I’m committed to raising over one million young leaders by 2030 —Ijeoma Okoye, writer, publisher, founder of YAMA
Ijeoma Dicta Okoye is a writer, publisher, book consultant and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Creative Writers and Influencers Network (CWIN) and Young and More Africa (YAMA). In this interview by KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she speaks about her experience with underemployment, journey into writing and publishing, youth empowerment, among other issues.
Growing up, did you imagine becoming who you are today?
Writing has always been a part of me. However, I started utilising my writing skills in my adulthood − a path I had to take after having a taste of the labour market after my diploma programme. I never knew I was going to become a writing expert and consultant. In fact, my age-long dream was to be a lawyer but after trying to get my dream course, I settled for Mass Communication where I obtained a diploma and then English Language where I obtained a degree.
I grew up not paying attention to my writing skill until I became broke to a point of receiving a salary of N6,000. This was an experience that taught me a lesson. I started looking deep within myself to see what I can do. It was in the process of self-discovery that I found out that I could actually do something with my writing skills. Today, I consult for corporate firms and professionals, working with them to birth quality content and books.
You just graduated from the university about one year ago, and you pride yourself as an online business strategist, book consultant and editor, writing coach and publisher. How was this possible within this short period of time?
I graduated from the university in 2021 (thanks to ASUU and COVID-19), but I was already building a business around my skill as at then. In fact, by the time I graduated, I had written 10 books — both in print and digital formats, worked with over 50 authors, and trained over 5,000 writers. I had also hosted a good number of events both virtually and physically. So, you see, I did not start building a brand and business when I graduated. I was already an established business owner before graduating.
You are the founder of Creative Writers and Influencers Network (CWIN). Tell us about it.
Creative Writers and Influencers Network (CWIN) is Africa’s leading writing and business community set up to help writers, authors, business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals become profitable by using viable new media tools and models to boost their income and grow their influence, create more profitable streams of income using their intellectual property, and build businesses around their knowledge.
The CWIN community was formally launched in October 2018 — the same period I launched my writing career. Our community of nearly 50,000 members is the result of this huge vision. We have moved from being just a community to becoming a leading digital media company offering writing, publishing and innovative solutions to personal, business and corporate brands, organisations and entrepreneurs.
Good to hear that CWIN Africa has expanded its reach. How were you able to achieve this?
As an entrepreneur, I am excited about solving problems. This has made me consciously build CWIN Africa and championed a host of initiatives. In over three years of starting out, we have become a recognised community and brand. Today, we have served clients in various countries including Nigeria, Zambia, Liberia, the USA, Canada and others.
The first-ever digital platform for creatives is being built by CWIN Africa. Creators by CWIN Africa is a digital media platform aimed at helping underserved creatives in Africa and beyond showcase their works and earn from their skills. We just unveiled this project to the public and beta test is set to commence.
Writing and publishing are tough businesses in Nigeria, giving lack of encouragement and funding on the part of the writer, and bad economy and piracy on the part of the publisher. How do you think these depressing situations could be addressed?
Writing and publishing are not as tough as we think. The issues of poor funding, piracy and restriction of publishing rights by publishing firms are becoming a thing of the past with the emergence of self-publishing. It is easier to have your work published without breaking the bank or waiting for traditional publishing firms to accept your manuscript. You can publish your book as a digital copy or in print format with your budget.
So, the issue is not writing and publishing the book but marketing and selling it. A lot of writers and authors get it wrong in this stage, which makes them believe that writing and publishing are not profitable. This was the reason I had to write my fourth book in print, ‘What Highly Paid Writers Know’. It is a book that captures the mistakes writers, authors and online business owners make when it comes to marketing and selling their offers.
How can young writers who do not have the moral and financial support be encouraged to keep up with their dreams?
Every established writer was once an amateur writer. For me, I did not have the opportunity to develop my writing skills as a young girl. This is why young writers and creatives should be given all the support they need to grow. Parents should also look out for creative talents in their children and help them harness such. I am glad we are championing the drive for this through our Kiddies Mentorship Training and Scholarship Programmes at CWIN.
Talking about the CWIN Writing Scholarship — the need to help more persons actualise their writing goal despite the financial inclinations, birthed the scholarship programme. CWIN Writing Scholarship Scheme is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) fully funded by CWIN Africa to help intentional persons kick-start their writing careers. So far, we have supported four writers who have gone ahead to write their books and launch their writing career and online business.
Aside from being the CEO and founder of CWIN Africa, you are also the project director of Young and More Africa (YAMA). What is your drive in leading this movement?
In 2020, at the peak of the pandemic, I had the lead to officially launch the Young and More Africa project to help more young people discover the potential in them and strive to live it while they are young. I wanted to set up a network that gathers young people from all walks of life to share thoughts and ideas on how they can effect change in their immediate environment and impact lives using what they have. Today, I look back at this project and I am amazed at the reach of our impact just in two years.
In two years, YAMA has become Africa’s largest network of young change-makers from all over Africa and beyond. In two years, we have hosted three editions of the world-class YAMA Convention attracting industry leaders and experts from far and near. Finally, in two years, the YAMA has become a stand-alone initiative and have partnered with the United Nations to drive for the actualisation of SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Development), and SDG 17 (Partnership for the goals).
YAMA is on a mission to impact and raise one million young leaders by the year 2030. I am very intentional about this date which is why we launched the #Impact10000Youths campaign. This global movement is here to lead the way when it comes to youth empowerment and development. We are here to change the narratives
This year’s YAMA Convention was on the lips of everyone who attended it. How were you able to assemble such notable speakers and panellists?
Wow. Up till now, I am still getting feedback from delegates of the YAMA Convention 2022 held in Lagos. Our speakers were John Obidi, Mike Oladipo, Babatunde Akin-Moses, Stephen Fii, Airemionkhale Esther, Chinaza Favour, Winner Ezekiel made the event a memorable one. The goal of the event was to have top industry experts share practical experience and conversations on digital economy, business, and personal development with the delegates. We are glad this was achieved. We look forward to more impactful conversations and events in the future.
As someone who has achieved a lot at a young age, what would you say drives you, and your mission in life. And where do you see yourself in five years?
I believe that for the world to attain growth and sustainability on all levels there must be an expression of the full potential of all generations. So, being a young person is just a stage of my life that I am fully utilising. This is why I am most excited about the theme for this year’s International Youth Day, with the theme: ‘Intergenerational solidarity: Creating a world for all ages’. You see, whether you are young or old, the world needs you. You do not have to allow your age to restrict you.
I have a strong passion for growth and excellence, and this has been a major driving force. I am on a mission to raise a rare breed of writers and young leaders who will transform the world with their pens and voices. I am taking this one step at a time and hope to see a better version of myself in the next five years.
What are the major challenges you face juggling all these engagements? And how do you manage the stress that comes with them?
It has not been easy combining family, studies and life in general with business, but I have learnt one thing which is: ‘Always pay attention to what matters to you’. I have been able to beat stress and live healthily because I mastered how to give time for what is important. I would rather catch a sleep than hang out for unnecessary conversations. I would rather have chat time with my family than go partying. It boils down to knowing your priority and giving the right attention to it.
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