Founder of AWP Network to serve as a Judge at the 2017 Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition

Mary Olushoga, Founder, AWP Network

Mary Olushoga, Founder of the AWP Network will once again serve as a judge at the Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition set to take place in Berlin, Germany on October 22, 2017. The entrepreneurship program is part of the UNESCO Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

The Youth Citizen Entrepreneurship Competition is a global program established to empower young entrepreneurs to create a sustainable world. This global platform empowers young entrepreneurs (age 15-35) from around the world to engage in a more peaceful world. Participants submitted their innovative ideas and projects with a societal impact, which champion and implement one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s).  The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 related targets address the most important social, economic, environmental, health and governance challenges of our time.

Learn more about the competition here: Youth Citizen Entrepreneurs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Founder of AWP Network to speak at the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum

Mary Olushoga, Founder – AWP Network

Led by Irene Ochem, AWIEF is a Pan-African initiative and platform created to bring attention and focus to the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit the African woman possesses while exploring obstacles that may stop her from breaking down barriers and prevent her from reaching her maximum potential in society.

The theme for the conference titled, “Equity, impact and inclusive growth towards Agenda 2030 and a sustainable African future” will take place October 5 – 6, 2017 at the Century City Conference Centre in Cape Town, South Africa.

Mary Olushoga, Founder of the AWP Network will lead the panel discussion on “Infrastructure and increasing women’s participation in the sector.”

Learn about the event here: AWIEF 2017 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I started my business to inspire others’ says handbag designer – Sharon Agwunobi

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I first connected with the founder of “Aura by Alaye” Sharon Agwunobi at the AWP Network business pitch event at Afe Babalola University in Ekiti State, Nigeria. She was one of the student entrepreneurs who received financial support from the AWP Network. I became interested in Sharon’s company when she showed me samples of her designs. Not only were her bag designs beautiful and impressive, she is also a savvy entrepreneur who sells her products to students on her college campus. Students who purchased from her raved about the quality of the bags and its unique designs. In addition to this, Sharon has a wide social media presence on Instagram and other platforms. In this interview, we learn more about Sharon’s company, what inspired her to start and the next steps for her company.

How did you come up with your business name?

My brand name is “Aura by Alaye.” My brother inspired the name. He always said to me, “Embrace Your Aura,” and this has now become the slogan of the company. You see, I am quite jovial and creative; my brother always encouraged me to hold on to this part of myself. The other half of the name, “Alaye” means chairman or boss, and this is like an ‘oriki.’ When I was in secondary school, a close friend began referring to me as “Alaye,” because I was interested in and participated in almost every club and after school program.

This name and reference has stuck until date and many even think that “Alaye” is my last (sur) name. Putting the two words together was suggested to me by another friend, Isaac. I think the combination of the words describe me perfectly, considering that I am proactive and I believe in creating, innovating, and improving upon existing ideas.

What inspired you to start your business?

I was finally motivated to start the brand when I got tired of being cajoled into carrying handbags. You see, I do not like carrying bags, however, when I go out with my mom, she makes me carry them. It is important to note that I am not a ‘bag girl.’ Bags that I carried at the time, were either too plain, too big, or too small with little or not enough room for all the things that make up a good bag. As a result, I decided to master the art of creating and designing various fashion items and began making what I always wanted to.

The other side of the story is that I wanted to create a brand, a product that would inspire other people and help to bring their talents and skills to an audience.  When I started my business, I hoped that my customers would appreciate my designs and so far, I can say that the feedback has been amazing.

Who is your target market?
Anyone who can afford the product. I plan to start making items for children soon.

How have you financed the business?
I used my savings to finance the business. My mother has also supported me. She paid for my training program in fashion design and assisted me in sourcing for quality fabrics by connecting me with the best fabric distributors in Lagos.

What is your competitive edge?
The high-quality fabrics; also, the shapes and sizes of my products differ from existing brands.

What is the long-term plan for your business?
It is my intention that my business becomes a “one stop shop for African fabric and new designs.” My goal is to change people’s perspective on the use of African prints and fabrics and more importantly, contribute significantly to the fashion industry.

What challenges do you face?
No challenges yet, just experiences and lessons in running my business.

What key things have you learned since starting your business?

The first is to understand that starting a business is a risk.
Secondly, is to keep trying, keep failing, and keep going at it until you meet your goals.
Thirdly, after taking a risk and not getting your expected result, work harder and figure out better ways to do things.
4) Know that not everyone will appreciate your growth and your work. However, with time they will come to take interest in it and even if they do not, keep working to inspire others.
5) Remain focused on your goals. Remember that ideas die or may become outdated. Find new ways to do things, to innovate, stay consistent over time and apply it to the type of creations you intend on making.

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

  • Always pray and commit your works to God.
  • When you get some attention, do not get too excited. Focus on your mission and continue to create.
  • Always find the time to check on your goals and achievement lists. Sadly, many people jump on new trends and what people like rather than what truly inspires them.
  • Keep your circle small. People will gravitate towards you because of your success and will begin to make all types of suggestions, then they want to become advisors when they themselves do not have the required experience. Then they want to tell you what you should and should not do with your brand. Do not get carried away by these characters.
  • Do not forget and always remember that you are doing this to inspire others and not to prove anyone wrong.

