On this edition of Teakisi Woman, we interview Nkechi First.  We talk business, her life and overcoming challenges.

Teakisi:  Give us some background about Nkechi First?

Nkechi:  I studied linguistics for my first degree. After graduating from the University, I started producing TV programs and presenting as well, this role exposed me to other areas of the media industry, like production, photo and video editing, photography, use of camera and sound. I love making videos this is why I became a Youtube partner.

Now living in the United Kingdom taking up new challenges and discovering new things about myself. I studied international marketing at University of West of Scotland at post graduate level. I love writing and especially blogging. I have a strong passion for hairdressing and hair designs and own Princess Star Hair World, a weave and hair extensions bar in Glasgow. I had my first hair dressing salon at the age of 17.

I was recently elected as the Women officer of Maryhill and Springburn branch of the Scottish National Party (SNP) which am humbled to say that I am currently the 1st and only black person and foreigner to hold that post in the party nationwide.

I am a certified motivational speaker and a certified wellness coach. I am currently writing two books. One is called ‘Against All Odds, a true story of my life’ and the other is ‘My journey to Weight Loss’. I have published a hair magazine app on Google play called Princess Star Hair Magazine. My weekly Talk show programme “Against all odds with Nkechi First” is weekly on Facebook live.

I have been through tough times but every time, manages to bounce back and face life. In 2013, I lost everything I had in a terrible house fire, which nearly took the lives of my children and I. This meant making a fresh start at life.

This is so hard for me to write as there is so much I may have forgotten to write down, but I consider myself as an Entrepreneur, Influencer, Mentor, Motivator and most of all a Mother.

I want to be a role model to women, especially single mothers.

Teakisi:  What’s a typical day in the life of Nkechi First?

Nkechi:  My typical day will be, wake up, go for a run or use the treadmill at home, take kids to school, get to my salon, get whatever job and meetings there’s to be done before 3:00pm, get kids from school at 3:00pm, stay in the shop till 5:00pm, go home, make kids dinner and then start doing any work I have to do on the computer like video/photo editing, writing, applications, admin work, updating websites etc., watch some Nigerian movie, then go to bed about 1:00am and repeat on next day.

Teakisi:  You have founded a few organizations that seem to be doing well. Are they doing well, and what can others learn from that?

Nkechi:  I sit on the board of trustees of 3 charities as the Chair person. Unity for Unity for Integration Project (UFIP) is a not-for-profit organization established for the purposes of fostering community integration and harmony by helping persons in the community optimize their personal, social, and vocational competency to live successfully in the community.

Enkays Production is established for the purposes of advancing citizenship, promoting equality and diversity by tackling marginalization, and social inequality. We also provide platforms via our projects and events for people and groups of different culture and backgrounds to positively exchange and interact with a view of creating better relationships within our communities. We organize and promote various activities and projects with the sole purpose of providing public benefit, bridging the gap, improving lives and improving local communities. As a social enterprise, we train unemployed youths to acquire media production skills which will help them to gain employment or become self- employed. We provide media services, plan events and provide videography and photography services.

I have recently embarked on a weight loss journey and have lost up to 46 kilograms. This has inspired many women to connect with me especially on social media and they daily draw inspiration from me to embark on same journey. I run a health and fitness women group where women encourage one another to live healthy and stay fit. It is called Fat Burn Divas. It is an organization made up of women from all over the world, from different racial and ethnic backgrounds coming from all walks of life. It is a supportive, educational and fun environment for women. We have online and offline support groups and hold monthly challenges health and fitness challenges.

Power2Her is another women group which I founded. Power2Her works in empowering women to pass through life’s challenges as women. We empower women to get the skills and confidence they need for self-advancement and economic growth. Power2Her is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the advancement of health, wellbeing, equality, and diversity among women. Through this initiative, I reach out to especially single mothers who are struggling financially with little or no help. I have helped some set up new small business by giving them small loans and grants.

I organize a monthly workshop for women on self-confidence and self-development. In March 2017, I will be convening the first Scotland’s Women Conference. I am really looking forward to this event.

I am very community led. Always at the forefront to champion community causes as well as issues regarding women, children and social justice.

The event Red Carpet Dinner and Community Giants Awards is my brain child, Red Carpet Dinner & Community Giants Awards is an annual event which celebrates life, rewards those Giants among us who are creating impacts in various communities and the event fosters community integration.

Cultural Summer Festival is another event I organize. It is a summer yearly event which is aimed at bringing different communities in Scotland together in order for these communities to showcase and promote their culture and heritage in the form of art, language, drama, fashion display, food, etc. This event helps to build interaction within communities, improve respect and awareness of differences between communities, just like The Blue jean and Sunglasses Banquet which I organize every summer.

Nkechi:  Tell us more about the Communuty Giant Awards.

Carpet Dinner and Community Giants Awards is an event created as a platform for us all to celebrate and be celebrated while promoting community integration. The event brings people together irrespective of race, ethnicity, color, background, social status, and all other differences.

