Defying boundaries and demonstrating nothing is impossible, Sotonye Diri encapsulates the term ‘young and ambitious’ perfectly. At only 26, she is the author of three inspirational books, a motivational speaker and an extraordinary business entrepreneur.
Diverting a conventional career path (after becoming a Law graduate), she took a calculated risk, moulding her aspirations to create the success she enjoys today. Exuding poise, passion and a wisdom beyond her years, it is evident she is not finished yet. Flavour talks to the multifaceted young female about her achievements, future ventures and her favourite flavour…
Can you give us a brief insight into the world of Sotonye Diri?
I am the author of three books: No More Excuses is a book that profiles the stories of 16 Afro-Caribbean role models in the UK and their journey to success. Colour To Success is a colouring and activity book for children. And finally, the No More Excuses Coaching Manual looks at goal setting, relationships and finances. I recently launched a book publishing company called SD Publishers and I also do events, which are based around three areas: personal development, assisting females with their careers and getting into business. I have a venue called SD Studios in Walthamstow and I am also a motivational speaker in schools, universities and other organisations.
Did you have that ‘light bulb moment’ when you knew exactly what you wanted to do?
I have always wanted to practise law, but decided that I no longer wanted to pursue that career in my final year. During that time, I was introduced to a guy who worked in a youth club and became an unqualified youth worker. Shortly after, I went to work in my former secondary school as a learning support assistant and then became a youth development officer. That year of youth work experience, coupled with the fact that I was willing to take that risk, has led me to become the entrepreneur, author and businesswoman that I am today.
Who is your role model?
My biggest role model is my mum, because of her character, strength and attitude. She showed me the importance of faith and not indulging in self-pity. My mum is the reason I do what I do, as she was the one who introduced me to the field of life coaching and personal development. My Bishop Ray Malcolm is another. As an author, motivational speaker life coach and entrepreneur, he is everything that I am and more.
What’s the biggest obstacle you have encountered and how did deal with it?
I was not comfortable with public speaking, so I’d shy away from every opportunity that presented itself. Ultimately I want to be an international motivational speaker, so I knew that I would have to throw myself into the deep end. Another obstacle was self-belief. I used to assist people with their events, but I put off hosting my own event, fearing that people would not attend. In 2010, I put on an event and from there we did four; next year we are looking to holding monthly events.
What provided the inspiration for your first book No More Excuses?
After speaking to a young girl who questioned the fact that I was black because of how I spoke and dressed, I realised that the younger generation’s negative perception of being black needed to be addressed and I set about creating a resource to inspire and educate them. I interviewed people like Dragons’ Den’s Levi Roots and MP Dawn Butler to show young people that there are UK role models who started in similar situations, but overcame the obstacles to be successful. In order to change one’s behaviour, you have to change the way they think. So this inspirational career book was created to give them that mind shift, either to change direction or to provide encouragement for those already on the right path.
What are the most common excuses you have encountered?
During my last business event, one girl admitted to being lazy, so I told her to visualise her life in five years time, not getting what you want, just because you could not be bothered to take action. Another common excuse is lack of time and being busy; but Richard Branson has the same 24 hours – it is all about time management, prioritising and being willing to make the sacrifices. Some people tend to just make excuses; I want people to see that obstacle and get past it to find that solution.
You launched SD Publishers this year, what do you hope to accomplish with it?
We have three clients who have launched their books and will have two more by the end of the year. We focus on self-publishing and want to gain the status as one of the most trustworthy and reliable companies, helping people to become authors. We give consultations to explain the process, assist with editing, designing, obtaining the ISBN and getting it out there on Amazon and book stores. There is a small investment, but the money you get out of book sales is worth it. Writing a book has opened so many doors for me and it has given me the opportunity to become a motivational speaker.
You have already been recognised for your achievements through awards, so what more for the future, where do you see yourself in a few years’ time?
Writing my last book in six days was one of the biggest achievements, alongside the tangible set-up of my venue, SD studios, but I am just at the beginning of my journey. I believe that I was put on this earth to make an impact and want to leave a foot print on this earth and a legacy behind. 2011 saw the launch of the book publishing company; next year we are looking to launch a personal development academy.
What advice would you give to any young entrepreneur/person shrouded in self-doubt?
The other way to overcome doubt, self-esteem and fear is to take action. You have to throw yourself in the deep end and swim your way to the top, as you are not going to drown. You may fail, but failing is part of the process, so never give up.
Finally, if you could encompass your personality into one flavour, what would it be?
It would have to be something sweet, like cookie dough, because of the hard exterior, but soft chocolate chips inside! When I do my motivational talks, I have to be blunt to get my point across, but when I speak to people after they can tell I genuinely do care.