‘Women are equipped to lead the economy’
Shade Ladipo’s business background has really rubbed off on her, as she started developing interest in entrepreneurship right from secondary school. The urge to carve a niche for herself has seen her delving into different fields of endeavour. Presently, as the Chief Executive Officer, Avienti Destination Management Company, Executive Director, WeConnect International, Nigeria, And World Shaper Of The World Economic Forum (WEF), all she desires is supporting and providing a platform for women to be adequately equipped, so they can succeed in the business world
While some people say it is a calling, others declare that she is driven by passion.
However, on our first meeting with Shade Ladipo, CEO, Avienti Destination Management Company, Executive Director, WeConnect International In Nigeria and World Shaper of the World Economic Forum, the impression was that she desires that women do well in business and be given their due respect, as human beings.
Unarguably, Shade is established in her business concern. She started Avienti Destination Management Company by employing one worker, today, however, the company has grown big enough to employ level 18 members of staff, with two offices in Lagos and Abuja.
Up to 2015, she was the Vice-Chairman of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Nigeria when she stepped down to do other things, though she asserts that she is still a part of the organisation.
WeConnect gives her the satisfaction of seeing women do well and actualise themselves in business. WeConnect, she explained, is a non-profit organisation, which is based in the U.S., and as the executive director, she heads the Nigerian branch. She said the organisation aims to give the Nigerian woman the opportunity to bid for jobs. “We realise that it is difficult for them to grow economically or compete globally or locally,” she explained. “We work with big organisations that have the capacity to give them opportunity to bid for jobs. We have various training for the women all through the year. We get the big businesses to mentor the younger women or upcoming businesses.”
In her view, a woman should have no difficulty establishing her own business. “A woman could do well and build a business with a sound foundation,” she said. “The woman is equipped to lead the economy, and even the banks say so. A bank would prefer to give loan to a woman, because she is more likely to pay back than a man, who may default. The woman could, therefore, be said to have integrity.”
On what appears to be holding women back, she attributed it to lack of courage.“An average woman is afraid of taking the step to succeed because she is scared or worried,” she stated. “The single woman is scared that success may take the chances of her finding a life partner. The married woman is worried that she may not be able to juggle home, family and a highly successful business all at the same time. So many things hold a woman back.” She believes that many women do not build businesses with strong foundations.
She said: “It should not be about serving yourself. If you go into a business with the aim that it provides money to fuel the family’s car, you are running a Mom and Pop Shop.
“Rather, the woman should aim to run a company that stands the test of time,” she advised. “There is nothing wrong with starting small, but someone who has set out to commit time, money and energy to building a business should establish nothing short of an empire.”
Another challenge for the woman in business is funding and the right amount of training.“Some are not experienced or qualified to run a business. So, at WeConnect, we train them on Human Resources, Accounting and Tax.”
Shade, as she is fondly called, started business while still in the secondary school. This is aside the fact that she was born into a family known for establishing a sustainable indigenous company in the country.
She attended Government College, Shagamu, Ogun State. “I was enterprising. I was a boarding student, but I was given only one set of provision to take to school. And because I was popular, what I was given was never enough to go round. So, I was never satisfied with what I was given. I knew that I had to work hard,” she recalled.
So, she began selling provisions to fellow students. “I took them from my grandmother’s shop and any money that was left after I had paid my grandmother, belonged to me. I used the money to buy more provisions for my friends,” she said.
While in her second year at the University of Lagos, she began a radio show called the XG or Extraordinary Generation. In her fourth year, the university started its own radio station, and she was one of the pioneer staff. Untiring Shade also worked with MTV.
She was still a student, when she volunteered to work for the United Nations, though there was no pay. “But I enjoyed the travels that came with it,” she recollected. And it was the travelling that gave her the vision to form the travel agency, Avienti Destination Management Company.
She is no stranger to charity, as she pointed out that she did quite some giving at the university. “My friends and I used to raise money for orphans,” she said.
As a Global Shaper, she is still involved in charity. She was one of the 10 people, who upgraded some schools in Lagos, when the Ebola virus visited.
How can women in business succeed during depression?
“They can collaborate with others to maximise opportunities,” she explained. “For example, if those in oil and gas can come together, they can bid and get a job, which rarely comes, but is so huge in yields whenever it does. The others, she said, can acquire other skills, if their jobs are not in demand.
How can women cope with stress?
She said: “The reality is that it is stressful being a woman. She wants to manage her home well, she wants to take care of her children, as well as, have a successful business. However, having a partner who cheers her on would be helpful.”In the pipeline in her dreams for women is the setting up of farms owned by women across the country.
“It is a business for me to run it. They have the money to invest, although they have not the time or it may not have occurred to them that farming is a viable venture.“When they bring the money, we will set it up, run it for them and hand over after three years.’
What motivates her?
She said: “I look at other people’s achievement and I feel inspired. I envy nobody, I am aware that there are people who although are younger than I am, but are making more money. I know that there are older people who are richer, but I also know that I do better than some people.
“I am happy to help people. My grandfather, Chief Lisabi, inspires me because the business he set up before Independence is still thriving. He was Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s friend. He set up the Bribes Corners Association to fight corruption. When I hear of all what he did, I want to do more.
“My grandmother is also a major influence. She never married after my grandfather passed on before the Independence. And single-handedly, she raised six children. So, I ask myself, ‘why can’t I?
As a woman who is the chairman of an indigenous company, she has shown me that a woman can be very strong. Some family businesses have imploded not long after the man passed on. The business is still in the hands of the family.”
What’s her view on mentors?
“Some of them encourage you, while some do not know that their attitudes amount to discrimination. Do not allow anyone to project fears on you, and dream bigger. Girls should look for people who inspire them.
“You do not have to meet your mentors face-to-face. Most of mine are very busy people. They include, Mrs. Ibukun Awosika, Ndidi Nwuneli and Mo Abudu. Mo Abudu does not know that she mentors me. I just follow their work ethics.
“My grandfather established Lisabi Mills in the 1930s and the company is still running. My grandmother is doing a great job at 93 years old. So, I guess I have the background.”
As a travel agent, she advised that government should invest more in tourism because the dollar issue is making Nigerians look inwards to enjoy the fledgling tourist spots in the country.
So, what does she like about herself?
“I take correction. I believe that I don’t know it all. I don’t like people around me saying, ‘yes sir.’ I like them to challenge me.”