Like many young Nigerians, Sanmi Adegoke travelled to the United Kingdom as a young man looking to make sense of his future, but he had no idea he would become a cornerstone. However, his faith in the transformational power of God was unwavering, thanks to his mother, whom he said instilled solid Christian values in him.
The trailblazing entrepreneur went on to become a force to reckon with in the UK’s real estate space. He’s the CEO of Rehoboth Property International (RPI). He has won two major industry awards in the last 12 months, including Property Developer of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year, making him the first black person to clinch that honour in the 27 years of the award’s history.
The Business Elites Africa team cornered Sanmi for a quick recap of his success and failure stories as he sat at the edge of his chair, hitching to run to his next meeting.
BEA: How did you get started in real estate?
Sanmi Adegoke: Looking back, my journey to real estate was not by accident. It started when I moved from Nigeria to the United Kingdom. My first job was at McDonald’s, where the seed of real estate was sown in me. There was a secret that many people didn’t understand about McDonald’s, which was that it was in the business of real estate, not the restaurant. I started understudying what McDonald’s was about. It wasn’t just about the fast food or the burgers but was more about the real estate. While researching the company, I was able to learn a lot about the franchise of McDonald’s and how it worked. That was the beginning of my passion for real estate.
From there, I went to college and University before I went into real estate. McDonald’s was a preparation for me, which was a process that helped me understand that my purpose was going to be in real estate development.
BEA: How did you land your first real estate deal?
Sanmi Adegoke: That’s interesting. I’m in a very niche market. When I went into real estate, what was important to me was my purpose, identifying what I needed to do. This was because real estate is a massive market in the UK, and I needed to find something unique. So I read about the industry voraciously and got some mentors who advised me on things I needed to do.
Then, I saw a huge niche market: places of worship. In the UK, there is a massive demand for buildings by the faith community. Unlike in Nigeria or Africa, where you can just take a building and turn it into a church, in the UK, you need to have a class use called the D1, but that has been changed to F1. Therefore, I started researching how big the market was, and I saw that this was a big market, and I said to myself that I needed to do something outside the box.
So, I looked into the church world to understand their needs and that was how I started finding spaces for a place of worship. Before I talk about my first deal, let me state that I have been involved in residential real estate before then, but you know anyone can do that. Buying flats is simple, but commercial real estate is totally different in the UK.
Back to my first deal, I found this opportunity of a church building, and I told the pastor, just believe in me; I will try and sell this building. It was a massive building – about 23,000 square feet of space. I told him to give me less than a month. That was the beginning for me. I was able to sell the space. I sold the building for about £2.8 million.
BEA: What would you say were the factors that made you successful in the real estate business?
Sanmi Adegoke: The key thing was my faith. When I was at McDonald’s, I always believed it was a stepping stone for me. I held onto the phrase that all things are possible if you can believe it, and I worked with the understanding that I could achieve anything. My favourite scripture also says, ‘as a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.’
Although I was at McDonald’s, I saw myself somewhere way better. I understood that faith is the evidence of what you cannot see, but you can imagine it and know it is possible. So I was convinced McDonald’s was not my destination.
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