The need to recognize the importance of women as well as her financial contribution to the growth of the society was discussed at a seminar organised by the Fountain Initiative for Social Development (FISD) on Tuesday 26th of March, 2019. The event which took place at The Fountain of Life Church hall had great minds as panelists as well as women from different walks of life discussing the theme, “Advancing Women’s Equal Access to Wealth.”

In her keynote address, FISD Board Chair, Pastor Mrs. Nomthi Odukoya noted that in as much as women have made and are making significant difference in Nigeria and across Africa, they are still not treated as equal to men especially in the area of entrepreneurship. According to her, every gender has its roles and responsibilities and so should be given the chance to carry such responsibilities out effectively without threats and discouragement.

In her words, “For society to function better, there needs to be a balance between the genders. Men and women are created to be equal, but they have different roles and responsibilities. So, each gender should be given the chance to carry out those responsibilities effectively. Women should feel safe and supported at home, work and wherever they choose to practice and they should be bold to express their ideas and aspirations without feeling discouraged or threatened.”

The Chairperson of the foundation and Author of the book, “Enjoy Your Life”, noted that women’s emotional and mental wellbeing should not also be neglected even as focus is being placed on her financial wellbeing. Wealth without happiness, she noted, is, in itself, a form of poverty.  “In the drive for success, achievement and wealth, it is important that women are mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy to achieve their goals. Women should look for ways to enjoy every aspect of their lives,” she said.

She therefore urged the government as well as private and Non-profit sectors and even faith-based organisations to prioritize women’s access to wealth as there is a link between women’s financial wellbeing and the wellbeing of the society. She also urged more organisations to partner with FISD to ensure the training and mentorship of women in the FISD Women Business School. “This will have a more sustainable positive effect on the quality of their lives and the on the nation,” she said.

Corroborating Mrs. Odukoya, the Executive Director of FISD, Ms. Jennifer Pierce, said in her welcome address, said that the non-profit social enterprise is committed to the development of women and how they can be better equipped in creating wealth in the society. The foundation, which was created in 2014, has impacted over 3000 beneficiaries through its various skills acquisitions programmes and scholarships; noting that, one of such is the Women Business School where a lot of women have been trained and equipped to gain access to the global market, enhancing their capacity.

The first panel discussion which had Marianne Agolia (Lagos Coordinator Entrepreneurs platforms initiative); Abosede George-Ogan (Director of Strategy, Fundraising and Stakeholder Management, Lagos State Employment Trust Fund); Nnena Jacob-Ogogo (Head of Women in Business, FCMB); Nkem Okocha (Founder, Mamamoni); Yvonne Ofodile (Founder, 360 Woman Africa) as panelists and Fabia Ogunmekan (Executive Secretary, Wiscar) as the moderator analyzed how women can finance their passions.

According to the panel, all passions can become profitable when there is an understanding of creating and capturing values. However, capacity and self-development are required while discovering passion so as to be able to get to the point of making profit from it. “Passion is like breathing and once you understand how to create and capture value, then all passion can be profitable,” Abosede noted.

The initial stage of starting business as a side hustle for career women, according to the panelists, is not always easy. According to Marianne, that stage is the teething stage and is always difficult. However, one sign to know when to move fully into the business and also moving it to the next level, according to the ladies is when demand is higher than supply. “The moment the demand is higher than supply, it’s a sign that such a passion is no more a side hustle but needs to be focused on as a major business. “You need to learn how to pay attention and be sensitive to your business,” she said.

Women were advised never to borrow money or take loans to start a business. This, according to the ladies, can lead to immense pressure. Sources of funding for startups include, friends and family, which would be determined by one’s character and integrity; start-up grants; partnerships; and self-funding, depending on the kind of business. Participants were therefore urged to give attention to mentorship, trainings and integrity. “Have mentors, don’t be in a rush to make money in business,” Nkem noted.

The second panel which had Ife Durosinmi-Etti (Founder AGS Tribe) Olori Anita Ajayi (Founder, Katie Wang Company); Jimi Tewe (CEO, The Jimi Tewe Company); Simbo Olatoregun (Product Manager SSA, Grow with Google); Bridget Okonafua (MD/CEO Lead Unique Ventures Ltd), Sinari Bolade Daranijo (CEO, Afriwood Cosmetics), Olabanke Subair (Creative director/CEO, Cyrus45 Factory) as panelists and Glory Edosien(Founder, 9 to 5 Chick & Inspired by Glory) as moderator also dealt with the issue of starting small and growing big in business.

The concept of growing big should be seen as growing into an entity that serves others and positively impacts society by creating opportunities for others. One of the signs identified by the panelists as preluding growing big is when the space one occupies becomes too small or when perspective and focus begin to change. “When space is getting too small for your business, then you need to expand,” Bridget said.

Some of the challenges of business expansion, according to the panel include inadequate skills, pride, accessing the funds to do business, talent management,  people not willing to pay, poor capacity development, government policies, value addition, and branding, among many others. They, however, noted that some of these challenges can be managed when women in business join communities of like-minded women, go into partnerships, work with mentors, and remain hardworking and persistent.

Google was also on ground to train participants on Digital Skills, while the Grace Band and Nollywood actress, serenaded the audience with soft music and spoken word /monologue. Sheila Ojai, (Director of Programs, Social Good Lagos) also did justice to hosting the event successfully.