INTERVIEW (Hansatu Adegbite, Executive Director, WIMBIZ)

The Woman-Entrepreneur in a Challenging Environment – Key Tips for Success

The Fidelity SME Forum is a weekly radio programme organized by Fidelity Bank Plc to educate, inform, advise and inspire budding entrepreneurs in Nigeria with knowledge and expertise that will enable them build sustainable and successful businesses. The interactive radio programme features subject matter experts and model entrepreneurs as guests on a weekly basis to share their insight and unique success stories. In this interview, Hansatu Adegbite, Executive Director, WIMBIZ gives valuable insights on “The Woman-Entrepreneur in a Challenging Environment – Key Tips for Success”. 

Q: TELL US ABOUT WIMBIZ?

Hansatu: WIMBIZ is an organization that has existed now for about 18 years with a primary focus on developing women leaders, advocating for them, connecting them and giving them avenues for networking and empowerment. Our mission at WIMBIZ is to inspire women to attain leadership positions in management, business, public service, or wherever they may find themselves. The founders of WIMBIZ did a great job in laying the foundation and many younger generations have done well in building on that foundation.

Q: WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS CAUSE AS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR?

Hansatu: Ironically, I was there as a fresh, young graduate when WIMBIZ first started in Abuja. After NYSC, I was working in a bank and one day I came across a newspaper ad for a women’s conference in Abuja. I was very intrigued because I had never seen one happen before in Abuja. I attended and was so inspired to see so many successful, professional women gathered together especially in the north where we lack such representation. I joined the organization as an Associate and started attending all their conferences. In 2017, I moved to Lagos to take up the role as Executive Director and was just fortunate to have the opportunity where I can exploit my passion for developing the woman-leader.

Q: WHAT DOES WIMBIZ ACTUALLY OFFER WOMEN?

Hansatu: WIMBIZ functions on four pillars to support women. That is, we inspire women through our annual lectures and conferences. The annual conference is our flagship program and it is in its 18th year. Through the WIMBOARD & WIMPOL programs, we advocate for women to be in leadership positions of boards of directors and in politics. The WIMBIZ Capital is the female entrepreneurship avenue that empowers women in business, especially by connecting them to investors, individuals and corporates alike. Then, finally, we connect all these women together with the roundtable lunches and other networking programs we offer, not just in Lagos, but across Nigeria.

Q: WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHALLENGES WOMEN ARE FACING?

Hansatu: I think the major challenge is overcoming fear. Women have gone through so much over the years, so sometimes they hold themselves back from accomplishing or achieving their dreams as a result of that fear. The second thing is the lack of technical know-how. One of the consequences of fear is that it also prevents women from empowering themselves with the adequate and necessary skills needed to succeed in the desires they have for their business. They have a vision, but cannot draw out the plan to achieve their visions. These women lack skills like financial management or sales & marketing, and they also prevent themselves from paddling through the ocean of uncertainty to acquire these skills.

Q: HOW HAVE YOU HELPED WOMEN OVERCOME THESE CHALLENGES AND WHAT PRATICAL STEPS CAN WOMEN TAKE?

Hansatu: The first thing I would suggest is that a woman changes her network. She should join associations, groups, and organizations that would help her connect to the right men and women. Also get the right trainings. Many women may complain that they do not have money to get the right trainings. But these days, there are now a lot of free and affordable trainings and business advisory services offered through strategic partnerships online. Again, more women should write down their visions, they may have it in their heads, but in order to get it done, they have to write it down. There is something about writing down your visions; it broadens your mind, thinking, and perspective to visualize the goals you need to achieve your vision. Also identify people who have done what you are trying to do and make them your mentor. Read their books, go for their seminars, listen to them speak to be able to learn from what they have done.

Q: HOW CAN WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS FIND THE RIGHT MENTORS?

Hansatu: Once you have identified the individual, you join the requisite association your potential mentor is a member of because it gives you’re a greater chance of being connected to the individual. Sometimes it is best not to approach them directly, acclimatize yourself with everything that concerns your mentor first, because, let’s face it, most of these people are always very busy and would probably have various mentees. In the case whereby you want a one-on-one mentoring, find people that will eventually get you close to your identified mentor. Another method that has personally worked for me is acts of service; find opportunities to serve or volunteer in different organizations or association. These will bring you closer to your mentor and others in the organization.

Q: MENTORSHIP IS A TWO WAY STREET, HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE WIMBIZ MENTEES TO GIVE BACK?

