Precious Conceptions Nigeria Limited is a Lagos-based fertility support management and concierge company. The company, which came as a result of the pain and experience of its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Oluwatoyin Lolu-Ogunmade, whose 11-year-old twins were born through the help of an Indian surrogate, has blossomed into a one-stop-shop for reproductive needs. With over 500 families so far reached with information and fertility education and training, and the birth of over 85 babies, the chartered Human Resource (HR) practitioner-turned fertility advisor and surrogacy advocate, shares her intriguing story with Assistant Editor CHIKODI OKEREOCHA.
Since 2009, when providence tossed her into the fertility support management and concierge space, seasoned fertility service provider and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Precious Conceptions Nigeria Limited, a fertility support management and concierge company based in Lagos, Oluwatoyin Lolu-Ogunmade, has never looked back. She has been able to transform the company, which began as a Blackberry support group and, then, migrated to WhatsApp, before becoming an enterprise in 2014, to a one-stop-shop for reproductive needs.
Precious Conceptions Nigeria Limited, which eventually became a Limited Liability Company last year, has been helping intending parents identify, improve and maximise their conception chances. This it does by offering them the best-fit fertility advisory services, treatment options and specialist support required. And as sign of its impressive growth trajectory, the company, at the last count, has provided over 500 families with relevant information and fertility education and training.
That is not all. Precious Conceptions has also helped to birth over 85 babies, with many pregnancies ongoing. A lot of these babies, according to Oluwatoyin, who is also called Toyin, for short, were born through successful surrogacy arrangements in Nigeria. ”My desire is to help others acquire the information they need early and quickly, and support them through the solutions specific to them, so they avoid wasting time, effort, money and resources. Moreover, I want to help as many people as possible achieve conception spontaneously and those who need assistance, a smooth sail,” she told The Nation.
Giving more details on the nature and scope of her fertility-related services, Toyin, who is a graduate of Mathematics, from Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), said Precious Conceptions’ services range from advisory, counselling, management and referrals, which means it is a concierge company of sort. “We start from an exploratory and advisory point and then match our clients with the best medical teams that they need. We have five Fertility Centres we are affiliated with and we are growing,” she explained.
Explaining further, Toyin said Precious Conceptions’ Fertility Partner Centres run its assisted conception and reproduction technology treatments, pregnancy care and delivery, whilst the company manages the client liaison, counselling, ovum donor, sperm donor and surrogate recruitment as well as monitoring and management. The company, she added, also has legal partners who provide the legal counsel and contracts it works with.
Toyin, who is the first surrogacy advocate in Nigeria, stated that surrogacy is a variant of In- Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment and shouldn’t be entered into lightly. “It is advised for women who are unable to carry pregnancies to term for medical or gynaecological issues,” she said, adding, however, that there are other issues that warrant opting for surrogacy, including, for instance, women born with congenital reproductive deformities and cannot have children because they are missing the reproductive organs or those organs are underdeveloped or malformed.
She listed other issues to include women with terrible repeating fibroids that prevent or impair conception and pregnancy growth; women with repeated miscarriages or uterine diseases that have not been responsive to medical or surgical interventions; women who have medical ailments that make pregnancies high risk like cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney failure or transplantation, sickle cell disorder; women with recurrent implantation failure after several IVF cycles; women who have phobia for pregnancies; and women who have severe Ashermans Syndrome.
Incidentally, it was Toyin’s tough battle with Ashermans Syndrome that birthed Precious Conceptions Nigeria Limited. The company, which has successfully stamped its feet as the Numero Uno in the fertility support management and concierge space, came into being as a result of Toyin’s pain and personal experience as a waiting mom for 13 years. Her joy and hope of cuddling her own baby were cut short, shortly after marriage, by the debilitating effect of Ashermans Syndrome, which made the option of surrogacy inevitable if she must have her own children.
The seed for Toyin’s profoundly empathetic and inspiring entrepreneurial journey was inadvertently sown barely a year after she got married in August 1999, and was diagnosed with multiple fibroids. For six years, she tried to manage the pain and blood loss from the disease, but to no avail. Eventually, she opted for surgery. Unfortunately, however, the surgery, according to her, was not well managed and she developed a post-surgery complication known as Ashermans Syndrome. The disease was diagnosed in 2009. And between 2009 and 2010, Toyin went through surgery thrice to correct the damage due to the Ashermans Syndrome, but they failed. “So, for the first 10 years that I could not conceive, I lacked the knowledge, education, counsel, support and hand-holding to take the right decisions. Most of those 10 years were spent on wishful thinking rather than actively pursuing the right solutions for having children. When I was faced with surrogacy as my only option to ever having children, there was no one available in Nigeria to put me through,” she narrated.
