Entrepreneurs need accessible and affordable legal services – Funkola Odeleye
Funkola is the Co-founder and CEO at DIYlaw – a legal technology company committed to empowering Nigerian entrepreneurs through the provision of accessible and affordable legal services and free legal and business resources, Funkola is also the Corporate-Commercial and Intellectual Property lead at The Longe Practice LP (TLP), an entrepreneur focused law practice. Funkola is able to identify with her clients having been involved in various entrepreneurial pursuits, including founding a grocery e-commerce business.
She has a background in commercial & corporate law firm practice with years of in-house counsel experience in investment banking. Funkola’s legal experience prior to founding TLP and DIYlaw cuts across capital markets, investment advisory, compliance and securities.
Funkola has a Masters in Finance and Financial Law from the School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London in addition to her LLB from the Lagos State University and BL from the Nigerian Law School.
In 2018, Funkola represented DIYLaw and Nigeria at Pitch@Palace Commonwealth which took place during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London. She pitched to an audience which included Prince Andrew, The Duke of York and various Heads of Government of Commonwealth countries and emerged one of the winners.
In May 2019, she led the DIYLaw team to the United Nations and presented and exhibited at several different forums during the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum. She is an Obama Leader, having been chosen as a 2019 Obama Africa Leader and also an Innovating Justice Fellow of The Hague Institute for the Innovation of Law (HiiL). In her words; “Entrepreneurship is the most sustainable solution to unemployment”
She shares her inspiring story and some legal nuggets with me in this interview.
I grew up with my 2 sisters in a family where both our parents are entrepreneurs. Transitioning from secondary school to university and during university holidays, we had to work for my parents. That was the only guarantee to getting a flight ticket for summer holidays.
This taught us discipline and the value of hard work and I will also say that it exposed me to entrepreneurship. I guess it’s not surprising that my sisters and I have various entrepreneurial pursuits.
Inspiration behind DIY Law
Our vibrant and hardworking youth demography in Nigeria is our biggest inspiration at DIYLaw. Things have really shifted and the youth are breaking away from parent-pleasing that makes them unhappy. We now see a lot of professionals who are in sports, entertainment, hospitality and are generally following their dreams. Even a lot of people with 9 to 5 jobs have “side-hustles”, vlogs, tech companies, you name it.
These are the people who need accessible and affordable legal services; they are constantly on-the-go building the next big thing and can’t be bugged down with complexities.
Why I am focusing on Entrepreneurs
My co-founder (Odun) and I realized in 2014 that the sector was underserved and that was really all we needed to quit our day jobs and start a law firm focused on entrepreneurs. Prior to that, we were both informally advising entrepreneurs in our circles like our family and friends and we had seen all kinds of missteps, bad decisions and lost opportunities because entrepreneurs didn’t have their legal affairs in order.
Knowing the contributions of entrepreneurs to job creation and the economy, it would have been a disservice to do nothing and so I have now made it my life’s mission.
Being an Obama fellow with ties to other notable Organizations
Being recognized by these various organisations validate the work that we do. Beyond money, it’s the fuel that I need to keep moving. Knowing that someone somewhere values the work that we do and believes in the changes that we are trying to spark, helps me keep head above water on the not-so-good days.
Also, some people don’t take you seriously enough until they realize that someone else or a notable organization does. I am grateful for these coattails I have been able to ride; they have opened some doors and given us access to other opportunities.
Women who Inspire me
There are too many women who inspire me. If I had to mention just one, it will be my mother – Oluyemisi Ani; even though she is 65, she still works extra hard. She is never satisfied with yesterday’s achievement; she sets new challenges for herself everytime and she just goes for it.
If I had to mention more though 😊, it will be Serena Williams for her determination and rising above her challenges with going back to work and giving her best after having a baby; Michelle Obama for everything that she stands for and Sara Blakely for being a constant reminder that being dogged, knocking on every door and having fun yields good results.
Nigerians and appreciation of female lawyers
I honestly don’t think we are treated any differently from our male counterparts. Law is such a prestigious profession and I think we are all accorded the level of respect we deserve whether male or female. I haven’t ever walked into a meeting or a courtroom and been silenced because I am female.
I think being female is a gift that all women should try to take advantage of. My co-founders and I never hesitate to tell people that we are “an all-female founded” tech company and we get people ooh-ing and aah-ing and showing more interest when we use that line.
That being said, I won’t deny that generally there is workplace harassment and that there are small-minded people who don’t take women seriously or show them respect.
I can’t think of any. Just like I think that we get our due like our male colleagues, I think we equally face the same challenges but I can only speak from my own experiences and I won’t say that as a matter of fact.
On giving up
Too many times; it is really difficult being an entrepreneur.
The number of “no-s” that I have received, shut doors, emails that begin with “unfortunately…”, “we are sorry to inform you…” make me want to just pull the curtains and say “show is over”. Having a great support system such as co-founders who remind you why you are on the journey, family who let you cry on their shoulders and care about your welfare and employees who step up on your off days, keep me going.
There are too many things that make running a business very challenging in Nigeria, like epileptic internet service and stand-still traffic. Those little things that distract us from our focus also have the tendency to make us want to throw in the towel.
Being a woman of Rubies
I honestly don’t know what makes me one. I just strive daily to be an excellent leader, excellent co-worker, excellent wife, excellent mother, excellent daughter, excellent sister, excellent aunt and excellent friend. If I fail at any of it, it wouldn’t be from not trying.
Advice for Entrepreneurs, from a legal perspective
Getting it right from the beginning is very important. Put your books in order, file your tax returns, honor your agreements. Don’t wait until your big break is around the corner before you start scampering to do the right thing. The cost of non-compliance is more expensive than complying.