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Women of Rubies

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Toyin Odulate is the founder of Olori Cosmetics, an African hair, bath and body care company formulating products for women and children. Her love, passion and obsession for beauty started as early as age seven, but her dream to establish Olori took 15 years to actualise.

A former L’Oreal executive and consumer goods expert with over 18 years of experience across the USA, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, she has managed global beauty, food and beverage brands across Africa and the Middle East, where she honed her skills in the business of beauty, brand marketing, product and business development, as well as distribution and logistics with a focus on the African consumer. After years of nursing the ambition of owning her own beauty company, a hair coloring accident propelled her to produce what would become her first product.

In this interview with TOBI AWODIPE, she spoke on the world of cosmetic formulation, challenges involved in running a startup in Nigeria and how a plethora of choices for consumers is a good step in the right direction.

Could you take us through your journey in starting your business, how has it been for you?
I’ve had the idea for Olori since my third year in the university. I was frustrated that I couldn’t find makeup shades that suited my skin tone and that I had to mix several shades of lipstick or foundation to get the shade that I liked, so, I planned to start a makeup line. As a child, I enjoyed mixing potions and ruffling through my mother’s extensive beauty counter. I found a little notebook I kept at age 12 where I wrote that I was going to own a cosmetics company. I guess it’s been in my sub-conscious for that long and beauty products development and beauty stores and shelves are my happy place.

I had always ‘planned’ to start the business, waiting on the ‘right’ time, but was very busy building my corporate career. But when I finally started, it happened totally by accident. A few years ago, I had a hair coloring accident that left my hair feeling like hay. I asked my mum to mix me a potion that she used to make for us as kids to care for our hair back then; I used it and it literally reversed the damage and texture of my hair within days. It was then I knew that I had to jar this product and share it with the world.

I sent samples to about 20 friends to try out; they all loved it and kept asking for more. When I could no longer afford to give it out for free, I started to sell it in recycled Body Shop jars. We peeled off the Body Shop labels and created our own Olori labels and stuck in on the jars and that’s how we started. I transitioned from corporate life to running Olori full time almost two years ago. It’s been a very different journey where you don’t have the security and luxuries of a big company environment, but building one from scratch is a very fulfilling process with some frustrating moments but I’ve learnt to focus firmly on the big picture.

You’re no stranger to the world of hair and beauty as you have worked with international brands in the past. How has these experiences shaped your business?
Having firsthand experience at the corporate level working for the biggest beauty conglomerate in the world (L’Oreal) in multiple countries definitely exposed me to the business side of beauty, especially the non-glamourous side, which included long hours of business development, supply chain coordination and management, distribution, marketing, brand development, budgeting and finance to name a few. It definitely gave me the much-needed tools and credibility that I needed going into building my own beauty brand and company from the ground up.

From the formulation stage to branding to marketing and developing retail management relationships, negotiating with salons and distributors… all very grounding experience to build on to get my brand to the heights I want to take it to. Though we’ve accomplished a lot, we’re still very much a work in progress.

Funding is usually a major challenge for startups, how did you get funds to start out?
I funded the business from my savings and personal investments and then started to bootstrap once the business became financially viable. I have recently opened up the business to seed funding to help with our growth ambitions to scale into other markets.

The global beauty industry is a multibillion-dollar sector, which experts have said Nigeria is yet to fully tap into. How do you think we can achieve that?
Don’t underestimate how big the beauty industry is in Nigeria; what we have lacked is reliable data to back this up. The other issue is the relentless currency devaluation, which further shrinks the value of the size of the industry in Nigeria. But regardless of this, Nigeria is a huge contender and player in the African beauty sector.

How best do you think the government, banks and private bodies can support SMEs such as yours to thrive better?
The answer to this question requires three separate paragraphs, but generally, we can already see a shift in private bodies such as venture capital and angel/pre-seed investor groups towards the fintech community; funds are flowing in this sector. But in the consumer goods and manufacturing sector, we are not seeing the same levels of funding generosity, excitement and activity and that needs to change. Government can also assist by making regulatory requirements simpler and more straightforward; the current processes in place take too long.

As an entrepreneur, what are some issues you’ve had to deal with over the years?
Funding has been and is still my greatest challenge.

What keeps you passionate about doing what you do?
I’m passionate about taking an African beauty brand such as Olori to the global stage, where you walk into the big chain stores in the States or in Europe or Latin America and see a proudly African brand on those shelves. I’m passionate about how commerce has the ability to make an impact on the social sector by helping to change lives via education, gainful employment, and innovation.

With so many fake products in this sector, how best do you think this can be stemmed?
I think with an environment as fragmented and as rudimentary as ours (Nigeria and West Africa), our regulatory bodies are overwhelmed and under-resourced. So, the onus is placed on businesses like ours to put in the work to make sure your product is set apart from imitations and fakes and educating the public to know the difference. This problem isn’t going away anytime soon, but there are ways to tackle it even though tackling it is expensive.

How can we create better opportunities for upcoming industry players in the global beauty and wellness market so they can compete with big names?
Through funding and more funding! For brands and companies with a strong proof of concept and in-market stress testing, access to funding and the right partnerships are the only way they have a fighting chance to compete on the global stage alongside the more established names.

