Kofoworola Oyeleye is the CEO and Creative Director of Iyin Creative, a company that creates animated content to help children learn native Nigerian languages and the Nigerian culture in a fun way.
Born and raised in Lagos, Kofo started working at an early age, serving as her father’s unofficial personal assistant, a position she held till she got married and had to relocate. Her first formal job was at a management consulting firm followed by a project management company, after which she decided to start her own business. She credits her work ethic and knowledge about the business world to her 9-to-5 experiences.
Kofo’s journey to entrepreneurship was not accidental. From a young age, she had a book where she wrote ideas and businesses she wanted to start; the problem was that she didn’t know when that would be. She has a wide range of interests all centred around creativity — sewing, design and crafts. She loves roller skating and ice skating and once worked as the ice skating instructor at the artificial rink at Silverbird Galleria in 2007.
What is Iyin Creative about?
At Iyin-Creative, our primary objective is the creation of fun animated content, teaching children our native Nigerian cultures, history and heritage. Our goal is to create a global appeal for our Nigerian heritage using animation.
Our premier product is the Anilingo series which introduces children to the foundational aspects of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba through the numbers, alphabets, words and actions in daily life. We also do animation training and, in line with children being priority, we organised Nigeria’s first ever Animation Summer Camp in August last year and will be having another this year.
Why do you think it is important for us to preserve our language and pass it on to our children?
Our native language and culture is our identity — not English, not French or any other language. If we don’t pass it on to our children who are the future, we will be a people with no heritage and in no time, we’ll have no heritage, no values, no identity.
Our culture is rich and is in not of less value than that of Europe and other foreign cultures, but unfortunately a lot of us treat it as so. We at Iyin Creative, through our quality animated content, are creating a global appreciation for our native Nigerian heritage, history and cultures.
How did you get the idea for Iyin Creative and why did you decide to start this company?
At some point in 2013, I no longer had the drive to work for anyone. I knew it was time for me to bring one of my many ideas to life, so I quit my job at the project management company I worked. At this point, I still wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to do.
I had heard about the YouWin Programme, but wasn’t interested for two reasons: I didn’t have faith in any government project, and I didn’t quite know which of my ideas would be good enough. But my best friend kept insisting I try with any of my ideas.
One day, while tidying up the sitting room, my then 3 year old daughter was watching Dora the Explorer. It then crossed my mind that if my daughter was picking up Spanish words, which no one spoke at home, by watching Dora, I might as well create animated content that will teach her our native Nigerian cultures and heritage instead. Our language of conversation at home was English, so she neither understood nor spoke Yoruba.
So, I applied with that idea in 2013, won and started the business. Despite starting with a grant, it hasn’t been the easiest of journeys but I still wouldn’t trade it. I’ve grown as the business has grown too, weathered storms, and become even more innovative.
You’ve been twice lucky: getting the YouWin grant and now the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme grant. After YouWin, why did you need to apply for another grant?
I got 7.5 million naira from YouWin. I know that sounds like a lot of money, but for an animation studio starting from the scratch, it’s not that much. From creating the business plan, I knew I needed about 13 million naira to setup, start and finish the first project. Working with what I got and with financial support from my husband, as well as creating other services for revenue generation, I scaled down on several aspects.
Outside work tools, you don’t come by skilled animators easily in Nigeria and the available ones come at a high price. There was no way I could do it all on my own, so the high cost of running the business was unavoidable. By the time the project was completed YouWin funds had long been expended, and a whole lot of funds had been pumped in by my husband as well.
This left us with a tight budget for replication, so we couldn’t produce as many copies as we would have loved to. My applying for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme was to gain access to financing to produce a larger volume.
One problem entrepreneurs face is knowing how to juggle multiple tasks effectively. How do you manage your time and prioritize tasks?
It hasn’t been the easiest of things especially given the fact that I have two children. I don’t know if it comes with being a woman, but I’ve somehow through the grace of God been able to build my work schedule around my children. When I have a backlog of work, I sacrifice some hours of sleep to catch-up. I also have a great team, so it’s not a one-man-circus.
Where do you see your company in the next three years?
In the next three years, I see Iyin-Creative becoming a household name. We will create a platform not just for our content, but also for content from other animators, that promote Nigerian cultures. It’s not about us, it’s about our heritage.
What does success mean to you, both in business and personally?
Success to me in business is being able to impact the society with my vision. In my personal life, it’s being able to bring up visionary Children who love Christ.
Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Stick with the vision. It may be tough and you may get really discouraged, but persistence and prayer pays off eventually.
We are sharing the stories of 20+ African women entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme and whose ideas can change the world. Follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.