Welcome to our “Profiles in Leadership” series where we’ll be sharing key insights and valuable lessons from some of the most extraordinary leaders across our country. Kelly King, BB&T’s chairman and CEO, has been on a personal mission to interview these values-based leaders and to share by video their philosophies with you and BB&T’s associates.

Know Your Why

Manny Ohonme shaking hands with someone else Our newest article presents Emmanuel “Manny” Ohonme, world-renowned businessman, author, speaker, philanthropist and social entrepreneur. Ohonme’s story is especially moving since his fascinating and inspiring path to success led him to establish his home and business, Samaritan’s Feet, in our home state of North Carolina.

Understanding Your “Why”

This is the event Ohonme believes set him on a path to find and achieve his purpose in life: he remembers growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, selling water at a park to support his family when he was only nine years old. “A missionary came to the playground one day and offered the prize of a new pair of shoes to the winner of a basketball shooting contest. I’d never had shoes. Amazingly, I won and the missionary told me to keep dreaming and dream big. That’s what I did,” Ohonme said.

He went on to gain a basketball scholarship to a North Dakota college, earn his undergraduate and graduate degrees, get married and begin a career. “I was doing well due to the help of countless people, but I’d forgotten how I’d grown up,” Ohonme said. “Then my father died and I went back to Nigeria. I walked over to that same park, and it reminded me of how many people were just like me, no shoes, no hope. I realized my purpose, my ‘why’ – to bring people hope.”

Dream Big with Humility

That event led Ohonme to start Samaritan’s Feet. The organization has given away more than 7 million pairs of shoes to children in more than 100 countries since its 2003 founding in Charlotte, North Carolina. But Ohonme believes you must also dream big to motivate others. “My mother taught me that. It stirs people to be a part of doing something exceptional – no more shoeless children. We just need to distribute 1.5 billion pairs of shoes across the globe to get there.”

Ohonme’s goal certainly is not humble. Yet, he goes on to describe how humility is integral to his efforts.


“In our case, Samaritan’s Feet is here to serve others, and humility allows us to emancipate ourselves from a focus on self and our limitations,” Ohonme said. “When people feel what it is like to help others, they want to do more. Then they inspire others to help, and that leads to more and more volunteers to make that impossible goal become a reality. Then everyone feels a part of accomplishing something exceptional, changing children’s lives.”

In Ohonme’s interview, you’ll hear other lessons he learned during his incredible journey and more about his personal story. Slip off your shoes and prepare to be inspired.

Manny Ohonme talking to school children

View the complete video interview.