Sunday, 28th May 2023

‘If you are confident of the value you bring to the table, put a good price on it’

By Tobi Awodipe
22 April 2023   |   3:53 am
Yvonne Chioma Ofodile is the MD/CEO, Zetile Oil and Gas Ltd, an integrated downstream Oil and Gas distribution and marketing company, as well as founder of 360 Woman Africa. Boasting 12 years of combined experience in different areas ...

Yvonne Chioma Ofodile

Yvonne Chioma Ofodile is the MD/CEO of Zetile Oil and Gas Ltd, an integrated downstream Oil and Gas distribution and marketing company, as well as the founder of 360 Woman Africa. Boasting 12 years of combined experience in different areas within the oil and gas industry and social enterprise sector, she also serves as the Managing Director of Zetile Stores Limited in Lekki, Lagos. Setting up 360 Woman Africa to fill the skill gap with female entrepreneurs and matching talents with opportunities, it also looks to close the access to finance gap that exists and build Africa’s ecosystem for women in business—impacting over 12,000 women between the ages of 22-55 in Africa, with 75 per cent of her beneficiaries in Nigeria. In 2021, 360 Woman Africa Women in Business Empowerment Fund was launched and has since given grants of over five million Naira to five women in business. A UK-certified clarity and business coach, she has been recognised by several platforms for her work. A public speaker and mentor at the Academy of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) by the US consulate, she is a graduate of Business and Management from the University of Derby, United Kingdom, an MBA holder from Lagos Business School and an Associate Member of the Chartered Management Institute, UK.

Can you briefly share your career journey to becoming a founder and CEO?
I STARTED my career as a promising graduate in the Oil and Gas industry as a secretary/receptionist with a salary of less than N50,000. After years of diligent work within the organisation, I resigned as a Commercial Sales Manager. As an employee, I was actively learning and enjoying the imports of working under the leadership of two great visionaries, who helped us believe that, indeed, no height was impossible to attain if you commit.
My interest in the industry began to grow as soon as I committed to giving the best of me at all times. Within the various roles I was given, my interest and love for it increased. Years later, after resigning and taking time to rest, and with the leading of the Holy Spirit, Zetile Oil and Gas Ltd was birthed.

Looking back to the past decade, did you envision this day with regard to all that you have achieved so far?
Yes. If there are three things you cannot take from me, they will go as follows: My immovable faith in God, love and loyalty to family and my self-belief that now drives my power to envision and imagine the most incredible heights possible always, regardless of situations and circumstances.

You are also a certified business coach; what is the most common business shortcoming you’ve seen with today’s entrepreneurs, especially women entrepreneurs?
I would highlight five of them. First is the lack of proper business management education, network and exposure; lack of mentorship and effective collaborative systems; lack of structure and human capital needed to run and scale their businesses successfully; poor funding and finally, low level of emotional intelligence.

What inspired you to establish 360 Woman Africa and all your work with the organisation over the years?
My mother did. Growing up, I would see her make miracles happen in our home and the community we lived in. Nothing was too big or small for her to do or accomplish. Marrying quite early, my grandfather, the late Chief Charles Okondike, made my father, the late Chief Augustine Agu-Ofodile, sign an undertaking that he would make sure my mother continues her education to the highest point possible within his capacity. That promise was fulfilled.
I remember hearing him encourage my mum to attend to her PHD programme even while on his sick bed. The access to good education stood my mum out in her career, and till date, we are still benefiting from the decision to ensure another Nigerian woman was empowered to excel and thrive. Growing up, I did not see a lot of women like my mum and the likes of Tara Durotoye. I saw women struggle to live out their dreams or even function efficiently within any role they found themselves no matter how small or huge. They lacked support or even the slightest validation to achieve their dreams. This bothered me greatly, so as I continued my journey towards self-discovery and purpose, I received the vision of 360 Woman Africa, an organisation committed to engaging, elevating and equipping women with the necessary tools and resources to thrive and live true, to the highest potential possible.

As the founder of a non-profit, what are some challenges you experience that you’d like to throw light on with the hope that they can be solved?
Accessing the right partnerships with both public and private individuals and corporate bodies; support from the government to enable a wider and consistent spread of impact; shortage of manpower to drive processes and the high cost of living in Nigeria and Naira devaluation keeps affecting operations cost.

