Ndidi Okonkwo Nwuneli and Mezuo Nwuneli have become the first-ever couple to deliver the keynote address on Harvard Business School (HBS) class day.
Ndidi and Mezuo Nwuneli are successful entrepreneurs in nutrition and agricultural business. Ndidi is the managing partner of Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition and the founder of LEAP Africa, while Mezuo is the managing partner of Sahel Capital Agribusiness Managers.
Addressing the students virtually from their home in Lagos, the couple shared personal stories on how they met at Harvard University and how they have gone on to build successful businesses and non-profit despite the odds.
Using the market crash that led to a global financial crisis in 2007 and the present coronavirus pandemic the world is facing, Mezuo admonished the students to dispel fear and be open to new opportunities for growth and innovation. Mezuo shared a personal story on how he was shot in 2007 and almost lost his life. He said he feared he may never walk independently again, but through the crisis, he learned immense lessons of how his faith, family, and friends helped him pull through.
Here are some life lessons shared during their speech to the class of 2020:
Learn how to find opportunity and hope in times of great change: Ndidi told the graduates about how unsettling it was to leave LEAP Africa to begin again in Senegal, where she neither spoke the language nor had a job. In the midst of the crisis, she reconnected with agriculture and birth Sahel Consulting Agriculture & Nutrition Ltd.
- Use your talent, time, and treasure to improve the lives of others and define your values and stick to them. Your success early in life can be destructive if you have not clearly defined your values, rooted in integrity and humility: Mezuo advised the class to define their values early in life and stick to it.
- Find your life’s purpose because you are called by God to play a critical role in positively impacting your sphere of influence. Consider what brings you joy, what makes you angry, and what you’re willing to do for free. Always consider the generational impact of the decisions you make today.
- Character definitely has a currency; if people can count on you because they trust you, they would invest in you, support you, and call on you to serve as a trusted adviser and board member.
- Remain humble as you change lives and freely share the credit with others. This not only builds trust but enable a broader group of people to have ownership in your vision and eventually to lead the movement themself freeing you up to take on the next challenge.
- Forgive more easily and show gratitude lavishly. Live your life with open hand – both giving and receiving help.
- Use your talents, time, and treasure to improve the lives of other people. And when you are in a position to make decisions, always think of the people who are not in the room, and make sure you speak up with boldness.
Ndidi Nwuneli closed with an exhortation: “An Igbo proverb states, ‘Mbelede ka eji ama Dike,’” she said, “which loosely translates: ‘Disasters help to sift out the resilient, the resourceful, and the brave.
Watch their inspiring speech below: