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EP 10 // Building a Business With a Romantic Partner Featuring Oluwasoga and Genevieve Oni

Ep 10- Genevieve and Oluwasoga

Thank you for joining the Open Door Conversations Podcast for more leadership support. Today we cover building a business with a romantic partner and co-founders. If you are interested in being a founder or you work closely with another leader, this episode is for you. Akua interviews 2 company founders, Oluwasoga and Genevieve, about how they began their business, what has helped them find success, and what their goals are for the future. They give insight into what it takes to run a business with a significant other and how to scale your idea into a company.

MDaaS Global started as an idea in one of Oluwasoga's MIT courses. Since launching the company his life partner, Genevieve, and two other co-founders have joined. Their medical equipment distribution business started in Nigeria and has plans to support people throughout Africa. MDaaS Global works to fill the gaps in healthcare by increasing access to high-quality and affordable healthcare. These founders have successfully pivoted their company several times, and in this episode, they share their thoughts on what has helped them reach their goals. Oluwasoga and Genevieve give entrepreneurial advice and share their passion for the company's mission to help others.

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What's Covered in this Episode About Business Operations

  • How to set boundaries
  • How to embrace change in your business
  • How to scale a business in a sustainable way
  • How to build a team with roles that work best for you

Quotes from this Episode of Open Door Conversations

  • "We want to be a by the end of the year, one of the top three diagnostic chains, country tree." - Soga Oni¬†
  • "Setting boundaries is really hard, I think not just for co founders that are also life partners, but for any one who's had experience starting a company." - Genevieve Oni
  • "I want to piggyback. So I want to do a lot more mentorship type things, particularly in the healthcare space where there's not as many intrapreneurs that are doing as well as the index space." - Soga Oni

Get to Know this Episode's Guest

Oluwasoga Oni is the CEO and Founder of MDaaS. He is the former software engineer II at EMC. Oluwasoga is a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Genevieve’s venture, MDaaS Global, is on a mission to provide convenient, affordable, and high-quality diagnostics and primary care for Africa’s next billion, starting in Nigeria. In order to achieve this mission, MDaaS Global builds and operates tech-enabled diagnostic centers focused on providing care to low- and middle-income patients.

After completing her BA in Public Health at the University of Pennsylvania, Genevieve joined the UN Development Program as a Health System Analyst in Uganda. As part of her role, she visited dozens of hospitals across the country and heard the same complaint over and over again: Our equipment is not working. The reasons varied from lack of available biomedical technicians, to botched installations, to missing instruction manuals. Genevieve became both fascinated and frustrated by these seemingly preventable equipment challenges and their detrimental effects on patient care.

A few years later, Genevieve joined forces with three co-founders who had all experienced the same equipment challenges across Africa, and together they launched MDaaS Global in 2016. They opened their first diagnostic center in November 2017 in southwest Nigeria and in their first 8 months of operations have provided care to over 2500 patients.

Genevieve is an MBA candidate at MIT Sloan School of Management and an MPA candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School.

Get to Know the Host of the Open Door Conversations Podcast

Learn more about your host, Akua Nyame-Mensah.

Akua is a certified executive and leadership coach, recognized learning and organizational development facilitator, speaker, and former startup executive. 

Since 2018, she has had the opportunity to partner with amazing organizations, from high-growth startups to multinational brands all around the world, to maximize people, performance, and profit.  Outside of her coaching and corporate speaking engagements, she is a regular mentor, coach, and judge for various entrepreneurship-focused organizations.

Stay in touch with Akua Nyame-Mensah, Leadership & Culture Advisor:

  • Read about¬†Akua‚Äôs services¬†if you‚Äôd like to learn more about how you can hire her to help you strengthen your organization‚Äôs culture.

  • Complete her¬†contact form¬†to jump on a call.

