Popularly referred to as the Queen of Online Courses, Stephanie Obi has been able to successfully “do it afraid” several times. Despite starting her entrepreneurship journey as a shy person, it was never a dull moment around her as she changed outfits and prepared for her interview. Here, Stephanie shares her successes, failures and her plan for world domination.
I have been an entrepreneur for as far back as I remember. I started my first business in 2004. I was in my second year in university and I discovered my passion for making fashion accessories. I started a fashion accessories business and I continued to run this business all through my time at the university, NYSC, my first job, my MBA program, and my second job.
I ran the business for about eight years, and then I started to feel a nudge to teach other young women how to start their own accessories businesses. I wanted them to be financially empowered. This experience led me into the learning technology world. In a bid to train more people all across Nigeria, I decided to leverage on technology and I launched an online course so that people could get access to my lessons irrespective of where they lived.
It was supposed to be an experiment but the results shocked me. People from all over the world started paying for my online courses and I realised that there was an opportunity here.
ON SELF BELIEF
At the beginning of my career, I believed I could be successful. I think it came as a result of all the times I listened to Bishop David Oyedepo as a teenager in Covenant University. I started to see myself as a problem solver who was going to change the world. At an early age of 26, I believed I could impact the lives of other ladies like myself and I decided to start organizing training workshops. I did not know half the things I know today but I believed that what I knew was enough to change a life.
At age 28, I shared my vision at the WimBiz Impact Investment Competition and I won First Prize. This did a lot to validate my dreams and so I kept taking one step after the other.
It also helped to have a mentor, Tara Fela Durotoye who understood my vision when I shared it with her and she committed to guide me through the journey. As you know, she also pioneered the makeup industry in Nigeria and so she understood where I was in my pioneering journey.
ON STARTING OUT
My first business, “Simply Steph”, taught me a lot about entrepreneurship. I used to be extremely shy. I struggled with the fear of rejection and it was difficult to confidently market my products.
In that business, I learnt what it means to have an ideal client who has a problem that your business solves. If you don’t market your products to her, she won’t find you and she will keep struggling with her problem. So it’s not about whether you feel shy, entrepreneurship is a call to service.
I learnt about how to have a unique value proposition and how that helps you to stand out in the face of stiff competition. I learnt about pricing, branding, packaging, accounting, etc.
It was a lot to learn and I used to read business books to keep up. It however excited me and I desired to learn more about business. I went on to get an MBA from the prestigious Lagos Business School but I’m still a student of entrepreneurship.
ON OVERCOMING CHALLENGES
I’m a pioneer in this market and this means that a lot of the people I was marketing this product to, did not even know what online courses were. They did not believe that they had anything to teach. They did not see how they could get paid for their knowledge.
I have had to educate and educate and educate. It doesn’t help that it’s a technology product and a lot of women typically freeze up when they have to use tech platforms but we have done a lot of work to make it user friendly. To be honest, it’s been a lot of work, it’s been 6 long years of consistently casting a vision, educating, answering questions and I’m glad to see that people are finally launching their online courses. They finally get it.
ON WRITING A BESTSELLER
The most difficult part of writing a book is deciding on what you want to write about. It took me a lot of time to get clear on this and because of this, I had a lot of false starts. I started and stopped, over and over again.
Everything changed when I asked myself “why”.
Why do you want to write a book? Is it just because you want to be an author or do you have an important message to share?
For me, I wanted to let people know that they can monetize their knowledge. They can build a profitable business out of teaching other people how they have become successful.
This objective influenced what I wrote in the book. I broke it down into three sections.
The Big deal about online courses: In this section, I explained why online education was blowing up globally and how it’s such a big opportunity. We actually have not scratched the surface in Africa.
Crush Your Mindset Block: In this section, I broke down limiting beliefs that hold people back from monetizing their knowledge.
The Course Launched Delivered Method: In this section, I shared my signature framework for creating and launching online courses.
When the outline was clear, I then created a writing plan. I wrote for two hours every day, whether I felt inspired or not. I just opened my laptop and started typing. In 60 days, I had completed my manuscript.
ON IDENTIFYING PROBLEMS
When we started working with people in the Course Launched Delivered program, I noticed that many of them struggled with the technical aspect of launching an online course.
Personally, I have a First Class in Computer Science and so it’s very easy for me to understand technology. I easily built my online school and I did not realise that it would be difficult for others.
When I started helping other women launch their own online courses, I saw them struggling to build an online school and so we started helping them.
At first, we would build it for them one by one but this system was not scalable and so we decided to build a white label online school that anyone can easily customize. All you have to do is to create an account and customise it to your brand.
We also found that corporate organizations had the same gap. They also have to train millennials and many of them need to have online schools but the high cost of engaging a developer to build an online school for them has made them pause. In some cases, they have even invested in developers who have disappointed them. With TrainQuarters, they don’t have to build from scratch. They can just create an account and immediately have an online school.
I have a huge bias for women because I’m drawn to helping them. When I started teaching, my first passion was to help women start an accessories business so that they could become financially empowered.
When I started teaching women how to create and sell online courses, I was still drawn to women because I see it as a tool for financial empowerment. That being said, in the course of the year, I have had to expand the scope of my vision. It is now to help a million people earn a million dollars. They can be men or women.
Africa needs financially successful men and women.
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Our company is transitioning into a support organization for everyone who needs to use Learning Tech. By learning tech, I’m referring to any individual or organization who wants to train hundreds or thousands of people using an online course or an online school.
From the training point of view, we want to help a million people earn a million dollars from creating and selling online courses. We have the blueprint to make this happen and we are excited about leading them on this journey.
From the software point of view, we are creating more technology and growing the support team. For instance, we will keep working on the functionalities on TrainQuarters so that many of the things that used to be impossible for us to do in Africa will now be possible.
In addition to this, we are also launching a digital jobs initiative for millennials because we see that as the industry grows, there will be a greater demand for Curriculum Designers, Workbook Designers, Video Lesson Producers, Course Launch Strategists, etc. We plan to train, certify and recommend them for job opportunities in the global industry.
ON BECOMING A WONDER WOMAN
You don’t have to have it all figured out, just keep taking one step after the other. Clarity comes from taking action but you have to trust the process. Don’t ignore the little nudging in your heart.
Lanre is a writer and digital media enthusiast, with a flair for anything related to empowerment. He is also the Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer at The Spark.