Morenike Molehin is the Founder and Creative Director of Oak and Teak, a full-service interior design company. She obtained her first degree in Industrial Mathematics from Covenant University and a second degree in Financial Mathematics and Computation from the University of Leicester United Kingdom.
In the last eight years, Molehin has succeeded in positioning Oak and Teak as a leading interior design company. As part of her contribution to nation building, she has hosted free seminars and trained over 100 people on the business of interior design, and has received entrepreneurial nominations and awards and is a frequent speaker at entrepreneurship and empowerment seminars.
Molehin is also the Founder of The Complete Woman, a ministry set up to equip young ladies to fulfill destiny and a Co- Pastor at The Redeemed Christian Church of God. Through the Oakandteak foundation, she is focused on making impact in healthcare and education.
In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her entrepreneurial journey, and her passion for empowerment
Share with us your career journey?
I often say that I coincidentally started my interior design journey about nine years ago. I had just gotten married and at the time, our apartment was scantily furnished with only a few essential and functional items. However, as our financial situation gradually improved, I decided to enhance the look and feel of our home by decorating key areas like the sitting room, dining area, and the visitor’s toilet.
Surprisingly, whenever we received guests, they would usually have many superlative compliments about the beauty of our home, despite the fact I hadn’t expended so much money to carry out what now seems to be my first decoration project. On hearing this repeated and increasingly predictable feedback, my husband strongly encouraged me to consider turning this hobby of decorating our home into a sustainable business. I thought about this deeply, did some basic research on the business of interior design, and eventually realised that I would enjoy this profession.
With little or no experience, I embarked on a process of rigorous self-education on the technicalities of interior design by watching several YouTube videos and reading several interior design-related articles. Armed with this knowledge, I started my interior design business. Nine years later, I am grateful for the journey. I have since then enrolled in international interior design courses in a bid to deepen my knowledge in my profession.
You have a background in Mathematics, how easy was it for you to switch to interior designing?
I am a firm believer in the fact that what a person studies at a university is not the sole determinant of the profession he/she would be most suitable for. My view is that a university education is fundamentally a foundation for being able to tackle and resolve complex problems. Consequently, my degrees in Industrial Mathematics and Financial Mathematics did not in any way limit my career options; rather they gave me a foundation for various career and entrepreneurial alternatives.
My initial plan was to work in a financial institution, however, following a brief internship in a bank, I realised that wasn’t a profession that would be suitable for me. Therefore, my first job was as a business analyst at an indigenous consulting firm. I later changed jobs to working as an Operations Manager at an Agro-Allied company. It was while I was working in this company that I started my interior business ‘on the side’. I kept on doing this – working 8 to 5 and running my business on weekends for about four years.
However, in January 2017, it became difficult for me to balance paid employment and my interior business. It was at this point that I made a critical decision to leave paid employment and focus on scaling Oak and Teak Interiors to the heights I knew it could reach.
Share with us your growing up and how it has influenced your personality today?
I grew up in a very loving, supportive, and all-round positive environment – an environment where being respectful, kind, and generous was normal. My parents provided all the support that their children required to achieve whatever they desired to achieve. I believe this fundamentally influenced my disposition to the world around me and even in the way I conduct business.
For instance, having grown up in an environment where it was required to show genuine kindness to others, I generally adopt this approach in dealing with my clients and colleagues at work. I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. It is for this reason that exceptional customer service is a strategic priority for our business at Oak and Teak. I am of the view that if you treat your customers well, they will treat you well in return (at least in most cases).
Your foundation is focused on making an impact in the health and education sectors, how are you achieving this?
One of the corporate philosophies that are enshrined in our business is to dedicate portions of our income towards adding value to the society where we operate. This is what we seek to achieve through the Oak and Teak Foundation, which was launched last year in May. The foundation was set up to upgrade selected infrastructure and the general ambiance in the public healthcare and educational sector in Nigeria. My experience in the interior design profession has shown me that the appearance of the environment where people live and work greatly impacts their feelings. Beyond impacting the feelings that people have, our foundation is committed to equipping hospitals and schools with the tools that are needed to deliver optimal services.
In 2021, we committed to delivering five key projects consisting of two hospitals and three schools. I am glad to say that all projects were completed in 2021 as planned. In addition to renovating the spaces for free, we installed various items like hospital beds, library shelves, books, among others. It is our aim to do this continuously as part of our contribution towards effecting positive change in these key sectors.
Your initiative, The Complete Woman, what’s the idea behind it?
The Complete Woman in simple terms has been set up to equip young women to fulfill destiny. The network is comprised of about 2,000 women of diverse backgrounds. The method of equipping these young women comes in the form of mentoring programmes and holding conferences. The areas focused on are spirituality, family and relationships, career and business, finance and investment, personal development, and charity.
What are some of the challenges you have encountered and how are you able to surmount them?
Challenges are a part of life; therefore, whenever challenges come my way, I generally approach them with a positive mindset. Someone once said, ‘challenges are chances for (positive) changes’. This suggests that whenever there is a challenge confronting you, it is also an opportunity to make positive changes. Therefore, whenever I am confronted by any challenge, I ask myself how I could possibly address the challenge effectively and efficiently.
Sometimes, to resolve challenges I may have to tap into my network of friends and family for support. There is a saying that your network is your net worth. What I have realised is that no matter the problem you are facing, there is someone within your network that has experienced something similar before. Therefore, I strive to leverage my network to efficiently address challenges.
What should women do differently to excel and sit on the same table as you do?
I honestly think women in this generation are already doing amazing; they are more courageous, more enterprising, and more educated. Increasingly, more women know what they want. If I am to give any advice, it will be that they should believe in their dreams while recognising how valuable they are to the world at large. We do not need permission to sit at the tables and when we feel the tables are too small for us, we build ours.
A lot of women have held back on their career due to family life or insecurities from their male counterparts, how would you advice them?
This question is a delicate one. It is important to note that not all women necessarily want to be CEOs or top executives. Some women simply enjoy focusing solely on their families and they derive joy from doing so. At the end of the day, what really matter is that we are all able to do what we know is right and enjoyable for us. Don’t do things simply because someone else is doing it or because society says this is how it has always been. Ask yourself the critical question ‘what do I really want for myself?’ Once a woman can honestly answer this question, it is my view that she has taken the first step towards achieving greatness.
For ladies that are unmarried, please endeavour to marry a man that will allow you to fulfill your aspirations – whether the aspiration is to be a CEO, a career Executive, or even a stay-at-home mum.