Oluwatoni, Enterprise Challenge
Still a school student, Oluwatoni (14) is also already an entrepreneur. Her business sells artworks that celebrate darker skin tones and champion African culture.
Millions of Nigerians, especially women, bleach their skin to make it lighter. Their preference for paler skin is rooted in historic perceptions of beauty and status, but skin bleaching remains extremely widespread today. Toni’s business, TOHLAH Enterprises, focuses on building self-acceptance and self-esteem among young people with darker skin.
Like many other girls in Nigeria, Toni has faced taunts and bullying because of her skin tone, causing a host of body image and self-esteem issues. But after years feeling insecure and discouraged about her appearance, Toni eventually learned to love her skin. Keen to shift mindsets and celebrate darker skin tones, she began creating artworks for sale, focused on African beauty, heritage and culture.
Building business skills
However, although she passionately believed in her idea, Toni’s shyness initially prevented her from sharing it widely and effectively marketing her art. She joined the Enterprise Challenge programme to help develop her business concept and her confidence.
Enterprise Challenge, launched in Nigeria in 2022, enables school students to learn practical business skills through coaching, mentoring and an online simulation game. The programme, developed by Prince’s Trust International and delivered by Junior Achievement Nigeria, runs through school-based clubs.
‘I decided to join the program because I have been looking for a way out to develop myself, build my confidence and my innate business abilities,’ Toni explains.
From theory to practice; from flowers to art
With a strong focus on learning by doing, one feature of the programme involves participants designing, developing and pitching their own business idea, in small teams. Toni’s team focused on a virtual flower shop. This experience gave her the inspiration and the technical knowhow to take a similar approach with her own business in real life. Drawing on the skills and confidence she’d gained, Toni launched an online store.
‘Through the programme, I was able to stand up to the fears in me and face them,’ Toni explains. ‘I used the practical steps I learnt during the programme to get things to start working for me in my business.’
Since Toni launched her shop, her art has prompted powerful conversations at school about skin tone and self-image. Classmates have shared their own struggles to accept their darker skin colour, and revealed how the artworks inspired them to feel proud of their appearance and their heritage – and comfortable in their skin.
‘As a female who normally felt oppressed and bullied throughout her life for her skin colour…I finally felt accepted for once through my business, and I impacted the lives of others,’ Toni says, with pride.