An Interview with Yetty Williams '04 Yale School of Management (MBA)
Yetty Williams is a social entrepreneur, neuro-linguistic programming practitioner, parenting coach, and a coach for women who want to design their lives for abundance. Yetty also offers digital media marketing consultancy to business owners and c-suite executives. She is a graduate from the University of Pittsburgh with a BSc. in economics and minor in mathematics, holds an MBA with a focus in finance and strategy from the Yale School of Management and earned an executive degree in strategic digital media marketing from the University of Cambridge.
1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up?
I was born and grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and lived there until I left for university. I went to the University of Pittsburgh for my undergraduate, where I majored in economics with a minor in mathematics. After finishing my degree, I worked for a couple of years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in the US, then went back to school to pursue an MBA at the Yale School of Management (SOM).
2. What made you aspire to come to Yale and how did your time at the Yale School of Management contribute to your life and career?
After finishing my undergraduate degree, following an internship at an Asset Management company where I used the Bloomberg Terminal for my job, I decided to apply to Bloomberg. I got my first job at Bloomberg Financial Services. After a few years, I started thinking about pursuing an MBA. So, I started attending MBA recruitment events – especially events catering to black and African descent students.
I attended a recruitment event for Yale SOM, and one of the major things that stood out to me about SOM and set it apart from its peer institutions was its small size. My undergraduate classes were really big, so I was looking for a program that was smaller so I could develop those intimate relationships with my peers and professors. After the application process, I gained admission and ended up having to decide between Cornell University and Yale School of Management.
I ended up choosing Yale SOM for two reasons. First, there were already a few Nigerians I met who were at the time going to SOM, and it was a close community that was doing a fantastic job in supporting prospective students from the continent. Second, I visited the campus and attended a few classes, and the format of the class and the environment really stood out to me. I ended up choosing Yale SOM and forming close friendships with people that I still keep in touch with. We have a close alumni community here in Nigeria, and we get together regularly, so I really believe that I made the best choice.
3. Can you tell us a little bit about how you made your job choices, your transition back to Nigeria and your thoughts on that?
Life is truly a journey, and what I thought I would be doing as a student is so different from what I am doing now.
My initial plan after graduating from undergrad, was to go back to Nigeria and serve at the National Youth Service Corps, a one-year requirement for every Nigerian graduate. Graduates spend a year serving their country, and are appointed to work in a company, either private or public sector.
My first job was at Bloomberg, and my foray into the financial industry and the tools that were used to aggregate information. I was so fascinated by the fact that there was one tool; the Bloomberg terminal; that would give you all this financial information and allow you to make informed decisions as an investor, a financial manager, or an asset manager.
During my work experience at Bloomberg, I decided to stay in the financial industry, and I worked there for almost three years before deciding to go to business school.
Part of the reason I chose SOM was because the focus wasn’t so heavily on going to Wall Street. It was an environment that allowed you to really embrace all the things you’re interested in to make the right decision for you.
When I graduated from Yale SOM, I got a job in North Carolina at Wachovia Bank, which is now Wells Fargo. At Wachovia, my first role was in internal audit, followed by a move to structured finance where I worked with the chief operating officer. My work experience exposed me to different sides of the industry. However, I really liked the consulting experience as it involved quite a bit of traveling, and I really enjoyed project work.
Then in 2005, I got married, and interestingly both my husband and I were working at Wachovia Bank. Not long after we decided we wanted to relocate to Nigeria after spending over 10 years in the US.
On moving back to Nigeria, I got a job in the oil and gas industry for a few years; after which I moved in the real estate industry for a few years.
All the industries I worked at, and all different things I have done were really showing me that when I find the right space, it will click. But at this point, I didn’t even know that I was looking for something more. My journey from my professional 9 - 5 job to my entrepreneurship journey started after I became a mother.
4. How did you start your business? What was that initial spark that prompted you to start it?
I took some time off work because, at the time, I had a toddler and a baby. During my 18 months’ time off is when the switch to entrepreneurship happened. This is when I started LagosMums.
The reason I started was as a new mom, I had a lot of questions. I was looking for information on raising children in the 21st century, and I found out that a lot of the responses and websites I was being led to were all based in the US and the UK.
I thought it would be great to have a resource that would speak to me as a mother in Nigeria and since I wasn’t finding any, I started an online community and my online blog where I gave advice to moms in Lagos, Nigeria. I built a platform that will help me connect with other parents and simultaneously give out information about parenting, family life, and motherhood and work life balance - this is how LagosMums.com was started.
