The AWP Network Vendor Program Announces Its Partnership with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund

Lagos, Nigeria – The African Women Power (AWP) Network has announced its partnership with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund to help increase the number of local vendors who supply to large retailers, current retail partners include: ShopRite Nigeria, Miniso Nigeria, FreshForte and Next Cash n’ Carry. 

The AWP Network Vendor program is a capacity building program for local vendors seeking professional guidance regarding best practices and guidelines to become vendor suppliers. The AWP Network Local Vendor Program in collaboration with Shoprite Limited, Nigeria will provide a real life opportunity for women entrepreneurs in Nigeria to get their products out into the market place. Vendors are also provided the opportunity to pitch their products for consideration as a supplier to various program retail and institutional partners. 

“Nigeria needs more success stories, this is why the AWP Network deems it important to support women entrepreneurs to support and facilitate the rise of manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship. This we believe will help to reduce Nigeria’s high unemployment rate. We truly believe that this program is great for Nigeria’s community and economic development.” says Mary Olushoga, Founder of The AWP Network, a social enterprise based in Lagos.

The competitive AWP Network Vendor program, which launched last year on July 15, received over 2,500 vendor applications. Only 100 vendors were accepted into the first cohort, 61 vendors were certified to complete the program and received the opportunity to pitch their products to ShopRite Nigeria, Miniso Nigeria and FreshForte. This year, we doubled our application numbers and we are very excited about this collaboration and partnership with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund. 

Have questions or concerns, please email: mary  (at) awpnetwork.com

From two-bedroom apartment in Zaria to ShopRite Nigeria – Ogola Lois Kange talks with The AWP Network

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Ogola Lois Kange is a trained architect and founder of Smiley’z mobile kitchen. She recently participated in, and graduated from the AWP Network Vendor Program where she is now certified as a qualified vendor. As a result of her participation in the AWP Network Vendor program, Kange was selected to become a ShopRite supplier. Through the program, she has also received the opportunity to pitch to FreshForte and Miniso Nigeria. In this interview, Kange talks about what inspired her to start this business and her plans for the next five years.

How did you come up with your business name? 

My late husband came up with the name of my business. At the time, I had just completed my NYSC program and I I told him that I wanted to start a business. I was quite passionate about catering, food, and agriculture and I wanted a name that represented this passion. My late husband was a graphic designer and I valued his input so when he said,  “why not call it ‘Smiley’z,’ like the emojis but with a “Z” instead of a “S” at the end to differentiate your brand, I immediately loved the name and I have kept the brand name until date.

What or who inspired you to start this business? 

Upon the completion of my degree in architecture, I wanted to teach but I was disappointed when I was not retained at the place where I served for NYSC. I also did not want to be a stay at home wife who depended solely on her husband for everything single thing, so I started my business by doing what I loved, which was catering. I started Smiley’z Mobile Kitchen from my home, in the kitchen of my two-bedroom apartment in Zaria.

Who is your target market?

Smiley’z Mobile Kitchen began in 2012 and we received our official CAC registration in 2014. The company started out with a passion for cooking and sharing good food and a need to solve the problem of convenience and stable income. The initial idea was to have nice, healthy home-cooked meals delivered to a client’s doorstep. This model is one that has been perfected outside Nigeria but it was also very suitable for our climate. So I started out with a focus on busy clients. Those who needed food on the go but still wanted proper meals not just the typical take out.

Today, my company – Smiley’z Mobile Kitchen Limited has grown and transformed into a food processing company with the goal to reduce post-harvest losses in Nigeria’s agricultural sector.  Our first product is the Smiley’z fresh tomato paste, which is 100 precent tomatoes with no additives or preservatives and has a one-year shelf life.

Our target market include: women, their families, restaurants, hoteliers, caterers and schools that have in house catering.

How have you financed your company?

I bootstrapped. I basically started my business with my savings together with financial contributions from family members. Later on, we received grant and seed funding from numerous business programs and this has continued to help the company grow. For the food processing aspect of the business, my company obtained funding from the government of the Netherlands under a program called the food connection challenge through which, we won matching funds.

What is your competitive edge? What sets you apart from your competitors? 

What sets me apart from others is the amount of work I put into my business. My company’s core values also include integrity – I want customers to know that they are ordering products from a company guided by strong core values. We work hard to build a brand that delivers on its promises.  

