From Harvard to Sierra Leone – CEO of Splash Mobile Money Finds His Path

CEO of Splash Mobile Money

CEO, Daniel Osei-Antwi

Chief Executive Officer of Splash Mobile Money, Daniel Osei-Antwi talks with the AWP Network about finding his path. Prior to joining his company, Daniel worked with Manocap – the first investor behind Splash. While there, he quickly became a strong believer in the exciting potential for mobile money platforms across Africa. Before moving to Sierra Leone, Daniel was an investment banker with Barclays Capital in New York, where he worked on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), restructuring, large debt and equity transactions for power and energy sector clients. Daniel holds a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Union College in Schenectady, NY and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

What does your company do?
Splash Mobile Money lets consumers make financial transactions using their phones. What happens is that you go to a splash agent who converts your hard cash to splash cash in your phone. Then you can easily transfer this electronic money to another phone or make payments with a simple text message. A confirmation text message is sent to your phone (the sender) and to the recipient. The recipient can then go to another splash agent to exchange that electronic money for cash. The business started three years ago, but the concept has been around in other countries for a bit longer and promises to transform the financial landscape of the developing world and to change the lives of millions. For ordinary people in emerging markets, everyday transactions are painful, risky, and time-consuming – access to innovative and inexpensive financial tools and services are limited but mobile money can improve things dramatically.

Who is your target market?
Any individual or organization in Sierra Leone looking for easier ways to transfer money or make payments such as school fees, utility bills, salaries, loans, or any other kind of financial transactions.

How did you get involved with this particular company?
The opportunity came up while I was on the investor side of the table to take over management and lead a turnaround after some early stage challenges. I strongly believe that mobile payment platforms are the future of financial services in Africa. Take this into account, there are about six (6) million people in Sierra Leone, two (2) million of them have phones, only 300,000 have bank accounts. There is a market for our service and we are properly positioned for growth.

How have you financed the company?
The business started with equity funding from Manocap, the Soros Economic Development Fund, and a grant from the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund. I later added some savings and raised money from family and friends who believe in the vision.
 

What challenges have you faced since joining the company?
I can sum up the challenges in three parts. The first is behavioral – we are part of a movement to transform the financial landscape of the developing world. Now, the question here in Sierra Leone is: how do you move this population that is very heavily cash-based to trust in electronic money and use SMS-based payment platforms especially when the literacy rate is less than 35 percent?

(2) Infrastructure – Africa needs the necessary infrastructure to support small business development and growth. Everything from skilled labor to institutional support to keeping the lights on. It’s hard to survive when you have to keep the generator running 14 hours a day.

(3) Transparency – mobile money brings too much transparency into the system and some people don’t want that. It exposes inefficiencies – a heavily cash-based system hides flaws and supports corruption. The reality is that corrupt people do not want their transactions tracked.

 

What inspired your move back to Africa?
I have always wanted to move back. After more than 10 years in the United States, I started telling my friends that I would go to the World Cup in South Africa and not leave the continent – so that’s exactly what I did. Being on ground is extremely gratifying and I have never regretted it.  So far we have about eighty (80) employees most of whom are focused on educating people on the street and registering clients – this I believe, is a significant contribution to economic development.

What is next for your company?
Our growth strategy is to (1) set up more agents and micro franchising opportunities for micro entrepreneurs. (2) Expand beyond Sierra Leone. Our five-year plan is to be in at least six (6) countries in West Africa. What we have done is built an ecosystem and developed relationships with various partners. We have established strong corporate partnerships with companies so that they can use our mobile platform to the pay salaries of their employees. Corporate partnerships also help us to establish credibility. We will continue to build these partnerships and foster relationships with banks to encourage their consumers to make use of our platform to pay back loans. We want to make life easier for everyone. Lastly, we have a plan to target rural areas where we can bring more unbanked people into the formal banking system. Our cross-network relationship with telecommunication operators is what sets us apart.

 

What advice do you have for youths looking to start a business?

Find your passion. Do something that you are passionate about – when you are passionate, it won’t feel like work. In places like Sierra Leone, it is not easy to navigate through the hurdles. Something that should take two weeks will often take four to six months. You need to remind yourself of your vision and look beyond the frustration.

