Founder Feature: Guardian Woman Cover October

‘We need more deliberate networks that wholeheartedly support women’

Joycee Awosika is an entrepreneur and energy economist with a dual degree in Business Management from Goucher University in Maryland, USA. A project and operations management professional, who has garnered expertise in the formulation as a certified natural skincare formulator in the UK, she has a history of running companies, including Oríkì, the first and only all-natural farm to skin brand to operate a fast-growing premium product and wellness spa brand on the Continent of Africa.

Awosika has built a reputation for her expertise in creating a structure for businesses and homes, and provides, Standard Operating Procedures and templates through her platform, SOAR, leading operations and business process consultancy that works closely with businesses and individuals for sustainability, consistency and standards.

She is avidly passionate about impacting SME’s to be sustainable and scalable realising that they form the backbone of any economy. As the former curator of the World Economic Forum Abuja Global Shapers Hub, a highly selective group of young people around the world, creating valuable impact in their communities, Awosika led a team comprised of 21 young leaders on a number of community initiatives focused on education, youth unemployment and entrepreneurship. One of the staple initiatives was the development of employability and entrepreneurship workshops, which have reached over 2000 young people in Nigeria.

A World Economic Forum Global Shaper Alumni, a nominee of The Future Awards Prize in Public Service, (2013 & 2016) and selected into the African Leadership Network, she sits on the board of Oxfam’s Work in Progress Programme and a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme Fellow. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she talks about her passion for empowering women through entrepreneurship.

As a serial entrepreneur with key skills in leadership, research trends, organization and innovation, how are you able to define these many paths?
For me, the key is to always prioritize. I wear different hats at different times depending on the season I am in or the mission I am seeking to accomplish. Leadership is always in the mix, no matter the circumstance. However, sometimes, I am building and sometimes I am researching. I believe that one of the responsibilities of a successful entrepreneur is to be able to discern what is a priority at any given time.

As a versatile professional who has worked in different spheres, how have your experiences shaped you and the work you do now?
I have taken a valuable skillset from every job I have had since the age of 13 when I had my first official employment. At 13, I was hired by an organization called Score, to tutor elementary school kids in Mathematics and English. On that job, I learned patience and attention to detail. In my most recent job before I started Oriki, I worked as a technical adviser to the Honorable Minister of Power and on that job, I learned how to multi-task to perfection.

At any given time, I had upwards of ten deliverables, and I couldn’t afford to miss one. Right after I graduated from University, I worked for a fortune 100-power company in their New York City office and in that role, I learned how to have a voice and be innovative in the workplace. I have an insatiable hunger for knowledge, so it is inevitable for me to learn something in any surrounding I find myself in.

You currently run an all-natural farm to skin and wellness brand, Oriki, share with us what informed this venture?
I grew up seeing American brands tell stories of how they are doing exceptional work by giving back to African countries through the purchase of raw ingredients and turning it into finished goods. As I got older, I became more and mo­­re uncomfortable with this narrative. To further convince me that I had to do something about it, I came to Nigeria for the first time as an adult and I was floored with how resource-rich Nigeria is. Nigeria is truly an opulent and great nation; we just need the right leadership with the right policies and relentless entrepreneurs to bring out the best of Nigeria.

My discomfort turned into a solution, that was the impetus to start Oriki, a proudly Nigerian brand that couples farm to skin products and wellness experiences and had a global footprint and expansion plan. For me, it’s high time that we put Nigeria on the map in this space globally. We are disrupting our industry and will be launching two new subsidiaries that will undoubtedly get us closer to our vision – to leave a piece of Africa with beauty and wellness consumers around the world. We’ve been a part of the development of eight spas in six years and our goal is to take the Oriki Spa and Products to the world; we have started and there is much more to come.
You are also working on making the brand a franchise across Africa, how do you aim to achieve this? 

We are launching our global franchise opportunity and we are pleased to say that we already have franchisees lined up. We have been working on it for over a year and we are proud of the systems, structure, training, manuals and support we have put together to build a sustainable franchise platform.

