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Starling Portrait Series: Niyo Enterprise – economically empowering Black women

More often than not, business is about looking at how things have been done before and having the courage and imagination to reinvent the rules. That’s what Anne Boden did when she created Starling Bank, a digital bank for personal and business current accounts. Starling was born out of her determination to give customers control over their money and provide a real alternative to the banks of the past. Starling strives to be fast, friendly and supportive – just like a murmuration of starling birds.

In this series, we’ll be shining a light on other Great British entrepreneurs who, just like Anne, are pioneers of change.

This month’s Portrait Series is focused on Starling customer, budding entrepreneur and founder of Niyo Enterprise-Oyin Adebayo. Niyo Enterprise is a group of distinct brands focused on the economic empowerment of black women.  At Niyo, Oyin and her team are on a mission to ensure every black woman on the planet is a producer, builder or creator of high-impact ecosystems – and they do this through hair and beauty, technology, and networking. 

The organisation currently has two main brands under its umbrella: Niyo Hair and Beauty and Niyo Network. Niyo Hair and Beauty is a technology-driven mobile afro hair and beauty service that services 400 clients across the midlands whilst supporting black hair stylists. Niyo Network exists to economically empower black women to pursue their business ideas and career aspirations through technology-driven boot camps. 

Through her brands, Oyin is currently successfully empowering over 50 black women to become full stack developers through the “black codher” Bootcamp project, one of the projects under the Niyo Network and is set to empower a further 200 women this year through her network. 

Oyin is making huge waves in bridging the gap and creating more representation for black females, and it is businesses like this that are going to help our working world become a far better, more equal space. 

We caught up with founder Oyin Adebayo to discuss her business, how they’ve fared since the pandemic, her plans for the future, and her secret to success.

Changing the world 

From a very early age, Oyin would always say: “I just want to change the world!” 

Now, with an MSc in Development Economics under her belt and a passion for social enterprise she has founded Níyó Enterprise with the blueprint of “people, purpose, profit and planet” – and with that she can take the steps she has always wanted to change the world. 

But where did this passion come from? 

“The entrepreneurial journey for me started from the age of seven, where my late Dad who ran his own estate management firm had lots of contracts with huge companies like MTN – one of Africa’s foremost telecommunications corporations,” said Oyin.

During this time Oyin’s father would sit her down and write proposals and bids with her help. From here, she picked up the skills and began to understand what it meant to run a business, from such a young age – this is where the fire inside Oyin was born. 

“I always had that side of me that was very much entrepreneurial, academic, corporate and intelligent, but there was this other side of me that was more creative and flamboyant.”

As Oyin got older and her passion for business grew, she began working for a number of social enterprises and doing a lot of volunteering work, where she quickly noticed that, yes, there were a lot of social enterprises that were talking about empowering people, but she was yet to actually see the tangibility in the ’empowerment’ work – which is where the idea for Niyo was born. 

“This is when I thought, Okay Oyin, you’ve built up a community of about one hundred women at this point, and you’ve built good relationships with them – so why not merge that academic and social-mission-driven stuff with the other thing I loved, hair and beauty?” And that’s how the journey has evolved into upskilling black women in tech.”

Using her existing network of people Oyin began building Niyo, an enterprise that would make its mission truly tangible – by empowering black women to do the things they love. 

The businesses growth 

Since its founding in 2018, Niyo Enterprise offers a multilayered service for users that changes the course of their lives within a short space of time, through boot camps and projects. 

This is exemplified by the below:

  • Breaking the vicious cycle of poverty that black women face as 40% of the UK’s black households experience income poverty or work in low-skill employment (ONS)
  • Ensuring that diversity and inclusion is not just a token thing in organisations. Each year, £64 billion is spent replacing employees who have departed as a result of discrimination. (Google #IamRemarkable research, 2020)
  • Providing access and free training to our users. 90% of our audience want to get into high-impact industries but cannot afford the average Bootcamp cost of £5000.

Since starting out, the business has experienced tremendous growth, especially in the last year. From turning over less than £20,000 in their first year to now £680,000 in May 2021. From making a loss in previous years to now making a profit of £250,000, Niyo Enterprise is set to continue going from strength to strength. 

Trials and Tribulations 

Since its founding in 2018, the world has changed significantly. The pandemic in 2020 has changed the way we have lived over the last two years, including the increased use of technology, the decline in socialising, and the detrimental effects that covid has had on people’s mental and physical health. 

Covid-19 also caused businesses to change the way they were operating, and many businesses were unable to survive the storm that the pandemic caused. Niyo Enterprise thankfully survived and thrived – but we were interested to know how it affected them, and how they managed to stay afloat. 

“Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I have faced many peaks and troughs. Funnily enough, my biggest challenge in business led to my biggest breakthrough. We had our biggest summit before the pandemic, called the Beyond Hair Summit, where we gathered black women with the aim of getting them to do something with their ideas. We had a lot of promised sponsorship fall through so I had to fund this event by myself. 

“The event ended up costing around £13,000, which I did not have – so we had to change something. This same summit, which seemed like it was going to be a disaster, actually led us to do our black codher coding boot camp in partnership with coding black females, which won us a £250,000 contract!”

“The pandemic has presented many challenges for us but has also brought in many opportunities. The foundation of Niyo Group was upskilling to produce products and services that we could build in-house – which enabled us to upskill a total of 300 black women to get into tech and be employed by the likes of KPMG, Goldman Sachs and many more. 

“At the same time, we continued to serve our existing community of 3000 strong black women who came to us to solve some of their major problems including hair and beauty. We spent our time really understanding pain points and providing technology solutions to people within the beauty industry when they needed it most, The pandemic enabled us to understand that the creator economy wants more value added to them, and we have been able to start building Niyo dapp, a platform that allows content creators to interact with their users to try on their content, mint it like an NFT and get real products.” 

The future

So, what can we expect to see in the future for Niyo Enterprise? 

“Our immediate plan is to scale up our offering and upskill at least 1000 black women globally with high-impact skills in technology, fashion, hair, and beauty. We will soon be launching Niyo on the metaverse and also launching a platform where creators and brands can connect. In the long term, we plan to scale up expansion to create ecosystems where innovative products are being produced by black women globally.”

Our growth plans for Niyo Enterprise are to scale from having 3 boot camps within just the West Midlands and Gloucestershire to running global boot camps for women in Africa, America, Europe and Asia and also having 7 hairstylists to over 45 stylists serving our customers. We are projected to turnover £1.2 million by May 2022, have 20 members of staff and also increase our customers from 10 partners to 20 over the next year. 

Oyin’s belief in, and passion for empowering black females, is making positive changes, and we look forward to seeing what more is to come in the future. Find out more about what Niyo Enterprise does, and how you can get involved here.