• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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There is nothing too ambitious for a woman to achieve today – Agoro

There is nothing too ambitious for a woman to achieve today – Agoro

Ifedayo Agoro is the CEO of Dang! Lifestyle, a skincare line for Black women, and also the founder of Diary of a Naija Girl (DANG Community), which has over one million followers. In this interview, the entrepreneur, content creator and influencer, unveils to OBINNA EMELIKE her passion, upbringing, successful journey in the entrepreneurial world, her love for women empowerment and efforts so far to offer women platforms to freely express themselves, among other projects. Excerpt:

Why the focus on women?

Our focus in the Diary of a Naija Girl (DANG Community) is not only for women but mainly for women. We welcome the men to an extent because we know that we all cannot do it alone. We need to be able to tell the men how to treat us because sometimes, they don’t even know better, but it cuts across both genders.

The men sometimes say women see them as just providers; they don’t think they are humans. So, we need to learn how to treat each other better. So, we do welcome the men.

However, the Diary of a Naija Girl community is mainly for women because for so long, women have not had a community where they can feel safe to speak their minds, rub their minds, learn and unlearn whatever they learned before.

So, having that space in that community to come out to speak your mind and not be ashamed of your experiences is amazing. I know that other DANG community women will say the same thing.

What is the impact so far?

The impact has been amazing. When I started, I wasn’t saying that I wanted results. I just wanted to tell my own story, give you my opinion on things and generally put it out there that you also can be this free in your speech, in your choices, and see who else aligns with me in that way or understands me. That was my main purpose; to know that there are women who know that it is ok to think the way I think, to speak the way I speak, and to give other people the freedom to choose as well.

It surprised me how big this has become. Every single day, I open my DM and email, at least one person will be saying my life has changed because of you, it has changed because of this platform, and I am doing better now with my life. The way I feel about such an impact is indescribable.

Even some men send me messages to say my wife is such an ardent follower, my wife has done this and that; my wife is now doing this and that because she follows the community. So, it is also amazing to hear from the men.

What is the DANG community all about?

The DANG community is not a blog. We come together as one and it is really all about the women and not much about me. Of course, I found it, but the women are telling their stories more than I am telling mine these days. We just gave them a platform to speak and it has become what it is today. I think at the end of the day, your intention will always speak, why did I start this and that will always let people come back to you? I started it not thinking of profit, or what it will do to me as a person. I was just tired of the way women are treated, and the shame women are subjugated to, I hated it so much and I just wanted to speak out. So, it started for me with the intention of just making sure that we were telling relatable stories. I am telling my own stories and they are relatable and at the end of the day everybody can relate to that, that thing happened to me too.

What we started with, is what we have continued doing. Our intention has not changed since day one.

But I don’t think we have been able to reach as many women as possible since we started. So, every day, we are coming as we are to make sure that women that come to join us meet a solid community, where there is empathy, growth and kindness. We started this way and we have been this way since 2016. People see the genuineness in that and they come and stay.

However, the reality is that there is nothing too ambitious for a woman to achieve if she is supported with the right platform and mindset.

What about the DANG Women Festival?

The DANG Women Festival really did well. It was our first-ever physical gathering. We have been gathering online, gisting, talking, seeing each other and hugging. But I told myself it was about time because I had pushed it for so long. I felt like there are so many women, how many of them do I get to know and how do I manage them?

It gives me sleepless nights when I don’t do things well because anything I put my mind to do, I try to make sure it is done really well. Finally, this year we just decided to do it. The DANG community is a kind community, they will understand and whatever hiccup happens, they will know we put in our best and whatever happened was not because we wanted it to happen.

We went ahead to plan for it and there were so many women, that about 620 women attended.

They include the vice chairman of Exxon Mobil; Adesua Dozie was our keynote speaker; Uche Pedro of BellaNaija; Folake Soetan, CEO, Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company; Deola Alade, Group CEO of Livespot, among others.

All of these women are DANG community members. So, you can imagine the calibre of women in that community. Despite their status, they came down and we were all one in the comment session. Imagine where the vice chairman of Mobil is commenting and students from University of Lagos are replying to her. It is not who you are as a status but now who you are as a human being and as a woman, relating woman to woman. It is going to be an annual event.

Do you also monitor the women and their impact?

Yes, we do. In our breakout session, all the mentors followed all the people they were mentoring. They follow up to know people who need jobs, help, one thing or the other.

Also, we do a lot of follow-up online now. When you tell your story, we don’t stop there, we go back to ask how you are doing and if you need help, we will offer you. We don’t tell stories for entertainment purposes, which is not the reason we are there.

