International Women’s Day: An interview with 3 amazing women in business

Seyitan Atigarin

Seyitan Atigarin

Creative Director, Abebibytan

ABEBIBYTAN is an amazingly stylish kimono brand based in Lagos, Nigeria. They focus on creating easy, comfortable yet chic styles that cater to everyone regardless of length, print or color preferences. ABEBIBYTAN as a business was launched in 2018 by Seyitan Atigarin, an award-winning TV presenter, producer, as well as the creative director of ABEBIBYTAN.

Why did you start Abebibytan and what problem were you trying to solve?

I started Abebibytan initially, because of my obsession with kimonos and by looking at the reasons why I loved them so much, I soon realized that it is one piece of clothing that every individual would have made use of at least once in their lifetime. It’s the easiest thing to wear and can be highly fashionable (i.e. it can be dressed up or down). 

As for the problem it was created to solve, looking at the huge collection of kimonos I had bought, got styled in or straight out obtained – I saw a gap in the representation of local fabrics and textures, most of which had been left unexplored and I thought “Hey! That would make a nice kimono” and simply just went for it. To this day, “fabric sourcing” remains one of the most exciting things I do as the creative director at Abebibytan. What problem did it solve? Adequate representation of African (& Nigerian) fabrics and textures in kimonos.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman in business and how did you fix it?

The structure that exists across most sectors and the added responsibilities of being a woman alone makes it difficult. For me, being able to balance a day job with running the bare necessities of a new business can be extremely overwhelming. Check out my productivity tip to see how I fixed this. 

If you could hit the restart button, what would you change about Abebibytan and why?

If I could hit the restart button, I would have started Abebibytan earlier. Why? Because, for a company that is only two years old, we have been able to do so much, I’m excited to see where we would be in 5, 7, 10, 100 years. 

What’s a productivity tip you swear by? 

Always create “me time”, without it, you’ll burn out quicker than a lit matchstick. You can’t even begin to be productive if you have no juice left. There is a reason you feel fresh and full of ideas when you go on getaway or take some time off, the best way to do that for me is to travel. When you travel, you experience a new culture, engage your senses in new ways and it won’t be long before those productivity levels begin to rise.

Olutimehin Adegbeye: Writer, Speaker & Activist

Olutimehin Adegbeye

Writer, Speaker & Activist

Olutimehin Adegbeye is a young woman with a successful career in writing and public speaking. She has spoken on stages in countries all over the world including Argentina, Ghana, and the United Kingdom. Her TED talk on the topic of social justice “Who belongs in a City” has over a million views on YouTube and made it to TED Lead creator, Chris Anderson’s list of the ten most notable Ted talks of 2017. She has worked with UNFPA, UN Women, Justice and Empowerment Initiative and several other distinguished organizations both here in Nigeria and abroad. Olutimehin is an advocate for human rights, inclusion, and social justice and is known for her insightful inputs on issues concerning feminism, gender, sexualities, and urbanization.

Why did you start your career in writing, activism, and public speaking and what problem were you trying to solve?

I didn’t realize I was ‘starting a career’ when I started writing. When I started my first blog (14 whole years ago!), I was just taking advantage of the (new, at the time) opportunity to process my ideas and publish them online. 

I didn’t start blogging specifically about social (in)justice until 2012 or so, but every development in my career since then has been fueled by the same impetus as the one that caused me to start my blog, ‘The Feminist Unfairytales of a Young African Mother’. I wanted to produce knowledge about social issues that can inform how people approach and address them. This has always been and will likely always be my ‘why’.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman in your career and how were you able to fix it?

I feel like I’ve been much luckier than most people, of any gender, in my career. I’ve managed to build a niche that matches my motivations while meeting my practical needs as an adult and a parent, so I can’t really complain. I would say though that being a freelancer can be difficult, and I wish there were more resources to help people navigate that universe. I was quite lucky to meet people early on (through the AWDF/FEMRITE workshop) who would always send work my way while I was still a freelance writer, but I realise this isn’t everyone’s experience.

If you could hit the restart button, what would you change about your career and why?

I would change the reasons I have a career in the first place. Structural injustice is a psychic violation that no one should have to experience. I wish I could have a career that is about making art simply for the sake of its beauty and form, like our ancestors in Ife and Bini and Nok. Alas, imperialism and its attendant evils continue to shape our world.

Who gave you the best career advice you ever took and what was it?

The two people who have supported my career the most, Nana Darkoa Sekyiamah and Aslak Sira Myhre, often gave me great advice. Unfortunately, I have the memory of a goldfish so I don’t remember most of it, but I will always be grateful to them for bothering to offer such good advice to someone as flighty as me.

What’s a productivity tip you swear by?

Sleep! Make sure to get as much rest as you need.

Ololade Koleosho: Founder, MLPro Beauty

Ololade Koleosho

Founder, MLPro Beauty

MLPro Beauty is a well-known beauty studio with branches in Ibadan and Lagos. At MLpro beauty, they take pride in providing the best makeup, hair and care Nigeria has to offer. Their teams are made up of the most passionate and talented beauty specialists. MLpro was started by the renowned makeup artist, Ololade Koleosho.

Why did you start MLPRO and what problem were you trying to solve?

I started MLPro Beauty without a plan. The fear of being broke and not being able to sponsor myself through school made me take up a skill I had just recently become interested in. It might be surprising to hear that I wasn’t really a fan of makeup back in school. However, I was very much interested in rendering the service and teaching people. It was my own way to motivate and inspire them to do and be more. 

One of the problems MLPro Beauty was created to solve was to encourage young people to become independent and responsible.

What has been your biggest challenge as a woman in business and how did you fix it?

My biggest challenge as a businesswoman began shortly after I started my business. I got so much attention when I started, that it was difficult to manage the traffic. I was focusing so much on new clients that I didn’t even bother about the old ones. While in fact, return clients and referrals are amazing for business, I didn’t know that back then. 

Also, I realised that I had built competition for myself, directly and indirectly. It was tough winning back disappointed clients so I had to sit back and take a hard look at myself. I noted all of the flaws and began to work on them one after the other. Things got way better after that.

If you could hit the restart button, what would you change about MLPRO and why?

If I could hit the restart button, I’d pay more attention to my return clients. I’ll also ensure that their first time experience is top-notch. This doesn’t only make them come back, it also encourages them to introduce others. What’s the point of having a business when you don’t have people who trust your brand and are loyal too?

Who gave you the best business advice you ever took and what was it?

Madam Pops gave me the best advice ever and that is to build structure in your business. Building structure will not only give you peace but you get time to educate yourself on business. Who wouldn’t like a business running effectively and profitably while you sleep?! Good business structure is the best for any business looking to stand the test of time.

What’s a productivity tip you swear by? 

A productivity tip I swear by is to Take a Break. When things get tough, take a break and come back strong. During your break, think well, sleep well, eat well, gather information, ask those that know or you think might have answers, write down possible options, possible ways out, be ready to try again and hope for a better result. Believe in yourself and understand that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from it.

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