What five things would you tell a new entrant into this business to avoid and do respectively for maximum impact?
First, register your business legally; trademark your brand name. Test your products on a sample pool of friends and family over a period of time before going to market. Stay flexible and keep your overheads as low as possible as need-based for as long as possible. Be open to partnerships and collaborations. Finally, know your competition, but don’t obsess over them – focus on your path.

Sourcing materials can be a huge challenge, how and where do you source your materials from?
We source about 80 per cent of our ingredients locally, the rest we source from across the continent or from the most reliable source. We’ve built our supply chain network slowly and methodically over the years and set up relationships with suppliers. It’s a challenging task because for just one ingredient for example, we have about six sources, just to manage disappointments and long lead times.

Tell us something you did/do recently that has turned your business around positively for you?
We invested very intentionally in our e-commerce and digital strategy in January of 2020. We had no idea that a pandemic was looming and that this would be our saving grace just two months later. During the lockdown, we were pretty busy as we had a sudden uptick in direct-to-consumer sales and inquiries, primarily due to the fact that salons were not open, so most people were doing their own hair at home.

This also gave us an opportunity to get direct feedback from our customers and improve our products or services where needed. The overhaul of our digital strategy also got us a lot of international attention from a number of international publications and international demographics. With this, we activated international shipping and this has been great for us.

There are so many products in the market now which can be overwhelming for users, what specific things should users look out for when selecting products?
I think the fact that consumers are now spoilt for choice on the shelves across different categories is a good thing; this was not the case five or seven years ago. Caucasian consumers have thousands of options in every single personal care category, so why should it be different for us?

But to simplify purchase decisions, buyers should seek for ingredients that work best for them. Understand your allergies and avoid products with ingredients that cause such. But the easiest way is to stick to the brand that has worked best for you but be open to experimenting on occasion with a brand or product that you’ve never tried before. You just might find a gem in it.

What is your dream and goal for your brand in the next couple of years?
Dream goal in the next two years is to get Olori on the shelves of major retailers in markets internationally and also to have built a scaled and robust direct to consumer business. Also, to grow our international customer base of black girls and women of African descent from across the globe to become a brand of excellence that they can identify with directly and that represents them and their unique multi-textured hair and skin and personal care needs. We want to be a brand that serves the global African diaspora.

What final words do you want to leave for women?
Playing small does not serve the world, go big and then go home. To a very nice home I must add.

Source: Guardian

Someone once said a great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed. Being a photographer avails you the opportunity to see life through other people’s lens of understanding.
Photographers and artists constantly have the nudge to create magic through their work, and that’s exactly what Toni Payne is doing through her Toni Payne Photography brand. Giving life to objects she captures with her camera.Payne wears many hats and has taken her talent to different sectors; from managing some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry, directing music videos, expressing her thoughts through poetry, to being an award-winning photographer. The media personality and entrepreneur enjoys working with still and moving images to create visual masterpieces.

Holding a degree in Video Digital Art, her love for the arts dates back from her childhood days. A creative mind, who is also not shy about addressing controversial topics, Toni Payne has morphed over time into a vibrant entrepreneur and entertainment icon. She has set a high standard and a great work reputation for herself in the entertainment industry.

Though her journey has not been particularly smooth, she is still winning at life and living her dreams. She shares her inspiring story and passion for visual art in this exclusive interview with Esther Ijewere.

Childhood Influence
I WOULD say yes; my childhood did prepare me for what I do now. Being creative was not frowned upon. We were forced to choose to be a doctor, lawyer, but my upbringing was liberal in that sense and a career in the Arts was not seen as a bad thing.

Inspiration Behind Toni Payne Photography
Asides Toni Payne Photography, I also run a commercial photography business called Osha Creation. I studied video digital arts at the university; I have always had a thing for visually documenting still or moving images. I decided to get fully into photography after I left the music industry. I am a creative person whose mind tends to run at full speed, so, I needed an outlet and found that going outside with my camera calmed me down, and coming up with different photographic creations made me happy.

I always say photography saved me because, at the point when I took up photography, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself career-wise. I knew I did not want to go back to music, I also knew it had to be something I am passionate about and enjoy. So, I chose photography and it’s been the best choice I’ve made.

The Journey So Far
It has surprisingly been great. When I started my business, they said it takes a while to build customers, especially because I am starting from scratch where no one knows my work or me. Within six months, I had my first few clients and it has been non-stop since.

I enjoyed commercial photography and knew it would pay the bills, but my dream was to create Art using photography as a tool and positioning myself as one of the best Visual Artist Photographers of our time.

Managing Some The Biggest Names In The Entertainment Industry, My Make-Up Line And Goals
If I ever decide to go back to music, the money must be right. I did things back then because I had a passion for it, but quickly found out that sometimes, it is best to invest in yourself and your talent. The makeup line, heck yeah, I would; it takes a lot to own a makeup line. I was young and excited and had put so much money in and when I decided to uproot my business in America to come to Nigeria, it wasn’t a smart move.

I believed in the country and was just excited to be able to do something like that there. If I were to do it again, I will stay put here in LA and just let it trickle down to Nigeria via distributors and retailers.

