Editor’s note: Our Next Nigerian Entrepreneur, Oghenefego, is so passionate about photography that she provided amateur photography services free of charge for 9 years. NINE years! She gained experience, she learned, she built a network, and today she’s a success and source of motivation for many young women. There’s so much to learn from this amazing woman. Be inspired as you read!
My name is Oghenefego Ofili, the Creative Director at Teo-Inspiro International Ltd.; a media consulting social enterprise in Nigeria. I have degrees in Biochemistry, Human Nutrition and Media & Communication from different universities in Nigeria. I am a landscape photographer and cinematographer. I am a Nigerian. To know more about me and my work, visit our websites and follow me: www.teoinspiro.com, www.fegographer.com, @fegolistic on twitter and @fegographer on Instagram
Tell us about your work
Photography has always been a hobby for as long as I can remember. I bought my first film camera in 2003 as an undergraduate. I just wanted to take pictures everywhere I went. I was attracted to nature and landscapes, so I usually felt bad when I saw something interesting but could not capture the moment. So getting a camera was a top priority for me.
When phone cameras and digital cameras became more accessible I took advantage of every opportunity to take pictures. I even volunteered to help organizations cover their workshops and other events. I later bought a point and shot camera, which I began to use for personal projects. I provided amateur photography services for free until 2012 when I began to delve into more professional cinematography and had to do some gadget upgrade.
As a photographer I major in landscape and nature photographs. I also provide photo coverage for events. Photography for me is another way to show my passion for Africa. I want to showcase the beauty of this continent. My pictures are available for purchase on canvas prints, wood frames and acrylic.
You are involved with other youth and women empowerment programs…
Yes, I am. My involvement in the social sector with focus on youth and women empowerment began from my undergraduate days. I just wanted to create platforms that young people could get access to, that will give them an opportunity to build their leadership skills and be all God has created them to be.
I began designing various programs and projects to reach out to this group. I started by publishing a campus magazine, then we started organizing youth forums in secondary schools, where reproductive health and sexuality issues were discussed. These forums grew out of school and became what is now known as Champion’s Conference. We have organized talents hunts and created platforms to engage teenagers.
One of our programs is Young Women Leadership and Economic Empowerment Project (Y-Women-LEEP). This started in 2008 and we have had over 300 young girls benefit directly from the program. It is a leadership training program targeted at young girls. There is also the vocational skills’ training part for income generation.
Our Champions Conference 2016, our annual program where we encourage young Nigerians to begin the demonstration of leadership from their immediate environment and sphere of influence, comes up on 5th November, 2016. Details are available in this PDF document.
When and how did you start all these?
I started in 2003 as an undergraduate by publishing a campus magazine. I shared my idea with some friends, those who bought into it worked in partnership with me to achieve the goal. We assigned roles based on our strengths and set targets. We had a budget of N40, 000 to publish the first edition of Inspiro magazine in 2003, excluding other expenses. I borrowed N5000 from a friend, which I invested in supplying Cowbell milk from Obiaruku to Abraka in Delta state. After two months, I was able to pay off the N5000 loan and had N10, 000 to deposit with the printer for the magazine. My parents supported me with N20, 000 and I raised the other N10, 000 from the magazine launch in January 2004. We sold the magazine and reinvested proceeds in the business.
Was it very difficult getting your business off the ground?
I would not use the word ‘difficult’, I would rather say ‘challenging’. It was a huge challenge, but by God’s grace I always found a way. From raising enough funds to purchasing needed gadgets to hiring the right people for the job, I met various challenges.
I have had challenges with marketing my products; it is not really an area of strength for me. So, when I was building my team, I made sure that weakness was compensated for with a partner who was a good marketer and more extroverted than I. Also moving the office from Asaba to Lagos proved challenging. At first I tried managing both offices, but it was not feasible. We had to shut down the Asaba office for the time being, until we have a stronger structure and capacity to manage such arrangements.
I have had to do some freelance and consulting jobs for other organizations to raise funds for my work. I have had to apply wisdom gotten from the book of Proverbs in the Bible in dealing with employees, some of whom were senior to me by age. When challenges come my way, I ask God for wisdom. I ask my mentors a lot of questions; that’s why they are there, to help me through challenging times. I have always had mentors. I value mentoring. It is a platform that makes me accountable to someone else when I have set goals and targets.
How much have you grown from where you started?
It will be difficult to quantify how much I have grown since you did not give any parameters. I will say we have come a very long way; with over 10years of involvement in media production and youth development, we have learnt a lot. I am certainly not where I was 5 or 10 years ago. The vision gets clearer and more concrete every passing day. We are putting more structure in our operations, especially in corporate governance. I want to build a business that will celebrate 100years of operation. There is a lot of work to be done.
Do you provide training and mentoring to starters?
Yes, i provide mentorship when I have the opportunity. The most important criteria for me would be the mentee is ready to ‘DO’ and not just ‘SAY’.
What habits do you have that drive you to succeed?
I like to learn new things. I always try to stay updated in my area of business and study. I take out time to plan before I act, and after planning, I act on my plans.
How do you stay motivated?
I go back to my Source whenever I feel discouraged. God is my source. He gave me the ideas, so when I am not getting it, I go back to Him. I also try to reflect on past victories, so I can get encouraged about the current situation. Living in Nigeria also keeps me motivated. When I imagine the possibilities and how I can contribute in my little way; my light bulb comes on again.
What is the most outstanding moment in your life as an entrepreneur?
The day I received a call from a beneficiary of one of our programs 3 years after she benefited. She told me how what she learnt hand helped her and she was in the process of registering her fashion design business. Anytime I get such calls, I feel fulfilled; this is because I want to impact people’s lives positively, not just make money and be rich.
Where do you see yourself and business in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years by God’s grace we would have successfully solidified our corporate governance structure, and then we will start expanding to other cities in Nigeria and Africa. As an individual, I see myself providing professional and technical services in the media and health sector in Nigeria.
How do you manage your career with your role as a wife?
Like I said earlier, I plan a lot. My schedule is not always busy; I am in control of my time most times. But when I will be busy, I try to make preparations to settle the home front. For instance, I do not cook soup and stew every day; instead I stock my freezer (and run generator to prevent spoilage); I shop for most of my groceries once in a month, etc. I don’t think it is rocket science, just some wisdom and taking advantage of technology.
More and more women are bursting into the limelight, embracing entrepreneurship and making a difference. Yet some women are still led to believe they belong in the kitchen. Your thought?
Honestly, that’s fine with me. You cannot force people into what they are not interested in. if she loves the kitchen so much, she can stay there; it is not a crime. I only can speak for myself; cooking is not my hobby.
People say this is the worst time to start a business in Nigeria. Do you agree?
I do not agree that this is the worst time to start a business in Nigeria. It is actually the best time. If you can identify what people need, especially items they used to import, and provide same quality and standard in Nigeria, I believe people will patronize you. The best time to set up that business is now.
What are the three books you read that influenced your life and business the most?
The book of Proverbs in the Bible; Purpose Driven Life and Rich Dad, Poor Dad. These books formed the basis for most of my perceptions and ideologies as an entrepreneur.
What advice do you have for young unemployed women in Nigeria?
Whatsoever your hands find to do; do it well. If it is cooking, cook well; if it’s cleaning, clean well. Who knows, that thing you do well might be your cue to start your business.