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Women who inspire: Deborah Okenla

COMMITTED: Deborah Okenla mentors young women

DEBORAH OKENLA works as a membership manager for co-working space Huckletree.

She also volunteers with Campus London – Google’s space for London’s startup community – as part of their people of colour community, organising events and bringing members of the community together.

Committed to uplifting young black women, Okenla mentors young women with Black Girls Rule London, helping them find themselves and realise their potential. Last year she founded startup community, Your Startup, Your Story (YSYS).

What’s your source of inspiration?
The people that I’m surrounded with each and every day – and that ranges from my family to my friends.

My mum is a massive inspiration to me. I see her as this amazing woman of colour
who has been juggling so many things and trying to make everything run so smoothly. Also, Paris Petgrave, co-founder and CEO of We Love Work. She’s always got such a positive outlook on life. She really taught me the importance of having a balanced wellbeing.

What challenges have you faced in your career journey?
I would say not knowing that I’m enough. What’s helped me get through that are my faith, my friends and my family. Another is not knowing how to say ‘no’ to things or understanding when you might not be the best person to execute something.

What advice would you give to young women following in your footsteps?
Find someone who inspires you and try and make them proud – and be better than them! For women of colour, especially as we don’t have many role models out there, it’s important finding those women who have really paved the way within our industry and letting that be a blueprint for what you can do.

If we haven’t seen anyone like us where we want to go, it’s hard to put together a plan, so it’s very important to find someone who inspires you.

What do you do to relax?
I pray. Praying is great. And I love juicing. There’s something therapeutic about just peeling vegetables and apples and putting them in a juicer.

What has been the highlight of your career?
Starting YSYS. It started off as a WhatsApp group and now it’s a really thriving, vibrant community of 150 founders, investors and marketeers.

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