• Have a strong financial cushion – adjust your lifestyle should you need to.
• Have mentors and advisors familiar with your business terrain. If you want to operate in Africa, identify folks with business experience in that part of the world.
• Be willing to learn
• Do not repeat mistakes – see what others are doing and learn from them.

What key things have you learned since starting your entrepreneurial journey?
I am learning more about my leadership style. It is important that leaders know their particular leadership style. They need to know this so that they can attract the right teammates. Also, it is vital to know how to be a leader and learn how to rally people around you. No matter how big your dream is, you cannot execute it by yourself. People skills are very important and you need to learn how to influence and inspire people. You have to know how to work with others so that you can produce results. I have also learned the importance of record-keeping, book-keeping, and due diligence.

How does your company deal with fraud?
Our company is very transparent. It is important that we keep the accounts of our customers safe. We use pin numbers and have extensive identification procedures to ensure that your information is protected and that the money gets into the right hands.

Things to remember as an entrepreneur:
1. People Matter – people are more important than your idea. No matter how great the idea is, you need the right people and team around you.
2. It can be very lonely at the top.
3. Learn how to turn pain and challenges into opportunities. The more painful the experience, the easier it is to get customers.
4. Money is important – use your own money to prove a concept before finding investors. Raise money from those who believe in you and your vision. Start with family and friends.
5. Start small – demonstrate your ability to know how to properly execute before expanding.
6. Your spiritual life matters: learn to draw on a greater power than you. You’ll need it often.

 

Learn more about Splash:
Website:  www.splash-cash.com
Email:  info@splash-cash.com

 

 

 

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Voices of Young African Entrepreneurs – Farmer Shares Business Tips

Zanau Hassan Maikasuwa

President, Farmfields Agro-Allied Services

Zanau Hassan Maikasuwa, President of Farmfields Agro-Allied Services talks with the AWP Network about how he got started and the role his company plays in supporting local farmers and agricultural investors. His company deals with all aspects of farming – animals and crops. He states, “it is our goal to help farmers and agricultural investors make the right business decisions.” Maikasuwa tells his story and shares useful business tips.

What inspired you to start?
I have always been interested in large-scale farming and agriculture because I was exposed to the business as a child. When it was time to attend university, the school selected Agriculture as my major even though I had applied to study Medicine. Easily, I fell in love with my courses – I became more passionate about farming and dreamt of becoming an ‘Agropreneur.’ During my time off from school, I continued to work on the farm and this gave me a clearer idea of how to implement the various theories that I learned in the classroom. Upon graduation, I wrote my business plan and I just believe that destiny made everything work in my favor.

Who is your target market?
My target market includes farmers who plan to expand. We support their expansion from peasant or non-commercial farming to commercial agricultural production.

How have you financed your business?
I started my business with support from my family. In 2010, I sort alternative forms of financing and held various jobs. I supplied seeds to farmers in rural areas, held a job in irrigation farming, and worked as a part-time consultant. It was challenging but I kept planning and going at it. Around the same time, the YouWIN Nigeria program started. I entered the competition and won a grant for my business. I know that the money from the program will support my expansion plans.

What is your competitive edge?
My company’s competitive edge is our ability to offer innovative solutions that adds value to our client’s agricultural enterprises. By that I mean – identifying the right markets, helping out with simple innovative agricultural technology that produce results, increase profits, and create employment opportunities.

What is the long-term plan for your business?
In the next 5 years, we plan to expand our operations and build a solid client database. We will also establish training centers for modern agricultural practices and continue cordial relationships with various funders including banks so that we can easily gain access to financing as we  expand.

What challenges do you face or have you faced thus far?
Market research and penetration is a huge challenge. My company has an innovative approach to farming but our competitors are government agencies, therefore, trying to make people pay for the service that we provide poses a challenge but our phenomenal customer service and innovative business strategy makes us very useful to the market that we serve.

