Mary Olushoga



City University of New York/Baruch College – Master of Science, School of Public Affairs and Policy

State University of New York/University at Albany – Women and Public Policy Fellow: Center for Women in Government and Civil Society, Nelson A. Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy

Union College – Bachelor of Arts in Sociology

With an entrepreneur father, launching her own business was a no brainer for Mary Olushoga. In fact, she considers it her calling. Mary is a small business advocate and founder of AWP Network, an online platform powering small business success for African entrepreneurs that provides business resources, educational tools and community support. This internationally recognized award-winning small business platform is dedicated to showcasing the entrepreneurial stories, business challenges and successes of African women and youth. It received honorable distinction at the 2012 World Summit Youth Award, an Apps4Africa Innovation Award and received coverage on media platforms including BBC World Have your Say, Columbia University Africa Economic Forum, W!se Institute, United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, United Nations ECOSOC Youth Forum and the Rockefeller Foundation Tech Salon.

Mary, on the other hand, is a GOOD Maker/Oxfam America International Women’s Day Challenge Winner, has received a Community Service Award from the New York State Bar Foundation and a President’s Commission on the Status of Women Community Service Award, among other accolades. With AWP Network, she provides business education content she passionately believes in – from webinars and competitions to interviews about the startup culture. Each has a particular focus on African women and youth entrepreneurs. It’s Mary’s mission to provide inspiration by sharing these stories and help promote the “I can do” mentality. In her words, “It’s our goal to help turn dreams into a reality.”

I don't consider this a job. I consider what I do a life calling.

What responsibilities do you have in your job?

I launched AWP as a solution to the unemployment issue in Africa, especially in Nigeria. We began with the idea that if we provided a supportive community to African entrepreneurs, they would grow, and in return, hire. 

If I had to break down my responsibilities, it would include the following:

1/ Identify best features and stories.

2/ Network, network, network. It’s very important that I continue to build valuable relationships.

3/ Set up and conduct phone and email interviews with entrepreneurs based in Africa.

4/ Manage all social media platforms and our website.

5/ Produce monthly webinars on small business related topics.

6/ Work with staff and partners to ensure that we achieve our goals.

How did you decide a job in this career field was right for you?

I don't consider this a job. I consider what I do a life calling. My father was an entrepreneur and I've spent many years in the small business industry. I think that my years of experience in the field and the impact we’ve made so far, makes everything feel right and very worthwhile.

What is your favorite part of your job?

It has to be helping small businesses see their possibilities. We have engaged more than 100 small businesswomen and youth entrepreneurs throughout Africa. Webinar topics are selected based on small business trends including conversations on (1) how to use mobile technology to start, expand and move business ideas forward, (2) using marketing, branding and PR tools to start, grow and expand business ideas, (3) building and developing a personal brand and brand strategy. Those who have participated in the webinars, find these topics useful and educative. These workshops have helped entrepreneurs move on to the next level so that they can continue to position themselves for success.

What challenges keep you awake at night?

For us, challenges are a good thing. We have to keep redefining who we are as an organization and keep re-strategizing.

Is work/life balance ever a problem with you? If so, what is one no-fail tactic you use to create balance?

Arianna Huffington said it best, "If anyone brags about working 24 hours a day, don't hire them ... even God rested on the seventh day." Although my work is my passion, I certainly don't work 24/7. I try to balance it out, so I travel a lot. In fact, I love to travel. I also enjoy meeting people and listening to their stories and watching performance art (dance shows, musicals, theatre). 

What are some of the rules you live by?

I'm not good at following rules, but I wrote this not long ago. “I take responsibility for myself, my life and my actions. I am fully accountable for my decisions. I make no excuses, I learn from my experiences, reflect on mistakes and move on. Two very important words here: keep going.”

What qualities does it take for someone to be successful in your line of work?

You must be willing to learn and network. Also, anything can happen at any time, so you must be prepared for the best and the worst.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

My goal is to continue to grow AWP into a global brand. Although we have a plan for the future, we try as much as possible to live in the present.

-Tolu Agunbiade