W4A: What three (3) words best describe “Mary Olushoga?”
MARY: Mary Olushoga is a committed leader, small business advocate, and Entrepreneur.
W4A: You are the founder of the “AWP Network” What is it? When did it start?
MARY: The African Women Power (AWP) Network powers small business success for African entrepreneurs through training and support.
Our goal is to empower African women and girl entrepreneurs using marketing and PR tools, technology, community engagement and support, business resources, and entrepreneurial training programs.Ultimately, we focus on the development, growth, and sustainability of African owned small businesses.
I launched the AWP Network as a solution to the unemployment issue facing Africa especially in Nigeria as the most populous country on the continent. The idea is that if we are able to provide a supportive community to African entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, they will be sustainable and in turn create jobs and hire, thereby reducing unemployment. At the AWP Network, we see entrepreneurship as a solution.
This idea came after a number of years working in the economic development space. I saw firsthand how the resources provided, helped entrepreneurs become more successful in their endeavors. I saw how access to resources, education, and financing helped to transform the lives of women entrepreneurs. I launched AWP shortly after a BBC interview in 2012.
W4A: Doing what you do cannot be easy. What has been your major challenge and how did you overcome it?
MARY: One major challenge has been redefining our place in the market. How do we overcome this? We overcome this by being open to change, asking the right questions, and satisfying our customers.
W4A: How important is education to you in regards to what you do?
MARY: Education is very important. A major aspect of what we do has to do with business education and trainings. We share content and information with an audience. We certainly have to be open to engaging people in different ways.
For example, when we engaged women farmers in Taraba state, Nigeria – language inclusion was very important to our work because many of the women did not speak English. So we worked with instructors who were bilingual in their local language.
W4A: If you could change one thing about what you do to make it have a greater impact, what would it be?
MARY: We would like a bigger budget and a better strategy to engage more women and girls. We acknowledge that business is never a straight path; we recognize that there are ups and downs – so we have to be willing, ready, and able. Where we are right now however, gives us more time to define ourselves in the marketplace.
W4A: How would you encourage more women to live out their dreams?
MARY: More women can truly live out their dreams when they take the time to know who they are and what they want out of life. When we as women, take the time to find out who we truly are and what we want out of life, it’s a transformational experience.
It is simple to do the easy things: go to school, get married, and have kids. That’s easy. But it’s hard taking the time to figure out who you are, how you would like to make a difference or change in this world, and what you are going to do to achieve those goals that you have set for yourself. This takes time, and introspection is required.
So here’s what I have to say: Be fearless, be bold, do your research, ask questions when you don’t know, and more importantly, don’t forget to live your own life. Don’t sweat the small things, forgive, let go, and move on. Last but not least: Dream Big.
W4A: Who would you say has been your inspiration and why?
MARY: I draw inspiration from various aspects of my life. Different people have inspired me at different times in my life. Songs and movies inspire me. I love the arts. But my favorite movie is “A Beautiful Mind,” and favorite artist is Fela. Get these two in the room and I always get inspired.
W4A: What is the one thing you love the most about Africa?
MARY: The resilient nature of the people, our history, culture, of course the women – African women. I love African women.