“You have to get up and hustle. Everybody is hustling. Lagos is about hustling.” – Americanah
Lagos is a city of hustlers. From the street hawkers to the tech entrepreneurs to the oil execs, everyone is doing whatever it takes to make things happen. Bending the rules, challenging the status quo, moving in directions unexpected, making the impossible possible. It’s a city that makes me feel alive. And as the philosopher Howard Thurman once said, “What the world needs is people who come alive.”
Whether I’m on the ground or on my mobile, I’m continuously inspired by the people who are unabashedly driven by a passion to make change happen – to make Nigeria and the world a better place.
Iyinoluwa ‘E’ Aboyeji – Every problem is an opportunity
E is 23 years old, but has both the heart and hustle of folks far greater than his age. He was my lifeline in Lagos last February.
E has a few education startups under his belt, more recently he’s been focused on Andela, a social enterprise that equips promising young people in Africa with the mentorship, learning and placements to become world-class coders for top employers. The problem: Companies need great dev talent, young people need real experience. Everyone wins.
When I met E in February, I asked him, “How can you start a business that scales with so many social, political and economic barriers? His response: “It’s pretty tough. The key thing to learn in a society with a lot of problems is there are tremendous entrepreneurial opportunities. Outside of Nigeria, it’s important to look at the problems around you as opportunities.”
Mosunmola Umoru – Never let adversity defeat you
For hipsters in Brooklyn or East London, farming is the career choice. But in Lagos, it’s still seen as dirty and backwards. Social activist Monsunmola Umoru is on a mission to change the way young people in Nigeria think about farming. Like many countries, Nigeria has lots of unused land, but continues to import large – and often expensive quantities of food. Through a combination of style and simple actions, Monsunmola is inspiring a generation to take up farming — showing you can hold a shovel, but also wear Prada.
Changing public perceptions is hard, but I love what Monsunmola recently wrote on Twitter, “Never let adversity defeat you. Rather let it serve as a platform that pushes you to succeed. Never give up.”
Bisi Alimi – Hustling doesn’t stop when you leave Lagos
Being gay is illegal in Nigeria. Bisi Alimi was the first Nigerian to come out on national television. During university he was almost denied his diploma on the basis of his moral character. Because of attempts on his life, Bisi Alimi eventually had to seek asylum in the United Kingdom. Bisi Alimi continues to fight for human rights through education, consulting and public speaking.
Being yourself is an act of courage — coming out in a place where homosexuality is not accepted is one of the greatest examples of hustling. Bisi recently said, “You can either choose to be a champion or to be a victim. What we need is a respect for the fundamental human rights of every Nigerian.”
Let’s get up and hustle.
Inspired by people like E, Mosunmola, Bisi, I want to go back to Lagos to make a documentary about the most hustler of hustlers. I want to shine a light on the people that make the world come alive.
Share and support our crowdfunding campaign to raise money for our documentary on hustling.
Heads up Kitchen from Wolff Olins, a school for ambitious leaders who want to build businesses that change the world.