The AWP Network ‘Get Connected Business Series’ – Meet the Speakers

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The African Women Power (AWP) Network will host the “Get Connected Business Series,” during the last week in April. The forum is created with the intention to provide insights and information needed to help entrepreneurs and employees grow and get to the next level. The event begins at 9:30am. 

MEET THE SPEAKERS:

Saudat Salami is the founder of Easyshop Easycook, a fresh farm produce and online delivery service. Her company helps working women meet up on their domestic responsibilities without putting stress on their careers.  Salami is a Vital Voices Grow Fellow, a United States IVLP Alumna, a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women scholarship recipient for the CEM (Certificate for Entrepreneurial Management) program at EDC and an Alumna of the Fate Foundation-Aspiring Entrepreneurs Program. She is an Associate Member of WIMBIZ (Women in Management, Business, and Public Service), WEConnect International, Institute of Logistics Management of Nigeria and she volunteers with various charity organizations. Saudat Salami is happily married to Mr. Abiodun Salami and they are blessed with two lovely girls.

Tolulope O. Adeyemo is program director at The WAAW Foundation, a non-profit organization with the mission to increase the pipeline of African girls in technology and engineering while ensuring that they are engaged in the technology innovation pipeline. Adeyemi holds a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Prior to joining the WAAW Foundation, Adeyemo worked as a corporate communications officer at Oando Marketing Plc. She has extensive hands-on experience in program planning, project management, long-term strategy planning, marketing and branding, and fundraising.  She serves as a mentor and sacrifices her time to empower girls through education. Adeyemo is a firm believer that education and technology are essential to breaking the cycle of poverty and providing economic progress for any nation.

Femi Longe is the co-founder of Tender.ng, a tech solution for procurement opportunities in Nigeria. He is also co-founder and director of programs at The Co-Creation Hub. Longe earned a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Electrical Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria. He is an avid traveler and eclectic consumer of books, music, and movies.

Nkemdilim Begho is the founder of Future Software Resources. Begho has successfully re-branded the company, thus changing its focus from a standalone solution to a web-based educational and business solutions enterprise. Prior to her appointment at Future Software, Begho contributed to various research projects to include: the wazobia linux initiative, the e-government interoperability framework, NITDA open standards framework, as well as the deployment of e-commerce and e-portal solutions in the Nigerian public and private sector. Her company, Future Software Resources is the winner of the Etisalat Nigeria Prize for Innovation. She is a board member of the World Summit Youth Award, co-founder of the Bake for Change Development Foundation, and co-founder of a clothing manufacturing company.

Abisoye Ajayi is a social impact entrepreneur and founder of Pearls Africa, a non-governmental organization promoting the technological advancement of vulnerable women and girls. Ajayi has over 12 years’ of experience in Information Technology Solutions Development. She is a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) and an Oracle Database Administrator (OCDBA). Ajayi describes herself as a technology savvy data analyst with a passionate heart for change and a strong will to make it happen. She is a United States IVLP Alumna, a member of the United Nations Interagency Network on Youth Development, the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, and is recognized as a leading woman in tech by YNaija!

Reginald Bassey is a farmer at Janai farms limited. He previously served as Chief of Staff at the Office of Rep. Robinson Uwak of the Oron Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State where he led the team on policy and legislative research, and community mobilization. Bassey earned his Master’s degree from Baruch College in New York and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree from Covenant University. He is a Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) Associate.

Shade Ladipo is the Country Director for WEConnect International in Nigeria. At the age of 25, Ladipo founded Avienti Limited — a destination management company. She has worked with the United Nations Volunteers and several advertising agencies where she specialized in events and account management, client services and strategy. Ladipo is one of the founding members of Global Shapers in Lagos and represents Nigeria at World Economic Forum events. She is also recognized as the co-founder of Enough Is Enough Nigeria, a platform for young people deciding Nigeria’s path to change. Ladipo was recognized by several platforms for her work as a change agent and businesswoman. She has been nominated for the Future Awards Africa Awards, chosen as 101 Young Achievers at the Africa Business Forum in Accra, Ghana, and selected as a Goldman Sachs fellow. She regularly appears on radio programs and at live events about everything she is passionate about including leading a successful business in Nigeria.

Itoro Eze-Anaba is the founder of the Mirabel Rape Crisis Center. A lawyer and women’s rights activist, Eze-Anaba is involved in the promotion and protection of women’s rights in Nigeria since 1999. She is a United States IVLP alumni and participated in the exchange program of the Law Society of England and Wales. She went on to set up Partnership for Justice, a non-governmental organization with the mission to provide an innovative range of services to promote and protect human rights in Nigeria. In 2005, she received a scholarship from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) for her LLM-Masters in Law program at the American University, Washington College of Law, Washington DC where she specialized in Gender and the Law.

Jolaoluwa Ayeye is a representative of the Stand To End Rape Initiative. She is a senior writer and content creator at Zikoko. Ayeye graduated from the University of Durham with a degree in Politics and Philosophy. Ayeye is a social and traditional media enthusiast through which, she enjoys telling stories that have not gotten enough representation. Jolaoluwa Ayeye is passionate about women’s rights, poverty alleviation, and good governance. She joined the Stand To End Rape organization in 2015 and is a part of their communications team.

Iheoma Obibi is the founder of Intimate Pleasures, Nigeria’s first online sex shop. A feminist, writer and human rights activist with extensive experience providing training to rural and urban poor communities in Africa and to marginalized communities in London. Currently, Obibi is the Executive Director of Alliances for Africa an international non-governmental organization engaged in human rights training, legislative advocacy, public policy and community development.

