Seun Tayo-Balogun, or STB, as she is fondly called by friends, is an amazing woman and a creative and dynamic entrepreneur. She possess a keen eye for business and a passion that can set a city on fire! Seun takes time out of her schedule to have a chat with Virtue Digest.
What was growing up like for you?
That’s like writing a book. I was born into a Christian family. My father is an Evangelist and a chartered accountant and my very caring mother, God rest her soul, was a business woman. My parents worked very hard to ensure that all their children had a good start. I was taught at a very early age to imbibe a “can-do” attitude. I was brought up with all the right Christian values. I was taught how to be respectful, to be contented with what I have, to live within my means, to show gratitude and appreciation. My father was very strict back then, and the older I get, the more respect I develop for his wisdom. I have learnt a whole lot from him.
What fond memories do you hold dear?
I remember how my father walked around the house quietly, no one would hear his footsteps, and on many occasions, we were caught breaking house rules, like watching TV when we were meant to be sleeping.
Another fond memory is when my siblings and I would all get together telling jokes, and everyone was happy and excited. You know, you have to do your research to tell the best jokes in the next gathering.
I also remember, one of my sisters’attempt to incorporate me into a failed singing career, in retrospect, that was amusing. I attended a boarding secondary school – I remembered the burgers and fiestas my father would get me at Mr. Biggs whenever I was going back to school. I relished the taste of the fried meat my mother brought for me in 1991, I am not sure I have tasted fried meat so good since that time. It’s weird, but that’s how I feel. And then, that feeling of assurance you see in your parents’ mannerism that says to you, “you can do it, go girl” actually helps me to be better and gives me the desire to want to do better. Those attitudes help you to stay your best and be the best in everything that you do.
Could you tell us some of the major or critical decisions you took at various times of your life that you think resulted into who you are today as a professional, wife, mother and your other callings?
I have faced several disappointments, and I decided early on that I am going to be strong, to not get influenced and carried away by all the negative things around me, to remain a Christian in deed and in words, to be committed to whatever course I choose and work very hard and never give up.
What has shaped your thinking in becoming the woman you are today?
My Christian background had a lot to do with that because it helps to put things in perspective. I see that perspective reigning in all areas of my life. In everything I do, I put God first, and then I work hard. That’s how I was brought up and that’s how I see things. You know that kind of mind-set that you can walk in the miraculous on a daily basis if you stay true to God. Some things haven’t always worked the way you wanted them to, but whether they worked or not, trusting and having faith works. Being a Christian makes the difference and as a Christian, you have to keep growing with God.
What are the life lessons you have learnt in the process of being who are today?
I have learnt that you can’t always change people, but you can change yourself; if you work on yourself, you’ll be better, and you’ll do better.
Another lesson, is that irrespective of what others do to you, your focus should be on doing the right things and doing things right.
I have also learnt that as a woman you have to learn to apply wisdom in many things. I have learnt to be slow to speak (think, think and think again). I have learnt that obstacles will definitely pass away – successful people live with a certain kind of attitude. I have learnt that what you see as obstacles may be opportunities waiting for the prepared mind. I have learnt that making a living is not the same thing as making a life, but the decision is right before each of us.
I have learnt that you can’t walk through life alone, in fact God did not make us like that, you need people and you have to trust them as well.
I have also learnt that I can be whoever I want to be and to be that, I have to be ready to face even more obstacles. In fact, there is more likely to be obstacles than a smooth sail. But a woman who is focused on the star prize does not change her mind. I have learnt that I still have a lot to learn, I still can do better, I still can be better. I am still learning.
Before you became an entrepreneur, where did you work and what was your role there?
I worked with Kakawa Discount House as the Technical Assistant to the MD/CEO and the Head, Research and Strategy Unit. In these roles, I developed content for presentations, reports, speeches and many more. I managed the organization’s strategy and carried out macroeconomic research. I was also involved in the organization’s branding and marketing initiatives. I also had diverse experience while at the Nigerian Economic Summit Group Ltd/Gte in addition to a stint with Zenith Bank Plc.
