that will define your strength, tenacity of purpose, doggedness and grit will definitely erect themselves on the journey paths, but only those with unshakable perseverance and unalloyed optimistic focus will cross over and grab the medal of greatness.
3. When did you start your business?
The business was nursed in 2008 and became registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission in 2010 but, I could not start of immediately until 2013 to avoid conflict of interest with the schools I worked for.
4. How many hours do you work a week?
My work involves a lot of researches, reading, writing, typesetting, preparation of slides and other things that aid my work. Therefore, it is usually difficult to tell how many hours I work in a week. In fact, when people ask me this question, I tell them that I work round the clock and take a break when I feel I should (laughter), but it does not mean that I do not create time for family and social life (laughter).
5. Which books do you read?
Currently, I am reading Management Strategies that work by Captain Larry Brudnicki et al and Secrets of Great Leaders by Carol O’Connor. I have read so many other books in the past like the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, Why We Act The Way We Do by Tim LaHaye, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, Developing the Leader Within You by John C. Maxwell, Talent is never enough by John C. Maxwell, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, How Successful People Think by John C. Maxwell, The Spirit – Controlled Woman by Beverly LaHaye, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, The Effective Executive by Peter F. Drucker, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People will Follow You by John C. Maxwell and a host of others.
6. What are your best business buy?
My website is www.kamabenservices.com though under reconstruction and my social media pages especially, Linkedin have immensely helped me. Also, some electronic gadgets, plug-ins software like adobe flash player, audacity, etc have also been so helpful.
7. What are your favourite business Resources?
Huh, My personal brand and intellectual capabilities, the equipment I use (like Camera, camcorder, Laptops, Tablets, Printer, adobe flash player, audacity, etc.) and the people I work, collaborate and network with.
8. What is your biggest inspiration?
Honestly, every member of my family played a very vital role in my life to be who I am and where I am today. But among them is one from whom I draw my strength and inspiration on daily basis and that person is my late mother. Even though she has gone to rest with the Lord, all that she taught me still keeps me going to the extent that when I am in a cross road or have a decision to make, the next thing that comes up my mind is, what would my mother had told me if she was to be here with me at this moment and; immediately, the solution will come.
9. What are your favourite business Website?
Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com, Edutopia – https://www.edutopia.org, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council – https://nerdc.org.ng, Cambridge International – https://www.cambridgeinternational.org, www.mindtools.com, etc.
10. What is the main thing that has helped you to expand?
Am happy you asked me this question. You see starting and owning a business is like a farmer that produces a certain type of produce say, orange. In the production of this his orange, there is a period of planting, that of growth and maturity period during which the farmer supplies all the necessary nutrients, conditions and management practices to ensure abundant and quality yield after some years which is the gestation period. During this gestation period, there may be challenges of weather, pests and diseases, weeds, death of some of the plants or even its buyers say, a juice production company threatening to change their supplier of orange fruits. It is the ability if the farmer to put all these under control, overcome the challenges and still makes his customer happy by supplying him with good and unrivaled quality orange fruits that will help him be in business. Therefore, building good customer service and loyalty, commitment to providing excellent services, personal branding, optimism, grit (passion and perseverance), hard work, and resilience are the answers and they have immensely helped me Above all these, Almighty God leads all the way.
11. What are the most profitable aspect of your business?
You see, it is all about finding your niche and building on it. For me, Training, Motivational/Inspirational Speaking, Success Tips Programmes and school and management have been it.
12. What is your typical work day like?
Busy and highly time demanding. Wake up early and work late to update and prepare for the next day. I forget to eat at times. You have to work, research and keep yourself constantly updated to still be relevant.
13. When did you realise that you are successful?
Laughs! I don’t know what your own definition of success is. As for me, I see success as the extent to which ones impact is felt in his or her chosen career whether he is aware or unaware of it. So I realised that I am on the successful lane ( laughs, because I am still on it) when I started getting referrals and recommendations for awards from people I don’t even know like the one you are doing now. We haven’t even met before (laughs). That is success for me.
14. What would you have done earlier to reach where you are now quicker?
I would have long ago stopped working for others. However, I don’t regret those years because those years were a period of training and that of fine tuning my passion and skills in my chosen career. I see those years as a period of perfecting my flying skills. You have to get me right here. I was formed, laid, incubated and hatched in my family; reared to learn the different terrains in schools I attended and weaned into the job market to learn how to fly and gather for myself. So, when I perfected my air cruise skills, in those places I worked, I flew off (laughs).
15. What should aspiring entrepreneur focus on to expand their business?
They should build trust, good customer services and loyalty, offer excellent and dependable services, build their lead, build good working team and above all, brand.
16. What is the main difference between those that are successful in this business and those that have failed?
You see, many factors enhance success in a business and the opposite of those things that enhance success leads to failure. But because of time, I will tell just one which is an embodiment of two things and that is GRIT. If you have passion and perseverance, you will succeed in whatever you do. Grit is the power of passion and perseverance.
17. What are the most common rookie mistakes in starting a business?
No market research, undermining competitors, no collaboration, thinking you can do it all by yourself, overlooking the importance of marketing be it online or other forms and a host of others.
18. What are the biggest business mistake you ever made?
That was doing my first business on trust for a client who happened to be my student’s parent/guardian and she never paid me up till this day. I established a top notch Nursery/Primary school for her in Festac Town, Lagos, recruited and on – boarded the staff faculty for her which is doing very well now and as we speak, she did not pay me for that job. I am not going to mention the school’s name here but, if the person reads this, she will know she is the one am talking about.
