Meet Onyinye Okonji the co-founder of Sycamore, a thriving online peer-to-peer lending platform, and the sole female founder in her entrepreneurial team. Her outstanding achievements got the attention of Exquisite magazine, so we decided to have her on board. So read up!
Tell us about yourself
My name is Onyinye Okonji, I’m a co-founder at Sycamore. I rep as the sole female founder in my entrepreneurial team, serving alongside Babatunde Akin-Moses and Mayowa Adeosun.
I enjoy the work I do at Sycamore which involves managing our workspace culture and customers’ perception of the company. When I am not working, I am experiencing new cultures and food, gardening, watching movies, or dancing.
What does your business do and how it started?
Sycamore is an online peer-to-peer lending platform offering a two-pronged approach to providing solutions to credit accessibility in Nigeria.
We offer credit and investment opportunities to individuals and businesses with verifiable sources of income: paid workers and CAC-registered SMEs. We also accept investments from savvy lenders while offering a competitive ROI.
Sycamore was founded in March 2019 after our full-time MBA stint at the Lagos Business School. We decided to take on the challenge of closing the huge credit gap present in Nigeria from our corner.
Four years down the line, I cannot imagine not serving at Sycamore, given the over 2000 individuals and businesses that we have provided personal loans and work capital extensions, or the 100 individuals who are passionately running with the vision at Sycamore, every day.
How do you solve your customer’s challenge?
There are many challenges that people face when they are trying to access a credit facility:
Access to credit – By providing quick access to financial services via a nimble platform we can quickly incorporate customers’ feedback and adapt to customers’ preferences.
Our credit facilities are convenient enough for you to complete the process of applying for a facility from the comfort of your home or office, in addition, it is reasonably priced with flexible repayment options. We also do not ask for unnecessary documents which elongate the time around time.
Black Tax – We have launched a personalized peer-to-peer lending feature on the Sycamore App, where savvy individuals can keep their friends accountable for monies lent.
We call it Loan Friends, using this feature, you have ultimate control over where your money goes while avoiding awkward conversations with your friends around repayment.
We have put the power in the hands of the lender, so he can vet and provide loans to his immediate circle of friends with an agreement on terms of repayment, which we enforce.
Simply put 1) You avoid awkward conversations. 2) Holding your friends accountable for the repayment of your loan to them and most importantly, 3) Conveniently, provide financial help where you can without feeling used. Sycamore App is available on AppStore and PlayStore
Who are your ideal customers?
Our ideal customers, right now, are Nigerians who have regular income from paid employment or a business and have good borrowing history.
We serve both public and private sector customers in Nigeria and look forward to a Pan-African expansion within a few years to further decrease the lending gap.
Can you describe/outline your typical day?
Thing is, no two days look alike structurally. However, there are certain elements that each day usually contains: a quiet moment when I wake up to centre myself and have some clarity for the day ahead, revise my schedule, prepare for and attend scheduled meetings for the day (can be a mix of physical and virtual), research online, have a bite, exchange emails, and family time.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
In the early years of running Sycamore, work trumped life in balance, but I am a recovering workaholic, so I am intentionally incorporating more life into the balance.
What motivates you?
I am motivated by the thought of leaving behind a trans-generational legacy.
What is your greatest fear?
I am afraid of just existing without having made great memories.
How do you define success?
Success is making daily progress towards our clear goals, growing customers and revenue while upholding ethical standards and best business practices.
It is in the journey itself and not a far-along destination, it is at the end of every project, at the end of a productive day, and it is checking off tasks at the end of the day.
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Witnessing the immediate positive impact that my choices have on our business offerings, the people involved, and the bottom line.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
- Document my entire journey intentionally, from scratch, capturing every pivotal point.
- Embrace more technological skills, earlier.
- Clarify boundaries.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
• Patience: Learn to play the long game. Playing for immediate gratification is a myopic way to run a business. Patience is a virtue but it also builds character, which is foundational for a responsible entrepreneur
• Accountability: For your decisions and to your stakeholders.
• Doggedness: Clarify your thoughts, do focused work, and by all means toot your horn
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
What advice would you give to people who want to become entrepreneurs?
Do it! Your idea has a high chance of success with the right ingredients, do your part. What if it becomes more than all you ever dreamed of? Go all in.
Have an abundance mentality. Yes, the work will be gritty, repetitive, and sometimes painful. This is the currency you pay to attain your dream, goal, and success.
What business-related book has inspired you the most?
Bank 3.0: Why banking is no longer somewhere you go, but something you do by Brett King.
If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it?
Red Nails in the Boardroom: An authentic account of the Journey of a Female African Millennial Fintech Founder
Please share the contact details you wish to be made public
I started a YouTube channel to document my experience as a female millennial founder
▪ Subscribe to my Youtube channel: Red Nails in the Boardroom
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