Obibi regularly acts as a Trainer and Facilitator and has worked as a consultant for several international agencies including UN Women, British Council, OECD, DfID and the Commonwealth Secretariat. In 2005, Obibi was selected to become an Ashoka Fellow. She has published short stories in several online e-zines and anthologies including, “African Women Writing Resistance: An Anthology of Contemporary Voices” and “Pastor Saul Bottomsup” in the publication “An Anthology of Great Writing Volume 1.” She earned a degree from the University of East London and an MA with distinction in Communications Policy Studies from City University, London.

Blessing Timidi Digha-Omolere is a Women Deliver Young Leader, Feminist and girl child/Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights Advocate with 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector. The journey into advocacy started after her teenage pregnancy experience in 2005.  Digha-Omolere earned a Bachelor of Technology degree in Food Science & Engineering from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Ogbomosho, Oyo State, Nigeria and is now a Community Mobilization/Advocacy Officer at 9jaGirl – an organization advocating for the girl-child on all fronts with an emphasis on sex education, sexual reproductive health and rights, HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation (and other harmful traditional practices), sexual violence, early child marriage, education and other issues affecting the girl-child.

Idongesit Harrison Umoh is the founder of Idong Harrie Limited, a handmade footwear & accessories company. Umoh founded her business with about 7000 Naira and with the support of former colleagues at Nokia Nigeria. She has grown the business to become a national brand and has won several awards and grants since founding the company in 2005.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“With Limited Resources, It Takes Longer To Build Traction,” Says Founder of Fulaba.com

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Guinean-American of Fulani descent, Haby Barry is the founder of Fulaba.com, an exclusive retailer for high-end, high-quality Fulani earrings. Barry arrived at her company name, “Fulaba” by combining the word ‘Fulani’ and the word beautiful in the Fulani language, ‘nolaba.’ In this interview with the AWP Network, she talks about her business challenges and her plans to become a global brand.

What inspired you to start this business?

I am Fulani and a first generation American whose parents are from Guinea. I often wore and got compliments on a pair of brass Fulani earrings that I purchased in Harlem. This is what inspired me to start, I felt that I could get a better quality version of these earrings and present to the world a beautiful story about my culture. It had been my dream to bring to the global market authentic high-end, high-quality Fulani earrings, so I got in touch with my aunt in Conakry, Guinea who helped me to identify and locate local jewelry makers who could make these unique pieces by hand.

Who is your target market?

Women ages 25 years and up, who appreciate made in Africa jewelry.

How have you financed your business?

Bootstrapping; I have completely self-financed my business.

What is your competitive edge?

At Fulaba, we take quality seriously and use gold or silver in all of our pieces. Each jewelry is handcrafted and made in solid fine silver or plated in gold. We are authentic and take pride in preserving traditions. We also enjoy sharing the meaning behind our timeless handmade jewelry.

What is the long-term plan for your business?

I want my company to have a global presence and be recognized as the leading jewelry line for high culture in Africa, I know this is not an impossible dream. I also want to make an economic impact in Guinea, celebrate the natural beauty of women and empower them.

What challenges do you face?

Limited resources. There is so much to do but with a small team and not many resources it takes longer to build traction. My company could use the help of brand ambassadors, volunteers, and interns. Email us at info (at) fulaba.com if you or someone you know has interest. We also have opportunities listed here: www.fulaba.com/join-our-team/

What key things have you learned since starting this idea?

  1. Make Mistakes. Mistakes provide huge lessons. There are things that I felt were not correct or were not done to my liking but turned out really well in the marketplace.
  2. Find Your Tribe. Having a community of like-minded entrepreneurs propels you in major ways, it is not enough to work alone or by yourself.
  3. Money Matters. You will always need more money than you think.
  4. Know Your Worth. Try getting the attention of someone influential even if you do not have a mutual connection.
  5. Ignite Your Passion. It is important to get out there and talk to people about your business as it will reignite your passion and revitalize your energy to keep going.

 

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What five (5) things do startup entrepreneurs need to know?

  1. Start small. You do not need to have a full product line or service offering, start small and build from there.
  2. Find a network of like-minded entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a journey and you will need all the support that you can get.
  3. Pitch your business as much as you can and you will attract people who can guide and open doors for you.
  4. The work does not get easier but it does get more rewarding.
  5. Be patient with yourself and your business…it takes time for things to manifest and grow but you have to keep at it!

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

Be passionate about what it is that you want to start because there may not be money for a while and you have to be willing to put in your own money or convince relatives to put in money or both. It takes money to move things and if your thinking is in the right place, the money to get you started will come but if you are looking for a huge payoff right away then most likely, you’ll be out of luck.

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

Young people in Africa can support one another by joining networks and groups focused on development and growth in Africa.

How many jobs have you created so far?

We are a small team and continue to contract with several people including two (2) jewelry makers in Conakry, Guinea who employ additional folks to help fulfill orders.

How has technology enhanced your business?

Our business could not exist without technology. It is integral to how we operate, from simple communications to our e-commerce platform. Social media and advertising on social platforms has also helped to build brand awareness and drive traffic to our site.

How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?

Stop and think about what it is that you do for a living or what it is that you are studying in school and how those skills can be used to develop Africa. Stop and think about who you know, people you can connect with and with whom you can together fill the gaps that exist on the continent. I think it starts there.

 

Website: Fulaba

Twitter: Fulaba

Facebook: Fulaba 

Instagram: Fulaba 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tinuola Aina – United Nations Global Champion for Change Organizes Women Empowerment Conference

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On Wednesday, March 29, 2017 – UN Women Global Champion for Change, Tinuola Aina organised a women empowerment conference in Lagos, Nigeria. In attendance were the following speakers: Emilia Asim-Ita – Senior Consultant, Strategy & External Relations at ThistlePraxis Consulting, Oluyemisi Adedayo of the Bunmi Adedayo Foundation and Taiwo Ayenuro, founder of the Young Mothers Empowerment Network. Aina states, “feedback from participants indicated that they were re-energized and now envision greater possibilities in empowering other women and speaking up for one another. We look forward to future events.”

