In your profile, you make mention of a couple of other countries aside from Nigeria – Ghana and Uganda. Do the services of Edward Consulting extend to those countries too?
Yeah, so we love all Africans. We’re pro African in this organization. And I see a lot of things that are for Africans. I see a lot of things that are called African that are not by Africans. And I wanted to say something, because I feel like sometimes those things are not in our best interest. There’s always some kind of hidden agenda. And so I just want Africans to excel. I want us to do well. I want us to have good access to knowledge. I want someone to go overseas and that might be the person that finds the cure for cancer, which is a major killer. Because now, there is no cure. Who knows, through research and acquired knowledge, what can happen in a few years. I want better for Africans. I want Africans to be in places and platforms making decisions. I don’t want us to have this inferior complex. I want us to get exposure because it’s when you get exposure that you realize that there’s no place better than home. And I think that’s also why I’m here. But there are some places where there are systems in place that work, which just makes life easier. But there are challenges in every society. There is no society that is perfect. You just have to be able to deal with the challenges you face. But then living abroad comes with bills, bills, bills, bills, bills! Then there will be some kind of discrimination and racism that you might have to deal with too. That’s just the truth. And so for me, I just want Africans to excel. I don’t want us to remain behind. You know those numbers that we are always hearing like 50% of Africans are hungry. Oh my God! I hate it. I hate it. I absolutely hate hearing things like that. So we’re here for all Africans but we’ve worked mostly with Nigerians because I’m Nigerian. Ghana loves education as well. So we have a lot of Ghanians in the house. We have a few from Uganda and Rwanda too. But for us, it’s not even about expanding. You just want to be able to reach more Africans wherever they are. And we’ve also had a few Africans in the diaspora. So we’ve had Africans that are Ethiopian and American as well. Yes, we’ve had those kinds of combinations as well. So yes, we’re just rooting for all Africans and trying to do our best to make sure everybody gets the best chance to become the best version of themselves. And I think what is so exciting for us after everything is done is when people say Bimpe, I have become a much better writer. Or, I am able to present myself better now. Because guess what? Some Africans are doing amazingly, but communication is poor, presentation is poor. So who gets the job, who gets the opportunities? The people that can best communicate don’t necessarily know what they’re doing. So, one of the services we provide is interview prep, which is for MBA. And it’s just preparing them. Like when you say, tell me about yourself, what your name is etc. How do you answer questions? How do you break them down? How do you connect it? And these things translate into their classes. And they’re like, I gave a presentation on this in school and the teacher said she liked the system that I used. Those are the kind of things that make you happy because this is something that somebody has learned that is going to continuously improve their lives. Something that will allow them to be better. So yes, we’re here to support all Africans. One more thing that I would like to add is that a lot of us suffer from a scarcity mentality where we think it’s a matter of you or I when that’s just not true. My outlook is that I passed through that door so I can open the door for more people like me to climb up. But for many people, it’s like, no, there can only be one African in this. Unfortunately, many people think like that. So I want to break that door.
One must commend you and your outfit, Edward Consulting for the immense strides you have made in just 4 years. To secure USD 12.9m in scholarship funding is no joke, let alone in just 4 years. What would you attribute this level of success to?