What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
I would say, start from somewhere. Do not merely conclude that “there is no money.” Seek assistance from reliable family members; if you have none, which is very unlikely, there are companies that give out loans to small businesses. Banks also give loans to small business owners. The process is strenuous but I think it is worth a try.

How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
By supporting each other’s businesses. The sad reality is that people do not want to see you doing better than them. African youths need to understand that supporting others will not make them any less of themselves. I find that strangers and outsiders tend to show more support than those who are close to you.

How many jobs have you created so far?
I have created two (2) jobs. A company director and a social media promoter.

How has technology enhanced your business idea?
I use social media to promote my brand. The technology is fast and I can reach more people.

How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
We can support and improve innovation in Africa by (1) providing more financing options to entrepreneurs and (2) organizing more networking events, and seminars for startups.

Contact Sharon here:

 Twitter: Aura by Alaye 

Instagram: Aura by Alaye 

Email: aurabyalaye (at) gmail.com

Phone: +234 09060006499

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entrepreneur Set To Launch Innovation Hub for African Girls In STEM

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Abisoye Ajayi-Akinfolarin, Founder of Pearls Africa Foundation will launch the ‘Lady Labs Innovation Hub,‘ created to function as a collaborative centre for young women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

The hub will serve as a co-working space for women in technology and offer an avenue to drive their businesses. In turn, it is expected that these women techpreneurs will serve as mentors to young girls interested in developing their skills in STEM.

To date, the Hub has trained 143 girls who live in underserved communities and has connected these girls to 30 mentors who then provide various levels of mentorship and guidance. This launch will not just be an opportunity to become acquainted with these talented young women but will be an opportunity to unveil plans towards harnessing potential and increasing impact in the technology ecosystem.

To learn more, visit: www. pearlsafrica.org or the centre at 55 Moleye Street, Off Herbert Macaulay Way, Alagomeji, Yaba, Lagos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Rahmon Ojukotola – Founder of Fintech Startup Working To Boost Financial Inclusion in Nigeria

StartCredits, Rahmon Ojukotola

I founded this business to address the low market penetration rates of financial inclusion products in Nigeria and to help promote financial inclusion throughout Africa. I truly believe that greater access to credit will foster sustainable economic growth and it is my intention that my company becomes a major catalyst for change in Nigeria’s growth, recovery and prosperity.

Founder of fintech startup StartCredits is the person to meet if you are seeking a loan in Nigeria. His company has created a unique search engine for Nigerians seeking a loan and has developed an innovative proprietary risk model that measures the borrowers’ probability of default.

Ojukotola is a well-accomplished finance expert with work experience at the Bank of England and UBS. He earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southampton. He is a chartered accountant, a member of the chartered institute for securities & investment, the institute of chartered accountants in England and the Royal Economic Society.  In this interview, Ojukotola discusses why he started his business and his plans for the future.

How did you come up with your business name?
The term ‘StartCredits’ was historically used in the movie industry to indicate the start of a film production. I was also inspired by a track from the music duo ‘chase & status.’ ‘StartCredits’ is an impactful name. My company provides information to customers exploring various financing options and helps them to reach their financing goals.

Who is your target market?
StartCredits services are freely available to all Nigerians who wish to get a loan to finance their business, education, mortgage and more. The free loan search engine helps users find the best interest rates in their chosen loan category, whilst our easy to understand alternative loan providers’ review helps borrowers to identify the provider most suited to their needs.

How have you financed the idea?
I started the company with my savings, accrued from working in the banking sector. I also raised funds from friends and family.  I wanted to launch the company without the delays associated with external seed funding. Currently, we are in talks with a number of tech-focused VCs for the next round of funding.

What is your competitive edge?
We are the first and only business in Nigeria offering this service. We developed innovative proprietary risk models that accurately measures the borrowers’ probability of default. This improves loan providers’ ability to assess risk and enables them to disperse more loans to qualified borrowers.

What is the long term plan for this idea?
It is our goal to revolutionize the way borrowing is done in Nigeria and then Africa using innovative technologies and strategies.

What challenges do you face?
StartCredits is disrupting traditional consumer credit decision processes in Africa with innovative ways to measure credit risk. As such, it will take educating loan providers and borrowers to overcome the resistance to change and to understand the benefits of increased access to credit.
Another key challenge is internet penetration especially in regards to the high cost of data for Nigerians to access the internet. This limits the pace at which our potential users can reach our services.

 

What key things have you learned since starting this idea?

Whilst our digital marketing has been productive, we find that our targeted direct marketing has proven the most successful. Our marketing and innovative products are helping to shift the borrowing habits of Nigerians online, where there is greater price discovery and transparency.

What do you think startup entrepreneurs need to know?
Startup entrepreneurs unfortunately and for a while need to be the ‘jack-of-all’ trades. They need to learn marketing, sales, finance, legal, and the process of developing an idea. These are the key skills of most successful entrepreneurs. You need them especially when you cannot afford to pay experts.