The conference provided a platform for notable Nigerians from various sectors to speak about their journey to notability. The conference featured breakouts sessions and offered recommendations on the following issues:

  • Ending violence against women and girls,
  • Economic empowerment through entrepreneurship and skill acquisition,
  • Women in STEM vocations, creating and implementing policies that foster gender equality,
  • Women engagement in politics and governance.

Have questions? contact Tinuola here: @tynolah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calling ALL University Students: The AWP Network at Afe Babalola University

Young people in Africa are creative and full of ideas. Many times their fresh outlook on life is what will take our society to the next level.  However, most times they are hindered by the lack of opportunities to showcase their creativity, coupled with inadequate mentoring and insufficient capital.

Introducing #SIC2017

The SIC entrepreneurial challenge is about discovering talents with bright business ideas, with a focus on nurturing them so that they can add remarkable economic value to Africa. The challenge will put these ideas to the test of real-world business situations and operations, equipping the contestants with the right business knowledge necessary to optimize their ideas and make it more relevant and marketable.

The SIC entrepreneurial challenge is an initiative created to establish and foster a strategic mentorship ecosystem for entrepreneurs in higher education institutions across Nigeria. The AWP Network in collaboration with Team Inspire have joined forces to put the spotlight on young people with ideas capable of solving the problems that are unique to us in Africa and to give them the much-needed mentorship and capital support.

BENEFITS INCLUDES:

  • Capital Support,
  • Start-up Mentoring,
  • Real Business Feedbacks to Ideas from experts,
  • Opportunity to build productive network,
  • Free Scholarship to IYLS-2017.

Networking Day: April 28, 2017

Finals/Pitch Competition: April 29, 2017

Register for SIC2017 here: SIC2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Do Not Want to Miss the AWP Network Get Connected Business Series in Lagos

The African Women Power (AWP) Network will host the “Get Connected Business Series,” during the last week in April. The forum is created with the intention to provide insights and information needed to help entrepreneurs and employees grow and get to the next level.

On Tuesday, April 25, 2017 – The discussion titled, “Tech Dialogues: What It Means To Be A Woman In Tech,” will explore the challenges and progress made in the STEM fields with regards to African women and girls. The panel discussion will be led by Mary Olushoga, Founder of the AWP Network. On the panel are the following experts:

  • Saudat Salami, Founder, EasyshopEasycook
  • Tolulope O. Adeyemo, Program Director, The WAAW Foundation
  • Maya Horgan Famodu, Founder, Ingressive.co
  • Nkemdilim Begho, Founder, FutureSoftware Resources
  • Abisoye Ajayi, Founder, Pearls Africa

 

On Wednesday, April 26, 2017  – The discussion titled, “Bid To Win: Learn How to Find and Successfully Bid for Procurement Opportunities with Top Companies in Nigeria,” will focus solely on procurement opportunities available in the private sector. This panel discussion will be led by Reginald Bassey, former Chief of Staff at the Office of Rep. Robinson Uwak of the Oron Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State. On the panel are the following experts:

  • Shade Ladipo, Executive Director, WeConnect International
  • Femi Longe, Founder, Tender.ng

 

On Thursday, April 27 – The discussion titled, “Sexual Harassment and Assault in the Workplace, Learn How To Protect Yourself,” will explore resources, if any, available for women and girls in the event that they experience sexual harassment and assault in the workplace.  On the panel are the following experts:

  • Itoro Eze-Anaba, Founder, Mirabel Centre
  • Jolaoluwa Ayeye, Representative, Stand To End Rape Initiative
  • Iheoma Obibi, Ashoka Fellow, Feminist, and Founder, Intimate Pleasures
  • Blessing Timidi Digha-Omolere, Women Deliver Young Leader, Feminist and girl child/Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights Advocate

The event will take place at the JobMag Centre: 254 Herbert Macaulay Way, Yaba, Lagos and begins promptly at 10am.

Lunch will be served.

Register here: AWP Network Get Connected Business Series

Remit payment to: Stanbic IBTC, 0001714275

Have questions? Email: Mary {at} awpnetwork.com

AWP Network

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A New Take on Crowdfunding: Entrepreneur Launches Fundraising Portal for Millennials

 

 

Community-funding is our updated take on crowdfunding, where the community helps bring your vision to life.

 

How did you come up with your business name?

I woke up in the middle of the night and three names came to me. I googled all three and the very last one, VisionPledge, was not taken. Intuitively, I knew this was it.

Who inspired you to start?

My initial inspiration were my friends and peers, all of whom had student loan debt but also had dreams of one day creating our own businesses. I had the idea for VisionPledge since 2008 but did not start until 2013. Then one night at a party, I met someone in his mid-20s who had his own company. Even though, I had the idea for VisionPledge years prior, meeting someone who looked like me, a person of color who seemed like a balanced guy—focused but also liked to have fun—showed me that I could actually do this. I asked him, “Where do I start?” And he told me to start with my immediate network. I shared my overall vision, with my two friends, Omar and Dodji, who later became board members. Dodji suggested I read, The Startup Game by William Draper; Omar on the other hand, set time aside for weekly 30-minute brainstorming sessions for a couple of months. This is where the vision quest and startup journey began.

Who is your target market?

VisionPledge focuses on millennials of color ages 18 to 34. We want to support the underserved, underrepresented, and often times underfunded population of millennial minority entrepreneurs.

How have you financed the idea?

My co-founder Lisa M. Fennell and I have financed our nonprofit by bootstrapping, which includes gracious donations from friends, family, and board members in addition to our own personal contributions.

What is your competitive edge?

What sets us apart from crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter is our focus on supporting ‘millennial entrepreneurs of color’ to fund their businesses or projects through community-funding.  Community-funding is our updated take on crowdfunding, where the community helps bring your vision to life.

We have partnered with community partners, who offer complimentary online small business mentoring programs and perks. Our first set of partners include forward-thinking companies like Her Billions, Docsend, Progress Playbook, PickFu and Womanifesting University. Forthcoming community sponsors will have the opportunity to support different categories of visionaries, meaning everyone who creates a project to fund on VisionPledge will begin their campaign with money already donated to them courtesy of these sponsors.

What is the long-term plan for your business?

Our vision is to become the first equity and donations-rewards based community-funding platform with a focus on providing a one-stop shop for personal development and business incubation, helping underrepresented entrepreneurs move from idea to execution.

What challenges have you faced thus far?

It has been a challenge converting our #Visionary100 signups to actual visionary campaigners. The follow through is definitely lagging on this end. Also, finding funding sources has been a challenge for us as well and is one of the major factors that influenced our mission and overall business model. We are addressing both of these challenges head on with our very own crowdfunding campaign here.

 

What key things have you learned since starting this business idea?

I have learned….

  1. You cannot do the work alone, a team is needed! (Shout out to Lisa, Michael, Dodji, Omar and the many advisors along the way.)
  2. Do your research. If you do not know how to do it, you can find out how; sometimes with very little effort, just start.
  3. Listen to your intuition and instincts at all times. The more you continue to work on your idea, the more things will come easily to you.
  4. People are always willing to help you if they believe in your cause, and/or generally if you put out good karma, which will always come back to you.
  5. Establishing a self-care routine while pursuing your vision is essential.

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

  1. Network, go to events and establish good business relationships with people in your industry. Also, join supportive in-person or online startup communities. I enjoy Daily Spark Entrepreneur, Blavity Women’s Creatives, and The Creativity Suite Facebook communities. We have also created a VisionPledge Facebook community to connect Millennial Visionaries and Entrepreneurs of color.
  2. Funding can be challenging at times, but in tech, you can still get a good deal accomplished with very little money in the beginning stages, especially in regards to marketing, thanks to social media.
  3. Research and survey your target market. Be prepared to change or update your business model based on your findings. And even after you launch, be prepared to pivot based on your users and their desires.
  4. Be bold, be confident in your ideas and do not be afraid to approach anyone.
  5. Your life will change dramatically once you begin, and the experience will be worthwhile.

 

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

There are many resources that are completely free to use, i.e. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are a few places to build a community, also Meetup.com. Once you have an audience and some type of traction, it will be easier to attract funding sources.

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

African youths can support each other by sharing and supporting their ideas freely. Often times, we get so paranoid that someone will take our idea and the truth is most people do not want to put in the effort, especially if they are not passionate about a particular issue, so share freely and widely!

How many jobs have you created so far?

We have not created any jobs yet, but we are working on it for 2017. We hope that you are able to see more of our other goals for 2017 and donate here as well.

How has technology enhanced your business idea?

Without technology, we would not have a business. VisionPledge, as a tangible entity, acts as an online funding portal.

How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?

We can support and improve innovation in Africa by investing in, and teaching the younger generation STEM and other future-focused curriculums. We can also improve innovation by investing in the ideas of more women entrepreneurs and millennial-aged visionaries and creatives.

 

Email: aishah [at] visionpledge.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for Funding? Here Are 7 Financing Programs for Nigerian Entrepreneurs

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Are you an entrepreneur in Nigeria, here are 7 funding programs you should know. 

For many entrepreneurs around the world, access to financing is a major concern. In “Listening and Learning for Success – What Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs Need,” I describe the needs of women entrepreneurs in Nigeria. Amongst the top issues discussed, was finding methods to reduce the costs associated with doing business in Nigeria and the need for competitive interest rates on loan products. Many young entrepreneurs in Nigeria feel that they cannot start a business because they do not have access to the capital required, and those who have started a business feel that there is little to no access to capital to expand or move on to the next level. It is important to highlight the grants, competitions, and prizes available to entrepreneurs around the world. Some of these funding programs are annual, while others are a one-time event. This article aims to inform entrepreneurs living in Nigeria of seven (7) funding programs to know. Some of these government programs and private organizations seek to increase accessibility, equality, and transparency by supporting the growth, development, and sustainability of businesses in Nigeria.

  • The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP) – GEEP is an initiative of the federal government of Nigeria and Bank of Industry. The GEEP program offers a no-interest loan scheme with a one-time 5 percent administrative fee for costs. GEEP to date has disbursed 23,400 loans to artisans, traders, farmers and entrepreneurs across 13 states. You can make GEEP part of your success story by applying for funding here. http://www.boi.ng/marketreg/
  • The Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) – this is an initiative of the Lagos State government. The mission of the fund is to create employment and wealth for all Lagosians. The fund wants to target 100,000 small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by 2019. Through the fund, entrepreneurs receive a loan at 5 percent interest rate per annum. It is also important to note that 20 percent of SMEs in Nigeria call Lagos home. Participants of this program have received funding as high as 5 million naira.
  • The Made in Nigeria Business Challenge (MINC) – this is an initiative of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki’s office. The challenge was created to promote nation building and to celebrate everything uniquely Nigerian. The ‘Made-In-Nigeria’ challenge provides entrepreneurs with locally sourced products a platform to connect with government officials, agencies and an opportunity to discuss how the Senate President can continue to support entrepreneurial efforts through policy changes and legislation.
  • The Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurial Program (TEEP) – is an initiative by the Tony Elumelu Foundation that provides a $5000 seed capital to enterprising young people with good ideas. TEEP requires its program participants to attend an intensive business training and mentoring course. To date, the program has reached a total of 51 African countries with an investment of over $ 4 million.
  • LoftyInc Capital Management (LCM) – is an initiative of Idris Bello and partners. The firm recently announced the launch of a new $25 million fund for African entrepreneurs, which will focus on early stage Africa-facing enterprises that leverage technologies to create social impact and tackle big problems.
  • The AWP Network – founded by Mary Olushoga is a platform powering business success for African entrepreneurs. The platform helps you to turn your ideas into a reality. What can you expect from visiting the site, you can: read a story about an entrepreneur, attend an event, learn how to apply for various business grants and competitions, how to pitch, write a business plan, create a pitch deck and be connected to experts from around the world.
  • Omojuwa Small Business Support Fund (SBS) –  is the initiative of Japheth Omojuwa, chief strategist at Alpha Reach, the small business support fund provides grants ranging from 50,000 to 120, 000 naira to business owners in need of funding support. The purpose of the fund is to help young Nigerian entrepreneurs starting a business, it also provides existing businesses with the additional cash flow to move forward. The fund recently disbursed over 2 million naira to over 30 businesses. In addition, will help awarded entrepreneurs with website development services, media and professional support as well as business development training from volunteers.

Have more programs, organizations or firms that we should know about? Please share, email: mary (at) awpnetwork.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

African Startup CountlessMiles Launches Service for Experiential Travel

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The AWP Network connected with Monisola Baruwa, Founder of CountlessMiles to learn more about her business, what inspired her to start and how she plans to grow her business.

She states:

my company CountlessMiles aims to transform the perception of travel by curating unique, personalized, cultural and immersive destination experiences for Africans traveling globally by connecting them with a community of travelers and providing a home away from home. Apart from our core business model, which is to curate these experiences, we aim to inspire other would-be travelers by sharing stories of Africans defying the odds in global travels.

How did you come up with your business name? 

At about 2am on a weekday, my very good friend and I began brainstorming on a name that would simply illustrate hassle-free travel. The name that came to mind that day was “Jet.Set.Go” but the domain name was taken. So we started thinking deeper – we wanted a name that would speak to infinite travel. We tried different combinations and eventually, my friend said “countless miles” and at that moment it felt like the perfect name. I checked Godaddy for the domain name for CountlessMiles and it was still available.

What inspired you to start? 

My first solo trip to Europe changed my perspective on travel, specifically on the immersive travel experience and more importantly, how it served as a tool to my self-development. When I got back from this trip, I had a mindset shift from the regular to out-of-the-box. The fact that I was able to navigate the European cities of Madrid, Barcelona, Lisbon, and Paris with no idea of how I’d communicate or move around gave me the self-confidence needed to achieve the unimaginable especially when I am outside of my comfort zone. This journey inspired my travel company – CountlessMiles.

You see, I could not comprehend why some Nigerians I knew did not travel like this. The typical Nigerian would travel to the same destinations and for the duration of their time there, just go shopping or sit at a relative’s home. Therefore, I decided that I want to change the typical African’s perception of travel by inspiring them to embrace experiential travel through personalized immersive travel experiences.

How have you financed the business?

So far, I have used my personal savings as well as contributions from friends and family. Currently, we are looking into financing opportunities via crowdfunding or angel investors to help us attain our goals.

What is your competitive edge?

The travel industry is over saturated and there are so many competitors. CountlessMiles however, is focused on the African traveler, a target market most of our competitors are not focused on.

What is the long-term plan for this business?

CountlessMiles aims to become the immersive destination experience brand for Africans globally. To penetrate our target market and to make CountlessMiles competitive both locally and globally, we plan to launch a technology-driven travel product that will allow travelers using our platform the freedom to curate personalized destination experiences through a mobile or web platform.

From a business development standpoint, we plan to participate in more collaborations in the Food and Art industry both locally and globally as a way to promote experiential travel. Our first Travel and Art collaboration themed, “This is Not Lagos” took place on October 1st, 2016 and it was successful.

What challenges do you face?

The biggest challenge is trying to merge this big vision and idea that I have for my company to its present reality of a startup trying to break into an extremely saturated industry. The CountMiles idea is ahead of its time therefore, making it harder to penetrate the market. Fortunately, the market is beginning to understand immersive travel and its importance to both economic and self-development. As a result, we are seeing a gradual increase in appreciation of the CountlessMiles brand and vision by our target market.

 

What key things have you learned since starting this business?

  • Find that ONE person you can trust and work with, someone who believes in your vision, and who is also willing to put in the hours to bring your vision to reality. Then cherish the person and appreciate their efforts.
  • Focus on ONE thing at a time. While it may seem like the world is moving very fast and you need to deliver in every aspect, you simply cannot because you are a small business with little or no profit. So, focus your energy on what you are good at or on the area of the business that you would like to grow. This will move you a step closer to achieving your goals.
  • Never lose sight of your vision. It is easy to get carried away by the noise especially in this age of social media, but never lose focus on your dream and vision. Focus on the end goal, always remember what inspired you to start the business and keep pushing.
  • There will always be competition and there is nothing you can do about it. In the ideal world, you want to be the only player but we do not live in an ideal world. I learned to develop a thick skin to news of a competitor doing work similar to what we are doing and focus my energy more on thinking of ways to stay competitive despite what the competition is doing.

What six (6) things do startup entrepreneurs need to know?