So I think it’s a couple of things. Being a former international student myself, from the age of just 16 – I had my formative years there, I understand what they are looking for in an international African student. I understand what they need. And so I’m able to better understand or best understand their needs. That’s one. Two, I think as someone that has been a recipient of multiple scholarships, and also having done those applications and been on the other side, I know what it takes to get it. Everybody likes money. Everybody loves money. So hearing about scholarships sounds so exciting. But it’s a lot of work. It requires work. You have to put in the work. So when you put in the work, most times you will reap the reward. But once in a while there are situations where it still doesn’t click. That’s life. That is life. Sometimes the best people, the people that show up, or even the so-called early birds may not succeed, right? So like I said, one, having been an international African student, two, having been a scholarship recipient, and then three, just really being passionate and desiring for people to actually excel can make the difference. Because like I always say, I go above and beyond. I often joke that I’m not being paid enough for this, with the way I carry it all on my head. Like, if you come and tell me that you want to go to school only to suddenly change your mind, I will feel bad for you because you must get that money! You must be successful by force…Lol. I’m always telling those that come, don’t start what you can’t finish, because you’re not going to waste my time. We are going to have something to be proud of and we will celebrate it. But seriously, having that kind of passion where even on the days when the client may be overwhelmed, you’re able to encourage and assure them that everything will be alright, goes a long way. You’re able to be supportive and be there for them. And I think also just developing a niche where you understand what it takes to submit a strong competitive application that has the ability to win substantial scholarships and creating processes, internal processes and structures around that, so that you’re having that continuous positive progress while still personalizing each person’s application, is part of what sets us apart. Because the truth is, there’s never one size that fits all. Every client is different. You have different profiles, different experiences, so you have to speak to their strengths. But there are still internal processes that are consistent. So, over time, I have figured out what is needed, what is expected, to be able to carve out that niche and excel in it. And finally, I will say having a good support system. In some ways I’ve been fortunate to have good team members, but in other ways, I have not. Depending on the day you ask me. However, I have had some really supportive staff and I must give a special mention to my colleague, Babatunde. He was very instrumental in Edward Consulting’s growth. When he came to us, he wasn’t operating anywhere near his capacity but I can see when someone has what it takes within them to become their best self. I was able to provide good leadership and support his growth. But not everybody is able to bring out or build on that capacity. He became so good that he was like Bimpe 2.2. Honestly, I would say it’s better to have Babatunde than to have me attend to your case. That’s what I’m concerned about as he’ll soon become my boss…Lol. So, just having good team members that you can rely on and you know get it. They understand it and are committed and passionate as well.
I want you to educate us a little because I, for one, have always thought of the USA and to a lesser degree, Canada, as the countries that offer meaningful scholarships. But we have learned that you secure scholarships for studies at UK universities too. Is that common and are they as generous in their scholarship offerings? What about Germany?
Yes, yes. So I would say that the most generous country is the US and it’s also the hardest. If you can crack the US and be successful, you can crack anywhere because if you look at quality education and are looking at the top 10, top 20, most are US schools and then you will see some UK schools too. You see the Oxfords and the Cambridge but most of all, you see the Harvards, you see so many US schools. So, I think US schools are the most generous. And I believe this is partly because many US schools don’t put a cap on scholarships. So where you have strong applications, strong SATs, you have strong GREs, your essays are telling a story, you’re connecting, all the things come together and they feel you deserve a merit scholarship, they will give you one. But a lot of UK schools have a quota. So they might have five or 10 places for scholarships. So that makes it even more competitive. And it now creates a situation where exceptional people might still not get that scholarship. So the fact that you do not get a scholarship doesn’t mean that you are not exceptional. When they only offer 5 scholarships to an incoming class of 5000, you really can’t take it too personal. So the UK actually has some great scholarships. We have a few clients now who are at Oxford on a scholarship. We have clients that have gotten admission to the London Business School (LBS), which is the highest ranked business school in the UK. There are scholarships there but it’s just that the US has more. It comes down to understanding what those schools are looking for and being able to tailor your application to that scholarship or making sure you’re a good fit. And then two, having a compelling story and application to accompany that. When it comes to Germany, we haven’t done much with Germany. We have had more applications for the US, UK, Canada, and I would say Spain and France, because they have some top MBA programs, like at the INSEAD and ESADE, but not necessarily for other programs. Germany is actually an outlier where I had a client that had applied to US and UK schools and she wanted to apply for this German scholarship as well. And I was like, you know what? Why not? And I really believe that if you can do US and have success, you can do anywhere.
And so we’ve done one German application. And that one we did, in addition to the client getting 100% scholarship she was even given a stipend to cover living expenses as well.
So I was very proud. That’s one of my proudest applications because you know, when you’re confident in yourself and you dive into the deep end, you discover that you can actually swim even if you have never tried it before. It’s a German DAAD scholarship that comes with everything. But it’s just that one. And also, not doing many German applications is a function of demand. It’s not because we don’t want to do it. So when someone says they want to do Germany, because it’s not our typical place for applications, I have to look at it closely to assess the chances of success. I will only go ahead if I think we have a good shot because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I certainly won’t want to waste my time but I wouldn’t want to waste their time either and because of that, I am very honest about it.
So the scholarships that you have gotten that amount to the $12.9 million, do they spread across the different levels of study – from Bachelor’s to Master’s to PhDs?
