Bukola Fela-Steve, a business entrepreneur and life skills acquisition trainer, is the chief executive officer of La Vista Exclusives. The creative woman in this interview with YEJIDE GBENGA-OGUNDARE shares her thoughts on why women should have streams of income and the need for couples to encourage one another, among other issues.
Who is Bukola Fela-Steve?
I am a God seeker, friendly and passionate person who seeks the wellbeing of women and advocates for peaceful cohabitation in matrimonial homes. I am a mother of three young men and I have been married to my husband for 22 years now. He has been a very good source of love and encouragement to me.
How would you describe yourself?
I would describe myself as a simple woman who loves God and the good things of life. I believe that life is lived once and must be lived well in whatever context we find ourselves. I’m someone who is usually excited at the success of others, especially women, in their relationship with God and when they are able to add value to themselves and people around them. I am an independent woman led by God and very supportive of my husband and home.
You are an advocate of women empowerment and you run different business concerns. How do you find an equilibrium?
Yes, I do run different businesses with the skills I have and some even include the management of an events centre, interior/events decoration, sewing, making of shoes, bags, jewellery and very importantly, I encourage women going through one thing or the other. And since most of these skills can be taught, I simply use them to empower the people around me. The interwoven nature of my trade and passion is how I achieve my equilibrium. I even have a mini fish farm at home. If I could get my boys to work on them with me when they are around I don’t see how hard the other parts could be anymore.
Which aspect of what you do you enjoy the most?
Encouraging and giving insightful advice on how a woman can successfully run her life and home and empowering them to work with their hands and create value that they can find independence and self-satisfaction in; and more importantly, empowering them to impact others around them. As much as I am glad that I am able to provide financial aid where necessary, being able to reproduce that same ability in others is a joy for me.
You started as a business owner. How did you become a trainer?
I did start as a business owner, but I find fulfillment in adding value to others. So, it is no surprise that I became a trainer since most of what I do is hands-on, since the skills I have could solve some problems, from emotional, financial and even relationship issues. Killing two birds with one stone seemed appropriate, impacting lives and making money at the same time.
What are your thoughts on women striving for financial independence?
Be financially independent. This is important to being an asset and not a liability. You might be married or single but you are also a woman, a person-meaning you have your own needs and wants and you should be able to fulfill some of these without having to rely on anybody. Your intent to be financially independent is also crucial to whether your independence would be a nuisance or something we can celebrate and rejoice about. So yes, make money while adding value, dear women, and continue to be rich in character also.
What is your opinion on the state of abuses, especially of children and women in Nigeria?
Where there is ignorance, abuse is inevitable. Thank God for enlightenment and social media era that’s bringing so many things to the open. Every woman must know her rights and should be able to stand up and defend herself when occasion calls for it. Exposure to knowing what to do and appropriate place to go when a girl is being denied her right or is being abused and getting the right justice will go a long way in reducing abuses. So, the girlchild must have a secure, organized and confidential place to run to without intimidation when assaulted, even before being abused either at home or outside. We need boldness and courage in the hearts of everyone, that is, men, women, children and communities, by shouting it loud that it is okay to stand up for what is right. And we should not hesitate to do so and be actively involved in the protection of the female gender in their environment.
How do you balance all the things you do without getting overwhelmed?
Well, there is time for everything; time to work, eat, sleep or rest, go to church, even to party and so on. I just try to study myself and know when to take it easy or accelerate. In Nigeria’s context. I do what I must when it is time and know what I can do without. If I need rest, I avoid engagements without apologies.
How easy is it for women to create streams of income and market themselves?
You have the internet to connect you to almost everything you would need to achieve this, from people to opportunities. It is relatively a lot easier these days to achieve this. Since developing a disciplined culture of saving and investment is quite important in this age, there are apps like piggyvest to help you with things like this. Just make researches and select reliable information that is applicable to you.
This is not a cliche when I recommend you find a problem around you or something you know people need and acquire the skills to meet that need. To market yourself, first I would recommend you package yourself well in conducts and deeds and be known for it. Social media is a major platform that is readily available to market who you are and what you do.
