HN Q&A

‘I want Tots Toys to be seen as actively helping to create a new generation of book readers.’ – Layal Jade Tinubu

Layal Tinubu is the Founder & CEO of Tots Toys, a children’s educational toyshop, and learning space which provides a range of educational items all intended to aid children’s development and learning through play. Tots Toys offers its space for book readings, interactive sessions and activity groups to keep children engaged – all with the intention of creating a new generation of book readers.

In 2018, she co-founded Noella Foundation, a non-profit private sector-led organization with the goal to drive change and improve Nigeria’s economy via entrepreneurship, innovation, and sustainable ideas and action plans. Noella Foundation provides a platform to empower and encourage youths to become change-makers in society by helping them to identify their passion and use that passion to create solutions that empower Nigerian communities and drive greater economic growth.  Read and be inspired by our quick Q&A with a Queen who’s passionate about impacting her society and building her legacy!

Who is Layal Jade Tinubu (full name, background etc)? My name is Layal Jade Chinwe Tinubu, I’m of Nigerian/Lebanese descent. I spent much of my childhood between Lagos, London, and New Jersey. I am the founder of Tots Toys, a children’s educational toyshop and learning space. In 2018, I co-founded the Noella Foundation, a non-profit private sector-led organization with the goal to drive change and improve Nigeria’s economy via entrepreneurship, innovation, and sustainable ideas. Prior to founding Tots Toys, I began my career as a management consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in 2014. During my 5-year career at PwC, I provided consulting services to the advisory arm of the business and successfully supported business development activity. I received an MSc in Business Management and a bachelor’s degree in Politics and African Studies. I am a wife, a mother and an advocate for encouraging children’s early years development by learning through play.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your life so far? Being a mother is the greatest achievement of my life so far. It is not easy to constantly put your own needs behind those of your children, but it has been such a beautiful, rewarding journey. The joy my daughter brings me is boundless and I feel incredibly blessed to be able to experience it daily. 

You come across as a woman who is passionate about making an impact. What inspired the creation of the Tots Toys shop? The main inspiration behind starting Tots Toys was the realization that there was a huge gap in the educational resources market here in Nigeria – that needed a solution. As a parent, I struggled to access high-quality educational resources for my child. I found myself having to constantly pull resources from the UK or US. Moreover, the fact that there was nowhere that offered a wide range of children’s books, classic stories we all grew up on, resonated with me. Thus, Tots Toys was birthed.

With the belief that children learn through play and that their development is a process that needs to be encouraged, I wanted to create a space where some of the best educational resources are accessible to parents and carers.

What inspires you to get out of bed every morning? I find inspiration in a variety of people and things. I would have to say that my greatest inspiration for getting out of bed every morning is making an impact. It took me years to discover my real purpose and passion – now that I feel like I’ve found that, it’s empowering.

Please share the challenges you’d had so far setting up Tots Toys and how you have been able to rise above them? The biggest challenge so far, especially at the start of setting up Tots Toys, has been me working in my business rather than on my business. I spent long hours doing this, while I also struggled to delegate tasks and trust my team. I had to make a conscious decision not to do this in order to have more time to plan for the future. It took a while to accept that being able to delegate effectively is crucial for the success and growth of Tots Toys. I had to decide to outsource and ensure I was hiring the right staff to take care of the low-level priorities. I began working with a strategy company Ren San & Co who ensured I was putting the necessary operational measures in place to run an effective business.

What is the most important life lesson you’ve learned? The greatest lesson life has taught me is that you have to trust the journey. Before I do anything, I’ve already run through every possible outcome in my head – often getting caught up in worrying about things I could have done differently or things that haven’t happened rather than focusing and appreciating the now. It’s so important to be present in the now and to live intentionally. The truth is that there will always be things that we can’t control. We can only control how we choose to react. That’s the key to appreciating the journey.

In one word, describe your life as an entrepreneur. Adaptive.

As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you? My strongest motivation and drive is my vision for the future. For myself and my family.

Having a clear purpose keeps me going through the setbacks and disappointments that come with being an entrepreneur. I also receive great energy from those closest to me, there’s nothing like being surrounded by people who genuinely believe in your vision and support you.

What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a business? I would say the key elements for starting and running a business – aside from capital and resources – are to start with a plan that details all your processes, set realistic and achievable goals, ensure you have a good team/competent staff who are willing to learn and adapt quickly, and lastly, passion, it will become difficult to stay motivated and succeed if you are not passionate about what you are doing.

What are you hoping mothers take away from the Tots Toy Shop? I’m hoping mothers/parents who experience Tots Toys take away the understanding that play is an essential part of learning in children. The resources that we stock encourage their involvement in the learning process and enhances individual areas of development – cognitive, emotional, and social development. Secondly, I want mothers/parents to see the importance in introducing children to reading at an early stage. I want Tots Toys to be seen as actively helping to create a new generation of book readers.

Who inspires you? My daughter inspires me. She inspires me to be a better person and strive to do my best, daily.

What is your take on “women supporting women”? In the words of Serena Williams, “Every woman’s success should be an inspiration to another. We’re strongest when we cheer each other on.” I’m a strong advocate for women supporting and encouraging each other. It’s easy to claim support for such a movement on paper, but it’s time we as women legitimise our claims in our day to day dealings with one another. It’s important to ask ourselves if we’re holding each other up and if we’re celebrating another’s successes.

Time travel or teleportation? Definitely teleportation! I love traveling but I hate the process itself.

What would you like to be remembered for? I suppose we all want to leave a legacy and have lasting influence or importance of some sort. I want to be remembered for my humility. Regardless of success, regardless of the impact I make, staying grounded in my values.

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