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Here’s the transcript for episode 10 about Building a Business with a Romantic Partner

NOTE: Please excuse any errors in this transcript; it was created using an AI tool. Akua Nyame-Mensah 0:07 Welcome to the open door podcast. My name is Akua Nyame-Mensah Chaos respond to Aqua and I'm a certified executive and leadership coach recognised facilitator and former sort of leader that loves supporting reluctant firefighting and overwhelmed leaders. I've worked with them to help them clarify where they should focus their time and energy each and every day so that they can love themselves, love their work, and ultimately love their life. If you're looking to learn leadership information and hear different perspectives, you are in the right place. My aim in this podcast is to help you see that one of the most productive and profitable things you can do is deeply understand yourself. Understand how you show up, understand how you thrive, and allow yourself to align everything in your work in your life, and in your business to support that, think of this podcast as your weekly opportunity to receive leadership support. And remember, there is no one right way to lead yourself or others. Thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Let's get started. Welcome to the open door conversations podcast. As always, I am so excited to share today's interview because it's between three people, including me. And these two individuals are actually some of my favourite founders, favourite entrepreneurs. I've known them for a few years now I've seen so many different iterations of their business, I have visited some of their actual diagnostic centres. So we're going to be talking about building a business with a life and romantic partner and also solving some real problems with a business. So this conversation is for you, if you have a co founder. If you are working with your romantic partner, I think we're going to be touching some great topics that are going to be really relevant. And we cover so many different things. We cover how to set boundaries, and make sure that you're not constantly working, especially if you're working with a life or romantic partner, or even friend, we talk a bit about what it was like to fundraise for a brick and mortar business and sort of some of the things that they've done differently in their business over the last few years. And finally, we talk about the different roles that they play within the business and also how they have very intentionally built their team between two continents. So both of the individuals that I've interviewed today, work between the US and Nigeria primarily. I also wanted to note that our conversation spanned three countries. So I'm in Ghana, Genevieve is in the US and Chaga was in Nigeria when we had this conversation. So there may be a bit of a lag between some of the things that are shared and there sometimes isn't amazing audio. So please do keep that in mind when you are listening to this podcast. But I still think it's an incredibly useful podcast. If you are interested in being a founder or even more interested in having a co founder or several co founders. Let's get into the episode. So today I'm joined by Chaga and Genevieve to talk about building a business with a life partner Shoba and Genevieve, welcome to the show. Unknown Speaker 3:34 Thanks so much for having us. Unknown Speaker 3:37 Thank you. Thanks for having us. Akua Nyame-Mensah 3:39 Yes. So for folks who are meeting both of you for the first time could you each maybe just share a little bit about who you are and what you do. Speaker 1 3:47 My name is Lucia Gurney CEO and does level in attendance. We build and operate technical diagnostic centres across Africa. While we're mostly in Nigeria right now. And excited to be here. Akua Nyame-Mensah 4:00 Thank you so much for that. Yeah, Genevieve? Speaker 2 4:02 Yes, I am the one of the cofounders and the CFO of M das global. And I'm also married to show guys you may be able to tell from our matching surnames. Thanks so much for having us, Aqua. Akua Nyame-Mensah 4:15 Yes, I am super excited about this conversation. These two are, I guess, individuals I've known for a few years now. And I think one of the most unique things about them is that they've really been able to build a unique business. I'd love for you guys to maybe talk a little bit about how endast came to be and sort of the different roles you to play and building out this business. Yeah, I Speaker 1 4:39 can I can talk about how we can be in general can tackle what our issues are. So um, this came originally from one of my classes that there might be or the idea was came from that class. And that the challenge for that class was how do you beat a beat? If they can scale to a billion lives, and so thinking about that problem or that challenge, the first thing that came to mind was like my father who is a medical doctor. And in my family, almost everybody in my family works in healthcare, actually, all of us work in healthcare at this moment. So my dad is a medical doctor, my brothers and my surgeon, sisters, nurse, my oldest sister is a social worker, you know, so, you know, we made sense that that was a problem I chose to solve, because that's what knew growing up, and I wanted to solve one of the problems he had, which was around, you know, certain medical equipments to be able to perform high impact procedures for its patients. And we knew that, you know, it was really difficult to get equipments to Nigeria, and also provide some support for it. So that's how we started we just started like, so when we started with the important equipment from the US and providing some support on the ground in Nigeria, we are importing, mostly refurbished equipments. So we were in a way, bridging that gap by leveraging the secondary equipment marketplace. In the US, we can get high quality equipments for cheap, and bring into Africa to perform procedures. So that's how we started. And over a period of time, we evolved to our quality integration, where we would build and operate diagnostic centres now we