An exemplary model for every woman out there. Nothing seems to be capable of stopping her from reaching even beyond the zenith and she’s leaving no stone unturned. Jemilat Omowumi defies the order and has shown us that nothing is impossible than a willing heart.
Can you please introduce yourself to us?
My name is Jemilat Omowumi ADEYEMO nee ANIFOWOSE, and I am married to Engr. (Alhaji) AbdulHakeem Adewale ADEYEMO. I am a native of Owo kingdom, Yoruba tribe of Ondo state, Nigeria, in the Western part of Africa. I am a PhD Candidate in the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. I reside in Saskatoon, Canada, with my lovely family.
I am a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and I work as a proctor during undergraduate exams at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). I am a mentor and an educationist who loves to initiate study plans, and execute educational projects that will be beneficial to educational development in higher education. I like teaching and engaging students in developing their passion, and becoming confident in their chosen studies.
As a mom of three young princes and one princess, I cook for my family twice every day. My humble and welcoming personalities speak well when I entertain visitors, families, and friends. I learn and cook better every day. I have been developing more culinary skills and the art of plating food in my own little way. This indicates that I am a food plating enthusiast and a home-based/home-trained chef, resulting to the creation of J-Suzzie Culinary.
Thanks be to Allah (S.W.T).
LinkedIn account: Jemilat Omowumi ADEYEMO
Can you tell us about your background and how growing up was like to you?
I come from a nuclear family of six which includes my parents; (Professor Y.B. ANIFOWOSE and Mrs. C.T. ANIFOWOSE) and three (3) younger ones;(Hassan, Hussein and Rukayat ANIFOWOSE) all bubbling, Alhamdulillaah! My siblings and I grew up in Akure and we visited relatives in Owo occasionally; in this regards we all speak Yoruba language and Owo dialect fluently. My father is a Professor at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), while my mum is a retired Principal from Akure Muslim College, Ondo State, Nigeria.
As a lecturer’s daughter, I attended FUTA staff primary school, FUTA Staff Secondary School, and I eventually gained admission to study for Bachelor’s degree in Fisheries and Wildlife at the same environs – The Federal University of Technology, Akure. That is quite a unique trend for me because not all pupils whom we started together ended in the same university like I did. For my second degree, I gained admission to study at the University of Ibadan. However, I chose to pursue my master’s degree in Fisheries and Aquaculture Management at FUTA. So, you see (chuckles), I am a FUTA Alumna having spent about 20 years in the university environment. GREAT FUTARIANS, GREAT!!
While growing up as a family, I enjoyed being the first born as well as being a lecturer’s daughter. While I was much younger, my father would pick me up after my school hours, take me to his office (Geology department), complete his office work, and finally leave for home together. He would take me to his class whenever our school (FUTA Staff School) was on midterm break, and this way I enjoyed being around him and his students. As the first child of the family, I enjoyed meals that were worthy of first children, most especially delicacies like fish heads, chicken heads, rabbit heads. Developing in this realm of the family’s first child, I gained leadership skills among my siblings and as well represented some key roles such as the Class Monitor and Deputy Course Representative in my Secondary School and Higher Institution respectively.
I often travel to Owo to visit my grandparents and my great grandfather during my teen years. My late paternal grandmother was a highly industrious business woman who had a herd of goats and sheep. I assisted her in taking the animals for forage on grassland, and much later I assisted her with selling daily essentials.
Summarily, growing up was fun-filled, adventurous, educative, instructive and all in all interesting.
How did your growing up motivate you and what impact did it have in shaping your person and personality?
Growing up was a bit challenging. However, it was fun, religion-packed, and culture-based, and having the best parents to guide me is the most amazing motivation, which shaped me into who I am today. My parents ensured that I had the best Western and Islamic education, and morals as well to uphold our cultural values that make up part of my personality. My parents taught me to be God fearing, generous, loyal, honest, disciplined and focused, with my career and education. Growing with my siblings helped me with developing my leadership traits. Thus, enabling close relationship and promoting unity.