What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
My advice: develop the idea first, gain some tangible traction and then investors will come to help you scale your idea.

How do you think African youths can continue to support each other?
African youths can support each other by creating networking groups that facilitate collaboration and ideas sharing.

How many jobs have you created so far?
StartCredits has directly and indirectly supported over 50 jobs in Nigeria.

How has technology enhanced your business idea?
As a FinTech company, let’s just say that technology is symbiotic with the business.

How can we support and improve innovation in Africa?
We can support and improve innovation in Africa through education and an ecosystem of investors, incubators, universities and government policies tailored towards Africa challenges and opportunities.

 

Contact Rahmon here:

Website: Startcredits

Twitter: Startcredits

LinkedIn: Startcredits

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Interested in Contracting? 5 Things You Should Know About Doing Business With Nigeria’s Private Sector

(1) Access to information: Find the opportunity, know where they are. Many business owners are pessimistic when it comes to finding prime and sub-contracting opportunities with private and public entities in Nigeria. The lack of transparency has fueled this notion. We can acknowledge that technology to an extent has helped to improve transparency on transactions and processes. Tools and platforms such as tender.ng among others, are some new innovations in the procurement space helping to foster accessibility and ease. Tender.ng, for instance, is an online tender notification platform that allows individuals and businesses find and respond to tenders. The platform publishes daily tenders from federal, state and local governments, private businesses, publicly listed companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academic institutions. Interested? You may sign up for a free trial.

(2) Have a marketing strategy: Shade Ladipo, Executive Director of WeConnect International in Nigeria, an organization connecting women entrepreneurs to corporate purchasing organizations states, “procurement officers need to be able to find you easily.” This includes being present on relevant social media channels, having an active website, being responsive through emails and phone calls. As a business owner, you need to be accessible and not difficult to find. The easier it is for people to reach you, the better it will be for your business.

3) Cold Marketing Works, Just Do Your Research: “Cold marketing” involves being proactive by either calling or visiting procurement officers at random. However before taking this step, do your research by finding out the goods and services the company you are interested in doing business with needs, and how that fits in with what you provide. Do not just pitch your company but ensure that your services are relevant to their business needs.

(4) Ask the right questions: As an entrepreneur, it is crucial that you learn active listening skills so that you can ask the right questions. The company that you are interested in doing business with, do they have a vendors’ list? How do you get on this list? What is the process for getting on this list, what are the pre-qualification requirements? Who is the company’s supplier diversity officer? Do not be afraid, take the first step and be sure to ask all the right questions.

(5) Can you deliver? What is the point of going through step 1 thru 4 if you cannot deliver the required service? Make sure that you have your ‘ducks in a row’. Ensure that you have access to the financing needed to execute on the job; the staff and the skills required. Is your business registered? Have you filed your taxes? Do you have all of the necessary certifications and licenses? Are you insured? What does your capability look like? Is this your area of expertise?

Much of what occurs in the procurement space, either as a prime or subcontractor still takes place informally; much of it is built on personal relationships. As a business owner, it is important to learn the steps of how to obtain contracts with public or private entities globally. Again, remember that establishing relationships with key individuals within a company is crucial. Consider that access to public or private contracts could diversify your company’s earnings. Leveraging on technology tools for your business will enable accessibility and transparency, which may be good in promoting business competitiveness and growth.

Have more tips to share, email mary (at) awpnetwork.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Founder of AWP Network, Mary Olushoga Featured on TV Show ‘On The Rise Africa’

On The Rise Africa by Femi Agbayewa is a sit-down television interview with a twist where African innovators, collaborators, and entrepreneurs engage in an off the cuff round table discussion about their visions and journeys.

Listen in:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEConnect International, Tender.ng, join the AWP Network to discuss Procurement Opportunities in Nigeria

On Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – The African Women Power Network together with WeConnect International in Nigeria and Tender.ng led an engaging conversation on how to find and secure procurement opportunities in Nigeria.

The panel discussion titled, “Bid To Win: Learn How to Find and Successfully Bid for Procurement Opportunities with Top Companies in Nigeria,” focused on procurement opportunities available in the private sector. The discussion was led by Reginald Bassey, former Chief of Staff at the Office of Rep. Robinson Uwak of the Oron Federal Constituency of Akwa Ibom State along with Shade Ladipo, Executive Director, WeConnect International in Nigeria and Temitope Longe, co-founder, Tender.ng.

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The AWP Network Hosts Leading African Women in Technology in Lagos

On Tuesday, April 25, 2017 – The African Women Power Network hosted leading African women in technology to an engaging conversation on what it means to be a woman in technology. The conversation explored the challenges and the progress made so far in the STEM fields with regards to women and girls in Nigeria.

The following stakeholders were invited to join the conversation, which was led by Mary Olushoga, Founder of the AWP Network. In attendance were, Saudat Salami – Founder, EasyshopEasycook.com, Tolulope Adeyemo – Program Director, The WAAW Foundation, Nkemdilim Begho – Founder, FutureSoftware Resources, Abisoye Ajayi – Founder, Pearls Africa and the honorable Ubong King.

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