Doing entrepreneurship, especially in a clime and time like Nigeria, can be very difficult and challenging. Nonetheless, there are certain people who have been able to excel against all odds.
This week, Tell! Interviews Abiodun Adereni, the founder and CEO of HelpMum on his entrepreneurship journey, his wins, struggles and challenges
We all know Abiodun Adereni, the Award-winning founder and CEO of HelpMum. Can you tell us 10 things nobody knows about you?
My name is Dr. Adereni Abiodun. I’m a social entrepreneur. Alot of people know me with HelpMum. But I also have a second company called MumHealth, which is basically for women, pregnant women and nursing mothers in urban community. I’m a private person. I like being indoors. I can be impatient. I’m a Barcelona fan. I like pounded yam and vegetable. And also I’m just passionate about improving Healthcare in Africa.
How and when did your entrepreneurship journey start?
My entrepreneurship journey started as far back as when I was in 200 level at the University of Ibadan, when I got into Youwin. That was during the Goodluck Jonathan Administration. Then I was involved in an agricultural project, but what I do now is basically related to the health sector, maternal and infant health and it has been awesome. Yeah, so my entrepreneurship journey started as far as when I was in the University. That’s 2013.
What was the major reason that led you to venture into Infancy and Maternal health? Do you have any personal experiences about it?
I didn’t lose anybody in my family. Nobody died to motivate me to start what I’m doing. But one of the experiences I had was when I started off HelpMum while in school and I visited rural communities. I saw that some communities didn’t even have any doctors or hospitals. I realized that the health sector in Nigeria was highly underfunded. I saw what women go through in rural communities when they want to have deliveries. There’s no one that will see that and won’t want to atleast do something about it. So that’s one of the reasons I ventured into this sector for mothers and children. I think for the larger part of my life, this is something I would love to continue doing and I’ll continue to explore ways in which we can improve healthcare for women, infants and mothers in rural and underserved areas.
You’ve been an entrepreneur for a while, do you have any regrets?
Yeah, so many regret. I mean life is not a straight line thing. I’ve had so many regrets, but I don’t dwell on them because the same way I’ve had so many regrets is the same way I’ve had so many successes also. So for me, I’m always looking at the next action to take. I tend not to live with those regrets when they come. I just let it go.
Instead, I try to dwell on what it is that I’ve done wrong and how can I make sure that I don’t make this mistake again so that I won’t have these regrets. So that’s what I live on so I tend to look at the good side of life and I try not to make the same mistake again all over again. So I try to avoid having the same regret twice.
You’re the winner of the much sorted Google Impact Challenge worth about $250,000. You have won grants cummulatively worth over $300,000. What would you say is the secret behind your success in winning grants?
I tell people that all the grants I have won has just been by the grace of God, and not about my own personal knowledge. It’s not that I am very good at writing proposal or something. I just believe God has just been the one that has helped me so far and let me tell you something ehn, although I have won some of these grants, I have also had my fair share of rejections. I mean my rejection is like three times of the grants I have won. But I just believe what the numerous grant I have gotten through HelpMum have been by the grace of God. I just feel God has be faithful. Not because I’m so good at this. But I would also like to say one of the things that helped me so far is that I’m in the maternal and infant health space. So I tend to read a lot about what is happening and I tend to also look for better ways we can do things.
So we’ve been looking at ways in which we will be adding new Innovations to what we do every year at HelpMum. These are some of the reasons I think we’ve been able to get some of these grants, but I’ll say that largely it has been by God’s grace and not because we know how to write proposals or anything.
What does Financial Intelligence mean to you?
What Financial intelligence means to me is about knowing How to use what you have at hand to get more and knowing when to say no to a lot of things. The mistake I see most entrepreneurs make is that when they get big funding they tend to over hire, they tend to start living some life that ordinarily they won’t have lived if the funding had not come. So one of the things I think I tell people is that just relax your nerve because if you are not wise with money, you would always lose it as it comes. So relax your nerve, always learn to prioritize. What is the most important thing you need to do right now? What are the things that can wait and what are the things that you don’t need to do at all? So if you prioritize like that, you will know how to spend money and you know how to also keep money. For most people when they get big money, they tend to “over-blow” it. They want to buy the latest car. They want to impress someone. Don’t live your life like that. Live your life to build something that is sustainable and live your life to grow something that is very lean. Also learn how to grow a business using the lean approach model. One mistake I see is that, for instance you see Startups with 20 staffs when they actually need 2 or 3 staffs. The work 5 people are doing in your office, one person is capable of handling that.
So financial intelligence for me is knowing when to say NO to things that are not important, being able to attend to things that are extremely important, and knowing that some things can always wait.
Would you say the education you got at the University contributed to your success as an entrepreneur?
Yes, I think my education was one of those things that has contributed to my entrepreneurship profile. Because when I tell people that I’m a doctor, nobody even knows I’m actually a Veterinary doctor. They just think I’m a medical doctor and that makes me do what I do at HelpMum. So I think my education has truly helped me so far. But if I was not educated, will I still be here? maybe. But my education has been one of the driving factors for all of the things I’ve achieved so far.
Aside Entrepreneurship, what other interests do you have?
So if I wasn’t into entrepreneurship, maybe I’ll be a stock broker because I love to read so much about business and stock.
We understand you have won a lot, but we also know you might have lost alot also. How do you cope with failure?
Let me give you an instance to explain this better. You get an application. You apply, you get to the second round, you get to the third round, and then to the semi-final stage. And then it is now when you get to the semi-final stage they tell you that you’re not selected. I just let it go. I try not to dwell on it too much. I throw out alot of application every day. So anyone that doesn’t come I just move past it because if you dwell on failure, it blinds you to what is good ahead of you. So when it comes, when it doesn’t come, I keep the same energy. And one thing I do now is that I don’t tell people about my application failures anymore, not even people that are close to me. So instead of telling people, I just let it die like that, keep my mind off it and move on. Then I look at the positive side of life and I see that perhaps me failing at this thing means that God has something better for me. And perhaps it was not meant for me anyways.
When are we turning up to eat your wedding party rice sir? 😊
Ah, wedding….I don’t know for now. But when it happens, I will inform you guys, but I would like to keep that information private.
What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who are seeking to solve some of Society’s pressing problems?
Be true to yourself. One question you have to ask yourself is that know the reason why you really want to do it. Are you really passionate about solving a problem or are you really passionate that you solving the problem will make you travel. Are you passionate about the problem because of grants and money you might win or are you really passionate about solving this problem and it is something you want to do for a lifetime. So that question is the determinant of whether you’re going to be key to solving that problem or not. Because if you are really solving the problem for the right reasons, I believe you’re going to really do very well. But if you are solving the problem for the wrong reasons, then you will not fly. So I advise people to make sure that any problem you are solving, you are solving it for the right reasons.