Star Beer Women’s History Month Interview
May Odiakosa, Founder of Star Beer USA, Shares Her Experiences As a Minority Business Owner
March 25, 2021 Valerie Ortega
When it comes to owning a business, the path of getting there is certainly anything but easy, however, imagine being not only a woman, but a woman of minority owning a business in a field of men. I was able to interview the President and Founder of Star Beer USA, May Odiakosa who had many insights to share with me about her journey bringing her legendary lager beer to the United States. I highly recommend reading through this interview if you are a woman looking to expand your own business and seeking advice from an expert.
I am a Digital Marketing Specialist for Boulder SEO Marketing, located in Boulder, Colorado. We started as a local SEO agency. Today, our full-service online marketing agency works with customers throughout the United States and across the globe. I’m incredibly thankful to have had this opportunity to work and connect with people such as May Odiakosa. Odiakosa grew up surrounded by friends and family who were always drinking Star Beer. Star Beer USA is a Nigerian lager beer that has expanded to the United States more specifically on the West Coast and in both Northern and Southern California.
In 2015, May knew this beer was something special that Americans needed to taste. “It’s the beer like no other beer. When you try it, it becomes this amazing after-taste” noted Odiakosa. She credits her journey with Star beer as a journey of patience, hope, and hard work. In celebration of Women’s History Month this past March 2021, May is an inspirational leader among both women and men.
You’ll find the questions and a summary of May’s answers below.
How did Star Beer first get established and how did you become the founder?
Odiakosa replied, how she began her company, by trying to learn everything she could about the licensing process. In the beginning, she was able to meet with lawyers which at first was very intimidating and overwhelming. Eventually, she met with people who were able to say yes and help form the company, her sister, Ngozi Okaka, who she credits being the backbone of her company.
Once May was able to get her license, she brought Star Beer USA to the United States and really started to believe that women can run a brewery. Odiakosa advised, “If you believe in yourself don’t stop. You knock on doors and if they don’t open, go back again.”
When did you decide to expand Star Beer into the U.S. and what made you choose California as its starting destination?
May who has lived in Los Angeles, California since 1988 calls it her home. Odiakosa noted, “I’ve been to New York and other places across the country, but there is no place like California.” She wanted to bring Star Beer to Californians because they are open-minded and curious about something different and unique.
Overall, how has your journey as Star Beer USA’s founder been? What are the perks of being a business owner?
May answered that she loves this country because it gives people like her an opportunity to believe in themselves. Odiakosa replied, “I love the fact that I am a woman and I am changing people’s perception of what women of color can do.” She is working with other women who are leaders in business as well. May touched on how seeing other women in business gives her encouragement to keep going and hopes it inspires younger women to never give up. She never gave up on herself and advised others to not take no for an answer.
How is it being in the beer industry as a woman? What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome?
Odiakosa stressed how this industry is not balanced among women and men. She has yet to meet another woman in the beer industry thus far, however, she notes that she is sure they are there, and she would love to share her story with them so that they can help lift each other up. May answered that the most difficult challenge she has had to overcome is the dismissal and hesitation she has received being a woman of color. She believes there is a dismissive unconscious bias many people have in this industry that she hopes will change in the future.
Odiakosa mentions how she was able to overcome this challenge, “Once you don’t give up or don’t let the initial perception stop you from going forward it keeps you moving forward.” Today, she enjoys seeing men who have an open mind and have helped support her business here in the United States.
How do you hope these women will benefit from your donation plans in a way that your sister, unfortunately, wasn’t able to?
Located on Star Beer USA’s website, May mentions that she is committed to donating a portion of her profits to cervical cancer research in memory of her sister Ngozi Okaka who passed away from cervical cancer. Odiakosa shared, “My sister was rambunctious and had a laugh that was so fun. She never complained and she demonstrated true strength. Without her, I would not have had the courage to keep pushing through starting my own company.”
It was heartbreaking to hear that her sister passed away from cervical cancer due to a lack of resources to receive a pap smear which is screening for cervical cancer. May and her sister’s goal was to build a women’s center with no fees, so as a result of getting a pap smear and basic health care for women. Still today, Odiakosa’s goal is to build a clinic in Nigeria and once she has done this she will be able to say Star Beer USA has accomplished everything she wanted it to. She concludes, “We want to benefit how women will benefit in Nigeria in the success of Star Beer.”
What makes it truly unique and separates itself from other beers? What is something you want to say to the audience who have yet to try Star Beer?
Odiakosa mentions how her beer is very smooth. It has no aftertaste that lingers and the history behind this beer brings it to life. She says, “This beer is actually older than my country. Its longevity inspires me to know that I’m acquainted with this groundbreaking beer.” When asked what she wants to say to her audience, May replied that in Africa you are raised by everyone.
What she has found that in her community of yoga everyone is accepting and wanting to learn new things. She wants her audience to not be afraid to try something unique. By trying Star Beer USA you are giving someone an opportunity like Odiakosa to be on your shelf. She concluded, “Go out of your way and try something different to see what you like.”
Ultimately, we recognize that being a woman and a minority business owner is truly something special and it deserves to be acknowledged not only for the month of March but for months to come. We really appreciate May taking the time to share her truly inspiring story and we hope women will appreciate her perspective of being a business owner. May advises other women who want to potentially become a business owner by saying, “It serves you to laugh at yourself because you’re learning something new and the mistakes you’re going to make don’t define you.”
About Valerie Ortega
My name is Valerie Ortega, I am a 2020 graduate from Colorado State University bringing my digital marketing skills and passion to Boulder SEO Marketing in early 2021. I am a project manager currently working with local, national, and international clients to help them build and implement search engine optimization and digital marketing strategies to significantly boost lead generation and sales.
About Star Beer USA
Star was introduced in the Nigerian market on 2nd June 1949, becoming the first indigenous brand in a beer market dominated exclusively by imported brands. Star is the beer indisputably associated with brightness, fun, and high quality in taste. A world-class brand brewed by one of Nigeria’s model corporate organizations, Nigerian Breweries Plc (NB Plc). Through a special cold filtration process Star is perfectly brewed for that superior taste. Star lager is a well known brand in the Nigerian music industry with high class performers such as JJC who has even collaborated with Star Lager.