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#HERStory – Episode 16: Ms. Start Over

What Was Her Experience?

I Kept Losing but I Never Gave Up

Ms. Start Over: I always believed I was going to be successful. When I was young, I had this vision of myself growing up to become the CEO of a big multinational. I had always done well in school so failure was not something I was particularly familiar with. But I think my luck started to change in my final year of university. When our final results came out, it showed I had a ‘carry over’… I had failed a course and needed to take that course again before I could graduate. This put me in a state of shock because it meant I was going to be delayed for a whole year. I did everything I could to waive the course but when I realized the impact that would have on my GPA, I decided to just move forward with the extra year.

That year, it was difficult to see my friends graduate and move on to their service year, while I sat at home. The ironic part was that I had never failed any exams in my life before. So, having to fail for the first time right at the end of my university journey was a very difficult pill for me to swallow. After a month of staying home and battling depression watching my friends graduate, I decided to not take life lying down. Instead of just staying home being idle, I decided to use the free time to enroll in a number of courses that would help improve my skills as a Marketing undergraduate. Eventually, I finally graduated with a better GPA and certification in new skills. I was not happy about the extra year, but it didn’t feel as bad.

After my service year, and after about three months of job-hunting at home, I finally landed my dream job in an FMCG, one of the top multinational subsidiaries in Lagos. I was excited to start my career as a Marketing Trainee. Life was good. Five years down the line, my life was blooming. I had a dream job that paid me very well, I had a car, and I had just moved into my own apartment. Life was good. Life was really good. I had just gotten my third promotion from an Officer Level to a Senior Officer Level and I was appointed as the Team Lead of my unit. Everything was going according to plan and then it happened. The mail from HR saying the company was going to be taking some ‘drastic measures to cut cost’. They were going to be down-sizing. I was in a state of utter shock when the list came out and I had been affected.

I remember the silence in my head as the office went into chaos around me with people realizing they had been yanked out of the system. I got to my house that night realizing that I had nowhere to go the next day, so I just sat in silence in my dark living room. The only thought that ran through my mind was “What next?”. Three months passed and I still hadn’t found a new job. The situation had become quite critical. I was down to my last few thousands in my savings and my rent was going to be due in a couple of months. When I finally got an offer from a boutique Marketing Agency with a salary that was not even up to a quarter of what I was earning before, I took it. It was a job and I needed the money. So, I took it.

I worked at the boutique agency for a year and a few months. Working there opened my eyes to a lot of my potential. I realized I had what it takes to actually run an agency on my own. After sometime, I became very unhappy and depressed with the job because I knew I was destined for greatness and I was under-utilizing my potential at that job. I wasn’t meant to end up working at a small establishment as a Team Lead when I had the potential to do it all on my own and be even greater. I knew I had to make a change again. So, after a year and a half of getting back on my feet and restructuring my finance, I finally gathered the strength, courage and capital to start my own boutique agency.

What started as a small agency with a home office soon grew into a full-fledged boutique agency with over 10 clients, 6 team members and one very nervous but courageous leader… all in 2 years. At this point things are working just fine and I am happy. But I just cannot lose the feeling that something unplanned and unforeseen could come and ruin everything again. With the global pandemic on the rise, I have already lost 6 of my biggest clients. The clients I have left are barely able to pay their retainers. I had to cut salaries for my team. I’m not sure if things will pick up or if I would be able to sustain my business after the pandemic. But one thing I’m sure of is that no matter how bad things get, there would always be a way out. I will always find another option, a new opportunity. I will always be able to start over.

A Moment That Tried Her

Everything Seems to Crash Just When Things Start Getting Good

Ms. Start Over: I cannot pick one. From having to wait an extra year to graduate because I failed that one course, to losing my first job when I was just about to peak, to even dealing with depression when I was at a firm that undermined me. I have gone through some very low lows. But I love that I did not stay down every time I fell. I couldn’t. The only option I had was to keep finding my way out of each mess. The alternative was to do nothing and lose even more, possibly lose myself even.

Her Eureka Moment?

No Matter What Happens I Can Start Again

Ms. Start Over: I remember thinking back on my journey so far. I realized that every time life handed me adversity, I found a way to make it work. Staying an extra year before I could graduate pushed me to get certified in a skill that helped get me my dream job. Losing my dream job pushed me to find a new job in an environment where I eventually realized my potential to start my own business. So, I am confident that if anything happens in the future, it will only lead me to my new path and I will be ready to start again.

The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been far reaching. From the global economy falling fast into a meltdown, to businesses losing profits (big corporates and small businesses alike), millions of employees being rendered jobless and more facing salary-cuts, it is clear that the impact of the pandemic goes far beyond the devastating data around the number of cases and deaths.

As more countries begin to emerge from the lockdowns and a new dystopic lifestyle begins to emerge, uncertainties are high and the general populace worry about the future. For women especially, the stakes are higher as a number of researches have shown that women and young people would feel the economic impact of the pandemic more due to the nature of work of most women. Nonetheless, hope remains high as we believe that out of adversity comes new opportunities. We implore every woman out there to not give up, to keep thriving and pushing to succeed even in these unprecedented times.


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