How Oladeji Babalola is Using Medical Apparel to Promote Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

If you live in America or some other parts of the world, one unique identifier for healthcare workers is their scrubs and hats. If all you see in those outfits are just plain fabric with no style, wait until you learn about how Oladeji Babalola is executing his vision of using medical apparel to promote cultural diversity in the workplace. Babalola is an African-American Registered Nurse Anesthetist. In this interview, he shares the story about his background, career choice and his dreams of using medical apparel to promote cultural diversity in the workplace.

1. Please Introduce Yourself to Our Audience

My name is Oladeji Babalola. I am a Nigerian-American who grew up in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area for the most part. I am an RN, like many people of African Descent in America. However, I continued my education and completed a Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia. I work side by side with Physician Anesthesiologist and provide anesthesia and related services to ambulatory and surgical patients. I currently reside in Maryland, with my family and practice private contractor, anesthesia services to various hospitals in the northeast. 

2. What Was Growing Up Like?

Growing up in a Nigerian household in America had its tumultuous times. It was difficult to adjust to the norms and values of a country that contradicted the things you were told in your household. I had a great upbringing, however, and I was able to visit/reside in different states and towns as a young child. For instance,  we drove from Pennsylvania to California and then drove back to Pennsylvania, as a child. My family values education and that emphasis on education has helped me so much as an adult. 

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3. How Did Your Parents Influence You?

My parents emphasized hard work and education growing up. It has been very helpful as an adult. Being married, raising a family, and pursuing personal goals requires hard work. Also, my educational pursuits have helped put me in a career that sufficiently supports my family and others in need, when possible. 

4. Tell Us About a Major Turning Point in Your Life?

A major turning point in my life was during my graduate studies at Drexel University, in Philadelphia, PA. The program was very rigorous to the point where I wanted to quit altogether. Also, my graduate studies required a substantial financial sacrifice, in order to complete. Completing this program successfully has not only capitulated my income, but also my confidence. It has opened opportunities for me that would not have been possible otherwise. 

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5. What Informed Your Decision to Start Tribal Wave LLC?

The purpose of Tribal Wave LLC is to be the go-to, premier source of information, inspiration, and motivation for healthcare providers of the diaspora, through content, apparel, and accessories. The goal is to essentially increase, promote, and embrace diversity in the healthcare workforce.

I believe that we all use clothing and apparel to express ourselves in some way, shape, or form. Let’s face it, each and every day, our garments are a large part of what we present to the world. For instance, in the operating room, we use headwear to serve different purposes. Operating room personnel use scrub hats or boffonts as protective headwear. As I started to work in the operating room as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), the occupational headwear (Scrub Hats) became an opportunity for me, a healthcare provider of the African diaspora, to represent our cultural background. I believe the scrub hat could serve as a form of self-expression for others as well.
As I started my nursing career about 10 years ago, I was the only male of color in school in the majority of my work settings. This led to moments of loneliness, and at times, thoughts questioning whether I belonged in these work environments.

Essentially, feeling out of place, was a common scenario for me at work. My vision is that Tribal Wave serves as a source of self-expression, pride, and belonging for the healthcare providers and enthusiasts of the diaspora. We start this pursuit with a line of Ankara fabric-scrub hats, that can be used as an occupational headwear in the work setting, or even, as an alternative to a headwrap during leisure.

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6. What is Tribal Waves LLC All About?

Tribal Wave LLC is an African inspired medical apparel and accessories company. We are starting this venture with an array of medical scrub hats we call ‘Africaps,’ but are also known as “scrub caps.” Eventually, we will expand to other items like medical uniforms or “scrubs”.

7. What is Your Unique Selling Proposition?

The hope is that this merchandise will promote and engage diversity in the medical workplace. The vision is that other medical professions from international backgrounds will use these items as representations of their background. Hopefully, these pieces will serve as conversation starters, thus promoting the African Diaspora in the workplace. 

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8. Where Do You See Your Brand in 5 Years?

I hope to expand the brand internationally and serve as the leader in culturally-curated medical apparel for all medical professionals to embrace. 

9. What Challenges Are You Currently Facing and What Are The Steps You’ve Taken to Resolve Them?

A few challenges now, as a new business, are setting up systems and processes so business operates smoothly and in an orderly way, so anybody on the team can process orders or deal with any daily business routines.

Also, finding and pinpointing a particular market of customers seems straightforward but can be a challenge initially. Obviously, this is for medical professionals, but people outside of healthcare can enjoy the hats as well. We are having meetings and establishing protocols and procedures to help streamline some of our processes. We are also consulting a digital marketer to help identify and focus on our niche markets.

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10. What Advice Do You Have for People Who Want to Start Their Business?

Make sure you find a business that aligns your personal goals/missions/vision for your life. Some days, you will not have the energy to attend to business matters, but consistency is key. Also, create a team around you so others can encourage, motivate, and step into business matters as needed. 

11. What Current Projects Are You Working On?

We are still in our pre-launch phase. We have a limited number of Africaps, that we are selling at a discount. We are also seeking information or data on the people who have patronized our pre-launch inventory to get a better idea of our niche markets, and also to see what revisions or improvements can be done to the products itself before our official launch. 

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12. How Can Readers Reach or Connect You?

Our website is opening up in November. Details to follow. 

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13. What Else Would You Like to Say to Our Audience?

Thank you for showcasing TRIBAL WAVE LLC

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