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Stephanie Obi: “Representation matters”

As I mentioned earlier, one powerful way to empower more women to become women founders is just by showcasing the stories of diverse women entrepreneurs from different backgrounds. Women should be exposed to more female founders as they grow up, and as much as possible, entrepreneurship should be a part of the curriculum in schools. Access […]

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As I mentioned earlier, one powerful way to empower more women to become women founders is just by showcasing the stories of diverse women entrepreneurs from different backgrounds. Women should be exposed to more female founders as they grow up, and as much as possible, entrepreneurship should be a part of the curriculum in schools.

Access to funding will help a lot of women to become founders however a lot of women struggle to access the available funds because they cannot pitch themselves. There should be training programs focused on teaching women how to pitch and to access funds. It will also help if women can become investors because investors tend to invest in people who look like them.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Obi. She is an online course launch strategist and tech founder who helps women to create and sell premium courses.

Over the last six years, Stephanie has helped to bring digital entrepreneurship to Nigeria, empowering women to take ownership of their own wealth, and is elevating the financial climate of her country.

Her clients have used her framework to clarify their message, launch irresistible courses and impact lives in a transformational way. To find out more about her work, you can visit www.stephanieobi.com


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I had just rounded up my MBA and I had gotten an amazing job in a multinational company. I was supposed to be climbing up the career ladder and then I started to feel an urge to impact lives by organizing workshops. I could not really explain what was going on with me but I started to organize physical classes that taught young ladies how to make fashion accessories so that they could start a business and financially empower themselves.

When the ladies started telling me about all the decisions they were able to make because they were now financially empowered, I knew that I had to pursue this as a full time business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

After I saw the success stories of my first set of students, I was so excited that I had found a way to impact lives and still earn a living. Despite the fact that I didn’t have a lot of followers, didn’t have a lot of time and I wasn’t sure anyone would pay for my online course…I launched my first 97 dollars online course so that I could expand my reach.

I quit my job to focus on the business full time and this is where the problem started. I could not earn enough to earn a proper salary. I would launch 29 dollars, 49 dollars, 199 dollars courses and I would earn money but I could not earn enough to cover my bills…by the next month, I’ll be thinking of what else I could monetize. I found myself launching low priced products upon low priced products and no matter what, I was always looking for more money.

I found myself having sleepless nights, worrying about where I was going to get money from and all that talk about monetizing your knowledge and making money in your sleep started to irritate me I was struggling. I tried to set up evergreen funnels to sell my course but it was so complicated and so confusing.

I was spending the little money I had on Facebook Ads and they were not working. I didn’t have a huge budget to keep testing a thousand different things I was torn, confused, overwhelmed…I didn’t know what to do. I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

The event that broke the camel’s back is when I launched a membership program that was so cheap and yet, only three people paid. I did not have the energy to continue the program and so I just refunded the money back to them and decided to launch a premium online course What happened next, blew my mind. The people who refused to pay for my low priced products, paid for my premium products and my business never remained the same again.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My first workshop was a flop. I printed a few fliers and expected that I would see a truck load of people. When I didn’t see anyone, I was so embarrassed and I spent some hours crying under a huge duvet because I did not know what I was going to say to people if they asked me how my workshop went. This experience taught me a fundamental lesson in marketing. It’s not enough to have a great product, if you really want to impact lives, then you have to market that product the best way possible. Marketing is an act of love

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

One of the people I’m so grateful for is my mentor, Tara Fela Durotoye. She is the founder and current CEO of House of Tara International.

She pioneered the bridal makeup profession in Nigeria, launched the first bridal directory in 1999, followed by the establishment of an international standard makeup studio, and the launch of the first makeup school in Nigeria.

I was so inspired by her vision and what she had achieved. She showed me that it was possible.

She also understood what I was going through at every phase of my development and was able to give me the advice I needed for that phase.

For instance, I pioneered the online course creation business in Nigeria and at first it was difficult for people to understand what I was saying. She could relate with this frustration because this is also what happened to her when she was starting out, and she advised me on how to remain focused.

There was also a time when I was overwhelmed because I thought I was the only one who could do what I was great at. She taught me how to create processes and structure in my business so that I could focus on growing the business.

Her success has not just inspired me, it has also inspired an army of African entrepreneurs who now believe that they can also be successful entrepreneurs.

This is one reason why I strongly believe that we need more women founders. It causes a ripple effect. Millions of women all across the world will be inspired.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks

I read the book at a point in my life where I felt like I had plateaued. My business was not growing and I was not sure why. I was feeling very unmotivated to do a lot of things and I wasn’t excited again.

The book explained that I was in my Zone of Excellence and I had gotten so used to what I was good at. I needed to take a leap to what my Zone of Genius was.

It helped me to discover my Zone of Genius which is to help women to move from selling low priced products to premium online courses.

All I can say is that I’m now on a roll.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

You are already a premium brand, you need to act like it.

This is a quote I say to myself when I try to sabotage myself.

There are times I get scared and because of fear, I underprice my products or allow discounts…I remind myself that this is not how premium brands act.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Over the last seven years, I have used my voice and social media platform to inspire digital entrepreneurship in Nigeria, empower women to take ownership of their own wealth, and to elevate the financial climate of my country.

This is why I was awarded a Social Media for Social Good Award, an award specifically dedicated to leaders focused on social change and was named one of the 100 most inspiring women in Nigeria in 2017 by Leading Ladies Africa.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

When I was growing up, all the women entrepreneurs I saw owned mom and pop shops. They never grew to be CEOs of big companies and so I didn’t even know that women could be CEOs. It was not on the cards for me, I thought the best I could be was to rise up the career ladder in a good job, get married, have children and be satisfied.

My perception started to change when I started to see other women who were mothers and wives and had founded successful businesses. I started to see that it was possible for me. What made their stories so profound was that they were just like me. African.

This is why I now believe that the biggest thing holding women from founding companies is the lack of representation. If women see women who are just like them founding companies, they will be inspired to start.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

My company has helped thousands of women to start an online course business using our different training programs.

We also noticed that a lot of women were not tech inclined and this stopped them from really growing. In order to resolve this challenge, we built an easy to use online business platform, TrainQuarters which makes it easy for women to create and sell all their training products online

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

This is a very powerful topic especially in Africa, where the rate of poverty is higher, female entrepreneurship can go a long way to alleviate the effect of poverty.

With more money in the household. children can be exposed to more opportunities. Research shows that when women are empowered, communities become empowered.

I also believe that there are problems that women are in a better position to solve just because of our feminine nature. If women become founders, they will be able to contribute their innovative ideas to solving problems that society has.

Representation matters. If young girls see other women who look and sound like them founding companies, it helps to build a pipeline of women founders.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

As I mentioned earlier, one powerful way to empower more women to become women founders is just by showcasing the stories of diverse women entrepreneurs from different backgrounds. Women should be exposed to more female founders as they grow up, and as much as possible, entrepreneurship should be a part of the curriculum in schools.

Access to funding will help a lot of women to become founders however a lot of women struggle to access the available funds because they cannot pitch themselves. There should be training programs focused on teaching women how to pitch and to access funds. It will also help if women can become investors because investors tend to invest in people who look like them.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I’m currently inspiring a movement for people to go premium.

When they go premium, they can raise their own standards and offer better quality services to clients that they love.

They will also be in a better position to run a profitable business that continues to grow over the years.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

She’s African like me and I love that she has been able to lead a global movement, “We should all be feminists”.

She redefined what feminism means and has inspired a global conversation about this.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

They can find me on my website at www.stephanieobi.com

I’m also very active on Instagram @stephobi

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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