Mo·ré·ni·ké: the Trend-setting Pharmacist


  • Founded “Ribbon Rouge” at 22
  • Qualified as a Pharmacist at 25
  • Opened a fashion outfit at 27
  • Became a Pharmacy associate with Shoppers Drug Mart at 28
  • Sews, knits and paints with uncommon dexterity:

Meet an African difference-maker in Alberta:

Mo·ré·ni·ké - NIGERIA

In the comity of persons who can thump their chests for having accomplished many major achievements in their early to mid-twenties, Morenike Eniola Olaosebikan, 30, stands tall. Within six years – between her 22nd and 28th birthdays – Morenike, Nikky to her friends, accomplished six awe-inspiring milestones.

Early Years

The eldest child in a family of six, Nikky showed signs of greatness early in life. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, to a physician father and a chemist-turned businesswoman mother, Nikky was always one of the youngest and brightest in her class.

She was motivated to do well by both parents who challenged her in extremely different ways. Nikky recalls on the one hand, receiving adulations from her father whenever she came home with a school scorecard that awarded her over ninety percent. Her mother, on the other hand, always demanded to know what happened to the outstanding ten percent! Although her mother’s reaction to her ‘great grades’ puzzled her at the time, Nikky soon learned that it was her mother’s, Kofoworola, way of toughening her up for the real world and all its challenges.

Nikky believes her mother taught her to see herself, and not her classmates, as her biggest competition. She could be the best in everything she ventures into, her mother would tell her. Her mother has influenced all her work ethics, attitude to life, thoughts about what and how much she can accomplish.

As an early demonstration of her resourcefulness, Nikky took to sewing at age 8 using the sewing machine she inherited from her grandmother. With a sewing machine and a natural inclination to make things, Nikky began spending more time indoors; more time than her gregarious younger siblings could appreciate. She found the times when her brother would like her to kick a ball around the house were just as perfect for her to knit, make a new drawing or just be introspective.

Despite her mother’s influence on how she has turned out, Nikky says: ‘I really don’t think I have a role model’. The Bible, says Nikky, has helped to shape her principles, outlook on life, and guiding principles in ways similar to mother’s. Once in her early teens, she decided to explore one outdoorsy activity and biking was her sport of choice. Not everything went as planned though. She fell of the bicycle and abandoned learning to ride. True to her resilient nature, Nikky – aged 26 years - determinedly picked up a bike and learned the art of cycling.

Life changing moments

In 2006, she established Ribbon Rouge, a charitable organization that was borne out of her first-hand experience of the plights of HIV/AIDS patients in Lagos, Nigeria. Unfortunate to have contracted tuberculosis in 2002, Nikki underwent nine agonizing months of chemotherapy treatment at a clinic that also treated HIV patients.

Only 19 at that time, Nikky experienced up close the poor treatment HIV patients were subjected to. From lack of treatment to stigmatization and painful deaths, Nikky felt HIV sufferers deserved better treatment than they could access in the prevailing health system. For the first time, she was face-to-face with HIV and although she was emotionally and physically tasked by her ailment, she was acutely aware that she needed to do something to create more positive experiences for people living with the virus.

At the time, she thought herself handicapped as she felt one needed to be a qualified healthcare provider or a multi-millionaire to be effective. Later on, Nikky would unearth a couple of her talents -- sewing and painting; and the gears to fulfilling the promise she had made to herself and to humanity would be set in motion.

Birth of Ribbon Rouge

The journey to reaching her objective of playing her part in the de-stigmatization of HIV patients commenced on a -40ºc day when she came to Edmonton in December 2003. She had been accepted into the University of Alberta Medical School to study Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Although she had always wanted to follow her father’s footstep and become a physician, Pharmacy offered an interesting challenge.

At the University of Alberta, Nikky met a group of like-minded friends with whom she shared her idea of raising funds for HIV awareness. Nikky subsequently pitched the fund raising idea to an Afro-Carribean student group which supported the initiative. Thus, Ribbon Rouge was born!

The fund-raising idea was innovative: Nikky would design and sew African inspired clothes using mostly African fabrics, make drawings of famous personalities and these  artworks would then be put up for auction at a Ribbon Rouge social event. The proceeds would then be donated to groups that raise public awareness for HIV.