Right from my primary education through my secondary education, and up until my first degree, I had series of teachers and lecturers whose behaviours motivated my way of reasoning. I remember when my Junior Secondary School (JSS) maths teacher threatened me not to wear a hijab on my mufti clothes to school during summer lesson. I informed my father, he said that my teacher was literarily joking and that I should still wear my hijab the next day. On the next day, my teacher asked why I still wore it despite being warned, and I told him, “I am a Muslim and the hijab is part of my Islamic dressing”. He frowned at my statement but later accepted the hijab fact. And ever since I graduated from secondary school, he always called me Alhaja – someone who wears a hijab (in a layman’s context).
During my elementary school days, I learnt Qur’aanic and Islamic studies through two FUTA undergraduate students (Qasim Akinade and AbdulHakeem Munirudeen) and a sessional Sheikh (aka Aafaa Ainakum). In High school, I started visiting the Islamic Call and Guidance Centre in Akure owned by the Late Dr. AbdulGhanniy Idowu Ogunleye to learn more about Islam and the Quran. Knowing Alhaji Ogunleye shaped my knowledge about living as a young Muslim lady. My siblings and I became the pioneering students of the Qur’aanic School at Islamic Call and Guidance Centre and graduated after a few years with satisfactory knowledge in Qur’aan memorization. Furthering my pursuit to have substantial Qur’aanic and Arabic knowledge, I attended class on-campus (Obanla FUTA mosque) during my undergraduate degree. At the same time, I was motivated by an intimate friend of mine to attend an off-campus Arabic school (Al- Birr Model, Akure), where I studied for about 3 years. All these learning experiences happened alongside my undergraduate studies. These series of accumulated knowledge which I gained from different Qur’aanic schools of learning shaped my Islamic reasoning and morals. Hence, my personality.
To cap it, my wonderful husband is an optimistic individual as well as a goal-getter; who has been a key player in developing my career and my marital personality. He is always supportive and keeps encouraging me to forge ahead with my dreams of furthering my studies and becoming successful.
All being said, I give Allaah the gratitude, appreciate my parents, teachers, my husband and friends who shaped me into who I am today.
You are a Graduate Teaching Assistant at The University of Saskatchewan, how did you land the job?
The Teaching Assistantship position is like a scholarship – cum temporary work position. I got the first opportunity to be a Teaching Assistant (TA) in December 2018 and another one in December 2019. This is my third time of being a TA, a position given to graduate students who are eligible and who show utmost interest in teaching and learning.
How long did you lecture in Federal College of Forestry, Ibadan, and what was the experience like?
I lectured for a couple of years in Federal College of Forestry (FCF), where I gained scholarly experience and improved my skills in terms of teaching and research in Academics. My dressing was simple and unique, so I was easily noticed within a few weeks that I assumed my teaching role. I developed good rapport with the students especially my project students, one of whom came with his mum to greet and show gratitude to me. I was perplexed and asked myself, “What have I done to deserve this honour?” In addition, staff members (teaching and non-teaching) appreciated the way which I made my voice heard whenever I evaluate students’ defense presentations. I always had feedback and comments for students during their defense presentations. Hence, I got the name ‘The Critical Alhaja’. (Laughs).
What challenges did you face while lecturing in Federal College of Forestry and how did you handle them?
My stay at the Federal College of Forestry, FCF, was quite short. However, I had no challenges regarding teaching and research as a female Muslim. I enjoyed every single moment I spent; teaching and attending to the college students. At FCF, I observed a substantial teacher-student rapport with my students, because I was determined to instill general moral and outstanding academic characters in them. Hence, they thought I was too strict. But I am sure they enjoyed my stay and missed my absence.
As a fully covered Muslim Lecturer, there was no barrier to observing Salat (congregational prayers), because the College has a mosque where we observe congregational and Friday prayers. I excuse myself to go to the mosque to pray the obligatory prayers and no one ever questioned my personality in relation to my religion. In fact, whenever there were monthly meetings, the program coordinator would call on any Muslim lecturer to give the opening prayer in an Islamic way. So, I believe that was a great privilege to be honored as a Muslim lady in an Academic environment.
You are a PhD candidate, what inspired you to pursue your PhD and what course are you doing?
