Caroline Odogwu is a Marketing Executive for an enterprise charity which supports young people in business. She is also the founder of community project ‘She Is You’ and jewellery line ‘I Am Adored’ which both aim to empower women.
As a Marketing Executive, what does your job entail and how did you get into the field?
Business Launchpad is a youth enterprise charity supporting young people under 30 who want to start up their own businesses. I became aware of Business Launchpad when I was seeking advice to start up my own venture. At that time, I was also looking for full-time work to supplement my income to help birth my business idea. As a result of that, I was able to speak to the right people in the organisation and they were able to offer me a position to start off as a part-time Marketing Officer. I graduated in Journalism and have a background in media so my skills were transferable for the role.
Through the years, I moved into a full-time Marketing Executive role and essentially what my job entails is encouraging young people locally and across London to access our business support service and for them to consider enterprise as a viable option into employment. The marketing takes various forms; sometimes I do outreach, sometimes I do presentations at schools and colleges, more recently I have been involved in digital marketing and managing the Business Launchpad website and social media platforms. I was with the organisation for over 5 years, so it’s been a long journey.
Why is the emphasis in enterprise important for Business Launchpad?
Business Launchpad started as a solution to a recession, helping young people get off the streets as they thought enterprise and business will be an effective way to upscaling the young people. More recently, I think it is also relevant now because we are finding that a lot of young people are taking non-traditional routes of getting employment other than university.
Working for Business Launchpad, you will have encountered the many challenges that young entrepreneurs face. What would you say is the most challenging issue that they face and what advice would you offer them to overcome it?
One of the main things that come up quite a lot is lack of money. There is a false idea that you need a heap of money to start a business which is not always true. I would advise that people seek support from a free organisation like Businesses Launchpad, that can help you, but look also at other ways that you can find money like a grant of some sort. Be proactive in your search, for example you could crowdfund. Think about the resources that are around you, think outside of the box, start somewhere and just go for it.
The second thing I’ve noticed is a lack of confidence. A lot of people don’t believe in themselves or their ideas. At times we may all face a lack of confidence, but I have noticed that it just takes one person to believe in your idea who will encourage you, which could be enough to motivate you to start that business. Find the good in what you are trying to do, and really believe in it. This is a good starting point.
What three tips would you give a young entrepreneur aspiring to start a business?
First if all, I’m a massive advocate of writing down the vision. If you have an idea, you must write it down and try and put it somewhere you can see every day. There is something about writing it down which makes your idea seem more realistic and tangible.
From that point, test trade. Test trading is a form of market research process. By test trading, you can identify your target market and work out if your idea is viable or not.
The third thing I would say is to seek support. The journey of starting a business and being a business owner can be quite lonely and overwhelming. I would advise that potential business owners share the idea of the company and seek support, often times in sharing your idea and seeking for support, you can find the right people that will support you and your business and it could open more doors.
The notion of seeking for support early on is quite interesting because in the early stages a number of potential business owners would rather protect their ideas from others, to prevent anyone ‘stealing;’ their idea.
I’ve found that people don’t really have the time to be stealing ideas! Most times, someone has already done what you’re planning to do, there’s nothing new under the sun, what makes it different is that it is coming from you. I wouldn’t be so precious about protecting a business idea.
In 2012 you co-founded a social venture called ‘She Is You’. Could you tell us more about that and what the inspiration was behind it?
‘She is You’ is a community project and the seed of ‘She Is You’ started during my time at university. I was born and bred in London but went to university in Liverpool, which was a big jump for me. My first time leaving home and a lot of my friends went to uni in London. During the time, I didn’t see any visible older role models that I could look up to or seek advice, as a result of that I found it difficult to maintain my values and beliefs when faced with difficult situations. I remember sharing and having a conversation with my friend (co-founder) and she shared how her younger sister was battling with her esteem and confidence at school – something that a lot of girls face. I remember thinking we needed to create something for people like her little sister. This is where the seed was planted.
I wanted young women behind me, who were going to university, to have a platform where they could hear from older, wiser women within a safe environment which would help them make better informed decisions for their lives.
After graduating from university, I went back to London and wanted to do something. Using the resources I had, we had a launch for it in 2012 and shared the vision of ‘She is You’ to get feedback and see if it was something people would like to be a part of, and the response was amazing. Since then, it has been going from strength to strength; we’re working with female undergraduates, disadvantaged young women (mainly from BAME backgrounds) and we hold regular monthly meetings and talk about different things that are dear to our hearts. It’s like peer mentoring, helping each other to reach our full potential.
Where would you like to see ‘She is You’ in the future?
I’m certainly seeing more for it, we want to positively impact the lives of many more women and see them live their best life. My hope is that if I was to step away from it there would be girls who have benefitted from ‘She Is You’ that can take it forward, give back and deliver sessions. It’s a sisterhood.
You also founded the jewellery line ‘I Am Adored’. How did you get in jewellery design and why did you start this company?
I’ve always been really into jewellery and I thought there was a gap in the market to provide affordable, unique hand jewellery for women. However, I didn’t want the jewellery to be stand alone, I wanted to provide more than that and for there to be a purpose behind it. The tagline line is ‘jewellery with purpose’ and every piece of jewellery purchased from the online store comes with a jewellery box and affirmational card to remind women we are enough, and we are Adored.
A percentage of profits from ‘I Am Adored’ goes towards She Is You – serving young women with workshops within our community
How are you able to manage your role as a Marketing Executive along with your businesses?
Tell me about it! I just take each day as it comes. I have off-days where I do nothing and where the motivation is not there but what keeps me going is keeping my eyes on the bigger picture. I’m just working on getting a good work-life balance, like switching off during the evenings. Every morning I embrace each day differently. Recently I’ve started a habit of writing down three things I need to complete at the end of the day which is allowing me to be more focused. I also have a journal and planner which has helped me to organise myself better.
There is a rising number of young Nigerians abroad who are getting more involved with the country and culture. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it’s great and really important. I’m a believer that together we can make more impact. There is so much potential in Nigeria, so I think it’s great and much needed amongst millennials to become better connected in order to help move the country forward. From a marketing stand point, the UK is more advanced than Nigeria, but I think it would be great to trade our skills to help people in Nigeria generate more revenue and help upscale them to getting into employment. There is a lot that can be done when we can join forces.
What’s next for you?
I will be launching a crowdfunding campaign for ‘I am Adored’ on 20th March to raise money to give up to 10 unemployed women the opportunity to learn how to create jewellery to make them more employable for the future. For more information and to get 20% off jewellery when the campaign launches visit: www.iamadoreduk.com
I will also be releasing a series of interviews from women across the UK capturing their journeys to success, and sharing what they would have told their younger selves. For more information about the campaign and if you would like to share your story visit: www.sheiscaroline.com and follow the hashtag #DearFutureSelf via @sheisyouuk
Follow ‘She Is You’
Follow ‘I Am Adored’