5 Nigerian Women in Business: Challenges and Success Stories

by Oghenechovwe Eghwrudjakpo

The Nigerian business sector has flourished over the years, and the feats of several women in business deserve recognition. In various spheres of business, we see Nigerian women in business striving hard and making legacies for themselves. They are not just achieving their dreams and aspirations but also a source of inspiration.

Success stories are not without challenges. We always say that the path to success is tough. This article will look at 5 Nigerian women in business and their success stories.

Top 5 Nigerian Women in Business

  1. Deola Sagoe  

deola sagoe

Deola Sagoe

Deola Sagoe is the founder of House of Deola Sagoe. She is from Ondo state, Nigeria. She is a well-known high-class fashion designer and has been recognized as an icon in the field. She started designing in 1988 after she joined her mother’s small tailoring business. She studied Business Administration at the University of Lagos and got a Masters in Finance Management from the University of Miami. 

In an interview, Deola revealed that her father did not support her decision to go into fashion. He expected her to join his business, and when she refused, he told her she was on her own. Deola stated that at that point, her solo journey began. Later on, her father, who initially told her that she was wasting her time, admitted that he didn’t know fashion was her calling and that she had made him a proud father.

She was the first black African woman to present a collection at AltaRoma, Rome’s celebrated fashion week in 2004. Deola is worthy of every accolade as a foremost fashionpreneur who has put Nigeria in the global limelight in the fashion industry.

She brings the African culture to life with modern designs and techniques, and her brand has taken the lead in African Haute Couture. In 2015, she won the award for Best Costume Designer at the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards for the movie, October 1. Her feats in the fashion industry are inspiring and have made her recognizable as one of the most successful Nigerian women in business.

  1. Ibukun Awosika

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Ibukun Awosika

Mrs. Ibukunoluwa Awosika is a graduate of Chemistry from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University). She is one of Nigeria’s leading entrepreneurs who has grown businesses, transformed, and set the benchmark of a successful entrepreneur.

She was the first female chairman of First Bank Plc. Telling her story, Mrs Ibukun started her furniture business in her early 20s. According to her, starting her business was difficult as banks refused to grant her loans because she was a young girl.

She didn’t relent, and she was able to start up her furniture business known as The Chair Center Group. The business now has five subsidiary companies and has contributed greatly to Mrs Ibukun’s net worth.

Read Also: 5 Effective Business Growth Strategies for Small Businesses in Nigeria

  1. Tara Fela-Durotoye

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Tara Fela-Durotoye

Mrs. Tara Durotoye is a beauty entrepreneur and lawyer. She is the founder of House of Tara International. She had her early education in Lagos and graduated with a degree in law from the University of Lagos. She started House of Tara at age 20 with just N15k as a university undergraduate in her living room. 

She is the frontier woman in the bridal makeup sector in Nigeria. In 1999, she established her first bridal directory, the first in the country. In 2004, she launched House of Tara’s beauty academy. 

She shared in an interview that she went to China, and a vendor marketed her products to her. She noticed that they were knockoffs of the original and were being sold professionally. Tara stated that she felt so hopeless and discouraged. 

Today, House of Tara has become a household name in the beauty industry, and it boasts 14 stores around the world with over 270 different products. 

 Mrs Tara has been named one of Forbes 20 Young Power African Women. 

Read Also: How Entrepreneurs Can Develop Networking Skills for Business Growth

  1. Mo Abudu

mo abudu

Mo Abudu

Mosunmola Abudu is a native of Ondo State in Nigeria. She is a media mogul and businesswoman. Forbes has described her as Africa’s Most Successful Woman. Her feats in the business sector in Nigeria put her on the list of the most successful Nigerian women in business. She was formerly in Human Resources Management and worked professionally in the UK with a consultancy firm. In 1993, she worked at Exxon Mobil in Nigeria till 2003.

In 2009, she launched her first reality TV show, Inspire Africa. The show promoted and celebrated the culture and traditions of Africa. Later on, she launched another talk show: Moments with Mo. This show is my earliest memory of Mo Abudu as a child.

She also founded EbonyLife TV and, subsequently EbonyLife Films in 2015. She has produced a number of movies. Mo shared that she didn’t have an easy background. She lost her father at an early age and had to work harder. She did all jobs she could find. She knew that she had to be strong to achieve her dreams. She also revealed that EbonyLife Media and EbonyLife Place was born out of disappointments she experienced. 

She, however, encouraged people to face disappointments headstrong and use them as a means to flourish. Her company EbonyLife Films was a result of her love and passion for filmmaking. No doubt, she has made a mark on the field.  

Read Also: Nigerian Women in Politics: Marginalization and Representational Problem

  1. Folorunsho Alakija

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Folorunsho Alakija

Unarguably, the most successful woman in business, Nigeria’s richest woman Mrs Folorunsho Alakija is a businesswoman, fashion designer and philanthropist. She is the Vice Chairman of Famfa Oil, an oil exploration company her family owns.

She is involved in real estate, fashion and printing industries. She started her banking career and worked professionally for about 12 years. She later started her fashion brand, The Rose of Sharon House of Fashion, and she was the national president of FADAN ( Fashion Designers Association of Nigeria). She left an indelible mark on the industry and will always be remembered. In 1993, she made her debut in the oil field and started Famfa Oil Limited.

Delving into the oil sphere was God ordained according to her. She was met with many Nos in the process, and it took her 3 years to get a license. Soon, she realized that the oil block allocated to her was rejected. It had no prospects, and no company wanted to partner with her. She struggled with partnerships, and six years after exploration, they found oil even when the Federal Government decided to take a 40% stake in the oil block. Mrs. Folorunsho had to fight in a battle of court cases to recover the stakes back. Her mantra is to never accept no for an answer.

In 2015, Forbes named herself the second most powerful woman in Africa after Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. In 2021, Benson Idahosa University ( BIU) gave her an honorary doctorate in Business Administration in recognition of her contribution to the business sphere.

Conclusion

Nigerian women in business have done us proud, and their feats are inspiring. From Deola Sagoe to Mo Abudu and the young women still hustling, it is inspiring and fulfilling to see women excel in business just as much as their male counterparts.

I grew up watching Mo Abudu on TV every evening by 8 pm, I didn’t know much, but I knew that she was an example of who I should look up to. Her show, Moments with Mo, remains the most educative and inspiring reality TV show I have seen during my childhood.

Writing this article on these amazing women has boosted my confidence. I can do it, too, and you can! There’s no hard and fast rule to it. I noticed in all their stories that they didn’t give up and remained consistent. 

I have never been so proud to be a Nigerian woman, and we have these wonderful personalities so grateful for them. This list is, however, only a glimpse of the number of successful Nigerian women in business, and it is not exclusive.

To all the Nigerian women in business, I’m rooting for you!

Are you inspired by their stories? You can become successful in business like them when you subscribe to our YouTube Channel to watch webinars on life and business transformation. Shoot us a message on our Whatsapp Community if you would like to talk about women’s contribution to business in Nigeria!

About Author

Avatar of Oghenechovwe Eghwrudjakpo
Oghenechovwe Eghwrudjakpo
Chovwe is content writer and a Fashion Designer. She's also a Chartered Mediator and Conciliator. She's an advocate for peace and loves art. She owns a fashion brand and is very passionate about what she does.

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