How I Manage And Maximise My Talent
I create almost daily. I am no longer in school, but I am still learning every day. The skills I learned in school are helping me today with my photography. These are lifelong skills that can be applied to so many things. I am still growing, so definitely, I plan to use my current knowledge and soon-to-be-acquired knowledge to advance my growth.

Long-term Goal
I want to be a household name in the Art industry. I want my work in homes and I want owners of my work to be proud to say they own it. All my works are limited pieces, so for collectors, it’s valuable. I want to bring artistic value to the table and hopefully also groom future artists.

Rising From The Ashes Like Phoenix After A Period Of Adversity
I always ask myself this question. Like, how did I even survive that episode, because every time I look back, I am baffled at how I did not break down? I think I drowned myself in my work; I stayed busy and that helped a lot.

Also, I have an amazing family. My family supported me the entire time and made sure I was very ok. I also think God doesn’t give you what you can’t handle. We might all be faced with trials in life to test us; I believe that was my test. I am glad I stayed graceful through it all, because today, I can hold my head up high and say nothing to myself. The strength that I got from dealing with that has also prepared me for the beautiful things that are coming my way now.

Achieving Work-Life Balance As A Single Parent And Career Woman
It means getting up and just getting things done. I try to do a to-do list, but my day also has to be scheduled around my son’s schedule. It can be hard balancing time because it feels like there are never enough hours in the day, but I do my best. The only issue I have is that I hardly get enough sleep.

Lessons from some of my life challenges
Protect your peace. Don’t trust anyone 100 per cent. Those who claim to love you can harm you, so stay vigilant. Stay graceful and work hard. Never let people’s opinions of you affect you or your daily bread; they will move on to the next topic soon enough.

Trust your heart and stick to your convictions. One million people will give you advice, but always remember that the only advice that matters is the one your heart gives you because it’s you that will have to live with your choices. Be a good person and trust God

Being A Woman Of Rubies
I am resilient, strong, and passionate.

Other Projects And Activities?
Right now, I am 100 per cent focused on the visual arts. I spent the majority of my career doing one million things at once. This time, I just want to enjoy what I am doing and focus on growing it. I have chosen it to be my career legacy, so it requires my full attention.

Three Women Who Inspire Me And Why
My grandma, my mum, and my aunts (more than three lol); I see how they go about their daily grinding and living and loving and that inspires me.

One Thing I Wish To Change In The Entertainment Industry
Structure. I believe it lacks proper structure, but I guess these things take time.

Upcoming Project
I recently launched an NFT Collection called Still Life with Food, a collection of digital food photos reminiscent of works from old masters like Picasso. It is also available in prints. I am having talks with a group about bringing my art to Nigeria. The prints are made on metal and are just gorgeous. They are limited edition, so if you own one, you and less than 100 people in the entire world will own any piece you purchase.

If I could turn back the hands of time
I would have started photography earlier and I would have put all the energy I put into music into my own personal work

 

The Prestige Awards was held in the UK on the 3rd of September , and Shulamite Ezechi’s organisation; ANYISO took home  the prestigious charity of the year award.

ANYiSO is a registered charity in the UK that runs multiple projects, seminars, workshops and conferences, and provides support and services for women, young people, refugees, and asylum seekers. The award was given to ANYISO for its works for humanity, and support for women, young people , refugees and asylum seekers.

Reacting to the award , Shulamite said ; ‘’Prestige awards recognises businesses and organisations in the UK that have proven to be the best over the year. ANYISO was nominated, and won ‘’the Charity of the year award.’’ We felt very honoured and we are very proud of the work we do, and moments like this encourage us to do more’’.

Shulamite, an amazing humanitarian, served as a member of the Refugee women’s Strategy Group and has been involved in the review of many policies that affect ethnic minority women and young people. She is on a team of the First minister’s National Advisory council on Women and Girls (BAME).  Shulamite also served as a board member for North Glasgow Community Food Initiative Glasgow, United Kingdom. She is an author and has published many articles..

Shulamite holds a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Imo State University, Nigeria and a Master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition and Health from Glasgow Caledonian University, UK and a second Master’s degree in Policy analysis and global governance.

Aside from the Prestige Award, Shulamite has also won many awards including ‘the Inspiration to the BME Community award’ that was conferred to her at the Glasgow City Chambers, United Kingdom.

Information is power, equip yourself with all the necessary knowledge needed to grow your brand. Develop yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses, focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses. While you work on your weaknesses, employ capable people to fill in those positions where you consider your weakness. You honestly can’t be everything to your business. For instance, if your strength lies in customer relationship and PR service and you have little or no sewing skills, Focus on your customer relationship and PR skills and work on your sewing skills. This way, the business does not suffer and your skills are effectively and efficiently utilized. — Eki Okubanjo.

Eki Oris is a fashion company that specializes in both custom made and ready to wear (RTW) clothing for the fashion-conscious woman who appreciates finely constructed pieces of impeccable quality, targeted at females 15 years and above. Eki Oris designs are influenced by simplicity, individuality and comfort of their customers.
The Eki Oris Kidswear is a clothing and accessories brand for kids (male & female) aged 0 months – 12 years. It’s a bespoke & ready-to-wear brand which has found its niche in using unique African prints and other fabrics to tailor exquisite and comfortable outfits for children.