  1. The journey of an entrepreneur is not all glitz and glam. “The proof of passion is perseverance” is a good quote for startup entrepreneurs. Some days are good, some days are bad, some are extremely bad but always remember your vision and what motivated you to take the decision to become an entrepreneur. Let that be your driving force during the tough times.
  1. There will always be competitors, existing or new. Actually as soon as you launch your idea, you notice more competitors than you did prior to launching. Competition is okay but what is not okay is letting what your competition is doing discourage you from pursuing your dreams. Learn what your competitors are doing and figure out how to have a competitive edge with your product or service. Remember, every entrepreneur’s journey to the top is different.
  1. Rejection is part of the process. You will get rejected a lot of times; it is an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey. The amount of times I have gotten rejected is unbelievable. But among the rejections, there are a few Yes’s, and they remind you to stay focused on the journey. So never give up.
  1. Entrepreneurship is not only about pursuing your dreams but also about finding the right opportunities, need and target market. Have a clear vision fueled by your dream and passion but always know when to think outside the box, and seek the right opportunities that will catapult your business idea to the next level.
  1. As an entrepreneur, you should learn to be self-sufficient. As a new business, especially with little or no funds to hire people, finding that perfect mix of volunteers or people who can fill different roles in your business will be hard to find. Learn to do things yourself, else your business may suffer.
  1. Find the best resource fit. Look for someone (one person is enough) you can trust, someone who is capable, who believes in your idea and vision, and who is willing to take this journey with you. Also make sure this person is filling a position or a role you are not good at. Remember, no man or woman is 100 percent self-sufficient and you cannot do everything alone. Needless to say, two heads are better than one.

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

  • First, start the business and the money will find you. People who may want to help you want to see the work you put in before they offer any financial investments.
  • Second, think of avenues to generate money from your business. It may not necessarily be your core business model but it will help bring awareness to the brand and some cash inflow to the business.

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

As a lot of young Africans explore different industries and opportunities for development, we can show support to each other by helping new businesses when they reach out. Share ideas, resources, and invest by paying for the product or service. In my experience, Africans – especially Nigerians – tend to be very competitive and do not want to collaborate. The sad reality is that deep down, one business owner does not want the other business owner to be more successful than they are. We need to learn to be more supportive of one another and not make everything a competition and a race for who gets to the top first.

How many jobs have you created so far?

I am yet to create any paid positions because the company is running very lean. However, over the past year, CountlessMiles has filled five (5) volunteer positions mainly in the social media and content development area. We plan to hire for a few full-time and part-time roles once we receive funding.

Where will the funding come from? Crowdfunding or angel investors.

 

How has technology enhanced your business idea? 

The Countless Miles vision and the idea in itself is technology-driven. As a technology consultant, I am constantly thinking of ways to use technology as leverage for the business. Right now, a lot of work is done manually because we do not have the funds to develop a full tech-enabled platform. That being said, we are seeking funds for this purpose and hope to launch the first or second quarter of 2017. The product will provide travelers who utilize our platform with the ability to curate their experiences anytime, anywhere in the world, in a single seamless process.

How can we support and improve innovation in Africa? 

If we create an ecosystem that fosters ideas developed in Africa or by Africans, we may have the opportunity to tap into resources that we can leverage to develop ourselves and our businesses. Again, as Africans we need to learn to support each other and not make everything a competition. Also, it would be great for investors to support technology driven business ideas in Africa even in the not-so-popular industries. Right now, most of the investors mainly look at the agriculture or financial industry.

Twitter: CountlessMiles

Instagram: CountlessMiles

Facebook: CountlessMiles

Website: CountlessMiles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entrepreneur Launches Onychek.com, Website for Luxury African Fashion

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Chekwas Okafor is the founder of onychek.com – an e-commerce site focused on ‘Made in Africa’ luxury fashion and brands. Before launching, Okafor states that he had to teach himself HTML and CSS plus JavaScript. In addition to being an entrepreneur, he describes himself as a self-taught computer programmer. In this interview with the AWP Network, Okafor talks about what inspired him to start his business and what his plans for growth are.

How did you come up with your business name?

My father inspired the name. You see, my father is my inspiration and I have always wanted to be like him. Another big reason is that my dad’s company once imported textile from China to Nigeria, so I want to reverse that. It is my goal to export textile (in the form of fashion) from Africa to the world. So naming my company after my dad’s company, ONCHEK is a good way to remind myself of who I am and the problem that I am trying to solve.

Who inspired you to start?

Once again, my parents. They have always inspired me to be of service to my community. The craftsmanship and designs by African designers also inspired me to get into fashion. This is why I felt the need to merge the two. It is incredible what fashion can do for the continent.

Who is your target market?

Sophisticated consumers who appreciate African culture, and believe that quality products can be made in Africa. These consumers are also conscious about where and how their clothing are made.

How have you financed the business?

Bootstrapping.

 

What is your competitive edge?

My company’s competitive advantage is that all the products on our website are made in Africa. Another competitive edge is our focus on content creation. We understand that the luxury African fashion industry is still in its infancy, therefore we have made the commitment to educate the world about this industry. We put out weekly long-form content that ranges from the history of a particular product to how products are made, to an African fashion dictionary.

What is the 5-year plan for this idea?

We want to be the world’s most compelling destination for ‘Made in Africa’ luxury fashion.

What challenges do you face?

One challenge is that people still do not understand what African luxury means. This is why we are working to educate consumers about the intricacies of making these products and also their significance to the African culture.

What key things have you learned since starting this idea?
I have learned the following:

  • The importance of being versatile.
  • The importance of networking and reaching out to people in my industry.
  • I now understand that it can really take a long time to launch a company.
  • Be open to new ideas. The idea I started out with two (2) years ago is different from the company I launched now.
  • Most roadblocks have ended up being beneficial to me.

 

What five (5) things do startup entrepreneurs need to know?

  1.  Startups are hard; No joke, Startups are really hard.
  2. Ideas are worthless, Execution is key.
  3. Marketing is important. If you build the company, it does not mean that they will come. You’ve got to market your business.
  4. It is crucial to ask for help when you need it. Reach out to people you have not spoken to before, you will be amazed at how many people are willing to help.
  5.  Products speak louder than plans. People are willing to help when they see something tangible.

