Emerald Chinwe Nnadi, is an Author, Entrepreneur and Construction foreman. As a graduate of Mass Communication from the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu, Emerald is now the CEO of Ochomma Construction and Tools Global Limited, an organization that helps supervise building projects and also deal in quality building material and tools. Scroll down to read up our interview with this ladyboss.
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
I am Emerald Chinwe Nnadi, an Author, Entrepreneur and Construction foreman. A graduate of Mass Communication from the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) Enugu, I’m the CEO of Ochomma Construction and Tools Global Limited. We help supervise building projects and also deal in quality building material and tools. I am highly organised and result-oriented. I pinpoint my goals, take note of them and set out to achieve them.
Ochomma Construction and Tools Global Limited was born as a result of a passion and not being able to secure a 9-5 job. I grew up in a family where you find almost all forms of building tools in the house. My mother was the mason of the house; she hardly hired anyone for the work. This was what made me fall in love with construction. The passion died when I chose Arts instead of Science because I disliked a particular science teacher and Mathematics (laughs).
The passion came back after my first 9-5 job failed and a family member entrusted me with building his 15-flats apartment. The rest, they say, is history.
What is it like being a female Civil Engineer and why did you choose to be one?
Most times, I don’t call myself a Civil Engineer because I don’t have the degree. So, I call myself a Construction Foreman. Being a female in a male-dominated business isn’t easy. However, I’m not one to back down from a challenge. The experience has been great. My male colleagues get offended by the female presence and don’t want to take instructions. They hate to be told what to do by a young woman, especially a single lady -you know how it is here in our part of the world, you are in your 30s, not married and you want to instruct a married man, especially those with a lower educational background.
They call you out as being disrespectful. Most times, they correct you when you make mistakes; they’d rather await your downfall. But, that is the fun of being a boss – I create something magnificent with my mistakes.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
After my first foreman job, I lost a contract because I am a female. After that incident, I invested in the best tools of the trade. Basically, Ochomma Tools introduced using quality tools and items to achieve trust and excellent results when helping people build their dream properties.
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
Self-actualization and curiosity. It is a noble desire and dream to fulfil your purpose and this requires building yourself daily. You also have to be grateful for the little progress you make; whether people acknowledge you or not. Plus, curiosity, as you know, is the foundation for innovative solutions. I have never stopped asking. A male colleague once told me to forget about construction and go grab a Law degree because I ask too many questions. I ask questions until the dots connect. These two have and are still taking me far beyond my imagination.
In your opinion, what challenges have you faced in your business (as a female civil engineer)? Have you been able to overcome them?
As a female construction foreman, I have actually faced one major challenge that most female encounters in other fields – ACCEPTANCE. This is especially from the men (both clients and colleagues).
Clients are afraid that as a woman, you have no physical strength for the job. Being a construction foreman requires a lot of physical and mental strength because it’s field work. There is nothing like using an elevator. You have to climb the stairs till the last floor to supervise and when you don’t do that, you will end up with wasted materials; hence, causing your client a huge loss.
On the other hand, the labourers see your instructions as a command. However, since I am the boss, you must follow my instructions to get your pay. These challenges have made me push harder than men.” Remember, it takes bravery to stand up for your dreams. Irrespective of these challenges, women have been excelling in all areas – we are gradually winning. Females have started believing in themselves and we have started seeing reasons too.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
- Integrity: I am honest, open and fair. I have built trust. I seek first to understand other people’s point of view.
- I also measure my progress, because “what gets measured gets managed.”
Why did you decide to go into this particular line of business?
Back in the days of my university, I just wanted to be an employee. Business was never my thing, even my mom would always advise against it. She was worried about combining a 9-5 job with a side hustle. She always wished to see me on the front screen of the TV as a newscaster.
After experiencing failures trying to land a 9-5 job, I decided it was high time I ventured into business. Hence, I decided to go for the business I have a passion for and knowledge of. Building material and tools were my forte. People say it’s a man’s business, but I say it’s a business for all.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
Like I said earlier, being accepted was the first challenge I faced. Now, I don’t see it as a challenge but a rival competition with a male colleague and I am winning. They have no option than to accept “The Iron Lady,” as they fondly call me.
What’s your five-year plan for Ochomma Tools Global Limited?
Wow! In 2025, I aspire and plan to see Ochomma Construction and Tools Global Limited creating its own tools with the brand’s name proudly emblazoned on it. I want my business to become a household name in the building and tools industry. I also want to create more platforms for females who want to join the construction/building industry.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
- They need to stop doubting their potentials; all they need is to believe in themselves and to not lose themselves in the midst of chaos.
- They have to think big, be ambitious and understand that life owes them no explanation because the struggle is part of the success.
- Don’t go with the slogan “fake it till you make it.” Instead, “Face it till you make it.”
- Finally, healthy competition is always needed in every business. It is a great opportunity to be the best among the better.
The Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.