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Onome Odometa: ‘Women should never compromise when it comes to investing in self’

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
10 September 2022   |   4:34 am
I have always had a fascination for the arts and entertainment space ever since I was a young child. I participated in the theatrical and entertainment events at my school from kindergarten to the university level.

Onome Odometa

Onome Odometa is a global and visionary leader in the entertainment, social enterprise, wealth management, and fashion industries. She is the founder and CEO of Hedge Productions, a leading independent film and television production company that is fast emerging as an international entertainment platform that promotes inspiring African stories. Odometa is an alumnus of INSEAD, Business school, France where she attended the Management Acceleration Programme. She also attended the Leading Businesses Into The Future Programme at the London Business School, UK. She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Linguistics from Delta State University in Nigeria. Her dedication to helping those in need led Odometa to found and chair the Onome Aid foundation, a social enterprise advocating against abuse, poverty and lack of proper education while promoting employment. She has also demonstrated a unique ability to run large organisations while helping and inspiring hope through philanthropy. With over 10 years of experience in education, fashion, beauty, entertainment, sales, retail, and private wealth management advisory, and fundraising, she has established a clear leadership track record. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion and growth in the entertainment space, being a wealth management expert and philanthropist.

Take us through your career journey in the entertainment and social enterprise space.
I have always had a fascination for the arts and entertainment space ever since I was a young child. I participated in the theatrical and entertainment events at my school from kindergarten to the university level. After university, I pursued my passion for arts as a fashion model for a while before going into the corporate world to begin my career in investments and wealth management. But, my desire for entertainment was like a burning bush – kept calling. Whilst I was still working full time as a corporate executive, I founded my production company – Hedge Production with the objective of becoming a leading independent film and television production company; a global entertainment platform, telling and promoting quality African stories. In 2019 we produced our maiden feature film, titled Nemesis – which was to test our abilities.

And we immediately followed with the second in 2020 – The Therapist that was screened in cinemas all across Nigeria, and is currently being screened on Amazon prime videos, an early success story to my delight and that of my team at Hedge. In 2021, we produced a documentary ‘Unheard, Unseen’ – a soon-to-be-released documentary on the effects of domestic violence in a home showcasing real life stories, incidence, and impact of domestic violence on women and children across Africa.We are currently finalising our latest production -‘Devil Is A Liar’ which is yet to be released.

Having worked in different spheres, how have the experiences you have garnered shaped you?
Life’s teachings and my professional experiences have made me extremely audacious, solution-oriented, more proactive, and resourceful. The entrepreneurial spirit/mindset in me was rebirthed after my management and entrepreneurship course at INSEAD managerial development school in France. This training shaped me in both my professional and entrepreneurial journey. As an entrepreneur the spirit of being able and willing to walk uncharted waters, if necessary, all alone comes naturally; backed by resilience because there will always be setbacks.

With your independent film and TV production house, focused on promoting African stories, what has been the impact and how are you continually driving your cause?
The movies we have made have been able to educate people, create and spread awareness, and bring to the fore societal issues with the hope that some actions are taken to reduce their incidence. Each of our stories/movies will be available for a global audience. We also intend to execute projects that ensure the continuation and preservation of African history and culture. We prioritise quality and thus invest heavily in the projects that we execute. We partner with both local and international stakeholders who share the same goal and vision as ourselves to tell better quality stories.

You are big on philanthropy, what influenced this passion?
My empathetic nature drove me to establish Onome Aid Foundation, a social enterprise. Our main focus is human development and empowerment for women and children to better the society at large. We advocate against and provide solutions to unemployment, abuse, poverty, and lack of proper education, through innovation, human development, and empowerment to better society at large. Our goal is to empower and create opportunities with the right environment for women and children, which is key to a developing and thriving society.

