Stella Okoli – Biography And Entrepreneurial Life Of The CEO Of Emzor

Stella Okoli

Stella Okoli is an entrepreneur, a pharmacist, and a philanthropist. She is the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited; a leading indigenous pharmaceutical company.

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When you look at Dr. Stella Okoli, what you see is sheer determination and a strong will that can accomplish whatever it sets her mind to accomplish. Where people see challenges, she sees opportunities. She successfully turned her small pharmacy retail shop in Somolu, Lagos into a multibillion naira pharmaceutical company. Stella Okoli is a strong believer that entrepreneurship and vocational training of youths is the key to curbing youth crime in Nigeria.

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Background of Stella Okoli

Stella Okoli was born on the 30th of July 1944 in Kano State to the family of Felix Ebelechukwu and Margaret Modebelu. She is a native of Nnewi in Anambra State, Nigeria. Stella attended All Saints Primary School, Onitsha (1954-1959), Ogidi Girls Secondary School, Ogidi from 1959-1964, and Federal Science School, Lagos from 1964 to 1966.

Afterwards, Stella moved to United Kingdom for her tertiary education. She graduated from the University of Bradford as a Pharmacists. Dr. Stella Okoli also has a Master’s degree in Biopharmaceutical from the University of London, Chelsea College.

She is an alumnus of Lagos Business School, Harvard Business School, Boston and I.E.S.E Business School in Barcelona, Spain.

Stella was married to Late Barrister Christopher Okoli and they are blessed with three children, Uzoma Okoli, Emeka Okoli, and (Late) Chike Okoli.

Entrepreneurial Journey Of Stella Okoli

Stella Okoli started out as a Ward/Clinical Pharmacist at Middlesex Hospital in London and later worked briefly as a Pharmacist at Boots Uk formerly known as Boots the Chemist Ltd. She returned to Nigeria and worked for a while at Massey Children Hospital, Lagos before joining a pharmaceutical manufacturing company, Park Davies Nigeria Limited (now Pharma-Deko Plc). At Pharma-Deko Plc, she worked as a Medical Representative and later as a Sales Manager.

In 1977, Stella caught the entrepreneurship bug which flows in the blood of the indigenes of  Nnewi by starting a small pharmacy retail shop, Emzor Chemist Ltd in Shomolu, Lagos. She named it, Emzor Chemists Limited which later metamorphosed to Emzor Pharmaceuticals in 1984. Emzor Pharmaceutical is a leading indigenous pharmaceutical company with well over 50 products to its name.

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While running Emzor Chemist Ltd in 1981, Stella was into importation and wholesales of pharmaceutical products to make available drugs which meets the need of the health challenges of Nigerians. The drugs she imported were Ethical and Over The Counter (OTC) drugs.

The idea to manufacture drugs locally came as a result of her passion to make healthcare affordable in Nigeria. Like we mentioned, where others see challenges, she sees opportunities and looks for ways to harness the opportunities for the public good.

Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited

Emzor Pharmaceuticals is a wholly owned indigenous company incorporated in 1984. The company was established for the purpose of manufacturing high-quality pharmaceutical products and medical consumables.

The company commenced pilot production in 1985 with the introduction of its flagship brand, Emzor Paracetamol. Since then, Emzor has continuously expanded its product range and produces over 50 time-tested products. Its product range include vitamins, anti-malaria, antibiotics, antacid, analgesics, anti-histamine and many more.

Remember that this all started from a small chemist shop in Shomolu. The small shop has grown to one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria with subsidiaries. Emzor has offices in Mali, India, Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

Emzor is today a household name and a leader in pharmaceutical market in Nigeria.

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Subsidiaries of Emzor Pharmaceutical Industries Limited

Zolon Healthcare Limited

The company is a specialty healthcare organisation positioned to provide intelligent solution to the healthcare needs of people. The company’s specialties include oncology, gynecology, biotechnology, cardiology and others.

Emzor Hesco Limited

They are a total healthcare solution provider. The company provides solutions for hospital equipment and services in conjunction with reputable brands and manufacturers from Europe, America and Asia. Their services include procurement consulting, supply of medical equipment, training of best practices, supply of medical consumables, turnkey hospital projects and services.

Emzor Pharmacy and Stores

This is Emzor’s retail pharmacy for distributing Emzor Pharmaceutical products to Nigerians.

Life Gate Medicals Limited

They provide training for healthcare workers and medical tourism.

Philanthropy Of Stella Okoli

In memory of her late son, Stella Okoli started Chike Okoli Foundation (COF) in 2006. Chike Okoli Foundation is a non-government organisation aimed at promoting healthy lifestyle and entrepreneurial skills among Nigerian youth.

Since its establishment, the foundation has trained thousands of business owners and budding entrepreneurs. In 2011, COF built Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. This centre provides entrepreneurial research, training and education for youths.

The foundation also provides free healthcare services and lecture people worldwide on the effect of heart disease and stroke. It has reached out to millions of Nigerians on a healthy lifestyle.

Boards Where Stella Okoli Serves

She has served in several capacities including member of the Economic Summit of Nigeria and the Health Matters Advisory Boards of Nigeria.

Stella was the Vice President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture.

She was once the Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Group and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. In 2010, she became a non-Executive Director of Guaranty Trust Bank.

Stella Okoli is a member of the Nigeria Industrial Policy and Competitiveness Advisory Council.

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Stella Okoli

Recognitions and Awards

  • Honorary Doctor of Business Administration by Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka   2011
  • International Women’s Entrepreneurial Challenge Award                                      2012
  • Women of Distinction and Lifetime Achievers at ThisDay Annual Awards                2012
  • Nigeria Royalty Awards                                                                                     2013
  • Business Person of the Year at the Sun Newspaper Awards                                  2016
  • Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum                                        2017
  • Silverbird Lifetime Achievement Award                                                               2018

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