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Adesunmbo Adeoye: I will like to change the mindset culture that relegates Nigerian women to the ‘other room’

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Adesunmbo Adeoye is the CEO and Chief Creative Director at Esob events and Founder of Esob Heroes as well as the brains behind the Inspiring Change Conference. A multi-passionate entrepreneur, she is a graduate of Accountancy and Finance and an alumna of Lagos Business School. As the convener and host of the annual Conference, she seeks to deliberately impact knowledge, inspire change and transform the lives of men and women in business, with a focus on nation building. Recently appointed as a Cherie Blair Foundation Brand Ambassador, she was also honored in London as a Goldman Sachs Star Scholar, one of the 10,000 women in Africa to benefit from the initiative, with impeccable results in business and her outstanding drive to mentor others to fulfill their true purpose. A mentor to many and a recipient of numerous awards for her dedication and contribution towards progressive initiatives and humanity in Nigeria, she talks about the inspiration behind starting the Inspiring Change Conference, why Nigerian businesses are not thriving as they should, how more women can get to the top and a decision she took that turned her life around amongst other issues.

Give us a peep into your early years and education, how was it like for you?
I grew up in a family where education was seen and mirrored as a huge asset and so I was privileged and supported to complete my diploma in Accountancy and Finance from the Great Yaba College of Technology, Yaba, Lagos after which I ventured into the banking world.

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What made you decide on the “Inspiring Change Conference”? What is the inspiration behind it all?
I completed and was issued a certificate in Entrepreneurial Management in December 2011 by EDC Pan-Atlantic University Lagos, which came as a scholarship sponsored by the Goldman Sachs 10,000 women initiative in Africa. After I finished, I thought of how I could pay it forward. I had that urge to see other women fulfill purpose in ministry, business and career, and this was what birthed the “Inspiring Change with Sunmbo Adeoye” initiative, in 2013. Out of my ceaseless desire to support entrepreneurial ideas, through mentorship, advisory services, free training, access to market and capacity building, the initiative established its vision in two folds in one year. This we achieved through the ‘Esob Heroes” annual “Inspiring Change Conference”; a platform where women deliberately connect with leading female entrepreneurs, draw strength and glean inspirations that will propel them to take the lead in their respective industries. Though women may sometimes be dominated by men, you position yourself for growth and gain opportunities and access to life changing information that will not only empower but move your world forward. The second part is through the “Inspiring Change Deliberately” movement, which seeks to educate the less privileged woman in business and the girl child, deliberately with a focus on nation building through entrepreneurial advancement training, free skill acquisition programs, mentor meets mentee programs and undergraduate blue print boot camp, to name a few.

The conference is now in it’s seventh edition; did you ever think you would be here today when you started it all 7 years ago?
I would say an emphatic yes and we hope to do greater feats in the coming years.

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Tell us about this year’s edition, what should attendees particularly look forward to?
This year’s edition is the seventh, yet the first of its kind, as we have lined up varieties of inspiring sessions. From the keynote speech that will be delivered by our special guest speaker, Hon Abike Dabiri Erewa, to the scintillating girl talk session that is notable for lighting up the atmosphere, as we take a no holds barred session of inspiring stories. This is then followed by a Q and A session moderated by me, which features women who have been able to stand the test of time, and are doing great in their various industries, women who are breaking through, against all odds and thriving in the global sphere.

On the panel this year, we have Toyin Abraham, Sola Adesakin, Toyin Onigbanjo and many other notable speakers. This will be followed closely by the empowerment session, which is usually a very emotional one, as the beneficiaries see it as a huge support that gives them a lift, and pushes their businesses forward. Last but definitely not the least, is the array of goods and services that will be exhibited at the arena, and also, networking opportunities. There’s definitely something for every attendee.

