Eno Martins Bakare is the CEO of Girls-on-Wheels Nigeria, a Female Drivers Service and Female Mobile Autowash. A graduate of International relations from the university of Uyo , Eno believes that the modern Nigerian woman is a soul-lifter, a burden-bearer, loving, strong, indefatigable, courageous, always ready to go the extra mile even when the odds are stacked against her. This belief system is what birthed Girls-on-Wheels coupled with the fact that she, being a survivor of child sexual abuse at age 6 and keeping same a secret for 30 years, believes that by introducing professional female drivers to homes with working parents, it will go a long way to provide the support and peace of mind parents need and protection children deserve. To her, Girls-on-Wheels’ offering empowers women and supports families.
She has always been driven by the need to empower women and protect children, hence her founding Schoolbags for Smiles Foundation, her movement for alleviating the distress of the less privileged by connecting privileged children to donate school supplies to underprivileged students.
Eno has a sharp eye for detail as well as a strong knack for results. This she brings to bear in the added benefits she has packed into her social enterprise by working with the largest Background checks company in Africa to provide background checks for her drivers. As well as First aid/CPR trainings for her drivers so they are well equipped in the instance of a medical emergency.
She remains spurred up, balancing being a Mum of 4 with building an unconventional brand. Eno shares her story with me in this interview.
My childhood was full of life situations that brought me to this place of assignment. My earliest memories were of being molested at age 6 by someone trusted by my neighbour. The heartbreaking part was it took 30years for me to reveal the traumatic experience to my Mum who broke down because she was pained to think about the 6year old me dealing with a paedophile all alone and not being able to talk because he promised to kill my parents if I did.
I also grew up seeing my Mum work ever so hard to support her family through different stages of life when my soldier father was home or away. She sold Hides and Skin, Soup condiments, Bean balls (Akara), Buns and Puff-Puffs, Gin, Dry Rice, Hollandaise Wrappers, Run a canteen etc
Inspiration behind Girls-on-Wheels Nigeria
Girls-On-Wheels functions as an All-female Mobile Carwash and a Female Private Driver service targeted at Women, children and the elderly. So the story of my surviving child sexual abuse got me to connect the dots that there were children like 6 year old me, now more than ever before, whose parents have to work and leave them with sometimes wolves in sheep’s clothing as caregivers and support system. Also I’ve always been a tomboy and love driving so the conventional businesses that should appeal to women never appealed to me. And i know and have met many women who have a passion for driving. Married, single, separated, name it. What connects these women is their love for driving and not wanting to ne confined by culture and traditions about what they can do and not do. So combining my love for driving and taking on challenges and my belief that women can do whatever we set our minds to achieve, fanned my convictions that bringing this solution to city parents was what I was born to do.
Leaving over 20 years of experience in the advertising sector to start my own business
It simple. I finally found my purpose. My life’s experiences finally made sense to me. I started by pulling my pressure washer to go wash people’s cars and not ashamed to post it on social media. I know my former subordinates and other colleagues were uncomfortable seeing me do something a lot of people see as “menial”. But I was on a journey to Purpose. I eventually understood that a mother knew no shame when it came to doing her bit to take care of her children or showing them an example of dignity in labour. I always had this genderless disposition to whatever I set my mind to do, but it got to a point things were clashing with balancing being a Mum of 4 plus a nephew. The downturn in the economy also didn’t help, especially when clients were looking for ways to cut costs. It was time to do some serious soul searching and ask for answers. And with God, when you seek, you find.
Impact Schoolbags-for-Smiles foundation since inception.
The Schoolbags for Smiles Project is one that gives me joy because the idea is to connect privileged children with underprivileged children by the former donating semi-used or new educational items e.g. Schoolbags, shoes, water bottles, story books, exercise books, lunch bags, food bowls, writing materials etc to these needy children.
We have given items to public nursery through primary to junior secondary schools in excess of over 2,150 students in 8 schools. Through what we do, we even got recognition from a Lagos state parastatal by way of donation of books, math sets, bags, calculators etc. But the reality is that we can always do more. Because the need around us is truly amazing. Children walk to school bare feet and carry polythene bags when there are children who don’t use same bag after a term. What this exchange does is give privileged children perspective and underprivileged children a sense of love that privileged children do care.
They are mostly centred on perceptions. First major one is correcting the false notion that women are bad drivers when in reality, backed up by research, women are more safety conscious drivers due to them being born natural nurturers.
Also, people think What we do is for uneducated women who don’t have a choice when the fact is that 90% of our drivers are graduates in very diverse files, i.e. Law, Quantity Survey, Computer and Information Technology etc. They are unstoppable, driven women who are simply looking for an opportunity to excel.
We are also on a consistent quest to increase awareness about the opportunities we are creating for women in the Autocare and Management space. Both prospective Drivers and patrons must be aware.
Just seeing my female drivers being employed by other females is my greatest reward! We have taken an impossibility and made it possible. Being able to tell myself “Eno you conquered your fears and made something beautiful out of your ugly experiences” is really soul lifting. Knowing I can encourage another woman to SOAR!!!!
Next five years
Oh my! We would be pan Nigeria and ventured outside Nigeria on our quest to becoming a proudly African Women Empowerment and Gender-Equality brand, celebrated on the global stage because of the problems we are solving and encouragement we are offering women and the society at large.
Advice for women who want to go into driving business
Find your truth, go for it. Don’t let anything stop you once you are convinced it’s for you!
Appreciation of female drivers
Not as much as our Western counterparts BUT we are definitely working on it and together, we’ll make great things happen.
Who and what inspire me to be better
I have 3 daughters and I want them to see me chase my dreams unapologetically so when they become women, wives, mothers they can and will still dare to dream.
And my Mum. She calls me AMBITIOUS. She has always believed in me. She’s my Number one Praise Singer.
Thirdly, I have an intentional Sisterhood. We support each other and that’s very important. If you have a sisterhood, embrace it. If not, it’s still okay.
Being a woman of Rubies
I am a woman of Rubies because I refuse to be defined by my past. I’m constantly pressing towards a higher calling that solves societal problems. I am also doing it against all odds, balancing being Wife, Mum, Child, Aunt, Boss and Servant Leader.
My dear Women, We have what it takes! Nothing can stop us when we believe in ourselves. When we hold each other up, we become unstoppable. We can do whatever we believe we can. Because it’s the truth. As we celebrate this year, let’s know and believe we can, and that we are never too late or old to realise our Purpose and Chase it! Let’s go conquer Amazons!