#NairaLife: Being A Nurse While Figuring Out Business In A Pandemic

May 25, 2020

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.

So, my first question is, what is your oldest memory of money?

I can’t remember how old I was but it was always Eid money from my parents. I was definitely less than 10 years.

Hahaha. Always Eid money.

Yah. But my first ‘made money’ was from selling stuff I knitted in primary school.

Now, this is interesting.

I was knitting caps, small square handkerchiefs, girl purses. I think I was in primary five.

That’s super impressive.

I guess. Maybe if I saved those ₦20 notes I’d be rich now, hahaha. I don’t think I made up to ₦500 – most of it was “I will pay later” with no pay.

What was it like as a child though?

We were not rich-rich but we are not poor either. Middle-class family. So I had the luxuries that I know some people did not have; lived in a pretty good environment too. But it was always about books for us. My dad hated seeing any of his kids not keeping busy with a book. I have two siblings but we had cousins staying with us.

Looks very familiar to me. Next time you earned?

I didn’t go to school In Nigeria. My parents sent allowance – jobs weren’t so easy for foreigners. Although I tried to work, my dad wasn’t having it. So I didn’t work. But towards the end of uni, I started an online perfume business and I cashed out. 

Hahahaha. Tell me. 

It was my boyfriend that encouraged me sha. I was in a country that had a large perfume market. Mostly the rich Arabian ones. I came home yearly for holidays and bought them as gifts for people. You know, you must bring gifts when you’re abroad even as a student.

Hahaha. How much did you make from your biggest stash of sales?

Over a 100k. But I was a bad businesswoman, I still am. Just learning the ropes better now. 

How much was your markup?

The fact that I don’t know the meaning of markup shows how much I need to learn when it comes to business. But I’ll explain how it worked. 

The business was on a pre-order basis; I used to buy monthly and send. So let’s say I buy for 20k and sending it costs about ₦10k or ₦15k, I can still make ₦40k or ₦50k from that order. Sometimes it was less, but the more people ordered, the more I made

And the biggest margin you made was ₦100k eh?

At once, yes. But I didn’t save, I spent all that money. I think I came back with only $500 saved up. That was 2018. I ate out a lot and spent it on flimsy things.

What would you consider a flimsy thing?

Seeing something online and purchasing instantly. Buying food, I really ate out a lot and I’ve kind of learnt to reduce that. And Uber in 2018, bruh. I didn’t know how much I was spending until the money finished.

Okay, so 2018. Back in Nigeria. What came next?

Major life hit. I had plans to go somewhere else for Masters’ that year, but most nursing postgraduate programmes require experience. So I had to accept my fate and start the journey as a nurse trained outside the country 

Another mad-fest. 

This is Sparta. 

Nursing is only just gaining some respect in Nigeria, so a lot of things are still not in place. You come back, and then register with the Nursing Council, get posted to any of the Nigerian unis and do a conversion course – this is for all medical professions. I don’t know but maybe they think we don’t go through enough courses outside Nigeria, so they want us to experience the suffer-head. I was posted to another school, took the course and then the exam. I passed. Phase one over. 

This might be coming late, but congratulations.

Thank you! By the way, I started another business in 2018; a skincare brand, sort of. It started with me giving people something I was using for my skin that was locally made by women in the country I schooled in. I brought some back to Nigeria and dashed it out. Then people started saying they’ll pay for it. That’s how I started shipping that in. I started with ₦10k but we thank God it’s bigger now. It’s on and off, but definitely more products than I started with. 

How has this grown over the years?

Same 2018 mistake, which is that I wasn’t saving. And I wasn’t in uni so no steady income – my dad sent me a monthly allowance in school. A girl still had needs, so my business money was really just to keep me above water.

For a short time, I even went into event planning. I was working and learning with someone while recruiting ushers for events. It was more like freelancing, to be honest. I earned like ₦10k from it, but I was just trying to find myself. The fear of being broke. I finally saved my first ₦100k after 4 to 5 months. Then I started the business so I put that into an investment. 


Yeah. 2019 was for hunting for a job as regards my career and more customers as regards business. I started at my first job mid 2019 at a government hospital in Lagos. 

Congratulations! What was your first salary?

They didn’t pay the first month – something about some Jargons – but by November, it was ₦86k or so I can’t remember. But that has been my take-home since. 

What has changed between then and now?

Nothing really. I barely spend my salary. I’m married so he takes care of most of my needs. I try to contribute also but, that be about like 10–20% of my salary once in 2 months, hahaha. But I’m saving up sha, and working on giving my business a boost. 

Mad o. God when?

Hahaha, God now. 

Saving seems to be quite important to you. 

I think it’s because of how we weren’t really brought up to save like that. You get money, keep with mum and she buys something with it. And then personal allowances were to be spent. I think we’d have been better off being more open about money. 