Eki worked full time in a private company as the customer relationship manager and also did a bit of business development. During this time she was running the Eki Oris brand as a side hustle. She wore her designs to the office and got a lot of pleasing comments. She made pieces for some of her colleagues and got lots of referrals through them.
In her quest for more, she decided to quite her 9-5 job and give her fashion business the time it requires.

The Eki Oris brand has successfully maintained its integrity over four years by putting customers first, keeping to deadlines, being dependable and also giving out quality products and services. These are some of the things that make the Eki Oris brand special.

I understand the importance of having a conducive and happy working environment for your staff, because once your staff are happy and comfortable, they’ll definitely deliver their best and I have implemented this principle into my business.

Eki Okubanjo learned the basics of fashion designing from her mother who had a tailoring shop while growing up. She launched “Prints by Kira and Eki” with her friend during their National Youth Service (NYSC) year but they parted ways.

Eki Oris was founded in 2015 as a home-based business, and also a side hustle which she ran alongside her corporate job.
In July 2017 she resigned from her corporate job to focus on her business. She had saved up some money, and got some funds from her dad and boyfriend (now husband) to set up.

In her own words, “I had no prior knowledge of running a business, I didn’t know how to calculate my cost, the overheads were a lot, I didn’t know the best salary method to use for paying my tailors. I made mistakes with designs, fabric etc and I have had to refund money back to some customers, but all these experiences helped shape me into becoming a better fashion entrepreneur. Having worked in a corporate environment before venturing into full time entrepreneurship, I have also brought in a lot of knowledge I learnt while I was with my previous employer into my business. I, more than anyone understand the importance of customer management. I brought in my negotiation skills, marketing skills etc into my business and I understand how important it is for a business to keep their business data as this is what will help you make better decisions. I have implemented all of this in my business.  In retrospect, when I think of my entrepreneurial journey, I’m honestly glad for how far I have grown. I have learnt from all my mistakes, challenges and also my customers. Experience is something that cannot be bought and my experiences so far have helped me put in proper structures and policies in place that are currently helping my business.”

As an entrepreneur, Eki finds the most satisfaction in IMPACTING lives. She loves that she is able to impact lives through beautiful clothes. An Eki Oris woman is bold, and confident and I love that my designs automatically instil confidence in my customers. An Eki Oris woman goes about her daily activities with her head up and ready to conquer the world because she’s confident in herself.
“I also love that I can positively impact the lives of my staff through the jobs I have provided for them, they in turn can impact their own lives and fend for their families.”

There’s no better time to start than now! Just start. You don’t have to wait till you have everything sorted out to start your business, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t rush the process as well, allow yourself to grow and learn and celebrate the small wins.

Eki Okubanjo sums up all her experiences, including successes and failures in this powerful piece of advice: Importantly information is power, equip yourself with all the necessary knowledge needed to grow your brand. Develop yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses, focus on your strengths and work on your weaknesses. While you work on your weaknesses, employ capable people to fill in those positions where you consider your weakness. You honestly can’t be everything to your business. For instance, if your strength lies in customer relationship and PR service and you have little or no sewing skills, Focus on your customer relationship and PR skills and work on your sewing skills. This way, the business does not suffer and your skills are effectively and efficiently utilized. Also, you honestly need a trailer load of patience and hard work to survive in the fashion industry. Finally, please always remember the God factor. Always pray to him for wisdom to help you run your business, pray for your staff and also your customers.

Like a phoenix, Oluwatobi Raji  is rising from the ashes of adversity and inspiring others to do so through her story. She  is a Gender Based Violence (GBV) Advocate with focus on child safety,  and has over 6 years work experience in the humanitarian field. She founded Every Child Initiative in 2019, a nonprofit that educates the public on preventive measures to child sexual abuse and rape of minors using social media and grassroot advocacy as a tool to disseminate her message. Oluwatobi was raped at age 8 by her maternal uncle and survived multiple counts of rape, ten times by ten different persons between age 13-19 years. She as well ensures safe space for vulnerable children living on the street via her partnership with 1 to 2 orphanage homes spread across 36 states in Nigeria.

The  bachelor’s degree holder  in International Relations  and Diplomacy from Iscom University, Cotonou, Benin Republic also earned a Professional  Higher Diploma in Aviation Management from Lagos Aviation and Maritime Business School, Lagos, Nigeria and graduated with distinction. Oluwatobi worked as a Survivor Advocate/Field Officer with Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT), Ministry of Justice, Lagos, , with successful effective arrest of domestic and sexual violence offenders in Lagos State, Nigeria.

She currently work as a Volunteer Project Manager at School On The Street Initiative ; a nonprofit that provides access to quality education for orphans and underprivileged children with an establishment of a free tuition school at Iyana-Ilogbo, a rural community situated at Ifo Local Government, Ogun State, Nigeria.

She has impacted over 3000 parents, teachers, guardians and over 5000 children via her house to house sensitization, rural rugged campaign, community sensitization program and face to face counselling. She has taken child safety advocacy to over 5000 households and 20 communities. Oluwatobi volunteers with over 7 local and international non-governmental organizations and this has added to her wide wealth of knowledge in the humanitarian field. She also works as an on-call Professional Caregiver with Flying Doctors Nigeria (FDN), to specifically care for COVID-19 patients. She shares her inspiring story in this article.

