Eno Martins Bakare is the CEO of Girls on Wheels Nigeria, a Female Drivers Service and Female Mobile Autowash. A very unconventional pursuit one might reckon but Eno is spurred by a need to correct negative stereotypes often associated with being a female driver and she is killing it! She tells us more about the brilliant initiative highlighting some of her personal experiences.
Hi Eno, it’s great to have you on LLA. So tell us, who is Eno Martins Bakare and what makes her tick?
Hi ya! Thanks for having me Team LLA! So stoked to be given this honour. Well, Eno is a fired up bundle of energy. Wife, mother of 4 adorable children who has almost 2 decade experience in advertising and branding and had stints at Novitas, Touchstone and ADSTRAT BMC before moving on to do some independent consultany on my own. In the same breath I ran Schoolbags-for-Smiles, a Not-for-Profit that encouraged privileged children to donate educational based items to underprivileged children in need of same. I’ve always been genderless in my outlook on life. A former Boss would always remember that phrase from my Application letter, and call me the woman with the genderless disposition. If the guys can do it so can I!
What was growing up like?
Growing up was fun! For as long as I could remember, I’ve always been a Tomboy! I was that girl who would make Go-carts with the boys, ride my tyres when my Mum sent me on an errand and make and fly kites with the boys as a military brat growing up in Jos and Ikeja Cantonment. There were moments when life was tough, but being able to just escape into our child-like world where there was always a reason to be happy and all was good. You can call it zoning out of reality sometimes. Especially during those dark times when I was sexually molested at age 6. It was so dark that I chose to bury it for 30years. It’s sad but these things happen.
Still on childhood and upbringing, what core values formed in you would you say you are most grateful for and how has it shaped the woman you have become?
Because of what I went through, I’ve always had the need to prove myself and protect the people around me. So I worked hard everywhere I went and always stood out because I will always go beyond the call of duty. I lost my father just as I was coming of age and I will always remember him tell me, “Remember the child of whom you are” and also “Common sense cannot run out here on earth to the point that you have to go to heaven to get some.” which invariably meant that you have the intelligence required to thrive right here!
Moving on, how did Girls on wheels in Nigeria begin? Was it’s creation inspired by a series of personal experiences?
I say openly that I don’t have the gift of buy and sell. So whatever I have to do has to be deeper and mind juggling. Girls On Wheels Nigeria started as a mobile carwash which took me 7 years to eventually birth because those closest to me, said it wouldn’t work; that women don’t wash cars. So I kept it BUT the thought of what could be wouldn’t let me be. I eventually took the bull by the horn and registered the business as an All-female Mobile Autowash and Detailing Service whereby we take the professional carwash to the client, (a lot of whom are females) and we wash and detail their cars at their convenience, at home or office. While running the carwash came the inspiration for the female driver service through a male who believed I could run the service given the fact that some men were uncomfortable having male drivers with their wives. But it was the children in such helpless situation that tugged at my heart, having been a victim of Child Sexual Abuse myself and how long it took me to reveal what I went through. So I did my research and voila! Our female driver service is born! Upon sampling this among females, I found out we have a lot of passionate female drivers who are excited to be part of the vision to be empowered and support other women and their children.
So share with us the highlight of the initiative so far?
It’s discovering that there are women in this blessed country who are passionate about making a living as Private Drivers. They have years of experience behind the wheels. They are comfortable driving long distances interstate and are excellent defensive drivers.
Also, most of our drivers are graduates making it very easy for use to categorise our services into 2 major categories viz Chauffeurs and Driver/PAs.
And challenges? Have you had instances where there was a resistance to what you do? How did you navigate that? Well we have had to deal with the general perception that women won’t know how to handle the daily responsibilities and management of cars or their knowledge of directions. This, coupled with ascertaining the credibility of our support staff. We constantly prove people who doubt us wrong because our drivers go through proper screenings and trainings which include background checks by the largest background checks company in Nigeria and Africa- Background Checks International Limited (BCI), Trainings with our Female Mechanic Partner, Personality Assessment Coach so the right driver is working with the right client and ofcourse, First Aid/CPR training etc. Our drivers know how to wash and keep their cars clean.
The Girls on Wheels Nigeria driver has a good grasp of their road maps, however, we also leverage on technological advancement in the execution of our jobs by deploying google maps in case our drivers are in tight spots. Moreover, women are very comfortable asking for directions if they have to. We wont pretend we know…(smiling). We keep selling the unique attributes of our offering and are steadily garnering more and more fans.
You also run an all female automobile Carwash ? That is phenomenal? What inspired this and how has the reception been?
It’s inspired by the fact that cleaning and maintaining our live-in spaces comes naturally to a lot of women. Also many individuals (especially women) don’t have the time to sit at the car park to get a professional car wash done. Such a “luxury” always conflicts with something else on the to-do list especially at weekends. So we give our clients the option of a very professional wash at the comfort of their homes or offices. We bring the gift of our eye for detail to bear on the job. Thats why a client of us described our job as “a wash from Girls On Wheels Nigeria does to cars what a Morrocan massage does to the body”. Accolades like this keep us going.
Still on being a boss lady, can you share some tips that have helped you in recruiting the best hands for your initiative?
We depend a lot on Word of mouth from satisfied clients as well as strategic collaborations and goodwill from those who find what Girls On Wheels Nigeria is doing as shifting the narrative and causing a new thought process. The buck stops at my desk regarding marketing so I strategically “Wake Up and Show Up.” I attend events and create a lot of awareness for Girls-On-Wheels wherever I’m at. I sell the brand. Being shy or entertaining fear does not cut it. We must promote our business, ALWAYS. You never know where opportunity will meet you. So be prepared every time.
As a woman who is empowering other women out there, what do you think is the greatest thing limiting women and what recommendations do you have in solving it?
FEAR (Sometimes of success, sometimes of failure and other times, BOTH)I suggest you get over it! Tell yourself you can. Also, stop looking for validation from everyone else. I toyed with the Girls On Wheels Nigeria idea for 7 years without encouragement from my inner stakeholders. All I kept hearing was women don’t wash cars, over and over again. I eventually just took the bull by the horn and registered the business without mentioning a word.
Moving on quickly, what does it for you when it comes to unwinding and having fun?
Watching a very nice movie with a fellow Mumpreneur friend. It’s like escaping from reality.
Weaves/wigs or natural hair?
Oh so natural! My Natty look say it all!
What is your guilty pleasure? Ice cream! Ice cream! Ice cream!!!
2 things you will tell your 25 year old self?
1. Go for it girl! Don’t let anyone including yourself talk you out of your dream because fear isn’t real.
2. Never miss an opportunity to show up for an event you qualify for.
3 African movie recommendations? Braveheart, Isoken and the classic Rattlesnake!
What advice do you have for women looking to blaze a trail in a similar path?
GO FOR IT! Women have so much to offer the world. Never back down! Never give in!
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series which 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 firstname.lastname@example.org we just might feature her.