On Saturday March 19th, 2016, I met Mrs. Udo Okonjo. An extremely radiant woman doing amazing and beautiful things. She is impacting the lives of amazing young woman and influencing them to do much much more with their lives and the God given talents that each of them has. I want to follow her lead and continue to reach for the best in me. She gave me a personal assignment and asked me to document the most impactful moment of the i-WOW Summit to me. Honestly, I felt honored to be given such a task! Please find below a compilation of the impact that strong and influential women had on a young lady who ventured out of the comfort zone of red, white, and blue to the uncertainty of green, white, and green driven by the assurance of faith and the promise of self discovery. This is how walking thorough the doors of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and deciding to receive a multitude of messages created a shift in my life, a shift towards greatness!
The moment I walked into the hall I felt reluctant. What am I going to face? Were the other girls going to be nice to me? Would I encounter the all to common swift cut of the eye laced with judgment and insecurity? Would the older women be encouraging or would they ask me why I still don’t have a ring on my finger and why I have refused to get married? I had no clue what to expect and frankly, I didn’t care. I was at a crossroads; almost a point of surrender. Do I continue pushing through the terrain of this Nigerian experience, or do I retreat back to the comforts of my upbringing? I needed a solution and I needed one fast. So after hearing about the i-WOW Summit Friday morning (literally a day before the conference), I bought a ticket to Lagos that same day and and registered for the summit. I had no expectations, I had no pre-meditated thoughts, I just knew I needed inspiration and I needed a solution to the speed bumps that were before me.
This Little Light of Mine
Each speaker honestly left an imprint on me. Mrs. Patrenia Werts Onuoha showed me that it is possible to continue to be one’s self in Nigeria and make it in an unknown country. No need to “come down and change your accent”. I realized that I can still remain true to myself and pursue my dreams in Nigeria without letting go of the background that made me who I am today. She was the piece of home and comfort that I miss so dearly. Someone that I could related to completely. Her heart is so warm and embracing, she is truly a problem solver.
“What is a Princess, and what is a queen?”
Mrs. Udo Okonjo encouraged my growth and transition into womanhood. She let me know that it is ok to stumble, it is ok to to fall as long as you get right back up. She assured me that though my tears are not yet noble tears, they are still worthy. Worthy because they are nourishing my seed of growth, and that one day, as long as I continue to invest in myself, I will reach my Queendom. My crown is already on my head and I must ALWAYS embrace it. I have a voice and I must always have the audacity to use it! Not to back down in this world of ageism, sexism, and marital status – use that voice girl, ROAR until they hear you!
The Sky is Big Enough for Everyone
Mrs. Bukky George made me feel like it is ok for me to just be me! I could relate with her stories of growing up and being told that she “talked too much”. I had the same New Year’s Resolution for many years, be more girly and less talkative. But she pushed through the ridicule and she still embraced her uniqueness. It was extremely humbling to be in the presence of a woman who has brought international standards and excellence to the Nigerian retail scene. When she was speaking and the photographers were taking her picture, she told them to stop as she dabbed her face to make sure she was camera ready. Even during her speech, she was the embodiment of her brand: HealthPlus, CasaBella = International Excellence. There are women conquering the world and I need to put my running shoes on so I can catch up!
Mrs. Oge Modie was my Sojuorner Truth on Saturday. She provide the light for me to navigate my way through the terrain of the Nigerian Public and Private Sector (which was my first stop on this journey of the “Nigerian Experience”). Humility – Humble yourself to understand the land in which you tread, for a land unknown is not dangerous by nature if you understand the intricacies of its terrain. Mrs. Oge, in her speech, summarized the path to success. Understanding is key, all may not be on one accord but understanding can bring together a multitude of solutions to problems that once seemed unsurmountable.
Omilola Oshikoya, this young woman blew me away with this analogy. A lot of times, I find that I am the outlier amongst my peers, taking a path that often times I tread alone. I don’t talk about my tithing’s or the extra that I sew in offerings. I don’t talk about the seeds that I have sown with or without specific intentions, but with a heart full of pure faith. Trusting that God knows what’s best for me, far better than I will never know for myself. But when Omilola gave the example of the seed and the endosperm, it all clicked for me. The seed nourishes itself until it is able to pull nutrients from it’s surroundings. The best real life example I can liken this to is starting my own business. By using my own money as an endosperm, it allows me to grow to a point where my vision pulls and attracts nourishment from my client base and investors. The endosperm is a MUST and necessary for success. Sowing a seed into God’s vision for you and His Kingdom is the pathway to an everlasting abundance of fruit. If you eat a seed, perhaps you would have satiated one hunger pang for only a limited time (this would have to be a mighty seed, because with the kind of hunger I experience one single seed will not do). But plant that seed, and you will have an abundant harvest that will assure your needs are fully met. This is how I look at money now. It is simple a tool to be used (planted) to grow more resources. Invest. Save. Reinvest. Repeat.
