Sometimes when you’re looking for inspiration and encouragement, you don’t have to look far. Jumoke Dada is what I call a professional entrepreneur. Growing up and even now, I look up to my older cousin, because she’s equally a dreamer and a doer. You don’t often find people who can dream up the ideas and execute them with passion and precision while effectively balancing the two. Jumoke has learned how to do just that. Sometimes, it amazes me how much she can get done within 24 hrs. I wonder if my days are shorter, because I’m still learning how to get things done while still making it look effortless. I’ve learned how to be a Girlboss from her and I hope you do too.
G&P: You were pretty young when you graduated from college, what was your first job and did your age affect your career?
JD: Well, I was young when I started college (at 16), because I skipped a year of school. I think starting young (in my case) was interesting, because although I could handle the school work, I wasn’t clear on what I wanted to be my major. I always struggled between being very creative and very analytical; therefore, it took me some time to declare a major. When I did declare, the logical side of my brain won and I decided to pursue a STEM degree. I graduated with a Computer & Information Sciences degree from Temple University to be exact.
I believe making a decision was the hardest part, but once I did everything fell into place. I was recruited by a company before I graduated; therefore, I had a job waiting for me after graduation. I was always a mature and responsible person so I believe that I transitioned well into the workforce. I don’t believe my age affected my career at all.
G&P: Why did you decide to start in a STEM field instead of a creative field?
JD: I love the arts and all things creative. I always thought that I would work in entertainment or law; however, there were a series of events that led me to the decision. I distinctly remember interning at a popular hip hop magazine in NY and when it was over, I realized that I didn’t want to work in the music industry after all. Although marketing came naturally for me, I knew that I would have to utilize that skill in another way one day. The following semester I looked at my classes and noticed that I was strong in STEM classes, so I began looking at career options in that space. Both of my parents worked in the medical field, so although I thought it was great, I knew that I did not want to go that route. It came down to choosing engineering or computer science so I went with the latter. Looking back I see how God was directing me the whole time.
G&P: So your internships helped steer you in the career path you thought was best for you. So, fast forward a couple of years after your first job. You ended up being featured in Black Enterprise for your real estate success, started Signature RED, a technology and marketing company specializing in women-targeted marketing and founded Project ALOE, an initiative geared towards high school girls going to college. Describe how you transitioned from Computer Science to Expert Entrepreneur?
JD: It was God that directed me to where I should be.
My college experience really played a major role in my development. After college, I worked as an application developer / technologist for years before coming to a point where I wanted to move away from coding and do something that would allow me to interact more with people. I remember needing a creative outlet and wanting to move back to New York. I started applying for jobs but nothing panned out so I thought about alternatives.
I bought my first home after college and I referred a number of people to my real estate agent. One day the light bulb went off and I decided to get my license so that my friends could use me as their agent. I set my mind to it, took the classes, passed the exam and began selling real estate part-time while working in I.T. Prior to getting my real estate license, I never had an interest in networking, but I needed to meet new people, so I started going to young professional events. As I met people, I noticed that I naturally connected with women and, like me, many of them had side-hustles. My marketing instincts and training from selling homes kicked in and when I decided to give entrepreneurship a try, I decided that I wanted to focus on women-targeted marketing. Eventually I moved away from I.T., stopped selling real estate and focused on Signature RED. In the beginning, I built a portfolio by hosting “Legally AMBITIOUS” educational networking events for women but in 2013 my inner geek re-awakened after learning about opportunities for women with STEM degrees so I began incorporating more tech services into my business. Today, I do technology and marketing consulting.
I’ve always enjoyed working with women and girls. In 2010, I decided that I wanted to do something to give back to girls specifically and that’s how Project ALOE came about. Project ALOE is a beauty drive and send-off event to help girls be fit, fab and focused for college. During the summer months, we collect hair supplies, cosmetics, and toiletries for college-bound girls and invite them to an event where they receive advice about campus life from beauty, hair, and fitness experts before receiving care packages. After hosting the annual drive for 5 years, I applied for 501c3 status with 2 other women and founded Signature RED Cares. Project ALOE is now its main program.
G&P: Wow, you’ve taken different avenues with your entrepreneurial pursuits. How have you been able to balance your intellectual and creative energies without burning out?
JD: I definitely don’t have a straight career path and I love that fact. As far as energy is concerned, God keeps me. And as far as balance is concerned… I play A LOT. Believe it or not, I manage my time and projects pretty well and everything falls into a bucket of time throughout the year.
G&P: How do you stay motivated?
JD: I’ve always been a self-starter and motivated by possibilities. It’s not always easy to stay that way so when I need a break or getaway, I take it. I am also a woman of faith. I start my day with quiet time with God. Each day is a gift and if I’m not on the right path, I need Him to tell me. I know that I have a purpose otherwise I wouldn’t still be here so if God has given me gifts, talents, dreams, who am I to say that I won’t use them?
G&P: I totally agree! Each day is a gift given for us to continue pursuing our God-given purpose. What is your evening routine and how do you unwind?
JD: Each evening is different so I don’t have much of a routine but if I’m not working or at a board meeting, I spend time with special people or just relax on my couch.
G&P: Where is your favorite place to travel?
JD: Nigeria with South Africa as a close second. Africa is poppin’!
G&P: It is! I haven’t travel to South Africa yet, but it’s definitely on my list. What business icon would you like to shadow for a day?
JD: She’s not a business icon but definitely Michelle Obama. Oprah would be a close second. Both are such smart, savvy, fun, poised and generous women.
G&P: How has your cultural background influenced your business decisions or entrepreneurial endeavors?
JD: I’m somewhat of an odd ball in terms of my immediate family because for the most part, everyone works in a STEM field. It wasn’t until my uncle visited from Nigeria last year that I saw that I have some of his qualities. He’s an entrepreneur and his mind is always going but he’s also very laid back. The work ethic that my parents have is unbelievable. They do what they have to do and never complain and they have brilliant minds and a lot of faith. All in all, I believe that it has affected me in that I’m a resilient and hardworking individual who is also very grounded. I also know that if God says walk away from everything, I would have to do it.
G&P: What have you learned in the past 24hrs?
JD: God has my back and He is enough. He doesn’t my help to accomplish anything. In the past 24 hrs., He has reminded me that His timing is perfect.
G&P: What would you tell your 21yr. old self about staring a business?
JD: To my 21 yr old self, I would say embrace your geekish ways and pay close attention to how God speaks to you and trust His leading. Pray HARD, get a mentor, and keep coding.
A) Youtube or Periscope?
B) South Africa or Ghana?
Never been to Ghana. It’s on my #DadatheExplorer list
C) Philly or NYC?
D) Wealthy or Famous?
E) Fleek Makeup or Fleek Shoes?
To learn more about Jumoke Dada check her out at JumokeDada.com.