19. What do you think that stands you out, have you ever won any award/honors?
Yes. I have some feathers on my cap and I believe am still counting. Some of the awards I have are:
-International Academy Award.
-International African Peace Award.
-Ambassador of the International Summit of Leaders Award
-Fellow, Certified Business Management Professionals Award (Honorary)
-Best Graduating Student Award.
-Best Student in Animal Science
-Best Student in Crop Science
-Best Student in Soil Science
-Best Student in Education
-Best Female Staff –Students Council
-Best Co-operative Female Staff -Students Council
Besides these, it may interest you to know that I won many prizes in my secondary school days in sports(races, jumps, etc} and academics.
20. Do you belong to any professional organisation?
Belonging to professional organisations is one of the things that help you develop yourself. Presently, I hold the following memberships:
-Senior Member, International Summit of Leaders.
-Full Member, Nigerian Institute of Training and Development.
-Member Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria.
21. How many years of professional experience do you have teaching before going fully into consultancy?
Oh! I spent 17 years working in secondary schools both as a classroom subject teacher and management staff. As a matter of fact, I have experience in all the aspects of the school by serving in various capacities at different levels. I was a subject teacher. I taught Agricultural Science and Basic Science and at point, I was a relief teacher in Biology. I was a Student Affairs Officer and Counsellor before I was promoted to the office of a Vice Principal. I held this position for 4 years before I started heading schools as a Principal/Administrator. Having reached this point in my career, I felt that the appointed time to work on my passion has come.
22. Would you mind telling us some of the schools you worked for?
Not at all, in fact, I am proud to mention them to you because I left marks in the sand of these schools’ history. In fact, I was the Principal that mentored and coordinated a group of 5 girls known as PrincetongirlsinIT that designed a functional Mobile Traffic App that won the whole of Africa a seat in Technovation Challenge under the auspices of WITIN (Women In Technology In Nigeria) at Silicon Valley, California, USA in 2013. The school was the first in Africa to qualify for the pitching though, the school lost out in California due to some internal maneuvers and I was not there with them. It still pains me that our country Nigeria did not take up such an app considering the rate at which people die in vehicle crash even after inviting students to Abuja by Dame Patience Jonathan, the then first lady. Thanks to Hon. Abike Dabiri who supported the girls then. Some of the schools are: St. Jude’s Private Secondary School, Festac Town, Lagos, Solid Rock Girls’ Academy, Sagamu, Ogun State and Princenton College, Surulere, Lagos.
22. What courses/training do you think that have helped you in your career?
There are so many to list or mention here but I will give only a few of them. They are:
-Cambridge International Examination
-Certificate in IGCSE-Biology.
-Understanding British Curriculum
-Managing Customers and Markets
-Dynamics of Leadership in times of complexity
-Dealing with adolescents delinquent behaviours
-Head of School Training Course
-The making of a great teacher
-Public Speaking, Grammar and Elocution
23. Do you have any future proposed projects?
You see, when they say money answers all things, it is sometimes true. I dream big and I have a lot of proposed projects which if I see extra money today or get any partnership/sponsors, I will start them rolling immediately. My proposed projects are:
Kamaben International Schools
Kamaben Resort Center
24. What are some of your popular quotes that can inspire others.
“Fire up your passion until it explodes into a massive flame of concrete reality that is unquenchable”. – Kate Ugwuji
“If you are uncomfortable working in an uncomfortable environment, you are not ready to succeed in life”. – Kate Ugwuji
“An unbridled tongue is a tool of destruction that leaves its victim murdered without any touch, stuck it in and zip it up”. – Kate Ugwuji
“Focus is the anti derailment force that keeps you on track, determination is the strength that takes you to your destination”. – Kate Ugwuji
“In the journey of life, there are many detours on the way but, never be deterred from getting to your destination”. – Kate Ugwuji
“The power of passion and perseverance is the damaging tool for failure”. – Kate Ugwuji
“The fear of being comfortable on the bench of failure is the beginning of one’s success”. – Kate Ugwuji
“Luck is not a stroke of goodwill but, a preparation that meets opportunity which uncovers hidden endowments that build success over time”. – Kate Ugwuji
“Doing something you have never done before gives you the opportunity of learning something new and discovering new ideas, don’t limit yourself”. – Kate Ugwuji
“A person with a closed heart and an imprisoned mind suffers the worst bankruptcy ever that no bank can solve”. – Kate Ugwuji
“Service is never complete until the last person is served in any form of service”. – Kate Ugwuji
“To live is to impact the lives of others without which, there is no fulfillment in life”. – Kate Ugwuji
“In whatever you do in life, expect difficult times somewhere along the line but, don’t allow the difficult times to derail you rather, use the difficult time as a stepping stone to define your purpose and success by developing a positive attitude of optimism to counter the pessimistic situations that pose themselves as difficulties”. – Kate Ugwuji
“Life is a race with different starting points and different finish lines on different lanes and at different speed levels, all with a purpose, face your own lane”. – Kate Ugwuji
“In pursuit for success and greatness, hurdles that will define your strength, tenacity of purpose, doggedness and grit will definitely erect themselves on the journey paths, but only those with unshakable perseverance and unalloyed optimistic focus will cross over them and grab the medal of greatness”. – Kate Ugwuji
25. What are your hobbies?
I enjoy cooking, travelling, gardening and swimming.
26. What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs starting out?
Passionately follow your passion with great optimism and never be deterred from reaching your destination by all the detours on your way.