Yes, exactly. So we have undergrad scholarships from sponsors like Rotary, Rotary Peace Fellowship, the joint Japan/World Bank scholarship and other different kinds of scholarships. Then there are internal scholarships coming from the schools themselves i.e the University of Manchester giving its own scholarships. So we have gotten all the different types of scholarships but for me it’s just amazing because. Now, the thing is that a lot of the other educational consulting firms do partnerships. They partner with schools and they have limited partnerships; and if you look at the ranking of a lot of the schools that they partner with, not to throw shade but it’s the truth – they are not the best ranked schools. And then typically, when you’re using them, you’re limited to only those schools. But for us, we welcome those who want to go to Harvard if we feel it’s a realistic goal. If it’s not, I also keep it honest and tell the client that since Harvard is top 10 maybe they should spread their net to the top 25 schools instead. I believe in taking risks but the risk has to be calculated and has to make sense so we’re very honest. The fact is that we do not rely on knowing anyone or having any connections anywhere. We simply work with our clients and get them into good schools based on the merit of the work that we do and the application that they submit. So I’m very proud to be able to do that. I’m not saying partnerships are a problem. No, partnerships that align with your mission, partnerships that still prioritize your client are good as your client should be the most important partner, right? You can’t have a partnership that doesn’t align with the client’s goal and still go ahead just because you’re going to get a commission. With us it just has to make sense. So yes, my plan has been to do something that would stand on its own and then now carefully select partners that align not just with our mission or goals, but with our values also because you don’t want to be walking with somebody who you later find to be suspicious.
Your NGO Kinnect has been featured in the famous Huffington Post in the US. Please tell us about it. What does Kinnect do?
Okay, so Kinnect is actually a play on two words, it’s ‘kindred’ and ‘connected’. So that’s how we set up that name. And the whole point of Kinnect was me and my partner, Damilola Sobo-Smith. We started Kinect because we wanted to have an organization that supported volunteerism. So instead of establishing yet another NGO ourselves, we wanted to support volunteerism and support NGOs and help them be more effective. So a lot of our initiatives involve partnerships with local NGOs in impoverished or low income communities where we go there and work with those NGOs because for one, they understand the environment. We speak with them because they understand the needs and based on that we’re able to support that community. So we’ve been doing Kinnect now since 2014. Even during COVID there was Kinect. We wore our masks. We had to reinvent it during COVID because we had this initiative on the day before Christmas.
For me, Kinnect filled a void in my life because of my dad’s passing that happened on Christmas day. So with the Kinnect Christmas event to be held on the 24th, I was so consumed with Kinnect that I didn’t even remember this thing which had always lingered around me at that time of the year.
I was too busy planning stuff and sharing Christmas cheer and love and focused on external stuff. There was no time to think about myself and that was really great. So it really has transformed Christmas for me. Now, I can’t even imagine Christmas without Kinnect. Before, when I thought of Christmas, it was mostly about my dad. So in the past, we would go to a community, work with a local NGO and support that community by giving all kinds of things, food, clothes and toys. We would get toys from the US and give them to the children. It was always so much fun. We would give them books too, turn up, dance and all that. So I used to do that every Christmas. And then COVID happened and you could no longer be around a crowd. But before COVID happened, we also started to do some other initiatives. One of them started when we noticed that there were children in LASUTH in Ikeja who were not receiving proper care because they didn’t have money. So we set up something for about a year, where every month, we paid the hospital bills of 10 children. If a child gets discharged, we would have another child on the roster to take his or her place. We also had a partnership with a pharmacy that would allow us to swap medication that was not actually needed that had been opened yet. So we had that kind of connection with a pharmacy nearby and we were able to help these children get healthcare. Who knows what might have happened to some of them otherwise. People die just because they are unable to treat something as common as malaria. So that’s what we have been doing since COVID happened. We started doing hospital initiatives where we partner with LASUTH and LUTH and recently also with a newly opened children’s clinic called Massey Street Children’s Hospital in Lagos Island. We would visit the hospitals to find out the children that are going to be there during Christmas. We would get their ages and then buy clothes, books and toys appropriate for the different ages, so it would be very tailored. And if you see the joy of mothers of these children when we bring these goodies. So regarding the Huffington Post, we got a pollination project grant. I think it was when I was about to start something at Duke. So I think that was 2016. We got a pollination project grant just for some of the work that we were doing and we were able to use that to just be more impactful. And then we have had some other activities over the years. We have done a couple of things. We have done partnerships with Women International. We did a partnership with another organization that focuses on women and domestic violence and we supported them and helped facilitate that programme. That was a programme at the Four Points hotel. We have also done other things at LASUTH. We helped renovate the children’s play area in the hospital so that when they’re playing, they have new books and nice chairs. And then we have other initiatives that we have been involved in over the years, a lot of partnerships, a lot of NGOs saying, hey, we’re doing this, but we don’t have the capacity. So then we will come in and help.
