Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola is one very enterprising game changer whose name will go down in history as one of Nigeria’s greatest trailblazers. Just last week, news had it that her innovative waste management company, Wecyclers, had signed a partnership deal with Guinness Nigeria Plc, with the aim of addressing some pressing environmental concerns. Specifically speaking, this partnership will see Guinness work with Wecyclers to reduce, reuse, recover and recycle waste.
This important initiative is poised to have a direct positive impact on both the environment and the economy. Guinness could not have chosen a better partner as Wecyclers’ achievements concerning waste management in Nigeria have been impressive. But all these would not have been possible without the innovative thinking and astute leadership of Bilikiss, the Co-Founder and former CEO of the company. The young woman was also recently appointed the Managing Director of the Lagos State Parks and Gardens Agency (LASPARK) after half a decade of leading the innovation at Wecyclers.
For her immense contributions to the Nigerian economy, we have chosen to feature her as our CEO of the week. Read on to know more about her.
Early life in Nigeria
Bilikiss was born in 1983 into a relatively wealthy family in Lagos. She grew up mostly in Lagos where she completed her secondary school education at Supreme Education Foundation Secondary School. Afterward, she enrolled at the University of Lagos for a Law degree but opted out mid-way into her first year at the school to continue her education in the United States of America, where she lived for over a decade.
University education in the United States of America
In 2003, Bilikiss graduated with a BSc. in Computer Science from Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee. That same year, she enrolled for a master’s programme at Vanderbilt University also in Nashville, graduating in 2005 with an MSc. in Computer Science.
Five years after she acquired her first master’s’ degree, Bilikiss went back to school for an MBA. This time, she chose the Sloan School of Management at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and completed the programme in 2012.
Corporate experience prior to co-founding Wecyclers
While at Vanderbilt for her MSc. Bilikiss worked as a Research Assistant, a job that involved the development and implementation of a Multi-Agent Architecture System utilised in TAG research software.”
Between December 2005 and June 2010, she worked as a Staff Software Engineer at IBM. This was her first full-time corporate job where she was fully involved in the design and implementation of key user interface components. She also worked with clients towards the resolution of deployment issues, managed internal product deployment serving thousands of users, as well as other critical roles.
In May 2011, she became a Summer Consultant at CSMG Global, a strategic consulting firm changing the rules of the game in communications, technology, and digital media industries.”
Return to Nigeria and the establishment of Wecyclers
Bilikiss moved back to Nigeria sometime between late 2011 and early 2012. In 2012, she co-founded Wecyclers Corporation, a profit-making social enterprise specialised in the promotion of environmental sustainability and economic development through the recycling of waste, particularly plastics. The idea for the business was born during Bilikiss’ stint as a student at MIT. At the time, she was studying waste as a course and could not stop thinking about Nigeria’s waste management crisis and what she could do to help.
She eventually did something about the waste situation by establishing Wecyclers. The company changed the status quo in the waste management ecosystem by offering incentives to low-income Lagos residents to recycle right at home, while supplying their recycled rubbish to Wecyclers for crushing and reuse.
Under Bilikiss’ leadership, Wecyclers grew. The company was able to generate its own revenue, while equally raising money through donor agencies. In 2015, Wecyclers won $55,000 from Case Foundation during the #PitchForLagos event at the Lagos Startup Week.
In 2016, the company got an offer from the serial investor, Eric Guichard, who promised to help grow Wecycler’s asset. According to him, “We will issue a 2 to 5 years diaspora bond against those assets that will be backed 50% by the US Government through USAID development credit authority.” Guichard made this statement after listening to Bilikiss talk about the challenges she and her team had faced in the course of doing business, during a BBC Radio programme hosted by Didi Akinyelure.
Also still under Bilikiss’ leadership, Wecyclers gained much recognition; awards received include, the Le Monde Smart-Cities 2017 Global Innovation Awards, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards 2017, Seif Awards, Sustania Awards, etc.
In September 2017, it was announced that Bilikiss would be stepping down as the CEO of Wecyclers, even as Olawale Adebiyi would take over as Chief Executive Officer. This change in management was to enable to take up a public appointment as the Managing Director of LASPARK. By this time, she had worked in that capacity for five years. She is expected to continue her environmental agenda here: keeping Lagos clean, healthy and beautiful for all.
NOTE: Every week, Nairametrics profiles CEOs, Founder, and Executives who are making a difference in Corporate Nigeria. We celebrate their contribution to the economy through wealth creation, job creation and enhancement of shareholder value.