By Zigwai Tagwai
Focusing on celebrating women’s 365 days in the year as they carry on efficiently and remarkably in varying roles they play in building the society and supporting one another through self-empowerment, Capitalwatch had an interview with the founder of Project START and Mum’s Booth Mrs Martha Tawiya Owolabi who is breaking new grounds with her beliefs and effort “pushing to ensure that every woman is empowered so that every woman should be able to achieve her dreams.”
Owolabi’s conviction is that she can bring out the strength, beauty and power within her to reach her mark against all odds by refusing to be put in a box. To break out of her shell and become who she can actually be, and not live in the shadow of anyone but shine forth, making the world a better place.
Who believes in the strength of a woman and more in women working together to achieve a thing? She asked. Mrs. Tawiya Owolabi is a wife, a mother of two girls, a Network Engineer, she owned an event management company known as “Eva’s Balloons,” Founder of Mums Booth and Project Start alongside an IT Company named ‘Brisk Applications’ during the chart with CapitalWatch, Owolabi stated that she is just a woman doing what she has to do, and what she loves doing and trying to also help her community.
In her opinion, multitasking is a common trait with women including her. “I’m a natural starter and I also continue, I stay on a thing and once I believe in it and continue doing it, whatever challenges I experience, I try to manage it, which is really how I’ve made it work so far. I try to manage it because whatever plans we have, we meet things along the line so we make adjustments.
“When I reach a heap I didn’t expect, I make adjustments. Really, that’s it, with the children, with the home and everything. If I get to a point where I need help, I get help. When I need a staff, I quickly hire one,” she narrated her struggles.
The CEO added, “I don’t refer to any heap as a challenge, because I’m a deliberate person in all I do I always plan, so there is no singular challenge, I facing them all. Whatever is my present challenge now is the fact that, I’m learning to delegate because I do a whole lot on my own. So I’m learning to delegate and follow up with the people doing the tasks to ensure that it comes out the way I expect it to.
“My first paying job was in my SSS3, just after secondary school, Air Force Girls Jos. I had six months after school before going into the University so while I was sitting at home, I felt I should be doing more as always so, I went to a business centre and became their call centre agent, that was back then when people had to pay fifteen to twenty naira per minute to make a call. My first salary was 1500 naira for a month and while I was doing this, my mates were at home and I envied them but at the same time I couldn’t quit because I didn’t just want to sit at home doing nothing.
“I studied electronic engineering, served in Lagos, in an IT Firm and was trained as a network engineer so I got to practice there and three years afterwards as an engineer and system’s administrator. I decided to take the future into my hands when the company started having some problems.
“I have a company called Eva Balloons; I sell party supplies but stopped that for a while because of capital to purchase more. I think I’m not so good in buying and selling. I planned on making it a part of my event management business where you want party packs for events and you can get them but I realized I’m more of a services person not a buying and selling person. I’m better in the aspect of services and to me that is one thing I started but had to put on a hold, not a complete stop. It’s the one thing I have done that I know has not really progressed as much as the others”.
On her strength and focused she said, “I don’t give up, seriously, I’m not boasting but it’s part of the gifts I have. Maybe the only thing I ever gave up on is an old shoe or an old relationship or something that was not beneficial but if it’s something that I have always wanted to do, I always achieve it.
“To an extent I like to see things being done to the last, not being a perfectionist but so long as I have imagined or planned something, I don’t settle just because I don’t have one small thing to complete it, I make sure it happens. Sometimes people say, take it easy, it’s still nice this way but I say no and in the long run I remind them I told you it will be better this way It’s a flaw but at the same time it’s a strength that helps things to work out. As nice as it sounds that I like things done smartly and in time, it puts some other people off.”
Speaking on the business and the economic situation in the country Owolabi said, “One thing I have learnt, especially with this current economic situation is that when economics do well, people gain all round. Project START began with one woman, I don’t know where she is right now. I was sitting in a garden, taking a drink, when an able bodied woman walked up to me begging so I asked why she was doing what she was doing. She said “aunty I no get money” and I said to myself, this woman’s problem is not money but mentality and mind set.
So, I gave her five hundred naira and my phone number, told her to meet me the next week which she did, I asked her what she wanted to do and she said fruits business so, I gave her five thousand naira which was all I could spare to buy some fruits with two thousand naira, get a local carpenter to make a bench for her with one thousand naira for sales and take care of any immediate household needs with the remaining two thousand naira,” she narrated
Accoding to her, “START is a project put together to empower women who want to start their own Businesses. It’s a one-day practical FREE training program with trainers who are made up of Selfless established women who will give practical training and steps on how to start your own business free of charge.
“Too many women are stuck not knowing HOW to or WHAT to do. START aims at getting you started, If you have a 9 to 5 job and want a business at the side Take the day off and come get started.
“Mum’s Booth is an online community for women to meet, born November 2014 after the birth of my first child. I figured I wanted to go somewhere and ask people questions because for some time all I had were my mum and my mother-in-law. Now, sometimes they would have this archaic way of doing things and I wouldn’t be comfortable with it so I wanted to hear from mums like me.
“My neighbours, in a stretch of four, it’s not like we really spoke but there wasn’t any mother around per se, so it got me thinking. Everybody uses their phone and you can go and just ask your questions. These are platforms that exist in other Western countries but we don’t have the African version and I wanted to hear Nigerians tell me what to do in situations we can all relate to, so I decided, let’s have Mums Booth as a place where mothers and mothers to be will meet. There are other areas around women lives such as love life, marriage, desires, career and I wanted women to have a place to talk so I decided to create a site which is actually a lot bigger now.
What is key about Mums Booth is the fact that it’s an anonymous platform because I found out that women need to talk rather than die in silence. There was the need to end the culture of silence so I made sure there was an anonymous button up on the site so women could decide to either discuss or comment using their real identity or being anonymous. Project Start is actually like a pillar for Mums Booth to help empower women to do the things they desire to do with as much help from other women who either have similar skill sets or experience.
We have had two editions so far of Project Start, the first edition had about 40 women in participation and by the second edition, we had over a hundred women and we are hoping it will continue to grow and encourage other women out there to do more for them.
Project START has successfully carried out 4 editions for women (3 in Abuja and 1 in Jos) with over 380 trained women and 1 edition for kids with 52 kids in attendance. It is set for another edition for the kids by August 27th 2019 with the belief that many Parents do not want their kids to miss out on what they did so they give them all the nice things and in the process of doing that some kids end up spoilt and unable to handle the reality of Life.
As parents, below are some tips by Martha on how to help your kids out;
- Teach them the value of Sweat: You can use Incentives to get them on their feet, give allowances for good grades, some chores, performing well in some club activities; invite a few friends over and get your child try to sell things to them from pens, to little Art work or dresses they create. This is not about making money but teaching them to sell, make money and to be street wise.
- Lead by Example: Your kids learn a lot more by watching you than the things you say. I grew up watching my mom do her business and try to convince people to buy something and it is the one skill I can say I had as a young adult and did well because of what I saw. As they listen to your conversations, and visit your business places, they learn a lot.
- Don’t pressure them: Many parents build Businesses or careers having a mind that their kids will walk in their steps too. We build companies with our children’s names in the hopes that they would continue in it. As good as that is, you need to let them be and discover themselves so they don’t resent you. What you need to do is give them the tools they need, let them understand the reality and reward of hard work, show them opportunities and how to grab them using those tools and let them discover their path and passion for themselves. Showing them all they need and the virtues required to get there will be what will keep them going.