Interview: Founder Adepeju talks about her work and achievements

  • August 28, 2014
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HOW ADEPEJU JAYEOBA IS SAVING MOTHERS & BABIES IN NIGERIA THROUGH HER SOCIAL ENTERPRISE

August 2014

Adepeju Jayeoba is the CEO of Mother’s Delivery Kits and the Founder of Brown Button Foundation. Through her social enterprise, she is improving mother and child survival by almost 100% at childbirth by providing them with ultra-sterilised delivery kits. This young Change-Maker holds a degree in law from the Obafemi Awolowo University Ife Ife and a certificate in Global Change Leadership from the Coady International Institute in Canada. She is a 2014 Mandela Washington Fellowship Leader and a Skilled Community Development Advocate.

1. Adepeju, thank you for joining us on Under35CEO today. We really appreciate it. Tell us about yourself and what you do?

I run a social venture called Mother’s Delivery Kit as well as an NGO called Brown Button Foundation which aims to improve maternal and child health. I am the second of five children, a trained lawyer as well as a healthcare service and product innovator.

2. Tell us about Brown Button Foundation.

Brown Button Foundation is an NGO that trains traditional and skilled birth attendants across communities in Nigeria while also setting up linkages for the traditional birth attendants so that their activities can be monitored. The training converts the birth attendants into community extension workers and referral centre agents.

3. So, just how did the idea of Mother’s Delivery Kit come about?

Adepeju-23Mother’s Delivery Kit came about as a result of our realisation that far above advocacy around maternal and child health, training birth attendants to improve capacity, setting up linkages for them as well as improving access to quality healthcare services, there is a need to provide sterile supplies for use especially in rural communities at childbirth. We believe that this can help reduce infection and promote a clean, safe and hygienic delivery environment thereby reducing maternal and infant mortality.

4. Tell us a bit about your background?

I had my primary school at Unique Children School, Ikeja and secondary school at the Federal Government College, Ogbomoso before proceeding to Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife where I studied Law. I have also undertaken additional studies at the Coady International Institute, Canada as well as the University of Texas at Austin where I studied Business and Entrepreneurship.

5. Looking back, do you have any challenge you feel are worth mentioning, especially when starting out as a social entrepreneur?

Not everyone will believe in you and buy your dreams and vision. Be very prepared for that! Also an entrepreneur starting out can be overwhelmed with the enormous work to be done, building relationships, seeking collaborations and generally trying to bring to life the mental picture of success as conceived in the brain and I was no different. I wanted things to change and I wanted to see the change happen immediately! Be prepared to be patient. Be prepared to teach your brain to slow down because quite frankly your brain will be ahead of your speech, thoughts and actions most of the time.

6. What qualities or traits do you feel you have that has made you a great social entrepreneur?

I would say perseverance. I never give up on the things I believe in even in the face of resounding and continuous ‘NOs’. Like Nelson Mandela said, ‘it always seem impossible until it is done’

7. What’s the biggest risk that you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?

Deciding to set up Mother’s Delivery Kit as a social venture and not another NGO to focus on providing sterile supplies at childbirth was a risk which turned out well. With this model, we have been able to save more women and babies as well as economically empower many others who act as our agent.

8. Are there fundamental differences between a social and for-profit founders?

The key difference between a social and for profit entrepreneur is that while a social entrepreneur improves social conditions, a typical entrepreneur improves commercial markets. Value, for the social entrepreneur, lies in benefit to the community not in profit although profit is essential to support the cause.

9. Tell us, how can social entrepreneurs attract talent when there aren’t high salaries and options?

For me, it is about infusing others with the passion you have and the vision you see. They must be able to feel your passion, appreciate your vision and believe that together with you, they represent a force for change. The founder or CEO of such organisation to attract and retain talent, must move fast, with purpose and a clear mapping of what growth for the organisation will be like.

10. What was the most difficult thing about getting your business off the ground?

The main challenge for us was setting up distribution lines in the face of dilapidating infrastructures.

11. Why are you so passionate about women and children?

Women and children represent a significant number in Africa as well as Nigeria’s population. Taking care of their health and economically empowering them is important to the continuous growth of any country’s economy. Yearly, thousands of women and babies die at childbirth in Nigeria and this can so easily be anyone. Most of these deaths are avoidable and completely needless. Our desire as a company is to give each mother an opportunity to watch her baby grow and give each baby a chance to live his or her potential. The location and economic status of a woman at childbirth should never be an excuse to let her die.

12. You are one of the people selected for the 2014 Mandela Washington Fellowship. Tell us, how did you feel when President Obama praised you for saving mothers & babies in Nigeria, during the summit?

Hearing President Obama endorse our work and say thank you for all we have done remains a surprising and humbling moment for me. It also serves as an incentive and encouragement for my team who remain further resolute in their desire to continue to improve maternal and child health in Nigeria.

13. So what’s your takeaway from YALI plus tell us about the things you plan to do when you return to Nigeria?

From YALI, I will be taking away firm business knowledge about distribution lines, scalability, market chains and social entrepreneurship. YALI has also provided me with the unique opportunity to collaborate with other like minded people across Africa. Upon return to Nigeria and with the support of the United States African Development Foundation, we will commence expansion of our business to other parts of Nigeria with the goal of reaching more women, training more birth attendants and economically empowering more women. We will also be looking forward to building new partnerships and collaborations in Nigeria.

14. How do you personally define success?

The number of women and children we are able to save, the number of women we empower and the wide grins on the faces of families whose lives we are improving.

15. What advice do you have for people who are currently running a social enterprise and those who are aspiring to start one?

Never give up. Persevere. You have a right to fail but by all means fails quickly and learn from it.

16. What do you think about Under35CEO?

Under35CEO is helping to bring to light the activities of inspiring young people all over the globe. Learning from others is the best form of learning a young entrepreneur can be exposed to and Under35CEO is providing that kind of learning so that the hindsight of others can be our own foresight.

17. In closing, tell us what keeps you going when the going gets tough.

Constant remainder of the fact that tough times never last but tough people do.

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