This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.
Firstly, tell us a bit about you.
My name is Jennifer Ogunyemi, I’m an author, business coach, wife mummy to 4 kiddos 15, 8, 4 & 2 years old.
Tell us about your business.
Sisters In Business is a networking & business advisory platform that seeks to empower Muslim women that have their own businesses by providing networking events & workshops.
Unfortunately Muslim women has the least support when trying to run her business, we have restrictions that can make business loans or grants difficult to obtain, due to many different cultural beliefs visibility can be very difficult, information is not usually geared towards any woman of faith and networking events seem daunting when you the people you see there doesn’t look like they represent you.
What Sisters In Business aims to do is to create safe spaces for networking, bridge gaps between different communities & provide information to the women so that they are well informed when it comes to starting a business.
What was the moment that everything changed for you? Describe that moment when you decided to fully commit to your idea and the first few steps you took to make it possible.
Sisters In Business was an idea that was written in my iphone notes 2 years prior before I started it, I was working full time & 5 months pregnant with my 4th child when I finally made it come to light.
The defining moment is when my first event I put together sold out but when one of my attendees said to me ‘ You are reinventing the meaning of sisterhood’ this struck a cord with me because it was at that moment that i realised that this was what I was good at and something that I loved being a muslim was being part of a sisterhood.
What were the initial challenges you came up against and how did you overcome them?
My initial challenge was having little capital to start with although working full time, I had invested my savings into a previous business which completely collapsed and left me with no money and bills to settle.
Regardless of having no money to hire a venue or even buy the basics I decided to seek a venue that was flexible with me paying them, not only did I find that venue but after sharing my vision they offered me and all my attendees unlimited teas, coffees and snacks.
Another challenge that I faced was listening to all the critics that had contributed to me having low self esteem and no confidence. I felt I had no place to be bringing people together like ‘who am I?’ ‘Why would anyone want to come to my events?’
The more events that I held that were sold out instilled the confidence that this is what was missing in the community.
What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something?
The first win is going to have to be when I had a waiting list of 25 women wanting to come despite the event being sold out!
How did you go about growing such a buzzing and engaged community?
I did this just by being me! I know many people say this but many people also fear judgement. Once I stopped judging myself and what I think people would think of me is when I was able to be the best version I could be for my platform.
I also celebrated the women who often go unheard, our voices, image and our lifestyle is constantly being questioned. I decided to create a platform that not only amplifies the voice but also educates, motivates and inspires a new narrative for those voices.
Did you take the investment route for your business or are you self-funded? Can you share some insights on your decision and the process?
As a practising muslim there isn’t many choices that we have when it comes to loans, so this platform has been fully funded by me. Every pay check I would invest in the platform, I made sure I had clear profit margins, whilst still maintaining quality meet ups.
What has been your best investment?
My best investment to date has been in my personal development, bettering myself so my business can grow & evolve in great ways.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?
I have made many mistakes, oh so many. All of them have started with not listening to my gut instinct. Not planning the events or workshops with enough time, or mis managing money.
What’s your experience of being a women in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?
Being a woman isn’t easy full stop right?! But being a muslim a visible woman can be harder in its own right.
What is difficult is not feeling like your feeling welcomed, or not being asked to speak on a panel because they do not know how to ask you.
I would like to let everyone know that I am just like you, my journey is just like yours, entrepreneurship is hard enough lets be nice to each other.
What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
That I am capable of being a CEO, I can be someone in the community that gives value.
I also learnt just how much I put myself last, I quickly realised very quickly that I wouldn’t last that way.
Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?
I have always taken pride in knowing that I have a lot of women around me that are bosses in their field and always will be on hand to offer advice.
With the future in mind, where would you see yourselves in five years time?
In 2 years I would like to be more international, and offer so much more services to the women. In 5 years to be in an office with a team.
Can you tell us one of your goals for 2020?
One of my goals is to take more risks, we want to be international!
What can our readers do to support your business?
Supporting us by being open and having us on panels, include us in your write ups, inviting us to your events or simply just reach out even if only for a cuppa.
What books, podcasts or resources would you recommend?
I have read a whole library of books but the most poignant has to be Michelle Obama Becoming, Girl Code Unlocking The Secrets by Cara Allwill Leyba
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
My advice to anyone starting out is to make sure you understand your vision, people will come and chime in with what they want to see or what they would do. Believe in what you are wanting to do, the moment you doubt or shake is the moment you have devalued your product or service then we wonder why it’s not successful.
Lastly just be you! No one is going to have your awesomeness, your creativity, your mindset or your passion. This will make your product or service unique, big up your chest and come forth upon the world with your beauty!
You can follow all Sisters In Business updates here!
About the Author
Leah Williams is the Blog Editor for Found & Flourish, working with Founder Lara Sheldrake to ensure every piece of published content is empowering, inspiring and well presented, just like the women we work with.
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