The journey of my being in the Academia indirectly started from my family, maybe an inborn trait. My father is currently a Professor and a HOD (Remote Sensing Department) at my alma mater (FUTA) where he has spent 35 years as a lecturer. As the first born of the family and a lecturer’s daughter, I believe I have the inborn leadership traits. I see such examples when I took care of my younger ones. Thus, ensuring that their welfare as the eldest child is my utmost priority.
During my primary school days, I acted as a queen in a French play organized by Monsieur Dayo Omotoyinbo (French language teacher). In my secondary school days, I became a female class monitor and helped a couple of our teachers write lesson notes on the blackboard, because I was a legible fast writer. All through my undergraduate days, I was a Class Rep and acted as an intermediary between lecturers and my classmates. A couple of years after, I worked in Breakthrough International Group of schools, Ibadan, as an Introductory Technology and Agricultural Science teacher. On seeing my leadership and management strategies, the school management promoted me to the post of a Vice Principal within my second year of resumption. I was quite surprised by this sudden and quick upgrade, being a very new teacher. Furthermore, I gained more interest in becoming an Academia as I gathered more experiences in teaching and research at the Federal College of Forestry in 2012. I have worked with leaders in the education sector and I have good rapport with senior academic staff.
Although my first and second degrees were in sciences, securing a Ph.D. admission in Educational Administration is by Allah’s will, He knows best. Currently, I am a Ph.D. Candidate at the U of S, with research interests in distributive leadership, faculty development and management, and teaching in Higher Education.
Why did you choose to become a Foodpreneur? Did your being a Muslim have any impact in making such decision?
Inadvertently, I must have gained inborn culinary skills from my paternal grandmother, who was a well-known food seller back in the days before I was born (according to stories told by my parents). No wonder I always loved the Okro soup that my grandma cooks, with its delish aroma. It was as if the soup was made from Heaven. Secondly, my mum’s meals such as Akara, moin moin, pressure-cooked beans, egusi (melon) soup, obe oogun (traditional soup) were all extraordinary dishes that swept me off my feet while I was growing up. Not to be forgotten is my dad’s delicious and finger-licking signature of boiled yam and onion-laced ata (pepper) sauce. That being said, I would say all these experiences, the hereditary traits, and being a Muslim broadened my passion to becoming a Foodpreneur.
As a Muslim, wife and mother, I believe that it is one of my responsibilities to build a happy family, to create satisfaction, and to ensure contentment among my family members. And one way to do that, is to cook sumptuous meals for my family, encourage healthy living, and promote happiness and joy among individuals.
As my immediate family grew, my kids and I moved to Finland in 2014 to join my husband, who was studying. I developed more passion in making good-looking, colourful, and sumptuous meals, which afterwards I display on my social media platform. In 2016, we migrated to Canada to commence my PhD journey. Then, another inspiration emerged!! With the minority population status of Muslims here in Canada, I decided that providing halal food and Nigerian dishes was crucial to the acclimatization of new comers and helping Nigerian-Canadians to sustain their African food sensation. Hence, I started exploring more African dishes, as well as a few continental dishes. I took more pictures of my home-cooked dishes to display on my social media (WhatsApp, Twitter, and Instagram) status. Soon, I started growing customers for my culinary signature dishes.
Can you tell us what J_Suzzie Culinary is all about? And when did you start it officially?
J_Suzzie Culinary is a representation of culinary skills and services which displays the Nigerian cuisine majorly, and a few continental dishes. The beauty in food dishes, eating awesome home-made and healthy sumptuous meals for everyone is a major thing that relates with me. I started J_Suzzie Culinary privately in 2014 at Hämeenlinna, Finland, and officially in 2017 in Canada, as I had extreme interest in food plating and presentation. Thus, generating individual satisfaction with food, at first sight. This is the major reason behind the neat food display on my social media pages, spending much time to take awesome pictures of my homemade dishes to showcase my passion and enthusiasm, and it eventually led to advertisement purposes. So, I engaged in making food for friends, families, for Islamic gatherings, the community – traditional dishes, snacks, sweets, smoothies – and for small businesses. Currently, it is a growing business moving towards a well-recognized culinary business.
check our page on Instagram; j_suzzieculinary
In running J_Suzzie Culinary, what challenges have you faced and how did you handle them?
