My name is Olutope Olatilewa Egbetokun, fondly called Topsie, and I am from Nigeria in Africa. I was not born with a silver-spoon or into a rich family, I was raised by a single-mother with seven children including me, I saw all my life the struggle of a mother to make ends meet in taking care of seven children, sending all seven children to schools without family or external support. I saw the spirit of entrepreneurship in my mom displayed, as she does various businesses just to put food on the table and cloth us. Through her tenacity for starting different businesses, I saw the leadership of a woman running the affairs of seven children, her business, and extended family issues as the first born of her family. When she was at the brink of enjoying all the fruit of her hard labor from her seven children, cancer took her away from us - May your SOUL rest in PERFECT PEACE MOM.
My community is very complex and dynamic in nature; the people are educated and globally well-rounded with information, business and technology. One needs to really understudy the people, culture, and ways of doing things and business before you can venture into any uncharted territory. You need the locals to help you navigate the community and get what you need done.
My big challenge as a leader is changing older generation’s mind-set about social issue affecting women, youth and girls in Nigeria and Africa. Most of these older generations are stuck to the past, afraid of change and not willing to learn new things to open their mind of understanding. They don’t want to leave their jobs, career or businesses to younger generation to take over and manage while they act as advisors or mentors while enjoying retirement. They have so much inadequacy and strategically tell the younger generation that “Youth are the leaders of TOMORROW”, Tomorrow is a strategy to delay youth future and an opportunity for them to keep occupying the space. These has led to -Waithood Period (Youth cannot get a job, do business, get married and contribute to society. They are just stuck in life because they are waiting). Unfortunately, these older generations are the ones who are leading and making local and global decision in every sector and corner of Africa for the younger African people. The older generations are making decisions based on their experiences, how they went through life—going to college, getting a job, getting married, buying a house and buying a car. Today’s generation is rethinking whether or not college is important, and whether they want full-time jobs or want to be entrepreneurs. They’re rethinking whether to buy cars because they can take Uber everywhere. They’re shedding belongings because they don’t want the burdens of ownership. Their value system is profoundly different, and they’re forming relationships with products and services based on the things they value and appreciate. They want authenticity; they want transparency, and sustainability.So there is a BIG disconnect and gap between youth in Nigeria and Africa and the people we have in leadership. What I learnt is that I need to start convincing women, youth and girls that they are the Leaders of TODAY, not Leaders of Tomorrow. Today create a sense of urgency for youth, women and girls to step-up to leadership role and do something positively about their present situation and future.
A lot of women in my community have at least two to five children and they are the bread-winners of their family. Almost all financial burdens, and children up-bringing falls on the shoulders of these women, just like my MOM, they struggle hard to make ends meet to survive. I choose economic empowerment and leadership development for women as my life mission because it’s personal and it comes from a deep connection with my MOM. It is seeing women and girls hopelessness daily that keeps me up at night to come up with solutions to empower women and wakes me up to execute those solutions for people’s empowerment.
Right now, I do lot of training for women and girls in economic empowerment (Entrepreneurship training) and leadership skills development. I also mentor women in various business needs and do public speaking for empowerment and advocacy. I will like to set-up a multi-purpose training facility equipped with training technology and computers to train more women and girls and also to scale by collaborating and partnering with other women in other Africa countries to bring my work to their country. My work and action is supporting women, youth and girls in Africa and the support I get right now are from families, and volunteers who believes in my work and vision for women, girls and youth in Africa. I will love to have more collaboration, partnership and sponsorship individuals, private and public companies from around the world to help make Africa women and girls great in 2016 and beyond.
The primary resources I need right now is funding to help put a lot of strategies and work in place for women economic empowerment, human resources, partnership and sponsorship. I am looking into developing and e-learning platform to bring training and courses to people across Africa. I also need scholarship to continue to develop and hone my own personal professional skills as to continue to lead successfully. What I will like the world to know about me is that I sincerely believe I have what it takes to develop people, empower and challenges people to do something positive about their situation. I have the leadership skills, I think outside the box and I love to challenge the status quo and conventional ways of doing things. One uniqueness, I have is my “Open Mindset’ to share and learn everything on entrepreneurship and leadership. Creativity and innovation is one thing I am not shy to showcase to people. I am always putting myself in a position to create change. I have never been satisfied with standing on the side-lines. There is hardly any topic of discussion, I do not have something to say or contribute to due to my well-travelled global exposure and well-rounded education that gave me insight into different culture, religion, languages and ways of doing things differently.