Toyin lamented that as at 2009 when she was battling with the crisis, “no one was talking about surrogacy. It was hush hush and a taboo. The stigmatisation was too much. I did not know where to start from or who to turn to for help. There were no surrogacy agencies and I didn’t know where to recruit a surrogate from. I went to India hoping to find a medical solution to my problem, but surrogacy was my only option. So, I ended up using an Indian surrogate that birthed my twins.”
However, while Toyin’s 11-year-old twins born through the help of an Indian surrogate ended her 13 years’ waiting status, it also opened a new chapter for her to build what is, arguably, the most thriving business in the fertility support management and concierge industry. While in India, she trained at the hospital where she was a patient. She also went through intensive lessons, classes and practicals, exposing her to infertility management as a counsellor, expert patient and advisor.
“I needed to understand the basics of holistic fertility management and help other intending parents through the difficulties I had been through,” Toyin said, adding: “My stay in India was for exactly two years. In those two years, the vision for Precious Conceptions was born. So, the company came as a result of my pain and personal experience.”
Now, an expert in the fertility management industry, Toyin said she has been able to serve up to state level, working with the team the Lagos State House of Assembly called on to help with drafting the IVF and Surrogacy Regulatory Bill, for instance. She also said the opportunity of speaking as a surrogacy advocate when no one was doing that has opened the doors for several women to access that level of care the stigmatisation has reduced. Besides, “surrogacy,” she said, “is becoming more acceptable in the country, and I’m glad I shattered that ceiling.”
Precious Conceptions, The Nation learnt, runs a very lean workforce. Toyin justified the strategy thus: “The COVID-19 pandemic taughtt us how to work online more efficiently and our business is structured in such a way that we do not need a large team.”
According to her, the company has three full- time employees and commission-based employees who help as its coordinators/handlers. These are flexible type affiliates who earn based on work volume. “We also have surrogates and donors who we recruit and manage for clients and they earn some compensation,” she added.
Toyin, however, explained that payments for surrogacy services depend on clients’ peculiar situations. She, said, for instance, that there are some clients who want Precious Conceptions to run an end-to-end programme for them and they pay for the services, from recruiting the surrogate to IVF treatment to delivery. There are also some who only require the company to provide surrogate management services only. She said while some succeed at first try, some have to go through repeated cycles before they achieve success.
In all, however, surrogacy services do not come cheap. Toyin said, for instance, that “on a minimum, clients should prepare for N7 million, but it can be as high as N15 million. Costs depend on the organisation handling these arrangements and people price for different reasons. However, value is always different from pricing. The value we offer is second to none.”
It is also higher for clients wishing to access overseas services. “Surrogacy services overseas are different from country to country, but you can pay as much as $200,000 for this overseas,” she said. However, at Precious Conceptions, where Toyin evidently connects with clients on a deeply empathetic level, she has devised ingenious ways of giving her clients value for money. For instance, her company’s exploratory sessions are free. “You have discussions with us online or in person and we determine if your needs are what we can meet. Once we are convinced you require our services, then we bill accordingly. For some, it ends at consultation stage, for some, counselling, for some we handhold them all through and provide the technical expertise required,” she explained.
Toyin said based on feedback from her clients, 98 per cent of them are satisfied with the quality of her services. She, however, said some clients are not satisfied as expected, after a failed cycle.
“Such failure won’t be because we were lacking in our expertise. We try to leave everyone satisfied even if they don’t achieve success with us,” she told The Nation, attributing her high success rate to the uniqueness of her services and the high quality knowledge, education and insights she brings into her work, first as someone who had been on that journey and had successfully managed her own surrogate overseas.
Toyin has also brought her over 20 years’ experience in Human Resource (HR) management to bear in her work at Precious Conceptions. “My HR experience stands out in our recruitment. It is thorough, deliberate and we have the highest quality surrogates in Nigeria. They are well-selected, well-prepared, well- counselled and well-taken care of. We are proud of them and we give them a sense of pride as surrogates. We are setting the pace for professional surrogacy services and professional surrogates,” she said.
Toyin, an alumnus of the prestigious United States Consulate/White House-sponsored programme, Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, said her desire is to be the best fertility support management and concierge company in Africa.
“We want Precious Conceptions Nigeria Limited to be the first place you come to, a one-stop-shop for your reproductive needs right from an early age as a woman. And we are working towards our goal,” Toyin, who has several awards and recognitions under her belt, said.
However, her successful exploits, visibility and mileage in the industry are not without challenges. “Starting out as a new voice in a stigmatised environment wasn’t easy,” she admitted, pointing out, for instance, that she had to put herself out a lot and share private information.
“I was everywhere shouting from the rooftops that these services are available in Nigeria,” she stated. Eventually, her crusade paid off. “I began to build credibility. The fertility specialists also began to see the value add because I was able to provide the support they needed. Some of the hospitals I supported initially went to copy some of what we did and I’m happy with that,” she said, exuding so much confidence in her capacity to hold her own in the industry.
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