Smiley’z Tomato Paste is 100 percent tomatoes without any additives or preservatives and this allows customers to enjoy the fresh, natural taste of tomatoes for the various meals they cook for their families. All our subsequent products have the same quality and we work hard to maintain our home-grown, natural, unique taste.

What is the long-term plan for your business?

In the next five years, it is my goal and intention to become a household name throughout Nigeria and beyond. We have begun this process with the tomato paste product, and the company will continue to develop other food products as well. We aim to reduce post-harvest losses in Nigeria’s agricultural supply chain. 

What challenges do you face or have you faced thus far?

We have faced lots and loads of challenges as the business climate for SMEs in Nigeria is not very friendly. From unstable power supply to difficulties getting the right suppliers of raw materials, to maintaining the right staff, to funding business expansion and ideas. Some of the things that have helped us overcome many of these challenges have been the fact that we have leveraged on our networks and this has really helped us with both the know-how, the right opportunities and contacts for reliable suppliers.

What key things have you learned since starting this idea?

First and foremost, I have learned that persistence pays.

Secondly, success in entrepreneurship is a journey.

Thirdly, I would encourage entrepreneurs not to be afraid to drop or modify an idea that is not working.

Next, technology is your friend, use it.

Lastly, my personal belief is that only God can ultimately help you succeed.

What five (5) things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?

– Fail fast, learn quickly, and move on.

– Do not expect overnight success.

– Nothing good comes easy.

– Leverage on your networks. What you are searching for, may just be a call or a chat away.

– Write a business plan and apply for seed grants. Even if you do not get selected, keep working on your idea and on your business. Keep refining your business plan and keep putting yourself out there. Eventually, there will be someone who believes in you and your ideas enough to put some money behind it.

What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say, ’there is no money?

Sometimes what you need as a startup may not be money.  If your idea is good and marketable, money will definitely find you.

How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?

African youths can support each other by bartering. The barter systems works. Think about providing your service in exchange for the product or service you need.

How many jobs have you created so far?

To date, we have employed over 30 full time staff, taught skills acquisitions empowering over 200 women and trained over 25 cottage processors.

How has technology enhanced your business idea? 

The business has grown and developed to the stage we are today and is still growing because we are able to leverage technology to our advantage. From using social media, to technologically backed payment platforms to digital advertisement to name a few.

How can we support and improve innovation in Africa? 

What we need now more than anything else is access to markets. We have very good products that have been tried and tested by hundreds of customers and have been used by thousands, but we need a lot more visibility because it is still  new and people need to key into “buy Nigerian.”

How has the AWP Network Vendor Program helped or supported your business ? 

I truly enjoyed the AWP Network Vendor Program especially the community and connecting with other entrepreneurs in my cohort.  The educational content received in the duration of the program has been helpful for me in my business. Specifically, after the training session on what investors want, I immediately applied some of the key take home points. I began to send out a much more daring pitch deck and received positive responses.

What I liked the most about the AWP Network Vendor program is the fact that it is not just about the training but also about the opportunity to pitch to large retailers. I think that this is a great plus for the program. The practicality of the sessions made it totally relatable and immediately applicable to my business.

Contact Information: 

Twitter page: @Smileyzfoods

Website: http://www.smileyzfoods.comwww.smileyzmobilekitchen.com

Facebook page: Smiley’z MobileKitchen

https://web.facebook.com/smileyzmobilekitchen

Instagram: @smileyzmobilekitchen

https://instagram.com/smileyzmobilekitchen

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Win €25,000: Apply for the Orange Social Venture Prize in Africa and the Middle East

The Orange Social Venture Prize in Africa and the Middle East has been awarded since 2011 for innovative projects by start-ups, based on information and communication technologies that have a positive societal impact in Africa and the Middle East in the fields of education, healthcare, e-commerce and agriculture, or that help to meet sustainable development goals. Through this prize, Orange, as a committed operator, seeks to contribute to the socio-economic development of Africa, support social and environmental innovation and encourage entrepreneurship.

The competition includes two stages: a local phase that takes place between March and June in the 17 Orange subsidiaries. The countries then each choose three prizewinners. During the second phase, the winners from each country are in competition with each other and an international jury consisting of representatives of the Orange start-up ecosystem meet to decide on the international POESAM prizewinners.

