Mentor Spotlight: OBIANUJU (UJU) OBIANWU
Tell us about your venture/work!
My path has always been heavily predicated on creating opportunities for other people who look like me. I quickly learned that if I want to sit at the table, I would have to create one for myself. That is where my drive began. I grew up watching my mother build and grow her own pharmacy from the ground up, so I was under the impression that we, as a woman, could do absolutely anything that we set our minds to. I didn’t see it any other way, and I was too young to realize that we live in a world where our ambitions are not always quite as welcome. That is when I began on my path to creating platforms, safeplaces, and opportunities, with a purpose. I started my first events, marketing, and branding collective to “curate events with a purpose.” That led me to meeting the most amazing spirits, and cultivating relationships with the most inspiring women that I had the opportunity to invite as speakers, sponsors, guests, and honorees on a National scale.
We developed a community of thriving women and people of color, who were enthused to attend event after event, and stay connected throughout the East Coast. Following the pandemic, it became challenging for most event planners alike to find ways to gather safely. Naturely, it was a matter of happenstance that the gradual transition of B2B work became a shift towards welcoming and entertaining the idea of B2C work. We were now in the business, under a sister branch, know known as Pampas Picnics & Rentals | Decor and Design, where we now work tirelessly to help create these intimate and unforgettable moments for people and families in all stages of life. From weddings, to baby showers, to baptisms, naming ceremonies, birthdays, bridal showers – you name it. We found joy in being fair and reasonable, connecting with new people, even whilst virtually at first, and bringing sheer and utter happiness to people within their means.
What started as a way for us to get out of the house during a very tough time, transitioned into a growing being that was birthed from the pandemic, that needs constant nurturing. Of all my ventures, I have never cared for a business of mine so much! We really built something special, and I know we are in a space that may seem so small to others, but, believe me, it’s mighty. And I think that is the area I would like to stick in. I am no longer in a place of trying to be a “catch-all” with what I can offer other businesses, and brands – I have found the success that is comfortable to me, and I would like to continue on a niche path, carving that lane for me and so many others. Flash forward to now – we serve multiple regions, we have an office in New Jersey, we have employees, we run payroll – all of it! It’s a continued routine of evaluating our metrics, or margins, and projecting our future. Let’s just say, in 2024 we have BIG plans, and I lose sleep in excitement of where we are going, and where we can take these big ideas of ours.
How did you decide to tackle this particular issue?
When it became clear to me that there is not always a seat at the table for people who look like me, it became a priority to me to create a table myself. I did that via a number of opportunities for enterprising woman, local musicians, black men in America, global missions, philanthropic organizations, and making it appealing and approachable for people to get involved.
What do you enjoy most about being an impact entrepreneur? What’s hardest about it?
I love to create opportunities for people who look like me, and show them the beauty of it all, and the not so pretty. The hardest aspect can be in the same breath, or sometimes we get burned, and we’re afraid to extend a hand back based on experiences we’ve had with certain individuals.
How do you navigate the space of being a founder and also being a POC/women/non-binary person?
That space is not easy. It’s hard at times to leave it with being a black on business, or to even include that in our brand story because it’s very common pleas for potential clients to have a preconceived notion of what a black on business could look like, or how we can operate, without even exploring our track record. Just as well, there’s an expectation, at times, when you are trying to do fair unequivocal business, that you need to give certain “friends” discounts, or kickbacks, or just simply do a service for free, because they see themselves in you. We love the congratulations, and the lakes, but there’s not as much monetary support, at times, to support the business and patronize our services at full price. If I am in a position to do a favor for a friend or family member via my business, they’re usually I’m usually in a peculiar position to do the work myself, because they’re not willing to pay enough to support our fully functioning business, and that includes prep time for our staff, travel, admin, etc, and I wish that same respect could transcend to how we of treat businesses of our own people.
What advice do you have for early-stage impact entrepreneurs about using their time, relationships, and opportunities at The New School to prepare for this kind of career?
I would say, stay true to yourself, but also be open to the opportunities that await you. I know that for me, I had a vision and a plan for myself going into undergrad, and it wasn’t until I opened and allowed myself to have a multitude of experiences, that I was able to shape who I am and embrace that not every aspect of the business I have to love. But, there is space in whichever career path I choose, to hone in, and become a master of my craft. My parents always told me, but if I’m going to do anything, I should be the best. And I still operate in that mentality of bringing my full self, and giving my all, and constantly being a student of life, where I can learn and grow every single day to become the best businesswoman, the best sister, the best partner, the best daughter, and the best mentor I can to myself and those around me.
Click here to learn more.