From Cork Bearer to Royal Butler but real name is Femi Sokeye from the family of Late Kehinde Sokeye, Igbore, Abeokuta. The Olabisi Onabanjo University graduate who studied accounting started his Butler service seven years ago. He had a jaw to jaw with Ayobanji Olawuyi of PublicFaces Magazine where he discussed how small medium and entrepreneurship of campaign Olusegun Obasanjo inspired him to turn his skill around to a thriving business venture among other issues.
Who is the man behind Royal Butler? (Full name, Educational Background, Family)
My name is Femi Sokeye; I am from Igbore in Abeokuta. Born into the family of late Kehinde Sokeye, I am from a family of three so I have two more siblings. I schooled in Abeokuta, St. Benedict Primary school, secondary school was African Church Grammar School then I proceeded to Olabisi Onabanjo University where I studied Accounting. I am a family man, married to my lovely wife with kids.
How did you start your business and why this kind of business?
Right from the school days, I have had it at the back of my mind that I won’t work for anybody, I was going to work for myself and it was my dad siblings that made me studied accounting, I would have been a more technical person. My business started at the function of a lifestyle because I am a very social person, I love to party. So at a point in time, I discovered that there were some loops holes in event organizing, I identify those loops holes and I decided to plug-in into the loops holes. Initially, I was doing it for people to add value to their events but later I keyed into the small medium entrepreneurship campaign of General Olusegun Obasanjo who eventually became my client, so that campaign turn my skill around to a money making venture.
So how did you arrive at the name ‘Royal Butler’?
Considering my Christian background I wanted to use ‘Cork Bearer’, so after putting a business structure, and I was not convinced with the name, I then approached few friends of mine, Mr Tukunbo Akinremi of City People Magazine and Olumide Balogun. So in Olumide’s opinion, he felt ‘Cork bearer was sounding so synonymous with ‘Pub-Bearer’, we laughed it over and the name Royal Butler came up, it is only onus on me to make my service royal with the name that I have chosen.
How did you get funds to start up the business on a large scale?
I have been doing business since secondary school, from there I got used to doing things for myself and believing in dignity in labour, then my mother was an author, I started selling her books since secondary school and after I left, even as a mother to son we had a smooth business agreement, and I did this all through my universities years before I started a recharged card retailing business on a large scale, later I felt that I needed to create another channel of income for myself when the recharge card business was becoming monotonous and too competitive for me, so then I put all my capital together to venture into event business, so I can say that I gathered my start up capital myself.
How will you describe your service at events?
I offer butler service at events, many times I hear people calling the event manager from one arm to the other a vendor, and vendors to my own understanding are those people that sell wares about, we have caterers, photographers, decorators, ushers and others, but if you ask me for what I do at events I will tell you that I just offer butler service, in fact I don’t need to buy your drink for you all I just need to do is come and ice it and serve it with courteous gesture.
So what other businesses have you tried before you finally settled on Butler services?
I was into shoe making in 2008 and it turned out quite funny. I wasted a lot of money on that business and the reason why the business couldn’t thrive is because I didn’t learn the nitty gritty of the business before going into it.
How do you manage your time between business and Family?
My personal needs are not much, all I need is a little rest and I don’t think I would have had it better if not for the kind of woman I married. She is the one behind all these success because when the home is balance and peaceful, I would have the time to face and move ahead in the business. I make sure I spend quality time with my wife and kids.
Your job requires you to attend events, would you say you are someone who likes parties?
I love parties a lot but it’s so unfortunate that because of the kind of job that I do, I am not always an invitee, I am working there while everyone else is having fun, so I get to attend parties I am invited to like twice in a year.
Where do you see drink business and Royal Butler in the next few years?
The concept of parties or having a party is more functionally in Nigeria than anywhere in the world. What I mean is, the kind of parties we throw in Nigeria is quite different from the ones they throw in the United Kingdom, United States, Europe, Dubai etc. They just call few people like 100guests and 250 maximum but our own culture demands that when you are having a party, you are engaging the full gear of a party so that at the end of it, you want it to be the talk of the town. It is our nature and culture, when we were younger, there used to be parties on the main road to the extent that you go to local government and notify them and pay the necessary dues. So in the course of the business, you can only improve in the quality of service and improving has to do with trends, now your financial strength will determine the trend because being trending is expensive in this business. So the trendier your business appears will fetch you higher network of people as clients. The business is something you have to improve on daily basis, monthly basis and yearly basis. In five years, a lot of things would have change, so we just have to move with the trend.
What are the challenges you’ve been facing and for how long have you been into the business?
I have been into the business for seven years now and we have logistics issues, security issues, and bad road in cases where we have to travel far. There are also economic challenges, fuel scarcity and finally because of the business nature, it suggests lots of courtesy, caution, patience and neatness because a lot of people want to take you for granted.
The nature of your job sometimes makes clients accuse your waiters of theft. Have you ever being in this position before?
I have never had such problems before. When you train your waiters well and I give them the basics education of what to do. Everyone who has given me jobs, none of them has come up to say that kind of thing has happened but nevertheless out of every twelve there must be a Judas, so if that kind of situation comes up, what we do is manage such situation.
What would advice be for someone who wants to start your kind of business?
Zeal, it matters a lot. You must function every minute, there are a lot of people who are laid back and that shouldn’t be happening in Nigeria, not with the present economical status. Finally, honesty because at the end of the day, nobody cares what you’ve been through but all they want is result.