 

What five key things have you learned since starting your business idea?
1. Success is not immediate. Business is not about immediate success but strategic long-term planning and the proper execution of your idea.
2. Be willing to fail. Despite failing or not being profitable in the first few years does not mean that you give up or lose hope. Learn from your mistakes and move on. If you are in the start-up phase, losing money is normal – by making mistakes, we learn.
3. Stay Connected. Learn from others particularly from those who manage or own a successful business. You can do this by reading what others have to say about their failures, attending seminars, workshops, trainings, and conferences.
4. Just go for It. There is always an opportunity for those who are prepared – Start.
5. Be Innovative. You must be creative and innovative to stay ahead.

What five things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
1. Plan to grow: starting small does not mean that you remain small.
2. Keep going: Do not give up.
3. Ask questions: Always seek and do not be afraid to ask for help from professionals and experienced entrepreneurs.
4. Opportunities: Look out for opportunities that will enable you to remain afloat in business.
5. Stay engaged and connected: Network and partner with the people that can support your work.

What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
My advice is to start anyway. Money will come and you are likely to get it when you offer services or products. You can always start small but do not plan to remain small. Look out for funding opportunities and tailor your business plan to meet various funding criteria. Nigeria is the land of opportunities despite challenges. The journey certainly will not be easy but it is worth the try. Also, look out for opportunities from the government and the private sector – find them and take advantage of them. The Nigerian government today creates and supports many initiatives, so be on the lookout.

How do you think Nigerian youths can continue to support each other?
African youths should create networking forums to share ideas, partner with one another, and it is time to take up intra-Africa opportunities. Let us create our markets and swim in it.

How many jobs have you created so far?
So far, we have created four (4) jobs. We have also created jobs indirectly for those offering services to our farmers. We plan to grow our staff to about ten (10) in the next two (2) years and provide more jobs through our clients.

Farmfields Agro-Allied Services

Contact:
Farmfields Agro-Allied Services
Phone: 011 (234) 803-634-7255
Facebook: www.facebook.com/zanau.hassan
Twitter: www.twitter.com/zanauhassan
Location: Shop 306 Nguroje House, Hammaruwa Way, Jalingo, Taraba State

 

 

 

The Big Picture Goal is to Promote a Positive Image of Africa

From food trucks bringing local fresh healthy foods to underprivileged communities in Vermont, to providing education for girls in Afghanistan, the 52 nominations for Oxfam’s first-ever International Women’s Day Challenge on GOOD Maker highlighted the power that women have to make the world a better place.

But once the public had spoken, and the voting period was closed, the African Women Power Network (AWP), based in Nigeria, was announced as the winner. With her $1,000 winnings from Oxfam, AWP’s administrator, Mary Olushoga has started offering online business trainings geared towards women and youth.

With her trainings officially underway, we thought we’d talk with Olushoga, hear more about how the AWP Network got started, and what her vision is for the future.

Here’s an excerpt from our interview with her:

What is the AWP Network and how did you come to start it?

The African Women Power (AWP) network is a credible platform that showcases and shares the entrepreneurial stories, business challenges, and success of African women and youth entrepreneurs. The big picture goal is to promote a positive image of Africa.

With the [money from the GOOD Maker Challenge], I plan to create business education content for entrepreneurs. I hope that this will encourage business growth and expansion. Information will be shared through Twitter, the blog, and webinar platforms. I also plan to start a YouTube channel – for information, support, and inspiration.

If you had a message for other women who want to make a difference, what would you tell them?

I will tell women and girls to have a plan and set goals. Do not be afraid to fail – No one is too small to make a difference. Follow your passion, find a solution to a problem, and change the world.

Click here to read more:  http://firstperson.oxfamamerica.org/2012/08/17/the-big-picture-goal-is-to-promote-a-positive-image-of-africa/

 

 

Gidi Traffic Uses Social Media for Social Good

Gidi Traffic

Gidi Traffic

Social entrepreneur, Gidi Traffic, solves a social problem using social media.

Gidi Traffic is among the first in Nigeria to monetize a twitter handle. Gidi Traffic has built a successful social media brand and is now partnering with Nokia, West Africa to create a mobile application that will help commuters in Lagos with traffic updates, alternate routes, and security reports. With such high demand for useful content, Gidi Traffic plans to expand by crowd sourcing information on health, job opportunities, and events.

