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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cares Unend - Omotanwa Sulaiman #inthespiritofenterprise

Tell us about yourself

My name is Omotanwa Sulaiman, I am a social entrepreneur. I have a first degree in Business administration after which I trained in the UK as a dental nurse. I am currently running a masters program in Leadership and Management with the university of St. Marks and St. John’s Plymouth, UK.

Tell us about your business

Cares Unend is a social enterprise that is focused on creating dental awareness and support for the general public and dental support for the dental community in Nigeria.

Some of the activities we engage in to promote dental health care in Nigeria are;

- Publish a free magazine under the brand name Erin

- Run radio dental programs Pan- Nigeria

- Hold dental outreach programs in various communities across Nigeria e.g. Schools, Offices, Orphanages, Camps to name a few.

What is the idea behind the name Erin?

Erin means smile in Yoruba, when you smile, you show your teeth (most times). We chose a name that people would associate with Teeth. We also wanted a name that is Nigerian because we are a proudly Nigerian brand.

Here's a cross section of the various editions of the magazine over the years;

(P.S Your's truly is on one of the covers, can you guess which one?)

Erin is published three times a year and distributed for free across Nigeria through Health Plus pharmacies, Glendora bookshops, Terra culture, schools and dental clinics to name a few.

How did you get into this line of business?

As a child, I lost a lot of teeth which could have been saved if I had been more aware about small habits as brushing twice a day, visiting the dentist every 6 months, keeping sweets and snacks to meal times (I’m still a sweet tooth, but a smarter one now). In Nigeria, many of us are dental unaware, a lot of people hardly visit dentists for various reasons such as lack of information on what to do and where to go and cost -many of us believe dental care is too expensive (which isn't always the case if you visit regularly)and unnecessary until there is pain which shouldn't be.

I decided to train as a dental nurse while in the UK a few years ago. On my return to Nigeria, I saw the need and the gap in the dental health sector in creating awareness mainly and I decided to set up a social enterprise to help people by answering their questions, referring them to dentists and provide other dental support services even to the practitioners.

How would you describe social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship in simple terms is business with a heart. 

What are the main challenges you face and how have you overcome them.

The main challenge is trying to remain sustainable as most of the services are social oriented. For example, we currently print 3000 free copies of the Erin magazine tri-annually, we have been printing erin free for more than 4years and counting; generating funds to maintain the high quality of print has been through adverts.

We have learnt to develop different streams of income to continue to provide dental support to the general public because we know there is a great need out there for solutions to dental problems and because we exist because of that, we have to make it work for the love of making Nigerians’ smile healthy and beautifully too. 

How will you summarize your journey so far?

The journey so far has been very tough but also very fulfilling. From using any revenue from my voice over jobs, loans from family and friends. Seeking and getting in kind donation of technical know how has been very helpful as well in managing the funding challenges. Seeing the smiles on the faces of those you bring dental health to, the special needs children charity we set up, the emails we get, the dental professionals who get support from the running of their business and the support we also enjoy from them and the general public is phenomenal. It is gratifying and humbling to be part of mind set change process regarding dental health habits in Nigeria.

Where do you see Erin in the future?

Erin magazine is one of the ways we employ to create dental awareness in Nigeria, we will continually improve our contents to suit the ever changing needs of Nigerians, increase print run dramatically so more Nigerians can have more access, increase our online presence and continually provide more innovative programs in partnership with dental clinics to make dental health more accessible to Nigerians.

Given another chance, will you do this again

I will do this one million times over without blinking. The fulfillment of bringing smiles to the faces of people all over Nigeria and beyond is priceless. As a dental nurse and a social entrepreneur, helping people sort out their dental issues makes gladdens my heart,and being recognized for it is another. We were made distinguished corporate friends of the NYSC by the then Director General, Major General T.S. Tsiga, I was also a recipient of the Coca Cola Africa Foundation and Africa America Institute Transformational Leadership Programme Scholarship at the Pan African University. These opportunities came because of this path I chose.

So, I will encourage people who are interested in being social entrepreneurs to go for it, being an entrepreneur itself is stressful, being a social entrepreneur can be more stressful but definitely more fulfilling as you will be impacting more people…through employment and through the product or services you offer while you also impact the economy in many ways than one.

Be the best and make someone smile…it could make a world of difference

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