Blooming Soyinka is using her MBA to connect African businesses and designers with the global market.
Career track: Product and Service Management
Blooming Soyinka thinks big. While working in global finance and accounting in her native Nigeria and the United States, she gained a perspective on international business that got her thinking about how she could link the world with the unique products of her home continent.
“I saw great potential to showcase the immense talent we have in Africa and connect global consumers with the treasures our artisans and designers produce,” she says.
“That’s why I wanted to pursue my MBA. I wanted to gain the tools to turn my vision into something concrete.”
Soyinka set her sights on the Full-Time MBA program at UBC Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School, where she studied on a full scholarship from the MasterCard Foundation.
“I remember vividly the day the Dean called me and told me I was admitted to UBC Sauder and selected for the Foundation scholarship,” she says. “I started screaming and crying.”
To find out someone believed so much in my vision, gave me an immense sense of responsibility. Wherever I go now, I have to give back. I want to make sure those who are following behind me benefit from what I achieve.
That sense of responsibility informs her work leading Africa Blooms, the fast-growing e-commerce company she founded with a mission to showcase goods designed and made by artisans throughout Africa, with an emphasis on those created in disadvantaged communities.
Coming into the MBA program, I thought I was going to learn about business management, how to grow a company, but at the end of the day it was also a journey of self-discovery.
Lecturer Ann Stone’s marketing courses were especially meaningful to Soyinka. So much so, Soyinka sought out as many of her courses as she could take.
“Ann’s classes were experiential,” Soyinka says. “They were real-life oriented, she spoke a lot about personal integrity, about becoming the type of business person we’d be proud to be.”
She says the case studies explored throughout the UBC MBA also added significant practical value.
“I discovered there were different ways of doing business from what I was used to, and was able to embrace new practices.”
“If I want to bring all the talent embedded in Africa to the forefront, I cannot do that alone,” Soyinka says. “I’ve created a platform that allows me to bring forward the work, creativity and energy of people from across the continent.”
Currently based in Vancouver, Soyinka, who graduated in May, will be visiting many of her existing vendors and potential new ones throughout Africa this winter. She envisions Africa Blooms growing into a chain of international stores selling everything from housewares to clothing, all made in Africa.
“Things are growing quickly and our ability to scale up is completely dependent on what I took away from the MBA,” she says. “At the end of the day, the business is going to create jobs in Africa and make a real difference in people’s lives.”
I'm a born challenger because I am resilient. When I started out, I made a lot of mistakes but I didn't give up; I focused on my vision for the next 10 years and that kept me going