Dr. Ajibike Saratu Oluwatimilehin tells us what it’s like to build an agro-commodity company with her husband by her side.
When it comes to impacting and getting things done, Dr Ajibike Saratu Oluwatimilehin’s accomplishments are endless. When she is not managing her various business ventures, Dr Ajibike Saratu Oluwatimilehin devotes her time and resources to the empowerment of women.
She is the Founder of AJIBIKE SARATU FOUNDATION (ASF), an NGO created to empower the women and youths of Kwara State and Nigeria in its entirety. She is a seasoned motivational speaker and counselor, acting as a transformational leader to thousands of women.
From her extensive list of achievements, it is clear that this woman is no stranger to being in positions of leadership. She is at the helm of several businesses including JO-SEM ENTERPRISES.
Jo-Sem is an agro-commodity company that is currently making significant milestones across Africa. JO-SEM’s growing success however, is not just due to the business prowess and expert leadership of this remarkable woman. They say that behind every successful man is a strong woman, but in JO-SEM Enterprises, we see that the reverse is the case.
Dr Ajibike Saratu staunchly refers to her husband as the engine room and the brains behind their success, and though we fear she is being a bit too modest, we can’t help but admire this beautifully unconventional dynamic. Her husband is equally modest, fondly referring to himself as her PA even though he is the Chairman of the company and oversees a number of operations.
In an interview with Shecluded, Dr Ajibike Oluwatimilehin tells us how this seamless union has contributed to the continued growth and flourishing of JO-SEM Enterprises.
Could you tell us a little bit about Jo-Sem Enterprises? How did it all begin, and what has your experience as the CEO been like?
JO-SEM ENTERPRISES is a company that focuses on agro commodities, management consulting, financial advisory, investment guidance, training and exportation. It’s the parent body for all our consulting activities. We do agribusiness-commodities aggregation, warehousing and sales of agricultural produce and also offer a host of other services. JO-SEM ENTERPRISES is currently making landmark strides in the development of Agribusiness across Africa. At the moment we are focused on building a network of capable large-scale agribusiness. We provide services, dedicated customer service support and various other services to ensure optimal customer satisfaction. Jo-Sem also provides the solutions and support needed to grow businesses.
Jo-sem began from buying a few bags of commodities and sharing them amongst friends in 2019. Being the CEO of the company is a lot because as the custodian of investors’ funds, you have to make decisions that will always be profitable and at the same time secure their investment and capital. So I am constantly on the edge to ensure smooth running of the activities of the company.
What challenges have you faced while building an agro-commodity company and how have you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges in agro-commodity business is working capital. It is a game of volume versus profit so it’s very capital intensive. You also need cheap funds to avoid working for the funders only. There’s also the challenge of farmers dealing on a cash only basis. This is a big challenge because you need to ensure that cash is handled properly in order to successfully close transactions. Another major challenge is road insecurity and bad road infrastructure.
What is it like running an agro-commodity company as a woman in a male-dominated industry?
I can tell you that it’s very challenging. Because it is a male-dominated sector, there is a limit to the trips you can take by yourself. But with the support of my husband as the chairman, I have been able to pull through the hurdles. In dealing with the general challenges I just take things one day at a time and learn quickly from my past mistakes.
What is it like running a company with your spouse? How has it contributed to Jo-Sem’s success? Has it caused any challenges?
It is a fantastic experience I must say. It gives you cover from all the heat from society. The biggest challenge is definitely dealing with socio-cultural perceptions, but for us we live for ourselves and don’t care what people feel about our relationship. The truth of the matter is my husband is the brain behind all our success. I refer to him as the engine room. I am grateful daily to God for him in my life.
What advice do you have for women who go into business with their spouses?
Be humble and choose the approach that works for you both. Don’t try to be like another couple-remember that you and your spouse are different individuals.
What has been your greatest achievement as the CEO of Jo-Sem Enterprises?
Being able to build a network of off-takers for our commodities at all times.
What is the most interesting lesson you have learnt as a leading woman in business?
Success is attainable if one is determined and doesn’t give up, even in the face of challenges.
Finally, what advice do you have for women interested in leadership or who find themselves in positions of leadership?
For women interested in leadership I will say just believe in yourself, be passionate and never look for reward first. Let the impact be your motivation. For those already in it, my advice is to keep showing up even if it is not encouraging because one day, it will be worth it. Finally, never second guess yourself; even when you make a mistake, just learn from it and move on.