Throwbacks and Sleepovers
I remember being in college, sitting on the bed at one of my closest friend’s house and listening to her talk about her wedding. This was before I even thought of embarking on this Nigerian journey. Somewhere in North Texas, in the heat of the summer, she called me over to look at bridesmaid dresses, and wedding decorations, and aso ebi’s. Low and behold, which website was pulled up on her computer? Bellanaija! This was back in 2008 or thereabout! I remember way back then and to see how far Uche has come, it is beyond inspirational. Hearing her story of persistence and knowing that she started out in a corporate environment gives me motivation. She left the corporate world behind and chased her passion when no one could understand her reasons. She had blind faith and followed her dream. Now today, there is no Nigerian wedding that I have attended, both here or abroad, that does not have their sights set on being displayed on Bellanaija.
Finance and Pastries
Mrs. Ify provided step by step instructions on how to successfully start a business and achieve one’s goals. She focused on details as specific as the hiring pools of each industry and things to be mindful of while entering various/ different markets. She taught me to set my standard and to set it high. She was headhunted from the UK and set her standard of the kind of environment she expected to work in if she decided to come back to Nigeria. She followed her passion for sweets and made a lucrative business out of it. As far as I am concerned, she can make a business out of anything.
Get a Title
The only male speaker that was in our presence and he was still quite exceptional. Obinna Ukachkukwu laid out step by step the details of how to run the finances in your business. He described how money should flow in and out of your account. It was his statement about getting a title for all that you own that resounded with me. Titles show that your assets exist and it places a value on your assets. I’m an under the assumption that his discussion on titles was meant for asset declaration but it resounded strongly with me in the area of how I refer to myself. What title have I given Kachi? What have I done to show the world that I exist? How do I value myself?
A Father’s Love
The first word that comes to mind when thinking of Mrs. Busola, is FIREBALL! She is so full of energy and substance. I love her tenacity. She dared to tone it down a notch and slow down the pace, to “Dance with My Father Again”. I’m not sure if her speech was intended to emphasize marriage, but it certainly triggered the issue for me. She spoke of the importance of a good man in a woman’s life. She spoke of the importance of a father. She made me think of my unborn daughters and the obligation I have to them to ensure that their father loves then unconditionally. She made me realize that the man that I will one day call husband is one of the most important choices of my life. I want my daughters to speak of their father, the way she spoke of her’s. I have a duty much larger than myself when sieving through the men who approach me for courtship. I have an obligation to my little girls and my little boys to make sure that my husband and their father makes them his top priority.
What is in a Name?
Although this woman did not have a designated time slot to speak, she was not afraid to grab the mic and let her voice be heard. Her prayer set the Summit on the right track. Her words were firm and filled with conviction. As much as she elevated the room with her presence it was her kindness that touched me. She continued to shower me with love, grace and advice. It was as if she knew exactly what I needed to hear at the precise moment I needed to hear it. From tips on networking to simply appreciating me for who I am, this beautiful woman showered me with complements throughout the day. She subtly and softly kept reinforcing my confidence with nuggets of kindness. Hajara Pitan is certainly a woman I will model myself after. I will compliment my fellow woman when I see her! I will embrace her! I will let her know that I appreciate her and celebrate her! I will rejoice with her!
The moment I realized that each nugget of knowledge shared by these wonderful speakers were tools that I could use to solve everyday challenges, I knew I stuck GOLD. To say I learned a lot is such is an understatement. I was filled with so much joy when I received various confirmations that I am, in fact, on the right track and the pumps and detours along this road of growth are only apart of the journey.
