While studying at university in Nigeria, Adekunbi struggled to find an internship. She knew youth unemployment rates were high and had hoped an internship would equip her with valuable work experience to better qualify her for full-time employment. When she quickly realised that companies in Lagos did not offer such an opportunity, Adekunbi was determined to fill this gap. In 2012, while still a university student, Adekunbi founded Sesewa Support Services, an organisation dedicated to maximising the potential of Nigerian youth by offering internships.
However, as internships are a relatively new concept in Nigeria, Adekunbi found it challenging to build her business as neither students nor companies recognised the need for her services. Additionally, because her business was unique, she struggled to find examples of relevant business models.
Two years after setting up her organisation, Adekunbi joined the Mentoring Women in Business Programme, looking for support to create a business plan and prepare financial projections. She was matched with Teresa, a Senior Vice President in Risk and Compliance at Marsh & McLennan Companies in the United States, with a background in business planning and financial management.
Over the course of the year, Teresa and Adekunbi met online to strategise the best way forward for Adekunbi’s business. Teresa supported Adekunbi through the decision to change the structure of her organisation from a for-profit business to a social enterprise in order to give it a clear mandate. Additionally, they looked at pricing her services to include a small finder’s fee for companies and an affordable placement fee for students, enabling the organisation to be self-sustaining.
Teresa helped Adekunbi to develop a financial plan, create spreadsheets to track her income and expenditure, and formulate financial projections. They also worked on developing marketing materials to raise awareness of Adekunbi’s services among students and put together a brochure of information to use during pitches to prospective corporate partners.
In addition to her mentor’s support, Adekunbi also used the Mentoring Programme’s other resources to great effect. Most notably, she applied for the Mandela Washington Fellowship after seeing it advertised through the programme’s online forums by a fellow mentee. The Fellowship gave her the opportunity to travel to the USA to receive leadership training and network with other young African leaders.
Adekunbi’s organisation has gone from strength to strength following her year in the programme. She has brought on board 11 new clients, hired four new employees, and successfully increased her revenue by nearly 70%. To date, her organisation has found internships for over 1,500 students. She says she has also grown as an entrepreneur, going from being nervous in business to becoming a leader in her field who can confidently talk about her organisation.
Teresa also reported that she benefited from her experience in the programme. During her meetings with Adekunbi, she was able to employ her skills in a sector and a country in which she had no previous experience. She said, “I felt I was able to learn and teach.”
For Adekunbi, this is just the beginning. She now hopes to change how schools prepare students for the workforce, and dreams of her organisation becoming a one-stop centre for talent across Africa.
To find out more about Adekunbi’s organisation, please visit: http://sesewa.org/