At Essex Baby we love meeting inspirational mums and dads who are making a difference in the world.
This time we’ve spoken to Ralueke Parkin, a very busy mum of two toddlers. Ral is currently juggling a part time job with her start-up business, Insight Africa UK, which aims to educate young people and tackle discrimination in the UK.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I was born, bread and buttered in Nigeria. I attended a boarding school Federal Government Girls College Gboko which meant that for 6 years during my teenage years I spent most of my life away from my family in an all-girls secondary school. This I have often said to my husband was the beginning of my independence as it helped make me who I am today.
So what’s Insight Africa UK all about?
Insight Africa UK is an Educational Consultancy firm that aims to educate young people about Africa through interactive workshops and other activities like:
- Cultural exchange programmes for teachers and students
- Volunteering in Nigeria
We believe that misconceptions about Africans helps fuel racism and discrimination and we believe creating a more balanced view of Africa will help community cohesion. We want to make quality education easily accessible and affordable.
We hope to achieve this through partnering with UK universities and schools to provide quality training either in UK or internationally. We also support companies who want to export to Nigeria but are unsure of how to go about it. So we’re organising a launch/networking event in Nigeria in Oct 2016.
What inspired you to set-up Insight Africa UK?
While studying at the University of Leeds I volunteered in many activities which involved creating awareness about racism and giving a more balanced view of Africa. Some of this was done in collaboration with West Yorkshire Police, Access Academy Leeds and Leeds University for African Studies.
The one involving Leeds University for African Studies was the most interesting. It involved taking control of a whole class for the day with the support of the class teacher. We found out most of the pupils thought Africa was a country and had lots of poverty and no basic amenities, but we managed to change some of the negative perceptions.
We showed them pictures of beautiful places and houses in Africa and they thought it was the UK. We then showed them pictures of down town London and they thought it was Africa! They also did not know that Egypt is in Africa.
At the beginning of the class we asked how many wanted to visit Africa. Few hands went up, but by the end of the session when we asked the same questions there were many more hands in the air. This was later to form the basis for setting up Insight Africa UK.
How did you bring your business idea to life?
By the time I had my 2nd baby in 2013 I realised it would not be easy keeping a full time job so I went part time. The need for a more flexible working pattern drove me into looking at setting up something which would give me the flexibility I need to take care of my family while at the same time still working. I also wanted it to be something that will help empower women and young people.
Naturally my passion was what I turned to – using different methods to educate young people about Africa and helping to make quality education more accessible and more affordable to the International Community.
How did you go about turning your dream into a reality?
I took an online course on the principals of business administration. Next I used the internet to research how to go about incorporating a company and also my responsibilities as a director of a company in the UK, as things are done quite differently from how they are done in Nigeria. I then incorporated Insight Africa UK. I have also been for several other trainings sessions that will help me run my businesses successfully.
I am in the process of launching the company formally in Nigeria in Oct 2016. We encourage any UK company looking to explore the Nigerian market or looking for reliable partners to join us on this trip. We would provide logistical support from airport shuttle, to accommodation to local travel to arranging business to business meetings.
What was the biggest obstacle you have faced whilst establishing your business?
A few schools who were interested could not commit as they did not have the budget for it due to cuts in schools, which was a major obstacle.
My desire is still to be able to reach the relevant sectors like Ministry of Education and other stakeholders who may be interested in our workshops, especially with the recent Brexit which seem to have increased the level of racism in the country. We need to educate these young people about foreigners especially about Africa and its people.
As a mum of two toddlers, it must be difficult playing so many different role? How do you maintain a healthy work/life balance?
It’s not been easy at all, but to ensure I maintain a heathy work/life balance I have had to make certain adjustments. I used to work full time 8.30am to 4.30pm five days a week. I now work two days a week in Leeds and seven hours on my other job.
My kids go to the childminder to give me some time to myself. It means I have the rest of the time to myself to take care of house work and my personal health. Some weekends we go shopping as a family. Or we go to the seaside, the park, or just to somewhere nice. On Sundays I go to Church with my family.
Looking back, do you think you made any mistakes?
Yes, maybe trusting people too much. A lot of people have taken advantage of the fact that I trust too much, but now I am becoming wiser and have learnt to handle people in business better.
What do you love most about running Insight Africa?
No two days are ever the same. There is always something new!
I derive so much joy knowing that the services I provide will make a positive impact on people’s lives, from improving education standards to making it easier to give a balanced view of Africa.
What advice would you give to other busy mums and dads who would like to turn their passion into a business?
If you have the passion and commitment to see your dreams come to life, just do it! Do not procrastinate any more just do it. It is never too late to start something you have a passion for. Do what your passion says you should do.