can talk about the pre work better. And so me I'm the I'm the CEO of the company, still do a lot of operations work. And, yeah, generally, anything to add to that? Speaker 2 6:40 Sure, yeah. So in terms of our roles, I will say that we are to have a two people have a four person founding team. So we also have two other co founders oakway me Oh, lagoon who went to undergrad was Shogun in Nigeria. And Joe McCord, who was at MIT was Chaga. So we are not the only two. And I think that's one of our great strengths is having such a large founding team, because we do have a lot of diverse skill sets across the four of us, which I think is really helped us operate in a very lean way, especially in the beginning when things are tough, and there's not a whole lot of money. And so in terms of how Chaga and I kind of divide up different roles, I think it's something that that has also kind of constantly evolved, as we've worked together from the beginning, in the early stages, I was mostly helping with like website and grant applications. And that's definitely changed as we've gotten bigger. And as I've become as I became a full time co founder. So I take currently Chaga, as the CEO, really has his fingertips and a lot of different pieces of the business, he does focus, I'd say mostly on operations, like he said, that's the biggest area, but also, it's just kind of keeping track of the many different things going on. And we also are a very geographically dispersed team, both within Nigeria, and across the world. So I think a big role for Shell guys is really having a pulse on everything that's going on across all of our different centres and our different locations, where we have team members. And then on on my end, I'm someone who likes to create structure, I'm very detail oriented. And so I focus I think a little bit more internally on the organisation a lot on the finance and accounting side, bringing in my business background a lot on people observation recently, because we've been growing a lot and doing a lot more hiring. So I've shifted my focus to include a lot more in the people ops, HR space, and then also on some of our new products that we're developing, which is a really fun space that we get to work on. Now, with one of our new products called Sentinel x, I will say those roles evolve almost every day. And I think another one of our strengths is that we are all very flexible and willing to kind of shift and fill whatever space needs to be filled. Akua Nyame-Mensah 8:49 I love that. Thank you both so much for sharing that. And I think one of the things or one of the themes that keeps coming up is this idea of being open to evolve. What do you think it is? Maybe I don't know. Is it your personality? Is it about the investors that are supporting you? Why has Yeah, Indus been so open to shift and change? Because as I've known, both of you, that company has pivoted, shifted, evolved in so many different ways Unknown Speaker 9:13 during a start Shogun? Speaker 1 9:15 Yeah, sure. I think thinking about our story, I think that, you know, we adapt, because we have two more lessons. One of the things that we we know, or that has been true for us is that like, you know, at the beginning stages, we had the core idea, just wanted to improve at care for Africans, at the beginning was through bringing equipments to Nigeria, and that eventually evolved when we didn't see the kind of impact we wanted to have. We were forced to go back to the drawing board and say, Okay, how can we design something that can actually impact people's lives? And so I feel like that evolution to happen, you know, you need to hit like, we definitely hit some and some obstacles that we had to adapt to, to evolve for that. And the skills, I think that because one of the things that we were really at the beginning and still now we're very, very passionate about what we do, we see a lot of things being built, but we don't see them builds in the way our 60s. So we feel like a huge amount of responsibility to be a success in doing this in doing what we do. So I feel like we just have to evolve that way. And you know, and it's so funny, because now we're going from coming from like the, we have left that early idea stage startup to more likely, you know, still early stage, but not quite idea stage anymore. Now we are like implementing and executing with scaling. And that is bringing its own set of challenges. And Genevieve now has to learn more about the people of stuff. And we are having to bring in more people in Atlanta to manage a bigger team. And these are things we have to do to become a better organisation to deliver on that vision that we want to do. So that's my thoughts on that. And then again, have you had something to add or subtract from that? Speaker 2 11:11 Yeah, I think I totally agree. I think we do have a really strong kind of mission orientation as a company. And we have stayed very committed, the problem that we're trying to solve has never changed. It's always about how do we increase access to quality health care for under resourced communities, and low and middle income communities. And so I think that has really been a guiding light for us. And whenever we feel like we're not doing that, that's when it's time to shift. And I think the other piece that we've learned through some of the wonderful organisations and accelerators we've been a part of, at MIT and at TechStars, is having a really strong data orientation. And always looking at not just, you know, what is your gut feeling about what's working and what's not, but really being very rigorous about constantly doing these little micro experiments to see if your gut feelings can be matched with the data that you're seeing, and that the uptake from your patients and your communities. So I think those are the, you know, strong commitment to solving a specific problem alongside this kind of experimental and data oriented approach has helped make it easier for us to let ideas go that we love but aren't actually working. And it's just easier to let those go. And you can say, you know, what, it's just not it's not solving the problem we