Our Wonder Woman today is the awesome Mrs. Itoro Effiong-Bright. She is the Chief Executive Officer of Nigeria’s First Soupermarket- Ibomsoups.
Sometime in May, we were privileged to host her on one of our e-seminars where she poured out her heart to us on the topic, “Career, purpose and the pursuit of excellence”
We were able to make a note out of her lesson, and would be sharing with you beautiful ladies. Brace yourself-you’d feel all sort of emotions while reading this, but I promise that at the end, you’d be motivated and inspired to chase your greatness!
This is my life story. If I had to give it a title, it would be “Turning Pains into Gains”. My name is Itoro Effiong-Bright. I am a Kitchen Instructor, Family Life Advocate and a Culture Ambassador. I am the second of 2 children. My story began several years ago.
As a child I lacked nothing. I had an adoring dad who ensured just that. All seemed well until that faithful day. One look at a neighbor that morning told me something was wrong. I was right: my dad had passed on. My mum became a widow at age 31 and that signaled the beginning of a most turbulent and pain-filled life. To make ends meet, my mum who had no previous trading experience started a petty trade that could barely take care of our needs. I and my sister had no option but to shuttle between a public school and helping my mum sell in her mini stall. My mum cried half the time. We were stark broke. Helping my mum to sell taught me perseverance, delayed gratification, diligence and above all integrity! Integrity was one thing she stood for. We were taught never to compromise on integrity even if we were paid in dollars.
My mum’s integrity became her chief selling point in the market. A lot of customers preferred to buy from her since it was evident they could trust her. Though I was still a little girl, I came to terms with the reality of my dad’s death faster than many imagined. Alongside my mum’s trade, I started my own little trade selling boiled and fried groundnuts, first in little wraps, and then in bottles. I knew if I worked hard, I could save enough to get a mini stall and start selling food and soup ingredients like my mum. For many girls in the market, that was the ultimate dream. For me, it was not. There was something bigger on my inside begging to find expression. I took this up as a challenge. Haa! My slippers suffered as I trekked the streets of Lagos looking for jobs. I eventually found one which didn’t pay so much and began saving money. By the time I got admission into the university, I had enough money to pay my 100 level school fees.
Between 200 level and my Final year, the multi-tasking skills I learnt in the market came to life: I shuttled between the lecture hall, selling stuff and working for people. When I look back today, I wonder how I did all that and still came out with a “Second Class Upper” I narrowly missed my target of a “First Class”. While in school, I did a lot of research on the area of business I could possibly be interested in. It wasn’t surprising that I still loved the food business my mum was into. If I wanted to do it however, I made up my mind I was going to do it differently. Today, http://www.ibomsoups.com is a reality.
My vision and desire to run this business was borne out of the yearnings I saw in the eyes of my mum’s working-class customers. They could afford costly food ingredients but always complained of insufficient time to cook their meals.
At the market place, I witnessed all sort of “terrible” things traders did to these set of customers. The buyers usually bought from 2 or 3 traders at a time. It became a major worry to me when I saw these traders trying to take advantage of the busy, fast-paced lifestyle of the buyers. The buyers ended up buying stale and and unhygienic ingredients. So in many ways http://www.ibomsoups.com had always been in my mind waiting for the right moment to spring out. Today, we deliver not just over 40 different, ready-toeat POTS OF SOUP on demand, we also convey processed ready-to-cook ingredients to those who would rather cook themselves but still want to save time. We also facilitate practical culinary trainings. People fly in from other states to learn how to cook our local NIGERIAN soups then fly back to their destinations.
I didn’t start the business right after graduation. I worked first with Etisalat Nigeria and then moved on to MTN Nigeria. I resigned a few years ago so I could pay full attention to IBOMSOUPS. Someone once asked me if I regret resigning my job and I told the person that my only regret was that I DIDN’T RESIGN MY JOB EARLY ENOUGH. I try to imagine how far I would have gone given the progress we have made so far in this very short time. I know everything sounds so smooth but my dear friends, it wasn’t!