What concerns or commitments are you involved with now?
I have an entrepreneurial mindset, and I am unusually enthusiastic. I resigned from regular employment January this year (2015) to focus more on some of the things I believe in – helping start-ups actually get started by providing content, brand strategy and conceptualisation and taking that a step further by providing them with brand visuals and an all-encompassing online presence, in addition to initiating technology related and process solutions that can help improve business outlook and deepen business scope. I have spent the spare time during the last three years of my career doing what I have just described for Brief Essentials (www.briefessentials.com), a lingerie and underwear e-commerce company that I co-founded. I combine my creative expertise, economics and research background and IT knowledge to help create thriving small businesses. In addition to design and development at www.techmonks.com.ng, and developing beautiful websites and templates, providing social engine optimization for clients, I manage a facebook page – www.facebook.com/allthingsmommy – where I share mom, family and motivational related stuff.
Why did you decide to go into these concerns?
My love for technology and design, for beauty and aesthetics, my artistic orientation, my entrepreneurial mind-set and the desire to create and change things. On Brief Essentials, my husband and I were frustrated by the lack of quality beautifully designed affordable underwear, lingerie, shape-wear and related products for everyone that actually fits and works. I also see a lot of frustrations as Nigerian startups hassle for high quality web as well as content design and world class online presence. In addition, online retail is going to blow up real time and I see the opportunity to help expand the reach of anyone who has great product or service as well as help consumers easily access great products and services.
What brings you fulfillment as a person and as a woman?
I like to create things. So I create – from writing content that spans economy, technology, theme definitions for summits/events and user guides, to graphic design, designing publications, developing websites, and writing manuals to helping start-ups build great brands – the later encompasses brand definition, brand strategy, business plan, web development, social engine optimization among others. I like things to be properly done. So I take my time and pay particular attention to details. I like to get to the bottom of issues, so I do my research. I find fulfillment in all these things.
What are your personal values and how have they impacted on your marriage, career, and general way of doing things?
It is tough to separate a snail from its shell. My values are embodied in the Christian faith. Life is simple. Be good. Be true. Be you. Be real. I am convinced that I am the only one who can limit myself, so I work really hard. I joggle marriage, family, business, and personal fulfillment. Sometimes you give several things up to get some other things. In the pursuit of a meaningful, multifaceted life, you want to look back and be glad you made the right choices.
What books have you read that shaped your thinking and changed your outlook on life?
I have read and still read lots of books. My reading journey started when I was 16, I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. But I have continued to read books, I read wide and I read different topics – from motivation, faith to tech books. I may not remember many that I have read, but some authors that come to mind right now include John Maxwell, Steve Farrar, Marcus Buckingham, Stephen Covey, Darren Hardy, Spencer Johnson, Jim Rohn, Stormie Omartian, and James Dobson. I have written a few summaries, some are published here –https://achieversnest.wordpress.comand http://achieversnest.blogspot.com
What do you do to unwind and recharge your battery?
Spending time with my family and listening to good music. Children especially can transform your very stressful day into a beautiful and unforgettable moment. That feeling is priceless! On music, my favourite genres are alternative rock, country and pop.
What are your favourite holiday spots?
I really don’t have a favourite spot, what I do know is that I like convenience. But at some point, I will like to go around the world. I am delighted in learning cultures, seeing something new altogether and doing something different.
Do you believe that, as a woman, ‘you can have it all?’. If yes, How?
Well, that’s a tough question because it’s hard for high achievers to accept they can’t have it all. But I believe that God can do amazing things with our lives. He can turn our normal life into something extraordinary, thereby making it easy for us to have what we need to live a remarkable life.
How do you juggle all your numerous responsibilities and still maintain balance?
Grace, grace and grace alone. I have made mistakes, I continue to learn how to do things better, I educate myself and search everywhere for more knowledge. I pray for direction and guidance. In the midst of all, I try to maintain a good attitude, smile even when I’m most confused and angry. The idea is to keep pushing and when you fail, you learn from your mistakes and fail forward.
