SAP 030 - Tolu Akinyemi; breaking stereotypes and changing perspectives through poetry


Tolu Akinyemi Poetolu on the Social African Show

Tolu Akinyemi is an award-winning writer, poet and author.

He was named as one of the top 100 most Influential Nigerian writers under 40.

Tolu’s writing has earned him a loyal following and the award of Poetry Writer of the Year 2017.

Personal life

"I am Nigerian, born in Ondo state, Nigeria. I live in London and I have lived here for six years."

"I am the first of five children. I have two brothers and two sisters."

Area of expertise

"I wanted to write about everyday stories of Africans, like a man waking up and going to work or having an encounter on the bus. Stories that everybody can relate to."

"That became the defining theme of my writing."

A tool that you use to get ahead

"I have an app on my phone, it is a Google app called Keep."

"I use it to store prompts. So, I go out, see something interesting I would like to write about, I leave a prompt about it on my app and have a better look when I get home."

Lowest entrepreneurial moment

"When I had to leave my 9-5 job. I was scared."

"I was scared of the unknown; how am I going pay my bills?"

"I look back now and realise there's something beautiful about having something you're working on for yourself and you can watch it grow every day."

Lessons learnt

"Sometimes you just have to take the leap."

"I remember telling myself; what's the worst that can happen? If everything else fails I can always go back into employment."

Proudest entrepreneurial moment

"I remember applying for an Arts Council England endorsement last year and I got it." 

"I was very proud. And, that was a defining moment for me."

"It feels good to be validated, especially by an organisation like that."

What’s got you buzzing right now

"Last year, I was at my friend's daughter's birthday party and I said to her your dress is beautiful, you look like a princess."

"What she said next almost made me cry, she said: but princesses don't have this kind of skin colour that I have."

"I realised that the reason why she felt this way was that all the books that she reads don't have characters that look like her."

"I made up my mind to start working on a children story book series that featured black characters."

Lion's Den

What’s the best African saying you’ve ever heard?

"I have a book called Yoruba Proverbs. I love it."

There’s one that stood out for me and it goes:

You seeing a man greeting the queen does not mean that he is sleeping with the queen because a man's manhood does not reside in his mouth.

"This proverb teaches us not to jump to conclusions."

What was holding you back from building your brand?

"Fear of the unknown."

"Not wanting to leave my comfort zone."

"There’s something beautiful about the familiar. You just want to stay there."

Which is your social media platform of choice?

"I use Instagram a lot."

"I love Instagram because Facebook is complex, Twitter is probably a bit too simple and Instagram is somewhere in-between."

Share a daily routine that contributes to your success

"I try to create a to-do list for the next day the night before. In the morning I just wake up to that."

Recommend a book for the Tribe to check out

"My first book was released in 2013 titled Your Father Walks Like a Crab."

The second one was released in 2015 titled I Laugh At These Skinny Girls.

The third was release in 2017 titled Funny Men Cannot Be Trusted.

"Apart from my books, I will recommend a book by Daniel Priestley called the Entrepreneur Revolution.

"It’s filled with practical things you can do right away and see the impact."

If you had 24 hours to live what would you do?

"I will do what anyone that has a family would do, spend those last hours with my family."

"And, if there’s anyone that I have offended or that has offended me, I will make peace with them."

Words of wisdom

"Ideas are worthless. Ideas can be overrated sometimes."

"Unless you execute ideas, they don't mean anything."

"Thinking is not the same as being creative, if it is in your head it is worthless."

"Just do it."

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