Mrs. Omowale Ogunrinde, IVLP Gold Star

By Victor Gotevbe,

We just announced across some social media platforms about the creation of a Column titled: COSMOPOLITAN. We are convinced that story telling is part of our nature as human beings. Stories  help individuals learn the complexities of many different cultures. They communicate knowledge about dealing with life issues in a positive and thoughtful way. Our first interview is coming from Lagos, Nigeria. Diplomatic Watch had the pleasure of speaking with Mrs Omowale Ogunride, a Nigerian woman who has distinguished herself in the field of Social Enterprise. She has three degrees to her credit from the Universities of Ife and Lagos. She started her career as a banker until her husband persuaded her to start her own business. She is an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) Alumna. She tells her story of how she got into the international scene and how her work has made maximum impact across the country.

Can you share your journey into Entrepreneurship?

When I left the bank, I thought I knew a lot about setting up a business as I had worked in Corporate Finance and I had an LBS from a prestigious University. However, the theory of business administration and the practical are totally different.

The challenges included finance, marketing and staffing.

After a while, I also decided to lend my skills to a family business which my husband was promoting and the challenges were enormous.

There was a new hurdle everyday but through the grace of God and commitment to a God given vision; we made steady progress and the business has succeeded.

We see that you are an IVLP Alumna and an IVLP Gold Star. Can you tell us how about IVLP and how you got selected for the programme?

IVLP stands for International Visitor Leadership Program. It is a United States (US) State Department funded project. As a matter of fact it is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Individuals, who are present and emerging leaders in a from various countries including Nigeria are invited to the US for short term visits.

Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in an array of  fields experience the country  firsthand and grown lasting relationships with their American counterparts.

From  information available to me, more than 200,000 International Visitors have engaged with Americans through the IVLP, including more than 500 current or former Chiefs of State or Heads of Government.

I run a Vocational, Technical and Entrepreneurship Training Institute. I guess the work we do attracted the Public Affairs Section of the US Consulate. One day in 2006, I got a phone call inviting me to the Consulate and thereafter I was interviewed, screened and selected to attend the IVLP in the same year.

The IVLP Gold Star Award came as a surprise in 2011. One person each from 18 countries was selected based on their impact and measurable output of their work in their communities. It was an awesome experience and we were treated like royalty during the two weeks tour of various institutions in the USA.

You recently concluded atraining for some young people under the auspices of IVLP. Can you tell about it and how has it helped to create value for the Society?

As an active member of the IVLP Alumni Association Lagos State Chapter, my team organised a Mentoring Program for two Public High Schools in Lagos State. We worked with 134 students and taught them skills to prepare them for leadership positions as they grow up.

Mrs. Ogunrinde addressing the high school students on the Leadership and Mentorship graduation ceremony, while Mr. Russell Brooks, Public Affairs Officer, US Consulate General, Lagos looks on.

The experience was mutually beneficial as the students learnt from us and we also had better insight into what experiences they had at this time.

They were motivated and taught better study habits, Peer interactions, Communication skills and exposed to opportunities for further education abroad through access to scholarships.

The testimonies they shared during their graduation ceremony gives credence to the fact that we did a good job with the project.

We would like to know what inspired you to start up Field of Skills and Dreams (FSD).

The struggles my family and I had in setting up our businesses opened my eyes to the struggles a lot of people face in setting up small businesses.

Moreover, as a Teacher in Church, the needs of my teenagers became a burden and I wanted to equip them with skills to support themselves.

So on the 1st of May 2003, I started training teenagers in my local church but the idea became magnified and FSD was founded in 2005.

Mrs. Omowale Ogunrinde fielding questions from journalists.

What has been the impact?

It has been great with amazing testimonials, verifiable success stories and measurable records.

FSD has trained people in over ten states in Nigeria; from Lagos to Enugu, Kaduna, Calabar, Mokwa, Port Harcourt, Yenagoa, Ibadan, Kuje, Ijebu Ode and Shagamu, just to mention a few.

Our students have started many businesses in diverse sectors. Many have become gainfully employed. Some are also employers of labour.

Has there been a difference for you been regarded as a Social Entrepreneur or a Business Entrepreneur. Which are you more drawn to?

Personally, I am more of a Social Entrepreneur who is supported by a family business and many partners

What would be your advice to Startups and those who intend to start their own business?

Diligence and Commitment must be the watchwords.

Just as we know that a new born baby cannot crawl until about eight or nine months or even later; start ups must realize that their businesses require a lot of sacrifice at the beginning plus continuous and consistent nurturing to grow.

New businesses all over the world have peculiar start up problems, but good ideas don’t fail.

However, good ideas need to be nurtured to become good products or services. The nurturing takes time and will require a lot of sacrifice from the owner who will then become the beneficiary of the good rewards when it comes.

Slowly, Steadily and Surely you will get there.