If family fortunes and the environment one is born into is the determining factor for future success and recognition, then maybe Bukky George may have missed out on greatness and relevance in life. However it is certain, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, that the common denominator for great accomplishments is the willingness to give life your all and be a risk taker. Bukky is your ideal personification of this notion. Bukky George is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of HealthPlus Limited, Nigeria’s leading retail pharmacy chain and also the founder of CasaBella International.
Bukky George was born in Lagos in 1970. Unlike some other successful Nigerian men and women in business we know, she was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. As a matter of fact, her childhood was fraught with difficulties. This is because her father married many wives and had a total of thirty-six children. Bukky was the ninth child.
Against all odds, her mother did everything possible to ensure that she got all the necessities she needed, including access to an education. She had her primary and secondary school education in Lagos and later proceeded to the University of Lagos where she studied Pharmacy between 1987 and 1992. She graduated top of her class and did her internship with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). She also has a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the Lagos Business School. Bukky is a registered member of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, and member of the General Pharmaceutical Council (UK).
Furthermore, during her National Youth Service year, Bukky worked at Glaxo Smith Kline Consumer Nigeria Plc, which was back then known as Smith Kline Beecham. It was there that she got her first corporate experience, working in different units such as sales, production and quality control. After she was done with her National Youth Service, Bukky was hired by May & Baker Nigeria Plc as a medical representative, a position at which she worked briefly before returning to Glaxo Smith Kline as a full-time staff.
At Glaxo Smith Kline, Bukky also worked as a medical representative. Her job involved relating with clients (mainly medical doctors) through presentations, exhibitions, as well as marketing. This job helped her to develop vital skills that would later in life be useful to her, including presentation and marketing skills. She was also very good at her job, always emerging the best sales rep of the month.
Interestingly, after four years of working in two of Nigeria’s leading pharmaceutical companies, the promising young woman decided to channel the hands-on professional experiences she had garnered into starting her own business. Consequently, HealthPlus Limited was born. The company was incorporated in 1996 but began full-time operations three years later in 1999. With dedication, Bukky and her team built the company into the leading pharmacy chain in Nigeria and indeed, the whole of West Africa.
Today, Bukky’s HealthPlus retails quality products ranging from medicines to nutritional supplements. It also retails home medical equipment such as blood glucose test kits, Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement tools, etc. Also, HealthPlus sells natural remedy products and provides mobility aids and other pharmacy services through its pool of professionals. The company also has over 200 full-time employees and there are currently more than 70 HealthPlus outlets across Nigeria and some West African countries, with plans for expansion.
Following the success of HealthPlus, Bukky also took steps to establish CasaBella International which was eventually incorporated in 2008. The company is equally a retail chain, but with a special focus on beauty and grooming products. In 2010, the CasaBella store was established in Lagos. Today, it offers a wide range of beauty brands such as creams, fragrances, hair extensions, soaps, etc.
Besides overseeing the daily operations of her businesses, Bukky George also sits on the boards of several companies. She is a member of the Pharma Strategic Committee, a body that oversees the affairs of the Nigerian Pharmaceutical industry. She is also an associate member of Women in Management and Business (WIMBIZ), as well as the current Chairman of Sanofi Pharmacy Advisory Board.
She has also received several awards and recognitions, including the honour of being the first recipient of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria Board of Fellow’s Award for Excellence in Community Pharmacy. In 2012, Bukky was invited as a Panelist to the IFC Euro Week in Frankfurt, Germany. She was also selected for the Fortune 500 Global Women’s Mentoring Program in 2014.
In all, the secret to her success as a young professional was her love for the job. According to Bukky, “I loved organizing; I was enterprising, and always paid great attention to details, which is some of the key success factors of a retailer.”