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‘If you’re not strong and resilient, you might give up just before hitting gold mine’

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Mrs. Olamide Alabi- Jacobs is the Chief Executive Officer of Jane Jacobs, a fashion line business and online magazine known as Mspreneur. Her urge to become self-dependent spurred her to quit her job as a banker for a fashion business after five weeks of working. The dynamic entrepreneur and visionary leader, in this interview with GuardianWoman, spoke about how she delved into several businesses and teaching to impact leadership principles among people, as well as her successes.

When you quit banking for fashion business, what gave you the assurance that you would be as successful as you are now?
Honestly, I was more focused on me being happy and I wasn’t cool with the fact that I was someone else’s staff. I had been making money as a student so I was positive enough that I could achieve what I was getting in the bank all by myself.

How were you able to start up your business?
Setting up business was quite easy for me because I am aware of my environment and I am able to identify the needs. Being able to meet up with needs has enabled me to convince customers because people pay for quality. As for support, I think everyone around me at the time believed in me and knew I could make it happen.

How long did it take you to make the business stand on its own?
Oh, definitely it is one thing to have an idea and it is a different thing to have a business structure, which I totally lacked. But as the business grew, I knew I had to go further in learning business structures because without it no business can stand on its own.

How have you been able to sustain your business to this level?
I think it is tenacity. I actually took a break from the fashion business to focus on my coaching skills and to restructure. By January, my partners and I will be launching a fashion manufacturing company where entrepreneurs and start-ups can make garments seamlessly.

In essence, what does it take to become a successful entrepreneur, what’s the secret?
There is no secret; you just have to be willing to be one. If you do not have an entrepreneurial spirit and you want to do it because others are succeeding in it, you might just get frustrated because as entrepreneurs we take risks, we lose money before we make money sometimes and if you are not strong and resilient you might give up just before you hit the gold mine.

Being an entrepreneur also means your brain is working round the clock on how to make progress. It is stressful but fun.

You sit on the board of a notable Microfinance bank, how have you been coping doing that with other businesses?
Oh. That’s easy, because I’m not required to run the day-to-day affairs. I only attend board meetings; committee meetings and all these are done online, thanks to technology.

Despite being a successful businesswoman what pushed you to attending the John Maxwell Leadership Programme?
Honestly, I went to Daystar Leadership Academy for a business course, hoping to get a business secret or whatever, but I got more than that. I discovered that everything in life, from business to relationships, is shaped by Leadership skills and I wanted to know more. John Maxwell is one of the highest authorities on Leadership and knowing me well, I love to get the best so I went for it.

That was how I got the certification to become a coach, after which I have attended several trainings and I am so addicted to learning now that I listen to transformative and informative teachings on YouTube.

In fact, I tell my coaching clients that the YouTube platform is a University on its own, so there is no excuse not to learn as learning is a very important part of my life and if anyone wants to be successful in life, they must learn.

How would you assess the Nigerian government’s approach to entrepreneurship, particularly among the youths?
I don’t want to make any comment about the Nigerian government because my opinion may not be well received, but I believe things will get better. However, I tell the few youths I have trained to forget the Nigerian government if they want to become entrepreneurs and focus on getting help from friends and family to start small or get a job and save to fund their dreams.

There are also lots of foundations and independent bodies that give out Grants. I know people personally who have gotten grants based on their innovative ideas and strategy to implement.

Do you think that encouraging women towards enterprise will reduce the poverty rate in Nigeria?
Definitely. My belief is that if you empower a woman you empower a household. Empower women you empower a community. Women are not necessarily better but they see things differently.

I have seen different categories of women, from the ones who sell roasted corn or plantain on the streets to the ones who sell textiles and so on, they have seen their kids through the necessary levels of education. In fact, I was watching an interview of Mrs. Alakija and T.D Jakes; she talked about the training her mother gave her and her mother being a textile trader. In most cases women are better managers and we always look out for the family.

I am sure if you ask five random families about their mom’s contributions to the home, you will discover that most women work very hard to provide for the family.

You hosted a women’s conference in New York, what has it achieved?
This is the one thing in my life that I did with fear because I have worked all my life in the fashion industry and I only started this journey of public speaking in 2016, but with the help of my friends Yemisi Adepoju and Tope Mark-Odigie, it was a successful event. The conference focused on enlightening women on how they needed to take ownership of their minds, put it to great use to achieve their dreams and not allow the issue they face steal their peace.

The most important achievement of the conference was that most women found out that their pain was not exclusive to them because we standing before them had gone through similar pains or worse, which we overcame and giving them the hope that they can also overcome. It was an informative, emotional and rewarding conference, all thanks to God.


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