Our biggest strength as an organization is the team. We have a very strong team that is loyal to the cause, model and the organization, this is entirely different and a lot stronger than loyalty to the boss. – Boluwaji Oyewumi
Boluwaji Oyewumi is a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Nigeria. Boluwaji is passionate about driving sustainable development. During his time at Wecyclers, he served in various capacities including his last role leading business development. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. In this interview Boluwaji further talks about his motivation, challenges and experiences during his time at Wecyclers.
I started out my career working for an international firm and left after six months there to pursue my dream of social entrepreneurship. I felt that the corporate environment boxed me in. I needed more flexibility and an organization that would support my dreams, and that was how I got to find myself at Wecyclers.
I got to know about Wecyclers through a very funny scenario. I was looking for movies on a friend’s computer and stumbled on CEO, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola’s interview with Ndani TV. I immediately got interested in what Wecyclers was doing and decide to reach out through email. I was called in for an interview, which culminated in me interning with the Wecyclers team – learning what was going on within the social space and after 2 months of this I got in fully as a team member.
Wecyclers is a pioneer in the waste management sector with its unique model. Wecyclers has been able to carve a niche for itself while making an impact on the communities that it serves currently. The model works and rapid expansion is ongoing. I feel honored to have been a part of this organization and this model. Working with Wecyclers was a completely different ball game for me coming from my corporate experience angle. It opened my eyes to how social enterprises operate in developing countries, learning that little things really matter and how little things can as well blossom overtime. Wecyclers changed my approach to things, people, communities, development and it totally has been a positive experience for me.
What is your definition of social entrepreneurship?
From my experience and learning process, social entrepreneurship is the “process” whereby an entrepreneur establishes an enterprise with the aim of solving social problems whilst being financially sustainable. The intention is what separates a social enterprise from a regular business. The goal is to create positive social impact within the focus areas.
Why do you think social enterprises are important for a country like Nigeria?
A country like Nigeria cannot afford to run businesses the regular way. There has to be a conscious decision to merge impact driven activities with profit making. The socio-economic problems affecting the country can only be tackled when businesses begin to understand the need for them to ensure a synergy between making money and creating positive societal changes. From the environment, to education, to energy, to health, there are so many issues to tackle and the market is huge for every impact driven business to succeed.
The socio-economic problems affecting the country can only be tackled when businesses begin to understand the need for them to ensure a synergy between making money and creating positive societal changes
The biggest challenge Wecyclers has is that of being a pioneer in a sector where only a few people have been doing it informally and we have had to make mistakes, learn and get better. We are surmounting these challenges and we have found strength, our biggest strength as an organization is the team. We have a very strong team that is loyal to the cause, model and the organization, this is entirely different and a lot stronger than loyalty to the boss.
The experience I have gained at Wecyclers from the team to the clients cannot be compared to anywhere else. Wecyclers has made me understand that you can do anything as long as you put your mind to it. Working with Bilikiss on several projects had shown me the importance of clear communication with your team and how the little things matter. Wecyclers is a family!
How can others looking to become social entrepreneurs get started?
Dr. Prabhjot Singh said: “We spend a lot of time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it”. Young individuals who are thinking about starting social enterprises must understand their target market, their problems and most importantly, how they can solve at least one of these issues using means within their reach.
Aspiring social entrepreneurs need to fully understand what social issue they want to tackle and strategically align their business model to solving that issue. They should never discard a learning opportunity. They must keep it simple and never over-complicate their plan. Go at it with all passion and determination. During challenging times, hold on to your belief and it will work itself out perfectly. Finally, cherish your relationship with people because those are the individuals you will call to grow your business and assist during the challenging times.
There were challenging moments and it was important for me to learn from them and as well the business needed these challenges to grow.
My next assignment involves working in new territories, I’m moving to East Africa to explore new aspects of social entrepreneurship where I hope to make animpact.
Head, Business Development, Wecyclers