Monday, 2nd October 2023

Subomi Plumptre: ‘Women must deliberately design their lives and stop seeking approval from others’

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
03 June 2023   |   4:20 am
Subomi Plumptre is championing financial prosperity among Africa’s middle class through her role as co-founder of Volition Cap (Nigeria) and Volition Blue (USA).

Subomi Plumptre

Subomi Plumptre is championing financial prosperity among Africa’s middle class through her role as co-founder of Volition Cap (Nigeria) and Volition Blue (USA). A graduate of Microbiology, she believes this socio-economic group is critical to driving economic growth in the region, and designs a fund management model that leverages traditional African cooperatives. Her innovative approach earned her a license from the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission, making her one of few female CEOs in the asset management industry. Before her entrepreneurship journey, Plumptre was a respected brand and marketing expert with over 20 years of experience. She reached the pinnacle of her career as Director at Alder Consulting where she curated Africa’s first research-based social media and brand reports. She published two books on social media and is an Adjunct Faculty member at the University of Lagos, where she teaches entrepreneurship. She is a CSC Leader (a global programme for exceptional senior leaders), a Forbes Business Council member, a Nigeria Leadership Initiative board member, and a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) mentor. Her foundation, The Subomi Plumptre Trust, was created to address challenges in education, health and culture. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion for entrepreneur and redefining status quo.

Share with us your career journey?
MY career journey has been interesting – a merger of the arts and sciences. You see, I am equally left and right brained. I am both creative and analytical and so, I have an appreciation for hard science and numbers, while retaining the capacity to create art. I started my professional career in music and biosciences. As a teenager, I led a band and was a member of a rap group. I also wrote and performed music for a film. Then, I bagged a microbiology degree and veered into market research and consulting. I spent 20 years building expert skills in strategy, product development, branding and digital marketing before pivoting to fund management in the last five years. Currently, I am an SEC-licensed fund manager, and the CEO of an asset management company.

You have two decades of experience that cuts across management, branding and marketing as well as finance. How has this helped you evolve?
I recommend the book, Range by David Epstein, to every parent of a multi-gifted child. As a child, my parents supported my gifts. They would attend musical concerts and encourage me to sing and perform. My dad bought my first guitar. I also have sisters who sing as well as a brother who’s a Nuclear Physicist. In my formative years, I was blessed with unwavering support to refine my innate talents and delve fearlessly into my diverse interests. The worlds of arts and sciences captivated me equally, and I was fortunate to never be forced into a limiting choice between the two.

Thus, I embraced the opportunity to attend science classes and delve into the fascinating realm of Microbiology, all while nurturing my profound love for the arts. Stepping into the realm of Alder Consulting immediately after completing my university education was an extraordinary turning point. It presented me with a gateway to cultivate expert proficiency across various disciplines while tackling real-life challenges faced by prestigious corporate entities and esteemed government institutions. It has been an exhilarating journey of growth and impact. Having multiple experiences means I can borrow principles from science for instance, to dig deep into financials. I can use my marketing skills to analyse a venture funding deck and the market potential of a product. As a manager, my musical writing skills help me bring order and structure to chaotic processes. Each experience has helped me evolve into a well-rounded professional.

Your goal as an entrepreneur is to stimulate financial prosperity among Africa’s middle class, how are you achieving this?
I co-founded a number of companies with Kola Oyeneyin – Volition Cap, Volition Coop, Volition Blue and Opportunik Global Fund. Together, they form a global venture and finance group helping honest and hardworking Africans and diasporans create wealth and achieve financial independence. My co-founder and I developed a unique Africa-born fund management model leveraging cooperatives. Today across our companies, we use local cooperation, global access and remittance investments to give the middle-class access to viable financial independence paths. Over the last three years, at least 45 per cent of our clients report they have achieved financial independence rates of between 25 to 100 per cent. Financial independence is a situation where the returns on your investments are enough to meet your daily expenses.

