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Nothing gives me more joy than to positively impact a skilful woman – Omolara Sanni

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Omolara Sanni


Omolara Sanni is a graduate of the University of Ibadan, with a MBA (Entrepreneurship and Small Business) from OAU, Ile-Ife. She’s undertaken verifiable MOOCs with Coursera and Shaw Academy including – Creativity, Innovation & Change (CIC), Creative Problem Solving, and Digital Marketing. In 2014, Omolara started a crusade to nurture and promote home-grown Craft entrepreneurs via her blog – www.multicreativeme.com. Since then, she has gone on to rally a collective of over 6000 creative folks in an online crafting community – African Handmade Forum. Here, artisans and designers enjoy support, showcase, and free training opportunities. Omolara is an enthusiast of all initiatives targeted at the crafts, artisan networks, micro business growth, and the creative industry as a whole. She shares her inspiring story and passion for the creative industry in this exclusive interview.

Growing up
Far back as primary school, I remember my Mum, a teacher, buying a kongo each of sugar and Omo detergent for my sister and I, so we could tie them in small portions and display in her hair salon. The stylists would help us sell while we went to school and we would rush to the shop on our return to count the money made as well as the remaining wares. It felt so exciting and important to be in business. LOL

At the end of each cycle, we got the profit while Mum would recycle the capital to get another batch of sugar and Omo for us.This was my introduction to business and I remain grateful to my Mum for teaching us early. I toed the business line all through to University, selling stuff from time to time and making hair at some point. I also worked as a stylist at her salon anytime school was on break, and that formed my first contact with Customer management. Haha!

Inspiration behind Multicreativeme and handmade Nigeria
It was while serving as a youth Corper in Kwara state, that a visiting corper taught a handful of us how to make beaded jewellery and pouches, bags etc. I was so excited! This was in 2004/05 when beadmaking/weaving was just becoming a thing.

I have always loved designing and I caught on very fast, so much so that after our trainer left, I became the ‘madam’ that others came to learn from. I was so passionate about crafting that I would travel to unfamiliar Lagos and find someone to drag to the market so I could buy materials and then return to Kwara. Pretty exciting times!

Thereafter, I ran my own beading shop in Ibadan after NYSC; selling jewelry and training students, until I got a job… then 6 years later, I was out of job. I returned to crafting and picked a few more skills but now, I wanted more. So I looked out.

The craft sector I saw was loaded with potentials and the most precious raw talents, but it was in disarray, only few of the crafters and artisans were really making any profit.. so how do we make significant impact? Business skills were lacking. I decided to start a blog that would rally other crafters and provide them with helpful and developmental resources – Multicreativeme.com.

Then, as our community grew online, the need for an exclusive platform to sell handmade items online came to the fore. We needed to sell online but crafters were tired of having their handcrafted products compared with mass-produced factory products on marketplaces. And that is how www.handmadenigeria.com came into existence.

Being an Alumni of Daystar Leadhersip Academy
DLA taught me a lot about being a balanced leader. Beyond that, the Daystar’s culture of excellence has rubbed off on me, both in life and business – I would rather not do it at all than not do it well (give it my best shot) and this has nothing to do with starting small! I started small. my ultimate takeaway from DLA is that the Value that you give always comes back to you – thus when I only had the blog, I kept on dishing value to creative entrepreneurs (yeah, I had a few throw it in my face) even though I earned no income from it yet. Today I have income streams from skills that got honed doing that.

Why I chose the creative world
What can I say? The creative world is my world; I am fascinated with creativity in others and I love to create with my hands too. Creativity should be encouraged in every child because it comes with resourcefulness, a life skill that means you cannot get stranded.

Another reason is the Craft sector is somewhat of an underdog in a Nigerian creative industry that sparkles with music stars and block buster movies, but we are rising steadily. Yes, the recession did us good because local content received some long lost attention. A lot of corporate organisations have seen the need to support home-grown businesses and we have been welcoming them on our platforms. We need to consider how well the crafts are doing in developed countries and realize that we have what it takes here too. Like, have you seen some of the fashion accessories on our marketplace? Wowza!

What and who inspires you?
The Holy Spirit. Since I knew God in my high school days, I have felt a deep seated desire to live an impactful and extra-ordinary life. I remember thinking that it would be through my song ministrations, but well, that didn’t work out. Haha!

Now, I am driven to help make craft businesses highly profitable and sustainable. I want crafters, designers, and artisans in my network to grow significantly and be able to make a living from what they make with their hands.

Greatest Reward
That would be the testimonies of crafters that my content and activities have inspired with results. When I get tired, those keep me going. I was a finalist at the 2017 Wimbiz Impact Investment Competition; didn’t win. I have also been finalist in a seed funding competition and though I didn’t get the money, I felt greatly encouraged and validated.

Challenges
Hmm. First is the high costs of power, data and hardware procurement. Besides that, a lot of creatives have lethargic attitudes towards managing their online stores, inventories and all; I’m just grateful for my team – we work round the clock on some days managing both sellers and buyers. Thirdly, Nigerian buyers still have a propensity for offline transactions, even on a platform like ours and while this isn’t exactly a challenge, it does stretch our limited workforce.

Perception of women in the creative industry
Yes, I believe that limits only exist in the mind for women of this generation. Thanks to the MDGs and SDGs, we have seen a lot of women-targeted empowering initiatives, I almost started to feel sorry for the men, but Hey! We’ve had it coming a very long time.

A lot of women in the industry have stepped up too and are making us proud. But of course, we still have the hobbyist designers, who are yet to understand the business of their craft.

Handamade Nigeria!
Handmade Nigeria is an online marketplace for quality fashion and lifestyle accessories made by indigenous designers and crafters.We promote the handmade culture and facilitate smooth and secure transactions between buyers and sellers onsite, while providing quality control.

Another of my initiatives is a 6000+ support group for crafters on Facebook called African Handmade Forum. There we run free business trainings and generally support each other.

Giving Up
Several times oh! I have spent money on social media ads that yielded nothing, burned the midnight oil many times and ended up feeling drained. There are days it seems I have done all I know to do… Thank God that those moments pass, then the dream and the giver of it keep me going.

Being a Woman of Rubies
I am passionate about lighting other women’s candles with mine. Nothing gives me more joy than to positively impact a skilful woman.
Final word for women who are thinking of going into the creative industry

Niche up and don’t be all over the place.
Then you must pay attention to the business side of things before you get in deep. Creatives are passionate folk and it is quite easy for them to run into unprofitability and frustration when bills don’t get paid, even though you’ve been very busy doing your thing diligently.


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Omolara Sanni
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