The Co-Founder of Piggy-Vest, Odunayo Eweniyi speaks on scaling through the odds being an entrepreneur
In an interview by Lehlé Balde on Scaling Through the crisis. A Youtube series that features inspiring entrepreneurs as they meet the challenge head-on. High-impact entrepreneurs are now innovating their businesses in real-time, leading with exceptional courage and contributing to the national crisis response in meaningful ways.
You can watch the episode here: https://bit.ly/35mSKrj
Excerpts from the Interview
Tell us about PiggyVest ?
PiggyVest is an automated service and micro-investment platform set to help young Nigerians put aside a given amount of money daily, weekly, or monthly towards a target with lesser barriers and having a competitive interest. We are into savings, micro-investment, and dollar opportunities. However, we are looking forward to creating another financial uplift plans.
How did you start PiggyVest?
Piggy Vest started with an interesting story that went viral on twitter. It was on the 31st of December 2015, when a certain lady tweeted that she had saved the sum of #365,000 at the end of that year by saving #1000 daily. Those singular actions made people think of their New Year’s resolutions and all. Anyways, the response of people and that particular act gave my co-founder Joshua the idea of having digital sustainable savings. He sent the tweet to our group chat and it became an acceptable idea. We launched piggy as an experimental work in January which fully went through April 2016.
Could you share with us the success story of Piggyvest?
Yes. The good thing about our success story is that we have a site that showcases the testimonials of PiggyVest users on piggyvest.com/stories, that saved up for masters, some for chemotherapy, rents, etc. We have the story of Yewande that saved 1million naira in 2016 to get a car at a period we thought we needed to give the Piggyvest a break. That success stories led to others because now piggy vest is four years and counting and we have taught and are still teaching people the aspect of financial freedom, how they can relate with money and responsibilities. Through the savings, we’ve had testimonies of 1.2million users that saved up.
What is your take on the Financial Inclusion world bank goal for 80% inclusion by the year 2020?
Well, what I am about to say is totally my opinion, as much as I believe so much in the digital help for the financial exclusion, we also have to consider their needs in order to avoid the scenario of carving out needs to solution created. What I mean is that solutions are to be created because of the needs of the people. I would advise we redefine our approach to financial exclusion and consider the needs and reasons for the financially excluded.
As the COO of Piggy Vest, how have you coped with the pandemic both from a personal and professional perspective?
Professionally speaking, we know how COVID-19 made everyone work remotely giving no chance to the norm. However, working remotely isn’t as new for Piggy Vest business as our job is a technological base platform. We carry out most of our activities online. As a leader, I have come to understand that leadership is a learning curve and certain situations can influence your style or approach in business. We call to check up on one another, give out care boxes once in a month, try paying up salaries early to enable stock, etc.
For the users, we try to look into the availability of money once demanded. We know very well how tight the country is due to the pandemic which in a way could discourage savings, but so far, people are still saving, which is amazing. That pure act shows trust in the system and it would only be wise to make liquidity available to give out the money when needed.
In summary, we do what we do to secure the mental health of both the users and those of the employees.
What advice would you give to leaders in your shoes trying to survive through this pandemic?
Transparency and Survival mechanism. Be open enough to seek help from those ahead of you, where and when necessary, and be strong enough to survive tough times. Here is what I and my co-founders decided we would use in scaling through the pandemic. Transparency to the workers. This is to make your employees know the state of things in the company and the level of the company. Make them the first to know the things that concern them and the company which leads to the second point of surviving. You must be willing to question your entrepreneurial decisions. Would your company survive the decisions you are making today? Build your company on survival and transparency.
How have you survived as a female entrepreneur in technology?
I must say it has not been easy. However, we have experienced a rapid change in this time more than ever, as more women are doing amazing work in different fields. Surviving may not be easy, especially when women have to fight to gain respect in their field in certain areas. The room to make mistakes isn’t given to you. The little mistakes the male folks make could be overlooked but not with the females. More women, however, are encouraged to go into their field, but with a tough skin.
Nevertheless, I appreciate my co-founders for believing in both the male and female expertise and giving the ground on a 50-50 gender base level.
Do you have any advice for young women who want to go into the tech industry?
“Aim very high, work very hard, and care deeply.” Those were the words my dad told me often as a young girl who was sometimes afraid. Those words encompass everything and aside from them, I would add that you intentionally focus on your dreams because it is very easy to get distracted. You need to be self-aware and have an understanding of your why – Why are you doing what you are doing? Now, I don’t think you have one ‘why’ as I see it as an ongoing discovery process. The endpoint to why you do what you are doing doesn’t change, but the reasons you are doing what you do now should be known. Now, my aim is to help and give solutions. I was tired of looking for a job in 2016 when piggy vest came in; I went into it and gave it my best, while I have continued to do the things that would help the company grow because the main point is to help. That’s why I go into other things apart from piggy vest because the major aim is to help.
You learn on the field. Experience is a great teacher. Funnily enough, I once doubted that theory, but now I see it is a teacher.
How did you position piggy vest to receive external financing?
The accelerator program by village committal, January 2017, taught us how to position ourselves to secure funds. Now we bootstrap Piggyvest for 18 months and I can tell you that getting funds is a bit difficult. Fundraising requires storytelling and the ability to elicit the emotions of people. There are keynotes for you to pay attention to – Target audience: who are you telling the story? What is your unique selling point? What is your attraction? Seeking solutions from start-up businesses can help boost your business and may even help you generate funds.
How can people interested in Piggy Vest save on your platform?
You could just visit the platform at piggyvest.com and sign up choosing from the varieties of plans that we have. You can also visit the FAQ session of the platform where we have detailed answers to different wallets. If you encounter any difficulties, just reach out to us on IG and twitter at piggybank.ng and we would be delighted to put you through.
How did you develop the ethics and skills for your operations in business?
I must say my mum played a huge role in this. She is very business savvy and I guess her influence has helped me in no small ways. With the right instructions and questions, my parents have helped shape how I attend to diverse situations in life, business inclusive.
At what point did you realize that piggy vest was successful?
(Smiles) I think we are yet to get there but we are grateful for where we are. We have 1 million users for now and there are about 200 million people or more to reach. So, there is still more ground to cover.
How do you react to competition, especially with very big competitors?
We just do what we need to do. We care less about the competition and more about our users and meeting their needs.
What is your greatest challenge in the world of fintech?
How have you developed trust with your customers?
Trust is fragile. So, it is necessary for us to cultivate a transparent relationship with our users, such that every naira is accounted for. We are clear about who we are investing with and do not take a risk with our user funds to maintain their trust in Fintech and Piggy vest. We also assure them that whatever problem they have, Piggy Vest can help them solve it.
Any last words…?
The biggest quality of humanity is resilience.
Transcribed by Pennminds
Odunayo Eweniyi is the co-founder and Chief Operations Officer of Piggy vest – a fin-tech platform that helps in saving. She is a first-class graduate of Computer Engineering from Covenant University with five years of experience in Business Analysis and Operation. She is the co-founder of one of Africa’s largest job site ‘ pushcv.com’ with a large database of prescreened candidates.