Leave your comfort zone — Lawal

In this interview with MOTUNRAYO JOEL, the founder of Mamalette.com, Anike Lawal, 28, shares her success story

 Tell us a bit about your background.

I read business studies and french at Trinity College, University of Dublin, Ireland. I also obtained an MSc in law and accounting at the London School of Economics in England.

 You run mamalette.com. What kind of services to you render?

Mamalette.com is a parenting website for parents and parents to be. Mamalette.com is a free resource that publishes the latest news and events as well as articles on parenting, pregnancy, family life, health, love and sex and managing finances.

The site also features various free tools that would be useful to parents and parents to be e.g. Nigerian baby name database, due date calculator, ovulation calculator, development milestones chart, pregnancy week by week guide and a database of common ailments.

There is also parenting directory that lists various services that would be relevant to the needs of Nigerian families.

The parenting forum on the site also allows parents and would be parents to ask questions and talk about topics that are relevant to their needs. The website has been up and running since February 2013.

 What motivated you to start this kind of business?

Before I had my child, I did a lot of research on pregnancy and parenting. Once I started searching on parenting from the Nigerian perspective, I realised that I couldn’t find any website that focused solely on the needs of the Nigerian parent. After my son was born, I felt a stronger need to do something about this and that was how this idea was born.

Mamalette.com was set up to make the lives of Nigerian parents easier. Most people become parents without even having to learn how to be parents and none of us are trained for the role of parenting yet it is probably the most important thing we will ever do.

Most parents nowadays, because of tough economic conditions or other reasons are more focused on their jobs and careers – as this is what brings food to the table – than they are on their families.

Parents have less time nowadays to learn about things that are important to their roles as parents or improve their parenting skills. Society suffers when parents fail in their duties.

 How much did you use to start?

I started with about N1 million.

 What challenges did you face at the initial stage?

Creating the kind of content that Nigerian parents will want to see, growing a forum on the site and increasing the level of participation from other parents. I also had a challenge with attracting adverts from sponsors.

 How did you manage to overcome over the problems?

I work very hard to create content. I do a lot of research and I ask a lot of questions.

Gradually I am getting more and more experienced parents and parenting experts who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise on the website. I realise that to begin to earn revenues from adverts or sponsorships, I need to grow my audience to be much larger than it is now. I am in the process of doing that, as I see the number of site visits growing every day.

 Are you getting enough patronage?

My website visits currently number in the thousands every month. I am increasingly getting interests from sponsors on the advertorial opportunities available on the website. Part of the process of building this website also involved designing complementary social media tools.

 Why did you opt for business instead of getting a white collar job?

I worked for a couple of years but deep within me; I knew I could do much more. I got the motivation to start the website while working. I had never been so happy and fulfilled doing what I am doing now. This is what I am passionate about.

Mamalette.com has the potential to be the next big thing. I intend to create a community that would not only be of benefit to Nigerian parents, but also to Nigerian parents of the future.

 Is business the way forward for unemployed graduates?

SMEs are the largest employers of labour in the world. I believe this is the way forward for unemployed graduates as starting a business also helps create employment for other people.

 How do you ensure that your business remains productive?

I have a five-year strategy in place but my I remain responsive to changes in my environment and to the needs of the users of Mamalette.com. I am very open to taking feedback and believe in constructive criticism.

Eventually, I expect that my role will be more of editing content rather than producing as the goal is to have Nigerian parents and users of the site create the kind of content that they want to see. I intend to take submissions from Nigerian parents and in the next couple of weeks and months, I will be recruiting contributors to write articles for the website.

I want Mamalette.com to be 100 per cent Nigerian. Nigerian parents face issues that are unique to us; so I will like the site to be the voice for parents and would be parents.

 If one wants to venture into your type of business, what does the person need to do?

To venture into this type of business you need to have the passion first and foremost. Starting a project like this is very time consuming and you really need to have the passion for what you are building and the problem you are solving. You also need to be able to work hard and put in long hours.

 Would you consider yourself to be successful?

I consider myself to be very successful. I have been able to start something that can help people. I believe I have a mission to help Nigerian parents and I have started to do that.

From a young age, I always knew that I wanted to make a difference.  I also realised that sometimes we have to go out of our comfort zone and create something new and unique.  I have always wanted to work on something that had an impact on people’s lives; money has never been my motivation.

Even before I went to the LSE, during my exchange programme in France, I made sure I signed up for all the entrepreneurship classes. This way I got to meet and to be inspired by some of the best entrepreneurs in Europe. In my strategy classes as well in Ireland, I was exposed to entrepreneurs and people who had started various companies and projects.

At the LSE you are surrounded by ideas which are hugely inspiring. All of these things and the opportunity to be inspired by world leaders, CEOs and movers and shakers that came to give talks while I was at the LSE have helped me persevere especially when I would have liked to give up.

I still believe that I am at the start of this journey. Not many people my age are able to do what I have started. I have so much I want to do; this is just the very beginning.

 Where do you see your business in the next five years?

I love writing and creating new things. I had a vision of creating a website to help make the lives of Nigerian parents easier. This is what I do now.

My goal is to keep doing what I’m doing. Editing and creating content, relevant to the needs of Nigerian parents. I hope to continue running the site, building a parenting community online and writing about parenting and other issues that are relevant to Nigerian parents. There is a huge void I see in this sphere, and I will do my best to fill it.

The work has only just started. The hard part is not building a website, but understanding that you are creating valuable content that people will use and be inspired by. Good websites are ones that are constantly improved over a period of many months and years. I am just at the very start.

I hope the site will go from strength to strength. I would love Mamalette.com to become the place that Nigerian parents and parents to be go to inspire and be inspired. I want Mamalette.com to be a household name. I want it to be first point for information for Nigerian parents and parents to be.

 What do you consider to be your greatest strength and weakness?

My greatest strength is perseverance. One weakness I have is that I want everything to be perfect. I am a bit of a perfectionist.

 What do you do in your spare time?

I love browsing online. I catch up on all the latest news. Another one of my favorite pastimes is swimming.

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