 

Childhood Influence

Growing up wasn’t  really fun, though I had a pleasant time with myself as a child. I grew up in a family of 5, with a father whose religion was love for all. I am the first child of my family but my experiences as a child are the passion for in depth love to serve humanity. I grew up having a father, whose only language was love. As a child, the only language I grew up to understand is humanity while my religion is love. After my father’s death, life became hard and miserable with nothing and no one to lean on. We were left in the hands of close friends, who only gave their best as they could to assist us. My childhood experiences made me vow to ensure adequate safety for children in my little capacity.

Inspiration behind Every Child Initiative

Every Child Initiative is a nonprofit founded in January 2019 and advocates against child sexual abuse and rape of minors. The initiative’s primary focus is on ;preventive measures using social media and grassroot advocacy as a means in disseminating my message. The passion was born out of my concern on child safety and my personal experiences. I realised creating safe space for every child is everybody’s business, so the need to speak about child safety was very necessary. In January 2019, we carried out an house to house sensitization, educating parents and children preventing meausres to child sexual abuse and rape. Also in January 2020, I called upon some concerned individuals and advocates to join me in facilitating a Rural Rugged Campaign.

The campaign was organized in strategic local communities of 7 States in Nigeria, same day and time using indigenous languages to disseminate our messages. I have also facilitated the rescue of at least 3 persons off the street to a safe place, 2 children with a pregnant youth inclusive between March 2019 and October 2019.

The Journey so far

It has been quite demanding with several responsibilities, which includes mental tasks, physical energy and financial contributions. The journey so far comes with so many responsibilities, which sometimes results in self-denial of basic needs/amenities. There are moments of discouragement and loneliness but my focus to achieve a set has indeed given me continuous push never to relent.

Being a survivor of sexual abuse, and finding closure

I was sexually violated (Raped) at age 8 by my maternal uncle (My mother’s younger brother) and was threatened by my mother not to tell anyone, which continued till I was  14 to 15 years of age. This horrible and shameful experience opened and gave access to other perpetrators, as I was raped again by 10 different men, 10 times between the ages of 13 to 19years. It wasn’t easy at all for me, each passing day at those points in my life, my only wish was death. I attempted suicide over 5 times as a child and same as an adult. I never received any medical or psychosocial support, which later led to post traumatic stress disorder, depression, low-self-esteem, emotional and hormonal imbalance, suicidal thoughts, aggressiveness, anger and failed relationships. I was able to pull through, when I found my voice to speak out after 22 years of silence. I got support from an ex-partner, he introduced me to his doctor, who later recommended a psychologist and a reputable medical facility to seek help. Just like others, the relationship with this fellow also went down the drain due to the above mentioned and some other contributing factors. Sincerely, I am still healing because I lost everything in my life including family and loved ones, due to the past event in my life.

Volunteering for several organization & giving back during the pandemic

I currently work as a Volunteer Project Manager at School On The Street Initiative; a nongovernmental organization with an establishment of a free tuition school for underprivileged children at Iyana-Ilogbo, a rural community close to Ifo in OgunState. The free tuition school was set up during the Covid-19 pandemic to give back to the community. Also during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a trained member of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, I volunteered to sensitize the community on preventive measures to infectious disease. I also got relief materials of 100 cartons of Lifebuoy &Lux soap from Unilever, Lagos to give out to the community members of Abule-Iroko, as well as sensitize them on personal hygiene. I also received textbooks of about 400 from a reputable non-profit organization, which was donated to 530 underprivileged children in the community. Again during the Covid-19, I was able to impact a life by fundraising for an underprivileged pregnant lady to get delivery items and other baby resource materials.

 

My Certifications, fellowship and momentum

I am a trained anti-corruption personnel from Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) Nigeria in conjunction with and Foreign Corrupt Practices Commission, a Global Youth Ambassador (GYA) with Their World (United Kingdom) 2018 – 2019, African Changemakers Fellow, 2018, United States Government, Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI RLC) 2017 Fellow, Accra, Ghana, African Young Leader Fellowship Program (AYLFP) 2019 Fellow, Accra, Ghana, Young World Leader For Humanity, 2018, My Body Is My Body Ambassador, Sheffield (United Kingdom), conferred Ambassadorial Honor at the International Youth Diplomacy Conference (IYDC) 2019 Accra, Ghana, Ambassador for Africa Project Against Suicide, 2020, World Literacy Foundation (WLF) Ambassador, Colombia, 2020 &am 2021, World Peace Icon Ambassador, at World Institute For Peace 2021.

I am also a member of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, Lagos State branch. She is an Advance First Aider by rank with successful records of emergency response, as a trained emergency first aid team (EFAT) member such as pre-hospital care, flood, fire, accident, election standby, Ebola virus, measles and the COVID-19 pandemic. I was a frontliner (Ebola Response Staff) during the Ebola epidemic in Nigeria and worked with the Federal Ministry of Health (PortHealth Services) for 1 year at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. I was also a frontliner during COVID-19 outbreak and worked as a Community Search Volunteer on contact tracing with the Federal Ministry Of Health at Alimosho LGA, Lagos State.

