Women We Love: Tokunbo Fasoro

Tokunbo Fasoro is a HR Consultant, Entrepreneur, Speaker, Career Coach, Pastor, Co-Host of the 7Star Workers Radio Show on City Fm Lagos and Author of the book Walking Your Way Into Career Success.

In thIs interview she tells us how she is changing the lives of Nigerian graduates!

tw: What is BI solutions?

TF: BI Solutions (BIS) is a business solutions company committed to human capital development. We provide cutting-edge solutions to small, medium and large organizations in HR advisory services, training, and development, recruitment and selection, organizational development, performance management, career progression, succession planning, manpower planning, setting up of systems/structures and HR support services.

tw: Why did you start the BI Empowerment platform?

TF: In May 2014, I started my company (BI Solutions), and I made a surprising discovery while recruiting for organizations: after interviewing over 20 candidates, only a select few would impress me. This was a problem, and it was a heavy burden on my heart. I realized that during interviews, I sometimes spent about 45 minutes trying to counsel and help them be better fits for firms.

This was indeed a burden to me and I thought to myself, “How can I help these young people? They lack the basic skills required, even for entry-level jobs.” There was an obvious gap between the academic environment and workplace that needed to be filled.

This led to the birth of the BI Graduate School where graduates were trained and equipped for free. This School eventually birthed BI Empowerment: a virtual and physical platform with a mandate to bridge the gap between the academic environment and workplace through various free empowerment programs.

We have reached over 200,000 young people and have a global readership on our social networks. Our empowerment programs have resulted in producing young people who stand out in the workplace and in their various businesses. Working with these young people led me to the publishing of my first book; Walking Your Way Into Career Success to reach out to a wider audience.

tw: What is your book – Walking your way into career success – about?

TF: The book highlights ‘Secrets to Career Success, Breaking the Ceiling, Successful Entrepreneurship, The Exceptional Curriculum Vitae and Winning at Interviews’. They are all written from personal experiences, experiences gained while working as an HR Consultant and as an Entrepreneur. It was launched at the Give back conference which held on the 12th of November 2017 at the Oriental Hotel Lagos. I also launched the Tokunbo Fasoro Youth Mentorship program on the same day, with a mandate to mentor over 5000 young people all over the country with the sole aim of making them employable.

tw: How do you help people identify their passion?

TF:  As a recruiter, I only profile people on roles that are related to what you are passionate about, no matter how desperate they are in need of a job (this is because, if people enjoy what they are doing, their employers will be happy). If they are not, then there will a lot of high labour turn over, which also affects our credibility as an organization.

I also encourage entrepreneurs to do what they are passionate about; most people who venture into entrepreneurship don’t make money immediately, and what actually keeps them there is the passion.

Very importantly, I talk to people about self-discovery; you need to know who you are, and what you like. I always ask this question: “Where do you see yourself happy in the next 5-10 years?” A lot of people can desire to be in a particular position in 5 years, but they really may not be happy there.

Finding your passion is key to building a successful career, being happy, and fulfilled.

tw: What are some of the challenges you faced since you started and how have you been able to work through these challenges?

TF: My major challenge has been choosing ‘impact’ over making money. When I started the BI Empowerment, the training was supposed to cost 10,000 Naira. It was going to be a three-day training program packed with employability skills and skills employers want. We did our marketing and about 3 days to the event, no one had registered. I reduced the registration fee to 5,000 Naira, and still, no one registered. Two days to go, I began to call my friends to send in all the graduates they knew. I was going to do it for free! Then we had a full class. Although I had to use my money, we had an amazing time. The participants were so happy and impacted that they went to social media to write amazing things about us.

When it was time for the next one the same thing happened: we had candidates register on credit, yet I still had to ask people to come for free. It was obvious from the feedback we got that we were creating impact, but my account balance was reducing. This continued for a while, then I thought to myself, “Tokunbo, there is something you are not doing right.”