Gidi Traffic began his social venture with a mobile phone and a free twitter account on September 23, 2011. His goal is to provide on-the-go traffic updates and ease stress for Lagos commuters. Now backed with a solid partnership with Nokia, West Africa and with over 29, 000 twitter followers – Gidi Traffic answers questions and provides information related to traffic delays, alternate routes, health, safety, and career opportunities.

Gidi Traffic is an inspiration to African youths. He is the first African to be nominated for the Life-Saving Hero category at the Shorty award  – regarded as the Oscars of social media.  He is also nominated for the Best Use of Social Media at the Nigeria Future Awards. In this interview, Gidi Traffic speaks about what inspires him and he shares tips on how African youths can be inspired to become change agents in their local communities.

Nigeria is a country with a very high unemployment rate. The Ministry of Youth Development documents about 68 million jobless youths. Gidi Traffic shares how he uses the available resources that he has access to, to create an employment opportunity.  Gidi Traffic has successfully established his brand and shows how to use social media as an effective tool for social change.

How did you come up with the name Gidi Traffic?

The name ‘Gidi_Traffic’ represents Lagos. I wanted something not too official and something that everyone can identify with.

Who is your target market?

Lagos commuters who want to stay informed.

What inspired you to start?

The inspiration to create Gidi Traffic came one afternoon when I was bored. It came as a random thought. I have an aversion to traffic problems in Lagos so that set me on track towards finding a remedy. I guess some good comes from boredom – if our mind is positive.

What is your five (5) year plan?

I do not want to talk about the future in great detail but what I can say is that Gidi Traffic is the future. Be smart, connect with the future. I will probably look back and say, wow! It all started with a tweet.

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

I created ‘@Gidi_Traffic’ with nothing but a mobile phone and internet access. Money is not an excuse. If the idea is for social good, money should not be an hindrance. When I created Gidi Traffic, I did not plan to make a profit but now, things have taken off very well. I wanted to create a service to remedy the traffic problem in Lagos.

What challenges do you face?

I have a long list of challenges.  Running Gidi Traffic at its current stage is a herculean task. It is very stressful and I handle all parts of the enterprise. My sleeping and eating habits have been greatly altered since creating this business and yes there are times that I am overwhelmed by the work but my zeal comes from the countless testimonies and remarks that I get daily for the relevance and effect of my service and how it indeed makes life better for people.

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

1. Be selfless: The best way to be relevant and influential is to NOT be selfish. Do not try to become a celebrity or pursue fame but always aim to make life better for someone else and do so judiciously without expecting a reward.

2. Communicate: I cannot stress the importance of communication. Without updates from my followers, Gidi Traffic will not be this successful. I find that the young women in Lagos are better at reporting traffic updates than the guys.

3. Customers Matter: Always think of your customers. I will recommend to anyone looking to start a social enterprise to provide a useful service that makes people happy and comfortable. Customer satisfaction is truly the best work one can ever do.

4. Be Patient: It takes a great deal of patience to serve people and to figure out what they want.

5. Do Good.

 

Name four things change agents need to know?

1. Finance: Do not let money serve as a hindrance to your goals. You do not need money or large capital to start your idea. Make sure your idea is feasible and simple enough that it can be implemented.

2. Change starts with you. You do not need to form an organization or have a large team to change the world, impact society, or your local community. Start now.

3. Customer service is important and aim to get positive feedback from clients. Positive feedback is more important than any form of profit or reward you might envisage.

4. Create a solution. Be inspired enough to follow through on your solution or remedy to an existing problem.

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

Nigerian youths do not need to buy range rovers or expensive gifts to support each other. We can be supportive by simply using ‘turn signals’ when driving. I keep saying it is the little things that count.

What policy recommendations or changes do you have to help ease traffic in Lagos?

Apart from creating better roads and infrastructure, many changes are needed. For instance, we need to keep commuters informed of traffic updates, and it is important that the government establish lines of communication and share information with citizens. We are all in this together. The Nigerian government also needs to create more alternate routes and solve the issue of flooding.

What tips do you have for people while in traffic?

1. Be happy or at least, try to keep a happy face.
2. Remember a scowl will not disintegrate the cars in front of you.
3. The only way to change lanes legitimately is by swapping keys with the other person.

 

Gidi Traffic saves lives. My twitter followers provide useful information.They take the time to send traffic or security updates and they always respond to inquiries. We work together to save lives, time, and money. My motto is “Lending Each Other An Eye” to make the world a better place.