On the society and how to treat survivors of Domestic Violence and Rape

The society has so much concentrated on what we call The Blame Game rather than condemning the evil act of rape. 80% of the society still believes that survivors are the architect or causes of their problems. Some people even say to survivors, for this to have happened to you, then you are possessed. This myopic reasoning has empowered perpetrators to develop growth and expand their territories. Survivors of domestic violence and rape must be given adequate respect, regardless of whoever is involved. Domestic Violence and Rape is no longer joke and should be treated with zero tolerance. Until society takes up full responsibility for condemning the act, we won’t achieve a goal or victory.

To Young Girls who want to speak up but scared of being judged

My advice to young girls is to associate with positive minded individuals, whom they can trust well enough to discuss their issues with. They can also reach out to organizations who have existing structures and professionals who can attend to them.

Challenges of my work

As a child safety advocate, I advocate for both boy and girl child. This is due to my understanding that both genders are vulnerable, while the girl child has the larger percentage of vulnerability. When I started advocacy against rape, some people reached out to me to stop talking, so my chosen career won't hinder me from getting married or make friends and family dissasociate from me. This and so many sayings only fuel my energy in doing more. I have been threatened both offline & online social media, I have also received threats of being kidnapped, gangraped and making it public to shut me up. It has been a journey of the last breath, meaning I vowed to ensure my best is invested even if it means giving my last drop of blood. I see this to be a service to humanity, which I have never seen any man who serves humanity in vain.

 

3 women who inspire me to be better and why

There are amazing women I encountered their stories not-in-person but online, such as Dr Helen Paul (Nigerian Comedienne) whose birth was from rape. Joyce Mayer who was raped repeatedly by her father, Pastor Terry Gobanga (Kenya) who was kidnapped and gang raped on her wedding day. These three amazing women stories inspired me to live above my past, impact in lives and make living worthwhile. I also decided not to dwell in the past, make lemonade out of life given lemon which will in return produce beautiful fruits.

Being a Woman of Rubies

Oluwatobi is a gold that has gone through the process, she is a rare gift and unique being. My calibration carries a special identity which fosters so many happenings in my life (No Regrets). I only found mercy and grace in the sight of my creator, which made me stand out despite my rough journey.

 

On  educating children early

Educate children on the identification of body parts from age 3, Educate children on the correct names of body parts from age 3, Teach children identification of a sexual perpetrator and sexual abuse, Teach children keeping secret of any form is wrong, Educate children that, their body belongs to them, no one has a right to see or touch and same thing goes to them. Educating children early enough will not only preserve but keep them safe from this heinous crime.

 

The challenges facing many women in Africa of how to manage and care for their natural hair is one that entrepreneur Farida Yahya is all too familiar with. It was the inspiration for the launch of her business Lumo Naturals, which today creates a range of specialist hair products that both cleanse and treat the hair gently. Today, the brand is winning scores of fans who are looking for a natural solution for their natural hair.

Lumo Naturals is an award-winning haircare solutions brand. With over 6 years in operation and a team of professional hair consultants and stylists, they offer a wide range of hair services and products. They provide quality hair services, along with top lines of our well formulated natural hair products.

As a naturalista, growing up, Farida saw her mother try to tame her hair with tons of relaxers. Farida’s mother tried various products and used tons of strategies but none ever worked. And just like other natural hair owners, she had problems with her own hair ranging from breakage to dry hair, breaking the piggy bank to get premium products to maintain the hair, as well as shrinkage. Additionally, Farida would spend so much time watching tons of videos on YouTube and natural hair blogs looking for tips and inspirations. In 2008, Farida resorted to making DIY products for her hair because there were no big shops that sold natural hair care products in her location. Interestingly, her experiments worked and people began to buy them.

As a female founder, you should never feel pressured to “lead like the boys”. There is nothing wrong in leading with empathy, and you should know that the world of entrepreneurship is tough, and so, don’t demand things from the angle of a victim, instead work hard and smart enough to have those doors open for you. When you do succeed, look back and lift others, mentorship and support is crucial for female founders, if we want to go far, and build the mass we need to change things for good. — Farida Yahya.

Lumo Naturals was birthed in 2012. It started with the production of the first set of natural hair care products – hair butter. And with Farida’s over nine years of experience in biochemistry and a diverse range of complementary skill sets, she has been able to create an extensive offering of affordable natural hair care products designed to benefit naturalistas.


For Farida, running her own business has pushed her to grow. Being responsible for her team and customers has challenged her to learn about how money works, what is required from a leader, and why it is important to deliver quality service consistently.
Farida says she is happiest when she solves a client’s hair challenge, and when she gets feedback about their formulations. In her words, “it gives me such a thrill to know that I am doing my quota to help make the world a better place, and reduce social inequalities.”

Lumo Naturals fill a unique niche in the beauty space. Their product line includes everything from hair cleansers to hair treatments and hair scrums, with a focus on multi-functional products. Additionally, all their products showcase clean, locally sourced ingredients that are cruelty-free, animal-free, and free of harmful irritants and additions such as parabens, benzene, and formaldehyde.

On September 11th, Esther Ijewere hosted Psychotherapist and Mental Health Advocate; Dedoyin Ajayi on her famous Tweet chat session #GettalkingwithEsther, and they discussed how to live an wholesome life.

