Onyinye Obiora Okoye is president of Orenda School International, Benue State and Opal International Academy. She is a professional network marketer, heads the fastest growing wining team in Nigeria and also owns a consultancy firm called Orienda Consult among other establishments. In this interview with BLESSING BATURE, she encourages people to become and achieve all they desire among other things.
What inspired you?
I will say my inspiration came from my background; I was born into a broken home. My parents got separated when I was at a tender age, so I faced lots of difficulties while growing up. My mother had to fend for both of us and her efforts in trying to make sure that we succeeded really showed me that I could really start making money. Making money is not limited to age; you can make money at any time. So, how to support my mother in the family pushed me to the business world. At the age of 10, I had already known how to make hair; I was into buying and selling at the age of nine. So, I see my general background of coming from a broken home as a compelling factor that pushed me to doing business, even when I could say among all my siblings that I am the only one who really loves business.
Being born into a situation of poverty really opens one’s eyes to see, you have two choices either you remain in poverty or you make use of your hands and I decided to make use of my hands and not my body to make money.
Well, when I heard lots of people complain, ‘I am a widow’, ‘I am an orphan,’ I used to be really hostile because that is not an excuse for you to fail; it is actually a reason to propel you to greatness. I now came to understand that everybody’s story is different, I had that difficult situation and I was able to come out of it. It doesn’t mean the other person is well informed, but some people are ignorant, they don’t even know what to do, it’s a big challenge but I thank God that I was able to turn my misery to a message rather than allowing it to make a mess of me. It’s actually a challenge but right now, it’s a work over for me.
I could notice that 70 to 90 per cent of successful people are people with difficult backgrounds.
What does success mean to you?
For me I have not attained success; success is an action word, that is, it is a doing word. So, success is continuous, success is not a big thing that you try to accomplish, it’s the little things you achieve every day, so I will not say I am successful. I will say I am in the process of being successful, if I set a particular goal today and at the end of the day, I was able to accomplish it, then I am successful with that. So, it keeps going, it’s an action word and with each step of the way, I try to set targets and when I hit the target, I look back and give praise to God, so, success to me is an action word and not a status.
How have you contributed to growth of the National Economy?
Talking about my contributions to the economy of Nigeria, I want to tell you that Orienda Schools and Opal Academy alone, have over 62 staffs under my employ receiving monthly salaries regularly and 70 per cent of them have families. Some have children in the university, and secondary schools, so directly or indirectly, I am affecting hundreds of people because I am able to reward them for the work that they have done. Taking people off the streets, giving them employment is a big contribution and that is just the school; I also have a dry cleaning firm, bridal firm, Orenda consult, which lots of people are working there and in my network marketing business, over 1200 people are working there who are earning a living and when I consider all these, I give glory to God for using me to affect these thousands of people, being able to put food on their tables and pay their children’s school fees, its amazing.
Tell us about your achievements in the pageantry sector
I have won over 13 beauty crowns despite my background. But how did all these happen? Walking down the street, I keep hearing people say, ‘you are tall, slim why not go into modeling,’ so for me, it was another source of income, even the television, deep freezer that my mother used are things I won from beauty competitions. The home theater, all those things are things I got from the competition, so I just feel okay. People encouraged me that I could win the N100, 000 prize award and take the money back to the family. So that was how it started, but later on, I found out that having a title is not even the crown but it’s about giving you the platform because my having a title meant I could knock on doors and the doors would open. I would knock on the political office doors and tell them that I want to feed the homeless and this is what I want to do as my pet projects and people would listen to me. So, I discovered that it gives me a voice really, so in all, through my pageantry years up till now, it has always been my desire to use the platform to affect lives positively, my concern its not about the pageantry, nor about the flashy side of life, it’s about using it positively to affect lives.
Words of Advice to young girls?
I was talking to some groups of young girls during the International Day Of Girl Child and I was telling them that ‘your parents’ view of you is as a result of your actions not necessarily their mindset.’ Yes, a parent may or may not want a child to go into beauty pageant competition because they feel it is bad, but a parent may have noticed that the child is behaving in a certain way. For example, if I noticed that I have a particular child who just likes to be standing on the streets and when I send her on an errand in which she should use 10 minutes, she ends up spending an hour; if I tell you sit here and you are not there, by the time you say you want to go into that kind of thing, I won’t have the confidence. So, I tell young girls, ‘I you want to win your parents’ confidence, do the right thing at the right time, do your home chores and behave responsibly. Then you can have a talk with them and say mummy I really want to do this, I can guarantee you that I am not going to do the negative things you heard about, and they will actually trust you.’
What advice do you have for upcoming CEOs?
Start your business from where you are, with what you have and do what you can. A lot of people are waiting for the big capital, but it may not come, you have to be diligent because the bible says ‘if you are diligent in little, I will give you more.’ Start with what you have, where you are and don’t think your location is a problem. I live in Markudi where there are no airports; salaries have not being paid for months but yet some things are happening in the state, why? Because I believe that I can do anything, it doesn’t matter the location.
So I want to tell you that when you want to start a business, location is not a problem, it’s your mindset. Not having the capital is not the problem, it’s your mindset, just get your mindset right and you will begin to get the capital.
You can even seek for a job in a short time so that you can save up to start your ideal business. You need a million naira to start, however, you have #20,000 at hand. Why don’t you fry akara and save up and do the business you need the big money to do? Orenda Schools started in a one room, somewhere that looks like a bacha; it didn’t look like we were going anywhere. So, if I had waited to have the ideal school structure before I started the school, we would not be where we are today.
My second advice for people who are already in business is two things; mind your business by being focused and consistent, don’t compare your business with your neighbours business, or with your friends, what you can is what you have. It is very important and in a short time you are going to see the results and for the person who says “I am a nobody”, you are coming from a disadvantaged position, you feel you are an orphan, it’s okay to cry, but don’t cry for too long, clean your tears get up, put in your efforts, trust God and you will definitely become a somebody. I also advise that you forget your past, don’t get too entangled with it.
The past is gone and can not be corrected, what you can orchestrate and write is your future, so I want you to focus on your future and the only way you can do that is by taking the right decision now. I always said that no child is dull, nobody is a nonentity, everybody is somebody, everybody has the potential to become somebody, all you need to do is to take action now, remain focused and consistent.
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