At the time, I was one of the first Nigerian bloggers writing solely about parenting. My stay at home was temporary, and after my baby started school, I went back to work in real estate. However, I realized that I had found what I was meant to do, and my blog opened me up to a world of opportunities. I call the journey of starting LagosMums my - three p’s – my passion, to purpose to profit story. My passion is really about providing resources and solutions to mothers and being intentional parents. Now, 10 years later, LagosMums has evolved into a full business.
5. How did that evolution happen in terms of moving it from a passion project to a full business? And how has your work changed, given the need to operate in the midst of a pandemic?
The company started as a passion project but has now turned into a full digital media company with structure and a team. I used to call myself an accidental entrepreneur because I wasn’t really trying to be an entrepreneur, I just wanted to find a solution to my problem.
LagosMums was a purely a passion project until I was contacted by a multinational company that had been following my activities online. They wanted my involvement on their project for a new factory that manufactures a particular brand of baby diapers. This was the first time I realized I could monetize my passion, and actually make a living – that encouraged me to develop a business idea and started hiring people and creating a more formal structure. I quickly realized that this was a whole industry and I started learning more about the digital media industry.
I knew this is what I was meant to do - providing information, solution, and utilizing the digital media space to reach a wider audience – with the help of the expansion, affordability, and popularity of social media platforms. Certainly, my years of work experience and my MBA from Yale became very handy in creating my own company’s system and culture.
In my opinion, my early involvement into the digital space put me ahead of the curve. And now especially because of the pandemic everyone now realizes that they do need a digital media strategy. I have also created digital media marketing strategies for a lot of companies and clients. So, my work has evolved into a full digital media marketing company where I can influence and help other women and business owners understand how to use technology to grow their brands and business.
This was not an industry I saw myself in, however I believe in being flexible and evolving, which is what happened after becoming a mother. That is when this new digital world opened up to me – and I’ve met and connected with over 100,000 women – and have been able to make an impact in so many women’s lives.
Last year, I partnered with the US State Department through the POWER initiative (Providing Opportunities for Women’s Economic Rise) to help other women - my role was to help women understand how to utilize technology as an enabler to grow their businesses. In my opinion for too long women have left too much money and opportunity on the table solely due to the fact that they don’t understand how to use technology.
6. What would you say is your “entrepreneurial superpower?”
Firstly, I read quite a bit, and I would say it’s really important to read more about whatever industry you are in. I read a lot about tech founders and about technology in general. For me, I love reading about them, and learning about how they created demand and how they keep their consumers engaged.
One major takeaway from many of the books I’ve read is that many of these founders are extremely comfortable with pivoting. They are comfortable with consistent change and adapting to new environments. So, my takeaway was to be comfortable with disruption and to stay ahead of the curve.
Secondly, is when I became certified as a life coach and a neuro linguistic programming practitioner. Taking classes to become certified was life changing – the certifications helped me realize my goals, values, and beliefs. When all this became aligned, I started working in my path and finding my niche. For me, my niche is mothers who want to live their best lives without the guilt! Mothers are my primary target audience, and their spouses, children, and their network.
Thirdly, it’s important that I mention that I have never been too scared to ask questions. My motto is to ask, I believe you have to be very comfortable with asking questions - what’s the worst that can happen?
Lastly, in my opinion confidence comes from doing, so you need to just keep moving and keep doing (to become more confident)
7. What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
I would say one of my greatest accomplishments in the past years is how successful our annual parenting conferences have been. I’ve been running annual parenting conferences since 2014 – and we’ve had hundreds of parents, experts, and brands attend.
Before starting parenting conferences, I had never heard of anyone having conferences for parents and educating them about what it is like to have children in Nigeria and raise them for the ever-changing world.
In addition, working with the US State Department and Google, and partnering with them to help women understand how to utilize technology to grow their revenue and realize business opportunities have been great accomplishments.
8. Do you have any advice you can offer to others interested in pursuing a similar path as the one you followed?
My advice would be to lead with passion and have a standard of excellence. I would also say accept and embrace your unique self and the space you hold in the world. Be your unique self, but allow yourself to learn, to grow and to make mistakes along the way. Confidence comes from doing and failure is only feedback!
9. What book would you recommend to everyone?
One life changing book I recommend is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book was written right around the depression, and it’s still relevant today. It definitely changed my whole view of the world.