Last week, the world celebrated women – their strength, resilience and their determination for success, in a world that constantly reminds them that they are less. An example of a woman who has refused to be cowed by her gender, her location, or her age, is Dr. Dedunmola Oluwo. 24 year old Dedunmola graduated from medical school at the University of Debrecen, Hungary in 2016. However, her ability to graduate from the arduous experience of medical school is not her most impressive feat. Rather, it is the fact that she became a serial entrepreneur while she was a student. How did it all start? Accidentally! Dedun recalls: “My first business, Hair by Dedun, was an accidental accomplishment. It was not planned as I just randomly told a friend I could braid her hair. She paid me, I like the fact that I could do something to bring money in, so I turned it into a business as means to get extra money for stipends. My second business, Dedun’s Cakes, started as an inquisitive venture that grew into a full blown passion for baking. My third business, Dedun Cooks, was born upon realization that the Nigerian students needed home cooked meals, in bulk, to help study time easier to navigate instead of thinking of food to cook/order. Finally, my most recent business adventure, Belle Artistry by Dedun, a beauty outfit, is still in its humble beginnings.”
Adedunmola Oluwo is the only daughter in a family of four. When asked about her work ethic, she attributes it all to her mom, who raised Dedun and her brothers, all by herself. She only wanted to be a doctor, and work in a hospital for the rest of her life; however she grew up and realised this was a “limited dream”. She decided to explore the frontiers of that dream, and from that point on, she became inquisitive about acquiring and developing new skills.
In her chat with BellaNaija, she tells us all about what drives her, the challenges she faced, and the ultimate goal for her. Adedunmola’s story is one we hope you enjoy.
Let’s start from your growing up experience. Did coming from a single parent home have any impact on forming your personality and the woman you have grown up to be?
Yes, it was quite hard for me; but on the flipped side, I enjoyed it because:
My mum never showed that being a single parent was a struggle for her. Having my mum as the only parent figure meant I followed her every step and acquired most of her habits, behaviours and ideologies from her. The nature of her job was the reason I went to boarding school. Boarding school really shaped me to be who I am now. I also learnt very early, how to do things on my own.
I learned to multitask from my mum and also got my business ethics from her. My mum is a retired Civil Engineer and in those days she was a boss in the field, which meant she was always on the road, supervising road constructions; sometimes she got back home as late as 6am or briefly come home to shower and head out again. She did all of these while her businesses, a full blown farm and also a textile store, were actively functioning.
To be honest, watching her do these things growing up was too much for me, especially nights when she came home very late after I’ve sweated while making Amala for her. I told myself I wasn’t going to be excessively hardworking to the point of forgetting my security and health; but look what we have here, I am who I said I wouldn’t be. What a life!
That’s so lovely; mothers truly rock. You stumbled into the different businesses you run while you were a medical student in Hungary. Which of these four business ventures would you say you are most passionate about?
I’m most passionate about baking. I was inquisitive after my first attempt at baking. This was about four years before I officially started Dedun’s Cakes.
My neighbour told me she needed a cake for the weekly fellowship held at her house, and I remembered my mum used to bake for us when we were kids, so I told my neighbour I could bake. We dashed to the cake supply store and bought all the ingredients I thought was needed.
I remembered what the consistency of cake was like, so I assumed that was how the consistency of the batter will be before it bakes (Epic FAIL 1)
Here I am trying to make the batter, I mixed everything including “YEAST”.. I knew deep down that was what will make it rise. (Epic FAIL 2) ..
Batter mixed ready to go.. or more like bread dough but let’s call it batter for the sake of cake gods. Turned on the oven and it didn’t work (Epic Fail 3..I mean mum used it last probably more than 7 years before that adventurous day) …
Trying to think fast, I improvised with the sand-in-a-pot method and finally my cake was ready for the make-shift oven.
More than two hours later, the top browned and we were excited for this “Cake” only to cut into it and it was hard as a rock. It was not edible and was the most epic FAIL of my year.