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

This is a difficult question to answer because “there is no money” can mean a host of things like, “I have money for a prototype, but not enough for an actual product,” or “I don’t even have enough money for a prototype.” Therefore based on where someone is, the advice will be different. So instead of trying to give blanket advice, this is what I do when faced with a difficult roadblock.

I rephrase the question.

If it is a cash related roadblock, I ask myself “What will the money do for me?” Once I have an idea of what the money could have done for me, I then ask myself, how else can I get that done? Most times, I come up with different ways that I can solve the problem. It is fascinating how rephrasing a question makes problems a lot easy to tackle.

 

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

If you see someone doing something that you admire, just reach out to them. It is much easier to connect today than it has ever been. Events geared toward youths can also be really helpful. So when you attend an event, have the goal to meet people and make new connections that can help you to move your idea, business, and agenda forward.

How many jobs have you created so far?
3

How has technology enhanced your business?

We are an online retailer, so we are almost entirely powered by technology. I taught myself HTML/CSS & JavaScript to manage the backend of the store myself, and it has proven invaluable. In the future, we plan to utilize a more sophisticated technology feature.

How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?

Education – this is a major component of innovation because more skilled people inherently build useful things for society. With the internet, one can easily learn a lot, however, it is paramount that our education system prepares graduates for the ever-changing technology scene. Also, I cannot emphasize the importance of leadership development at higher education institutions.

Access to capital – many wealthy Africans are relatively still risk averse. Most still prefer to buy land than to fund a local startup. There has to be some education that needs to happen. This can be angel/VC funds reaching out to wealthy Africans and educating them on the positive impact of investing in local startups. Media can also play a role by telling stories of successful angel/VC investors that have had lucrative exits. It might take a while for people to grasp the importance, but we have to get this right if we are to have more innovation on the African continent. Access to capital encourages entrepreneurs to take risks. Risk begets innovation.

Media – It is important to tell the stories of successful local startups. When I was in Nigeria, I hardly knew of young founders leading a top company. Telling the stories of African entrepreneurs to young Africans is equally important. You never know whom you are going to inspire.

 

Website: OnyChek

Twitter: OnyChek

Facebook: OnyChek

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2016 AWP Network Power List

Be the Change. Be Inspired. Be You. 

Recognizing (40) African women with powerful, inspiring and influential voices.

At the AWP Network, we aim to encourage more African women with powerful voices who will continue to create programs and policies that support the development and growth of African women and girls.

Introducing Africa’s leading women

AWP woman-of-the-year

Joana Silochina Foster

(1) Joana Silochina Foster (Ghana) cofounded Africa’s first feminist philanthropic institution, The African Women’s Development Fund. A lawyer and activist, Foster oversaw the expansion of a women’s law network in 26 African countries through her work with Women in Law and Development in Africa. She passed away this year and will always be recognized as one of Africa’s greatest feminist activists.

(2) Thuli Madonsela (South Africa) served as South Africa’s public protector for 7 years. Madonsela also helped to draft her country’s final constitution. Recently, she was honored with the ‘Forbes Africa Person of the Year’ award. A human rights lawyer, Mandonsela helped shape South Africa’s post-apartheid era.

(3) Fatma Samba Diouf Samoura (Senegal) serves as FIFA’s secretary general. Samoura is the first African and the first woman to hold this position. Prior to joining FIFA, she worked at the United Nations in various capacities and more recently, as a humanitarian coordinator and a UNDP resident representative.

(4) Mokgadi Caster Semanya (South Africa) is a sports champion and the first person to win all three of the 400 meters (m), 800m, 1500m titles at the South African National Championships. She also won the gold medal in the women’s 800m at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Brazil.

(5) Fadumo Dayib (Somalia/Kenya) is Somalia’s first female presidential candidate. Dayib was the only woman out of 18 presidential candidates running for the position. She plans to serve as her country’s anti-corruption watchdog.

(6) Ndeye Sow (Senegal/United Kingdom) is a senior advisor at International Alert, a peace-building nongovernmental organization. Sow is also a founding member of Abantu for Development, an organization working to strengthen the capacity of African women and enhance their representation at all levels of the development process.

(7) Joy Ndungutse (Rwanda) is the co-founder of Gahaya Links Cooperatives, a social enterprise successful in turning ancient basket weaving skills into a source of livelihood for thousands of rural women. Gahaya Links manages a network of over 4000 weavers across the country organized into 72 cooperatives. Her company is also winner of the Artisan Hero Award.

(8) Hadia Gondji (Ethiopia) is the owner and managing director at Hadia Flowers and Vegetable PLC. In addition to this, she is the founding member and president of the Ethiopian Women Exporters Association, an organization helping business women increase their exports.

(9) Mame Madior Boye (Senegal) is the first female prime minister of Senegal. Boye is also recognized as the founder and first woman president of the Association of Senegalese Lawyers.

(10) Jo-Issa Rae Diop (USA/Senegal) is the creator of the HBO series, Insecure and Awkward Black Girl. She also wrote “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” a New York Times best-selling memoir where she chronicles her life through a series of humorous anecdotes.

(11) Nwakaego Boyo (Nigeria) is managing director of Temple Productions Limited, a company that produces advocacy films, short films, documentaries and TV adverts. Next year, Boyo will be appointed the 60th president of the International Women’s Society.

(12) Kemi Ajumobi (Nigeria) is the initiator of the Inspiring Woman Series and Editor of the Off-Duty Magazine for Business Day Nigeria. She recently served as a Bloomberg Africa Media Leadership fellow.

