New Westminster-based Odihi Foundation is building bridges for BIPOC women

The organization is hosting its first Bigger Ideas Conference at the Massey Theatre on September 16

Efe Fruci’s career has been an uphill battle. From getting bullied as a kid in Nigeria to now serving as the executive director of a not-for-profit organization, Fruci says that, as a Black woman, she has had to overcome barriers and discrimination at every turn.  

“I graduated and left high school at 13,” says Fruci, who was motivated to skip grades because she was tired of getting bullied. “I was like, I don’t want to be here, I want to be gone, married by 25, become a doctor, whatever. Everything we do at Odihi is shaped by that experience.” 

New Westminster-based Odihi Foundation helps BIPOC women and girls land opportunities and advance their careers through educational resources, programs, mentorship and events. It partners with businesses and organizations like Pick My BrainBlack Mentorship Inc. and Accenture to deliver its offerings, which are all inspired by Fruci’s journey to becoming an entrepreneur, scientist, author, career coach, TEDx speaker and mental health activist.  

“People that are supposed to actually champion you, a lot of them brought me down,” she says. After high school, she took a break from studies to help her single mom move to Belgium and raise Fruci’s sister. At 25, she enrolled in Oxford Brookes University to first pursue a bachelor’s and then a master’s in science.  

Efe Fruci of Odihi Foundation

“As a scientific student, I saw so many red flags,” says Fruci. “A lot of the textbooks that were written by Black authors were not acceptable as reading materials because they said they weren’t validated… yet when it came to testing black patients for pain tolerance, they were accepted then, for things that were always so degrading.” 

Fruci was even more shocked to learn that only two Black women are currently CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. She knew that there were others like her who were struggling in a system that felt like it didn’t want them to succeed, so she launched Odihi in 2020, two years after she moved to Vancouver with her husband. She specifically designed the Kwomais program to help prepare women under 35 for board and leadership positions. “That’s why Odihi is here,” says Fruci, “it’s to help us actually give more visibility to Black women and girls, and to do it freely, because it should be free.” 

On Saturday, September 16, Odihi will host its first Bigger Ideas Conference at the Massey Theatre. The event, powered by Vancity, is geared towards helping BIPOC students, entrepreneurs and newcomers connect with trailblazing women and leaders. “It’s about helping women take their mustard seed ideas to the next level,” adds Fruci. 

Since before its launch in 2020 to date, she says, Odihi has helped 3,000 women and girls around the world access education, resources and funds. Its boardroom program was able to help two women secure board positions and its online classroom has some 150 students. It’s clear that the road to diversity and inclusion remains long and winding, but Fruci is marching on.