want to solve. Akua Nyame-Mensah 12:28 I love that. And I definitely think that, you know, with some of the, you know, leaders I've had an opportunity to work with that letting go piece is so difficult. So I really appreciate how you sort of broken down how you can leverage both more of that emotional value driven mission side, but also making sure that you're leveraging the data as well. So thank you so much for sharing that, I would love to hear a little bit more about how you all are scaling. I mean, first and foremost, I want to definitely say congratulations on raising another round. How are you using this next round of funding? And what are you both looking forward to Unknown Speaker 13:01 be like showcase our king of scale. Speaker 1 13:04 So this next is going to be really exciting for us. And we've started a lot of work on it. One of our goals is to scale into more places, we want to be a by the end of the year, one of the top three diagnostic chains, country tree, we think this gives us enough of a diagnostic infrastructure where we can start layering more services on top of that. So we get started to do that. Another thing we were working really hard on right now is something called Sentinel x is our preventive care programme that targets that kind of shift people's mindset from sick care to more like preventive personalised care. So you come in, get screened, get your results, either in person or by behalf get access to a doctor year round, when we think that it will change the way people think about their care in the country, and hopefully, across the continent. And so right now we're doing a lot of the foundational work to Medallia success, also really excited to scale into more places and do that then did a lot of tech we need to get out, like have operations. Be that that's kind of what we have on the horizon and the immediate arising for us. Akua Nyame-Mensah 14:21 Amazing. Thank you so much for sharing. So let's bring this back to the fact that both of you are life partners. What is that like? And what boundaries have you put into place to make sure that you're not constantly talking about work when you're together? Speaker 2 14:35 I'll start off by saying setting boundaries is really hard, I think not just for co founders that are also life partners, but for any one who's had experience starting a company, as we've talked about before Aqua, and it's something that in some ways, I think with COVID last year we been working from home a lot more and not have not ever having as many person interactions with the rest of our team. I think it really showed us even more clearly how important it is to set boundaries, and to make sure that we have time to spend with each other not in the role of co founders. But in the role of friends and partners and all these different ways that the two of us support each other in our life. One thing that we started during during COVID, when we realised that we were just working almost all waking hours was we decided that we would kind of create a close of the office simulation. So at a certain point, and we would decide when this was so there were set office close hours, but if one of us was done for the day, just like need to turn off, we would tell the other one, like, hey, the office is closed today, like I'm leaving work, even though obviously, we're both still sitting in our living room. And I think that just having that option, and we didn't do that every day, some days were long work days, and we worked until we went to sleep. But I think knowing that we both had that option, and that both of us would respect when the other person was closing the office really helped. And then I'd say another thing that helped during COVID. And that we've kind of brought into now this semi post COVID Time is making sure that we always have time together, especially on the weekends to do something totally unrelated. So I don't know, Chaga is really into home brew, and has also made me really into home brewing. And I was kind of a fun thing that we could work on together that is 0% related to our company, but just like a fun thing to learn together. So I'd say that that was another thing that really helped during this time was having these projects, whether it's, you know, cooking or making your own beer, just to kind of have time to be together and really not be thinking about the business at all. So I'd say those are two of my big takeaways from the past, you know, 18 months or so. Whatever. i You shoulda Speaker 1 16:48 Yeah, I think that you've covered the major things about the no offices closed policy that we had also just been more intentional about taking some time to do other things like go to the gym, or we started running a lot more booths that are running a lot more during COVID in you know, so that was time that we just did something house asides work. So but we're one of the things that last year, particularly given the cuisines of last year is that the need to be more intentional about the time you want to take your time you need to take away from work. And also realising that we are running a marathon, not a sprint. And so you know that yes, you can get a lot done if you just sprint everywhere, but you want pretty much be able to physically handle the demands of the marathon. And so knowing that, you know, we need to sometimes you need to, we need to slow our paces. Sometimes we need to accelerate what kind of like being intelligent enough to know when to do what I think is very important. So Speaker 2 17:55 yes, Shaka is very good at reminding me that we are not running 100 metres. Yeah, one other thing that I thought of as Junko is talking, I definitely agree with that, you know, recognising that this is a long term game, and we need to look after our own relationship and mental and physical health. I think another thing that came up for me with a lot of that isolation last year was that it's really important to not just rely on the other person. So I think this, this is something that is maybe a little bit more unique to co founders who are life partners, it's very tempting, because you love and trust and respect