Omolola’s journey from struggle to entrepreneurial triumph

A business owner preparing to dry doughnuts.
Omolola at her business place, about to fry dough for doughnuts.
June 01, 2024

Born into a polygamous household, where there was no unity, Omolola grew up without the love and affection that comes from a family. Her father had three wives and ten children and she was the ninth child. From a tender age, Omolola had to deal with prejudice and gender stereotyping. Being a girl, it was believed that she did not have much value and could not amount to much.

This bias resulted in Omolola being denied any formal education. Her mother did not try to convince her father, because it is believed that dutiful wives do not confront their husbands. At a young age, she was left to take care of the home and run errands. In her words, “I do not have happy memories of my childhood, it was about labor only”.

Seeing how Omolola was struggling in her childhood without education, her eldest sister who is married, sought their parent's permission to take her in. Omolola moved in with her and was enrolled in school. Her sister sponsored her education up to the Junior Secondary School level.

After the Junior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (JSCE), her elder sister told Omolola that she could not continue to sponsor her because of financial constraints. She told her that she would have to fend for herself going forward. Upon hearing this heart-breaking news, Omolola's hope was shattered. The ray of light she once saw had again gone dimdeem.

Omolola however refused to quit or give in to self-pity. She returned to her parents and started petty trading. She sold anything she could find - from groundnuts she fried to in-season fruits, hawking them on the streets for survival. Omolola was determined to survive and didn't let her circumstances get the best of her. She sponsored herself up to Senior Secondary School with the little income she made.

Amid her struggle to make ends meet, Omolola became pregnant. This unplanned pregnancy caused her serious worry as the fear of the unknown set in. Fortunately, the young man accepted the responsibility of the pregnancy so she did not have to do it alone.

Omolola continued her petty trading until she met Mrs Hassan who introduced her to the Girls Improving Resilience through Livelihoods and Health (GIRL-H) program. The GIRL-H program is an initiative that empowers adolescent girls, boys, and young women, helping them to build resilience through education, skill development, and mentorship.

A business owner measuring flour for baking.
Omolola pours flour to be mixed for baking.

Omolola’s transformative journey began in 2022 when she enrolled in the program and was allowed to be trained in catering. This opportunity and the new skill that came with it fanned the flames of her hope and it came alive again.

She received some crates of soft drinks, a canopy umbrella, and an ice-chest cooler to start her small business. This led to a major shift in her finances which had almost completely depleted in that season. She started selling soft drinks and saved the sum of two hundred and thirty thousand naira (#230,000). With this money, she bought a medium-sized generator and a small freezer to expand her business. Speaking about her progress, she said, “I was only able to achieve this because of the Mercy Corps program, targeted towards people like me. I am grateful”.

Omolola has completed her skills training and was part of the participants who transitioned into entrepreneurship. She was given a mixer, a sieve, and a measuring scale to help her in her business.

Omolola has been able to expand her business, which operates from her home and is delivering value to her clients. Her journey is a testament to the incredible strength of the human spirit and the importance of perseverance in the face of challenges.

Omolola's steadfast commitment to enhancing her circumstances, fostering a prosperous future for her children, and expanding her business endeavors underscores her remarkable resolve and foresight. Currently undertaking the expansion of her enterprise from a modest location within her residence to a more prominently positioned venue, she seeks to augment her customer base and ensure sustained financial stability. Central to her purposeful endeavors is the earnest aspiration to spare her daughters the hardships she endured. She also hopes to catalyze positive change within her community, particularly among young girls facing similar adversities.

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