Share with us some of your activities through your foundation.
We have executed a number of programmes but noteworthy are perhaps the ones that have impacted the greatest number of beneficiaries. We had a Portable Water Project as poor access to improved water continues to be a major contributor to Africa’s high child mortality. The future of most African children is greatly affected either due to death resulting from bad water or having to be made to travel long distances in search of drinkable water and thereby not being able to attend classes with their peers. Also, the risk of maternal mortality during childbirth is highest in areas where there is low or no access to clean water. In a bid to help reduce the number of child and maternal mortality due to lack of clean water, Onome Aid Foundation embarked on a solarised clean/portable water project, to provide drinkable water across communities in Africa.

The first phase of this project, which commenced in December 2021 and was commissioned in June 2022, provided portable water for two communities in Nigeria; Ogun and Oyo States giving access, for the first time, to portable water for the over 500 inhabitants of both communities. We also had the Women Empowerment Programme (WEP); currently, we are providing full scholarship and sponsorship for 20 women to empower them to be financially independent and be better individuals for themselves and the society through WEP in the technology, culinary mastery, and fashion design industries. Our Food Outreach Programme started out following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. We witnessed the hardships families faced, especially children, and women, and thus, embarked on a food outreach to support struggling families with food items, to enable them have an unforgettable joyous Christmas celebration. This programme started in 2020, and in 2021, we provided food items to over 1,000 families comprising of over 8,000 individuals (men, women, and children) for the festive season. We also held Breast Cancer Screening in 2021 during the Breast cancer awareness month (October). We provided full sponsorship for women for mammograms and breast screening to help advocate for a healthier life for women.

What do you consider a high point of your career?
My career trajectory took a favourable turn when I transitioned into the investment management industry. I have been able to assist customers in preserving and growing their wealth; by helping them work towards financial freedom, and mentoring them on financial planning, and the opportunities for strategic investments. One of the many success stories I have had in my career is a client who was a full-time housewife; she had lost her husband. Luckily, her husband had a life insurance policy, and the payout was made to her. We were able to assist her in planning and investing the money she received. This generated periodic interest which became the family’s source of cashflows, and which she uses to pay her children’s school, purchase vehicles, and meet all needs for her children and herself – without any hitch – even after the passing of her husband – who was the only breadwinner of the family. Even in the corporate world, capitalism with a heart was my mantra.

As a wealth management expert, what are some of the tips you have for women concerning financial freedom?
I always say to women, set a financial goal, invest in income-producing assets such as treasury bills, bonds, or instruments that pay dividends, plan expenses prudently, and budget wisely. The ultimate objective should be building your investments to a level where your expenses are lower than your investment income – and therefore, you do not have to depend on wages or salary to survive and meet the basic necessities of life. That gives ultimate optionality.

You have worked in various sectors delivering leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation in your distinct roles, what has been the major challenge for you in the course of your work?
When you are young, people often wonder if you really deserve the reward for your hard work. It is as though success is only for people at a certain age and you have to be somewhat older to benefit from certain things. Pay your dues so you speak. It was a challenge for me because people were always surprised at my intentional accomplishments given my young age. Especially given Africa is a very patriarchal society, and I therefore often, had to work twice as hard to get the same opportunities as a man.

A lot of young women struggle with building their career due to stereotypes, how would you advise them?
In the workplace, be big on creating value, and communicate the value you created, to enable you to capture that value. Be audacious, as this will put you in positions and rooms you never imagined because your opinion will matter. Have a problem-solving mindset. If you work in an organisation, look for those areas where there are problems. Do not shy away from problems or responsibility – these are the opportunities for you to showcase your abilities, talents, and realise your potential. Problem solvers become indispensable to organisations. Believe you are the best person for the job. Let go of doubt and trust in yourself. Do not forget yourself, or focus on and get consumed by situations around you, and never compromise when it comes to investing in yourself.

How do you get inspiration and stay motivated?
Freedom to do what I want to do, freedom to afford whatever I want, and to go wherever I want to go. It’s this same mindset that motivates me to empower people to attain a life of freedom.

What is your life mantra?
I am worthy and deserving of a good life. That is why I believe people should have the good life they desire.