Prizes:

  • €25,000 (1st place)
  • €10,000 (3rd place)
  • The International Women’s Prize with a value of €20,000, sponsored by the Orange Group Diversity and Inclusion Department. This prize will either go to a woman, or to a project offering a technological solution to improve the living conditions of women (women’s independence, creating or maintaining jobs, data collection on gender, digital and financial inclusion, etc.).

DEADLINE: June 4, 2021

Apply here: Orange Social Prize

Know A Child Changing The World? Apply for the €100,000 Peace Prize

Every year, the KidsRights Foundation awards this prestigious prize to a child who fights courageously for children’s rights. 

Every year, KidsRights Foundation awards this prestigious prize to a brave boy or girl, regardless of race, place of birth or social standing, who has demonstrated the skill and determination necessary to improve the rights of children. These children deserve worldwide recognition for their work.

Do you know a child with the drive, passion, and history in standing up against violations to children’s rights? Nominate him or her to become the next International Children’s Peace Prize winner.

Who can be nominated?

  • A child above 12 years and under 18 years of age; (the child should not be older than 17 years by the time of the nomination deadline)
  • From all over the world;
  • The child must have a clear history of standing up and fighting for the rights of him/herself and other children. It is important that the child has an active approach in accomplishing this goal, which has led to a concrete result;
  • Ability to travel abroad and feeling comfortable communicating with other people;
  • The child agrees to being nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize

Nomination process:
We kindly ask the parents/guardians of the nominated child to give authorization to use the information shared in the nomination form, as well as the photograph(s) of the nominated child for our global online campaign. The powerful messages of all the nominees will be posted on our website. Some stories will also be spread via social media, such as Facebook and Instagram. With this we would like to reach and inspire as many people as possible and create a buzz for children’s rights!

DEADLINE: March 31, 2021 

Apply hereChildren’s Peace Prize

Join AWP Network Founder, Mary Olushoga and The Tony Elumelu Foundation for a conversation on how to fund your business

Register for the event here: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJwrcOitrTouHtf0dD-4TUMPvEM7yl3klGJ8

AWP Network Founder, Mary Olushoga Discusses the AWP Network Vendor Program with Participants in Cohort 1

AWP Network Founder, Mary Olushoga Discusses the AWP Network Vendor Program with Participants in Cohort 1

AWP Network Program Manager, Sike Gbana Discusses the AWP Network Vendor Program with Participants in Cohort 1

AWP Network Program Manager, Sike Gbana To Discuss the AWP Network Vendor Program with Participants in Cohort 1

Get Your Products Into ShopRite Through The AWP Network Vendor Program 

The AWP Network wants you to participate in its vendor program. 

The high-impact local supplier program in collaboration with ShopRite provides a real life opportunity for women entrepreneurs in Nigeria to get their products out into the marketplace.

The competitive AWP Network Vendor program (@awpvendor), which launched last year on July 15, 2020, received over 2,500 vendor applications. Only 100 vendors were accepted into the program, 61 vendors were certified to complete the program and received the opportunity to pitch their products to ShopRite Nigeria. 

The AWP Network Vendor program is a capacity building program for local vendors seeking professional guidance regarding best practices and guidelines to become vendor suppliers.

The AWP Network Vendor program will continue to work with small business owners who are interested in operating as suppliers, by recruiting additional retailers as partners. 

The following qualified vendors: Patience Salifu of CondimentPlus, Ogola Lois Kange of Smiley’z Mobile Kitchen, Olufunmilola Shelika of Gef’s Smoked Edibles, Ebun Feludu of JAM – The Coconut Food Company, Chigozie Bashua of The Nutplace Ventures, Patrick Karunwi of Kalos Agro Homes, Boma Whyte of Kringle Cookies, and Chidimma Uzoma-Mba of Zayith Yogurt have been accepted to supply to ShopRite Nigeria.

Interested in becoming a vendor or supplier; apply for the program through awpnetwork.com/apply. Follow on twitter and instagram: @awpvendor

Have questions or concerns, please email: Mary  (at) awpnetwork.com

AWP Network Program Manager, Florentina Agu Discusses the AWP Network Vendor Program with Participants in Cohort 1

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