Fast forward to when I finally left Nigeria for school, I moved into a furnished apartment and luckily there were pans and a mixer in the kitchen. Remembering my first attempt at baking, I decided I wanted to do it right and that was how I picked up the passion to actually learn how to bake. Hundreds of Youtube videos, recipe screenshots, trials & errors, sharing my results with friends and getting the positive nod later, I officially got my first Cake order on the 19th of April 2012.
Going through that journey to acquire a skill means I’m not letting it go ever. I enjoy baking and I love how my creativity is challenged with cake designs and all.
How do you manage to keep running costs at a minimum – in order to maintain profitability?
Most profitable was Hair by Dedun. I already had the tools I needed prior to starting the business, so in a way I started with what I had and added along the way. My biggest capital was my time, which in a sense is the most important capital for any business. This meant that my profit margin was quite good because I had put little “money capital”
Because I operated from the comfort of my apartment, there was no significant change in overheads. Maybe the only thing that increased was gas bills (for baking/cooking), but it was never ridiculous and I could handle it.
I already envision the struggle of overheads in Nigeria, now that I’ve moved back and plan to officially start a couple of my businesses here but for those already in the system, one advice I got is to be adequately accountable and pay attention to running costs. Most times, people disregard it and don’t include it in the expenses and at the end of each month when it’s time to pay bills they realize they have to take out of the “joyful profit”
Keep the overheads to bare minimum by doing these things:
1. Don’t go over your initial capital budget for your business.
2. Don’t rent a space you don’t need. I’m going to work from home until I have enough to pump into renting a space and know my business will exponentially grow to avoid losses.
3. Have a detailed plan. When you know how much money you need to make in a month to keep the overheads at par, the plan will help to maintain the path set for the business so you don’t derail and run into debt.
4. In terms of equipments, don’t get too excited and buy equipment you won’t need at the start of your business. For my cake business, I started with a hand mixer and used that for a whole year. Yes, it was difficult but I didn’t want to get too equipment friendly and have high prices for my goods at the start of business. As a general rule, entering a market as a new/unknown business with ridiculously high prices is already bad business. If the reason for your high prices is because of capital spent on equipment, then the business is doomed from the start. Even if your market is the luxury sector, you still have to enter the market with competitive prices.
5. Don’t hire staff if you don’t NEED them. Because I worked from home, and the businesses weren’t too demanding for me to handle, I did them all my own. I had the option of getting a cleaner to clean my kitchen after every use, but I cut cost by doing it myself) Of course as your business grows, it’s mandatory you get help and create jobs for others.
Which of the businesses do you see gaining the most traction in the next 5 years?
Dedun’s Cakes and Dedun Cooks. Nigerians love food and cakes, I plan on working with that notion and bring something different to the table that will put me up there in the industry.
What is your current position on moving back to Nigeria – with respect to the different business platforms you’ve set up as a student.
I officially moved back in February. After I came home last year just for the fun of it, I realised I had the potential to be all I want to be and more in Nigeria, because of the unexpected attention my story got from people around the world. I suddenly realized I have been given a platform to reach out to people that have heard my story and were inspired by me. I no longer had the power to be selfish and stay in my comfort zone.
After going back and forth with the idea and knowing how flexible my Msc Program is, I made the decision to abandon the European life and move back. I realized that there will never be a perfect time to move back home. Every level you get to has it’s trials, so if you feel you want to get to a level before making that giant stride to move back, it’s an individual decision. I will definitely add that don’t move anywhere if you are not sure of your plans. I prayed about my plans and I definitely got the nudge to go in that direction after all, home is where my heart truly is. To be honest, Nigeria is very flexible and there’s a big pool to play with if you are a wise player.
You’re very busy with your businesses, how are you able to excel in medicine?
