Udoka Uju is a graduate of University of Port Harcourt where she bagged a degree in Economics. Udoka Uju resigned from her job at one of Nigeria’s top bank to focus on making homes, offices and schools look beautiful with paint. Before she joined the bank in 2014, she worked in a real estate firm (full-time) and at the same time was running her interior design company as a part-time job. From being an Interior Designer, Udoka Uju developed interest in painting. Fascinated by the things one could achieve with paint and colours she decided to be a Painter. Udoka Uju ran her business (The Lady Painter) part-time even while she was in the bank till July, 2016 when she resigned from the 9 to 5 job to pursue her dreams. Udoka Uju’s life since she started focusing on The Lady Painter business has been an inspiration to many. It has also been challenging being in a male dominated profession. The Lady Painter is a brand that Udoka Uju is building and hopefully she desires to make it a household name in Nigeria. Besides running The Lady Painter as a business, Udoka Uju is also the founder of the initiative ‘Grab a brush, Colour a life’, an initiative aimed at face-lifting the public schools, orphanages and public areas in our rural communities by making them look clean and attractive with meaningful art works/murals.
They are particular to their clients’ needs so they vigorously ensure that all projects undertaken meet all agreed-upon specifications and executed with ardent creativity. With major clients like Diamond Bank, Sterling Bank, FCMB to mention a few, indeed, The Lady Painter has proven that she is here too stay.
Where it all began
Growing up was fun because I have a beautiful family and friends and at the same time it was challenging because I was always wondering what I wanted to be in future. It seemed most of my friends and classmates had it figured out but mine took me a while. I come from a strict home, where family comes first no matter what; I was also taught that there has to be a balance in life. So this helped me make a decision in choosing my path in life. This path right now, running a painting company, gives me a balance in life.
How are you fairing in a male dominated terrain?
Working in a male dominated terrain was challenging when I started. I wasn’t taken seriously when I went out for marketing; also people thought I was working under someone. So I had to do a lot of work trying to convince them that I was really a Painter and it was my business not someone else’s. But now, I let my past jobs do the talking. Also right now, there are a lot of women out there taking painting as their profession and people are taking us more seriously.
When I started my business it was just Lagos that we were servicing, but then I got lots of requests for painting outside Lagos and I just had to take that bold step of travelling outside Lagos with my team for jobs. Now it’s easier for me because I have tried to build teams of Painters in Abuja, Akwa Ibom state, Rivers state, Imo state, Enugu state and Oyo state and I am still working on going to other states as well. The plan is to make The Lady Painter a household name in all states in Nigeria.
Grab a brush, Colour a life
Grab a brush, Colour a Life is an initiative that I use to give back to my society. I try to raise funds, use funds from my business or get sponsors to paint a public school, an orphanage or a public wall with focus on rural areas. It’s my way of inspiring lives and communities with my gift using colours and patterns because I believe everyone deserves to live and learn in a beautiful environment.
Transition from a 9-5 job to being a painter
The transition has been a good one. I don’t have any regrets even with the challenges I face. It has been a learning process for me and the opportunities have been endless.
What are the challenges in your line of business?
Every business comes with challenges, and sometimes they never end we just have to find a way of managing and controlling it. Transportation sometimes is a challenge for me especially when I have a big project to execute in a far distance. Also, building the right team in some states is challenging because you have to be careful the kind of people you bring in on your team. But gradually, I am finding a way out of this and taking every challenge one at a time.
What is it about painting that thrills you?
Paint is the easiest and the most economical way to transform a home and life. For me, it’s not just a business; I see it as a means to impact the lives of many people. I always get excited when I am about to start a project because I know that at the end of it, I will be making someone’s home or office really beautiful and clean. And for me, it’s a great deal to be part of that transformation.
How do you determine what colour to use for a project?
Using the right colour is important as it affects us differently and psychologically. Before we start a job, I or someone from my team always interviews our client. We enquire on what the spaces will be used for, we ask about our client’s furniture collection and also client’s colour preference. These questions help us guide our client in making a decision on the right colours to use on their walls. Also some clients already know what colours they want so we just go with it too.
Can anyone paint?
Anyone really can paint but not everyone can paint professionally. Our country is in the tropics, the climate here is damp and very humid. As a professional Painter, we know the right paint to use, what to do on the walls before we use it and how to use the paints. A professional Painter will advise you on how to treat your walls before you paint. Sometimes, I have clients that want to be part of the job just for the fun of it, so we let them paint with us and after we are done we tell them how to maintain their walls too so the painting can last.
Advice for unemployed youths
I know it can be frustrating being unemployed, but I would advise that while you wait for that dream job, you should find a skill. Learn it and use it to make money. You are responsible for yourself and the choices you make. If you want money, you need to have something valuable to exchange it for. There is always a market for value.
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