I had an ‘aha moment’ shortly after: It was to start an online site, to empower young people through written content, jobs posts, interview hotlines, and career advisory. All for free. I also announced to the team that we were not going to charge money for any training again – our target audience could not afford it.

This was a difficult plan because firstly, I didn’t even know how to write. My second thought was: How was I going to afford to sponsor free trainings? But despite this, we got to work, designed the site and started working on it.

My first article was titled: “If you can think it, you can do it”. I wrote about how I battled with low self-esteem growing up and how I got out of it. That post got over 100 shares with amazing feedback and comments.

While writing, we continued training graduates for free, and the feedback was amazing; it was obvious we were creating impact as calls and requests for mentorship began to come in. I really enjoyed doing this, and I was putting in all the money I had until I didn’t have any more money. But at this point, I couldn’t stop; I had to keep moving.

After running out of physical cash, I began to sell personal effects until there was nothing again to sell. I tried really hard to get sponsorship but it wasn’t happening. I began got grants from my family and friends – my husband, parents, siblings, and in-laws were simply amazing. After everyone gave, I kept pushing; this was the point where I began to borrow until I got into so much debt.

At that point, pressure began to come from my family to shut down, but I refused. I begged them to give me some more time.

One day I looked into the accounts and realized I had invested over 15 million Naira in the business! I decided I wasn’t going to give up. I was still determined to succeed.

Good thing I continued; I didn’t even realize that I had become visible. Individuals, organizations, and universities began to call me to speak at programs. Of course, it was all pro bono, but I was fine with creating an impact. I was nicknamed “Madam Impact” Very funny right?  A broke Madam Impact!

One day, I saw a post on Instagram about a Public Speaking Master Class organized by Jimi Tewe. I attended and had a chat with him. I told him that impact was all I could see around me with no monetary benefits. He said one thing to me: “How about putting all those articles you have been writing over the years into a book?” And that led to the birth of my book!

 tw: How do you balance out entrepreneurship, marriage, and motherhood?

TF: I separate my family time from my business. I avoid taking work home as much as possible and if I have deadlines to meet, I wake up very early when they are all still sleeping to work.

I try as much as possible to make sure I plan properly, and I also try my best to be at my children school, whenever I am needed; honestly, there are times I may have very important meetings that clash, but I always try to move the ones I have the power to move. The one that challenges me the most is my children’s homework – tired, sleepy or sick, I must get it done, so I try. I keep praying to God for more grace.

 tw: What is your favorite part of being an entrepreneur?

TF: This is a very interesting question. This is because when I started out, I thought I was going to buy a Range Rover car in three months, become rich in one year and go to work whenever I felt like. But it was the complete opposite.  I realized that to succeed on my own, I had to work harder, knowing that if I don’t, there may be no salary for me at the end of the month, and also, staff would have to be paid. This pressure keeps me innovative and creative, thinking of new ideas that can take my business to the next level.

tw: What does being a today’s woman mean to you?

TF: A today’s woman to me means a woman who is success driven in whatever she does; a woman who is on a mission to fulfill purpose in life; a woman who is creating impact in her generation and leaving a legacy for the future generation; a woman who will live, die, and be remembered for generations to come.

tw: Based on your years of helping people discover their passion, what advice can you give to young people struggling with identifying their purpose?

TF: Firstly, should take time out to discover yourself – maybe go on a personal retreat. This will help you discover who you really are. It will help you identify your likes and dislikes, the kind of environment you see yourself thriving in. In this process, you will discover your passion.

Secondly, you need to find ways to turn your passion into a career or something that will generate impact.

Thirdly, you must ensure there is a demand or need for it, then conduct a research into the field. Also, a SWOT analysis is needed (identifying the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of getting into that field).

Once this is done, take it seriously. Ensure you are qualified; you may need to go back to school, get further training, intern, volunteer or work for free to gain the experience.

Positivity is key; remove all negative energy from your environment. Finally be brave – a lot of people are just too afraid to follow their passion and they remain with the status quo.

Pray for direction from God; take that step every day that will bring you closer to your goal.

It will definitely pay off at the end of the day.

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