After many years of feeling stagnant in my legal career, I was desperate for a change. I wasn’t satisfied and realized I spent more time reading design and lifestyle blogs than writing briefs. Eventually, I started working for a boutique event services and design firm where I was able to explore my interests in writing and design. However, I learned that my journey isn’t unique. There are many Nigerian-American millennials who feel stuck in a career that isn’t satisfying. Especially, if their career was influenced by parents who were more concerned about status than fulfillment. However, I believe that everyone has a purpose and that purpose should be actualized. So, I wanted to start an interview series on Nigerian-American female entrepreneurs. I find it inspiring to learn about other entrepreneurs’ journey to reaching their potential. It’s not easy to realize you may be heading in the wrong direction, stop, evaluate, and turn around towards the right path. That’s why when others step out on faith to achieve their passions, I’m all in.
Feyi Odukoya is the Founder and Executive Director of Project Beautify You, Inc., a non-profit organization that focuses on highlighting the inner beauty of young women in the community. After being inspired by an eight-year-old who was battling self-esteem issues, she quit her career as an accountant and dedicated her time to building PBY, Inc. The mission of PBY, Inc. is to “create a generation of female leaders by helping [young women] develop a healthy sense of self-worth, confidence and purpose.” Noted for her achievements, Feyi became a Proctor & Gamble My Black is Beautiful National Ambassador and has been featured in O Magazine, Essence and Black Enterprise.
G&P: How did you come up with the concept for your non-profit?
PBY: Well, I’ve always had a desire to help people see themselves in a better light, but I never envisioned myself doing it in this type of way. When I was a sophomore in college, I had this “Aha! moment” or rather the Spirit telling me I was going to mentor girls. From there it became a burning desire to teach girls how to love themselves. Within that same week a business plan competition came about on campus, and I decided to enter. I used that opportunity to really map out my name, mission, vision, target market, etc. which all came to mind in less than 10 mins. I ended up placing first place in the competition and the rest led me to where I am now.
G&P: Wow! Once you received your purpose and direction you didn’t skip a beat on implementing it. Would you advise other female entrepreneurs to do the same once they get clarity on their direction?
PBY: Yea! I think the most important part is the clarity aspect. Once you‘re clear on what you‘ve been called to do there’s no excuse to not do it. So, yea, I think women should definitely have faith in the journey they are about to embark once they are clear about their assignment.
G&P: Describe Project Beautify You, Inc. in three words.
PBY: Sisterhood. Transformational. Loving.
G&P: What has been the greatest reward of starting your own non-profit?
PBY: Honestly, to see girls in the program make statements like “this program really taught me that I’m worth more than I put out” or “this program is amazing, I can see it going far.” Also, the comments of the parents and their appreciation for taking their daughter under [our] wing. It’s so awesome to really have an impact on someone’s life for the good and to have other people see a vision I barely saw years ago.
G&P: What has been the greatest challenge of starting your own non-profit?
PBY: Yes, so many challenges! I think one of the greatest things have been the funding aspect, learning how to run a company from ground up and getting into schools. With non-profits you always have to be able to sell why your program is a need amongst several other similar organizations and that’s something I’m learning right now.
G&P: I know. Entrepreneurs are the best learners! When you go through a challenge, what do you do to keep pressing forward?
But yes! Entrepreneurs are the best learners! We have to learn everything. LOL.
G&P: Relying on God is definitely key. That’s why it’s so important to have clarity about one’s purpose first, before starting the journey. Because it is not for the faint of hearts.
What is your morning routine like?
PBY: For my morning routine, I usually start my day with prayer, and afterwards go through my to do list that I created the night before to figure out what I’ll tackle first for the day.
G&P: What business icon would you like to shadow for a day?
PBY: Good question! I would probably want to shadow the Executive Director of Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani. I really admire the growth her organization has had since it’s launch and the amount of backing she has for her program. I’d love to see how she runs the program behind the scenes.
G&P: What have you learned in the past 24 hrs.?
PBY: I would say not being afraid to expand your territory in areas you didn’t plan for. My team is currently planning for our events for next year and a few of the meetings I’ve attended have made me realize the importance of keeping an open mind.
G&P: What is your cultural background?
PBY: I am Nigerian-American. Born and raised in Maryland, but my parents are from Nigeria.
G&P: Do you think your culture affects your business decisions?
PBY: Nope. I think if anything it’s the opposite. LOL. I believe I’m in a more nontraditional field for a Nigerian person.
G&P: Interesting perspective. I didn’t think of it that way. But it’s a positive thing, because everyone isn’t called to be a nurse, doctor, engineer or lawyer. Which is what I found out the hard way. LOL. That’s why having interviews with budding Nigerian-American entrepreneurs like yourself is important, so young women can feel confident walking in their nontraditional or unconventional purpose.
PBY: LOL. I wholeheartedly agree. My background is in Accounting, so I think I fit the mold beforehand, now not so much. LOL.
G&P: How has your cultural background influenced the person you are today?
PBY: The older I get the more I realize how much the Nigerian culture instilled so much respect for life and people into my system and also work ethic. There’s no such thing as “giving up” in our culture and I’m grateful for that. I’ve watched everyone around me work hard to get to where they are now and that has really shaped how I go about my day-to-day pursuit of life.
G&P: What advice would tell your 21 yr. old self?
PBY: Be patient. Cling to God and stay focused. Don’t let anyone waste your time and understand that your vision will require you to be clear about life and to make the right decisions.
1. Lagos or Abuja?
Lagos! I’ve never been to Abuja, so I’m bias. LOL
2. Amala or Iyan?
Iyan, definitely Iyan.
3. Coffee or Tea?
4. Instagram or Snap Chat?
That’s a tough one. LOL. I think I’ll go with Instagram. It’s quicker for me to scroll.
5. Celebrity Apprentice or Shark Tank?
Definitely, Shark Tank! So inspiring to watch people who made it from the show.