BWTT Presents Founder Friday Series: Ugochi Obidiegwu

Ugochi Obidiegwu is the founder and CEO of The Safety Chic. The Safety Chic is a social enterprise that develops African-themed safety education products and programs for African children to increase safety consciousness and reduce preventable accidents affecting children. 

Based in Nigeria, Ugochi specializes in policy advisory and products and program development to enhance the social development of the youth in Africa. However, The Safety Chic is only a fragment of her work. Ugochi’s social impact initiatives also focus on ensuring child safety and reducing substance abuse in youths. Over the years, her efforts have impacted over 10,000 kids in eight African countries. These efforts include her self-published child safety storybook series available in English and French, an online safety game for children, and the development of social impact apps (The Safety Chic Compass and UProgramme). 

Additionally, she won several awards for her work in safety, including her 2019 AFRISAFE award in the Shining Star category due to her contributions to the safety industry. Additionally, her work was profiled in European Network Education and Training in Occupational Safety and Health (ENETOSH) as good practice for other countries.

Take a peak at how The Safety Chic came to be.

Tell me about yourself. How would you describe yourself?

I love to think through problems and be a part of solutions.

Growing up, did you ever think you would be a business owner? What was your relationship with entrepreneurship?

When I grew up, I thought I would work in a big organization, and then later in my 40s, I’d have some businesses. I had no clue that I would start a business in my 20s. I stepped into entrepreneurship without knowing anything, just a passion for solving a problem. I had to learn on the go. I’m still learning as I go.

Now that you are an entrepreneur, how do you stay motivated? How have your entrepreneurial motivations changed since you first started?

Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint-hearted. When I started, I thought passion would help with motivation. But, over the years, I have seen it is not enough, so I adjusted my motivation sources. I stay motivated by remembering my why, being plugged into the right communities, and designing a system that helps me work even when I am not motivated.

It’s one thing to stay motivated by yourself, but who would you say is your greatest support when facing hardships in business?

God, family, friends, and mentors

How important is having a sense of community in your day-to-day?

Community is critical to me. I have different communities that play different roles in my life—doing business for anyone, especially as a black woman, requires the support a community can give. We were not made to do life alone.

Briefly tell me about your career background and journey.

I have a bachelor’s degree in Communication and Language Arts; however, I started my career in the aviation industry as a cabin crew and safety officer. My role as a safety officer involved organizing and facilitating a monthly safety forum for the Cabin Services unit in Flight Operations. Doing that extra role leveraged my communication ability, and I learned more about safety. This made me go a step further and take professional certifications. At the time, I thought it was preparing me to move from aviation to oil and gas. I had no clue that it was laying the foundation for my work in safety. Today, we have developed safety education products experienced by over 10,000 children in 8 countries, trained parents and teachers, and contributed to policy development.

 

What idea inspired you to start your business?

God divinely inspired my business, and as I looked deeply at the idea, I saw three things that came together to move me forward. I lost my mum in an avoidable road accident, a popular supermarket in my city had a fire incident, and I saw several news stories about preventable accidents like that. I saw a gap and knew something could be done with what I learned from aviation.

How did you come up with the name of your company?

My company is now called the personal brand name I was called for years. It was derived during an exercise with one of my Coaches, Steve Harris. We wanted something memorable that referred to the work in safety. Due to my role in my aviation job, I had some colleagues who called me “Safety,” and I called myself “Ugochic.” We played around with the two words and came up with “Safety Chick,” but there was a “Safety Chick” in the US. So, we adjusted mine to “The Safety Chic.” Over the years, I saw that the brand name gained more traction than the original registered business name. Therefore, we changed it last year officially.

Do you feel that your career background directly impacts your business?

A combination of my Communication background from undergrad and my experience in aviation gave me the foundation to start my business. My work in the aviation industry exposed me to the importance of safety knowledge and safety systems in reducing preventable accidents. My communication skills help me break down safety concepts to any audience – children, youths, adults, and decision-makers. Together, this has helped me develop safety education solutions for my target audience.

What are the main roadblocks or challenges you experience when starting your business? If any, what are your current challenges?

When I started, I did not know enough about running a business and creating income-generating products. Today, my current challenge is acquiring the resources to expand to 5 African countries.

What are the next steps for your business? What do the next five years look like?

The next step is to deepen the development of our new tech product, expand to five African countries and adopt low-income schools in each location.

What advice would you give to other women entrepreneurs?

Women entrepreneurs should not be afraid to put themselves out there. There are tons of opportunities opening up for women to access business training and funding. They should not be intimidated by the application process but see it through. In addition, resilience and having a strong support system is critical for this journey.

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