Here is the concluding part of the interview session we had with the CEO of Sixters Company Opeoluwa Wonuola Olawale.
If you missed the first part, find it here
Teenage years is usually a challenging year in terms of parent decisions, relationship, sex and also self-esteem. How did you deal with all of this?
I cannot overemphasize the place of beliefs and knowing for certain what you believe. Top Teens has won a special place in my heart. I guess it explains why I am inclined to say a great deal. Anyway, I hope these stories help shape some perspective we may have. Okay. Here’s a crazy story.
In my JSS3, I had just started the ‘ladies cycle’ and was experiencing irregular flow period in SSS1. How bad right? My mum was afraid I was pregnant. She asked what I had done with any man. Of course, I had slept beside my elder brothers, so I cried and amidst tears, told her how when she was around, I slept by my two elder brothers on the floor and had no idea she meant them too in the avoiding men strategy. My mum, at first confused, was now intent on me describing fully the process of my sleeping with my two elder brothers. You too may have collapsed out of madness at your two elder sons for impregnating their younger sister. Well, my mum was calm enough to hear me reiterate how it was in the afternoon and that we all were lying on the floor side by side with her even there telling us a story and how I think it must have been that day I got pregnant. I am glad my mum didn’t start laughing immediately even though I can laugh my heart out telling this ridiculous story. She carefully explained what sex meant and how the reproductive organs worked.
I think that sex education that day has helped a lot in dealing with relationships I later had even though I had serious trouble dealing with guys, especially ‘cos I got plenty of attention in this light even before going to the university. I sang in big crowds back home in church and remember getting three marriage proposals through my pastor after church on just one Sunday at age 15. My mum was furious. I wasn’t even in the university yet. I could barely walk down a street with my extremely long skirts without getting advances and used to think there must have been a really big problem with the male folks cos I didn’t quite get what it was. I still don’t feel like Agbani Darego cos I am not even close in my mind, but whatever it is, I thought it was a general problem for many young girls. And because it didn’t feel special or different, I just shunned most off. I avoided naked men like a plague since I knew they had to be naked to get me in trouble. Besides, I used to get cold feet and sweaty palms when I spoke to boys other than my brothers for more than 10 minutes about something not God or inspiring or ‘booky’. As a result of this internal wiring, it helped till 300 level to totally avoid men or their privacy.
I was invested in very good friends, for instance, Timothy Olugbenga Koya was my best friend (male) with whom I had very meaningful life discussions with. He was a confidant and was like an elder brother to me, even though we were classmates. Until I met ‘somebody’ in 300 level, can’t tell you his name cos he’s married now to someone else. Well, ‘somebody’ wasn’t in my school and that really helped. He was mature and thought of me as mature-minded and our need to stay as friends. I am one of those who still think of marriage to a friend with whom God’s plan will be utmost as paramount.
He challenged me to meet all my goals and monitored me somehow. I made a perfect GPA that year. We only spoke on phone and only met during school breaks. We were not dating. I also always maintained my resolve to have no boyfriend until after school. In fact, I remember having written in one of my journals back then about why or why not to have a boyfriend in school. My personal internal debate was intense. I took my time to resolve that earlier in 200 level when having no money and seeing girls being “taken care of” by men-friend was becoming serious issue. Well, because I prayed about ‘somebody’ and God told me we were only meant to be friends, I knew anything more was a disaster. He was my first kiss in 400 level and it felt horrible. I called him to never speak with me afterwards. It was when I told my mum about it and she calmly revised my action plan with me that I began speaking with ‘somebody’. ‘Somebody’ remains a good friend, even to the family till date as we later found that our blood types were incompatible.
In the end, having a friend in my mum with whom I told about every boy I met was a very rare but useful help. I remember calling her on emergency when I liked Femi Asiwaju who was asking me out in 100 level and how I had cold feet and sweaty palms. She said I should give the feelings two weeks and afterwards, my head would clear out. So yes, I followed a two-week plan with every guy I seemed to crush on and it worked. Oh! As soon as I finished university in 2014, I agreed to being Paul’s girlfriend, the guy who had been my friend for almost six years. And as funny as this might sound, I have been in over five dating relationships since his ended in barely three months. Once it got to the naked boyfriend, it was big issue for me. What is interesting is how I have remained friends with every single one of them, never quarreled with any of them and how they always seemed to have a time to remember being with me. So yes, that has been the story. I am currently in no relationship since March and still have the best times with great friends, both male and female. In essence, know your true friends and know your limits. These have helped a lot.