How are you championing economic growth through your work?
Through my work, I am helping families build education endowments so their children can attend the best universities. I am assisting diasporans transform remittances into investments and not just gifts. In doing so, they can create sustainable ways to finance family upkeep back home, as well as acquire local assets. I am also helping corporate professionals set aside seed capital so they can become entrepreneurs. And, I am teaching professionals who are planning to relocate, how to set up an investment nest egg first. Finally, I am empowering SMEs to scale through venture funding and building. This is significant because in spite of representing approximately 90 percent of businesses in Africa and contributing between 40 and 60 percent of the GDP in most developing countries, SMEs face up to a 421 billion dollars funding gap, according to the Africa Development Bank. Access to funding is one of the biggest challenges that SMEs face and through venture funding, I am able to help businesses scale and contribute my quota to reducing the gap. It is interesting that the World Bank says Africa is the only region in the world where more women than men choose to become entrepreneurs. This means Africa’s economic women will largely power growth and I am one of those women. All of these activities I have mentioned will have a net positive impact on the local and regional economy.

As one of the few female CEOs in the asset management industry, what challenges have you been confronted with and how are you able to surmount them?
The asset management industry has been quite welcoming, to be honest. There are numerous global support groups like Forbes Business Council, 100 Women in Finance, WIMBIZ, Global Institute for Evolutionary Women and so on. These groups provide a network of great sounding boards. The main local challenges include the normal pace of institutions and policies. You do the best you can, and also support the commendable efforts of regulators. Globally, I am black, African and a woman. So, in every room, there are racial and gender undertones. I simply speak up, face my business and demand respect.

With your passion in delivering financial prosperity, how are you living and fulfilling your dreams?
I am living my dreams through philanthropy and product creation. I love to impact the world through new businesses, and by helping others bring their impactful initiatives to life. I live by the words of Tupac Shakur, ‘I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.’

As a woman who has risen through the ranks and sits at the upper echelon in her industry, what advice do you have for other women seeking to rise up the ladder?
I advise women to be bold and seek help early. McKinsey’s ‘Women in the workplace 2022’ report reveals that only one in four C-suite leaders are women even though women occupy 50 percent of middle management roles globally. Women are women’s greatest allies; therefore, the idea that women don’t support other women is false. In my career, I have received some of the most glowing recommendations and reference letters from women. They are my loudest cheerleaders. Some go out of their way to send me platforms I should speak on or fellowships to apply for. Another piece of advice is to become the best in your field. When people, businesses and nations are in trouble, they call on the competent, no matter the gender.

How do you get inspired and stay motivated?
I listen to music a lot and attend concerts to fuel my inspiration. I also read, hike in beautiful parks and travel to new countries. But my greatest inspiration comes from spending time with God and my loved ones.

You run a foundation targeted at addressing challenges in health, education and culture, what has been the impact so far?
In the area of education, my foundation – Subomi Plumptre Trust – has given away 5,000 slots of my investment course. We have empowered thousands to attain their financial potential. We also actively endow school scholarships. When we provide a scholarship, it’s from primary school to university level. We are with our scholars for about 10 years. We insist on a cultural exposure programme for those we support. They read dozens of recommended books, and some travel abroad for the first time. According to UNESCO, in 2021 alone, nearly 244 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 18 were out of school in Sub-Saharan Africa. That’s an alarming figure. Together with my circle of influence, we’re trying to do something about it. In the area of health, we pay for the hospital bills of those who cannot afford to. While in culture, we created and funded the Unfiltered series on social media which encourages discussions about life and faith.

How best can more women embrace and get involved in leadership roles while living fulfilling lives in these changing times?
Women must deliberately design their lives and stop seeking approval from others. Many don’t know the entire infrastructure that supports successful female entrepreneurs. I tell people all the time, I am not a strong independent woman. I am very weak and I reject the resilience tag. I need people, and so I embrace help.

What is your life’s mantra?
‘Subomi, do what you need to do so you can afford to do what you want to do.’ I learnt this from my mentor, Leke Alder.