Arts and Textile Genius, Nike Okundaye’s 4 Lessons For Young Entrepreneurs

Today, we celebrate and glean some unparalleled wisdom from an icon in the Nigerian crafting space.Mama Nike Okundaye was named ‘the woman with the artistic brush’ by author, Kim Marie Vaz in 1997. Such a pragmatic soul, I have followed her gist since I read of how she was invited to teach her craft to Harvard students some years ago. I mean, how accomplished can you get as a crafter!

She is the founder and  of Nike Arts Gallery in Nigeria (on my bucket list of places to visit – soon!), the biggest of its kind in West Africa. Also, the Nike Art Centres in Lagos, Oshogbo, Ogidi, and Abuja, which feature displays and trainings in Adire, Batik, Indigo, Beadwork, Painting, Carving,  Embroidery, Metalwork, Weaving, and Drumming.

An internationally acclaimed batik and adire genius, Nike Okundaye has over the past few decades, facilitated workshops on traditional Nigerian textiles to audiences in the United States and Europe. Her painting has been on display at The Smithsonian Museum since 2012, and her work is featured at The Gallery of African Art and The British Library in London.

She is also an unrepentant philanthropist, demonstrating a determination to empower others with the gift given her freely by God, as she puts it. Many indeed have found in her unassuming self, a second mother.

This celebrated, albeit uneducated genius has magnanimously shared some of the principles that helped her in her journey as an entrepreneur with no support from the Nigerian government, even while foreign institutions and countries honoured her. Hmm. God bless our Africa

She gave the recipe for success below during a chat with Natasha Akpoti. Read on and be inspired, as I am:

For everyone alive, rich or poor, life will birth challenges along the way. There is no one book of rules that would guide you to avoiding pitfalls. However there are a number of principles that I have applied and I believe can help anyone.

  1. Change: People should never be afraid of a new situation. Change is growth even if it’s in a direction unclear. Change should be embraced and worked with in faith. Whether it’s an unsatisfying job or abusive relationship, have the courage to step out and seek for something better. If people are going to talk about you… let them talk. As a matter of fact, it’s good to give them something to talk about. Only people who matter are gossiped about. God didn’t make life to be suffered or endured, it should be enjoyed.
  2. Start small: Everything great starts small. Never be ashamed of a humble beginning. After the Raku Gallery fire incident, I returned to Nigeria empty handed and broke. Without wasting time, I commenced carrying blocks to construction sites. I never felt too big amongst my peers because I traveled to America. No. I did all I could to raise enough money to survive and restart my crafts. Think big, start small and act now.
  3. Believe in yourself: There is nothing as powerful as the belief in oneself. When you know what you want in life, it’s easy to know where you are going no matter the forces against you. Change and belief in oneself are closely connected. People would try talking you out of what they know they cannot achieve. You need courage to follow your dreams even when everyone thinks of you a crazy failure.
  4. Invest wisely: For I grew up in the midst of lack, I understood the power of money. I understood that it had to be managed properly to regenerate itself. Everytime you spend money, you are creating a world you want. What you invest your time, money and heart in today, will affect your tomorrow. I built a house before I bought a car. I first bought a bicycle, then sold the bicycle added some money and bought a motorcycle, sold the motorcycle added money and bought a car. When I built my first house which was a three bedroom, I stayed in one room and accommodated abused women in other two rooms and together we all made craft products which I took to Lagos for sale. I planned and invested wisely.