After all these years holding this conference, what are some changes you made to this edition and how long do you intend to sustain it?
When we started in 2013, it was just a short yet powerful one-day event with the keynote and girl talk sessions. However, over the years, we have evolved into two days of maximum impactful selection of diverse sessions. The tweet conference holds in commemoration of the International Women’s Day with 10 panelists that comprise of outstanding female entrepreneurs, who have been able to bridge the gender gap in their respective industries. From 8am to 8pm non-stop, there will be a series of inspiring tweet threads on Twitter. After which, there will be the live class that is engaging, motivational and absolutely free to all registered attendees. There’s definitely no stopping us, till we are able to spread and ignite the “can do” fire into every woman across the globe. Every year comes with its unique agenda, and this year’s focus is driven by the theme, There Is More.

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There are several women-focused conferences in existence already; what makes yours different?
The Inspiring Change Conference is a one of a kind event and has been rated amongst one of the most inspiring conferences in the past five years. It is one of the most anticipated annual conferences that seeks to actively challenge stereotypes, fight bias, broaden perceptions, improve the lives and situation of SME’s and celebrate women’s achievements. It has over the years become notable for its laudable impact amongst women and men as we not only have female attendees but also men who desire growth in all areas of their lives; be it in ministry, finance, business and career. Not to mention those who fly in from outside of Nigeria and travel in from other states too.

This year’s IWD theme is ‘I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights’; how are you incorporating and practicalising this with your conference?
I believe our vision says it all. We seek to empower women of value, inspire the change that ensures the future for the girl child and women is equal, safe and rewarding, while educating those striving to take the lead in business, ministry and career.

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As someone that is passionate about women’s wellbeing, apart from this annual conference, what other things are you doing to help women?
Apart from the entrepreneurial advancement of market women program that we held last year in four different markets in Agege, where we distributed free tools and gave cash grants to hundreds of market women in the community, we also undertake annually, the mentor meets mentee forum for undergraduates that prepares them for the future ahead. This sees to the procurement of free JAMB forms for the less privileged girls within the community. This year, we have set a goal to empower 1000 women via our free skill acquisition program, which we commenced in February 2020 with over 200 registered beneficiaries in Agege, Lagos. We hope to spread the reach across other communities far and beyond the shores of Lagos with God on our side and the corporate support of all partners, corporate bodies and the Government. It’s a movement that we tagged #inspiringchangedeliberately

You describe yourself as a multi-passionate entrepreneur; take us briefly through your entrepreneurial journey?
As a young lady, with close to a decade of active service in the banking industry, my dream was to further become a successful business owner. In 2011, I resigned from banking, and applied for a scholarship at the Lagos Business School, under the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Initiative. I was awarded the scholarship, and graduated with a certificate in entrepreneurial management. This experience did not only change my life, it also improved how I now structure my business. I can say now that I started off my entrepreneurial journey as the brain behind the Esob Global Venture, with one arm being the events management outfit. We also ventured into training of budding female entrepreneurs through the Esob Heroes platform and the initiative, which is the one that drives the “Inspiring Change Conference”, “Tweet Conference”, and the “Inspiring Change Deliberately” movement. I also run a weekly YouTube series, tagged “Inspiring Change with Sunmbo”, where I churn out short video messages of hope, restoration and transformation in business, relationships and many more.

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As someone with years of entrepreneurship experience, what are some of the challenges you would say Nigerian entrepreneurs go through?
Our economy as we all know has depended too long on Oil and just recently, agriculture. The increasing need to diversify from its dependency on oil has now caused the government to support entrepreneurship, but we need laws that encourage and support the aspiring entrepreneurial youth in Nigeria, to develop and execute business ideas. I usually say anyone who starts a business and thrives in Nigeria is King because its not as easy as it looks. We need laws that protect intellectual property from people who feed largely from plagiarizing the finished work of others. We need access to loans that would not enslave the borrower by the huge percentage placed on it, but easily accessible with no outrageous requests for collateral as equity. I know Lagos state is trying through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund, Lagos State Chamber of Commerce, as well as other state agencies, to encourage indigenous businesses with grants, but we can do much more. We also go through managing to thrive amidst major infrastructural deficiencies in the economy, like power, multiple taxations, different levels of charges from different government parastatals that frustrate the little effort and investment of our small businesses. There are also the government policies that are usually just announced without proper discussions and deliberation with local investors, who are usually affected negatively. All of this and many more are the challenges we face as entrepreneurs in Nigeria.