Now, this is what I do with my salary every month:

  • Save ₦50k
  • Send money to my siblings, maybe ₦10-15k
  • Or just buy random things, sometimes stuff for the house.

How much do you have saved up now?

I had over ₦200k last week, but business is taking most of it now. Plus I have some investments out there. So these are my fallbacks. 

How much will you say you’ve put into investments, and what kind?

All them Agric ones. I have one coming out this July and another one before the year ends. I think I’ve put in about ₦150k in total. 

Quick one, has COVID affected work at your hospital at all?

Yes, it has. They said they’ll give us money but we no see am. They just returned tax. Now this month our salary was even reduced without explanation. Only God can save us. Working with the government is an extreme sport. I’m not at Onikan or Yaba, but yes, all health workers are on the frontlines somehow. 

The fear is real.

Ah, has there been a case in your hospital yet?

Yeah. I don’t know if they count those with the ones on NCDC. 

That is crazy. You’re entitled to some allowances, right? But una never see am.

Exactly. Na just word of mouth. No explanation about the reduction of salaries. 

Do you have any clue how much it’s supposed to be?

I really don’t know TBH. But even if it wouldn’t increase, why reduce it. 

How has COVID affected business though?

I kind of sold out before the whole lockdown. But it affected me in the exchange rate and shipping/clearance costs of my materials. I can’t quantify how much, but my stash was worth about ₦50k. It could be more, to be honest. 

Will the business be able to function with this crisis?

It’s really up to God now, because I started investing more in it before the crisis. I was majorly hit because I paid unexpected shipping that wouldn’t have cost so much if the dollar didn’t hit. My customers are still asking, but I’m hoping they can afford the products because inevitably, the prices will go up.

How much was your last salary?

₦90k. Usually, after working for six months, there is always an increase. I’m not sure how much, but it’s supposed to be over ₦100k at least. Maybe ₦120k with all the hazard allowance we’re supposed to be collecting

I’m curious about how you think about money though, generally. 

I think about money as a privilege. And I was kind of brought up not to focus everything on money money money. For me, there’s the spiritual aspect; you can have a lot of money or very little money, what will happen will happen. 

Still, I love money, and whenever my account is not looking good to me, I don’t like it. 


A few days ago, I had like ₦1k or so in my account and I had to show my husband, so he could fix-up. He fixed up. Also, my PiggyVest dey always sweet me.

Hahahaha. How much is there currently?

₦166k. Separate from the ₦150k Agric investments. But the money is going into my business soon. 

And talking about your husband, how does money work in your relationship?

He does his best, and I chip in once in a while. If he can afford it, he buys it. If I can and I’m WILLING to, I buy it. Huhuhu. 

What’s something you really want right now but can’t afford?

I’ve thought about this, but it’s a visa and new passport I want. Besides that, I’m working on being more content. The only other thing that comes to mind is a new phone, and I want my husband to buy that one. 

I don’t want to buy it myself. If I buy it, I’ll be broke and remember I don’t like that.

Hahaha. But he won’t be broke?

He won’t be, hahaha. I can live without it too, so no pressure. It’s the passport I need if you know where they’re selling. 

What’s the most annoying miscellaneous you’ve paid for recently?

That extra money I had to pay for shipping and clearing. Extra ₦30k above my budget

There’s a major expense from the past year that we haven’t touched. Wedding.

Ohh, yeah. I didn’t really spend anything o. I can’t remember the expenses. My husband paid for most things, plus my parents handled the guests too. It wasn’t a big wedding, so the costs were minimal. 

Fair enough. If you had to throw a figure at it, how much will you say it cost though?

Let me ask my husband…

So, my husband spent almost ₦1 million. My parents spent more than that. Chaiiiiii. Small wedding o. 

Hahaha. You had no clue. 

Nope. Never calculated it. Also, I forgot to add that my mum gave me an investment during my wedding. Gold. I’m not sure what it costs now, but when she bought it, it was like ₦300k. So, my mind feels at ease whenever I remember that. She did me a solid.

Do you have an emergency plan for stuff like health emergencies?

I have in shaa Allah, hahaha. But really, I have my work, although I’m working on a family plan with my husband now though.  

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the financial happiness

5 maybe. Or 6. I’m at a ‘grateful for hey I have but wouldn’t mind more’ phase. I’m satisfied but not fully, hahaha. 

What does bele-full look like for you?

A thriving business and yearly vacations. 

Most importantly, a fulfilling nursing career abroad, because it’s hard to have a fulfilling one in Nigeria. 

The system is against you. 

If you’re interested in talking about your Naira Life story, this is a good place to start.

Find all the past Naira Life stories here.

Fu'ad Lawal

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