When someone is addressed as a woman among men, there is a given positive undertone attached such. It goes to say that such a woman has basically treaded the path that is notably uncommon and come out unscathed. That is the story of Stella Chinyelu Okoli (MON, OON), a pharmacist and entrepreneur of repute. She is the founder and present Chief Executive Officer of Emzor Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Company.
Stella was supposedly born in 1944 in the ancient city of Kano, Northern Nigeria, into the family of Felix Ebelechukwu and Margaret Modebelu, descents of Nnewi in Anambra State.
Coming from a family that believes that education is the best legacy, she started her formal education in 1954 after enrolling as a pupil at All Saints Primary School, Onitsha, from where she proceeded to Ogidi Girls Secondary School, Ogidi in 1964 to complete her secondary education.
Her brilliance and notable early school achievements catapulted her to the University of Bradford to study Pharmacy. She graduated in 1969 with sterling results. In addition, Stella holds M.Sc. certificate in Biopharmaceutical after graduating from the University of London, Chelsea College in 1971.
She started her professional career with a stint with Middlesex Hospital, London, before relocating to Boots the Chemists Limited, Massey Children Hospital and Pharma-Deko, formally Park Davies Nigeria, among others. This was before she realized the potential she possessed to turn around the world of pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Consequently, in January 1977, Stella started Emzor Pharmaceutical with the initial name “Emzor Chemists Limited” as a small pharmacy retail shop in Somolu, Lagos State, a typical example of ‘she’ that is faithful with a little. That small chemist shop metamorphosed into the gigantic Emzor Pharmaceutical today, and has since become one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria with over 50 products since its incorporation in 1984.
Prior to that, her enterprising skills motivated her to dabble into drug importation business. She imported both Ethical and Over the Counter (OTC) drugs to meet the health needs of Nigerians.
A woman that entertains no dull moments in her life, Stella is currently a member of the Economic Summit of Nigeria and the Health Matters Advisory Board of Nigeria, and also serves as the Vice President of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria and the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture. This is not taking for granted the fact that she had served as Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group and the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.
In recognition of her achievements and contributions to the health sector in Nigeria, Stella has been variously honoured. She was bestowed with the Member of the Order of the Niger award and also received in 2012, ThisDay Awards. She is also a recipient of the ECOWAS International Gold Award.
Dr. Stella Okoli has not rested on her oars ever since, but has continued to stay in touch with current management trends. She has therefore, attended wide ranging courses across the world, some of which are 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); Management Course 2002 in Insead in Switzerland and the Chief Executive Programme of the Lagos Business School and more. She is also a director of the Harvard Business School Nigeria.
Knowing very well that her job entails finding practical solutions to the perennial problems in our environment, she has subjected herself to unilaterally and collectively work to better the lives of people. In doing so, she served as the Chairman of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMGMAN), not forgetting that she is an active member of many local and international professional organizations such as the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, British Chamber of Commerce, Commonwealth Pharmaceutical Association as well as Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce.
In return for all her efforts, she received the Bullion Award for her outstanding contribution to industry and manufacturing.
The tragic death of her son, Chike Okoli, in 2005, made her give more to society. In 2006, she started the Chike Okoli Foundation as a non-profit organisation founded with the aim of fighting poverty and diseases by raising awareness on cardiovascular diseases. She also runs the Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies.
She is the Vice President of Manufactures Association of Nigeria (MAN). And she is the Vice President of NACCIMA.
A great Philanthropist and a Change Agent, she has awarded many Scholarships to students in Secondary and Tertiary Institutions and donated generously to the less privileged in the society and consistently supported several non-profit organizations. Dr. Stella Okoli is the Founder of Chike Okoli Foundation.
To date, the Foundation has set up the Chike Okoli Centre for Entrepreneurial Studies at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and has trained over 1,600 entrepreneurs/students in the science and spirit of entrepreneurship. It has also reached over 5,000,000 people across Nigeria on lifestyle interventions.
She was recently honoured with the Doctor of Business Administration (Honoris Causa) by Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, and her guiding philosophy is routed in hardwork, integrity and ethical leadership just as she spends her time on charitable work and service to humanity
She is a proud mother of three Children and loves music, travelling and meeting people.