Navigating success: stories of triumph and resilience, Part 3

“I've been entrusted with tasks that some might consider better suited for men, and I've consistently produced outstanding results. This experience solidified my belief that anyone can excel when given the chance.” – Atinuke Idowu

Welcome to the third and final part of our 3-part series tagged “Navigating Success: Stories of Triumph and Resilience”. The series, which is dedicated to exploring the inspiring journeys of three women entrepreneurs in celebration of Women’s Month, highlighting their achievements, and the resilience they demonstrated in overcoming obstacles, have featured Chioma Okotcha and Jessica Long. During the series, we have explored their unique approaches to building diverse and inclusive teams, fostering an environment where all voices are valued.

Today, we meet Atinuke Idowu. She is the Co-Founder/COO of Termii Inc., where she leads and oversees the Business, People, Finance, and Legal teams. Atinuke has a master's degree in Economics with over 6 years of experience as a Financial Management and Operational Consultant. Previously an Operations Consultant at Tamy Consulting and the Head of Finance at Termii, she possesses a vast knowledge of information and communication technology and she’s skilled in operational strategy and management.

Atinuke Idowu, Co-founder and COO at Termii

Damilola: It is fantastic to have you on this series. We're excited to hear from someone who's on the frontlines of the budding tech startup scene. To get started, it would be great to know how you got into the tech ecosystem.

Atinuke: My career began in finance, and that's where I met Gbolade, my co-founder. In those early days, we wore many hats, like most startups. For me, that meant juggling both finance and operations. As the company grew, and we brought on more people, I transitioned into the COO role.

I find that there’s a misconception that you need technical coding skills to work in tech. However, it is important to note that no tech company can thrive without a strong operational backbone – that includes Sales, Support, Finance, and HR. This creates opportunities for everyone to find their place in tech, with or without a technical background.

Damilola: I remember Termii in 2018, and it’s been great to see how much work you have put in to get to this point. I’m curious, can you recall the moment when you realised that you were addressing a significant problem? When did this epiphany occur, and what was it?

Atinuke: In 2019, we decided to shift our focus. Initially, we helped companies build and manage their websites. But around that time, we started noticing trends in customer retention, particularly the challenges businesses faced in keeping customers engaged. We saw a gap and asked ourselves, "How can we help our customers retain their own customers?"  That's what led us to pivot towards messaging.  

The competitive landscape was daunting at first. Between 2019 and 2021, we struggled to grow our key metric — the number of messages processed through our platform. We hadn't reached 200 million total messages in that entire period.

However, things took a turn in 2022. Just within the first half of the year, we hit that 200 million message milestone! What we learned was that customers initially used Termii as a backup, but gradually, we became their primary provider. Our consistent focus on reliability built trust with our clients. 

Reaching this milestone was a huge validation that we were solving a real problem. This was when we knew that we had become bigger than we had imagined. It also made us realise we needed to scale up. In the past, securing funding was challenging, so we kept our operations lean in terms of staffing.

Damilola: This is very similar to what Jessica had pointed out in the last episode. She talked about how entrepreneurship can have a lot of down moments but if you’re lucky, things will start to look up and 1+1 starts becoming 3. It looks like you as a founder have felt that moment she was talking about. Can you share a defining moment/achievement in your entrepreneurial journey that you are particularly proud of, and what factors do you attribute to the achievement?

Atinuke: I have always enjoyed being behind the scenes, pulling my weight and getting work done. My co-founders constantly encouraged me to step out more and let people get to know me, but I'd always brush it off, content to focus solely on the work. 

Then, wrote an article on "5 women leading companies in tech" which featured me. FirstCheck Africa followed suit with a similar feature. It was honestly great to see my "silent efforts" gain recognition and open doors to share my story. 

Looking back, I attribute my achievements to my relentless pursuit of excellence and growth, diligence, and a desire for success.

Damilola: Those recognitions must have felt very rewarding. Building a company is no easy feat, and as you've mentioned, tough times are inevitable. What strategies did you employ to maintain resilience during tough times in your business?

Atinuke: We've structured our decision-making process so that no single person makes unilateral calls. When issues or challenges arise, we address them together, focusing on the problem we're trying to solve.  We analyse the impact from every angle – financial, operational, technological, etc.

We've faced various challenges, from economic fluctuations to partnership issues and regulatory demands that could potentially impact our business outlook and revenue. These are hurdles that can cripple a company if not handled effectively. So, we delve into the problems, brainstorm solutions, and navigate or resolve them while ensuring the business keeps moving forward, regardless of the obstacles.

Maintaining detailed records of all financial transactions and official agreements from the very beginning has also been crucial. This is important for any business, but especially for those in heavily regulated industries.

Damilola: “Focusing on the problem” sounds like a very practical approach to tough times. Amid the rollercoaster ride of building a startup, how do you prioritise self-care and mental well-being while managing the demands of entrepreneurship?

Atinuke: I ensure I take time off to rest when needed. However, I do sneak in some work during my holidays, but I limit it to specific times, like early mornings. I communicate clearly with my team about when I'll be reviewing work, so they know my availability.

I also love adventure, so travel is relaxing for me, along with watching movies.

Damilola: Happy to hear you take some time to watch movies 😁! Looking back on your journey, what key lessons or insights would you share with your younger self or with other women embarking on their entrepreneurial path?

Atinuke: Patience is at the top of my list. The entrepreneurial path is a marathon, not a sprint. It's filled with twists and turns. You need to develop resilience, have a long-term perspective and be prepared for the long haul to reap the rewards.

Know your 'why.' Have a strong enough motivation to keep you going when things get tough.

Seize every opportunity. Give your all in every role or situation you find yourself in. Make the most of every experience.

Damilola: Patience is definitely a virtue for entrepreneurs. How do you approach building a diverse and inclusive team, and why is this important to you as a founder?

Atinuke: I firmly believe that everyone deserves an equal opportunity, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or culture, as long as they possess the necessary skills and can deliver the expected results.

I've been entrusted with tasks that some might consider better suited for men, and I've consistently produced outstanding results. This experience solidified my belief that anyone can excel when given the chance.  

For certain roles, we make a conscious effort to have women take the lead. Today, our team is comprised of 60% women, even at the leadership level.

Unfortunately, I often see women holding back from speaking up or advocating for themselves in the workplace.  It's crucial to make your voice heard, especially in professional settings. This is how your contributions and value get recognised.

Damilola: As we wrap up, is there anything else you would love to share to inspire others?

Atinuke: The world of tech is brimming with opportunities. Seize them! Be adaptable and embrace change.

Let your "why" and the impact you want to make be your driving force.

Trust the process, even when you face setbacks.

Building your capacity and confidence is key.

Learn to step out of your comfort zone and be visible – take on opportunities that showcase your abilities.

The world needs your unique perspective and contributions!

Atinuke, this has been a fantastic conversation! Thank you so much for sharing your insights and journey with us.

That wraps up this series. We've had the privilege of hearing from three incredible female founders who are doing amazing and impactful work. If you missed our conversation with Chioma or Jessica, you can catch up on their stories here and here respectively.

Remember, the world needs your unique voice and contributions, so don't be afraid to go out there and make your mark!

Damilola Teidi
Damilola Teidi
Founder Stories