Access to finance, gender discrimination pose challenges to women entrepreneurs —Olatunji

October 28, 2020

Olawumi Olatunji, a chemistry and Industrial Labour Relations graduate is an entrepreneur who veered into fashion to explore her creativity. In this interview with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE, she speaks about the challenges of setting up a fashion house, becoming an entrepreneur and the need to create strings of income.

How would you describe yourself?

I am Olawumi Olatunji; a wife, mum, entrepreneur and a child of God.

I am hardworking, deep, expressive, unpretentious and very approachable.

You studied Chemistry and Industrial Labour Relations, how did you become a fashion designer? 

Yes, I studied Chemistry as my first degree and Industrial and Labour Relations at Master’s level from the University of Lagos. However, I have always been fashion-inclined; I love fashion, and love my environment and surroundings to be neat and welcoming. I knew after school I was not the nine to five kind of a person. I stopped working because I was not really fulfilled with the work I was doing at the time and after having my second child in 2002, the creativity started. Mind you, Admire Wardrope shortened into Admire is also into space improvement and management.


How do you connect all you do to create equilibrium?  

Creating equilibrium is much easier now that all but one of my children are grown and I have a wonderful and understanding husband that supports my dream and aspiration.  I also have a fantastic work force that is hardworking and committed to the Admire dream.


How do you connect creativity with entrepreneurship without one affecting the other? 

Well, for me, it was the creativity that led to the entrepreneurship, and they do not normally clash because I focus on one aspect at a time and both are well structured.

Which aspect of what you do is most enjoyable to you? 

Honestly I find both enjoyable; the creativity gives me fulfillment, while the other empowers me.


 Which did you begin with and how easy was it starting your business? 

Certainly, it was the creative aspect that first started. I started exploring my creative side before it became a business. But on starting a business, it was not easy at all. I started by using the household maintenance money to source for fabrics. At some point, my tailors ruined hundreds of clothes. This was very frustrating but because of the passion I have but I kept at it.

How will you describe life as an entrepreneur? 

Life as an entrepreneur, from my own perception, is not easy, but if you are consistent and you love what you do, the rest would be history.


What are your thoughts on women striving for financial independence?

It is the best thing that any woman can do for herself. In today’s world, every woman must have a source of income; a certain kind of financial independence. It is a priority.


 Are there peculiar challenges faced by businesses owned by women entrepreneurs? 

Generally, running a business has its challenges regardless of gender; however, there are peculiar challenges being faced by businesses owned by women entrepreneurs such as access to finance, gender discrimination, and insufficient cash flow or working capital to mention a few. Every Entrepreneur faces one challenge or the other regardless of gender; however being a woman entrepreneur has its peculiar challenges such as Work-Life balance- being able to combine family life with running a business, family issues and gender discrimination especially if you are at the early stages of your business, but if you are on top of your game, you get what is due to you.

 How do you manage not to get overwhelmed?

That is the grace of God. I am a very organised person; even as a child, I was proactive and always plan my time. I prioritise my work and allocate my time accordingly. I do not waste time on frivolities.

How easy is it for women to create strings of income and market themselves? 

Running successful businesses that generate multiple streams of income is easy and not so easy. However, with hard work and determination, anything is possible.


 Do you think it is possible for a woman to take on too much while creating strings of income? 

We all have our strengths and know our capacity and what we can endure in terms of stress. So, I will say that it is up to every woman to know what her strengths and weaknesses are, as well as her breaking limit.

You seem to have a passion for marketing, how does it help you?  

Our products and services speak for themselves and we get a lot of referrals from clients that are satisfied with the quality of our products and services. This makes marketing easier.

What inspires you?

I am inspired by so many things – God, people, places, experiences, colours, quotes, etc

What are the challenges you face as a business owner?

The major challenge is that operational cost of running a business in Nigeria is very huge. Lack of stable electricity is a major challenge that impacts hugely on our profitability.

What is your guiding principle?

My guiding principle has always been ‘Keep Pushing’.


Tell us a little bit about your background?

I am the fifth child of my parents and I am half Nigerian, half Togolese.


What is your advice to other women with similar vision

They should do what they love, get proper training, work hard, be resilient and be consistent, as Rome was not built in a day. They should be financially wise, be original, follow their intuition and above all surrender all to God.


If you are not doing this, what will you be doing?

I will probably be a lawyer or an activist.

What in your background prepared you for this?

I have always been business-oriented as I used to sell small household decorations, bedspreads, and curtains whilst at the University.


How long have you been into this? 

About 18 years; I started in 2002.


What are your plans for your brand? 

It is my dream that the brand outlives me and that Admire becomes a household name.


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