Words by Florence Robson
Miracle Olatunji is a young woman with remarkable focus and drive. Living through a difficult birth, Miracle’s mission is to inspire others to ‘live purposefully on purpose.' Her passion for creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation has already led to her becoming one of the world’s most notable young female entrepreneurs.
While still in her final years of high school, Miracle helps to run The Diamond Challenge – a global entrepreneurship competition for high school students – and has founded OpportuniMe with the goal of connecting a diverse range of young people with experiential learning, enrichment, and employment opportunities for passion, career, and self exploration. She speaks internationally on a variety of topics including youth entrepreneurship, diversity & inclusion and education. In 2017, Miracle was named one of Mogul Inc.’s ‘50 High School Students You Need to Know About.’
You’ve already achieved so much for someone who hasn’t even left school yet! What drives you forward?
I am driven by the realities of statements like ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’. This statement encapsulates the problem of the dearth of female leaders in technology, business, politics and other fields. It emphasises the importance of having inspiring, authentic, and relatable role models to look up to. The most rewarding compliments I’ve received are ones where people tell me that I am one of their role models. When I hear that, I think of Oprah Winfrey, one my biggest role models. Her story of overcoming many challenges motivates me to persevere. Recently, before I went on stage to speak at an event, the emcee said “When I introduce you, I’m going to only say your first name. You know how people hear ‘Oprah’ and automatically know who that is? That’s going to be you.” That was really encouraging!
Was there a particular moment or experience that ignited your passion for entrepreneurship?
Yes, my participation in the 2017 Diamond Challenge for High School Entrepreneurs ignited my passion for entrepreneurship! I was enthralled by the challenging and exciting process of taking an idea and turning it into an actual business or social venture. I was inspired by young entrepreneurs like Justin Lafazan who were living passion-filled, purposeful lives by working on ventures that make an impact in the world. Now, as an ambassador for the program, I am a leader, liaison, and community builder between the Horn Entrepreneurship team and thousands of Diamond Challenge participants from around the world.
At The Female Lead, one of our key values is to find strength in setbacks. Is there a particular obstacle or setback you’ve experienced that turned out to be a blessing in disguise?
The major obstacle I’ve had to overcome is self doubt. I believe that total self confidence is not a destination, but a never-ending journey of stepping out of your comfort zone, and accepting yourself for who you are- each and every day. It’s very true that the biggest enemy that everyone has to overcome is themselves. When I participated in my first entrepreneurial pitch competition last year, I gained valuable skills and experiences that have helped to mitigate my self doubt. I have since become more confident and comfortable with taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone daily.
You’ve said that you founded OpportuniMe when you were having difficulty finding enrichment programmes and internships. How did you go about starting the project?
I decided to start OpportuniMe after spending countless hours searching for experiential learning and enrichment opportunities to participate in outside of school. After talking with hundreds of students and parents, I realised just how widespread of a problem this truly is. I started OpportuniMe as a solution to this problem. I hope to help high school students explore possible careers, build their network, and start finding or cultivating their passion(s) before they head off to college. I am working to scale OpportuniMe and the goal is to democratise and simplify access to valuable information and life-changing experiences for youth and eventually people of all ages.
Education seems to be a key passion for you. Why do you think it’s so important to give young people access to a broad range of learning experiences?
I’m passionate about education because I know what a privilege having a great one is. Millions of young women and girls around the world don’t have access to it. Furthermore, I believe that experiential learning is the best education method. Experiential learning is also known as ‘learning by doing.’ It allows you to develop personal skills like confidence and agency; interpersonal skills like communication and relationship building; exposes you to the world beyond just the walls of a classroom; allows you to have memorable experiences; opens doors to even more opportunities; and so much more. There are so many benefits to it! In fact, I personally chose Northeastern University, the institution where I will be attending college, because of its rooting in experiential, global learning experiences.
You’ve said that collaboration and mentorship are two of the most important factors in turning an idea into a business. Do you have any particular female role models, mentors or support systems that have been invaluable in your professional and personal journey?
Definitely! I touched on this a bit earlier when mentioning Oprah but I recently read an article about the influential women who we all know about on a first-name basis. These are women like Oprah [Winfrey], Tyra [Banks], Martha [Stewart], and more! I am so inspired by how they have created so much impact in their industries and in the world that even their names have become iconic.
My mom has also been an invaluable support to me on this journey. She believes in my abilities when I have doubts. She’s amazing!
In high school particularly, it takes a lot of bravery to stand out from the crowd. How have your differences contributed to your outlook and success?
I would say that especially being an entrepreneur in high school has really impacted me in a lot of ways. I’ve: become more confident and responsible; improved my personal development and self awareness skills; enhanced my ability to connect with others and form meaningful relationships; and most notably, I have gained a new outlook on life and human potential. We all have so much potential and executing on our ideas really helps us to realise this.
What advice would you give to young women like yourself who are on the brink of deciding what they might want to do in the future?
No worries! Life is full of opportunities. Opportunities can come in the form of problems needed to be solved in the world, connection with a person or people, asking the right questions, etc. A big thing I’ve learned it that you shouldn’t be afraid to explore industries and activities that you’re curious about. You never know what will come out of it which is pretty exciting!
Personally, before doing the Diamond Challenge, I didn’t have any interest in entrepreneurship because I hadn’t taken any opportunities to learn about it. I had little to no clue what an entrepreneur was. I was pretty set on a plan of becoming a paediatrician. I’m so glad I decided to follow my curiosity and explore.
Sheryl Sandberg says something that I really love which is that once you have a plan of what you’d like to do, don’t let your plan blind you from accepting other possibilities and opportunities. Action step- make a list of things you’re curious about. It can be anything- acting, blockchain, consulting, stand up comedy, publishing- whatever you want. Then, write down possible ways you can learn about those things (ex. internships, informational interviews, conferences and events, books, etc.). A key principle at OpportuniMe is to: SEIZE the best opportunities that exist, but don't be afraid to CREATE ones that don't exist.
For updates on Miracle's work, follow her on Twitter.
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