One time, a woman was in labor and she could not make it to the hospital. She tweeted @Gidi Traffic and was able to get help from one of my twitter followers, a mid-wife. The mid-wife explained what she needed to do and she gave birth safely right where she was and there are many stories like that. 

Contrary to what some people think, there are lots of good people in Nigeria. I find that people are willing and ready to support one another and the testimonies spawning from Gidi Traffic are countless. They range from university graduates to job seekers who get to their interviews on time because of traffic updates, security reports, and information about job opportunities. Many have found jobs through my tweets. Sometimes, I provide tips on how to avoid fraud and this has prevented some of my followers from getting into regrettable situations. 

 

Contact Gidi Traffic here:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/@Gidi_Traffic

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GidiTraffic

Read more about Lagos mystery Gidi Traffic tweeter reveals identity – Kaptin Idoko  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17560636

 

 

 

Make Every Woman Count Features AWP

Mary Olushoga

Make Every Woman Count is pleased to present to you our August highlight of the month, The African Women Power (AWP).  AWP is a network organization that showcases entrepreneurial stories including the business challenges and successes of African women and youth entrepreneurs.

The African Women Power network began with the idea to provide business related content to African entrepreneurs anywhere in the world –with a particular focus on women and youths. The AWP network seeks to eradicate poverty through providing an online space, which enables a sense of community and promotes dialogue about entrepreneurship. The network is dedicated to offering business support and inspiration and seeks to promote a positive image of African women and youths.

Having begun in 2011 by a single tweet, AWP continues to grow and has since achieved over 600 followers. Not long after AWP was created, the organizations founder, Mary Olushoga was invited to speak on BBC about the fuel subsidy strike in Nigeria and since then, things have really taken off. With this exposure and great confidence The AWP network expanded beyond twitter into what it is today—a blog that features African women and youth in the US and Africa (awpnetwork.com).  Mary has since spoken at Columbia University’s African Economic Forum and was awarded the GOOD Maker/Oxfam America International Women’s day challenge award. Mary continues to seek out opportunities to network and showcase AWP.

 

Click here to read morehttp://www.makeeverywomancount.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4075%3Aour-highlight-of-the-month-with-the-african-women-power-awp&catid=58%3Aour-monthly-highlight&Itemid=163

 

YES, I Started my Business With my Mobile Phone

Mobile Technology and Business: In May 2011, I started my business with my mobile phone – says Founder of Africholidays Travel Agency.

Ayomide Condotti, Founder, Africholidays Travel

 

A growing number of African women entrepreneurs start their dream businesses with a mobile phone – Ayomide Condotti is the perfect example.

Emerging entrepreneurs in the developing world use various technological tools and resources to start, expand, or grow their businesses. The African Women Power (AWP) network interviewed Condotti, Founder and Creative Travel Agent at Africholidays Travel. Ayomide’s story shows that by being job creators, African women have a key role to play in Africa’s economic transformation.

Prior to starting the business, Ayomide worked as a banker and investment manager at the Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) Treasury Unit.  She holds a Masters degree in Investment Management from the Sir John Cass Business School in London. After she got married, Ayomide moved to Accra and began working but she could only dream of doing more with her life and degree. Hence, she decided to combine her passion for travelling with her love for business.

Africholidays Travel!

Africholidays Travel!

When many people think of Africa, they hardly think ‘exotic vacation places,’ Africholidays Travel hopes to change this perception.

What does your company do?

My company provides low-cost travel to exotic places in and outside Africa. We offer holiday packages to Africans anywhere in the world. We help demystify traveling for people. We simplify the process so that it is not stressful for our clients. Packages include trips to Gambia, Accra, Zanzibar, Mombasa, Maldives, Seychelles, Cape Town, Dubai, and exotic cruises.

How have you financed your business?

When I started my business, people constantly told me that my idea would not work and that I would not make it, but my client list keeps growing. I started my business with my savings – now the company finances itself. Private investors have come knocking on our door and we are very excited about the opportunity and the future of the business. It is nice to get the attention of private investors.

How many jobs have you created?