I’m currently in the process of getting my Nigerian license, which means I have truly not experienced how hectic the profession really is. I don’t actually need to be told because everyone knows how difficult one job is talk-less of adding multiple businesses to that. I have plans, and I’m only praying they unfold just like I want them to.
For the sake of a giving an advice to those already struggling with this job multitasking, I will say plan plan plan.. Plan your time, plan your day, plan your life. When you have a time specific plan and you know how your body works, you will eventually get the hang of handling multiple jobs.
Just like how people work different shifts/jobs, see your business as your job and not something you do when you feel like it or as a hobby. Having that mindset that you have to succeed at all cost will erase any doubts you have that you can’t handle what life throws at you.
Yes it is possible, but remember to take it one step at a time. Establish a stable professional life, then branch out to do the other things you are passionate about.
For me, I don’t plan to establish all my businesses at once but start gradually and expand my capacity as I grow.
You’ve mentioned in another interview that on the long run, you want to take medicine to the rural areas, in Nigeria. How do you intend to do this?
Yes, and that is my major plan for my Medical Career and it will be achievable by Telemedicine. This plan was not birthed until two years ago when I thought about which path I want to take (Medicine or Entrepreneurship) or if I want to fuse both paths. Flashback to June last year, few months to my graduation, I still had not found a suitable Masters program that will help bring that plan to life. I knew I needed extra training aside from Medical School to really make a huge impact in the Rural Health Care system. On the verge of giving up that dream for an alternative option, I stumbled on my school via Google and I got enrolled the second day! It was so quick I could not believe it.
I am currently enrolled in the Msc eHealth Management and Telemedicine program, so yes I will merge both paths and become a Health Entrepreneur and with the help of people I probably do not know yet, we will give better health care to the vastly neglected citizens.
If you had to advise a young Nigerian student going to Hungary with an equal entrepreneurial drive, what are particular things you’d tell the person?
Before you start a business, first and foremost, your academics (grades and attendance) should be very stable.
Study your time schedule and see how your business can work with your schedule
Get to know your environment. Know what business will thrive most in your environment and don’t just start a business just because…
Figure out who your major clients will be (All International Students, Hungarians, Africans or just Nigerians)
Pay attention in Hungarian class if you think most of your clients will be Hungarians, make Hungarian friends.
Be sure of taxes and legal restrictions for your business. You can ask at the Immigration office if you really want to be sure before you start.
All work and no play makes Dedun a dull girl… what do you do for fun? And don’t tell us you work 24/7
Haha no I don’t. I’d rather stay indoors though and rest or watch series. If I have to go out, I’ll most likely go see a movie alone or go out for drinks with friends.
Where was your most memorable holiday destination and why?
Palma de Mallorca, Spain. It’s my last vacation last year and I still share throwbacks till today. It was an unexpected holiday, the best gift I’ve ever received.
I remember starting the year with plans to travel to a new city or country once a month only for the struggles of final year to slap me in the face. Few days to my grad, my darling friend buzzed me that my grad gift is a free travel to any destination I want.
In my head I though “Ah Dedun is getting to travel for free. What a time to be alive!” I chose a calm island in Spain that wasn’t cold. It was really fun and relaxing.
If you found a cheque for $1M with your name on it, left by a mysterious benefactor, what’s the FIRST thing you’d do?
Buy my dream house and wisely pump the rest into my businesses (especially my future health care venture).If there’s still small change which I doubt, because health system will take most of it, I’ll invest in another real estate and rent out.
Are you a shoes or bags kinda girl?
None. Watches though. 🙂
Okay, so is Dedun rich? A Don’t be modest…
*Chuckles* Wish I had the capacity to be modest. Deaden is a start up in itself. I invested all my savings into my Msc but if I’m asked again this time next year, I hope to say Millionaire (now this is me being modest)
I want to retire early actually so I imagine living a good life with my family, good health, investments yielding excellent returns, and just a general happy life with no worries aside from “Why are we eating rice again?”
Thank you so much for chatting with us. We can’t wait to see your successes in the coming years.