Build Better Podcast

A Commitment to Giving Back with Bolanle Williams-Olley

by Emily Langner

Bolanle Williams-Olley

On season 2, episode 3 of the Build Better podcast, Anastasia welcomed Bolanle (Bola) Williams-Olley, partner and chief financial officer at architectural firm Mancini Duffy.

Williams-Olley is also the founder of the SheBuilds Movement and a mom of two. As a CFO, Bola is setting an example for women throughout the AEC industry with her leadership and commitment to giving back. She continues to pursue her passion for helping the communities in her home country of Nigeria, along with creating opportunities to empower women here in the U.S.

Williams-Olley has founded four impact organizations: SheBuildsWaves, SheBuildsLives, SheBuildsMoney, and REACH Nigeria. On her passion for giving back, she comments, “I’m always thinking about how I can solve a problem or bring a solution to something that people might be struggling with.”

When she became CFO at Mancini Duffy, she says she wanted to find a way to “foster and hold space for women within the industry to come together and  have real honest conversations about their career paths, career trajectories…and understand that they are more than just their jobs.” She believes that “when you are able to show up authentically to your position and role, you will thrive.” She created SheBuildsWaves to create that space for women to explore “all the things that make us who we are,” which include topics such as success, authenticity, and personal branding.

Williams-Olley also created SheBuildsLives, a nonprofit that focuses on addressing needs of children and improving quality of education in low-income schools in her home country of Nigeria. This includes providing meals in addition to materials such as book bags, shoes, and uniforms that the children need. She also recently completed her first school building, and the organization is finding unique ways to make sure the kids are able to continue their education during the pandemic.

Most recently, Williams-Olley created SheBuildsMoney, a tool that helps small firms  set the right financial foundation by better understanding, mastering and taking control of their cash flow process.

Her passion comes from a deep-seated belief in the purpose and potential of every individual. She says she wants to provide the means for all those she helps to achieve that potential without being limited by their circumstances. Her advice for those wanting to make an impact is to “Dream big but start small, and start now.”

Williams-Olley says, “I truly believe that when you want to do something good and you put it out there, the right people who are supposed to support your efforts will come in.” She adds, “If you want to start a nonprofit, be clear on what it is you want to do. Do your first project, and it can be small. No matter the size, don’t be afraid to start.”