What advice would you give someone about to establish a non-profit?
Make sure you’re doing it for the right reason. Seek out people with experience, mentorship, run research surveys about the sector and finally, stay true to the course.

You recently hosted a summit where four young women entrepreneurs received equity-free grants; tell us about this.
The 360 Woman Africa Enterprise Summit and Grant Awards is an initiative under the 360 Woman Africa platform that seeks to engage women in business across Africa for youth entrepreneurship, job creation, access to finance, socio-economic empowerment and engagement through educational opportunities. The summit and grant was an offshoot of the three months MBA programme by us for 100 women in business, after which application for the grant was opened to the public with high consideration for applicants who have attended and graduated from the MBA programme, which also held in Lagos last year at Four Points by Sheraton and had women from Kano, Enugu, Ibadan all fly in to be a part of it. The 2022 360 Woman Africa Women in Business Fund was sponsored by African Industries Group, the largest steel manufacturing company in the country. Visions are only possible when there is provision. We are deeply grateful to Prudent Group, Tangerine, Zetile Oil and Gas Ltd, Royal Energy and Africa Steel Industries Ltd for their support.

Research shows that globally, black women receive less than 2 per cent of venture capital funding; why do you think this is so, and what can women in business do to attract more funding?
I would say that before now, women were indeed not considered to be much, but we’re beginning to see all that change. For example, we now see women run multi-billion Naira businesses and women as heads of affairs within corporations and government parastatals.
The backward stance on women could be traced to various reasons. From cultural issues to lack of quality education, lack of enabling environment to thrive and policies that don’t support women’s engagement and elevation. Time and seasons have changed and are still evolving. It’s slowly becoming a world where anyone can become anything possible as long as they put in the work—a world without bias and abuse. I will encourage women to continue to rise up to the occasion without fear of failure. Failure must always be seen as feedback, not a sad response to an effort made. You have all it takes to live your dreams; it is possible in our world today, so get up and go for it.

Last year, you partnered with Eurodacity Business School to hold free micro-MBA training for 100 women. What was the response?
After the very first edition, which we ran in-house in 2021, we sat down and accessed the process from pre-planning to execution and closing out. We found that, indeed, we had delivered an amazing programme. However, we saw there was a gap. We found that we could do much more and better with the right partners, support and collaborative effort going forward.

This enabled us to focus on our core, ensuring we had the women we needed. We accessed, monitored and approved the curriculum to ensure the entire three months delivered optimum value. You may want to ask if it came out better, and yes, it did. The level of exposure, assignments, case students, technical notes, and so on that was delivered by the faculty with cumulatively over 100 years of experience during the program was mind-blowing.

At the end of the three months, the 100 women came together for their certification and graduation ceremony in Lagos (Not all 100 met with the approved matrixes put in place needed to graduate), and 84 women received their certificates and were inducted into the 360 Woman Africa Women in Business MBA Alumni group for further support, mentorship and access to opportunities, while the application for the grant was then made open.

Women don’t feel confident enough to mention big money or negotiate harder for their worth like men; what tip can you give to women struggling with this?
Money or currency is an exchange for the value you deliver. Dear woman, if you are confident of the value you bring to the table, please put a good price on it. Your customers will come, and when they do, they will love you for the structure and processes you have put in place to enable a seamless and enjoyable delivery for them always.

What’s your number one business advice to today’s woman?
Never stop believing.

Can you share a few high/low points of running a non-profit, especially in Nigeria?
Highs would be every time I receive feedback online and in person on how much impact we are making. The most recent would be from the MBA programme last year. The telegram groups, the Game-changers Cohort, are fully charged and are waking up every day to build brands and businesses that will outlive generations. The entire 360 Woman Africa experience is always a daily high. Lows would be when we struggle to get approval or support for our women, but we move regardless. Thankfully, the lows are becoming lesser, and it is now becoming more interesting to see.

You have achieved a number of feats in just a little over a decade; what is your number one driver? What does success look like for 360 Woman Africa?
My number one driver would be my zeal to contribute my quota and indeed help make the world a better place to live in.

In what ways can businesses be sustained and remain relevant in today’s ever-changing world?
Businesses can be sustained and remain relevant via the following ways: set and follow through with ethical principles that govern your sector; build and engage value-driven culture; keep your eyes and ears on the customers and finally, build with the bigger picture in mind and never negotiate from a place of weakness.

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