Cotton Tree Philanthropy Advisors, Inc. (CTPA) is a company looking to solve Africa’s socioeconomic problems. Founder and President, Desiree Younge, provides insight on what inspired her to start her business and what women can learn from male entrepreneurs.
How did you come up with the name of your business?
The name Cotton Tree Philanthropy Advisors, Inc. (CTPA) was inspired by a landmark tree in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The Cotton Tree stands tall in the oldest part of the city and has been there since the 1700s. The tree has a deeper meaning to me. Symbolically, it captures how I see myself and business in the world. I view CTPA as having deep roots in Africa and we serve as a vehicle that bridges resources to the West, and vice-versa.
Who is your target market?
Actors in philanthropy – those who are interested in solving Africa’s socioeconomic problems. We provide services and work with philanthropists, businesses, NGOs, and nonprofit entities.
What or who inspired you to start your business?
I come from a family of entrepreneurs and I have always aspired to be one. Specifically, I started CTPA because I know there is a gap. I think more Africans should be part of the solution and that is my vision for CTPA. To educate, involve, facilitate, and inspire collaboration and participation between and across businesses, NGOs, communities, and governments.
What key things have you learned since starting your business?
1) It is easy to implement or deliver when you know your strengths and weaknesses as a leader — it drives you to stay focused.
2) You have to be flexible – meaning “the ideal client pipeline” takes time to develop but it should not hinder your progress to keep your business cash-positive, raise the awareness about who you are, and the work you want to do.
3) I created a model that works for me. There is no right or wrong way to do this work – you learn as you go along, but you cannot fake it until you make it!
What are the four things start-up business entrepreneurs need to know?
1) Go for it!
2) Do your research and start slow.
3) Do not bury yourself in debt even if you have access to credit. In this shaky economy, even mature businesses are on shaky ground.
4) Leverage your networks to grow your business – collaborate and innovate.
What is your competitive edge?
The right combination of professional and personal experiences. I drew on all my strengths and created a business out of it – It is my secret sauce.
What is the goal of your business?
To maximize social impact!
What advice do you have for women looking to start a business?
I am often not sure why “women” are a special category of entrepreneurs. In Sierra Leone, I grew up in a family of male and female entrepreneurs – I know what they have in common. They were determined to be successful so they worked hard to make that happen and that fundamental work ethic applies to all regardless of gender.
What challenges do you face or have you faced thus far ?
There are personal challenges that have not allowed me to spend as much time on the continent as I would like. However, I have a plan to overcome them and move on to the next phase – Year2 of CTPA.
What is the 5 year plan for your business ?
It is not a fully formulated plan but CTPA plans to launch and raise an investment fund – that’s all I can say for now.
How do you think women can continue to support each other ?
Tell each other about what it takes to make it, and inform each other on how to not be afraid to engage with “male entrepreneurs.” My best advisors have been male – so I can support other women to get over their barriers or formulate the “men-lingo.” I do know the approach is different. When I speak to women, they express the emotional side of their businesses – the end user/customer. When I speak to men, they go directly to the core of competition. They speak about why their company or product is the best out there compared to Y . Some go as far as telling you they are IT! We all have competitors.
Contact Cotton Tree Philanthropy Advisors, Inc:
Phone: (347) 244-0666