Currently, we have six (6) staff members in Lagos and I just concluded the Africholidays TravelBook training in Abuja. We now have nine (9) fully trained staff members in Abuja. By next month, we will expand the Africholidays TravelBook training to include stay-at-home mums or people who need the extra income.

We will continue to expand and plan to create more jobs. Roles needed include sales reps, assistants, and marketers. My long-term goal is to hire National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members as leg soldiers in 36 states across Nigeria. I will provide the necessary staff training and fully equip these young people with the materials needed to sell my product.

What is the Africholidays TravelBook training program?

It is a training program that properly informs staff members to market Africholidays Travel Packages. In the training, participants are equipped with both travel structure and marketing tools to aid sales.

What is the five-year plan for your business?

(a) To become the premiere travel agency in Nigeria,
(b) To develop and build a community that actively promotes tourism throughout Africa,
(c) To show the world that Africa remains one of the best places to take a vacation.

What is your competitive edge?

Providing low-cost exquisite vacation destinations for our clients, – we are not the typical travel agency. We focus extensively on research and development. We know of the newest hotels in various parts of Africa and inform our clients. We make it our business to update our database with newly built hotels, tours, and activities. We also constantly review the old ones to maintain quality service delivery.

In what ways has your business expanded?

(1) We have increased the number of products and  services that we offer;
(2) We have gone from just using mobile phones to making use of social media platforms (twitter, facebook, instagram, Blackberry Messenger), and now have a new website.
(3) We have just hired newly trained staff members.

How do you manage all of your roles?

Spending time with my family and keeping my business are important to me. These tools, relaxation and time management skills are important when balancing my role as a wife, mother, friend, mentor, employer, and business owner. Balancing these roles are a challenge, but not impossible. I have adopted several relaxation methods – I watch reality TV shows and read Agatha Christie books on my Ipad (I love Monsieur Hercule Poirot!!).  I also take good care of my health and properly manage my time. To remain successful, it is what I need to do to make money.

What challenges do you face as a business owner in Nigeria?

1. Power: the lack of adequate electricity – I spend so much money on fuel.
2. Marketing: I need the additional support– we are currently working on this.
3. Workforce training and development: many university graduates lack the skills necessary to transition into the workforce so staff members need extensive guidance, training, and professional development support.
4. Infrastructure (e.g. security).

 

What advice do you have for youths reading this interview?

I want them to know that business has changed my life.

1. Do not be afraid to take the first step: Go for it!
2. Do not be afraid to ask questions – I used to be afraid.
3. Know your market and do your research.
4. Know what is going on in your business especially with your finances – keep your eyes and ears open.
5. Do not let people curb your dreams – people constantly told me that my business idea would not work and that I would not make it, but my client list keeps growing.
6. Do what you love.

I believe that if you are good at what you do, good things will find you. Have integrity and make sure that the quality of your work speaks for itself. Find your passion and do what you love. Always remain focused and do not be distracted by the noise. Spirituality is also very important to my success – my spirituality is what keeps me going and grounded.

 

Book your holidays, flights, hotels, and tours with Africholidays!

Contact Africholidays Travel here:

Website: http://www.africholidays.com.ng/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/africholidays

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Africholidays.Group

Email: Info [at] Africholidays.com

 

 

 

The AWP Network on GOOD

A Businesswoman’s Best Friend: An Online Network Supports African Entrepreneurs

 

The African Women Power (AWP) Network is literally a product of the digital age: It was born from a tweet and now is housed at a WordPress blog. Today, the network is dedicated to providing budding African businesswomen support in the form of an online space to share entrepreneurial stories and business challenges.

“I’m fascinated by young women entrepreneurs who are different and working in science, technology, and manufacturing,” says AWP founder Mary Olushoga, who recently won the International Women’s Day challenge sponsored by GOOD Maker and Oxfam America. In Nigeria, women are normally married even if they’re in their 20s, and are also starting their own businesses. I’m interested in how they balance their time, being a mother, wife, mentor to staff, entrepreneur—the burden of being a woman.”

