STICKING WITH YOUR DREAMS – A chat with an entrepreneur
On a first meeting with this lady, one may be quick to underestimate her. A simple and unassuming person, Ukot Ette is a 27 year old Physics graduate from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri. Now turned teacher and author, she is the Chief Executive Officer of Life Skills Experts (LSE), a firm that designs and implements life skills curriculum for children, on Leadership, Creativity Communication and Financial Literacy. In this inspiring interview, Ukot gives us a brief peek into how she started and how you can also find your purpose and fulfill it.
What led you to what you are currently doing?
I have always had an interest in seeing people become better than they are. I had a passion for seeing people develop themselves from nothing to something. I grew up hearing of people who were probably orphans but were able to change their lives because they chose to apply themselves to learning a skill and be better. From there, they were able to turn things around for themselves. This inspired the passion to help people develop themselves, grow their potentials and be better than they think is possible.
So, how did you become the CEO of LSE?
I served in a school during NYSC in 2010. A particular cleaner always came to me whenever she wanted to write a letter. I interacted with her a couple of times and got inspired to start an adult literacy centre. Initially, participants paid a token to attend but I gave the cleaner a scholarship. Early 2013, I was introduced to someone who wanted the adult literacy classes for her wards. I taught them for a while. After sometime of seeing the impact of the adult classes, she also asked me to teach her children. I did this for a while as well then later got a job at a travel agency. I lost interest in the job after about 2 months, as a result of the stress of combining my job, the adult literacy centre and home teaching. Then a business idea came to my mind. I thought about going to schools to teach Financial Literacy to children as a life skill, and shared this idea with the parent whose children I had been teaching. She asked if I was interested in doing this in partnership with other people who had more experience. I told her I was willing, so she got me introduced to Mr Gbitse Barrow, who runs a workplace learning solutions firm. I had a meeting with him and afterwards, we were able to broaden the idea beyond Financial Literacy to Leadership, Communication and Creativity. So, Life Skills Experts was birthed.
What does your work entail?
I resumed work at the new company in July 2013 and my first task was to run a summer holiday programme at a school. It was a success and this introduced me into the world of life skills education for children. So now, what I do is to develop content for our learning resources, storybooks, programmes, clubs, and other training opportunities we have with corporate organizations. The contents we develop at The Life Skills Experts teach children life skills in different formats…using story books, Life Skills posters, curriculum for teaching them in clubs, in schools, etc.
Looking back now, did you ever plan to do this?
Growing up, I see how every life experience we have can be very useful for our lives as adults. My parents were both teachers. I grew up having an interest in books. I remember I got a Bible from my dad for my ability to read fluently at the age of 6. I also remember my mum had to buy a dictionary for me, because I came back from school each day with a list of words that I wanted to learn their meaning. I liked teaching while growing up and I can recollect a time I got spanked for using my father’s garden as a classroom, flogging a number of the plants and damaging them in the process. I always had an interest in helping kids and teens make the right choices. As at 2010, I used to have ideas about having a reading club for children and wrote those ideas down. Many of the things I do now, I realise that they were just ideas I had years back. Meeting Mr Barrow helped me put a structure to those dreams and passions. Some of things I do today, I can tie back to as far back as Primary 3 and Primary 6.
As a young person, do you see any place of mentorship in building you to what you have become?
Definitely! As young people, we have lots of energy and bright ideas but most times, we want to go out there and do it alone. Mentorship is so important. These people have treaded the path and seen places where you are likely to stumble. If you submit yourself to mentorship, you are likely to have a smoother sail than if you try to go alone. Why re-invent the wheel, making the same mistakes someone else has made, when you can learn from the person and then you are able to run faster? Definitely, you might succeed if you try to do it alone without leveraging on anyone’s experiences but you’ll probably take longer than someone who rides on the experiences of a mentor and makes progress faster.
So, what’s your word for young people?
Stick with your dreams…Stick with your passions. Find time to be introspective. Every child is born with a dream. Everyone is born with something that God has pre-planned. There is nothing more fulfilling than living a life that you know is fulfilling destiny…waking up every day, knowing that you are doing that which you are created for. There is nothing like it! When you do that which you were created for, it may seem like it’s not paying so much at the beginning, but if you keep at it, kings will come to the brightness of your rising. If you don’t know what your dreams and passions are, whatever your hands find to do, do it with all your might. When I started that adult school, I had no idea that this is where it would get me to. I just did what I felt was right at the time. Lastly, be very willing to submit to a mentor. It helps you sky rocket. With all the energy that we have as young people, sometimes we find it hard to sit under someone to learn. Mentorship doesn’t kill creativity. I think it enhances it, if done correctly.