First of all, how are you and how is your family in these times of COVID-19?
Arik Olakunle Awodein: To the glory of God, my family and I are good. Even though it’s funny for months, the preventive measures we took was quite alarming: from sanitizing to frequent hands and goods washing. These measures have helped to keep my entire family safe.
Tell us about yourself, your career and how you started TeachersAroundMe.com
Arik Olakunle Awodein: I’m a selfless, ambitious young man, who is passionate about making the world, a better place to live for all. I’d always love to lift people off poverty, take care of students, empower their parents, to enable them to provide for their families. As I feel bitter, from an early age, seeing kids go to school, in a tattered uniform, ripped bags and shoes, looking malnourished. As I grew older, the passion for helping the universe, grew stronger.
I wanted to be a lawyer when I was in elementary school because I’m passionate about the right way of doing things, and love to fight for the people and on what is right. But I changed my mind after watching a movie where a lawyer was killed for defending what was right. I switched to computer engineering because I loved computers. However, computer engineers don’t have money in this part of the world, Nigeria.
So I changed my choice of profession to be a journalist because I want to communicate the right things to the people. But my mom reminded me of how much I hated to talk. Instead, she encouraged me to join the military because she believed I was way too tough. Unfortunately, I became unfit for it.
Eventually, I started my career as my family banker at the age of 10. I’ve been a very prudent person when it comes to money. Another thing I’m passionate about is the food business. I used to be a great cook in the house. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to start a food business. I got on my computer, mapped out my goto business plan and was ready to get started. Once more, my mom aborted that dream. I changed my focus to food packaging business, where I could buy garri (cassava flakes), sugar and groundnut, and seal them all together as one for a ready-to-eat snack. Once again, mom told me to focus on gaining admission into the university.
While at the university, I started a media and advertising outfit, where I helped business owners create adverts for their businesses, as well as consultancy. I also launched an e-commerce business, where I imported goods such as wears, gadgets, devices from China, U.S and Europe. Further, I also had a clothing line where we manufactured and customized clothes, but I exited profitably to launch TeachersAroundMe.com. This is an online digital edtech platform that helps people source, screen, and connects learners with professional educators near them.
I would say my previous experiences and skills, helped me in starting and growing TeachersAroundMe.com to over 20,000 users we have today, without any paid marketing. I started TeachersAroundMe.com to help people, regardless of their age, gender, background and location, get a quality education. I believe that Education Is The Heart and Growth of Every Nation. When people are well educated and skilled, they would be able to create wealth for themselves and add to the nation or the world’s growth and development. So I founded TeachersAroundMe to help bring that vision to life. Still, my mom was the force behind it due to her love for education. As a matter of fact, she has always wanted to have a school. I think I’ll make that dream come true for her.
How is TeachersAroundMe.com innovating?
Arik Olakunle Awodein: TeachersAroundMe, has brought innovation to the education and recruitment industry, unlike the old days where companies advertised a position on a vacancy board outside their premises. But with TeachersAroundMe.com, access to quality education and recruitment of educators has been made easy. We source for the teachers, linguists, counselors, skill trainers and learners, screen and match them accordingly. This saves time, energy and resources on both the students and instructors. TeachersAroundMe has made hiring seamless and ensuring easy access to quality education.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected TeachersAroundMe.com, and how are you dealing with this crisis?
Arik Olakunle Awodein: Because our primary objective is to pair educators with learners, mostly for physical learning, COVID made it impossible for gatherings, thus affecting our business. We’ve been encouraging out existing, and potential users take full advantage of technology. Thanks to COVID-19 people have switched to e-Learning, a way of adopting and appreciating technology. And we helped some of them get this done.
Did you have to make tough choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Arik Olakunle Awodein: None really, as we’ve always been prepared for the unexpected.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety during this time, and how do you and your business see yourself in the future?
Arik Olakunle Awodein: Hmm, stress! Well, stress has always been part of running an edtech business. As what we do is considered as one of the hardest, the reason there are very few people in the sector. So, I’ve learnt to live with the stress and insanity that comes with running an edtech company. Though it’s a tough one, and wouldn’t deny the fact that I’m seriously drained & exhausted, but the mission and vision, keeps me going. Hey! I don’t have a life of my own. The only experience I have is building the company. And I believe when the company fulfils its promise on earth, life would be better for all, and we all would have an experience.
Who are your competitors, and how do you plan to do well?
Arik Olakunle Awodein: Our competitors are vacancy boards, social media, job listing platforms, friends and family. And we plan to do well by investing so much in the technology, diffuse it, continue to make it user-focused and friendly, as we keep to our promise of making quality education easily accessible and affordable for all while making employment seamless, as we continue to redefine lives positively.
A final word?
Arik Olakunle Awodein: I constantly tell people long before now, “what you think doesn’t concern you will one day, one way or the other affect you directly or indirectly.” E.g. COVID-19. Digest it, think it deep in every aspect. So, it is to all of our best interest to contribute in our own little way, to the development of the world at large. We are in this world for a reason – to make a positive impact. We shouldn’t relent in doing this. I just taught you something.