Meet: Kike Oniwinde, Founder of BYP Network

Hannah Brice Written by
Hannah Brice
So many businesses are created because the founder needs a solution to their own problem. For Kike, she’s not only boosted her network, she’s helping thousands of people, and she could help you too.

Meet Kike Oniwinde

With BYP Network, Kike Oniwinde has built a platform for young black professionals to connect with each other and corporations, with the aim of creating new friendships, job opportunities and strong networks. Often described as ‘LinkedIn for black professionals’, BYP tackles the entire journey from grassroots to senior managers by providing support and career development. Here’s how she’s made it so successful.

1. Why did you start BYP Network and what were you doing before?

I was awarded a full athletics scholarship to the University of Florida to study for a masters as well as compete in the javelin. As it was a new environment, I had to step outside my comfort zone and find different ways of making new friends. I met incredible people who were achieving equally incredible things, so when I returned to the UK, I wanted to keep meeting similar people and expand my network at the same time.

I went to networking events, but I found them very formal, and I wanted to find a way to connect the community in a way that was both informal and comfortable for all. From there, BYP Network was born.

2. What were the biggest sources of inspiration and support when you were starting out?

I was lucky to have mentors who helped me, supported me and believed in the BYP mission. I also owe a lot to organisations who helped me to achieve, thrive and secure funding. Sky named me a Sky Woman in Technology Scholar, I won Founders of the Future’s F Factor Competition, and I was fortunate enough to join Sadiq Khan in Paris on his Business Growth Programme. I’m incredibly grateful to NEF (New Entrepreneurs Foundation), if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have known how to grow a start-up. The programme was incredibly impactful in taking BYP to where it is now.

3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the business?

Managing your time, managing people and managing expectations is key. You also have to pace yourself – whilst you may want the results all at once, these things take time and it’s best to be patient and trust in the process.

4. What has been your proudest moment/biggest achievement so far?

2018 was a huge year of achievements. I was delighted to be named as 1 of the top 100 BAME leaders in tech by the FT, and we rounded off the year by securing £150,000 in funding. We can’t wait for even more events, awards, accolades and good news in 2019!

5. What piece of advice would you give to anyone starting out?

Take things slowly and don’t be hard on yourself! I have very high expectations so I can often be disappointed if I don’t get the results I want. It’s important to enjoy the journey as much as the outcome though!

6. What piece of investment did you make in the business that was worth every penny?

Leaving my job working for a Fin-Tech company to pursue my career ambitions with BYP. At the time, it seemed a daunting prospect leaving my full-time role to become a full-time CEO, but it has definitely been worth it.

7. Which element of marketing has made the biggest impact on your business?

Building our social media presence has worked wonders for us and has taken us to places we would never have expected – literally! Through social media, we managed to make contacts in the US and have our first ever international BYP event! We have also been fortunate to have been featured in publications such as Evening Standard, The Times, Financial Times, The Voice, Flashpack and more, which has done a lot for our profile!

8. What do the next 12 months look like for you?

Our team are expanding even more – we’re on the lookout for five people to join, in various areas from social media and community engagement, to business development! We’re also launching a podcast series featuring some of the most senior leaders in the UK, and completely relaunching the app in Spring 2019. There’s much more to come!

Do you have an interesting story to tell about how your business got started? Tell us about it.

* photo credit to Samara Addai