How can we help more women succeed in business and career? What are some tips you would give women entrepreneurs so they can succeed better?
Be forward thinking and seek new ways to doing what you are doing. Collaborate with like minds and those whose goods and services compliment your vision. Learn more and keep growing, because you are only as good as your last training. Put a working structure in place so the business can live beyond you and finally, rest and delegate as much as possible. You are first the business, so take your health and wellness seriously. These few tips should help you succeed better in business.

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You are also a published author, what led you to writing and who is the book targeted at?
I authored and published my first book “Parenting A Creative Child“ in 2018 as a self-help guide towards purposeful parenting, and it is for parents and parents to be. My most recent book is titled ‘Refurbished, and it ignites hope for a fresh start. This book focuses on the overhauling of the old mindset, and it helps readers see a fresh perspective out of old situations. It is for those in need of restoration, transformation and the garment of praise, for the feeling of heaviness.

As a mentor to many women, how important is mentoring to women for career and personal growth?
A mentor can be a game changer for your small business and growing career. In as much as mentoring people doesn’t mean fixing their issues or solving their problems, it is pointing them in the right direction where they can grow and develop their own zeal to prosper. There is growing evidence that connecting your growth in business and career with a mentor can transform your life. In fact, three hours with a mentor equals a higher revenue and increased business growth and I say this because reports show that 70 percent of mentored businesses survive more than five years and that’s double the survival rate of a non-mentored business. So, it is safe to say having a mentor for your business or career is a huge asset.

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What does being a Cherie Blair Foundation Brand Ambassador and a Goldman Sachs Star Scholar mean to you?
As a Cherie Blair Foundation Brand Ambassador, my role is to help and empower as many women in business as I can in Nigeria, for venture capital and more. Being a Goldman Sachs Scholar, grants me access to a wider network of mentors, with growth opportunities for women in business in Nigeria. This privileged appointment and positioning, further strengthens my vision for the Inspiring Change Initiative.

In your opinion, why do we tend to see fewer women at the helm of affairs and how can this be corrected?
Women inclusion is marginalized at the helm of affairs and this can be corrected by ensuring those in the helm of affairs have a succession plan for the younger generation of women coming behind. That is why this Initiative seeks to connect and bridge the gap, by ensuring role models pass on as much information as possible, to deliberately position the mindset of the growing and ambitious young lady, that there is a place for her too at the top, as long as she’s willing to put in the work and effort it entails to get there.

Do you think more women are shattering the glass ceiling today?
Over the centuries, only a very few women ruled the entrepreneurial frontier, but the biggest change is happening now and we have seen many strong women breaking and shattering the glass ceilings, thereby giving hope to those that look up to them. But I believe there is still more work to be done.

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Tell us a decision you took that turned your life around positively?
Applying for the Goldman Sachs 10KW scholarship was one of the biggest decisions that changed my life. Being picked as one of the scholars, transformed my business at infancy. That one step in the right direction and the right application of all I was taught coupled with the right guardians and access to mentors birthed the results of my today. Now I live purposefully with a hope that the world will be a safer, more secure and rewarding place for every girl child born and unborn, if we keep spreading the knowledge and increasing the capacity of the ones around us, while influencing them positively towards nation building.

What would you tell Nigerian women that want a seat at the table?
Create your own category and set a table for other young girls to join you.

If you could change something for Nigerian women, what is the first thing you would do?
The mindset and culture that relegates women to the other room.

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Life at this level can be hectic and stressful. How do you disengage and relax?
I take some time to rest, relish on the beautiful memories my team and I help our clients create, and I spend quality time with my husband and children.

Where do you receive inspiration, how do you stay motivated when things aren’t going the way you want them to?
My inspiration comes from the knowledge of the word of God. Over the years, I have learnt to trust God absolutely with my life and all that is happening in it. For all things eventually work together for the good of them that trust in the Lord.

A lot of things have been said about you over the years, who would you say you really are?
I am the light of Christ to the world, a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. I am Adesunmbo Adeoye, the Game Changer.

What last words do you want to leave with women reading this that have been inspired by you?
There is no limit to what you can accomplish as a woman. You just have to be courageous and remember that you are made for more.

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