As Founder/CEO of Dressmeoutlet.com, Olatorera Oniru is taking bold steps to realize a pinnacle in Africa’s history where we would rely less on importation and innovate more with natural materials and indigenous human capital. In this interview with Africa-OnTheRise, we learn more about this assiduous entrepreneur who is passionate about all things Africa.
1. You are the CEO of Dressmeoutlet.com, one of Africa’s leading online fashion retail outlets. Tell us a bit about yourself?
I’m very passionate about Africa and the growth of the continent. As founder and CEO of Dressmeoutlet.com, I’m currently focused on magnifying Africa’s fashion, manufacturing and retail industries. I want to witness Africa’s ability to catch-up-with and surpass the level of success that has been achieved in other developed nations. With millions of intelligent, capable, hardworking citizens and tonnes of natural resources, Africa’s growth can and should be more significantly at par with developed continents.
Before I started Dressmeoutlet.com, I had worked for two Fortune 500 companies namely Bank of America Merrill Lynch and General Electric. I have also worked for one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies, Lars Magnus Ericsson, as a global consultant and later as Head of Sales Governance.
2. You are also an advocate. In 2007 you were nominated for the Future Awards ‘Best Use of Advocacy’ category. What are your thoughts about how Africa can achieve a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa?
Two factors come to mind immediately. Powerful Education and Strongest Leadership. Africa has a massive lot of potentials just like all other developed continents but low-level corruption and poor-agenda leadership have failed the continent over the past 5 decades. To achieve a peaceful, prosperous and integrated Africa, we must find a way to elect the strongest leaders in public positions and furthermore, we must strengthen our educational system. We must record historic greatness and educate the young to pick up from where great leaders stopped rather than attempt to re-invent from scratch. We must move forward, we must progress.
3. Gender was a priority in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and continues to be so in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), how can women empowerment programmes be leveraged to achieve this goal?
Gender equality? I would assume Women Empowerment. That is empowering women to be stronger contributors to the economy. Empowering women starts with our educational systems and includes secondary educational platforms such as places of worship and parental/communal upbringing. Women empowerment programmes must start empowering women from a young age and via the platforms they learn most from. I’d tell you school, church (place of worship) and parents were my biggest learning influences growing up and that’s probably similar for majority of the population. With more wisdom growing up, I had to pull myself out of a narrowed way of thinking and into a global leadership way of thinking. Knowledge really truly is power. Now I embrace learnings from all angles of life, all religions, all schools, all historic books and then I strategize as logically as possible with my own mind. Women must be empowered to not simply go by what they hear or read but to strategize logically with their own minds. Read a lot, learn a lot, all great! But, be wise. Think logically and strategically. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must stay in a marriage where you are suffering because that’s the traditional way of being married. Does it really, truly make sense to you? Are you happy? Is your significant other happy? Think wisely and strategically and make the best decisions for you and the world around you. Let’s also remember that every woman is different just as every individual is different. We need to avoid comparing and let each individual live their greatest life possible.
4. With a 63.8% figure, Rwanda currently ranks number one (1) in the world in female participation in legislature and leadership, how do you imagine this result can be replicated in other African countries?
That’s great to hear. I’d plan a visit to Rwanda very soon based on this interesting information. I’d like to see the progress first and do some thorough research prior to analysing the potential impact on other African nations. This development means they’re bridging the gap between gender segregation which is super good news for Rwanda and Africa. We also need to bridge gaps in religious segregation and wealth segregation. I also hope an increase in women leadership means that they not just elected women but they elected the best possible leaders regardless of gender, religion, wealth or any other factor that has contributed to Africa’s slow pace of development. We need the strongest of leaders in Africa pushing for the continent’s growth.
5. You were nominated for the African Achievers Award and currently a member of the Lionesses of Africa, a social enterprise focused on women entrepreneurship in Africa; how have these achievements impacted the work you do?
It’s always great being recognized for one’s achievements. With each success point, achievement or recognition, my foremost goal continues to centre on magnifying Africa and the continent’s potentials. I’m ready to work with millions of people, I’m ready to do what it takes to push dreams and I’m ready to witness Africa’s growth through hardwork, tenacity and passion of all Africans. Magnifying the continent starts with every single one of us and not just a few leaders.
6. What are some of the peculiar challenges that you encounter in your work, and how are you able to overcome them?
There’s nothing ventured that doesn’t come with challenges. Learning comes with challenges, childbirth comes with challenges and leadership comes with challenges. What has been most successful for me is not focusing on challenges. Challenges are meant to be overcome. Challenges are part of what makes life unique, fun and always-moving. Nonetheless, challenges faced at Dressmeoutlet.com includes low educational competence from Nigerian graduates even the first class graduates and thus at Dressmeoutlet.com, we enacted a one-week to one-month on-boarding process whereby new hires not fully competent yet have very strong potentials have to undergo rigorous training to be at par with their high-excelling colleagues. Generally I won’t call this a challenge because we solved it. Thus, why it’s difficult for me to recount challenges. We are always on the move with solutions, strategies and innovation.
7. Across the continent of Africa and beyond, there are passionate young people who are frustrated by the existing systems in their different nations, just like you have in Nigeria. What would you say is the best way to galvanize youth effort across the continent to drive positive outcomes across Africa?
I love that you asked this question as it is one area I’ve been brainstorming quite a lot on recently. There are lots of youth that come to me for advice and mentorship and this problem reflects in several of their stories and you’re very right with the keyword “frustrated”. The problems that persist and face many young adults across the continent are unfair and stormy. Nonetheless, my biggest advice here is for young adults in such situations to take growth one day at a time, go back to the basics, learn from leaders, dig for natural resources, get into agriculture, have lunch with a veteran, make new friends, grow your network. Don’t get stressed out. Live one day at a time and maximize each and every day. Learn about your nation, innovate for your nation. Avoid TV and what you see in other developed nations. Live and utilize what you have today to make yourself great. It could be your voice, it could be your environment, and it could be your neighbour. Start with discovering your true passion and great resources that are natural to you.
8. A lot continues to be said about the rise of Africa, the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative it is called. Do you agree that Africa is indeed rising? If so, what are the changing realities, scenarios and events that inform your conviction that Africa is indeed a continent on the rise?
Oh yes, this continent is definitely rising! With the number of geniuses, amazing individuals I meet on a daily basis, I am most confident in our continent’s potential. The young workforce, the entrepreneurs the new wave of leaders with real passion are most definitely working to change the narrative of our continent and the results are not too far away.
9. You became a Fashion Entrepreneur after having worked for some time in varying capacities with different corporate entities, what advice from your experience so far would you like to share?
Push your dreams, Africa, don’t let anything stop us from doing everything great for our continent. I love the great people I continue to meet every day who embody the zealousness to enact historic changes within the continent. I love the passion, the drive, the hardwork, the ambition and I’m so excited about what lies ahead. I do want to encourage many more HNWIs in Africa to invest, invest, invest in young, capable, high-potential continent builders and innovators. Invest very fairly, invest wisely, nonetheless, invest! Invest within Africa, bring back Africa’s wealth and let it circulate throughout the nation. Care less about personal wealth and more about national building.
10. What should Africa look forward to from you soon? What is the next big thing you are working on right now?
Several undertakings ongoing all surrounded on magnifying the continent’s potentials. I’m maximizing every opportunity and looking forward to more success points ahead. Dressmeoutlet.com continues to innovate to be at the forefront of the made in Africa fashion and beauty industries.