Christiana Oduh was born in Anambra, an eastern state of Nigeria. When she was nine, her family, who is Igbo, sent her to Chicago to help a family member care for her children. With no immediate family here, it was not an easy transition. Besides the language barrier, it was very apparent that she did not fit in. In fact, Christiana was taunted and teased throughout her years at school. But she persevered, determined to succeed.
Christiana worked to put herself through college and graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago at the top of her class with a double major in economics and marketing. She got married after graduation and worked in the small business area at AT&T. Her plans were to eventually go to law school, work in corporate America and then own her own business. Christiana soon became pregnant with her daughter Katherine who was born three months premature and weighed less than two pounds at birth. This was in 1994 and many people doubted that Katherine would make it. But Christiana knew she would and she had to find a career that would allow her to stay home to care for her. Christiana had sold Avon while in high school and college and didn’t realize that she already had her business right in her own backyard.
Balancing family and her business
She had heard that there were Representatives who had very successful businesses. “I thought to myself that in the next few years, I can sell Avon and have my children,” says Christiana. She would pack up her daughter and her orders and travel around Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs delivering that personal touch. Her second daughter, Felicia was born four years later. Each year, Christiana reached new heights with her business. “Owning my own business came earlier than I had planned and it allowed me the flexibility to make a comfortable living with my husband Nicholas who was a systems analyst and is now a real estate broker. I built a thriving business while having the time to be there for my children during critical periods of their childhood and putting off daycare for the first two years after their births. I have also had the ability to visit my mother and my six sisters and brothers back home in Nigeria, “says Christiana who is featured in the first-ever Avon Opportunity commercials airing nationally.
Christiana, who is seriously considering Leadership, says that her main source of inspiration has been her mother. “She has always instilled in me to strive to be the best in everything that I do. I have done it in my education, with my family and in my business. My mother is an eternal optimist and always happy, despite the challenges she has had in life which included losing her husband some years ago. She treats everyone with the utmost respect and I hope that I have learned that from her. One of the reasons why I am still here in the U.S. is to help her, “says Christiana who hopes to fulfill that goal in the years to come when she saves enough money to begin construction on a handicap-accessible home for her mother.
Speaking at the United Nations
In a speech that Christiana gave at the United Nations on March 7 to support Avon’s commemoration of International Women’s Day she said: “The lessons my mother has taught me have given me the confidence and courage to pursue all my dreams. In that pursuit, I have not only survived, but I have thrived. As I watch my daughters grow, I think about their future and the legacy of success that I will pass onto them. I want to do my best to help women back home with health and child care issues and to lift the spirits of all women in Nigeria. I believe that when every woman is given a chance that they become empowered and, as a result, great things can happen.”
Reminiscing on what it was like at the start of her Avon business, Christiana recalls that “At first, everyone thought that Avon was just a hobby for me and would say, ‘why don’t you get a real job?’ But I am working and this is a career where I am in charge, making decisions and making a difference. Now with my success, my family jokes that, ‘ Christiana owns Avon now.'”