Odunayo Eweniyi on Creating a Level Playing Ground for Women
Odunayo Eweniyi is Cofounder and COO at Piggyvest, an automated savings and micro-investment platform that helps young Nigerians access financial services. She is also the Co-founder at FirstCheck Africa, an angel fund and community for women in tech whose mission is to advance equity, capital and leadership for a generation of women in Africa. She talks about how she is helping promote equality for women via FirstCheck Africa.
How The Journey Began
Everyone sets out on a journey, not knowing what it will turn out to be but hoping for the best possible outcome. I’m no different. I started in tech, hoping to make a difference and impact.
The journey is still in its early days, but I think I’m well on my way. The belief in myself that I can or I’m well positioned to do anything I’ve done is mainly borne out of a great support system. So many people very vocally believe in me so much that it’s easy to believe in myself.
My Driving Force
The one thing that drives me is the desire always to leave a situation, circumstance, or space better than I met it. I believe in constant improvement, and I like to think I take that everywhere. So I’m compelled to do my best to make things better and that’s what I’ve spent my career trying to do.
I have so many memorable milestones. One is getting my first job in Tech. That happened in 2013. And then, there are the milestones of launching my first startup, PushCV, in 2014, shutting down a startup, 500Dishes, in 2016, launching PiggyVest (then called Piggybank.ng) in that same year, and got the first 1,000 users on Piggyvest in 2017. We then raised our seed round in 2018, reached our first million users in 2020, and launched a fund for women (FirstCheck Africa) in 2021. The list goes on.
One lesson I have learned over time in my career is always to be prepared for any and everything. This is because everything that can go wrong will go wrong. If there are no plans to ensure things don’t go bad, and put suitable structures in place to mitigate the crisis, there will surely be a crisis. So, we must always be two steps ahead.
On Women Empowerment
I’m a woman; I don’t need a reason to create a level playing field for myself and people like me. It is something that has to grow to become second nature. We don’t need to be motivated to do this. It just happens. Not wanting a level playing field is essentially not being on my side, and that’s not smart at all.
For instance, I am creating a level playing ground for women via FirstCheck Africa, where I am a Co-founder. FirstCheck Africa is a fund that’s dedicated to advancing Equity, Capital, and Leadership for a generation of women in Africa. I’m also the Co-founder of The Feminist Coalition – a group of young Nigerian feminists who work to promote equality for women in Nigerian society across Financial Literacy, Women’s Health and Safety, and Legislative Power for women. I work to make sure that whatever space I occupy, representation and diversity follows.
There is a saying by Hilary Clinton that I love so much. It says ‘Human rights are women’s rights, and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all. I strongly believe in representation, which reflects in all my projects. I also think that closing the gender gap requires a lot of hard work and intentionality, so I don’t think that one thing will cut it. But if I had to wave a wand and magically cause a change, it would be to bring equal representation into existence.
For young girls and women out there, you need to find the one thing that makes you unique. For me, what I bring to the table is my grit. Whatever I need to do to get a vision to life, I’ll do it. I’ll learn it. This has been my superpower, and I deploy it in all the projects I work on.
I have a saying I borrow from my dad. It says, “aim very high, work very hard, care very deeply.” When you do this, you begin to see parts of you that you never knew existed. You begin to understand what drives you and the issues you care deeply about. As you evolve, you would then find your spark.