Zainab Oladapo, CEO of Acumen Consulting and founder of Muslimah Ultimate Success Academy, is a chartered accountant and business coach who has helped Muslim women sharpen their skills and make money from same. In this interview, she tells women that it is possible to run their businesses from home and make money.
By Victoria Onehi
Tell us about your background?
I have this interesting background that is founded in accountancy. I have a first degree in Accounting, I have an MBA and I am a chartered accountant. I have always been someone that is very creative. When I was a child, I hardly bought things, I made things. I made things and got paid for it. I have been helping people see this in themselves such that I have always coached people informally. It is my way of helping people see the greatness in them.
So, I started teaching kids from as young as five years old how to sew. It became a business having school clubs and imparting on them sewing skill. Here, they were free to express their creativity. In doing that, I started seeing teenagers struggling. So, I started creating space for young girls. I created an environment where they could share their challenges with people, this platform was focused around teenage girls. Now, we have a physical space where we meet and they can develop themselves and explore intellectually and vocationally.
I support schools with that vocational component, and by facilitating those clubs, I coach Muslim women on wealth, business and I am also leaning into leadership coaching.
What do you teach the Muslim women?
I encourage them to see beyond the societal misinformation that what a Muslim woman is to do is stay home and not make much contribution to the society. I work from home and I have done so for many years. I know the kind of clients I have made both nationally and globally.
I have clients outside the country. So this makes me know that you can be what you want to be for your family and give back to the society. So, giving back to the society is finding what you are passionate about, and giving it. You can give it for free and you may want to get paid for it.They can achieve their goals being married, being a mother and sister.
Another component I find lacking is financial literacy. That is one of the first things I started supporting women with. I tried to debunk the myth that the Muslim woman is at the mercy of whomever she marries or her father. It’s not true. It helps them to see that they can work and own business and earn income, and fulfill the Fifth Pillar of Islam which is charity.
So I coach women to learn and know the reason for them to save. Such that they can separate their business from their personal money and then grow their business while also supporting the family.
Do you do these things for free?
There are programmes I run for free and then some I run as a business..
From the onset, I did not want to work for anyone. I wanted to build income in a way that I can earn passively. I wanted to set up an online school which I have actually done where people can buy courses.
I did some courses online last year and someone from the UK bought it and contacted me. It was a six-week programme titled, ‘The Philanthropist’. It was centred on Muslim women and their mindsets about money.
I got a group of women and it was live. Some of the women were from South Africa, UK and Albanian and we did a live programme through tele-conferencing. We could see ourselves and interacted and it was recorded. We put it together as a digital course so people can buy and learn from it. That is how I earn passive income.
My message to women is that they can make money working from home. Also, that you can make money without compromising your values. You can make money while at home seeing your children grow, because I know that is what hurts some women who are in the 9-5 jobs.
What advice do you have for women who see lack of finance as a challenge?
The creator has blessed every woman with capacity. So with the right guidance you can find that out. You will have at least one skill that you make money from without having to spend much money. The first thing I did was to make things from items that would have been trashed.
So, as a coach, I help people see potentials that they have but do not know.
I have worked with a school for four years now teaching the pupils in vocational clubs and the need to fan out their skills.
Your advice to women in business..
Know yourselves and identify what your values are. What affects a lot of people is doing things that are not in tandem with their values. This pulls them in different directions and affect them. And they are not fulfilled, not happy.
How do you juggle business and the home front?
You know juggling is a skill. You learn it. It’s a learning process and be ready to be flexible. When a woman is in business, she is also a daughter, wife, mother and sister. So you have to be flexible. I have five children and married to Mr Tejan Ibrahim, CEO of Bratim Group.
Having compassion is key. This makes you know that you do not need to be perfect, what you need is excellence.