I pledge to nurture over one million young leaders by 2030 —Ijeoma Okoye, Writer, Editor, Founder of YAMA

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Ijeoma Dicta Okoye is a writer, editor, book consultant and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Creative Writers and Influencers Network (CWIN) and Young and More Africa (YAMA). In this interview with KINGSLEY ALUMONA, she talks about her experience of underemployment, her journey in writing and publishing, youth empowerment, among others.

Growing up, did you imagine yourself becoming who you are today?

Writing has always been part of me. However, I started using my writing skills as an adult – a path I had to take after getting a taste of the job market after my degree program. Little did I know that I was going to become a copywriting expert and consultant. Actually my lifelong dream was to be a lawyer but after trying to get my dream course I settled for mass communication where I got a degree then English language where I obtained a diploma.

I grew up not paying attention to my writing skills until I was broke to the point of receiving a salary of 6,000 naira. It was an experience that taught me a lesson. I started to look deep within myself to see what I could do. It was in the process of discovering myself that I discovered that I could actually do anything with my writing skills. Today, I consult with businesses and professionals, working with them to create quality content and books.

You just graduated from college about a year ago and you pride yourself on being an online business strategist, book consultant and editor, writing coach and editor. How was this possible in such a short time?

I graduated from college in 2021 (thanks to ASUU and COVID-19), but I was already building a business around my skills at the time. In fact, by the time I graduated, I had written 10 books – both in print and digital, worked with over 50 authors, and trained over 5,000 writers. I had also hosted a number of events both virtually and physically. So you see, I didn’t start building a brand and a business after I graduated. I was already an established business owner before I graduated.

You are the founder of Creative Writers and Influencers Network (CWIN). Tell us about it.

Creative Writers and Influencers Network (CWIN) is Africa’s leading writing and business community created to help writers, authors, business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals become profitable using new tools and viable media models to grow their revenue and grow their influence, create more profitable revenue streams using their intellectual property, and build businesses around their knowledge.

The CWIN community was officially launched in October 2018 – around the same time that I launched my writing career. Our community of nearly 50,000 members is the result of this immense vision. We have grown from a simple community to a leading digital media company providing writing, publishing and innovative solutions to personal, business and corporate brands, organizations and entrepreneurs.

Good to hear that CWIN Africa has expanded its reach. How were you able to achieve this?

As an entrepreneur, I am enthusiastic about solving problems. This led me to consciously build CWIN Africa and champion a host of initiatives. In more than three years of start-up, we have become a recognized community and brand. Today, we have served clients in various countries including Nigeria, Zambia, Liberia, USA, Canada and others.

The very first digital platform for creatives is being built by CWIN Africa. Creators by CWIN Africa is a digital media platform aimed at helping underserved creatives in Africa and beyond showcase their works and leverage their skills. We have just unveiled this project to the public and beta testing is about to begin.

Writing and publishing are tough businesses in Nigeria, resulting in lack of encouragement and funding from the writer, as well as poor economy and piracy from the publisher. How do you think these depressing situations could be handled?

Writing and editing isn’t as hard as you think. The problems of insufficient funding, piracy and restriction of publishing rights by publishers are a thing of the past with the emergence of self-publishing. It’s easier to publish your work without breaking the bank or waiting for traditional publishing houses to accept your manuscript. You can publish your book as a digital copy or in print with your budget.

So the problem is not writing and publishing the book, but marketing and selling it. Many writers and authors get it wrong at this point, leading them to believe that writing and editing is unprofitable. That’s why I had to write my fourth book in print, “What Highly Paid Writers Know.” It’s a book that captures the mistakes writers, authors, and online business owners make when it comes to marketing and selling their offerings.

How do you encourage young writers who don’t have the moral and financial support to pursue their dreams?

Every established writer was once an amateur writer. For me, I didn’t have the opportunity to develop my writing skills as a young girl. That’s why young writers and creatives should be given all the support they need to grow. Parents should also seek out their children’s creative talents and help them harness them. I am glad we are championing this goal through our training and scholarship programs for mentoring children at CWIN.

Speaking of the CWIN Writing Scholarship – the need to help more people achieve their writing goal despite financial inclinations, gave rise to the scholarship program. CWIN Writing Scholarship Scheme is a fully funded Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by CWIN Africa to help intentional people jump-start their writing career. So far, we’ve supported four writers who decided to write their books and launch their writing careers and online businesses.

In addition to being CEO and Founder of CWIN Africa, you are also Project Director of Young and More Africa (YAMA). What is your motivation to lead this movement?

In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, I had the initiative to officially launch the Young and More Africa project to help more young people discover their potential and strive to live it during their youth. I wanted to build a network that brings together young people from all walks of life to share thoughts and ideas on how they can bring about change in their immediate environment and impact lives using what they have. Today, I look back on this project and am amazed at the scope of our impact in just two years.

In two years, YAMA has become the largest African network of young changemakers in all of Africa and beyond. In two years, we have hosted three editions of the world-class YAMA convention attracting industry leaders and experts from near and far. Finally, in two years, YAMA became a stand-alone initiative and partnered with the United Nations to drive the updating of SDG 1 (No poverty), SDG 8 (Decent work and economic development) and SDG 17 (Partnership for the Goals).

YAMA is on a mission to impact and uplift one million young leaders by 2030. I am very intentional about this date, which is why we have launched the #Impact10000Youths campaign. This global movement is here to lead the way in youth empowerment and development. We are here to change the narratives

This year’s YAMA convention was on the lips of everyone who attended. How were you able to bring together such outstanding speakers and panelists?

Wow. So far, I am still getting feedback from delegates of YAMA 2022 convention held in Lagos. Our speakers were John Obidi, Mike Oladipo, Babatunde Akin-Moses, Stephen Fii, Airemionkhale Esther, Chinaza Favour, winner Ezekiel made this event a memorable one. The goal of the event was to allow top industry experts to share hands-on experiences and conversations about the digital economy, business and personal development with delegates. We are happy that this has been achieved. We look forward to more impactful conversations and events in the future.

As someone who has achieved a lot at a young age, how about what motivates you and your mission in life. And where do you see yourself in five years?

I believe that for the world to achieve growth and sustainability at all levels, there must be an expression of the full potential of all generations. So, being young is just a stage in my life that I use to the full. This is why I am very enthusiastic about the theme of this year’s International Youth Day, with the theme: “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages”. You see, whether you are young or old, the world needs you. You don’t have to let your age limit you.

I have a strong passion for growth and excellence, and this has been a major driving force. My mission is to raise a rare breed of writers and young leaders who will transform the world with their pens and their voices. I’m taking this step one step at a time and hope to see a better version of myself in the next five years.

What are the main challenges you face in juggling all these commitments? And how do you deal with the stress that comes with them?

It hasn’t been easy balancing family, studies and life in general with business, but I’ve learned one thing: “Always pay attention to what matters to you”. I was able to beat stress and live a healthy life because I learned how to make time for what’s important. I’d rather sleep than hang around for useless conversations. I’d rather chat with my family than go partying. It comes down to knowing your priority and giving it the right attention.

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