Over the centuries, the red carpet has come to symbolize luxury and hospitality and has also become synonymous with star and celebrity treatment. We chose the name Red Carpet Dinner, because we are all very important persons. We are all celebrities in our rights and worth being celebrated.

Red Carpet Dinner and Community Giants Awards celebrates humanity, life and people who are not always noticed but whose hard work and dedication make the world a better place in small ways every single day.

Community Giants Awards recognizes those Giants among us who have contributed in various ways towards making our communities better. Individuals, organizations and communities who have gone the extra mile to help those around them, who inspire us and make a positive impact on our daily lives and to our communities. It shines the spotlight on those who deserve to be honored and tell stories of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things and deserve recognition.

The glitzy Red Carpet Award Event is held annually in December in Glasgow, but we are planning a Nigerian version of the same event for 2017.

Teakisi: What are the challenges you face as a mother and business woman?

Nkechi:  It’s tough, really tough. If one doesn’t have a true passion and drive, one won’t be able to do it.  My children, and my business will suffer if I do not work extra hours mostly late in the nights. This means that I have to constantly keep busy in order to get things done. I am lucky my children are very understanding and supportive. They actually do work with me on so many occasions. It is very challenging, but I guess we all have to do what we have to do.

Teakisi:  In your opinion, can women have it all?

Nkechi:  Oh yes, women can definitely have it all but ever woman has to define ‘having it all’ as to what it means to her.  What are her priorities, what ‘all’ does she want to have? When you define what it means to you, pursue it and focus on it. I personally won’t bother about what “having it all” means for someone else, I have my goals and aspirations and they keep me awake every night and wake me up every morning. When one looks at having it all from this perspective, it shows one what is possible. There will certainly be challenges on the way, we may sometimes need to alter our plans but don’t throw in the towel. Never, ever give up what you set your head and heart out to achieve.
Women have every right to go after what it is that they want to be. We can have it all!

Teakisi:  What do you think is the greatest hindrances to women succeeding in anything?

Nkechi:  There are many challenges women face. Many women entrepreneurs continue to be discriminated against when they create their businesses, mainly because of certain stereotypes and prejudices. There are other challenges like balancing business with family life. Women are expected to first of all be wives and be mothers before anything else. Many women find it difficult to balance being a wife, a mother and their aspirations.

Teakisi:  Where do you get inspiration from?

Nkechi:  My biggest inspiration is to beat poverty. I suffered so much poverty while growing up, and from a young age, made a vow to myself to conquer poverty. My children inspire me a lot. I want to be a good role model for them them. I want my children to know that they can be anything they want to be in life. I want them to dream far, to reach for their dreams and to be great achievers knowing that if their mum could do it that they can do it too.

Teakisi:  Nigeria is one of the richest countries in Africa but has its fair share of problems, like corruption. What do you think is the cause of this?

Nkechi: Corruption is a big problem not only in Nigeria but in many third world countries. It has been in existence even before I was born and I don’t think anyone has purely identified its causes. In my opinion, greed and selfishness contribute a great deal to corruption but one can argue that people are still greedy and selfish even in countries where corruption may not seem very conspicuous. The way politics and governance are handled in African countries, do not give room for accountability. This is why people in public service can get away with corruption and seem to pass it on from generation to generation.

Teakisi:  Where do you see African women in ten years?

Nkechi:  I am a very optimistic woman, so I will like to stay positive on this matter. However, ten years may not be enough as time flies very quickly these days.

Recently, a new generation of African women are showing that women can have economic power. All across the African continent, many private companies are now run by women. In Ghana, women own large-scale textile, and furniture manufacturing companies, while in Kenya and Zambia, they run the profitable rose-export business. In Ethiopia, a woman owns the largest supermarket chain; In Eritrea, a woman owns the largest manufacturing company; in Uganda, a husband and wife own the largest cell phone company; in South Africa, women own jewelry factories and appliance stores and are heavily involved in major corporate structures. In Nigeria, many women are running successful businesses. Internationally, African women are making their marks. Therefore, in 10 years, we would have gone far as African women.

However, issues such as domestic violence against women, poverty, and gender inequalities have to be continually dealt with in order for more women to be in a better place in 10 years from now.

Teakisi:  If you would have a chance to speak with 18-year-old Nkechi First, what would you tell her?

Nkechi:  I will tell her, “well done girl, you kept it all together irrespective of all the odds”.

Teakisi:  Name us five African women who inspire you.

Nkechi:  I am not sure I can name up to five women, but those that pop into my mind are:  Oprah Winfery, (I hope she fits into the answer) I so much want to be like Oprah, to have my own talk show, to write, to be a philanthropist; Dr. Dora Akunyili, of blessed memories. I love Dora because she was a strong woman of integrity;  Emem Isong, a Nigerian movie maker. I love her works, I think they are brilliant and they inspire me; Finally, Tee Morgan. She is a multi-Guinness world record holder and has ran over 60 marathons. She inspires me a lot.

*Interview conducted by Salha Kaitesi.