Can you give us a peek into some of the future plans for Bimpe Femi-Oyewo? In your career and in your volunteer work. What does success look like to you?
I think that success is having positive results and being impactful, as well as being happy, honestly. I know people don’t really agree with happiness and success together. But I think it’s happiness that stems from fulfillment, from some of the work you’re doing and where your life is at; or the steps that you’ve taken to get to where you are. So I think yes, that’s what success means to me. I think it’s having a wider reach, reaching more people, both through my non-profit Kinnect and through Edward Consulting. And for future goals? I have a lot of big goals. I love big goals. I want to be able to reach a wider audience in general for Africans and have more impact. Also to have more people as recipients of the Edward Adefemi scholarship that really helped that young boy who now tells people that he is my colleague…Lol. I want to grow the business, grow our brand, as well as have more reach. So having more reach for me will be things like putting out more online courses like the one that I recently put out, giving people better access to opportunities.
One thing that breaks my heart is when someone has done the work and done everything right and they get offered a great amount as scholarship. But then there is an outstanding of 10K or 5K that they must make up for themselves but that amount would be a life changing sum for them and because of it, they miss going to MIT or somewhere like that. Oh my gosh! That’s the worst for me personally. So I want to be in a place where I’m connected to all the Tony Elumelus and the people that are big on youth development. I want to be able to sit with them and raise the balance of fees for the sort of people that I just mentioned.
It should not be because of 5K or 10K that such a life changing opportunity should elude them. So I want to be able to sit in rooms like that and be at the forefront, making decisions to make sure that those people have access. Make sure that all their hard work and effort doesn’t go down the drain. And there’s earmarked funds for them. So if you show up, do the work and get the results, there’s some backing available for. So that is ultimately where I want to be. I want to be the person giving the money in addition to helping them get the money. And in the process build partnerships that allow us to maximize our impact and reach.
Adebimpe Femi-Oyewo is an Educational and International Development professional and a Social Entrepreneur who has worked on a global scale in Nigeria, the United States, and Fiji. She is the Founder and CEO of Edward Consulting, an educational consulting firm with a mission to improve society through education. They accomplish this by providing access to quality higher education in overseas countries and ensuring that it is affordable for people from African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and many others. In the 4 years, they’ve been in operation, they have secured admission and over $12.9 million/N9.9 billion for both graduate and undergraduate studies at top universities like MIT, Oxford, Columbia, McGill, INSEAD, UPenn, Cambridge, IESE, and many others in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and many others. Through Edward Consulting, Bimpe also supports grassroots education projects in partnership with The Dolly Children Foundation by providing quality education to out-of-school children in Ogun State through funds' donations, payment of teachers' salaries, and awareness. Bimpe is also the Co-Founder of the NGO, Kinnect which fosters volunteerism by collaborating with local nonprofits to solve social challenges in Nigeria. Kinnect has provided more than 9000 people in impoverished communities like Makoko, Ajegunle, and an Internally Displaced Camp in Madigur, Borono state with access to basic necessities like food, clothing, healthcare, and education. Kinnect has been featured on the Huffington Post and is also a recipient of the Pollination Project grant. She holds a Master’s degree in International Development Policy from Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMBC). She is an Ashoka ChangemakerXchange Fellow and a P.E.O. International Peace Fellow. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org LinkedIn: Bimpe Femi-Oyewo Twitter:@BimpeFemiOyewo Instagram:@bimpizzle Facebook: Bimpe Femi-Oyewo LinkedIn: Edward Consulting Twitter: @edwardconsultin Instagram: edward_consulting Facebook: Edward_Consulting Website: https://edwardconsulting.org/