Tale Alimi is currently the Co-founder & CEO of Owoafara, a startup created to bridge the financing gap for African MSMEs and give smart individuals and investors an opportunity to invest in portfolios that lend to small businesses so they can get healthy returns and make an impact. She is an entrepreneurial Thought Leader, Business Development Expert helping entrepreneurs achieve prominence, impact and financial success. In this piece, she dishes out invaluable lessons to guide young people on navigating the murky waters of career, business and life in general.
I studied Accounting in school, but my first love had always been Information & Communication Technology. After Secondary school, even though I was happy going to study Accounting at the university, I knew that I had actually fallen in love with something else. My father used to be the Director of Communications at the Nigerian Air Force, so this made us one of the first families to have a computer, as he had to test new applications and manage communication. This exposed me to computing at a very early age, and inspired my desire to learn more about it. I became very interested in learning programming languages. So, I spent my holidays learning and getting better, that immediately after my degree in Accounting, I became Oracle certified.
This led me to a career in technology. I got my first job in tech during the very early days of technology, working in a software company. My business-related degree came in handy, as I was working as a Database Administrator, and I was also always placed at the forefront of client service relationships.
Overtime, I saw the need to upgrade my knowledge, so I decided to go for an MBA. I realized that even though I liked the backend of technology, I was more interested in being at the forefront of creating products and making a difference. After my MBA, I was hired by a Management Consulting firm which was kick starting a department focused on outsourcing technology to small businesses. From that point, the dots began to connect.
Journey Into Business Coaching
In my role leading the outsourcing department, I came in close contact with a lot of entrepreneurs leading small scale businesses and fell in love with their entrepreneurial spirit. In meetings with them, I would always get closer and engage some of them in conversations. In doing so, I began to use my business knowledge to also advise them on how they could succeed in their business better. I was dishing out advice on how they could structure their business, build systems that work and leverage human talent.
So, overtime, I started yearning for a change. I wanted a new challenge, and I liked the direction I was heading. I wanted to do something different. I felt like the approach in consulting was a bit rigid and not very personalized, so entrepreneurs were not able to get the best form of help. That was when I discovered something called business coaching. After attending The Coaching Academy in the United Kingdom, I got a certificate and started offering out my services to help businesses build the right people, structures and processes.
As one of the pioneers in the business coaching space for entrepreneurs, I was very instrumental in encouraging some of the top banks to create specialized departments dedicated to MSMEs. This came about when I realized a lot of businesses were having challenges getting access to finance. Even at that, I still felt there was a gap. Some micro enterprises couldn’t meet up with all criteria, and so they got excluded from getting access to finance. And that’s why I moved to create a firm with the goal to bridge the “access to finance” gap.
My Driving Force
My driving force has always been relentlessly pursuing the fulfillment of my purpose. I am always looking for ways to empower people. I always want to make people’s lives better. I ask myself how I can make a difference in anything I do. In my career as a whole or projects I have worked on, I never fully enjoyed them until I have been able to add value to people’s lives. I like jobs that give me the opportunity to make a difference. This gives me a lot of fulfillment and has always been my driving force.
There are two things that stand out for me; one is that I am a visionary. I can easily picture the future. I always literally know what next. The second, for me, is resilience. I always want to get to the end of a project. No matter how tired or discouraged I might be, I never call it quits. I always just want to get to the bottom of things.
One thing I’ve learned in my career is that relationships are important. Most times, you just need a call to go from where you are to where you want to be, career wise. Relationships matter, and those who know how to manage the relationships in their careers always have an advantage over those who don’t. This is why when you get any opportunity to network, always make the best out of it. Put forth your best foot, so that you can make a great impression on the person.
One very amazing way to find your spark is to serve. At the beginning of my career, I always sought for internship opportunities. They were done for free, most of the time, but you can’t quantify the value you get from such experiences. For example, my experience in Project Management came from an internship which I did for one month for free. When you look out to serve, you will discover talents in you that you didn’t even know were there. There would be opportunities that will help expose you better to your giftings. It doesn’t even need to be a big organization at first. Start up with your religious organization, or a local charity or NGO close to you.
I always tell those who care to listen that the most important thing is to learn a skill. Focus on getting the right skills. Infact, prioritize skills over money because with the right skills, money will come. Unfortunately, most young people right now would not want to follow this advice because of impatience. But the truth is that when you build a skill, know how to do something, and become the best at it, the money will definitely come. I’ve learned over time that when you learn a skill, you become valuable. When you have something that you know how to do very well, it takes you into the circle of the top 5% in that space, then, you become really valuable.
Tale Alimi previously founded 2 startups. She has over 16 years’ experience working in Asset management, financial services, management consulting and technology companies creating products and services for small businesses. She has a first degree in Accounting, an MBA from Lagos Business School. A certificate in coaching from The Coaching Academy United Kingdom and is an Oracle certified DBA and self-taught Full stack developer. She is the Current CEO &Co-founder at Owoafara; a Financial technology startup that bridges the financing gap for underserved African SME's by providing access to loans, savings and insurance leveraging their P2P platform Rouzo. Owoafara recently launched their Women trader program, leveraging technology and network to bring financial inclusion closer to traders in the informal trade sector. The program has grown 150% since it launched in October 2020