#LLA Interview: “I felt fear, but I did it anyway.” Nkem Onwudiwe, Founder Her.Network

Bold, ambitious and vivacious; Nkem Onwudiwe is one woman who leaves a lasting impression on everyone she meets. Motivated by the desire to do something more than her usual 9-5 job; Nkem launched out into being a PR & Communications Entrepreneur. Years later, after that leap of faith paid off, Nkem started Her.Network – a platform that seeks to bridge and connect women all over the world. She talks about why women inspiring women is not just a buzz word, and how we can succeed regardless of whether or not we feel fear. Be inspired!

Who is Nkem Onwudiwe – in your own words?

Nkem Onwudiwe is a passionate and driven PR Consultant with experience in communicating with the public on behalf of companies, TV Shows and personalities. She’s also Able to leverage skills and extensive network for spreading messages to the public via traditional and new media.

Wow! PR and Communications feature strongly in your professional life; how did you start out in that field?

Right after youth service I resumed work at Inspire Africa Ltd owned by Mo Abudu where I worked as an audience co-ordinator for the show “Moments with Mo”. After recording at a stretch for a few weeks, production ended and it was time for evaluation and next steps at the company, and  I remember Ms Abudu called me to her office and asked what role I’d like to play in the company moving forward. At the time, I wanted to be a producer and when I told her that, she responded and said she doesn’t see me being a producer and I should go back and think about it. I left her office that day pretty upset because I was so sure I wanted to produce shows and all that. Fast forward to a few days after our discussion, Ms Abudu replaced the company’s PR Representative with ME!

She told me about my new role and gave me my first assignment which was to organise a press conference for “The Debaters”- a reality show that was sponsored by GTBank. I was terrified because I wasn’t expecting it and I didn’t want to fail, but I put in work and gave it my best and it was a success. I worked for a few more years as the company’s PR Executive, and Ms Abudu’s Personal publicist. That push and trust from Ms Abudu launched and shaped my career in PR and Communications.

So at one point did you decide to become an entrepreneur and what propelled you towards that decision?

My mum has been an entrepreneur all my life and she is one of the few women I look up to. While I was in the university, I would take some clothes and shoes from my mum’s store and sell to my friends and classmates. Giving the returns to my mum and keeping the profits in my savings. After university and service, when I started working a 9-5, I always used “after-work” hours to work on different projects that could bring in extra income. However, the decision to fully swim with the sharks was propelled by the insatiable desire to do and achieve more with my life.

Nkem Onwudiwe 6Did you feel any fear in launching out on your own, and how did you get past it?

I definitely did!  But life experiences have taught me that fear is a lie and will only paralyse you if you let it. So yes, I felt fear, but I did it anyway.

Interesting! So let’s talk about your platform, Her.Network – when did you start it, and what are some of your objectives?

Her Network started late 2015 and some of our objectives include connecting women, Inspiring women and encouraging women to help one another grow. The goal is to bridge the gap between women and women.

Do you think that it’s important for women to be inspired, and how do you think this shapes their lives?

I think that it is definitely important. Inspiration gives hope and once a woman knows that there is a possibility that she can put her foot through that door, she would go forth and do so. Inspiration shapes lives by compelling them to take action, make a move, be heard, be seen… to try.

Great! Is there really a gap between women and other women, and how would you say it can be bridged?

There is a gap. Sometimes we women can be our own worst enemies in the sense that a large percentage of us see every other woman as a threat instead of as a sister/friend/helper or support system.

At some point in my life I’ve had someone say to me that she wasn’t sure we could work together because she believed that at some point, I would “take her shine”. Such statements are still being made every day being one of the many reasons why women create that gap, thereby making it difficult or impossible to work together comfortably and this hinders productivity.

The gap can be bridged by encouraging collaborations, eliminating hate and promoting sisterhood.

Nkem Onwudiwe 3How do you think more women can be encouraged to have successful lives and careers?

More women can be encouraged to have successful lives and careers if there are more role models who set real life examples by living their truth. Also, more women can be encouraged if the (higher) women who have risen to power are reaching down to pull other women up the ladder and exposing them to various opportunities. Sometimes all it takes is a step in the right direction. By encouraging one woman, you are empowering her and empowered women empower women.

Are there any woman who have impacted your professional and personal lives, if yes, who are they, and how did they impact your life?

My mother has impacted my professional and personal life because she has always been an entrepreneur and involved in her own business initiatives. She instilled in me the ability to work hard, have faith in myself and be true to my vision.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned in being an entrepreneur?

I’ve learned that you cannot do everything yourself. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for help, learn to trust others and delegate. I’ve also learned to set goals (both personal and professional) and to regularly evaluate progress.

Nkem Onwudiwe 5The second Her.Network networking event held in Lagos, Nigeria, last month; what are the plans for subsequent events and reaching out to more women?

We plan to have our “Chats & Cocktails” networking event annually in Lagos and other mini events periodically.  We’ll also be collaborating with a few platforms in the near future as well, to reach out to more women.

Is #WomenSupportingWomen just a good buzz word, or is it an actual thing; and how do you think more women can support one another?

#WomenSupportingWomen isn’t just a buzz word, but a movement. There are women out there who actually support and encourage other women selflessly. However, it would be really great if more women genuinely support women outside their “Clique” (beyond lip service) because we all need each other to grow.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I see myself expanding Her Network from Africa, into the rest of the world.

Nkem Onwudiwe 2

Share one thing that people don’t know about you?

A lot of people don’t know that I’m an artist. Although, I’m a bit rusty now but I’m pretty good with a blank canvas and some paint/water colour.

Name 3 women you admire?

My Mother, Mo Abudu and Michelle Obama

If you could share advice to upcoming female entrepreneurs; what would it be?

Commit to being a lifelong learner and be relentless in your pursuit of anything that sets your soul on fire.

Follow Nkem on Twitter & Instagram: @NkemOnwudiwe

The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.

It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.

Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to lead@leadingladiesafrica.org and we just might feature her.


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