For Olushoga, the prospect of helping entrepreneurs was a no-brainer. After watching her father struggle with his own startup in Nigeria and working in small business services after graduating from college, she noticed a gaping void in support for immigrant entrepreneurs. Unlike in the United States, where financial support for entrepreneurship abounds (GOOD Maker, Kickstarter, and Betaspring are just a few outlets dedicated to helping the underdog succeed), Nigeria has few opportunities for help. To help bridge the gap she launched AWP, which helps prepare aspiring business owners to qualify for the wealth of financial opportunities to bring their dreams to fruition.

Click here to read more: http://www.good.is/post/a-businesswoman-s-best-friend-an-online-network-supports-african-entrepreneurs/

 

Voices of African Women Entrepreneurs: Maximize your Social Impact

President, Cotton Tree Philanthropy Advisors, Inc.

Cotton Tree Philanthropy Advisors, Inc.  (CTPA) is a company looking to solve Africa’s socioeconomic problems.  Founder and President,  Desiree Younge, provides insight on what inspired her to start her business and what women can learn from male entrepreneurs.

How did you come up with the name of your business?

The name Cotton Tree Philanthropy Advisors, Inc. (CTPA) was inspired by a landmark tree in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The Cotton Tree stands tall in the oldest part of the city and has been there since the 1700s. The tree has a deeper meaning to me. Symbolically, it captures how I see myself and business in the world. I view CTPA as having deep roots in Africa and we serve as a vehicle that bridges resources to the West, and vice-versa.

Who is your target market?

Actors in philanthropy – those who are interested in solving Africa’s socioeconomic problems. We provide services and work with philanthropists, businesses, NGOs, and nonprofit entities.

What or who inspired you to start your business?

I come from a family of entrepreneurs and I have always aspired to be one. Specifically, I started CTPA because I know there is a gap. I think more Africans should be part of the solution and that is my vision for CTPA. To educate, involve, facilitate, and inspire collaboration and participation between and across businesses, NGOs, communities, and governments.

What key things have you learned since starting your business?

1) It is easy to implement or deliver when you know your strengths and weaknesses as a leader — it drives you to stay focused.

2) You have to be flexible – meaning “the ideal client pipeline” takes time to develop but it should not hinder your progress to keep your business cash-positive, raise the awareness about who you are, and the work you want to do.

3) I created a model that works for me. There is no right or wrong way to do this work – you learn as you go along, but you cannot fake it until you make it!

 

What are the four things start-up business entrepreneurs need to know?

1) Go for it!
2) Do your research and start slow.
3) Do not bury yourself in debt even if you have access to credit. In this shaky economy, even mature businesses are on shaky ground.
4) Leverage your networks to grow your business – collaborate and innovate.

What is your competitive edge?

The right combination of professional and personal experiences. I drew on all my strengths and created a business out of it – It is my secret sauce.

What is the goal of your business?

To maximize social impact!

What advice do you have for women looking to start a business?

I am often not sure why “women” are a special category of entrepreneurs. In Sierra Leone, I grew up in a family of male and female entrepreneurs – I know what they have in common. They were determined to be successful so they worked hard to make that happen and that fundamental work ethic applies to all regardless of gender.

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

There are personal challenges that have not allowed me to spend as much time on the continent as I would like. However, I have a plan to overcome them and move on to the next phase – Year2 of CTPA.

What is the 5 year plan for your business ?

It is not a fully formulated plan but CTPA plans to launch and raise an investment fund – that’s all I can say for now.

How do you think women can continue to support each other ?

Tell each other about what it takes to make it, and inform each other on how to not be afraid to engage with “male entrepreneurs.”  My best advisors have been male – so I can support other women to get over their barriers or formulate the “men-lingo.”  I do know the approach is different. When I speak to women, they express the emotional side of their businesses – the end user/customer.  When I speak to men, they go directly to the core of competition. They speak about why their company or product is the best out there compared to Y . Some go as far as telling you they are IT! We all have competitors.

 

Contact Cotton Tree Philanthropy Advisors, Inc:

Phone: (347) 244-0666

Website: www.ctp-advisors.com

Email: info@ctp-advisors.com

 

 

African Entrepreneur gets Approval from Google as a trusted Photographer

Maureen Erokwu, Founder, BusinessLive360

Maureen Erokwu started her business under the Emmy Chinelo photography brand, but with a current certification from Google as a trusted photographer,  she has since rebranded her business and expanded her services.