At some point I had to ask God if He created me to suffer. The only answer I got from God through the Holy Spirit was that He was PREPARING ME FOR THE FUTURE. GOD TOLD ME HE WILL GIVE ME A MAN (HUSBAND) WHO WILL MOULD ME AND WHO’S DESTINY I WILL BE A PART OF. GOD SAID HE NEEDED TO GROOM ME SO I WON’T FAIL IN THE FUTURE HE WAS KEEPING FOR ME. I remember weeping throughout that night but the Holy Spirit comforted me. One thing I enjoyed as a teenager that helped me stay on track was that I gave my life to Christ when I was 13, received the gift of the Holy Ghost at 15 and since then have maintained a lovely relationship with God. Till date, a lot of steps I have taken including resigning from MTN to do my business, was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Somehow, these decisions have crossed the “T”s and dotted the “I”s that have brought me to the point I am today.
I will be sharing a few lessons I have learnt with you now,
1. Circumstances have brought you to where you are right now, at this point; it is your responsibility to take yourself to where you want to be. In the book of Daniel 1:1-7, circumstances brought Daniel to where he was, but it was left to Daniel to decide where he wanted to be! Read Daniel 1:8
2. Anyone who delays gratification and channels resources: time, energy, money, etc to pursue a God-given vision is guaranteed to stand out from the crowd!(Proverbs 10:4, 12: 24). Such a person will be a champion amongst his/her peers.
I graduated less than a decade ago. While people are busy finding their feet, you will be busy helping others to find their feet because you’ve already found yours. There were a few course mates who laughed at me for not being able to afford the latest clothes, shoes, perfumes and what have you. Today, my employees earn more than some of them.
3. God rewards diligence. When you make little effort in pursuing your dreams, God will not just send helpers of destiny, He will make progress easy for you. Colossians 3:23-25, Proverbs 22:29.
4. Defining your life before you find a man is more profitable than you can ever imagine. Proverbs 11:16. You attract who you are! To find a purpose driven man, you need to be a purpose driven woman. When I met my husband, I wasn’t so attractive on the outside but I had AN INNER BEAUTY. I developed my spiritual life, my leadership skills; my tenacity was so strong he couldn’t help but notice it.
I remember asking my husband why he chose me out of so many rich, beautiful (physically attractive ladies) who hung around him. All I had was the resolve to conquer the world in spite of what life threw at me!. Looking beautiful is good. But to be charmingly beautiful, you will require your inner beauty.
5. Everyone has the capacity to make it in life if they will give it what it takes. Psalm 30:5b. If I can get to where I am today, then anyone can succeed! I told you my mum became a widow at 31? We slept without food severally, lived in a one room apartment almost “forever”! No one to run to for help, but today, the case is different. My only sister is an American Citizen, happily married and blessed with three sons. My widowed mum lives in United States as well and I am fulfilled in my business, marriage and ministry.
6. Instead of making excuses, think solution!There is always something somewhere you can do about that situation. Don’t give up, God created you with all you need to survive and conquer the world! Galatians 6:9, I Corinthians 15:58
7. Dignity is it: every woman needs to understand her worth, do her best to preserve her chastity and give her body the required respect. James 1:12. As a young girl, I knew it was proper to avoid messing around (my mum’s constantly advised me and my knowledge of God and the Holy Spirit made it easier for me). 2 Timothy 2:15Rev. Sam Adeyemi once said “God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the CALLED.” Is there anything God is leading you to do? My dear, wake up!
Take responsibility! Work for it! Champions are not made in a day! Pay the price so you can receive the Prize! Sacrifice something outstanding and you will receive an outstanding result! The world is waiting for you, please!!! Romans 12:11
My dear, your excuse maybe that you didn’t know much before now… Now that you know, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO???
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