Permit me to pull an excerpt from my journal entry that was inspired by the i-WOW Summit:
March 20th, 2016
3:11 am (approximately)
“It was like I was looking into an antique mirror, an art deco mirror. A mirror full of geometric shapes and intricacies that had simply been soiled over time. Dust, dirt, and grime had been continuously caked on because I was too focused on worrying and crying about the reason why people would throw dirt on my beautiful mirror. “Can’t you see how beautiful it is? Look! It has diamonds and rubies! Rare stones and jewels bestow this mirror that reveals a reflection that is so bright and crystal clear. Why would you throw dirt on her?” I would cry and cry and cry and mourn the fact that people would try to soil the very means in which I would use to see the reflection of God in me. [And then I realized]they threw dirt on that mirror because they knew it would dampen my reflection. Maybe they didn’t want me to see how bright my reflection was or maybe they just couldn’t handle it. They knew the dirt would cover up the gift God gave me to see who I am, the fearfully and wonderfully made woman He created me to be. I am totally perfect in His image. All these years, instead of standing behind that mirror and using it to shield me from the dirt and grime of the world, I should have picked up my divine cloth, the one laced with Jesus Christ, and wiped off the dirt. I should have stood in from of that mirror and let my light shine, shine so bright that even when it hurt my own eyes I continued to stand there. Right in front of my mirror. I will stand and shine so bright, that my light will make someone think twice before trying to throw dirt on my mirror again. Yesterday, I picked up that cloth and began to wipe off that mirror and I saw something beautiful! I saw myself! I saw all the little girls behind me who look up to me and cheer for me. I wiped off every nook and cranny of that mirror and found that the places I thought were broken and shattered because I dropped my mirror once or twice, were perfectly fine! Untouched, protected by the world’s strongest frame wrapped in diamonds, rubies, emeralds and pearls. I didn’t realize that even those stones were not only placed on that mirror as adornments but as protection from the blows, spills, and stumbles, falls, the simple wear and tear of daily life. I wiped off that mirror and finally I saw a Queen!…”
Mrs. Okonjo, I need you to know what you are doing in this world and how you are cultivating a generation of “breakthrough-ers”. Do you really know what you have done? Do you know that you have awakened a beast? A force roaring with hunger and eager anticipation ready to take on this great nation. We are ready to take our rightful place in its scheme and path to greatness as the women that she has birthed!
I have always known that I, Kachi, have something great in me. Sadly, I have always dumbed it down to make others comfortable. But on Saturday, Mrs. Okojo, you challenged me and the rest of the women in that room! You challenged me to stop being afraid of my own light and stop running from my truth of greatness. You forced me to look at myself, ALL of MYSELF and embrace her lovingly. You slowed me down and made me focus on what needs to be done, which is the cultivation of my mind, the nourishing of my ideas, the healing of my spirit and increased faithfulness of my heart. On Saturday you gave me the recipe of success by simply holding up a mirror and making me look into it and reassuring me that everything I need is already in me. You gave me your life lessons to learn from and you forced me to get up and grow. The quote you read by Marianne Williamson, it changed me. Yes, that quote, was the most impactful moment of the Summit for me. That quote, it was the icing on my cake. It was the moment that I identified with the most. It confirmed that my journey is normal. I did not know that other women went through this process and I learned to embrace it. I am that princess. I am that girl “…who knows that she will get there, who is on her way perhaps but not yet there. She has power but she does not yet wield it responsibly. She is indulgent and frivolous. She cries but not yet noble tears. She stomps her feet and does not know how to contain her pain or use it creatively…”
I am that princess but I am surely on my way to becoming that Queen. With women like you, Patrenia Werts Onuoha, Busola Songonuga, Uche Pedro, Ify Umunnakwe-Okeke, Oge Modie, Omilola Oshikoya, Bukky George, and Hajara Pitan, I have great examples to follow. I have a mentor to ask a multitude of questions, especially when I feel that I am treading a road never traveled before. I can’t express the relief I felt when I realized that I was not alone.
How you managed to pull off such a comprehensive event that catered to so many aspects of being a woman, I don’t know. There was something for everyone there. The most beautiful part of it all was the humility in the room. Despite the success wrapped around each of these speakers, they were all approachable and willing to take us under their wings. It’s as if this Summits was designed with me in mind. God literally drove me into your presence, I was called and I could not remain seated. I just had to show up. I went from eyes filled with tears and confusion to a heart filled with joy and solutions!
Thank you for giving birth to this brainchild. Thank you for following through with your idea and thank you for encouraging young women like myself to continue to push forward. Thank you for asking me to put into writing how the 2016 i-WOW Summit impacted my life. Thank you for taking the time to listen to my perspective and allowing me to share my story with you!