We interviewed one of our favourite Nigerian startup founders, Odunayo Eweniyi (Co-founder & COO, Piggyvest). Odunayo spoke to us about her challenges and accomplishments as an entrepreneur, and 2019’s IWD theme, Balance for Better.
Q: What’s one time you faced a challenge, setback, or failure as an entrepreneur? What did you learn from the experience?
A: Towards the end of 2015, in our former startup, I was suddenly faced with the reality that we had hired too many people faster than our revenue was growing and we came to the very painful conclusion that we had to let some of our staff go. We did, after helping them get re-situated in other positions, but we learnt a very valuable lesson. So now even though everyone says that startups cannot afford to do anything slowly, I would disagree. I tend to take my time to make sure that there is a need, a role, and a value add before bringing a new person on board.
Q: Describe a problem you’re solving as an entrepreneur. What is its significance to you, and what is the solution your business presents?
A: I’m actively working to build PiggyVest (formerly Piggybank.ng), a platform that helps Nigerians better manage their finances by helping them save little amounts of money towards their targets and/or their goals; and invest with better returns. We’re bullish about helping Nigerians achieve financial independence and freedom. Our platform exists because 80% of Nigerians – and probably Africans – need to save at least 40% of their monthly income to survive. Because we have no credit system, most of our payments are done in bulk, upfront and in cash. We are focused on low to middle income earners who are struggling to meet up with their responsibilities and payments because they have no way of saving up. The current African banking system as it is, is heavily transactional and more wired towards spending and not saving or investment. We must fix that. We’re working to fix that.
Q: Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of growth or a new understanding of self as an entrepreneur.
A: Mid-2018, I got an invite from the Vice President of Nigeria, to accompany him to Silicon Valley for the Invest in Nigeria conference, and present as one of the entrepreneurs representing Nigeria to an international audience. And that was a, I would say, climactic point for me. It helped in building more self-assuredness and confidence in my work and my abilities. And largely, being asked to speak to and/mentor other young women who want to work in tech is a highlight of my career so far. It tells me that there is a larger purpose and effect to the work I’m doing. I rather like the idea of giving back. I want more women in tech, so I’ll do anything to make that happen.
Q: The theme for IWD 2019 is “Balance For Better”. What does that mean to you? What do you think needs to be done to achieve a better balance for women in high-impact entrepreneurship and business?
A: “Balance for Better” for me means the ability to accept help. For way too long, women who try to do it all, all by themselves have been hailed as super women and other patronising words. But women don’t have to do it all by themselves. They can get help. We can have domestic help, we can have professional help. In fact, we should. Because it is an unrealistic expectation of any human being to be everything to everybody. Achieving balance, does not mean over-extending or over-stretching. It is accepting help. It is being able to say you have help. It is being proud of admitting that it takes a village. It is encouraging women to be proud of their limits.