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.
I don’t have any biological sisters, but I do have sisters. Growing up, I used to beg my parents to have a daughter, as if they could just pick one up from the store after work like Chinese takeout. Being the eldest, I already had two brothers who helped me explore my tomboy tendencies by climbing trees and practicing the latest WWF signature moves, but I also wanted a sister. I wanted someone to help me experience being a girl. A sister to complain to about dish duty and cooking Hamburger Helper for the umpteenth time. To dream about our celebrity crushes and what to wear to this or that school dance. However, after having three kids, my mom wasn’t impressed by my childhood desires and the dream died. So, I thought.
Along the years, I met different women from different experiences, and realized that God remembered my desire from long ago and gave me more sisters than I could imagine. Joycee is one of them.
Joycee Awojoodu is the founder and creator of Oríkì Group, a luxury skincare brand that has expanded to salon and spa services. The skincare line focuses on products fused with natural and organic ingredients for the sophisticated, health conscious client. Each product is created in artisanal batches free of additives, parabens and sulfates. The who’s who in the fashion and style industry are catching on to this luxe brand. Even U.S. based fashion blogger Claire from the Fashion Bomb Daily has been spotted at Oríkì. The luxury brand is proudly based and thriving in Lagos, Nigeria.
G&P: What does Oríkì mean?
OG: It means origins, your crown and inspiration in Yoruba.
G&P: So, initially you moved to Nigeria from the states for your youth service. What inspired you to stay and start a business?
OG: I actually moved to Nigeria for an internship in the power sector because I had this budding and growing passion for my home although I had never been to Nigeria before. Once I started the internship, the team I worked with encouraged me to do youth service because in Nigeria it is a requirement to work in many places.
G&P: Ok, nice. So, while interning there the opportunities inspired you to stay. The power sector is a very specialized industry. What inspired you to transition from that to start Oríkì?
OG: For me, the power sector was always the industry I worked in from University days. So when I transitioned to Nigeria, it made sense to me to continue on in that sector especially, because it is a sector that needs an abundance of work to function properly. But innate within all of us is also a passion and as I call it your God -given destiny. That is where ORÍKÌ comes in.
G&P: I completely agree, It’s definitely time to put Africa on the map in a positive way. That’s part of the reason why I started my blog and even this series highlighting African female entrepreneurs who are succeeding in business legitimately, not through 419. LOL.
Describe Oríkì with three words.
OG: Proud, African, Luxury
G&P: Describe your morning routine.
OG: I wake up at 630 am every morning and first and foremost spend some time in prayer and worship. Afterward, I head to the gym for approx 1.5 hours and then its back home to get ready for work. In the car ride, I always outline all the necessary tasks for the day before I get into the office.
G&P: You mentioned prayer and worship as the first things you do, do you believe your faith and relationship with God has influenced your business decisions and where you are today?
OG: Drastically. In fact, it is the foundation of my business. It is the reason that I wake up everyday – to do God’s will. I am so committed to honoring Him and ensuring that I fulfill the destiny and purpose He has placed on my life.
G&P: Living on purpose is definitely motivating. When you know the direction you are suppose to go it can calm down any fears and energize your soul to become a positive influence to your generation.
What would you say is the greatest reward of being an entrepreneur?
OG: The greatest reward to me is impact. When you build something from inception you have a chance to influence and impact people around you, the business and the overall value chain. The impact could be anything from empowering and motivating your staff, to inventing new technology that changes the lives of many or even bringing exposure to a sector or country when there wasn’t exposure previously. Impact is limitless when you are an entrepreneur.
G&P: That’s true. Impact is limitless, but what would you say is the biggest challenge?
OG: Wow, great question. I would say for me personally it has been the lack of stable infrastructure. That is a common challenge in Nigeria.
G&P: I’ve heard that it can be a challenge. Can you give an example of how the current infrastructure has affected your business and what suggestions would provide to improve the infrastructure?
OG: The lack of stable electricity has caused s to supplement power needs with the use of a diesel generator which is quite expensive especially considering that we are open 7 days a week and also have a staff house that is powered during the night time.
G&P: What’s one thing you don’t know that you want to learn about your business?
OG: Great question, because its been on my mind a lot lately to become an expert at every aspect of my business. While the ORÍKÌ product range was the inception of the business and my passion, ORÍKÌ Group comprises of a luxury spa, Halo Hair Clinic, Men’s Grooming parlor and Scents by ORÍKÌ, a hand-carved candle line. I know almost every aspect of the business, but I am also slowly learning spa services – not to ever execute them on customers but rather just to have the knowledge.
G&P: Wow so many divisions! More strength to your elbows! Lol. It looks like you are rapidly learning because your business is bustling.
OG: So, I have to be honest, I haven’t had a day off in months. I’ve been at work everyday, because as a new business I’ve had to put my ALL into it and where many different hats. With that being said time off for me is best enjoyed in pure relaxation mode – spending time with loved ones or reading a book.
G&P: I hear you. Being a trailblazer isn’t easy. But I’m glad you get to relax at times. I am learning how to do that too. I’m running on two hours of sleep as we speak. God will help us sha.
OG: God will surely help us, it’s only by His grace. The best I’ve given, I know it sounds cliche but it’s love. It’s the best gift one could give and it’s the greatest gift God has given us!
G&P: Isn’t it the best gift He’s given?! Thank God for His love.
What is the best gift you received?
OG: The best gift I’ve received besides love, is my engagement ring *does happy dance* my fiancée Tola is a blessing from God. God had him planned for me before I was even conceived and I’m convinced of that. So, when he popped the question with the beautiful ring I felt so loved and so blessed to be his future wife.
G&P: Awwww….wedding bells are ringing! That’s lovely. I’m so excited.
What business icon would you shadow for a day?
OG: I am going to choose two if you would permit me? I would love love love to shadow Oprah Winfrey, I just think she’s all around amazing and on top of her stuff and also very inspiring and impactful in all that she does. Secondly, in this part of the world I would love to shadow Dangote – he has managed to build a conglomerate and continues to rise even when Africa isn’t the easiest place to do business.
G&P: You are definitely permitted. Both are amazing and inspirational choices.
What advice would you give an aspiring entrepreneur in the diaspora who is interested in starting a business in Nigeria?
OG: Do your research, Be passionate about your idea, have faith, look for good labor – it can be hard to find, but it’s possible, and lastly don’t give up if you are truly passionate about it. Success doesn’t happen overnight.
1. Abuja or Lagos?
Abuja any day! LOL
2. Shoprite or Tyson’s Corner?
Tyson has it all
3. Mac or Nars?
4. Uber or Okada?
5. A night in or A night out?
A night In
6. Croquet braids or Croquet wig?
7. Shark Tank or Celebrity Apprentice?
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.