Mrs Omolara Aderogba is a professional teacher-turned successful printer by providence. In this interview by MODUPE GEORGE she speaks about her voyage into the printing world, widowhood experience, how she rode against the tide and raised her head against all odds in business.
Before venturing into the printing business, what were you doing?
I am a teacher by profession. I came into teaching in 2005. At first I was into trading business but at a point, I decided to use my certificate to work. So, I applied to TESCOM for teaching. But I only taught for four years, and then I lost my husband along the line.
I graduated from the University of Ibadan and I read Linguistics Education. I observed my NYSC with Radio Kwara in Ilorin. I later got a job at the Association of Nigeria Cooperative Exporters (ANCE) in Ibadan. Along the line, the organisation folded up, so I went into business. I took all my entitlement to the market and bought provisions and baking materials, so I started selling. However, I was not really satisfied because people kept buying on credit and I thought that doing business was not really my thing. So, I took hold of my certificate and I decided to work with it. I applied to TESCOM, and I was offered a teaching job. I started my teaching job at People’s Girls Grammar School, Molete, Ibadan. I was transferred to Bashorun High School, and then Methodist Model School where I resigned before venturing into printing.
How did you became a printer?
I entered into the printing business by accident but I know that the accident was God-ordained. I came into printing in 2008, when I lost my husband. The printing business was my husband’s business then but I used to follow him to work during weekends to keep him company. So when he passed on in November 1, 2007, I took up the business in 2008, so that the business won’t die with the owner. That’s how I came into the printing business and since then, God has been so faithful.
How easy has it been for you, moving from your teaching background to take up a printing business?
It was not easy at the beginning at all. I was still teaching when my husband passed on and after I came out of widowhood, I said ‘let me take a look at the printing business this man left behind.’ The business was not this big when he was alive. To the glory of God, we bought this building from the money people gave me while I was mourning my husband. I made up my mind that I wouldn’t let the business die so I started buying machines one after the other. However, I sought counsel from some of his friends. Many of them advised that I should take up the business since I had little knowledge about the business; I always followed him to work while he was alive. They counselled me on the type of machines to buy to make more money so as to be able to feed my children. I took to their counsel; I got the cutting machine and later the half cord machine.
However, I was still juggling my teaching profession with the printing business. I hired someone to be overseeing the business, while I go to work in the morning. As time went by, it got to a point that I would be begging the man to deliver the daily proceeds from the business to me after reporting to the office from school. Instead, he would give all manner of excuses why he couldn’t deliver any money to me. When people saw how unfair this man was to me, they advised that I should oversee the business myself. I prayed that God should direct me and lead me. Afterwards, each time I got to school, I would not know what to teach. God later showed me that I would be embarrassed in the teaching profession if I didn’t leave on time. So, I made up my mind and decided to quit the job. I only spent four years teaching. I started learning about the work through the artisans that I took in. And today, to God be the glory, I have six workers at the moment.
The first challenge I had was with paper. I didn’t know what quantity to buy for a particular job. I was cheated for a long time on this. When I brought them to the office, I would calculate and calculate and I would end up doing the job at a loss. I also had problems with giving quotations. To avoid this, I would run to other printers in the neighbourhood for assistance; some would open up and some wouldn’t. They would even say to me, “do you think you can just enter the printing business like that?’’ and the likes and they would end up giving me wrong quotations.
Another major challenge was with the workers. When it was time to deliver money to me, they would be telling stories. Some would escape and show up the next day and ask that I deduct the money from their salaries. This continued until I started placing them on commission.
What was growing up like?
I’m the first child of my parents. I enjoyed my growing up years. My parents were civil servants. As the first child of a family of eleven, I had to take care of my siblings and parents, although my parents were comfortable. As the first child, at a certain stage your siblings looked up to you for financial assistance. Growing up was fun for me. My parents didn’t spare the rod. My mum had gone to be with the Lord but my dad is still alive. My mum was a disciplinarian; she wanted to know all our friends; those we were moving with. Should I go out, I must not exceed 7pm before I return home to cook for the family. I enjoyed my early adulthood because of the kind of home training they gave me. I so much cherish the kind of upbringing I had, living with my parents, though it seemed tough then. It was when I started raising my own family that I realised that they really gave us the best in this regard.
With all that you have been through in life, can you say your background prepared you well for the challenges?
Yes, my background really prepared me for some of the things that I’ve faced in life. I see myself as self-reliant. I don’t have to depend on anyone to survive. My parents made me realise that though you may have N5 today, you can turn it into N5 million tomorrow if you know what you are doing. They also taught us that if you lived your life by other people’s standards or by comparing yourself to others, you are preparing yourself for a big fall. I’m not that type of a woman who will depend solely on a man. My background really prepared me for this stage of life.
Some schools of thought believe that women are not meant to work or undergo any form of rigour all in the name of money-making?
I will say a woman must work. Look at my case for instance; I never knew my husband would die at a young age. He died at age 47 while I was 43. So, imagine me not doing anything when he passed on. I would be in total mess. To the glory of God, I have two children; I must feed them and they must go to school. Even if friends and families had offered support in their own little way, one day, they would get tired, if I keep going to them for help. They have responsibilities too.
It is a good thing for a woman to work. A woman should not depend solely on a man for everything. You must work to be able to provide for your household. No one prays for bad occurrences, but when they come, one would be able to stand tall. So, it is good for a woman to work. When my husband was alive he stopped me from working at a point but I told him no, I have parents and siblings to take care of. If you have your work, you will be able to take care of your parents, siblings and any other responsibility that comes your way. So, it is good for a woman to work. The scriptures refer to a woman as a help mate to her husband. If you don’t have anything that you are doing or contributing to help the man, how then can you be a good helpmate to the man?
How fulfilled are you in this printing business?
I enjoy what I’m doing. I have seen so many men come to me and say, “madam, how are you doing it, you are running this business so well even as a woman?” You joined this business by accident and it is prospering in your hands. I know how many men I have mentored.
Most importantly, my education played a vital role. At some point, people tagged my office the ” Alakowe Press.” I had to tell my staff, we had to learn to do things differently. I want people to see the difference. At this juncture, I want to categorically say that education is paramount and key, it is important to a girl-child. A girl child must go to school, she must be properly tutored.
How did you tap into your inner strength to do some of these things?
When it happened, I made up my mind that God allowed it. I went for counselling. The counsellor told me there was no reversal of what had happened. She encouraged me to pick up the pieces and move on. She encouraged me to make up my mind on what I want to do. She said “it’s either you go into printing, follow your passion for teaching or you combine both? She encouraged me to build up myself or rely on people. So I encouraged myself in the Lord and I told myself, ” Omolara, get up so that your children will not suffer.”
How should a woman balance her home with success?
A woman’s home should be her priority, Yes, I have to work but I’m not the type of person whose achievements will overshadow her sense of reasoning. If you achieve greatness in life and your home is shattered, what have you achieved? A woman must strike a balance between her home and achievements. Is money or position your god or your driving force?
How do you unwind?
I run this business from monday to saturday, but on saturdays I don’t go to work. Most weekends, I’m at home resting and also on Sunday after church services, I rest more. I also read during my leisure time too.
What is fashion to you?
I’m fashionable but I’m not the type of woman who will cut her throat because of fashion or because I want to dress to kill. I balance my fashion sense with the word of God. It is not until you spend your last kobo that you can look good. However, a woman must look presentable; the way you dress is the way you will be addressed.
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