As I explained earlier, it is a small business which is still developing. For now, I juggle between being a graduate student, a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA), a wife and a mom to a young family of six. I dedicate a little of my extremely busy time to this business. However, as time passes and I complete the highest level of degree, I hope to expand the business and dedicate more time to it than now. And as the business develops, there will be a need to get more hands to assist in expanding the business.
The challenge of getting quite expensive food ingredients, as well as constant patronage seems dominant. Reasons could be due to importation of food ingredients from our motherland. As a developing business, it is important to consider the level of patronage before making the dishes. The more patronage I get, the more quantity of food ingredients that I purchase; and the more supply for a demanding large community, the better for the business.
Conclusively, I believe that with time the business will go places and grow into a bigger one.
What plans do you have for J_Suzzie Culinary?
I have a great plan for this business, which entails providing healthy meal plans, African dishes, and, if possible, I will include more continental dishes for individuals. I want to create a unique signature which will be a well-known food service to majorly Nigerians in diaspora, ease ways of going a long way to getting halal food in the community, and provide African dishes across to people in diaspora. An additional future plan is to collaborate and provide my services to airlines, hotels, private educational institutions, and recreation centers – God willing.
What’s your business philosophy?
My business philosophy is contentment and satisfaction for my customers. I would provide my services to my customers, thus, hoping they show a smiling expression before and after consuming my dishes. I appreciate when my customers or recipients sight my plating, taste my dish, and ask for more; that moment I feel fulfilled. I want to see that smile of satisfaction and heave of relief….You know what I’m saying. (Smiles)
What are your principles in life?
Well, life is a small place of learning similar to a school where we meet people, interact with them, learn from them, and we part to, hopefully, meet again. My philosophy is “do good deeds and stay trustful wherever you find yourself, who knows what the future will bring”. There is this indication of joy and happiness when you meet anyone later in life, after having spent fulfilled moments together in the past. I derived my life philosophy from the joyful moments I experience whenever anyone remembers me, or having met someone who gets linked up. I want to be remembered for good, and equally reminisce good moments once shared.
An example is seen during my days at the FCF (Federal College of Forestry) as a lecturer where I came across a lot of students, and a few of them kept in touch with me ever since. If I had not been good to them, they wouldn’t have been delighted to relate with me anytime afterwards. So, that’s it.
In this life, do good, be nice, and strive to put smile on people’s faces.
Being a Muslim, has that in any way impacted your career decisions? And would you say, your being a Muslim has played a role in your life?
Way back as a young Muslim, the way female Muslims are approached and represented in public is unreasonable and very much rampant. While I was much younger, a stranger in Nigeria once asked if I was a Muslim, and I answered in affirmative. He said; “You are too beautiful to be a Muslim!”. I was embarrassed and dumbfounded. In my undergrad days, a classmate once said; “One day, you will still remove this thing on your head!”. Till today, I uphold my religion and dressing more than before.
My career decisions have been basically based on my beliefs and my inner wishes, as I wanted to impact people’s lives in a positive way. Being a Muslim has played unique roles in my life. I have been able to encourage people through my way of dressing, the way I relate, and my generosity has earned me great status in the lives of several individuals. As a female Muslim with full covering, I earn respect each time I am at public gatherings in Nigeria and much more in diaspora.
Here in Canada, I have attended both social and academic gatherings, workshops, and seminars, where I chaired sessions, facilitated discussions, and coordinated undergraduate examinations. All this while, I have never been disrespected as a female Muslim. Instead, I am well-recognized and appreciated. Faculty staff and colleagues always showed interest and appreciated my enthusiasm in learning, my dressing and the success of my young family. That being said, a stranger made a comment about my dressing. The woman was watching me while my friend (Kareen) and I were passing by the BOWL (U of S social focal point). She passed by us, and kept looking back and looking back. She then walked back and said: “You look like a goddess”. I blushed and said “Thank you”.
So, as a Muslim woman, I am bold, faithful, respectful, generous, and appreciative of people. The people I meet love me the way I am, and that is why I am here at this point in my life!
