You are one presentation away from being crowned top startup founder by Forbes.
That’s after getting selected from thousands of businesses and fending off competition from a couple of hundred entrepreneurs. You’re among the final ten. Just nail this pitch better than the others, and you’ll win an international honour.
Two minutes before your video presentation, your fibre internet fails.
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This was Lynda Omerekpe-Ori’s final hurdle on her way to winning the Forbes Digital Startup Accelerator Pitch. She had scaled countless others– including building a business in the raucous place that is Lagos and emerging from a crowd of companies that had entered for this competition.
She still believes her victory was a miracle. But she does note the sleepless nights that went into making her startup the last one standing.
“The Forbes Team spoke about my resilience, preparedness, and persistence,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “And I can’t help but agree with them; every kind of obstacle stood in the way for me to get to this place.”
How did she beat the odds to clinch top spot, in what was a keenly contested finale?
The Making of a Resilient Entrepreneur
Lynda Omerekpe-Ori won the Forbes Accelerator Pitch for her startup, Cash Your Passion. It’s a platform that teaches young Africans the skills they need to earn from the things they love to do. Unironically, the judges thought she exuded a lot of passion. And it had counted in her favour.
The startup was a follow-up to a book (similarly titled) that she had written in 2017.
“I wrote the book to let Nigerians understand that they are not tied to their degrees or certificates,” she said in an interview about the book. “You can make money from the things you love to do.”
In writing the book, she drew from her experience as a regular worker who was also pursuing her dreams. She had studied Microbiology at the Igbenedion University, got a job with a bank, bagged a Masters in International Business and Management at the University of Westminster, returned to Nigeria and continued in the banking sector. All the while, she had been learning and building up towards launching her passion projects.
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Today, she works with a multinational audit firm where she helps with corporate communications– a fit for her love of writing and digital design. That’s apart from her Executive Director role at The VolunteerNG, a social enterprise that enables children to get education within and outside of formal school settings.
Lynda says doing these things and building Cash Your Passion at the same time has been hard. Especially in a city like Lagos.
“I was weak many times, sick most times,” she recalls. “My body and mind were in a constant battle (against each other).”
But she says she’s learnt to juggle her many responsibilities and adapt to working with the limited time she has.
Winning the Forbes Accelerator Pitch
Early in 2020, Forbes announced its plans for an accelerator program to equip Nigerian startups for success in the contemporary world. When it made applications open, it got a flood of entrants. Over 5,000 businesses applied in just two weeks.
Cash Your Passion was one of them. It was also among 200 businesses that got selected to enter the four-week accelerator. The cohort was populated by well-known startups; some of them had products that were already widely used.
In the end, Lynda emerged from this class as one of the top ten. This final group would pitch their startups remotely to a panel at the Forbes Nigeria Summit, a live-streamed event to be watched by thousands across the country.
Lynda’s presentation was supposed to be the ninth. That was until her internet connection failed.
“I had to quickly go to a neighbour’s house to use their internet,” she remembers.
She also had to plead to be given the opportunity to pitch– even after the final startup had done so.
In the end, the panel was impressed. Impressed enough award her first place.
Lynda believes there’s a lesson in her triumph that’s worth sharing with other entrepreneurs.
“I just want to encourage everyone who has been working on a dream and building every day. Don’t get tired, don’t give up, and don’t give in to the pressure. In due time your efforts will be rewarded.”
Featured Image Source: Forbes
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