That simple yet potent formula has netted over $30,000 in the seven years since the Ribbon Rouge event became an annual social gathering in Edmonton, Alberta. The 2013 Ribbon Rouge annual fundraiser is the biggest and most successful since inception owing to the efforts of volunteers that Nikky describes as “amazing people.”

In order to create a wonderful ambience for the night, Nikky secured space for the Ribbon Rouge 2013 at Edmonton’s Lexus South Pointe where guests were treated to a memorable night. According to Nikky, the 2013 event started the conversation toward breaking some of the barriers against HIV care in the Edmonton region. The 2013 event and the publicity leading to that day transformed Ribbon Rouge from a small, “student platform” to a large platform that allowed politicians, doctors, nurses and other health care practitioners in the city to participate in raising funds for HIV awareness.

Click to view Photos of Ribbon Rouge 2013 Fundraiser


Nikky’s achievements will, no doubt, be a challenge to many in her generation and older: she qualified as a pharmacist at age 25; opened a fashion outfit at age 27 and became a pharmacy franchise owner with Shoppers Drug Mart at age 28, all in a spate of 3 years!

As a business owner at just 30 years, Nikky manages 27 staff at her Shoppers Drug Mart outlet, 3 staff at her fashion company - Arewa, and 6 board members, including 26 regular volunteers, at Ribbon Rouge.

Nikky's appetite for community giving has only begun: currently, she participates in the International Pharmacists Bridging Program as a way of tutoring international pharmacists for the licensure recognition at Edmonton's Bredin Centre for Learning.

Community engagement

She also mentors several youth groups and help organize events for African socio-cultural associations in Edmonton. Nikky runs a fashion company – Arewa – where she designs and sews eye-catching outfits made of African materials for upwardly mobile individuals.

To solidify her love for books, Nikky has carved out some time in her tightly packed schedule to found a book club. With up to 16 members, her book club, which is creatively named “The Untitled book club”, is already a project that she hopes will blossom into something positive and impactful amongst her cycle of friends and her community.

Thoughts about Canada

For a lady for whom coming to Canada to study was a ‘default choice’, it is interesting that Nikky now loves living here. However, and for someone so active in the community, Nikky’s love for Canada does not cast a shade over her definition of home. She believes ‘home’ is with her family and her close friends and given that she still has her family and friends outside the country Nikky is slow to call Canada ‘a home a way from home.’

Among many positives she sees in the country, Canada gives Nikky enough stability to plan for her future, being a person who loves to plan ahead.

Although these haven’t hindered Nikky’s career growth, she would however like to change the stereotypes that Africans face in Canada. She speaks of some of her many telephone episodes with some alumni when she worked as a ‘student caller’.

Charged with calling some of the school’s alumni to solicit funds for scholarships for Canadian students (which she wasn’t qualified to apply for being an international student), she recalls once being unfairly accused by an alumni who felt Nikky’s spot in the medical school could have been allotted to their child: a Canadian!

Photos courtesy Morenike Olaosebikan.

Quite surprising to Nikky, many of the alumni would often assume that she had called them to solicit for her own school fee when in fact she was only doing a job she was being paid for. Nikky describes some of the alumni’s reactions as ‘visceral, rude and argumentative’. This she puts down to judging her by her African accent.  

In another instance, Nikky experienced a sudden, unexpected change in her shabby treatment by a staff of an Edmonton-based bank when that staff, on viewing her bank account, realized that - though black - she was a business owner!  

These experiences do not appear to have dampened Nikky’s enthusiasm for Canada as she says stereotypes “don’t get in my way; they don’t limit my potentials.”

To broaden her knowledge, Nikky reads widely. She has read many books, out of which she ranks Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner and Yann Martel's Life of Pi as her favourite. Nikky spends time watching romantic comedy flicks and regularly listens to Fela Kuti’s afrobeat music.

There should be no doubting that Morenike is a rising African star to watch for in Canada. 

Unveiling Nikky:

Favourite TV showThe Good Wife

African of noteDora Akunyili 

Would like toVisit Singapore

Enjoys: Swimming

Craziest stuff: Jumped off a cliff, zip-lined, and walked a tight rope in Mexico.

Nikky's Awards Shelf:

2013: Sizzling 20 under 30 award winner

2013: Essence Woman of the Year

2013: Black Community Role Model


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