Ogunte: Paoola, what are the 3 words that define you the most?
Paoola Sefair: Kind, determined, honest.
Ogunte: What did you do in your past life, before focusing on social entrepreneurship?
Paoola: In my previous life, I worked in the corporate world at companies like L’Oreal and Cisco. I spent over 20 years working across various capacities including marketing, operations, business development and strategy. Part of my role was to work with the teams based around the world to define the strategy and implement the global programs. This was by far the best part of my experience. I was blessed to meet people from so many cultures, backgrounds, and walks of life. Every interaction taught me something, broaden my mind and expanded my core beliefs.
The biggest lessons I took away from this journey were:
Ogunte: What is the story of your transition towards supporting social enterprises? And if anything, what would you have done differently?
Paoola: My shift in focus towards the non-profit / social enterprise world was accelerated by a few experiences:
The first, becoming a mom and having a deep desire and sense of responsibility to leave a better world for my son.
The second, experiencing two cancer encounters only a few months apart. Luckily for me only one of these encounters materialized into a cancer diagnosis. Going through these two experiences (mom & cancer) within an 18-month period forced me to answer big questions about life that had gone unanswered for too long. And through this journey I came out the other side with greater clarity about my life’s purpose and priorities then i ever had before.
Today my MTP (massively transformative purpose) is to make a positive impact in the lives of one billion people. I don’t yet know how i will accomplish this goal, but i am loving the journey to discovering the answer!
My first stop along this journey was Moving Worlds, thanks to them i was introduced to Servane at Ogunte. From our first meeting sparks flew, we had great chemistry. And what started out as a 6 month project has turned into a beautiful friendship.
Ogunte: One of your current many hats is provide support to social enterprises, activists, and community groups that provide relief, aid, to refugees, what do you feel are the main issues they face logistically?
Paoola: The next stop in my journey led me to working with local NGOs helping refugees in Greece and Austria (Project VielMehr). This experience has been profound on many levels. On a personal level it has heightened my appreciation and gratitude in my life. I no longer take for granted a warm shower, a doctor’s visit, clean drinking water... and the list goes on. It has also given me great insight into humanity’s willingness to help one another. I have met volunteers who have put their lives on hold for the last two/three years so they can help refugees stuck in limbo on the islands. The challenges and conditions these small NGOs face are unimaginable, yet somehow they find resources and strength to keep moving forward.
The top challenges faced by these smaller NGOs are
This insight has led me to investigate how exponential technologies (like AI) can be used to close the gap for these type of small organizations that are the lifeline for millions of people around the world.
Ogunte: You have also made the decision to go back to class, what kind of training have you followed and what did you take away from it?
Paoola: I follow closely Peter Diamandis’ work and I do believe we are living in a time of abundance (knowledge, access to information, technology). Currently I am learning about artificial intelligence and investigating how to use this exponential technology to help NGOs and social enterprises scale and amplify their impact.
Ogunte: If you could advise other mentors/supporters of social enterprises who come from the corporate world, what would you advise them to explore, learn more of before starting?
Paoola: I would suggest they jump in! A lot of the corporate experience translates over to the social enterprise space.
Ogunte: What are the key features at Ogunte that got you most interested?
Paoola: I was attracted to Ogunte immediately when I read their mission to empower women-led social enterprises. I think it’s critical that women support women both personally and professionally. We should focus on building each other up instead of tearing each other down. I believe there is plenty opportunities for our all boats to float!
Ogunte: Finally, what is the question that nobody ever asks you, you wish you could answer right now?
Paoola: I wish more women talked about the journey into motherhood. The true reality of becoming a mom. The impact on our identity and the hit our confidence takes as we move into the unknown — child rearing. And how this process spills into and impacts our professional life and marriage. Just like there are birthing classes, there should be motherhood prep courses to give us a glimpse into what’s to come…