FIRST CLASS: Olúwatósìn Olaseinde Wants Young People To Avoid Desperation

Olúwatósìn Olaseinde believes her biggest strength is gratitude. Illustration: Benjamin Kehinde/Channels Television


At just 20, Oluwatosin Olaseinde was earning a ‘big girl’ salary at a South African firm. But she couldn’t keep it together and was virtually bankrupt four years later. “For the first four years of my career, I had nothing to show for it,” she says. “I was living from hand to mouth, no savings or investment.” She found her bearings after relocating to Nigeria and has gone on to start successful businesses that help people make sense of their personal finance. A Mandela Washington fellow, Oluwatosin wears a perpetual smile in photographs and credits a bias for optimism, even in dark circumstances, for much of her success.

First Class is a column about extraordinary Nigerians aged 35 years and below. It collects their thoughts on what it takes to thrive as a young person in Nigeria. 

Do you know someone who fits the bill? Recommend a name here.

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This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

SE: What does success mean to you?

OO: Success, to me, is peace of mind, success is financial independence, success is being able to provide for those that mean a lot to me. I think it is that point when you don’t have to worry about food to eat, about where to live, about immediate needs.

Do you also feel it’s a moving target?

Absolutely, like look at Dangote the richest man in Africa. But when you compare him with the likes of Bill Gates and the rest, you see that there is a significant difference. So it will always move. I remember a couple of years back, being able to start a company was like a big goal for me. And then you want to make billions of dollars in revenue. The goal always changes. But just having that peace of mind is a critical thing for me; and every time it is present, I feel successful.

You run two companies in Nigeria. How do you make it work?

I think one of the biggest traits of being an entrepreneur is persistence. I remember when I set up Money Africa a lot of people were asking me if it was a hobby or a full-time job. People could not believe that it was actually a full-time job. But here we are, now employing over 13 people across both companies. But when we started, I was just running it by myself. So persistence is very important. 

Also, not being in denial. While persistence is great, being able to tell yourself uncomfortable truths is very critical.

But the beautiful thing about Nigeria is while it looks like all the odds are stacked against you, you can ask, where is the opportunity, where can I go in? What are people complaining about

I want to make it clear that I am not in denial. The numbers are there and stacked against us. However, there are millions of us. Where can we go? This is home and we have to make the most out of it, keep holding our leaders accountable and doing what we can do in our own personal capacity. We just have to find the positive angle all the time and see how we can break through it.

Do you ever think of relocating?

That’s a very good question but my business is in Nigeria and I plan to expand it. Even though over 90% of our business is coming from Nigeria, we plan to expand across Africa, to Ghana, Kenya, the UK; we want to go after Africans in the Diaspora. However, Nigeria will always be a base for us.

What about relocation on a personal level?

Even if I want to go to the UK or to the US, Nigeria will always be a base for me because this is where my heart is and where my business is. However, I respect other people’s decision to relocate; there is nothing wrong with it.

I am inspired by your positivity. That means you will vote in 2023?

Of course, and I am also going to campaign. We have to all go out, it’s our civil right to vote, everybody should be involved, everybody should participate. It’s very important.

What are some of the mistakes you made in your journey?

You know how sometimes being ambitious is great but many a time you are so ambitious that you forget to live in the present. So, every time mentees come to my DM saying they respect me and like what I am doing, I always try to caution them and say, look try and enjoy the moment; because a time is coming when it’s BQ you can afford; a time is coming when it’s just Danfo you can afford. And it’s going to change, as long as you are putting in the effort, you are being deliberate about your personal development and growth. So, while it’s great to look forward to bigger things, I don’t want people to be so eager for the next level that they don’t fully maximise the current level. So, I felt like there were times that I was so ambitious, writing so many exams and just working towards going to the next level that I’m not sure I fully enjoyed that time.

What was the hardest decision you’ve had to make?

To be honest I can’t point out the hardest but I have made a couple. Sometimes it is really hard to let people go. Especially round holes in square pegs, where you see that you’re not a good fit. Nobody likes to do that job: it’s very hard to let people go. That’s hard. Also, when I was starting Money Africa. It was something I was passionate about, but I wasn’t sure it was going to be a full time thing; and then it blew up and here we are now. It’s a couple of multiple little hard decisions that compound over the years.

What is your most controversial idea for getting ahead?

My most controversial idea is actually not being too desperate. I know people say when you want something so bad, it is going to come. I totally understand that but at what cost? I want us to talk about mental health, talk about people taking their time, it will take some 10 years, some five years, some two years. And it’s okay. It’s absolutely okay. 

The media is always talking about how 20-year-olds have succeeded but based on data, the average age of a successful entrepreneur is 40; but the media is always talking about the 21-year-old or 25-year-old. They make it look like a fact but the average age is 40. So, my controversial take is, it’s okay, take your time. Enjoy the journey and relax. Everybody is going to get there eventually. I am not saying you should be complacent or be lazy. I am also a very hardworking person but don’t get it at the cost that is detrimental to your mental health. That is my controversial take.

What is a habit that has helped you the most?

You know I was having a conversation with my best friend this morning and we were just talking about last year. Last year was a bit tough for me on a personal level. And she said something: “Tosin, I think your biggest strength is gratitude” and I strongly believe it is gratitude. 

As human beings, we are conditioned to look at what is not going well but how about that thing that is going well? If we are being more deliberate, constantly saying it’s a beautiful day, the sun is out, no matter how long the night is, the morning is going to come. 

So, your outlook is very important. For example, if we are talking about personal finance, I tell people to go and read about the Psychology of Money. It talks about your mind and how you see things. The mind is your greatest asset. The difference between a person that is here and the other person that is there is how they can envision it. Once your mind can see it, that’s it. My biggest asset is gratitude, and number two just being able to see things from the best angle. 

Who do you think qualifies as a First-Class Nigerian?

That person has to be Tunde Onakoya. He is the person behind the chess club in Nigeria helping children under the bridge in Oshodi, showing them a way out of poverty. Again, it boils down to mindset. Those children in the street thinking they have to steal bags and purses. Somebody came and showed them that there’s more to life, that you can actually live a beautiful life. Taught them chess. Took them out of that slum, took them to different places and showed them what was possible. And you are able to see the difference. Even just looking at the kids from when they started and where they are now, it’s amazing what the change of mind, what somebody believing in you can actually do. Right now, Tunde Onakoya is our hero.

First Class is a column about extraordinary Nigerians aged 35 years and below. It collects their thoughts on what it takes to thrive as a young person in Nigeria. 

Do you know someone who fits the bill? Recommend a name here.

Sign up to receive the latest installment of exclusive First Class interviews in your email.

Solomon Elusoji

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