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Women You Should Know: Stella Okoli

Stella Chinyelu Okoli is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited. She started the company, first, as a pharmaceutical retail store but now, she has grown into a multi-billionaire whose company is now a household name in the entire Nigeria.

background

Although born in Kano State in 1944, she is a native of Nnewi in Anambra State, Nigeria. Stella was enrolled at All Saint Primary School, Onitsha in 1954, and in 1964, she completed her secondary school education at Ogidi Girls Secondary School, Ogidi. Then she attended Federal Science School, Lagos from 1964 to 1966.

She graduated from the University of Bradford as a Pharmacist in 1969 and immediately took a Master’s Degree Programme in which she bagged an M.Sc. in Biopharmaceutical from the University of London, Chelsea College in 1971.

Emzor Pharmaceuticals

In January 1977, she started Emzor Pharmaceutical as Emzor Chemists Limited, in Somolu, Lagos. However, prior to establishing her company, she had worked in medical and pharmaceutical firms such as Middlesex Hospital, where she worked as a Clinical Pharmacist, and Boots the Chemists Limited.

When she arrived in Nigeria, she joined Massey Children Hospital, Lagos but left after some time and joined Pharma-Deko Plc., a pharmaceutical company formerly known as Park Davies Nigeria Ltd, as a Medical Representative and later Sales Manager.

Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited was incorporated in 1984. It is a leading pharmaceutical manufacturing company in Nigeria with over 70 lines of products to their credits, of which some are pain relieving, and multivitamin tablets and syrups.

The company currently has several subsidiaries including Zolon Healthcare Limited, Lagos, Emzor Hesco Limited in partnership with AESCULAP AG, Germany and Huckerts Laboratory, Belgium, Emzore Pharmacy and Store Limited, and Life Gate Medicals Limited.

In order to surmount the challenge of imitation which is prevalent in the country, her company ensure to put a seal of uniqueness as well as make their products consumer-friendly in terms of their prices, which makes it impossible for imitators to eat into them.

Stella Okoli is of the opinion that medicines should be locally made and the government should pass a law that mandates medical practitioners to patronize local manufacturers.

Never stop growing

To sharpen her leadership and management skills, she has taken several courses including the Chief Executive Programme of the Lagos Business School, a Management Course in 2002 at Insead, Switzerland, The Executive Management Program at Harvard Business School, Boston (1997-1999), the Implementing Strategic and Organizational Change at I.E.S.E. Business School, Barcelona, Spain (1996).

She is not only given to business, she is also a philanthropist. She has awarded scholarships to secondary and tertiary institution students and has lent a hand of help and hope to the less privileged in the society. She also supports the course of non-profit organizations. In addition, she set up a foundation in honour of her late son, Chike Okoli Foundation, in 2006, to raise an awareness on cardiovascular diseases and to promote entrepreneurship. The foundation has trained over 1,600 students in entrepreneurship through the Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurship Studies at Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka.

Stella Okoli is not only a successful businesswoman; she is also a successful mother of three. She has also been honoured with several awards among which are: MON, OON, and Honorary Doctorate in Business Administration by Nnamdi Azikwe University.

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