Kemi’s story: building networks for women entrepreneurs
Oluwafeyikemi Amosu knows the power of entrepreneurship. Her mentor's guidance supported her to turn her professional network into a valuable hub that uplifts other women entrepreneurs across the world.
Oluwafeyikemi Amosu (Kemi) runs a consulting firm in Lagos, Nigeria that primarily serves women-owned businesses. Kemi just graduated from our Mentoring Women in Business programme, working with her mentor for a year to overcome challenges like generating income. Our Programme Officer, Nyasha Borges Da Silva, chatted to Kemi about her mission to help women entrepreneurs strengthen their businesses and grow their networks.
Nyasha: So tell me about your business. What is it and when did you set it up?
Kemi: I run a consulting firm called Ideraconsult. A lot of people come to us for clarity and the majority of the people that have come are women. That gave birth to the Women in Business Network.
I wanted to take it to the next level, so I met with a woman who’d graduated from a Cherie Blair Foundation for Women programme many years ago and had been doing well, winning multiple grant awards. She introduced me to Mr. Philip at the Tony Elumelu Foundation. We discussed my dreams and my vision, and he told me that the right mentorship programme to be in is the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s Mentoring Women in Business programme.
I registered and was matched with my mentor: Alec Sergeyev, Director of Technology Strategy and Transformation at Bank of America.
Now, the Women in Business Network brings in different women from all over the world. We’re helping them having a business plan, a vision and mission, smart goals and clarity.
My mentor helped me and he saw something in me that I knew I had, but I didn't know how to access or bring to life. I have the energy, I have everything I need, but he helped me to put the missing puzzle pieces together.
Interesting. Do you have a curriculum that you take the women through? What is your resource offer to them?
They have a curriculum, but before they even go through the curriculum, they must have a vision board and a business plan because many people just need the money. But when the money comes and you cannot sustain, what next?
We always have an interview with them where we learn exactly what it is they want. Some of their dreams cannot be fulfilled right now, so we tell them things they can do first to get income to fund their dreams. That’s what the network is all about.
Then we give them support. We have a marketplace where we showcase their materials and we have a marketing hub.
The Network started in January 2021 – at first just in Lagos in Nigeria, but now we’ve been able to reach almost ten cities. We have people in South Africa, Gambia, Uganda, Ghana, the UK, Canada and the US network now. We’re connecting women.
Wow, that sounds really amazing. Is it just you or do you have a team that supports you?
Well, I started alone. The vision was taken in phases. I now have two paid staff with me, plus an intern and volunteers. We have about ten people now.
And what made you want to work with a mentor?
I’m passionate about women. I had the passion, but the passion couldn’t fulfil my dreams. So, I spoke to Mr. Philip, and he told me that I needed a mentor, someone that can take my ideas and my dreams to the next level.
He said that for me to do that, I need a very good foundational structure and that this is what the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women does. They support women, they help women, and it’s free. Free for us, but there are people that invest their money to ensure that we benefit from this programme.
So, I gave it a try and it’s been a wonderful opportunity.
That’s amazing. You’re exactly who we hope our programme reaches – women who have the vision but could use some support to reach their full potential, which is already inside of them. Were there any specific challenges you wanted to tackle or support you wanted to access?
There are a lot of obstacles: gender inequality, access to funds, access to skills and networks. I didn’t really have the right information, but through this programme I was able to see unlimited possibilities. With its SMART goals and mentoring, I was able to put my books in place.
This has been the resulting impact from joining the Mentoring Women in Business programme. I am doing what I actually wanted to do.
During the programme, my mentor, Alec, encouraged me to look for ways to generate income as a social enterprise. So, for the Women in Business Network, we created three categories of membership to generate funds. There are also some people that want us to work hand in hand with them, so people pay for that, which also creates income.
What has it been like to take part in the programme and work with a mentor?
It’s a different experience for me. I haven’t really had a male mentor before. He’s not American, but he’s in America. He’s a foreigner. Different cultures, different backgrounds. At first I was like, is he really going to understand my challenges? Even if it’s not really about the work and I’m telling him something, will he really understand it? But it was beyond that. We built a relationship. Even when he didn’t have the answers, he did the research to get the answers for me. Every time he came back with research or words of encouragement. He’s awesome.
I think it's our time. There is a lot of untapped potential. Women have been left behind for so long, so I think it's time to give them support. We need the support. We need the awareness. We need to empower other women.
So it sounds like initially it was hard to understand why you were matched. But as time went on, as the two of you explored your relationship, it became clear how you fed into each other.
Ultimately, has it been useful? Were there any elements of having a mentor in the programme that you found particularly beneficial?
Useful is an understatement. When you have a mentor, the person is guiding you. They have seen ahead of you, they correct you. They are not actually doing the work, but making sure you do the work. It’s something that I feel every start-up should participate in. It’s a story you will tell. Everybody’s story is going to be different.
My mentor helped me and he saw something in me that I knew I had, but I didn’t know how to access or bring to life. I have the energy, I have everything I need, but he helped me to put the missing puzzle pieces together.
That’s what the Women in Business Network is, too. The more I see women come back with their own testimonies, it’s like, did we actually do this? Now people have money. They are successful. They are celebrating every little progress and they’re on that journey.
That’s beautiful that you’re able to influence and inspire other women to go on their own journey. What do you expect or hope having a mentor will mean for you and your business?
Having a mentor has structured me. He has brought out something that was just dormant.
Having a mentor means progress. It means results. I was able to achieve, make results, and make a lasting impact on people. I may not have been able to give them money, but I’ve been able to show them how to get money. I may not be able to train all of them professionally, but I’ve given them the platform where they can learn the same things I’ve learned. I’ve taught them how to fish.
The best thing for us, working at the Foundation, is when we get to sit down with you and ask you those questions and dig a bit deeper to understand where you were and how our work impacted you.
So, Kemi, what does it mean for you to have a strong business?
It means a lot. It defines who I am. It defines why a lot of people have invested in me. It’s success. So that’s why I needed to be equipped for the journey ahead.
I don’t just want it so I can say, “I’m the founder of this”. That’s more about status.
It’s a lot of work. It’s a passion for me.
And the big question that we like to ask all the women we work with: why is it so important to support women entrepreneurs?
Why support women entrepreneurs? I think it’s our time. There is a lot of untapped potential. Women have been left behind for so long, so I think it’s time to give them support. We need the support. We need the awareness. We need to empower other women.
Before, it was like there was a competition among women. Now we are collaborating with each other. We’re now supporting each other and there’s so much that we’re doing for the economy, bringing in money. There’s so much we’re doing for the family. There’s so much we are doing for the community. It’s time to support women.
Made possible by...
Kemi's Mentoring journey was supported by our partner Bank of America and delivered with our partner LADIESFUND
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