Morenike Molehin: “Strive to marry a man who will allow you to achieve your aspirations” | The Guardian Nigeria News

Morenike Molehin is the founder and creative director of Oak and Teak, a full-service interior design firm. She obtained her first degree in Industrial Mathematics from Covenant University and a second degree in Financial Mathematics and Computation from the University of Leicester in the UK.
Over the past eight years, Molehin has succeeded in positioning Oak and Teak as a leading interior design firm. As part of her contribution to nation-building, she has held free seminars and trained more than 100 people in interior design crafts, received nominations and entrepreneurial awards, and is a frequent speaker at seminars on entrepreneurship and empowerment.
Molehin is also the founder of The Complete Woman, a ministry set up to equip young women to fulfill their destiny and co-pastor at The Redeemed Christian Church of God. Through the Oakandteak Foundation, she focuses on impact in healthcare and education.
In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her entrepreneurial journey and her passion for empowerment

Share with us your professional background?
I often say that I started my interior design journey by chance about nine years ago. I had just gotten married and at the time our apartment was sparsely furnished with only a few essential and functional items. However, as our financial situation improved, I decided to improve the look of our house by decorating key areas like the living room, dining room and guest toilets.

Surprisingly, whenever we had guests over, they usually had many superlative compliments on how beautiful our home was, despite the fact that I hadn’t spent so much money on what now appears to be my first decorating project. . Hearing these repeated and increasingly predictable comments, my husband strongly encouraged me to consider turning this hobby of decorating our home into a sustainable business. I thought about it deeply, did some basic research on interior design and finally realized that I would like this profession.

With little or no experience, I embarked on a rigorous self-education process on the technical aspects of interior design by watching several YouTube videos and reading several articles related to interior design. Armed with this knowledge, I started my interior design business. Nine years later, I’m grateful for the trip. Since then, I have enrolled in international interior design courses with the aim of deepening my knowledge in my profession.

You have a background in mathematics, was it easy for you to switch to interior design?
I strongly believe in the fact that what a person studies in a university is not the only determinant of the profession in which he would be best suited. My point of view is that a university education is fundamentally a basis for being able to approach and solve complex problems. Therefore, my degrees in Industrial Mathematics and Financial Mathematics in no way limited my career options; rather, they gave me a foundation for various career and entrepreneurial alternatives.

My initial plan was to work in a financial institution, however, following a brief internship in a bank, I realized that this was not a job for me. Therefore, my first job was as a business analyst in an Aboriginal consulting firm. Later, I changed jobs to work as an operations manager at an Agro-Allied company. It was while I was working in this company that I started my interior activity ‘on the side’. I kept doing that – working an 8 to 5 and running my business on the weekends for about four years.

However, in January 2017, it became difficult for me to reconcile salaried employment and my internal activity. It was then that I made the crucial decision to quit a paid job and focus on scaling the oak and teak interiors to the heights I knew they could reach.

Share with us your childhood and how it influenced your personality today?
I grew up in a very loving, supportive and positive environment in every way – an environment where being respectful, kind and generous was normal. My parents provided all the support their children needed to achieve everything they wanted to achieve. I believe this has fundamentally influenced my disposition to the world around me and even the way I conduct my business.

For example, having grown up in an environment where it was necessary to show genuine caring towards others, I generally adopt this approach in my relationships with my clients and co-workers. I believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. It is for this reason that exceptional customer service is a strategic priority for our business at Oak and Teak. I believe that if you treat your customers well, they will treat you well back (at least in most cases).

Your foundation aims to have an impact in the health and education sectors, how do you achieve this?
One of the business philosophies that are embedded in our business is to dedicate a portion of our revenue to adding value to the society in which we operate. That’s what we seek to achieve through the Oak and Teak Foundation, which was launched last year in May. The foundation was established to improve certain infrastructure and the general ambience in the public sector of health and education in Nigeria. My experience in the interior design field has shown me that the appearance of the environment in which people live and work has a huge impact on their feelings. Beyond the impact on people’s feelings, our foundation is committed to equipping hospitals and schools with the tools to provide optimal services.

In 2021, we are committed to delivering five key projects comprising two hospitals and three schools. I am happy to say that all projects were completed in 2021 as planned. In addition to renovating the spaces for free, we have installed various elements such as hospital beds, library shelves, books, among others. We aim to do this continuously as part of our contribution to achieving positive change in these key areas.

Your initiative, The Complete Woman, what is the idea behind it?
The Complete Woman in simple terms was set up to equip young women to fulfill their destiny. The network is made up of approximately 2,000 women from diverse backgrounds. The method of equipping these young women comes in the form of mentorship programs and lectures. The focus areas are spirituality, family and relationships, career and business, finance and investment, personal development and charity.

What challenges have you encountered and how do you overcome them?
Challenges are part of life; therefore, whenever challenges come my way, I usually approach them with a positive mindset. Someone once said that “challenges are chances for (positive) change”. This suggests that whenever a challenge comes your way, it’s also an opportunity to make positive changes. Therefore, whenever I am faced with a challenge, I wonder how I could possibly meet the challenge effectively and efficiently.

Sometimes, to solve problems, I have to tap into my network of friends and family for support. There is a saying that your network is your net worth. What I realized is that whatever problem you are facing, there is someone in your network who has already experienced something similar. Therefore, I strive to leverage my network to effectively tackle challenges.

What should women do differently to excel and sit at the same table as you?
I honestly think women of this generation are already doing wonders; they are more courageous, more enterprising and more educated. More and more women know what they want. If I have to give any advice, it would be for them to believe in their dreams while acknowledging how valuable they are to the world at large. We don’t need permission to sit at the tables and when we feel the tables are too small for us, we build our own.

Many women have held their careers back due to family life or the insecurities of their male counterparts, what would you advise?
This question is tricky. It is important to note that not all women want to be CEOs or senior managers. Some women just like to focus only on their family and they get joy from it. In the end, what really matters is that we are all able to do what we know is right and pleasing to us. Don’t do things just because someone else is doing it or because society says it’s the way it’s always been. Ask yourself the crucial question “what do I really want for myself?” Once a woman can honestly answer that question, I think she’s taken the first step to greatness.

For women who are unmarried, please strive to marry a man who will allow you to achieve your aspirations – whether the aspiration is to be a CEO, a career executive, or even a stay-at-home mom.

What is your life mantra?
Everything works for my good.

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