How did you discover purpose and at what age?
Purpose o. *Smiles* Do one discover purpose and then live it or does one live and then discover purpose? This is a question I would rather leave unanswered. The reason is this: I continue to discover a lot about where I am going daily. I must keep learning and unlearning for the sake of making impact in at least a life one day at a time. I just want to see that when they mention continents with constant electricity and sustainable economy, Africa will be one. How that is a purpose? I don’t know? I am still learning a lot.
How did you start up your energy company, Sixters energy at a young age?
How do you start? Just start! Now I am laughing. I started most things through one funny email I send to someone or group of friends hoping they will be crazy enough to join in my madness to think we can change one life at a time with nothing on the start. I called it IdeaAfrica when I sent that mail to recruit partners in June/July 2014 just before my National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) call to service. I was in Ibadan, I had just broken it off with my first boyfriend and was up to something else in Owerri immediately after. Sending the mail out and getting to meet the five successful recruits, now partners, in August at Dovers hotel was the starting point for Sixters Energy (the interesting name we stayed with since registration with Corporate Affairs Commission in December 2014). The journey has been fierce! I never agreed to being the CEO as many would do in the starting years. I outlined reasons why my training and skills up until then did not qualify me to be CEO but Business Intelligence Director. It was in the beginning of this year I got nominated as Chairperson of the Board and CEO of the company.
It was humbling. We continue to grow as the fastest growing energy tech company in Africa providing energy solutions to one home or business at a time.
Did you ever feel intimidated or limited by your age?
My Father calls me god and says I am his. My dad says we are soldiers and once recruited, you have all you need to function in your function. My mum sees her baby and friend. My sisters see their lover and elder sisters. My brothers see their sister and angel. My friends see their confidant and friend. My partners see their partner, respected and always working towards the achieved goal. My future sees me as solution. None of these see my age and that means a lot. Why should I?
Looking at where you are now and the dreams and aspirations you had 5 years ago, would you say you achieved all? If not what percentage of those dreams were you able to achieve and what do you think was a drawback to not meeting up with the rest?
This one is dicey. Plans should follow revision annually but life goals should be thought of daily. I seem to achieve more than I put down, yet, I know I am still far from the goal- no business or child should struggle in the dark in Africa. I don’t have to have my name for that, in fact, if all I can do is spur others in getting this done or knowing that I was one of the many who turned Africa towards the light, it is okay for me. It is all about the goal, not where I am or what I am doing. Psalm 1 is stuck with me. Whatsover he doeth shall prosper… I just have to be doing something towards making it happen… like sharing my story today was never in the plan. How much can I plan? But telling this story will perhaps cause you the reader to begin to think of the hope Africa has in the young people to touch a life one at a time.
We are aware that you are an advocate for gender equity…..so can you please shed light on the difference between gender equity and gender equality?
I like this one. Three boys and three girls. *smiles*. “What a man can do, a woman can do better”. ‘Gender equality’, right? Nonsense! What about “what a person can do, anyone else might be able to if trained and biologically wired”? Now, that’s gender equity. We all have our place in the scheme of life. I do understand you are entitled to your own opinion on this rather sensitive topic with many. However, let this be thoroughly revised and tested for every possible situation, take any instance and try either quotations. What you will quickly see is the outliers in gender equality and the pretense thereof as compared to gender equity where ‘equity’ in this place stands for the share in life we all can have. Equality is mathematically incorrect, as well as in all sense, including logic. Man=Woman, seriously? Who thought that up and was applauded? Gender equity to me is more like human equity where we all understand our place in the scheme of life and play that role to the best of our ability.
Wonu-ideas has been on for over 2 years……what prompted its inception?
I love writing and I had several poems. Had written award-winning poems on ‘Diversity’ and also kept journals since forever. It was going to be my birthday and was laughing about why it is not my brand-day. That was how I started my blog in celebration of my brand as a human being. I saw each one as a brand that year and wanted to reach out to more people. I saw the need to reach more people, especially young minds, in propagating the love of my Father in wanting to have more children with whom he’d shower his love on. Inspire, develop, engage and allow (I.D.E.A.) young minds be all that we can in the scheme of life. And interestingly, I now have a brand manager, Michael Tommy and we are well focused on building sustainable enterprises at www.wonuideas.com
Your love for God cannot go unnoticed but in this age where people no longer appreciate or honor the things of God, what do you think can be done to draw the heart of teens/ youths back to God?