(13) Nnedi Okorafor (USA/Nigeria) is the first black person to win the world fantasy award for best novel since its 1975 inception. She is a professor and novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults.

(14) Ebi Atawodi (Nigeria) is General Manager for Uber in West Africa. Prior to working at Uber, Atawodi served as head of corporate communications at Etisalat where she created the Etisalat Prize for Literature – Africa’s most prestigious literary prize.

(15) Asisat Lamina Oshoala (Nigeria) is a professional footballer and was part of the team to win the 2016 African Women’s Championship. She currently plays for Arsenal Ladies of the FA WSL as a forward.

(16) Affiong Williams (Nigeria) is an entrepreneur and founder of ReelFruit – a dried fruit processing and packaging company.

(17) Bukky Karibi-Whyte (Nigeria) is an entrepreneur and founder of Invicta Africa and The Bobby Taylor Company – one of Nigeria’s leading PR firms.

(18) Comfort Sakoma (Nigeria) is founder of Poize Insider, a business development consulting firm focused on supporting women entrepreneurs.

(19) Shade Ladipo (Nigeria) is executive director of WEConnect International, an organization focused on connecting women to procurement and exporting opportunities. Ladipo is also the founder of Avienti Limited, a destination management company.

(20) Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede (Nigeria) is an author, a professor of political science and global affairs, founder of the Young Women’s Guide and principal at Yetunde Global Consulting. Her companies are focused on leadership development consultation and training.

(21) Nkechi Ogbodo (Nigeria) is the founder of Kechie’s project. The organization leads various initiatives that provide access to educational opportunities for girls in Nigeria. Kechie’s project also leads a conversation series for Men whereby they are included and empowered to support women and girls initiatives within their local communities.

(22) Ifeoma Malo (Nigeria) is Founder of the Clean Tech Hub and Energy Innovation Center. She is an Eisenhower fellow, Desmond Tutu fellow, Crans Montana fellow and African Leadership Fellow. She previously served as chief of staff and senior technical adviser on energy policies, regulations, and partnerships to Nigeria’s former minister of power.

(23) Mame Diene (Senegal) is the owner of Bioessence, a luxury age-defying shea butter skincare company. BioEssence sources its shea nuts from a women’s co-op in Kedougou, a small town in south eastern Senegal.

(24) Frances Udukwu (Nigeria) is Miss Africa USA and founder of the Lead Girl Foundation, an organization focused on providing vocational training to girls in Enugu State, Nigeria.

(25) Saudat Salami (Nigeria) is one of the pioneers of the online grocery business in Nigeria. Her company, Easyshop Easycook delivers fresh groceries to your door.

(26) Bukky Shonibare (Nigeria) is a Mandela Washington Fellow, founder of Girl Child Africa, and co-ordinator of Adopt-a-camp, an organization providing educational assistance to Internally Displaced Communities (IDPs) in Northeast Nigeria.

(27) Melanie Hawken (South Africa) is a social entrepreneur, founder and editor-in-chief of ‘Lionesses of Africa,‘ one of Africa’s digital platforms for women entrepreneurs. With a rapidly growing audience of 100,000+ women, the organization provides access to information, community resources, and networking events.

(28) Tosin Jegede (Nigeria) is a child-star and founder of One Book One Child, a platform whose mission is to improve literacy for students at the primary school level.

(29) Rebecca Franks (South Africa) is a leading woman in tech. She is a senior android developer recognized with the status of Google Developer Expert for Android. She is also the creator of the bookdash mobile application.

(30) Elizabeth Magaya (Zimbabwe) is managing director of Blissford Investments, a property development company specializing in residential properties, landscaping and interior design in Zimbabwe.

(31) Patricia Veringa-Gieskes (DRC) is the owner of The Job Factory, a recruitment, and certified vocational training center.

(32) Sonja Sebotsa (South Africa) is the co-founder of Identity Partners, an investment advisory and financing firm.

(33) Divine Ndhulukula (Zimbabwe) is the founder of Securico Security Services, the Harare-based company is a market leader in the provision of bespoke guarding services and cutting-edge electronic security solutions. The full-service security company providing protection ranging from live surveillance monitoring to guard dogs. Her company sees more than $10 million in revenues. each year.

(34) Sibongile Sambo (South Africa) is an airline executive who founded SRS Aviation, the first Black female-owned aviation company providing clients with professional and personalized flight options to destinations around the world.

(35) Njeri Rionge (Kenya) is the co-founder of Wananchi Online, a company that has become East Africa’s leading pay-tv, broadband internet and VoIP services firm.

(36) Abena Amoah (Ghana) is the founder of Baobab Advisors and a Member of the Investment Advisory Committee for Ghana’s Petroleum Wealth Fund. Her company, Baobab Advisors, works to raise capital for businesses.

(37) Hilda Tadria (Uganda) is a gender and social development specialist. Tadria is also co-founder of the African women’s development fund. Dr. Tadria is a founder of Mentoring and Empowerment Program for Young Women (MEMPROW), a capacity building empowerment program for young women ages 16 to 25 years.

(38) Asha Abbas (Tanzania) is the founder of Aurateen, a platform providing sex education to teenagers in her local community by raising awareness and working with medical practitioners to educate about STIs and other sexually related topics.

(39) Lamine Chamsiya (Niger) is the co-founder of E3D-Niger, a startup involved in the production of Neem and the local marketing of bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides, and cosmetic products.

(40) Halima Gidado-Mijindadi (Nigeria) is the founder of Brides & Babies, a one-stop shop for women as they experience important stages in their lives. She is also the founder of Kid for Kid Charity, a nonprofit that provides underprivileged children with school supplies, meals, and other necessities.

In addition to recognizing Africa’s leading women, the AWP Network develops innovative business content, programs and events for African entrepreneurs.

Check out previous lists:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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