Mrs. Anita Okoye, mainly known as the wife of one of Nigeria’s sensational artistes, Paul Okoye, is in her own right, a woman of substance and accomplishments. Not many women holding good salaried job could summon the courage to walk away from their employment as a sacrifice for their family. That is exactly what Anita Okoye did when in April 2016, she quit her job as a Business Developer for an oil and gas company.
She told Saturday Sun she has no regret shedding the corporate toga to become a full-time entrepreneur and mom. And indeed the facts are obvious. Today, the mother of three is a multifaceted individual who functions variously as a social activist, serial entrepreneur and an author. Highlights of her time out of work include her involvement with the Cashew Apple Project (CAP), which is focused on contributing to the change of the world’s perception of Africa, a thought-provoking presentation during the African Trade andInvestment Global Summit 2018 and authoring the Cashew Apple Project children book “Uncovering Africa’s Hidden Jewels” that highlights some of the hidden jewels of Africa’s agriculture.
She recently added a new page to her curriculum vitae when she founded Tannk Co, a luxury fashion brand for kids, a feat that affirmed her competence in building a successful startup.
In this interview, she spoke about her journey to entrepreneurship and her budding fashion brand, highlighting the sacrifice women make for family and how they can in their quest for self actualisation and fulfillment as entrepreneurs.
What gave you the conviction to quit what many would call the juicy job of oil and gas for entrepreneurship and the uncertainty that comes with it?
My job in the oil and gas industry was a dream job. I am forever grateful for the opportunity and experience as it shaped me into the entrepreneur I am today. I decided to resign because of my desire to have more children after Andre and owing to the fact that I had had several miscarriages. I needed a lot of time to myself. Taking a break to raise my children fueled my goal to leave the oil industry.
You have been an activist in a very difficult area which has to do with changing the negative perception about Africa. What are the big lessons you learn from the experience?
It really is a peculiar project. It is also very motivating and actually an amazing experience. I have learnt that the negative perception about Africa is not one-sided. The world is yet to see the true value of the continent, and Africans also struggle to see our own value also.
It is definitely not an easy fix, I think I went into this project because of how engaging and challenging it is, The world has been programmed to think a certain way for centuries, shifting that paradigm is definitely not an overnight process.
Your educational background has no bearing with writing and publishing, so how did you cope with the process of writing the book you authored?
I enlisted the help of my good friend and fellow Nigerian, Dr. Theresa Mamah who is the founder of Juma Kids Inc, which is the Non-Profit the Cashew Apple Project has partnered with. She also has a publishing company, Global Reach Publishing and has written and published two Children’s books.
We also enlisted the expertise of her American business partner Ms. Natasha Norman who has a background in Communications Media.
With my background in law and our expertise in research, working with my team and co-founders made the process of writing the book really fun and exciting. Everything, from deciding which foods will be included, finding the right illustrator, researching the nutrition facts, was an amazing educational process for us all.
Now we know you own Tannk Co, tell us the vision behind it?
It really came from my needing a company like TannkCo to exist, my frustration in finding affordable quality clothing and accessories for my kids. I didn’t want to continue to order from the States or the UK for basics for my children. This posed a huge problem for me and I decided to provide the solution, which is TannkCo. That frustration fuelled my vision.
What attracted you to the fashion business in the first place?
Kids fashion has always been a part of my life, from being a child and playing dress-up to actually having an opinion on what fabrics I liked and was comfortable in. I always choose comfort over trends and I want my kids, TannkCo kids, to be comfortable as well as trendy in their pieces.
My kids are my singular motivation.
As an entrepreneur, what are the lessons you learnt the hard way?
Creating time for every facet of my life is one I had to learn the hard way, when I had my career, my job was literally 9-5 and I could completely leave work at the office and retire to my sanctuary which is home.
As an entrepreneur, I work round the clock, I get inspired at different times and I can’t just switch off that part.
I have now found ways of trying to make creative and efficient use of my time and usually involve my kids in some of my decision making process. Everything is a creative, fun process for us.
I have learnt to stop and smell the flowers…. I used to go-go-go…without taking a deep breath. now I take my time, I am more patient and understand the process of doing things and carrying business.
I have also learnt to not “fix” myself but actually find myself. This was a huge mission for me before I started this brand. I had to ask and answer the big question – “who am I?’ “what do I stand for?’ They seem so trivial but they are so intricate, answering them changed me and my entire perspective on life.
There’s never a perfect time to start, take one step at a time and everything will fall into place.
I have also learnt the power of manifestation and positivity. Mastering my thoughts and emotions are things I am still working on, but the little progress I have made for the better has actually impacted my life positively.
Looking at where you are coming from, there has been a radical change in your trajectory. What are the changes that have happened to you, especially socially as you refocused your life?
I had to be a recluse for a little bit during the planning phase of Tannkco, coming from the world of business development which required a lot of interface with diverse people to being in a creative bubble, it was the utmost change. Also switching from super corporate which has always been my norm from the university to being relaxed and comfy was a real hassle.
I am now used to it and loving it. You’ll definitely catch me in my office in jeans, a t-shirt and no makeup and of course my natural hair. I glam it up when I need to though.
TannkCo has actually brought out the social butterfly in me, I am so passionate about this brand and all that it stands for that it has made me so much more eloquent, confident and actually approachable. This brand has changed my life.
What is your view of a contemporary woman?
A contemporary woman is one who is confident in her femininity, expresses herself, thoughts and feelings unapologetically and is profoundly limitless, unpredictable and intuitive.
How would you define success?
Success is enjoying the process, learning from the process, embracing setbacks and rising from the ashes.
And your primary motivation?
My kids and my mum, her work ethic is absolutely admirable.
How can entrepreneurs ensure they stick to their goals and follow through on their ideas?
Corporate women and entrepreneurs have to be passionate about their jobs.
Once you are passionate about what you have chosen to do, everything flows naturally.
You simply enjoy the process, delegate where you have to and be open to the ideas that present themselves in diverse forms