By JOSEPHINE AGBONKHESE
In 2005 when she suffered a first-degree burn in her booming bakery and was grounded for two years, nobody imagined Bawo Onabanjo would ever step a toe in a bakery as her hands were practically rendered useless. Today, the Microbiologist turned Event Management Consultant isn’t only back to her first love but also teaching others every single skill she is adept at. Bawo who is married to Dr. Stephen Olumuyiwa Onabanjo, a medical practitioner and pastor, speaks on her forthcoming training holding in Lagos from 22nd through 27th of February, 2016, in this interview, and much more.
What inspired the shift from Microbiology to business?
I actually delevoped passion for business while still a teenager. My father was an agricultural consultant. He was a Director at the Nigerian Institute For Oil Palm Reasearch, NIFOR, in Benin City, Edo State. So, we had gardens around the house which I tended and grew to love. After practicing as a microbiologist and management consultant for some few years, I discovered I had passion not just for gardening but baking, events management and empowering people.
Tell us about the idea behind your forthcoming training…
It’s actually a one week empowerment training in which we will be teaching different vocational skills such as bead making, cake & bread making, balloon artistry, dress making, graphic design & photography, and more. I believe that national transformation starts with impacting one person at a time, and women are the best people to begin with because empowering a woman means empowering a family and nation in general.
This is the second edition. The first edition was done in June last year and it was so impactful that participants were empowered to start up their own businesses which are thriving today. That was however a one-day event. The training has been extended to seven days this time because of the feedbacks we got.
As a Pastor and entrepreneur who has experienced good and bad times, this training is an expression of gratitude to God for the privileges of life which I have enjoyed. I’m easily moved by people’s inadequacies, hence the reason I want to be a blessing.
Our target is a 100 women, and after the training, I’m trusting God to give them start-up tools, to enable them start their businesses. To achieve this, I’m also trusting God for sponsorships. To that effect, we’ve written to corporate organizations and banks, including Diamond Bank, since we, sometime ago, opened its 100 account, a special account, for our women.
You’re training people to be entrepereneurs. For you, what was it like starting your business and how has it been?
It was not easy, I must say; but today, I’m grateful. I had just left my job as a Microbiologist with the Ondo State Water Corporation because I needed to join my husband in Sokoto. That was over 10 years ago. So, in Sokoto, I started with bread making and was using my hand to mix manually because I didn’t have a mixer at that time. I had an electric oven and was always stuck when there was no light. I was practically making the best home-made bread in Sokoto back then. It remains a memorable experience.
Later on when we moved to Lagos, I expanded the business but eventually experienced a fire incident from which I came out with a first-degree burn. I was hospitalized for almost a year and was grounded for two years. It happened in 2005 when an engineer was servicing one of my ovens in the bakery and we didn’t know there was gas leakage somewhere. So, immediately we struck a match, the whole place was engulfed in flames.
It was while recuperating that I began to appreciate nature and flowers the more. The sight of a rose unbudding really ministered to me and contributed to my healing. It was during that period I got the inspiration for my events consulting firm, Celebration Gardens International.
Celebration Gardens started in 2008, out of a desire to create an excellent platform for social interaction, networking, and also meet the ever increasing demand for exquisite and cozy halls for social ceremonies like weddings, birthdays, bookclubs and conferences.
What’s the greatest lesson life has taugt you?
I’ve learned over the years that passion cannot die. My hands were almost useless and it took the efforts of physiotherapists and God for me to be able to use them again, but here I am, still baking, decorating and using my hands for different vocations. That’s because I didn’t give up.
What immediate action would you take if you were President of Nigeria?
I will declare agricultural revolution that will lead to food security, huge exportation of agricultural produce and massive employment of labour.
I will partner with countries that are accomplished in providing alternative power like solar panels and wind energy. I will wage a massive campaign against unemployment because it ahs resulted in increase in social vices like prostitution, fraud, arm robbery, kidnapping. I will launch a nation wide job creation revolution. Also, I will reinforce War Against Indiscipline, WAI.