What would you say is the problem facing women entrepreneurs in Nigeria?
One of the problems facing women entrepreneurs nowadays is that they do not know how to acquire the necessary and important information that is needed to help boost their businesses. Things have changed now. We are now in the era of packaging and “emotional appeals” No matter what you know or put on the table today, you need to be able to convince your targeted audience or customer about why your product is better than the others even when it is very obvious. So, I’ll advice women to go for trainings, workshop, and management courses that will boost their experience on how to manage businesses well and bring good profits.
Do you think it is possible for a woman to take on too much while creating streams of income?
It all comes down to balance and management. Your streams of income don’t get too much, but your ability to manage them needs to be improved consistently.
You have a passion for empowering women. How do you go about this?
I empower women by training them to handle and solve practical problems in their lives and others, by giving specific solutions that by experience have yielded results in myself and adapting it to their context. I provide counsel and advice and by the grace of God free people from negative thoughts and a mentality of giving up on life itself. What some people need is fulfillment and a lot of people need money, so I train them to acquire skills that begin their journey to finding fulfillment in what they do and making money at the same time while promoting our culture. I teach them with indigenous materials and produce global class products.
Your activities all seem to revolve around children. What is responsible for this?
Children are our adults tomorrow. Since I am a trainer, it is only normal that children would be one way or the other involved.
What inspires you?
What inspires me mostly are women that impact other women by teaching them how possible it is for them to rise from wherever they are now to relevant positions in the society through God and their hands (work). I’m also inspired women who seemed to be invisible at the earlier stages of their lives but who have taken control of their lives and made something great out of it.
What are the challenges you face as a business owner?
There are periods when nothing you do works and one struggles to make ends meet. There are times when investments hit the rock and you don’t know where to run to. Some other times, you have goods but no sales, still glorify God because in times like this all you can do is to look up to God who alone can manage such serious situations for you until good times are back again. Patience and tenacity is usually the only options sometimes.
What is your guiding principle?
My guiding principle is in Psalm 144:1 It says “Blessed be the Lord who teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight” Yoruba says “atele owo eni ki tan nije “. Literal meaning, your palms cannot deceive you. It’s the work of your hands that God blesses. So, don’t stay idle, even if it takes you to work free, don’t be found idle.
Tell us a little about your background.
I’m the last born in a family of six. My origin is Abeokuta, Ogun State; I was born in Iperu, Remo. I grew up and lived both in Lagos and Sango Ota. I’m an HND holder in Accounting from The Polytechnic, Ibadan. I finished my secondary education 33 years ago from Ansar ud Deen Grammar School, in Sango- Ota. My mother was a trained and sound teacher, a Home Economist and handicraft teacher, who retired as a headmistress. I actually got my handicraft training instinct from her. It’s her passion as well. My father, late Rev Ezekiel Akinboro, was a theologian, a product of the University of Ibadan. He died in 1982.
What advice do you have for women with similar vision?
My advice to young women is that they should not live their lives in isolation. A life lived in isolation can lead to loneliness and depression. They should network, reach out to other women of like minds and see how they can be of help to one another. Praying and solving problems together helps better than doing it all alone as long as the person is operating on the same level of understanding with you.
Be deliberate and committed to being a better version of you, for yourself, in your home and people around you.
If you are not doing this, what would you be doing?
I would be working in the corporate world as a Senior Public Relations Executive representing my company and projecting her good image to the world. At the same time speaking to and building up young intelligent minds mostly of the female gender that will bring about a positive change to our country and world at large in the future. Just a slight variation from what I still do presently.
What in your background prepared you for this?
My mother and the woman in Proverbs 31:10-31 prepared me for this indirectly. I’ve always seen and watched my mom busy with her profession in the house which she got some of her children who were available at home involved in. This, she used to train us in her own little way. She’s also a very prayerful mother. She is and will always be my role model.
How long have you been into this?
Since before I got married 22 years ago, but took a better more structural form 13 years ago till present.