It can be hard for young mothers to find interactive educational toys and creative learning spaces for kids in Lagos. Layal Tinubu is enabling mothers to give their children the best possible learning experiences. She is the founder of “Tots Toys”, a leading Toy and kid’s experience company for children between the ages of 1 month to 7 years. She earned her B.A from SOAS and a Masters from the University of Surrey. She shared her career journey with LFE:
How was your transition from corporate to entrepreneurship? What was the aha moment behind Tots Toys? I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at PwC – both in the UK and Nigeria firms. PwC prides itself on providing the very best of work experiences and opportunities for its employees. You must be committed and willing to put in the hard work to develop yourself and get the most out of your time there. The learning and networking opportunities are second to none and starting my career at PwC gave me solid footing into the workforce. Though the nature of the job is high paced and often stressful, it’s a great place to develop core key skills and competencies.
I would describe my transition from corporate to entrepreneurship as challenging but impactful. It challenged me to grow in unexpected ways. I had to reset my mindset during the transition and believe that I was competent enough for my accomplishments. Entrepreneurship is a journey of ups and downs, hence why I always stress the importance of having a plan and remaining flexible. Consider that some variables may change, and unexpected situations do occur. I had to understand the need to work on my business and not necessarily do all the work in my business.
When I became a mother, I wanted flexibility which ultimately led to the transition from corporate to entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, I don’t feel the corporate world in Nigeria is accommodating towards women and mother’s in general. I wanted to be actively involved in my daughter’s early, formative years and when I started doing my research into certain aspects of what I want her to be exposed too, I soon realised it was not available in Nigeria… Tots Toys was then birthed.
How do you balance motherhood and entrepreneurship? There’s no such thing as the perfect balance. Starting and running your own business is hard work, coupled with the demands of motherhood. You can only truly strive for balance as defined by you at any given point in time. I’m naturally an organised person so I’ve found planning and scheduling helps to keep on track. I work with SOPs and ensure all my staff have all they need to function with or without me. I generally try not to work on weekends unless I must as I dedicate that time to my family. I’ve also had to learn how to delegate work for me to be productive. You can’t be great at everything, and you can’t be everywhere all the time, therefore, you must be intentional about your choices.
What does leadership mean to you?Leadership means different things to different people. However, for me…leadership isn’t a position, it’s a mindset. Leadership is about the people you serve – the culture they keep and embrace, it’s about empathy for your customers, clients, employees and the communities where you do business, being confident enough to take risks and responsible enough to think of those who your decisions and risks may affect. It’s about setting the tone and standard that translates to creating an environment for mutually beneficial goals – delivering progress consistently.
Entrepreneurship is tough, did you have any mentors along the way? I didn’t have any mentors along the way. In place of a mentor, I found it useful to draw inspiration from a variety of people and things I surrounded myself with. I receive great energy and support from those closest to me. There’s nothing like being surrounded by people who genuinely believe in your vision and support you. At times we as a people love to look for mentorship upwards, but I find that you can be mentored by those in your immediate circle – it is very important you surround yourself with those who can guide, lead you, correct you and cheer you on. You can also be mentored by books and podcasts etc.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a female entrepreneur in Lagos, Nigeria? As a female entrepreneur and generally in the workforce, you are judged more harshly, you usually feel that you have to work or try twice as hard to even be considered half as good as your peers, still only getting half the recognition you deserve. I often doubted myself and my abilities, hesitating to voice my opinions out of fear of being stereotyped or side-lined. As women, we share a lot of the same challenges at work. My advice is to remind yourself that your perspective and your voice matters. You must take and keep your place – you can’t dim your shine to make others more comfortable. We have the power as women to make change for all of us.
What are some activities/opportunities you pursued in the past to set you up for your current success? Success is determined by how you handle it, how you treat people along the way, and how true to yourself you remain. I credit much of my success to my time at PwC and the skills I acquired. Working at PwC taught me how to take charge of my own development. My role within country management allowed me independency as well as the discretion to take initiative and come up with new, effective and efficient approaches where necessary, all while building an effective network. Prior to PwC, I completed a master’s degree in Entrepreneurship and Business Management which provided the theoretical knowledge and understanding of the business environment and the ability to manage people.
What advice do you have for aspiring female entrepreneurs? It’s amazing that more and more women are breaking and challenging traditional male dominated workplaces to start their own businesses. I love it. We are moving from breaking glass ceilings to building our own ceilings.
I always urge aspiring entrepreneurs to start with a defined plan, it should be realistic and contain attainable goals. Put dates to it, don’t pressure yourself but hold yourself accountable or surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable to your vision and goals. Deconstruct your ideas to smaller chunks and work your way from there.
We as women can often underestimate our own potential and as a result our dreams and aspirations can be compromised. I found it useful to think in depth about the reason behind my business and the impact I want to leave behind. Be a problem solver or add value, and money won’t be far from you. It is important to be patient and not be eager for success. Great things take time and sometimes profit may not come when you desire. Furthermore, it’s important to have a good support system around you – whether you find that with family, friends or a mentor. Failure in some capacity is imminent on the journey of entrepreneurship, however, failures can sometimes be successes in disguise aside from teaching you lessons about what does not work and what works.
Lastly, I’d advice aspiring female entrepreneurs to always aim to do better and outperform yourself. Set yourself up for success! Don’t allow anxiety to get the best of you. Handle things in stages and what once seemed impossible becomes achievable. Don’t forget to celebrate your small wins and big wins!