The  Psychotherapist did not only share the importance of protecting our Mental Health, but she also gave insight on what Therapy looks like, and why we all need to slam the brake sometimes and do what’s best for our emotional wellbeing.

See summary of the tweet chat below.   You can also read more about Dedoyin, and her work as a mental health advocate and Psychotherapist Here

 

 

Empower a woman and you have empowered a whole community. Ubong Agina understands this so well which is why she has built a successful fashion training school centered around empowering women and helping them fulfill their potentials.

The entrepreneurial journey is not easy; it requires a large heart. However, as challenging as it may be, just as a child’s first attempts at walking, success is sure with clear focus, consistency and the ability to manage changes.

Agina was inspired to launch her fashion design and training school business, respectively for a couple of reasons.
The first being a love for African fabrics and the fashionable beauty of local, well-made designs relative to foreign brands. The second being a deep love for teaching/training.
When Agina ventured into couture, fashion designing and creation, she found a vast opportunity for capacity building and empowerment among fellow African women. So, she expanded to also establish a fashion training school.

Nubeeka Couture, an arm of Nubeeka Concepts, is a creative fashion designing private enterprise founded with the mission to promote African beauty, art and style through creative and innovative garment fashion designing. They are committed to women empowerment through training and through their own fashion school.

Their range of products includes various female apparel such as corporate-wear, semi-formal and casual dresses, gowns, jackets, skirts and tops, and shirts, all of which we produce as bespoke designs, as well as small to large scale ready-to-wear (RTW) designs.


Ubong Agina’s entrepreneurial journey started from her childhood. In her own words, “coming from a meagre background, my entrepreneurial journey started as an arduous uphill task and my main anchor was my passion to drive my mission. After acquiring the necessary basic and advanced academic, as well as fashion design skills, I started my fashion making business in the comfort of my home for the first several months. When customer satisfaction incrementally drove patronage beyond what I can manage in my home, I took the bold but fretful step and I officially launched my business, with the inclusion of the training school.”

Her biggest fulfilment as a fashion entrepreneur and trainer comes from her customer satisfaction, together with their kind and encouraging feedback and referrals.

Ubong Agina’s final words on entrepreneurship is this, “the entrepreneurial journey is not easy; it requires a large heart. However, as challenging as it may be, just as a child’s first attempts at walking, success is sure with clear focus, consistency and the ability to manage changes.”

 

The beauty  of being  a legal practitioner is understanding the plight of those you defend, and advocating for them. Not many Lawyers can mult-itask and deliver successfully  both ways, but Toyin Ndidi Taiwo-Ojo is breaking boundaries in her profession as a Lawyer and Human rights activist. She is not only “walking the talk”, but also lending her voice to the voiceless, vulnerable and marginalized in the society.

The amazing  legal practitioner is also the  founder of Stop The Abuse Against Children and Women Foundation, popularly called Stop the Abuse foundation. The seasoned negotiator and mediator bagged her law degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University, also known as the Great Ife . She has worked in various notable firms.

She was one time welfare secretary of the NBA Ota, Ogun State branch and currently a member of the NBA national NHIS committee, she was also at one time the Personal Assistant of the wife of the Executive Governor, of Kogi state , position she held until she resigned in 2017 to face her advocacy passion squarely. A human rights advocate, she sits on the board of some notable charities in the country and has great passion for vulnerable children, women and the environment.

She shares her inspiring journey, and tips on the right way to report cases of violence and abuse.

Childhood Influence

Growing up with a widowed grandmother in the village, it was all too easy to understand the hardship that women and children face especially in a deeply patriarchal society. Also , seeing my grandmother stand up for herself and persuading her kinsmen to sell land for her when it wasn’t the norm to do so prepared me for this future.

Inspiration behind Stop the Abuse Against Children and Women Foundation

 I have always offered pro Bono legal services to indigent people but my vision became clearer in 2015 when a young boy of six years named Promise was stabbed by his mom with a broken bottle as a sort of punishment for allegedly “ defiling” a two years old girl. There and then, I knew I had to do something. Most parents were ignorant of acceptable methods of disciplining, kids were being subjected to the most ludicrous form of abuse in the name of punishment, being raped and maltreated and sometimes needed rescue from even their own parents!

Being a legal practitioner, human rights advocate and managing it all

Honestly, it has been God but having a supportive husband has made the journey easy.

Impact of Stop the Abuse Foundation since Inception

 Oh wow! Stop The Abused was a registered in 2018 and has rescued over 30 young girls from physical and sexual abuse. We have also rescued women from domestic abuse. Our food drives, economic empowerment interventions have affected more than 5000 families and it is still counting. Stop The Abuse Foundation is also keen on advocacy and sensitization and more than 10, 000 persons have been affected through our grassroot mobilization. The far reach of our constant appearances both on TV, newspaper, radio and social media on advocacy and sensitisation cannot be overemphasized

 

What the Government should do to support the Gender Based Violence sector

 I think the government should support critical stakeholders by providing Funds! A gender purse should be set up with critical stakeholders and philanthropists to run it just like CACOVID was set up during the covid crises of 2020.

