Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Naija's Amazon Revealed!...Exclusive Interview with Toyin Kolawole (CEO, Truebranches.com)

Toyin Kolawole (CEO, Truebranches.com)
Toyin Kolawole is the founder and CEO of True Branches, Nigeria’s fastest growing E-Commerce and M-Commerce Intermediary buying Service. She obtained her MBA from Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University in 2006 where she was awarded the FC Austin scholarship; a prestigious lifetime status awarded annually to 10 select candidates with excellent academic achievement and exceptional leadership qualities. While at Kellogg, Toyin majored in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Management and strategy, Marketing, and Analytical Consulting

Under Toyin’s management, True Branches has grown tremendously as a leading service dedicated to fostering export/import between the United States and Nigeria. With True Branches innovative technology focus, Nigerian Exporters and industries now have unrestricted access to the global market. After her MBA, Toyin joined Bain and Company, one of three foremost global management and strategy consulting firms in the world.  At Bain, Toyin consulted for several fortune 500 companies, offering and implementing highly innovative and practical solutions to complex management problems. Prior to her business education at Kellogg, Toyin worked as a private equity analyst with SME Manager Limited, an African Capital Alliance fund focused on business growth and development in Nigeria. She obtained her bachelor’s in Management and Accounting from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. She is also a Nigerian chartered accountant. She is married with two sons and loves to go hiking.

Insight into your products and services for non-techies

Truebranches.com is really about technology and customer service.  We like to think of ourselves as a Naija version of Amazon. We enable site users shop online in the US and Africa. We provide real-time information and access to the best deals available. What we set out to do was provide a solution to tackle the unwillingness and/or inability of US sellers to process, accept payments for, and ship orders originating from Nigeria. True Branches makes it easy to buy stuff.

Despite the growth of mobile and Telecoms industry, the mobile platform still has a low market penetration in Nigeria, how have you coped with this?

A good proportion of our site users access websites from work or home but over the last 3 years, we have seen a steady increase in mobile internet use. It’s exciting to see more Nigerians increasingly use their mobile devices for other things besides talk.

So how have we coped? I think the question is how have we planned? To view current mobile internet penetration as a problem rather than opportunity is a mistake. The scenario is somewhat similar to cell phone penetration in Nigeria pre- and post-GSM. There are several enablers in this space – CBN, M-Commerce licensees, GSM operators, payment processors and content providers. Truebranches recognizes the potential opportunities within this space and is poised to be a leading content provider.

How come about the name, True Branches, as it may bring to mind a Horticultural Organization?

(Laughs)…While at Kellogg, it was disheartening to see case studies, news media and TV shows portray Nigerian 419 scammers as though that’s what we were all about. Some stores like JC Penny will not grant browsing access to West African internet users. The idea behind True Branches as a name is – if you view Nigeria as one huge strong and vibrant tree, sort of like the one in Psalm 1… (Laughs)…well, we view the people we serve as the true Branches, the true ambassadors of Nigeria.

How did it feel starting your own company and what motivated it?

It felt great, scary, exhilarating at the same time but one constant was the conviction in my heart that I was fulfilling destiny and therefore on the right path. Regarding my motivation – it’s The Lord Jesus. My husband, my kids have also been a primary source of motivation. Even as a senior executive,  my husband would roll up his sleeves and help me pack boxes at the beginning when True Branches had just one staff – Me

Half a decade from now, where do you see True Branches?

Where God takes us, everyday he extends our vision, my role as CEO is just to run with it. Our primary focus is to impact lives, create opportunities, and showcase the true branches within Nigeria, within Africa, to the world via our technology platforms. We have just begun.

Moving away from these Tech things (laughs), tell us about your growing-up days.

I grew up in a mid-sized family, like most families, we definitely had our years of hardship which I think instilled some level of tenacity in all of us. My parents and siblings are devoted Christians and we’ve all lived a life of faith and trust that God always has a plan and its always perfect and timely. 

Work-Life Balance, how do you manage these?

It’s always work-in-progress. Just like most mums out there, I always have to prioritize; my sons come first so whenever there’s a conflict in schedule or roles everything else becomes secondary. I believe people find time to do the things that they value.


What is your most embarrassing moment?

(Laughs) – Not telling.

Hmm…Okay. When I read your profile, I spent another half of the time staring at the beauty of God's creation, please tell our women out there how you manage to look great, even after 2 kids.

Thanks, you’re sweet! I do the usual stuff, try to eat healthy and work out several times a week.

One quote that has greatly influenced your persona

“I am not deterred by the fear of failure but motivated by the possibility of success” 

Finally a word to our women and youths out there

There’s no such thing as an ordinary person, there’s just ordinary choices. God has thoughts and plans for everyone who follows him and sometimes your logic, your reasoning, your plans, your thoughts requires faith. A person who’s afraid to fail is by default afraid to succeed. 

Thanks so much for your time on 'mikesfrequency' and I look forward to the audio interview. God bless!


Also available is the AUDIO INTERVIEW...

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