If you weren’t at the Building A Social Enterprise session presented by Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien at She Hive Abuja, you missed what I would call a transformational experience.

The founder of Growing Businesses Foundation opened Sunday’s session with an uncharacteristic anthem: Timi Dakolo’s ‘Great Nation’.

The song resonated deeply and set the tone for a session which was powerful, inspiring and emotional all at the same time. At several points during the program, I felt chills all over as I connected deeply with the message Dr. Edozien put across.

The talk was simply geared at using her personal growth story to help the participants overcome the fear of failure and step out. She started off by describing entrepreneurship as emanating from something you feel, going further to state that you cannot fail at what you love.

“Social enterprises are aimed more at solving problems thus it is impossible to fail because you’re solving a problem. An important way to measure impact is by making profit. You cannot separate enterprise from the ability to make profit.”

Although she loved to give money out, it took Dr. Edozien 17 years to realise she had to develop the love to yield profit.

Dr. Edozien spoke to her audience about the ability to reach inside and find a feel that’s right. She explained that her life has flowed like a river due to never neglecting her gut feeling. This she likened to religion and how we follow our beliefs because it feels right inside.

Follow your instincts despite what others think

– Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien

Drawing parallels from her story

She used several stories as a way to drive her points home some of them too numerous to share. Below are my three favourites:

  1. “At Queen’s College, I used to come 22nd out of 24 students in a class. I was a quiet, timid girl who wouldn’t say a word. It all changed for me when I got glasses, and literally and figuratively got to see the world around me. That school term, I skyrocketed to the 5th position. Eventually, I was selected for a competition alongside nine other QC students to attend sea school with 30 participants altogether. It was a very big deal at that time.” This particular story was an important one to hear because it helps us understand that it doesn’t really matter what state you find yourself in at the beginning. There is always the potential to turn your story around.
  2. “My family and I moved from our house in the prestigious Ikoyi to my husband’s family home in Central Lagos Island. This was very important to my husband because it was an heirloom that had been in his family for generations. On hearing this, a lot of people told me I was mad. However, it afforded me an opportunity to connect with the locals. It made sense to live there because it was the simple people I yearned to connect with and empower.” Dr. Edozien acknowledged that women have a fear of security. She expressed her belief that forums such as the SheHive help women see that they have the same fears but also have what it takes to succeed.
  3. “In 2001, a man who wanted to empower women in his village approached me for support. This man is now one of my absolute favourite persons in the world. With N1 million that he received, he went on to build a loan portfolio of N12 billion impacting 434,000 women with a 98% loan repayment rate. He sought to recognise and thank me even years later despite my refusal until I finally agreed to have someone represent me. The Kaduna stadium was filled and 90% of the crowd was womenfolk.” This particular story brought tears to my eyes. The man in the story had a simple idea which he ran with because of a passion and conviction in his heart to lift local women out of poverty.

Important lessons from Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien

  1. Trust what you have before you. “Perfect is the enemy of good. Think, feel and then move. If you strive for perfection, you will never get started.” – Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien
  2. Find someone who inspires and believes in you. Not necessarily someone you love or vice versa, have an individual who can hear, see and feel you. Look for different mentors you feel a connection with. A mentor can be someone you never met. Once you discover that person, connect with them, read their books, follow their story etc.
  3. Be vulnerable. Cry! You’re probably thinking, what?! Yes, Dr. Edozien stressed the importance to cry because something moves you. Not alluding to self-pity, it’s okay to feel vulnerable. Her first company logo was a butterfly because it reminded her of how vulnerable the winged insect is.

In Dr. Edozien’s closing remarks she boldly stated, “Do not be afraid of failure. Ask failure what is the worst thing that can happen to me? Take it into cognizance and move.”

She also asked that young women remember the significance of building a team. In her own words, “you cannot grow a business without a team. It might be your idea, but it gets very lonely at the top. A team will help you drive your vision and fill gaps that may exist.”

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