At DANG Community we laugh a lot, but when a problem comes, we take it seriously. If you write an email, we will get you a therapist, we will send it to Lagos Domestic Violence Clinic, we don’t stop there we move on to help you get all the necessary assistance.

What about the DANG Lifestyle?

It is a company I founded in 2020. It was inspired by the conversations of women, where we realised that we spend a lot of money on skincare made by Caucasians. They made the products for themselves, so when we use them, it does not work that well because our skin types are different.

When the women complained, I said I could engage in such business but let us see how it turns out.

In 2020, we started and in February 2021, we produced our first skincare product.

The Dang Lifestyle products have grown to where it is today majorly because of the DANG community.

These women will bring their husbands, their mothers and sisters to buy. They will come back not because they like me, but because the products worked for them and that is one of the things that have continued to grow the company.

Till today, we have not done any major campaign, but we are selling in the UK, the US, Canada, Ghana and Kenya. This is as a result of this community that is supporting one another and they now, in turn, supported this business to be where it is today.

Can you tell a little about your background?

I was born in Mafoluku Oshodi in Lagos and we later moved on to Shogunle, also in Oshodi.

I got my major mindset from my mother and when we were growing up, there was nothing that was given to a male that was not given to a female.

The guys will play football and we will play football with them. It was not like a woman’s thing and men thing, both do the same thing. During environmental sanitation, husband and wife would clean the drainage together. We did not see that there was such a disparity between what a man can do and what a woman can do.

Then my mother used to tell us that poverty is not what you have to be, but a state of mind; if you feel poor, you act poor and expect poor.

She taught us confidence that anywhere you go is yours, step on it and act like you own the place. So, it did not matter that we were living in the slum, what mattered was our mindset. We were sharing garri maybe with groundnut and we will share the groundnut into like four and put it in our cups. But that did not make us feel poor, there was such happiness around us. My mother taught us that. Leaving that area and coming into the real world and seeing that women are not allowed to be ambitious, I became concerned.

For instance, if a woman said I want to be a housewife, you would say why not if that is what you want, but if a woman said I want to be a CEO and I want to build the biggest hotel in the world, you will look at her and say that is quite ambitious. If a man said that, you would never say he is too ambitious.

Seeing how women are treated is what shocked me because that was not where I was coming from.

What about your education and career journey?

I studied English at Olabisi Onabanjo University and graduated with a 2.1. I started working at a film studio by Kunle Afolayan. I left for another place and later to an oil and gas company as a receptionist.

But that was my turning point. Six months later I was moved from a receptionist to operations officer, and three months later to operations supervisor.

That was how I began to grow in the business and I met people. I started in oil and gas in 2007 and in 2012, I started my own business in oil and gas. That, I did for a while. However, seeing how the policies were changing every single month in the oil and gas sector and there is so much corruption there, I told myself that this is not where I want to grow. I just want to make money and leave. I did my plan and left in 2018. People were saying, but you were making money, yes, but I wasn’t happy, I was extremely depressed and I will come back from work and shut myself inside the house. The moment I started the Diary of a Naija Girl, it felt like I had a release. I was not making money from it, but it was one of the best things I have ever done. Today, I realised that God has been in my journey; from childhood to where I am today. So, everything I had experienced was to bring me here to the Diary of a Naija Girl where I didn’t need the money so that I can speak the truth without fearing repercussions or that brands would not associate with me. So, I did not care.

What about funding for the women in your community? Yes, in the past three years, we have been doing what we call DANG 20 Days of Christmas for startups. We started with N250,000 in the first year and increased it to N500,000 the next year. This year’s January we did N1 million. Again, we discovered that women who are financially handicapped cannot make some choices they need to make. One of our goals is to empower women financially to enable them to make that choice not because they don’t have money, but because that is what they have decided to do. Apart from the yearly grant, we also ask those who need jobs to speak up and we help them as well.

Do you also have projects at hand?

We are opening our first experience store at Akin Adesola Street in Victoria Island, Lagos. It is our biggest store yet for DANG Lifestyle. It is going to be amazing. We are also doing a popup at the end of July in London. There is a book coming and there are offers for movies and scriptwriting.

How were you able to achieve success across my sectors?

I always say that women can be all they want, but not at the same time at that time. All we can do is to start here and continue where we want to be. I started one first, then grew into the other and the other. So, it was one day at a time for me. Keeping all of them successful takes a whole team. I could never do it alone, it is not possible. So, we have a whole team of staff, supporters, loved ones and friends who contributed to our success. It is a village and it takes a village for us to get where we are today.