Please share with us where you met your spouse.
Hmmm. My spouse – that wonderful man. We met while setting up a Daystar Home fellowship.
How long did you date and/or court before you got married?
About 3 and half years.
How has marriage changed your person and affected your worldview?
Marriage is not easy. Two different and imperfect people with very different backgrounds and perspectives coming together to become one is tough. The woman has a lot to do. Apart from being the wife, she has to have a heart of a mother, she has to show forth all the Godly values (such as patience, kindness, a grateful and cheerful heart, affection etc.) She has to be the adviser, the rock, the home-maker, the lady, and the attractive one at the same time. See, husbands want to have this feeling about their wife summarized in this short sentence below “out of the women in the room, she is still the most gorgeous of all.” They want to be proud of their wives. So girls, those things that led your husband to you, you can’t stop doing them now, you should in reality be doing more now that you are married, and continue to keep your focus on your marriage.
In specific terms, what role has your husband played in your career, matrimonial and other successes you have recorded in life?
My husband is a wonderful man and he has been integral in my development and in all dimensions of my life – as a wife, mother and an entrepreneur, and in being the person I am today. He is incredibly supportive. He listens to me, he gives constructive advice, he criticizes and he is ready to put his best foot forward in everything. His perspectives in many occasions on several issues make the difference. Even much more than that, is the fact that he’s genuinely interested and invested time and efforts in our family run businesses – Brief Essentials, and others. He also challenges me – in all areas, and furthermore, he motivates me to be better and do better, not just for myself but for everyone around me. He is not only intelligent, smart, forward thinking and intuitive, he has always been there. I am thankful to God for who he is.
With the benefit of hindsight, what would you have done better if you were to start your life all over again?
I would probably have gone into a different field – perhaps, become a scientist working in labs to discover the next big treatment for a disease with no cure. And because I love technology, I have to bring that in to fast-track the discoveries.
What are the specific advice you have for single ladies, married women, and professional women?
For single ladies; don’t rush into marriage and don’t be influenced by the pressure to conform – it’s your life and no one else can take that place. Marriage is not for the feeble minded. You need to also realize that marriage, embedded in love, is commitment. Being married can change your entire life story – negatively or positively, therefore you have to choose wisely and before Mr Right shows up, be nice to yourself, have fun, do the things that make you happy and surround yourself with the people that will uplift you.
For married women: Well I have been married for almost 10 years now, and I am still learning and getting to know my husband. Truth is we change, we develop new interests, we jettison some habits and pick up new ones… and your better half might just not like what’s new; in my opinion, what makes marriages is the understanding and commitment from both parties that you both want a great marriage, so you are open, you choose to love daily, you choose to do simple things that can keep you both ticking, you choose to work on yourself as a woman, you choose to sit down and talk to each other and not about each other and you also make time to laugh together. The secret of a successful marriage lies not in having the right partner, but rather in being the right partner.
For the professional women: stay out of office politics, it’s not worth it. Don’t build or join camps, it’s also not worth it. One thing you need to do though is to do your work passionately and professionally, and let that speak for you.
What counsel do you have for women who have given up on their dreams?
Giving up on your dreams is like giving up on life. People just don’t give up, I know they must have tried severally and nothing seems to be working. But I can say that a little bit of perseverance and hard work can make the difference – in addition to a shift in perspectives from what you have tried and failed in to what is still possible for you to do. I will also advise that they should focus on what they are doing and where they intend to get to and not on the competition (which in most cases are distraction) or the challenges. They also need to know that success takes time and it takes time to make things look effortless. Therefore it is necessary to grow daily. The accumulation of daily growth can at least increase the probability of future success.
What would you like to be remembered for after you have transited?
That she was wonderful when she was here and she made a difference. That my family will be proud they had a woman of virtue like me. And that God will tell me, welcome Home, My child in whom I am really well pleased.
Thank you for taking out time to speak with Virtue Digest.