‘Women entrepreneurs face more rejection in gaining access to capital than men’
Kennie Akinyemi-Okomah is the founder of Change Agents, a non-profit organisation and philanthropists group, with a mandate to affect the world positively and empowering the less privileged. A passionate leader, with a long track record of successful management, she had an MBA in Finance from the University of North Alabama, USA. She has been in the oil and gas industry for almost 18 years and currently a Stocks and Equity leader. She is also the CEO of Temnnys Foods with its headquarters in Southern California USA, and branches in Lagos and Abuja. In this interview with Maria Diamond, Akinyemi-Okomah, who grew up in Lagos and hails from Ayedun Ekiti, spoke on the need to empower the less privileged, especially the girl child, single mums, orphans and unemployed graduates. She also talked about the challenges of being a female entrepreneur in Nigeria.
Tell us about Change Agents, what exactly is the thrust of the NGO?
We are a non-profit organisation with the goal of touching lives positively, starting from our immediate environment. We reach out to the unreached people, giving hope to the less privileged and sharing love. We empower people by enhancing their skills and provide business grants to business owners and starters, so that they can stand on their feet. It’s my way of giving back to society.
When was the NGO founded and who are your targeted audiences?
The organisation started in March 2016 and our our target audience are the less privileged, single mums, the girl child, anyone who needs help generally; be it emotional, spiritual, mental and even financial.
How much have you been able to achieve so far?
Quite a number of people have benefited from our NGO, both individuals and orphanages. Most recently, we visited the Maryland Orphanage Home in Gwagwalada, Abuja; we took relief materials to the orphans and had a time of fellowship with them. It was quite an inspiring one for us, seeing the lives God has rescued. We are not oblivious of the fact that it could have been any of us in such a situation. We have also empowered some ladies recently to start up their businesses; especially those whose husbands have left them and cannot meet their basic needs. We have also empowered unemployed graduates to start up businesses.
How do you follow up on beneficiaries to ensure they stay empowered?
We follow up on beneficiaries by supplying funds in phases at various levels as they start up. This is to ensure that they stay empowered for financial needs and avoid careless spending. We constantly check on other beneficiaries to know how they are doing and see where we can come in. We ensure to keep them active around us, especially on social platforms, and in case of any withdrawal, we quickly check to know what is wrong.
Considering how Change Agents is a non-profit organisation, how do you raise funds to execute your projects?
We don’t raise funds. This is one of the ways I give back and God has been faithful.
Having spent 18-year in the oil and gas sector, what prompted a diversion into food entrepreneurship?
The goal is to eventually be an entrepreneur full time. However, I chose food because it is a basic need of man. Truth is, under whatever circumstance, good or bad, people would eat and always eat. We can resist buying new clothes, electronics, etc, but it would be hard to resist hunger; knowing this reality prompted my switch into food entrepreneurship.
I have a great concern for Nigerians and their plights as it relates to high unemployment rate. This is an opportunity for me to actualise creating jobs thereby empowering Nigerians.
Tell us about Temnnys Foods, what kinds of food do you offer?
Temnnys Foods is a snack and beverage company with headquartered in Southern California. The idea is to make tasteful snacks and beverages that are non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) and gluten-free.
Do you have outlet in Nigeria at the moment?
All work is in progress to ensure we have a very successful launch in Lagos. The grand opening and launch party of the Temnnys Foods Lagos will take place on July 10, 2021, at Imperial Hall, Alausa Secretariat Ikeja.
As a woman in business, what is your biggest challenge?
I would have to say gaining access to capital for entrepreneurial endeavors is one of the top challenges for women in business. To have an idea is great, but accessing funding to implement is probably the biggest challenge you will face, especially, as a woman entrepreneur. It is difficult to pitch your idea and not get questioned in a way a man would never be. This is one of the biggest challenges that women entrepreneurs face; they encounter more rejection than men.
Sometimes they might be judged for the way they look, or for the way they dress. However, the key is to believe in your idea, work twice as hard to eradicate loopholes. This will make it difficult for ‘No.’
How do you manage your businesses in the USA and here in Nigeria?
This is where we get to appreciate the beauty of technology where the world is connected as a small village. We have a very competent work force that oversees the operations in Nigeria and reports back to me on a daily base; they are goal and result oriented. However, the idea is also to frequent Nigeria as much as possible.