Tola Okogwu wants to become a Sunday Times bestseller and this British-Nigerian blogger and author of the ‘Daddy Do My Hair?’ book series for children might already be on her way there.
Come May 2018, she will be launching her third book in the series ‘Kechi’s Hair Goes Every Which Way.’ In this interview with Rachel Ogbu in Britain, Tola talks about how she wants to tackle the relationship between young black girls and their natural afro hair in a vibrant, entertaining and educational way.
The 'Daddy Do My Hair?’ series was inspired by the relationship between Tola’s husband and daughter and is designed to challenge some of the perceptions and preconceptions around race, gender roles within parenting, bullying, friendships and relationships. These books have been an excellent way of encouraging diversity and inclusion from an early age – having children from all ethnicities enjoy the book makes an important impact on how children can identify with each other.
The first book in the children’s picture book series, ‘Daddy Do My Hair? Beth’s Twists’, got the seal of approval from celebrities, parents, teachers and the highly respected Book Trust* “Softly rhyming text and glowing, illustrations in this calm, gentle book celebrate an apparently insignificant domestic ritual, which means everything to this father and daughter as they make time for each other.” Critically acclaimed actress Thandie Newton was a fan too sharing these kind words: “This book is so gorgeous - I love it! Plus, a guy doing his daughter's natural hair? That's sexy.”
Question: When did you establish your personal brand?
Okogwu: I’ve been creating a brand in some way shape or form since 2010 when I started my hair care blog; My Long Hair Journey.
Question: How long have you been in business?
Okogwu: My publishing company was set up in 2016
Question: When did you decide this is what you wanted to do?
Okogwu: I’ve known that I wanted to be a writer for a long time, it’s why I studied journalism. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that fully embraced the idea of becoming an author.
Question: Can you list some exciting milestones in your life with the dates? (eg: awards, honours, personal highs) Top career moments so far?
Okogwu: The birth of my first child in 2014 completely changed my life and was the catalyst that led to me writing my first book. My first author visit in a school was also memorable as that’s probably when I first truly felt like an author. Lastly, Thandie Newton’s glowing review of my first book was a real high.
Question: How do you feel about all the recognition you've received?
Okogwu: Ambivalent really, it’s always great to get recognition for something you’ve worked hard at but I’m very wary of fame as it’s a double-edged sword.
Question: What do people not know about you and what you do?
Okogwu: I’m an introvert. Most people are always surprised to hear this about me and it can make being a business owner difficult as no man is an island.
Question: What is the best career advice you’ve ever received…
Okogwu: I was advised to work towards building many streams of revenue that didn’t require my physical presence.
Question: Have you ever had moments when you wanted to quit?
Okogwu: Every other day when I get writer’s block or I’ve been up all night with a screaming child and don’t have the energy to continue. The great thing is that it passes and because I know what I want, I just keep pushing through.
Question: Which living person do you most admire, and why?
Okogwu: My husband, he is the most selfless and supportive human being I’ve ever met. The sacrifices he has made for our family and to ensure that I am fulfilling my purpose blows me away every day.
Question: What is the worst job you've done?
Okogwu: Working in a shoe shop. I don’t like feet
Question: You are known for thinking big and taking risks, both in business and in your personal adventures. What’s the secret to your drive?
Okogwu: I don’t like to fail, it irritates me so I try very hard not to.
Question: What's your advice to young people trying to weather the economic hardship?
Okogwu: Educate yourself about how finance and commerce work so you can position yourself to make the most of any opportunities that arise and believe me they will.
Question: Please give us a tip on how to remain successful
Okogwu: Don’t undervalue yourself, if you do then you’ll never achieve your full potential. I heard a saying recently that goes, ‘know your worth, and then add tax’.
Question: What's the next big project you're pursuing?
Okogwu: I’m working on a novel for young adults, which has a more science fiction theme. I’m hoping it is something that will translate well to the big or small screen.
Question: What record do you plan to break next?
Okogwu: Become a Sunday Times bestseller.