Hansatu: It is unfortunate that most mentees do not recognize that and just focus on what they can get from their mentors. They begin to ask for money, networks, and disturb them. We encourage our mentees to not be burdens on their respective mentors, to encourage them, to send them enlightening quotes, to buy them little gifts for their birthdays and special occasions, to do something little and out of the norm to alleviate the constant pressures and stresses they are faced with on a daily basis. Also speak positively about them and acknowledge them in whatever speaking platforms you find yourself in, especially when you do become successful. For example, Arese in her book Smart Money Woman gave credit to whom credit was due, her mentor.

Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE WOMEN CONCERNING BRANDING THEMSELVES AND HOW TO SELL THEMSELVES PROPERLY?

Hansatu: The first advice I give to women is to be themselves when you are branding – do not get lost in your effort to brand yourselves. Identify what works for you and let that be what you are known for. Dr. Ngozi Okonji Iweala is now known throughout the world with that her Ankara head scarf. Stay true to yourself and let that speak through your brand; be recognized with respect and make sure your branding is consistent.

Q: WHAT PROGRAM DOES WIMBIZ HAVE COMING UP TO HONOR THE JUST PAST INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY?

Hansatu: WIMBIZ does not have any programs celebrating IWD on the actual day, but we have the 15th Annual Lecture coming up on Thursday 21st, March 2019. The theme is still Balance for Better and the topic is “Who said so? Challenging the status quo.” Our guest speaker is Bolanle Austen Peters, the CEO of Terra Kulture and it is going to be an amazing time at Muson Center by 9am.

Q: PLEASE SHARE YOUR WEBSITE?

Hansatu: It is www.wimbiz.org and it is @wimbiz on all social media sites.

Q: WHAT DOES WIMBIZ DO AROUND MALE CHAMPIONS AND HOW HAVE YOU CULTIVATED THEM?

Hansatu: We have what we call the WIMBOARD ambassadors who are our male champions that help to advocate for more female representation in boards of directors. We have a lot of male participants who come for our lectures and conferences and some of them offer guidance, inspiration and advice. Sometimes, it is some of these male champions that recommend WIMBIZ for international partnerships and opportunities. So we are in good relationship with them and they have done a lot for us over the years.

Q: DO WOMEN MENTORING OTHER WOMEN WORK AND HOW CAN WE OVERCOME THE PERCEIVED INNER FIGHTING?

Hansatu: I personally do not believe that women tear themselves down. I have had and still do have many female mentors who have impacted and are impacting my life positively. I went through the WIMBIZ mentoring program and Mrs. Tope Omage was my mentor and right now we are both on the Executive Council together and she was the then Director of Finance in Central Bank of Nigeria. Mentorship is successful depending on how you choose to cultivate the relationship and how it is maintained. One can have multiple mentors and as the mentee you have the primary responsibility to make the mentorship work successfully.

Q: IS THE WOMEN ENTREPRENEURSHIP MOVEMENT A PHASE THAT IS JUST CURRENTLY HYPED AND WILL DIE OUT?

Hansatu: No, it is not a phase and I do not believe it will die out. It is just that the noise has become louder as more people are pushing for more representation. Locally and internationally, it is observed that everywhere women are transitioning to higher level where they can achieve this representation and recognition of more women in positions of leadership. Entrepreneurship is something that does not die, but it grows and we as women can grow and are only growing with that movement.

Q: WHICH IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR THE FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR, MONEY OR MENTORING?

Hansatu: Mentoring, because it teaches you how to spend the money when available. Mentoring teaches you how to use, apply, and leverage money to make more money. Many people get it confused to believe that you need money more than anything, yes money is very good and necessary, but if you do not know through mentoring and advisory services how to make money work for you, you will lose it.

Q: HOW DO YOU BALANCE WORKLIFE AND THE HOME?

Hansatu: when I started working in the banking sector, I focused on that. Then, I stopped to take care of my kids and become an entrepreneur, and now that my children are grown, I have been married for 19 years, I can focus on this career path. Luckily, I have learnt to live out and balance my life in phases.

Q: WHAT IS BEING DONE TO HAVE MORE WOMEN IN POWER IN THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT?

Hansatu: Female representation in power in Nigeria is affected by our cultural beliefs which has predominantly placed men as the head of the woman. This is still seen and observed in some mindsets no matter how vocal we are being. The narrative is changing albeit at a very slow pace and at WIMBIZ through our program WIMPOL which is women in politics, we are doing our bit to help change the perspectives. We had a program earlier this year where we invited women who have run for public office to come and share their experiences regardless of if they won or lost. Basically, we are opening up the minds of the younger generation to know that politics is indeed an avenue to pursue.

Q: KINDLY GIVE ONE FINAL WORD TO WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS LISTENING

Hansatu: I advise that they remain focused on their goals and vision. They can make it especially if they do not give up on themselves. Challenging times and the night season do not always last as the morning will come. I want to thank Fidelity Bank for the opportunity to talk to women and for this platform used in encouraging entrepreneurs.