Adesunmbo Adeoye is the CEO and Chief Creative Director at Esob events and Founder of Esob Heroes as well as the brains behind the Inspiring Change Conference. A multi-passionate entrepreneur, she is a graduate of Accountancy and Finance and an alumna of Lagos Business School. As the convener and host of the annual Conference, she seeks to deliberately impact knowledge, inspire change and transform the lives of men and women in business, with a focus on nation building. Recently appointed as a Cherie Blair Foundation Brand Ambassador, she was also honored in London as a Goldman Sachs Star Scholar, one of the 10,000 women in Africa to benefit from the initiative, with impeccable results in business and her outstanding drive to mentor others to fulfill their true purpose. A mentor to many and a recipient of numerous awards for her dedication and contribution towards progressive initiatives and humanity in Nigeria, she talks about the inspiration behind starting the Inspiring Change Conference, why Nigerian businesses are not thriving as they should, how more women can get to the top and a decision she took that turned her life around amongst other issues.

Give us a peep into your early years and education, how was it like for you?
I grew up in a family where education was seen and mirrored as a huge asset and so I was privileged and supported to complete my diploma in Accountancy and Finance from the Great Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos after which I ventured into the banking world.

What made you decide on the “Inspiring Change Conference”? What is the inspiration behind it all?
I completed and was issued a certificate in Entrepreneurial Management in December 2011 by EDC Pan-Atlantic University Lagos, which came as a scholarship sponsored by the Goldman Sachs 10,000 women initiative in Africa. After I finished, I thought of how I could pay it forward. I had that urge to see other women fulfill purpose in ministry, business and career, and this was what birthed the “Inspiring Change with Sunmbo Adeoye” initiative, in 2013. Out of my ceaseless desire to support entrepreneurial ideas, through mentorship, advisory services, free training, access to market and capacity building, the initiative established its vision in two folds in one year. This we achieved through the ‘Esob Heroes” annual “Inspiring Change Conference”; a platform where women deliberately connect with leading female entrepreneurs, draw strength and glean inspirations that will propel them to take the lead in their respective industries. Though women may sometimes be dominated by men, you position yourself for growth and gain opportunities and access to life changing information that will not only empower but move your world forward. The second part is through the “Inspiring Change Deliberately” movement, which seeks to educate the less privileged woman in business and the girl child, deliberately with a focus on nation building through entrepreneurial advancement training, free skill acquisition programs, mentor meets mentee programs and undergraduate blue print boot camp, to name a few.

There are several women-focused conferences in existence already; what makes yours different?
The Inspiring Change Conference is a one of a kind event and has been rated amongst one of the most inspiring conferences in the past five years. It is one of the most anticipated annual conferences that seeks to actively challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve the lives and situation of SME’s and celebrate women’s achievements. It has over the years become notable for its laudable impact amongst women and men as we not only have female attendees but also men who desire growth in all areas of their lives; be it in ministry, finance, business and career. Not to mention those who fly in from outside of Nigeria and travel in from other states too.

You describe yourself as a multi-passionate entrepreneur; take us briefly through your entrepreneurial journey?
As a young lady, with close to a decade of active service in the banking industry, my dream was to further become a successful business owner. In 2011, I resigned from banking, and applied for a scholarship at the Lagos Business School, under the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative. I was awarded the scholarship, and graduated with a certificate in entrepreneurial management. This experience did not only change my life, it also improved how I now structure my business. I can say now that I started off my entrepreneurial journey as the brain behind the Esob Global Venture, with one arm being the events management outfit. We also ventured into training of budding female entrepreneurs through the Esob Heroes platform and the initiative, which is the one that drives the “Inspiring Change Conference”, “Tweet Conference”, and the “Inspiring Change Deliberately” movement. I also run a weekly YouTube series, tagged “Inspiring Change with Sunmbo”, where I churn out short video messages of hope, restoration and transformation in business, relationships and many more.

As someone with years of entrepreneurship experience, what are some of the challenges you would say Nigerian entrepreneurs go through?
Our economy as we all know has depended too long on Oil and just recently, agriculture. The increasing need to diversify from its dependency on oil has now caused the government to support entrepreneurship, but we need laws that encourage and support the aspiring entrepreneurial youth in Nigeria, to develop and execute business ideas. I usually say anyone who starts a business and thrives in Nigeria is King because its not as easy as it looks. We need laws that protect intellectual property from people who feed largely from plagiarizing the finished work of others. We need access to loans that would not enslave the borrower by the huge percentage placed on it, but easily accessible with no outrageous requests for collateral as equity. I know Lagos state is trying through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Lagos State Chamber of Commerce, as well as other state agencies, to encourage indigenous businesses with grants, but we can do much more. We also go through managing to thrive amidst major infrastructural deficiencies in the economy, like power, multiple taxations, different levels of charges from different government parastatals that frustrate the little effort and investment of our small businesses. There are also the government policies that are usually just announced without proper discussions and deliberation with local investors, who are usually affected negatively. All of this and many more are the challenges we face as entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

How can we help more women succeed in business and career? What are some tips you would give women entrepreneurs so they can succeed better?
Be forward thinking and seek new ways to doing what you are doing. Collaborate with like minds and those whose goods and services compliment your vision. Learn more and keep growing, because you are only as good as your last training. Put a working structure in place so the business can live beyond you and finally, rest and delegate as much as possible. You are first the business, so take your health and wellness seriously. These few tips should help you succeed better in business.

Interview by Tobi Awodipe for Guardian Nigeria

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