When Avon contacted She’s the First with the opportunity to interview Christiana Oduh, one of their top sales representatives, I jumped on the assignment! Using Skype, we connected face-to-face and I captured her story, to inspire all She’s the First supporters.
Born in Nigeria, Christiana moved to the United States when she was in the 6th grade. She completed her elementary and high school education in Chicago, but her family had no money to send her to college.
“I remember seeing an Avon commercial when I was doing laundry one day when I was in high school,” she said. “The plan was that I was supposed to go back to Nigeria, but I didn’t want to do that without a college education. I was looking for ways that I could make money to put myself through college and after seeing that commercial I thought ‘oh! I can do that!’ so I called.”
She decided to try selling Avon products to help with the high costs of college tuition. Christiana started her own business, all while double majoring in economics and marketing at the University of Illinois. Not only was she able to support herself with her sales, but she quickly became one of the top representatives.
In 2007, Christiana was invited to speak at the United Nation’s International Women’s Day. There she sang the praises of the business that allowed her the time to be an independent woman, a mother, and a first.
“One thing that I can remember that I am very proud of that I am the first to do…I was able to get a chance to speak at the United Nations at the International Women’s Day in March of 2007. There is a need to empower women in the injustice of domestic violence against women; it is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. I was very honorably humbled to be a part of that. It was amazing to be a part of something so wonderful and so dear to my heart and to the heart of my company. I will never forget that experience.”
When I asked Christiana what was in store for her future, she lit up with a smile. Her hopes are to one day build a school in her hometown in Nigeria, with the help of her husband. “We are hoping that building a school in this village in Nigeria would bring hope and opportunity to the children and the community. It’s a chance for everyone from every walk of life to come together and see that there is hope in the chance to get an education.”
Christiana’s story is an inspiration to me personally for a number of reasons. Her will to succeed is outstanding, and obviously it’s brought her great success. Christiana has achieved so much for herself, and she is using that platform to encourage others to give back. Most of all, I admire her willingness to take the leap. Moving to another country with nothing is terrifying enough, but she went a step above in starting her own business and supporting her own education. Stories like Christiana’s are a reminder to me that sometimes you need to go with your gut. That little voice that told her to listen to the Avon commercial is the same one we should all listen to – maybe it’s telling you to start your own blog, become a doctor, or join the Peace Corps. Whatever it is, Christiana’s life is proof that you can take a big leap and get real results.
We always ask people what they are already the first to do, but I have a new question for everyone.
What are you going to be the first to do? I’ll start us off — I’m already the first in my family to do volunteer work in Haiti. Next I’m going to be the first to travel to Africa and run my own non-profit. Let me know what firsts you’re excited to start achieving, and remember to dream big. Christiana did.
“If a woman is empowered through education, she will pass it on to her children, and the world would become a better place.” – Christiana Oduh