At Oríkì, our concept is simple; democratizing wellness by providing healing and therapeutic massages, facials, body treatments nail services and waxing via convenient and comprehensive spa locations, there’s never been a better time to own an Oríkì spa. After COVID-19, wellness skyrocketed more and the global spa market is projected to grow at the rate of 5.7 per cent annually and is projected to be worth $128 billion by 2022. The growth in the spa industry is, even more, overwhelming in emerging markets, one of them being sub-Saharan Africa, which ranks number one in spa revenue growth. It has seen its customer base grow by 30 per cent year to year and with multiple locations, we are oversubscribed and in demand. The opportunity is a golden one for us to launch the franchise opportunity.

Owning an ORÍKÌ franchise not only gives an entrepreneur the opportunity to take charge of their own successful business, but it also allows them to leave a tangible positive impact on thousands of lives. A lot of people do not realise the time, attention to detail and careful strategic planning that goes into building a spa. We have done all the hard work for eligible candidates to tap into. The increasing emphasis on self-care is here to stay. With such a demand for the services of spas, it’s only natural that expanding our footprint and allowing others to build a successful business on the back of ours would be our next move.

What do you consider a major concern for women and their wellbeing and how are you solving this need?
Women don’t get enough rest, always on the go, taking care of family, careers, communities, nations and more. We are passionate about rejuvenating and restoring women. About 70 per cent of our clientele are women and we are keen on empowering women to prioritize rest and be intentional about ‘me’ time. Our spas are designed to give women a retreat from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives.

You are on a mission to solve the unemployment gap in Africa, share with us how you want to achieve this with your training institute?
The Oríkì Training Institute (OTI) is committed to supporting spa and wellness businesses across Africa by providing industry standards, training and consultancy services, to build, launch and operate successfully. Through these activities, it desires to scale job opportunities especially for women and impact the economy. OTI is a 100 per cent locally owned enterprise, incorporated to provide high standard spa training programs towards educating and certifying spa business entrepreneurs, personnel in the spa and wellness industry, as well as a network of franchisees of the brand.

Designed as a full-service training center, participants not only receive extensive hands-on training while using state of the art equipment in an elegant, upscale, and premier environment but also are awarded an OTI certificate of completion for fulfilling in-class programs. We are providing opportunities for people who want to learn a vocational skill such as massage therapy, as we speak there aren’t enough spa therapists in Lagos to fill demand so it’s a double win for us to provide training and also employment.

Have you experienced any difficult periods in your career and how did you pull through?
Yes, often. No two days are the same and there are challenges we are constantly pushing through. I have a relentless spirit; I truly believe that there’s nothing I cannot conquer with God on my side, so I always apply the same strategy. Amidst difficulty, the first thing I do is to pray. Then, I determine what’s the worst that could happen and get my mind to understand that it won’t kill me and then I strategise to solve the issue.

How can we get more women to become successful and rise to the top as you have done? What tips do you have for younger women?
By creating communities that support, encourage, and empower women. When I was starting Oriki, I was a member of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers, Abuja Hub. This was a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change across the world and I had the privilege of leading the Abuja community. I will never forget how instrumental they were in my decision to start Oriki. The network gave me access to people who heard my idea and supported it. From advice to connections to funding, you name it. We need more of this, we need more deliberate networks and communities that hear ideas and care wholeheartedly to support women.

How do you get inspiration and stay motivated?
Just thinking about creating impact; my children motivates me and fuel me. I never want to leave any place I am in; any project I am a part of or any business I build, the same way I came in. I am always seeking to do more, to grow and to learn. When I think about my toddler boys, I think about how they will describe their mummy one day. I want them to say, ‘my mummy set her mind to do xyz and not only did she achieve it, but she is also impacting thousands of lives while at it’.

What is your life’s mantra?
Never be complacent; pursue purpose with everything you’ve got and be determined that you are making an indelible impact with great change.

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