How do you balance your marital life with school and running a business?
Thank you for asking this question about balancing marital life, school, and running a business. Marital life of being a wife and mum is quite challenging on its own, and so is my schooling. However, balancing marital life and school for now is manageable because this culinary business is in its youngies. In short, I do not deprive one of the other. What I mean is that I do not allow any of these ambitions clash with another. So, I give time to my family as required, and I create time to study and grow in my educational career. However, times when there is challenge between handling these three key sections of life, I make my family understand that it is for a while and that all will be well. I appreciate my husband for his patience in this regard.
As a former lecturer, what is your advice for Muslim students in the university?
Muslim students should have a unanimous goal of togetherness wherever they find themselves, either as students in the College or as undergraduates in the University. I believe that when they are united, then any individual will find Islam easy to practice anywhere. Nowadays, the population of Muslims is increasing far and wide, so I think that there is always someone you would see as a Muslim in any community. However, if none or a few, then you need to be steadfast with practicing Islam as an individual wherever you find yourself.
I understand that practicing Islam in countries where Muslims are seen as minorities could be challenging, especially at places of learning. However, Muslim students need to understand that being minorities make us easily noticed anywhere we go. In other words, we are easily recognized by our mode of dressing and appearance. So, Muslim students should strive to be at their best in all aspects of learning. They should possess outstanding moral knowledge as well as Islamic knowledge. However, understanding of the religion should not be jeopardized for western learning. It is not a new phenomenon to see Muslim undergraduates excel in both western education and Islamic knowledge. This is seen at University convocation ceremonies where Muslims scoop all prizes and sweep the audience off their feet.
Summarily, being a Muslim does not stop you from excelling in any aspect of life. I have seen living examples of Muslim men and women excelling in their chosen career paths. So, we can do it! Let us strive for the best, and be modest with our religion. Definitely Islaam entails no extremism or extravagance.
What is your advice for Muslimahs generally?
My general advice to Muslimahs (practicing female Muslims) is that they should have a sound and authentic knowledge of Islaam. Moreover, they might need to develop themselves by upgrading their Islamic knowledge. With sound Islamic knowledge and education, Muslimahs will command respect and people will look up to them as role models. There are several examples of Muslimahs leading in different aspects of disciplines such as Aisha Dahiru Attah, Hafsah Dabiri, Yasmin Mogahed, Haneefah Adam, Maryam Lemu, Natasha Somalia, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Naima B. Robert, Farhatul Fairuzah, Layinka Sanni, Zahra Zakariya Abdulkareem, and myself inclusive. These Muslimahs are known for their identities as female Muslims whose interests range from public speaking to academia, sports, coaching, business, arts etc. Just name that discipline. They are first known by their appearances as Muslims and then exploring their life styles bring out the uniqueness in them.
Because we as Muslimahs are addressed by our identities – the hijab – at first sight, I would encourage that we should be well-informed and confident as Muslimahs. In addition to having sufficient understanding of Islam as well as being bold with our lifestyles, we can forge ahead into the future with our positive plans in life. And Allah the Bestower of blessings will grant us magnificent blessings as well as ease our affairs as Muslimahs.
What is/are your advice(s) for those who wish to become an entrepreneur or tow your path?
It is an excellent idea to become an entrepreneur in this generation of ours. Being an entrepreneur brings out the definitive you!! Your talents are well displayed, while struggles, strengths and challenges come into play. This way, your ability to survive the entrepreneurship industry is not underemphasized here. My piece of advice is:
- Have a prior solid interest and determination of being an entrepreneur. So, the idea of becoming an entrepreneur should not be anyone’s idea but yours, and not because everyone is doing it. Be creative with your ideas. Do things differently and bring out the uniqueness in you.
- To achieve success in being an entrepreneur, you should plan well ahead of time and utilize the SWOT strategy (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat). Such plans must have been projected on a long-term basis, in order to yield positive results.
- Try to improve your steadfastness towards Allaah and make more sincere supplications.
Summarily, I would advise that you should generate your ideas, have a future plan of whatever you want to achieve, and be steadfast with your belief.