Most shelters run by private owners are poorly funded. As of now in Nigeria, the cost of justice for survivors is very high! Within Lagos alone to rescue a child, one must be thinking of spending between 40,000 to 50,000 naira at least from providing vehicles from arrest to logistics of investigations with the police. When the suspect is arrested, one also must provide the vehicle to court and a lot of other sundry things. Government should be deliberate and help to see that our laws are more robust in tandem with current realities. This brings us to the issue of access to justice delivery. Countless adjournment makes the victims oftentimes give up but if cases were treated speedily, it would encourage victims to seek for redress in court.

Challenges of my work

Attitude of the society towards gender-based violence is a big challenge. The culture of silence being encouraged by our people is one example, victims of gender-based violence are not “supposed” to speak up talk less of fighting for justice especially when the perpetrator is a family member, their extended family believes that the victim speaking up will break the “unity” of the family. This brings us to victim blaming. The general belief that it must have been what the victim wore or did that seduce the rapist is another sociocultural challenge. Our people see anyone who fights for other women as an oversabi, the challenges are too numerous

Other projects and activities

We currently apart from rescuing victims and offering legal, paralegal, and psychosocial interventions free of charge. We also do food drives and economic empowerment for widows. We are currently looking at building a transit shelter for children. We are also planning a skills acquisition center to help indigent women who are survivors of domestic violence to become economically empowered so as to fend for themselves and children.

 What do you enjoy most about your job? The thing I enjoy most is the smile I get from survivors after a rescue! The smile often carried the whole message of gratitude, hope and relief. Knowing that you have made a difference in the life of someone who has given up hope is quite exhilarating.

3 women who inspire me and why

My grandmother Blackie Ekwutoziam Awana is my first role model, she taught me that women can be anything they want to be! From being widowed at an early stage and quite illiterate, she questioned the tradition of not selling land to women in her hometown even when the woman had the money. She is an unsung hero. Women all over the world striving for a better life, keep inspiring me to be a better version of myself.

To women in abusive marriages  who are afraid to flee

The covenant of life is far greater than the covenant of marriage.

Steps to take to seek justice for cases of domestic violence and rape

For a rape victim, the first is to speak up, do not let anyone shut you up. Speak your truth. If it is a recent rape incident, do not clean yourself(vagina) up and if you must, clean up, use a white handkerchief, tie the handkerchief in a clean white nylon, then go the hospital before going to the police. Call a human rights organization. Better still, call the human rights organization first to give you moral support as you fight for justice.

Being a Woman of Rubies

Honestly, my joy is to see more women and children free from all these indignities.

ORÍKÌ Group is a wellness and personal grooming brand that is the first and only company in Nigeria to operate a luxury spa chain coupled with its own farm to skin product range.

They utilize the most, efficient & potent natural ingredients from Africa. ORÍKÌ Group comprises of a multi-channel spa, farm to skin retail product company and a wholesale & amenity product line for spa’s, hotels, and airlines.
They are a fast growing organization having developed/operated six spas, retail stores and created distribution channels across Nigeria and in three countries.

Their mission is to leave a piece of Africa with consumers around the world by creating farm to skin products, wellness centers, empowering farming ecosystems and instilling ‘skinfidence.’

Joycee was intrigued by natural ingredients and their potency as a young girl. The more she experimented; skin and hair became her weapon of choice for self-expression – a way to experiment with raw materials and resources – and it powered a journey that led her back to her roots on the continent of Africa, specifically Nigeria, and that propelled the creation of ORÍKÌ. After years of experimenting with all types of natural ingredients, at one point creating a mini lab in a home setting, testing and experimenting with diverse materials from activated charcoal to wild berries and ingredients in between.

Joycee wanted others to experience the potency of natural ingredients. Seeing a void in the industry and a depiction and narration of Africa as being helpless and lacking, she launched a personal grooming brand “inspired by nature and crowned with opulence,” focusing on a wide range of raw materials and ingredients for all skin types, creating formulas that work for all depending on skin type and concern.

Her goal as a business owner is to expand into more and more communities, giving more people the opportunity to make wellness a lifestyle.
The ORIKI Team is diverse and they all bring their unique strengths to the table. Everyone’s voice matters and everyone’s suggestions and comments are welcome.

Joycee developed a love for entrepreneurship at a young age as she had keen interest in solving problems and monetizing opportunities. She started a babysitters club when she was younger, a candy store out of my locker, she made accessories and much more as a child. Her father was also an entrepreneur and she used to enjoy visiting his office and learning about what he did, it definitely left an impression and fueled her passion.

ORIKI is scaling and expanding and bringing more ORIKI locations to more communities; they are currently working on 3 other locations as well as launching a new farm to skin product line and a new haircare line. In 2020 they were able to scale two of their service offerings – Our Spa at Home services have provided hundreds of homes the opportunity to have spa services in the safety and comfort of their home.

For Joycee, making an impact as an entrepreneur is of utmost importance to her.

Joycee’s personal piece of advice to everyone is to partner with God. In her words, “I have seen my business transform as I said NO to fear and instead gained confidence by trusting in God through every season and allowing him steer the ship and lead my efforts. I’ve come to realize that obstacles and challenges are inevitable but I no longer let the struggles consume me because I have faith that the company would be victorious.”