Thirty-five years old Olamide Babajide holds a Bachelor of Technology in Computer Engineering and has a Certificate for Building Sustainable Social Enterprise from Middlesex University.
She worked in the Information Technology sector for seven years occupying various positions and her last designation was to manage West African region for a multinational IT distribution company.
She has over ten international certifications in Information Technology and Audit (CCNA, CCDA, CSSE, CISA…). She founded Pearl Recycling in 2016 to solve the problem of waste and provide affordable, eclectic and sustainable furniture to Nigerians.
A Tony Elumelu entrepreneur fellow, she won the WIMBIZ impact competition in 2016 and was named by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as one of the 100 Tech-women Emerging Leaders which gave her opportunity to intern at Silicon Valley with Symantec.
In 2017, she was selected by LEAP Africa as a social innovator and she is currently working to provide waste remodeled, eco-friendly, ergonomic classroom chairs for public schools.
Olamide is on the mission to make the environment safe, reduce deforestation, encourage decent living condition and provide jobs for the unemployed.
[bctt tweet=” I never had fear while starting because I have always believed in failing forward…” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]
How did you transit from a high paying job to become a social entrepreneur?
I didn’t take a quick dive; I maintained my 9-5 job and worked on my dream during weekends. I had time to plan, analyze and test the market before starting fully.
What that did for me was to make me understand people’s point of view about my products, what they really want to be compared to what I thought they want and how to strike a balance to make demand-driven products.
Immediately, I got that figured out, I decided to quit in other to actualize my dream. I never had fear while starting because I have always believed in failing forward and I told myself when I fail, I will pick up the lessons and move on.
I wasn’t really afraid and I realized that the reason why most people fail is that they listen to the outside noise and against the inner voice, so immediately I was at peace with my inner voice I blocked out the outer noise of people asking if I was stupid to give up such promising job for uncertainty and I just went for my dream.
Your work has been featured in international media platforms, what level of impact has this exposure brought to your organization?
It has brought tremendous impact and topmost on the list is the sensitization that came along with it. It’s a different ball game when you are starting a new niche in a country that has a conservative mindset about waste.
Trying to re-orientate people to see waste as something enticing is actually hard in Nigeria but the international exposure and features brought awareness and a bit of acceptance which was all we need to forge ahead.
The good part is, immediately we had our first interview by Reuters, Washington Post, and Aljazeera took it up and local channels also came in and that gave us impressive local visibility.
[bctt tweet=”Once you have a clear vision and mission and impressive strategy, money will find you.” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]
With the level of exposure you’ve encountered so far, what advice will you give to your younger self in retrospect and your future self?
If I had asked my younger self the most important question of “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?” I would have realized early what my mission is and set goals to achieve it. I would have gotten a mentor earlier than I did and put a structure to my business.
So I will tell my younger self to go for her dream and not to wait thinking of how to start. I will tell her “JUST START” start with what you have now.
To my future self, I will say, Do NOT make mistake in choosing your board members every time you have to make that selection. They can make or break your vision.
I will also say “Integrity is Key” never ever undermine the place of integrity in your dealings with others. Also, I will say protect your name and by extension your brand. Be careful how you act so that you don’t ruin what you have used years to build.
Lastly, l remind myself daily that the internet never forgets, and I should be more conscious of the kind of digital signature and impression I portray.
[bctt tweet=”I learned about structure and that is one thing I say every time to every young entrepreneur…” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]
What business lessons have you learned in the course of running your social enterprise?
The first thing I learned is when you put in your all in whatever you do, the world will support you. I also learned that money is the last thing you look for when starting a business. Once you have a clear vision and mission and impressive strategy, money will find you.
I have learned very early that the successful club is highly inclusive. Most times, the rich don’t want you to sit at the table you have to learn to take the damn table. You must be tenacious and persistence and you must NEVER lose focus.
And remember, strangers will help you succeed faster than families so when you are starting your business, be smart enough to consider your target market.
[bctt tweet=”Be smart. Know your target market.” username=”SheLeadsAfrica”]
Do you find any connection between what you did as a corporate executive and what you are doing now?
Absolutely, I realized that no knowledge is lost. You know, I worked as a network infrastructure engineer for a while and moved to business design/development and finally moved to Presales.
I was opportune to work on proposal writing for top organizations, submit bids and
quotations, present designs and even go for negotiations and this has helped greatly in starting up my business.
The design knowledge, the business development knowledge, negotiations skills, presentations skills, and sales skills all add up to give me that edge.
I also worked with c-suite executives and this helped greatly with the kind of networks I was able to build. Most Importantly, I learned about structure and that is one thing I say every time to every young entrepreneur trying to start.
Make sure you have an understanding of how corporate organizations run their structure.
What would you like to tell young women reading your story?
Dear young women, you need to use DISCRETION to sieve out the outer noise and RUN with your inner voice. You need to stop looking at yourself through the eyes of others; people’s opinion about you shouldn’t define you.
If you have a dream, Just START, start where you are with what you have. Wake up every day telling yourself you are the BEST. Have a positive attitude; nothing is too big to achieve just
believe you CAN
So what are you going to do with all your certifications?
I have been asked this question like one million times. People just say “Oh, we saw your profile and you have over ten international certifications in Information technology, what do you want to do with them?”
And I simply reply by telling them I still use my certificates to consult for businesses in need of my skills.
Where do you see pearl recycling in a few years’ time?
I see us completely disrupting the African furniture sector through our eco-friendly sustainable furniture products. I also know we are going to play a major role in shifting the mindset of Nigerians to waste remodeled products.