to this person, to look to them to fill all these different roles that you need in your life. And that was something for me last year where I was like, especially someone who's pretty extroverted, I realised that, you know, I can't, and I shouldn't rely on Chaga for everything. And same thing, he shouldn't rely on me for everything. And I think you can really strengthen your relationship by having those people outside of your relationship that you can connect with, and share with and unload tough stuff on so that you're not always just kind of keeping all of that heat within this within the relationship. So that was something that I think again, became more apparent when we were, you know, sitting in the living room 24/7 together, but it's just a great reminder for for me and for life generally is to like have these other outlets and these other people that can really help you actually make your relationship stronger. Well, Akua Nyame-Mensah 19:28 yeah, I think that these are some amazing tips that once again, whether people are life partners, co founders or working with someone just really trying to keep in mind the importance of taking time for yourself and really recognising that you need to do other things and just work which sounds so easy, but for so many people it's just student COVID Right. Very much just working, working, working. Love it. So I guess it'd be with my for my last question outside of you know, the amazing work you're doing at M DOS, what are you both We're excited about what are you looking forward to next year? Speaker 2 20:05 Maybe next year. So one thing that's been great I'm had, I was able to get take a little bit of time right now to come back to the US and visit my family. And a lot of my friends whom I haven't seen for many months, that's been awesome. I think I, again, I'm an extrovert I love connecting with people and spending time with the people that are really important to me. So I'm really excited to you know, now that we're live it fully vaccinated, thankfully, to be able to spend the next 12 months or so reconnecting with people that I haven't gotten to spend as much time with. In person especially, that's something I'm really excited about. It's been just so nice getting to, you know, see my parents more and all that stuff. So I'm really looking forward to that. Lots of missed weddings, I think we're going to some absurd amount of weddings, as I'm sure a lot of people are, but I am so excited for those that Shoka mentioned running. Yeah, we really went hard on running during COVID. And it's become something that's just been such a joy for me. And so Chaga and I both have our different running goals that we're working on for different distances and times. And that's been something that has really, like, brought a lot of joy to my life. So I'm looking forward to another year of more running and more prs. Speaker 1 21:16 I love that. Yeah. Yeah, and for me, looking forward to travelling a lot more just in places, that's something I really do enjoy. But we didn't have time for obviously, don't have a lot of time for it. But I want to be more intentional about creating time to travel, both within Nigeria and outside Nigeria, I really want to get to more places. And, you know, so and that's something I'm looking forward to next year, learning French right now. So hopefully, by next year, that will be amazing if that happens, because I plan to retire in South of France, you know, like every scene intrapreneur? And, yeah, so so I'm looking forward to that. And, yeah, this hoping that, you know, the open that, you know, work comes down a little bit so that I can have more time for the good stuff, I have a lot of things I would love to do, but I don't really have time to do it more. And another thing I'm looking forward to, I guess it's I, you know, I feel like I've gotten a lot from other entrepreneurs in this space, who written a lot of stuff or mentored me in one way or the other, I want to piggyback. So I want to do a lot more mentorship type things, particularly in the healthcare space where there's not as many intrapreneurs that are doing as well as the index space. So I want to make sure that we bring in a new set of people in who are going to do way better than we do. Akua Nyame-Mensah 22:46 So yes, yes. This has been absolutely amazing. I always love having conversations with you both. So thank you so much for being open to being on my podcast. Where can people find out more about and us and your work online? Speaker 2 23:02 Yeah, so our website where you can learn more about us is M D, a s.io. So m das.io. We are also on Twitter and Facebook, and all of those fun social platforms. So you can check those out to learn more about what the company is working on. And then yeah, I think for me, and Shoka, reaching out over LinkedIn is a great way to connect with us. We're both on there and love to showcase I'd love to meet people, especially folks that are interested in working in this space or have a company or if they're interested in partnering, we're always loving to hear more about that. So definitely reach out. Akua Nyame-Mensah 23:39 Amazing. I'll make sure those are in the show notes. So thank you both so very much for joining me today. I really enjoyed this conversation. And I think so many people will be able to learn from from your experience and some of the things that you're working on. Unknown Speaker 23:51 Thank you so much awkward. This was really fun. Unknown Speaker 23:53 Thank you so much. Thanks. Akua Nyame-Mensah 23:55 Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to today's episode. If you enjoyed what you heard today, please share it with your friends. We can continue this conversation on social media the links to my socials so that is LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You can find them in the shownotes if you tagged me in a story and include the hashtag hashtag ask Akua I will share a special little gift with you. Thank you so much once again for your time and I cannot wait to share my next episode with you stay safe and sane.

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