By KEHINDE AJOSE
Just with the seed capital of N15,000, Tolulope Aladesuyi has built her costume jewelry business into a sought after enterprise in South West Nigeria. Two words describe her: vivacious and visionary. She is a young Nigerian woman whose tale will inspire you to yearn for greatness.
A graduate of Crop, Soil and Pest Management from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, she kicked off her venture, in 2011 during her national youth service. In this interview, she opens up on how she made her business capital back in 4 hours, 30 minutes, how women can make their mark in the society and lots more.
Tell us about your venture?
The Eso-Ara brand is associated with excellence and we are carving a unique niche in the beauty industry in Nigeria. Primarily we run an outfit that deals in the sales of fashion accessories and costume-jewellery as well as a growing chain of distributors who deal in the same products.
Beyond sales, we have a plush sense of beauty and unmatched customer service delivery; these things are responsible for our growing customer base and influence. Our business also powers the Make-A-Future initiative for teenagers.
Apart from the Esoara brand, I also run the MAKE-A-FUTURE (MAF) initiative – An initiative targeted at building visionary teenagers that will affect their world positively. Our vision at MAF is delivered through skill acquisition, peer mentoring and experience sharing.
These teenagers will in turn become youths very soon and I believe what we are doing at MAF is very profound in that we are imbibing the right ideals in our teenagers. We have taught over 200 teenagers in 2 cities of Nigeria three different skills ranging from cake making to snacks making and Ankara accessories training. We are currently planning something bigger this year to impact more teenagers.
What drives you?
I think the question should be ‘Who?’ God drives me. God is my main drive, the fact that I do not just want to live for me alone. The fact that the nation I live in is termed a third-world nation and there is a lot l can do to make her a better place. Am aware that there is nothing, I have- either tangible or intangible- that I haven’t been given and this makes me feel obliged to leave everyone better than I met them. The passion to be the change I seek is what drives me basically.
How can woman make their mark in the society?
Women can make their mark known in the society by first discovering themselves and knowing that there is something new they bring to the table. I personally believe womanhood is a blessing to the world.
The woman is blessed with the power to intuitively discern and see with a deeper meaning what others will just see casually. I believe the renaissance we seek in our nation will first start in the homes which will be championed by women with the support of men who love them. Women should know their place and stay there relevantly.
Yes am aware that women overtime have been seen as second-tier citizens and been placed in such positions and that’s where the place of discovery comes in. Women must consciously decide that they will do something different in their own sphere of influence regardless of their background or status.
Do women have limited opportunities?
It’s a yes and no answer for me. Yes, because the traditional society believes that the role of a woman should start and end in the home and even sometimes the organizational role she plays stems from her home making skills . Some women have no societal contribution or anything that puts them in the fore-front asides the home. This has affected the rate at which women explore new grounds. NO, because despite the odds the female gender is faced with, we can now see that women are achieving great heights and we have a few we can point to in our today. We have women who are giants in their fields and are doing amazingly well and also making meaningful impact. A big “Thank you” also to those fighting for women rights and empowerment, its outcome is evident in the role women play in our society today.
Howbeit, it’s really about the way an individual views it. Opportunities are everywhere and unlimited for everyone who chooses to see it that way, women inclusive.
What steps can the government take to curb unemployment?
As I said in a recent inter view when asked a similar question- A primary way the government can curb unemployment is by putting more active policies in place as regards the educational sector. Entrepreneurial skills and capacity building trainings should be included into the curriculum of our secondary schools. This would allow innovation set in and open up other new sectors. It’s obvious that what the present day education gives which is just ‘book knowledge’ is not enough to sustain people in real life situations. Entrepreneurial skills at secondary school level would allow people discover themselves early and will reduce pressure in the oil and gas and also the banking sectors. Conducive and well equipped environment for learning is also important.
Tell us about your giant strides as an entrepreneur?
There are few testimonies which are memorable to me. The first one being that I made my business capital in 4hours 30minutes on my very first outing. As at then, I knew little or nothing about the business. I am an employer of labour and I have so much more time to impact teenagers through our NGO, and do so other things. Another significant one being that the business capital I started with has grown in multiple folds and the business is empowering others few years after it was initiated. I have God to thank and all my special mentors and friends.
What is your take on the NIS recruitment exercise?
The NIS recruitment only brings to the fore the irritating and unfathomable present state of unemployment in our nation. However, I have heard it being said overtime that our challenge is not even unemployment but “unemployability”. The present day job seekers have been termed unemployable by employers because job seekers do not have the right skill set to perform excellently in the work place. This is what is responsible for the usual invitation of expatriates into our nation to take up jobs that should be ours. I honestly will like to stop here and just conclude that there is a space for everyone only if we position ourselves rightly.