Ejibola Adetokunbo-Taiwo is a Nigerian entrepreneur and CEO of Simply Ejibola Inc., which provides fashion, home and office accessories. She is the Founder and Principal Consultant at de Sedulous Women Leaders, a women’s network committed to empowering and uplifting immigrant women in their careers and entrepreneurship. She has also been the lead creator of several entrepreneurship initiatives in Canada.
Some of her initiatives include femImmiGRANTS, a grant specifically for BIPOC female entrepreneurs in Canada, the iiNTEGRATE NEXT program for newcomers in Canada, the iLaunchHERproduct, a program aimed at connecting women-owned businesses with big box retail stores in Canada, and the Rise Up Pitch Competition, a national grant program for Black Canadian women entrepreneurs, according to Women of Influence.
Ejibola started her career as a Country Manager at the West African Capital Market School (WACMS) in Lagos, Nigeria. She was responsible for both operations and administration of the company. She moved on to become a Senior Business Advisor at Scotiabank helping small and medium enterprises with their business growth needs.
“I had a portfolio of business clients assigned to me to manage their financial and investment interests. I paid particular attention to my business clients at that time because I was gradually becoming an entrepreneur myself,” she told Women of Influence.
She continued: “This led to my curiosity and inquisitiveness as to why I’d always get businessmen booking appointments with me for their funding needs, and I hardly saw women inquiring about the bank’s financing products for businesses. I eagerly wanted to understand more about the entrepreneurship ecosystem beyond financial support for entrepreneurs, so I stepped out of banking and got into the field.”
Ejibola left banking into the field of entrepreneurship and it was through her new venture that she realized the multiple challenges associated with running a business, particularly as a woman, and most especially, as a Black entrepreneur.
“As a banker who was skilled at putting together a business plan, I couldn’t even get the attention of another banker to go through my plan without them stopping at the name of my business on the cover,” she said.
According to her, she faced several challenges like not being able to get approved for a business credit card for four years. She said the numerous “no’s” she got from big box retail store buyers got her asking herself questions like: “if a woman like myself cannot access a business credit card of just $1,000, how do I begin to build business credit to help me access more funding to grow my business?”
“If I can’t access enough funding, how can I increase my inventory to scale my business? If I’m able to use personal financing to increase inventory volume, how can I assess where the demand will be for my product, like retail stores, if buyers are not giving me a chance?”
She, therefore, launched iLaunchHERproduct to help solve the challenges faced by women-owned businesses in growing and scaling their brands, using retail channels as a tool.
“Getting them approved for a $1000 business credit card by our TD Bank partner to help these women build business credit was one of the solutions,” she said. The banker-turned-entrepreneur added that having women work with partners like the Export Development Canada (EDC) and Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) was also one of the solutions in educating and providing them with the tools required to scale their business through retail. Getting WEConnect International to connect these women with big box retail store buyers in their database was another solution, she said.
“iLaunchHERproduct is a total package that has the potential in creating not only business growth, but also economic growth,” said Ejibola.
According to the entrepreneurship consultant, the one thing she loves about her job is the joy and the celebration of the little wins that come from the women she assists.