One of Abimbola’s greatest motivations is the look of pride on her little daughter’s face when she is excited about one of her mother’s products. This keeps the illustrious agro-entrepreneur going regardless of the harsh tides and seasons in her business. “I want to always make something she can be proud of. I want to always be someone she can look up to,” Abimbola says.
Abimbola Oludare-Ojo spent 17 years in the banking industry before leaving to start Nareli Farms and Agro-Allied Business in 2017. Nareli Farms is a budding business in the agricultural sector that trades and packages items like Shea Butter, Black Soap and edible products like bread and spices.
This article discusses her journey and lessons from her experience as an entrepreneur.
You left a fulfilling career in banking after 17 years to pursue your agro-business, what spurred you to make that change?
Farming has always been a part of my being. Growing up, my father was a passionate farmer. He worked full time as an electrical engineer but he had a rural farm that he always took my siblings and me to. At the farm, he taught us how to plant corn, cassava and other local foods. He also taught us how to fry Garri.
I have always wanted to run my own business. After I graduated from the Master’s program at the University of Ibadan, I tried to get a job in the food processing industry. That was tough so I ended up getting a job at the bank as a Relationship Manager. In that role, I learned a lot about satisfying customer’s needs, I learned about different businesses and read a lot of feasibility studies.
While I enjoyed my job there, I always had this longing to leave and start something of my own. I kept saying, “one day, one day” but of course, one day turned to 17 years. I got moved to another sector and it made me interact even more with business owners. When I would see a business similar to the one I wanted to start, I would feel bad and thoughts of leaving would come up again.
Another thing that spurred me to leave was the feeling that I was not spending enough time with my family. It had been tugging at me for some time and starting a business where I could manage my time proved a solution.
One day, after some soul-searching I walked up to my boss and told him it was time to go. I made him realise that I had to leave. I had to start Nareli Farms.
If you could go back, would you change how your entrepreneurship journey played out?
No, I actually would not. Leaving was a tough decision, but I am glad I did it. Leaving took a lot of courage. In fact, some people thought I wasn’t normal. The pay in banking is good and when you think about how your next venture might not sustain the lifestyle you have, leaving seems less enticing. My supervisors could not believe it. They kept asking me if I was sure. But till now, I know I made the right choice.
The only thing I would have altered was my spending habits. While I was working, I spent a lot of money on equipment I thought I would need for my business but till date, I have not used many of them.There will be challenges regardless of whether you are on the right path or not. - Abimbola Oludare-Ojo Click To Tweet
There’s this idea that when you are on the right path as an entrepreneur, there won’t be challenges, has that been true for you in your journey? What are some of the challenges you have faced in the course of running your business and how have you been able to manage them?
There will be challenges regardless of whether you are on the right path or not. When I initially started, I had a million and one ideas in my head. I did not know which product I wanted to launch first or how to really go about it. So I joined a network- NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women.
The amazing women in this network helped me to figure out my business in the early days and held my hand through the process. Joining this network was also instrumental to me leaving my job. Before joining, I did not have the courage to actually take that step. I was three months into the network when I realised that I could do this, I could actually start something for myself.
I was also a part of the cohort at the last FCMB SheVentures program where I learned about growing and running a business. In fact, it was like attending Business School. I would have made some wrong business decisions if I did not attend some of the Masterclasses in the program. My amazing mentor, Cynthia Umoru helped me to challenge myself as an entrepreneur and I grew from that.
To learn more about Abimbola Oludare-Ojo and Nareli Farms, read the rest of this article on the FCMB Business Zone.
This feature article on Abimbola Oludare Ojo is sponsored by the First City Monument Bank (FCMB). FCMB is passionate about empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women.