The Power of Mentoring: Odunayo and Mireille’s story
Odunayo joined our Mentoring Women In Business programme in 2021 and was paired with her mentor Mireille. Here, they reflect on their mentoring relationship.
Nigeria and Lebanon
Odunayo Anyibuofu is the founder of Ally Rally Apparel, a clothing company in Nigeria. She joined our Mentoring Women in Business programme in 2021 and was paired with her mentor Mireille Wehbe Hayek, a business advisor from Lebanon. Together they have laid plans to take Odunayo’s business to the next level, growing Ally Rally Apparel’s digital presence and expanding the product line.
The two are halfway through their mentoring partnership. With applications to the November 2022 to November 2023 programme open now, they share their reflections on mentoring and women’s empowerment with our Programme Officer, Toni Adebayo-Oke.
Toni: Odunayo and Mireille, you are just over halfway through your yearlong mentoring relationship together and we would love to know how it is going for you so far. Could you tell us all about yourselves and your companies?
Odunayo: My name is Odunayo Anyibuofu. The name of my company is Ally Rally Apparel and. I founded it in 2019. I was still learning how to make clothes during that time, and I’d been in and out of employment. So, in 2019, I started the business.
I’m from Nigeria. I’m married to an Igbo guy and I have four beautiful girls who I home schooled at the same time. I love teaching, I love meeting people, and I also love sewing. I love learning new things, learning new innovations and trying them out. And there is one thing about me,: I have listening ears. I also love someone that has a listening ear too.
Toni: Love that! Thanks, Odunayo. How about you, Mireille?
Mireille: I’m Mireille Wehbe Hayek. I’m from Lebanon. I am a mentor and a business advisor. I’ve been a mentor for around 10 years now. My first mentoring experience was with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Since then, I will say that I’m in love with mentoring.
I started to do business advising.
My background is in pharmacy – it’s a little bit far from business, but I worked for 15 years in sales and marketing. I gained experience in business development, marketing, sales and all this. After these years, I was working as an employee, I decided I had to shift. I left my career and I started mentoring and I’m happy that I had this opportunity to experience sharing what I know with the others.
Since then, I’ve been a mentor and a business advisor. I’m a mother of two and I’m married to a wonderful man. I’m happy to be here today.
My first mentoring experience was with the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Since then, I will say that I'm in love with mentoring.
Toni: So Odunayo, what motivated you to found Ally Rally Apparel?
Odunayo: What motivated me to start Ally Rally Apparel is basically to empower women. I’m a lover of people. I’m a lover of women. I founded this to enable women to be empowered, to make clothing more accessible to people, and to be self-employed.
Toni: Would you say that you’ve experienced any particular challenges as a woman in business?
Odunayo: The challenge as a woman in this business is the family care. I need to take care of my girls. Like I said earlier on, I home school them because of finance. And right now, I am the only one doing everything. I don’t have a staff now. It’s been a new kind of challenge in one way or the other, but nevertheless I’ve been pulling through.
The challenge as a woman in this business is the family care. I need to take care of my girls.
Toni: Mireille, you’re an experienced business volunteer. You’ve mentioned before how you have been a mentor in our programme before? What was it that made you want to do it again?
Mireille: When I started mentoring, I felt that I need to be a to make a difference in others lives. I have lots of knowledge and lots of things to share. I felt – why to keep it to myself? I have been given the opportunity to go to college. My parents helped me to become more powerful, more successful. I had the chance, the opportunity to do that, but not everyone has had the luck to have that. I have to help others, especially if it’s a woman who has a big dream.
Why Cherie Blair Foundation specifically? I feel that when I belong to Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, I’m proud to say that I am part of a big community of mentors and mentees. I feel I’m proud and honoured to be part of it.
I feel that when I belong to Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, I'm proud to say that I am part of a big community of mentors and mentees. I feel I'm proud and honoured to be part of it.
Toni: We’re so glad to have you as part of our community too. It’s so beautiful how you’re both expressing the value of impact and the possibility of impacting others. I think if more people thought this way, imagine the impact on the world.
For you Odunayo, you came to our programme as part of our relationship with our partner, Ileoge Women’s Initiative. What made you want to find a professional mentor?
Odunayo: I was being motivated by the success stories of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Wherever you have success, I think you should cling yourself to such.
I read about Cherie Blair Foundation for Women some time ago. And then luckily enough for me, I got in contact with a friend with a friend of mine who happens to be the CEO of Ileoge Women’s Initiative. She sent it to me and I was like “Oh, I’ve heard of this Foundation before. I’ve heard of their success stories.” That was what motivated me to join the Foundation. I also want to be part of the success stories of Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.
I also want to be part of the success stories of Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.
Toni: When Mireille and Odunayo applied as a mentor and mentee, our platform’s algorithm looked at their skills, the topics they wanted to share, and their backgrounds and our platform’s algorithm carefully matched them with each other. So, Mireille, what was the start of your relationship like, and how has it been so far?
Mireille: From the beginning, it was really amazing. I got an email that I’ve been matched with Odunayo. Then Odunayo sent me an email to introduce herself briefly. Since the first meeting, I felt the joy in Odunayo and the happiness, the determination, in the same way you see her now smiling. When I see my mentee motivated, I got motivated, because I feel that they want to achieve so I should help them to achieve, I should be up to their expectations.
