A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Femi Oloruntoba, the co-founder and Chief Growth Officer at Esta Link Inc – a Toronto and Austin based startup that matches homeowners to professional contractors through picture messaging.
Femi who migrated to Canada from Nigeria 10 years ago as an international student is a seasoned business development and strategic marketing leader. He has over 10 years of experience delivering revenue growth and customer experiences through customer engagement, strategy development and execution, and new and recurring sales generation within the medical device, software, wholesale, and construction sectors with high energy, analytics, and pragmatism.
Femi holds a Bachelor’s (Hons) in Chemistry (Nigeria), two Executive MBAs from Queen’s University (Kingston, ON) and Cornell University (Ithaca, NY). He is also an alumnus of the International Business Management graduate program at Centennial College. He also serves on the advisory team for the undergraduate and graduate certificate program at Centennial College and is a director at the Canada-Vietnam Trade Council.
During our interview, we talk about the Esta App, his journey as an entrepreneur, his journey as an African Immigrant, balancing his startup and other parts of his life. Enjoy.
Dami Adeniyi: Tell us about the Esta Link app?
Femi Oloruntoba: The Esta Link came about when one of our three founders bought a house for the first time and needed to get some work done on the house. Like most people she searched the web for roof serving contractors but had challenges finding a reasonably priced and trusted contractor. We experienced the frustration homeowners face trying to get a quote using web searches and platforms like Yelp, Craigslist, Kijiji e.t.c. The highly rated contractors were too expensive and sometimes booked out six months or more and so we decided to create a platform that bridges the gap. That was how Esta was born.
Dami Adeniyi: You mentioned Platforms like Yelp, Kijiji, or Craiglist. What would you say is your competitive advantage? Why Esta Link?
Femi Oloruntoba: Unlike those other apps, we match homeowners to contractors through picture and video messaging, offering a streamlined process that quickly gets the quotes you need. You just take a picture or video of the damage or problem you are trying to fix, put it on the app and get a quick estimate form, nearby contractors. That easy!
Dami Adeniyi: Impressive! So what cities is Esta in?
Femi Oloruntoba: At the moment, we are in Texas, USA and in Ontario, Canada and are working on expanding to British Columbia and the Prairies soon.
Dami Adeniyi: Let’s talk about your journey as an African immigrant in Canada. How has that been?:
Femi Oloruntoba: It has been great! Been in Canada now for 10 years.
Dami Adeniyi: If you could change something about the African-Canadian community what would it be?
Femi Oloruntoba: Procrastination. We need to be more of doers.
Dami Adeniyi: I find as immigrants we are hesitant in starting businesses. What advice will you give budding immigrant entrepreneurs?
Femi Oloruntoba: Just START! One of my regrets in not starting earlier because of fear. Don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from your mistakes and keep it moving.
Dami AdeniyI: Being an entrepreneur is not as glamorous as people sometimes make it seem, it can be very lonely at times. It can also take a toll on your mental health. How are you able to keep a healthy life balance?
Femi Oloruntoba: Yes, it can be really difficult, especially when you are working close to 20 -21 hours a day sometimes, It is so easy to be consumed by it. I don’t really have the right answer, but what has worked for me is having the right support system and knowing when to turn off all my devices. It’s difficult but I had to learn to do it.
Dami Adeniyi: Where do you see Esta 5 years from now?
Femi Oloruntoba: Definitely in more cities in North America and by then we should be in the African Market.