Faith, not you Faith Wariri, comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Keep saying it and keep doing it. For instance, by some wind, my story got to you and you got interested in knowing more. If you keep living as the daughter or son of your father, one day, someone will ask and want to know more about your Father. Jesus said something about seeing the Father once you have seen him, I think this is the kind of life I hope to live. The Holy Spirit, thankfully, is my gift from the Father in this regard. Like a child, I have gone astray many times, but his loving kindness has steered me towards himself each time. That is the life of love I invite many to by living my life as son of God.
When you are not working or updating your blog, what do you enjoy doing?
Reading? Sleeping? Talking to my mum, siblings or dad or friend? Going out with my friends? Cooking? Travelling? Working out at the gym? Or just jogging about? Hmmm… or calling? Or having these kind of interviews? Or writing something? Seriously, I don’t know which one wins my attention all the time cos they all seem to depend on the day and timing. Can’t go to the gym at midnight, I should be sleeping and I enjoy that.
How did you extend your spheres beyond the shores of this country? How did you get the opportunity to study outside this country?
God all the way. Time and chance also. People as well. One person tells you about something and it registers in your mind. Miss Mofolusho Ajayi, when I worked in Chevron was impressed with my work ethics and drive to learning, thought I needed to learn more about Chevening scholarships and see why I could become a scholar anywhere in the UK. I found out about it before the end of my school year and guess what, every requirement in there, I worked towards it and interestingly, met every single one including two years of professional experience before I completed NYSC. I would also like to say this, everything is in your favor as long as you think so. Now that’s the difficult part, believing this and consistently seeing it within your perspective. Regardless, I will share some sites that can also help anyone find scholarships to studying abroad as well as volunteering positions. 1. http://www.isstscholarship.com 2. www.chevening.org 3. http://opportunitydesk.org/
Visiting these sites alone and seeing what the global market is requesting can help one quickly become a global citizen acting locally.
What is your most challenging moment?
Not being able to see how I still serve purpose. Those have been the most challenging moments. And gladly, my support system has been the Lord coming through for me in the persons of my family and friends.
What gives you inspiration and keeps you going when everything seems to be on a lock-down??
The sweet thought of finishing. I recently had a terrible meltdown and sent a note to my friend telling him to know I tried in life but couldn’t finish through. After I sent that silly message and was about drowning myself, the thought of how stupid it was to use the same bath tub someone created as a solution and the shower head someone completed to ending my life made me jerk off into reality. What I was told by my friend afterwards was that I was making a mountain out of a molehill and was
being ungrateful. Of course, we laughed our hearts out when I told him what I was attempting because I thought there was no use to my seemingly pretentious existence and me thinking I was mad enough to have thought I could make Africa a better place to live, lead her to God and subsequently would have left this world a better place. I forgot how far I had come through God, and was gladly reminded by the Holy Spirit who teaches my hands to war and feet to battle that God my Father is always with me each step of the way. I was reminded of his love and his infinite strength within me. He showed me mercy again, despite myself. I took a break of course to actually write down the problems I thought I had and suddenly realized they each had at least one possible solution. Yes. Life is great as long as you see it. If I had not thought of finishing, this interview would probably never have happened. I probably would never have hoped again to see African children live in sustainably powered homes, but now I can hope for this to happen. I was pioneer project manager and content developer of Start 2015 conference in Nigeria, the biggest three-day conference with over 50 facilitators and about 1000 participants. So yes, “start-and-finish” a goal, not necessarily a project or task, keeps me going.
Your final words to teens who aspire to be like you or even better than you are.
Final? Already? Oops. No final words sincerely cos I hope to still say more and to be heard even after now. Either ways, you are invited to the life of a son of God. You can bank on one thing: you will be connected to the infinite source of life to starting and finishing every purpose to which you are called. That is the life of God’s kingdom children. Philippians 1:6 (New Living Translation) says, “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns”. Start and Finish!
Thank you so much for being our guest @ Top teens
We love you ma’am
Thank you so much for this opportunity.