Paying it Forward Through Mentorship: Meet Ayo Sopitan, a TEF Mentor
“I’m a strong believer in the idea that almost nothing is impossible.
I bring this mindset to my entrepreneurial activities.
– Ayo Sopitan
Ayo Sopitan is a Nigerian entrepreneur and mentor on the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. Through his professional career, he has worked on projects in over 20 countries in 3 continents with international firms like Ernst and Young, Accenture, OpenLink Financial and Informa. But this professional career has not stifled his entrepreneurial mindset as Ayo says “As an entrepreneur, I have started, invested in, completed projects in or advised Ventures in Agriculture, Aviation, Consumer Technology and Education.”
In sharing about himself Ayo goes down memory lane about his journey to entrepreneurship and his motivation – “I left home at 19 to go to school in the United States. The first challenge was figuring out how to pay for school. I got scholarships, worked, sold Nigerian food from my dorm room, taught piano to young students, played bass in a band and took on student loans etc.
Having loans prevent you from taking risks. You have very strong requirement for steady income which means you can’t go off and start a new venture without having a job to pay the bills or going off to raise investor funds. I also didn’t have a great network for fundraising. This made me embrace the concept of the side hustle and how to juggle responsibilities.
Early on in my career, I developed a sense of strong sense of self confidence which I think helps. It means you are confident about the things you know and confidence enough to ask questions about the things you don’t know without feeling inadequate. Being open to possibilities. I have tried things that many people are afraid to. I look at successful people and wonder why not me?”
With his wealth of experience and strong sense of self confidence came a desire to give back and help young entrepreneurs through a legacy project. Ayo joined the call for mentors on the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme with a desire to guide younger entrepreneurs as he says their energy gives him hope about the future of Africa.
“I love helping entrepreneurs and I truly enjoy paying it forward. Mentoring through the Tony Elumelu Foundation gives me foot ahead for one of my near-term goals which is to start an early stage investment fund for Nigerian entrepreneurs. This programme gives me a pipeline for investments.”
On his relationship with his mentee “Starting up in my career I embraced mentors and I still have a mentor who gives me advice and is officially an advisor in one of my entrepreneurial ventures and often goes to bat for me. He is always willing to serve as a sounding board, make introductions. The good relationship I had with my mentor has helped me relate well with my mentee – Brian Turyabagye. I have been upfront and open with him about embarrassing failures, challenges around schedule, travel etc. It was tough some weeks but we made it work. I will continue to be in touch with Brian and take on an advisory position in his company. I really want to see him succeed. ”
I’m proud to say I was a mentor on a programme with a very strong brand as the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.