How Folorunso Alakija incited a movement of game changers through her platform, Flourish Africa

Folorunso Alakija founded a women’s empowerment platform, Flourish Africa. To launch the platform, The Flourish Africa conference was held on 25 November 2017 at the Renaissance Hotel, Ikeja brought together some of the female powerhouses in the country; the unprecedented event was indeed an inspirational and impactful time.

Themed, ‘Inciting a Movement Of Game Changers’ the conference definitely birthed some game changers with inspiring stories, one-on-one chats and moving interactive sessions between the panelists and the guests.

At the beginning of the Flourish Africa conference 2017, guests were introduced to the founder and convener, Mrs Folorunsho Alakija who gave the welcoming speech. It was the perfect start to a day that would be filled with gems dropping for every woman looking to succeed in areas of career, business and relationships. Mrs Alakija encouraged every woman in the room to stay determined to flourish as an individual, mother, wife, entrepreneur and corporate. She also laid emphasis on the cliché, ‘It’s a man’s world’ using it to remind women to start taking initiative in order to be successful as success is never handed to a person.

Chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria, Mrs Ibukun Awosika was then introduced as the keynote speaker. She also admonished every woman to be an asset. She spoke in relation to the country, adding that more women needed to step out to become part of the solution instead of constantly complaining about what was going wrong.  On competition and comparison, she mentioned the importance of being in competition with yourself. Relaying it to her personal life, she mentioned how she isn’t in competition with anyone but is focused on always striving to be better. She made mention of how she would like to leave the world empty knowing she reached her full God-given potential and depositing all that was placed in her by God.

Senator Daisy Danjuma, Executive Vice Chairman of SAPESTRO, was up next and she had the following to say on opportunities:

“Make use of opportunities when they come, you must work hard but sometimes the element of luck is required, Take one step at a time, you must be dedicated and must have integrity to create wealth, Be dedicated. Take yourself seriously. The image that you put out is important, you must be hardworking to be able to sustain anything that you have achieved. For women to succeed today, we find that they have to work twice as hard as their male counterparts. Women are extremely hardworking. God did not make Adam alone because He knew Adam could not do it alone. We must complement each other.”

Mrs Cecilia Aqua Umoren, Managing Director/CEO Millennium Oil and Gas industry spoke on the value of opportunity and self. She explained how she was able to discover herself by looking beyond her horizon and not letting what anyone says get to her. She also warned on the dangers of listening to stories that had the potential to be limiting or condemning. She piped that it was important to sift what goes through the mind.

Mrs Olusola Momoh, co-founder and Executive Vice Chairman of the Channels Media Group spoke at length on fearless leadership. One element she said was key was integrity. A dying element in most people.

“Without integrity, you cannot be assured of lasting success. Integrity is what will hold you up and stand you out.” She stated

Mrs Momoh who chairs the group alongside her husband also spoke of the importance of marriage and business. She mentioned how the role of a woman was not to compete with her husband but to complete him. She spoke on the importance of valuing your spouse and remembering that he also plays a significant role in the home. It is important for partners to still respect each other no matter how far either of them get in the business world.

She also went further to speak on the value of resources. One she said was particularly significant was time. ‘Time, once gone, can never be bought back’, she quipped. Then she went on to describe the importance of learning, which adds on to your well of resources. She maintained that it was so vital to continuously invest in Knowledge and Education. Learning is what I do best. I learn from everyone, young and old. She spoke on the value of internalising that everyone in their own right is unique and as a result, their journeys would be too. She encouraged the women in the room to never feel compelled to live their lives by anyone else’s standards.

Uche Pedro, founder of Bella Naija spoke on the value and curse of Social media.  She encouraged the youth not to get carried away by Social media, as it was a snap shot of the best moments of people’s lives. She admonished that people not get carried away or embarrassed in thinking someone’s life outweighed theirs simply because of the all the good bits and pieces that said person letting them in on. She mentioned to stay focused on your individual journey.

‘The terrain may not be perfect but if you push through you will make it.’ Uche Pedro mentioned.

TY Bello, the multifaceted artist who wears different hats as activist, singer and renowned photographer spoke of how unpopular her dreams were as a child growing up in the then, conservative Nigeria. She mentioned how it did little to deter her, as she wanted to prove everyone wrong. The Economics graduate was determined to make it at all the various arts she took an interest in and over the decades, she has been able to accomplish it. Her keys to success she mentioned were perseverance, hunger and learning. She studied as much as she could about her several crafts and always took her time before simply producing result. On dreams and ambitions, she mentioned how the more unpopular dreams were less saturated and had more chance of succeeding. She gave voice to the creatives in the room and spurred them on to never give up.

Lanre Dasilva Ajayi, one of the continent’s foremost fashion designers mentioned how she wasn’t accepted when she started out. She spoke of an incident where she designed a bride’s gown which had been fully paid for only to find that the bride had worn another dress on her wedding day. She sadly recalled how it made her feel at the time but also how driven it made her. She mentioned how staying true to a calling would eventually bring recognition.

Gogo Majin, expert vocal coach mentioned how she started vocal coaching in a period where voice training wasn’t even a profession in Nigeria. She highlighted how she had to describe aspects of her profession to people she felt needed it. Although, it made her wary on some days, it strengthened her resolve and she not only has started thriving but has become top of mind for multinational competitions such as the voice. Don’t give up, she concluded.

Mrs Megbope Ayo, founder of no leftover Nigeria limited spoke about her humble beginning as a woman whose family had written her off from the onset. She was sent to secretarial school as it was believed that she didn’t have the brains for a tertiary institution, so she never received a Bachelors degree. She told of how her business grew from a time where her family had no food and her husband had given her N1000 to make a meal. This meal would eventually be moin-moin, the moin moin which others would come to appreciate so far and wide that she gave a talk at the White house. She spoke on the importance of aligning with greatness.

“When you see people who have something that you desire or value, be deliberate about connecting with and learning from them.” Mrs Ayo Megbope said

Mrs Juliet Ehimuan Chinazor, Google Country Director in Nigeria spoke of a woman’s place in a man’s world. She was one of 5 women in her class who studied computer engineering. She mentioned how that did little to keep her from being focused on not only graduating but also doing the work.

Patricia Obozuwa, Chief Communication officer GE Africa spoke on success for women in the corporate sphere. Adding to Mrs Chinazor’s comments, she mentioned how important it was for women to show up and do their bit. She had the following to say on succeeding as someone in the 9-5 space.

“To succeed in the corporate world you need to have the ability to be a problem solver otherwise you can get shipped out either due to technology or downsizing. Set high standards for yourself and never lower it.”

Mrs Chioma Afe, Head Corporate Communications Diamond bank spoke on Financial Literacy for Women as research has shown that in emerging markets, the income of women is growing faster than that of men as they had a tendency to be more industrious.

‘Review your financial status regularly and have multiple sources of income. If you’re not financially included as a woman you would have inadvertently excluded your family as well. Start little and continue to build on it. Set realistic financial goals for yourself. Financial planning is not something you read in books alone. It is something you ought to practice every day’.

Once the talks were done, all who attended got an opportunity to take photos with the speakers and panelists.  They were also able to network amongst each other and with the speakers as the power of women collaborating was heavily stressed at the conference.  The day ended with a room full of women motivated to reaching one goal, flourishing.

As Mrs Alakija chanted ‘I will flourish’. The 250 guests were heard to erupt in applause and with a motivation to go out and make a difference in their various fields of service.

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