Yemi penn was left homeless after her parents kicked her out for getting pregnant – now she run three businesses making £900k a year
When Yemi Penn told her parents she was 12 weeks pregnant, she was ordered to “pack her bags and never come back”.
But the single mum-of-two, now 37, was determined to make a success of herself – and is now the proud owner of three businesses making £900,000-a-year.
Yemi, from Brixton, South London, spent months sofa surfing, in rat-infested hostels with addicts, and even sleeping on the streets, only getting her own place four weeks before giving birth.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous Digital for #BOSSINGIT, our series about ordinary women who have launched incredible businesses, Yemi explained how she turned her life around.
She said: “On the day I found out I was pregnant, my parents said ‘you need to pack your stuff and don’t come back’.
“I was only 24 and thought ‘s***, I literally have nowhere to go’. I thought she would come round at some point, but she didn’t.
“I think it’s part of my culture, my mum was a single mum at the time with my dad being in Nigeria, and they were like ‘this isn’t acceptable, you need to go somewhere else’.
“I sofa surfed for a day or two and then I registered myself homeless with Lambeth Council.”
Although she had a boyfriend at the time, they weren’t in a position to move in together, and Yemi was constantly worried about the health of her unborn daughter Leah, now 12.
“On the day I found out I was pregnant, my parents said ‘you need to pack your stuff and don’t come back”
She said: “It was scary, I had always figured life was going to go a certain way.
“One night I slept on the doorstep of the town hall. It was a harsh reality, sitting on the stairs hoping nothing bad happened to me.
“I thought ‘how have I managed to f*** things up this badly? I’m out here waiting to be housed when the plan was to do the marriage thing, have 2.4 kids and buy a house.
“I was scared for my unborn daughter. It sounds extreme, but I was worried about being stabbed and going into premature labour.”
Yemi was homeless for six weeks, before being housed in a hostel in Norwood, Croydon.
She said: “It was pretty dire. I’m grateful I was off the streets but there were rats and mice and people who weren’t contributing to society in the way I was trying to.
“There was definitely drug dealing going on, I was genuinely scared.
“I remember someone trying to get in my room one night, I just pretended I was a guy and put on a deep voice to say ‘who’s there?’
“That was the moment I realised I was vulnerable and had hit rock bottom.
“After that, I went to the council begging that they would move me somewhere else.
“I was there for a couple of months and then finally got housed on a council estate in Streatham, four weeks before giving birth to my daughter.”
By the time she got pregnant, Yemi had a degree in mechanical engineering from Brunel University and was working on a graduate scheme at a chemical engineering company.
She added: “All the other graduates were planning their careers and I was six months into work, having to take 14 months off for maternity.
“Having a kid forces you to stand up tall, especially when my relationship with her dad began to fail, so I started focusing on my career.
“When the London Riots happened in August 2011, a place in Croydon got burnt down, and I was living in a council estate nearby with my daughter.
“That was a turning point for me, I thought ‘I need to get out of here’.
“I started going on dating apps, thinking ‘I want to run away from here’, and met a really lovely guy who was in the US Air Force and living in Japan.
“We got married when Leah was five but I found I wasn’t really made for being a military wife.
“I started to hustle, selling hair products from the States which you couldn’t get on the military base.
Yemi’s business empire
• Engineering consultancy business: based in Sydney and London. Turnover: £650k a year
• F45 gym: in Brixton, South London. Projected turnover: £250k this year
• W Squared coaching: life coaching business aiming to ’empower people to be their best versions of themselves'”Then an opportunity came up for me to move to Australia and do some consultancy work.
“We were already on the brink of a divorce so I moved to Australia with my seven-year-old daughter and seven-month-old son Levi, who’s five now.
“A year later, I set up my own consultancy firm.”
Having already taken out loans to start to move to Sydney, Yemi’s debts grew to £15,000 when she launched her own business in January 2016.
The jet-setter has now moved back to Brixton, but still travels Down Under regularly for work.
She said: “I worked round the clock on my own for two years straight, but now I have six people working for me. We turnover £650,000-a-year.
“The biggest challenge has always been finance, getting someone to invest in you before you can show healthy turnover.
“Last year, in September, I opened my gym in Brixton, part of the F45 chain. I hire about 11 people there and it’s set to make £250,000 this year.
“Now I’ve opened the gym, banks are pretty much throwing money at me.
“More recently I launched another business called W Squared Coaching, I’m really passionate about getting people from victim to victorious.
“Sometimes self belief is challenging. I’m sure some family and friends doubted me during my homeless phase and when I went to Australia.
“But my mum is now proud of the things I’ve done.
“I would tell other women thinking of starting a business to just do it, especially if they’re mothers, because that is a skill second to none.
“We can’t make a difference in the shadows. It’s out time to step up and step out.”