I thank Odunayo also for being open and for trusting me, because this is really essential in the relationship between a mentor and mentee. If she doesn’t trust me, I cannot help her. It’s a mutual benefit, mutual collaboration, and so far, it’s been great.
Toni: Odunayo, did you set any specific goals at the start of the mentorship that related to where you wanted your business to be?
Odunayo: I have the goal of having five clients in a month, and then to diversify into other fashion related business. For instance, learning bag making, because this moves faster than clothing.
Childrenswear too. People might not buy clothes all the time for themselves, but they will go all out to buy for their children. So, I also do children’s clothing and lunch bags, something that will bring more money for me.
These are my goals, then to register my company name and logo, promote my business online, and have 200 followers at the end of six months. Right now, I have about 139.
Toni: Wow! That’s incredible! That deserves a round of applause. That’s so cool.
Odunayo: All thanks to Mireille.
Mireille: You are doing a great job Odunayo.
Toni: Mireille, how have you been supporting Odunayo so far?
Mireille: I helped her to think of her challenges, think of her strengths, of what she can give that is unique. I’m sure there are lots of ladies around her that may be sewing, so what can be her added value?
She was excellent in identifying the pain point of her trials, she knows that sometimes people cannot afford to get clothes for themselves, but they will do it for their children. This is why she’s focusing a little bit more on the children clothes and striving to diversify.
I shared a lot of my marketing experience in setting up the Facebook page and sharing some tools like Canva. At the end, she needs to design the posts. I don’t want her to pay for a designer.
Toni: Thank you for sharing. Have you also found that you have been able to learn and develop while you’ve been on the programme?
Mireille: I would say that I always learn from my mentee, especially from Odunayo, to be always positive. Despite all the challenges she has, she didn’t give up. This teaches me that if other people are holding tight to their dreams, I have also to hold the tight to my dreams and to their dreams. There’s always something positive.
And if I want to talk about the technical part, I review my ideas, my marketing skills. Sometimes I do research to see what’s new, how I can help her more, and what are the tools that are more adapted to her needs. I learned something very important: to take things slowly, step by step, because sometimes it’s obvious for me or very easy for me, but it may not be easy for the others. So just take it easy, give the others the time to think, to add, to come back. Sometimes it’s better to take a strong step than to run and then to fall. There’s always something new to learn.
Toni: Odunayo, I’d love to know how it’s been going for you so far. What have you worked on? Have you found yourself developing? What have you achieved so far?
Odunayo: I’ve been able to know how to use Canva and my Facebook page. Some will say “Wow, where did you get this idea from?” It’s been positive all the way.
Toni: What are your future plans and hopes for yourselves as businesspeople?
Mireille: I will continue in the mentoring and the business advising. I registered my organisation and I call it the French name Point Tourbillon, which means a tornado dot. Many ask me what is behind the name. It’s a strange, strange name. But I believe that every small thing we do, you know a dot is very small, but if you put dots one after the other, you will make a line and it can become a nice drawing. I believe that every small thing we do, every small progress, the more work you put in the others, it will step after step make a big difference.
I hope that, maybe at the end of the programme, or after maybe a few years, I will really be able to expand my project and to start more trainings in sales, marketing, business development, and to continue making this difference. Already, I am working with some NGOs and colleges in Lebanon in mentoring and advising. I hope that I will be able to develop it a little bit more.
I believe that every small thing we do, every small progress, the more work you put in the others, it will step after step make a big difference.
Toni: That’s so inspiring. How about you Odunayo? What are your future plans?
Odunayo: My long term goal is to have a fashion factory, where I will have people working, empowering people, and making it easy for people to learn. Also having a fashion school, which will be conducive and convenient for people, especially women and the vulnerable girls in my locality. I’ve been seeing girls that that don’t go to school, they don’t have anywhere to go. And this has really caused a lot of heartaches in my heart. I’m just hoping that one day I will stand up tall to bring them out of that dungeon and put smiles on their faces. All that they need is someone to help them, someone to tell them that it’s okay, someone to pat them on the back and say that you can make it. That is my passion.
Toni: We have a final quickfire question to end on. In a nutshell, why would you say it’s so important for the world to support women entrepreneurs?
Odunayo: Helping women in the world is true sustainability. What we also need is women, empowering women. When a woman empowers a woman, the woman will go a long way. When you give a woman life, the woman will give you life. When you give a woman a seed, the woman will definitely make the seed grow.
When women empower women, men will naturally give way. Give way in the sense that he can see what a woman is doing. It’s my saying: when you have power, empower others. Make sure it is not powered by greed. When you’re doing things for people, let it be powered by love, let it be powered by passion, let it be part of the heart of giving – giving back to society, in your own little lane.
Helping women in the world is true sustainability.
Mireille: Odunayo really wrapped the ideas very well.
Women have lots of untapped potential. We have the potential; we have the power to make a difference in our families in our community. We just need to be given the proper tools that are given to men, the opportunities that are given to others. Just give us the opportunity, and we will be able to rock the world, you know.
Toni: What a note to end on! Thank you both so much. Thank you for your nuggets of gold and wisdom and for taking the time to speak to me today. You really shared some fascinating ideas and insights.
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Mentoring Women in Business is one of the Foundation's three flagship programmes. We pair businesspeople everywhere as mentors with women entrepreneurs in low and middle income countries as mentees for an incredibly rich, personalised, cross-border, online experience. This is transformative for mentees and mentors alike—and their companies.
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