BAWO Onabanjo suffered first-degree burns in her thriving bakery in 2005 and it was grounded for two years. Nobody imagined she could ever go back to business, especially baking as her hands were practically rendered useless. Today, the Microbiologist turned event management consultant isn’t only back to her first love but also teaching others her skill. Married to Dr. Stephen Olumuyiwa Onabanjo, a medical practitioner and pastor , she spoke with Sunday Sun recently in Lagos.
By Christy Anyanwu
What inspired the shift from microbiology to business?
I actually developed passion for business while still a teenager. My father was an agronomy consultant. He was a director at the Nigerian Institute For Oil Palm Research, NIFOR, in Benin City, Edo State. So, we had gardens around the house which I tended and grew to love. After practicing as a microbiologist and management consultant for some few years, I discovered I had passion not just for gardening but baking, events management and empowering people.
You’re training people to be entrepreneurs. For you, what was it like starting your business and how has it been?
It was not easy I must say, but today, I’m grateful. I had just left my job as a microbiologist with the Ondo State Water Corporation because I needed to join my husband in Sokoto. That was over 10 years ago. So, in Sokoto, I started with baking bread and was using my hand to mix because I didn’t have a mixer at that time. I had an electric oven and was always stuck when there was no power. I was practically making the best home-made bread in Sokoto back then. It remains a memorable experience. Later on when we moved to Lagos, I expanded the business but eventually experienced a fire incident from which I came out with first-degree burns. I was hospitalized for almost a year and was grounded for two years. It happened in 2005 when an engineer was servicing one of my ovens in the bakery and we didn’t know there was gas leakage somewhere. So, immediately we struck a match, the whole place was engulfed in flames. It was while recuperating that I began to appreciate nature and flowers more. The sight of a budding rose really ministered to me and contributed to my healing. It was during that period, I got the inspiration for my events consulting firm, Celebration Gardens International. Celebration Gardens International started in 2008 and was motivated by my desire to create an excellent platform for social interaction, networking, and also meet the ever increasing demand for exquisite and cozy halls for weddings, birthdays, book clubs and conferences.
What’s the greatest lesson life has taught you?
I’ve learnt over the years that passion cannot die. My hands were almost useless and it took the efforts of physiotherapists and God for me to be able to use them again, but here I am, still baking, decorating and using my hands for different vocations. That’s because I didn’t give up.
As a busy woman, how do you unwind?
Well basically, I’m a pastor, so, when I’m free, I just relax with the word of God or have a good time with my family.
What does style mean to you?
It depends. My definition of style is simple. I love colours. I like to look professional. Therefore I like formal wears and that’s how you catch me up oftentimes. I like it very simple and down to earth but still very stylish.
What immediate action would you take if you were President of Nigeria?
I will declare an agricultural revolution that will lead to food security, huge exportation of produce and massive employment . I will partner with countries that are accomplished in providing alternative power like solar panels and wind energy. I will wage a massive campaign against unemployment because it has resulted in social vices like prostitution, fraud, armed robbery and kidnapping. I will launch a nation-wide job creation revolution. Also, I will reinforce War Against Indiscipline, WAI.
What’s your favourite colour?
Purple. I’m crazy about purple. Purple is basically what you find me wearing mostly. Purple is soothing. All shades of purple attract me.
Could you tell us about the idea behind the training you just hosted?
It’s actually a one-week empowerment training in which we taught different vocational skills such as bead making, baking, balloon artistry, dress making, graphic design, photography, and more. I believe national transformation starts with impacting one person at a time, and women are the best people to begin with because empowering a woman means empowering a family and nation in general.
This is the second edition. We hosted the first edition in June last year and it was so effective that participants were empowered to start up their own businesses which are thriving today. That was, however, a one-day event.
The training was extended to seven days this time because of the feedbacks we got. As a pastor and entrepreneur who has experienced good and bad times, this training is an expression of gratitude to God for the privileges of life which I have enjoyed. I’m easily moved by people’s inadequacies, hence the reason I want to be a blessing.
Any memorable moment growing up?
Yes, I remember when I was 10 years old, a white missionary couple who lived on my street at GRA Benin came to my home and told my parents that they wanted their children to come for the bible club every Saturday by 4pm in their home. They also reached out to other kids in the neighborhood. I attended the bible club and this made a positive impact on me. After 29 years I still remember the scripture and songs they taught me.
How did you meet your husband?
My husband and I met while I was serving (NYSC) with the state specialist hospital.
What’s the greatest advice your parents gave you that you cherish?
My parents taught me to pray “Lord teach me not to hate anybody. Teach me not to be jealous of anybody. Teach me to love everybody that comes my way. Teach me to reconcile with those who hate me. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost, when health is lost, something is lost, when character is lost, all is lost.