I lost my job in May 2010 and since then, it has been difficult to find work.  In this economy, when you lose your job, you are forced to create your own opportunities, which is what I decided to do.  I applied for jobs at various companies and became discouraged when I never heard back from them.  I understand that it is a competitive market and although many jobs are advertised, the reality is that most companies are not hiring. After making money for other companies all these years, I felt like I could do the same for myself.  I know that the journey will not be easy but it will be worth it.

 

What is the name of your business? 

Businesslive360

How did you come up with this name ?

It came as a random thought – I wanted to come up with a name that best describes what I do.

What does your company do?

We are an online visual solutions company that provides 360 panoramic views for small businesses. Our service allows companies to engage their clients online as well as showcase their brand or store.

What is your role in the company?

For now, I am the jack-of-all-trades.  I am the creative director and I handle all aspects of my business – It is challenging but not impossible.

Five years from now, where do you see your company?

We have an expansion plan and I see my business as the leading visual solutions company in New York and New Jersey.

What are your plans for hiring?

I currently have a marketing assistant and a project manager. One thing that I would love to do is continually reach out and give opportunities to recent graduates. I want to give young people jobs and show them that they can be useful in the job market – contrary to popular and negative opinions regarding us, as inexperienced.

What key things have you learned since starting your business?

1. Your customer matters. How you treat customers speaks volume about your business. Customer satisfaction is important and if you treat your customers without regard, then no business for you – it is as simple as that.
2. Build a referral system – I have learned to not just establish relationships with key individuals but to also have a referral system that works.
3. Create a strong network.
4. Have a marketing strategy – do your research and know how to market your business.
5. Be persistent.

 

Who inspires you?

I inspire myself. When I focus and set my mind to something, the results are favorable. I set goals that I can meet and I am my biggest fan. It is also not an issue about who inspires me but what. Giving people a voice inspires me – I want to give people who have no voice a voice.

What business challenges do you face?

1. Having the right contacts
2. Building my networks – constantly asking myself the question: how do we gain access to key players ?
3. Learning to deal with rejection – I get a lot of nos and I have to deal with that
4. Lack of adequate funding

How have you financed your business?

I am self- funded and I used my savings. The business is growing, which is a good thing. Bootstrapping is necessary because banks hardly work with startup companies less than two years old. I also enter business plan competitions. The most recent one that I participated in, was sponsored by Capital One Bank and that has given me some cushion to fund my business. One also cannot undermine support from family members and friends.

What is your competitive edge?

I am a Google approved and trusted photographer, which is an exclusive contract to photograph businesses based in New York and New Jersey. For those who do not know, Google recently launched a free platform for small businesses to engage with clients by showcasing their stores and brand online. It is a great interactive tool for small businesses.

What tips do you have for young people reading this interview?

1. Have a genuine interest in what you are doing.
2. Do not give up on your goals or dreams.
3. Be willing to fail – change the way you think about failure and plan to do better next time.
4. Do not let money be a hindrance to your dreams.
5. Properly represent yourself and your brand.

Are there any particular issues that you face as a woman entrepreneur?

I see women entrepreneurs as game changers. We produce results.

 

Contact Maureen Erokwu here:

Phone: 917. 243. 0909

Email: businesslive360@gmail.com

Website: www.businesslive360.com

Twitter: @businesslive360

 

 

Voices of Young African Entrepreneurs: The Drive to Create Jobs

Hussain Zaguru, Co-Founder and CEO of New Qamar Media Ltd

 

The Nigerian Government on the Right Track! 

The AWP Network sat down with YouWin! Award Winner, Abdulqadir Hussain Zaguru, Co-Founder and CEO of New Qamar Media Ltd, located in Northwest Nigeria. The Nigeria Ministry of Youth Development documents 68 million jobless youths and in response to the high unemployment rate, the government launched the YouWin! program.

For many of my readers who are not aware, the Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YouWiN) program is a collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communication Technology, and the Ministry of Youth Development. These ministries launched an annual business plan competition for young entrepreneurs to help with startup capital or expansion. The program is in line with the federal government’s drive to create jobs.  Zaguru has taken a very proactive approach to his future by starting his own business – with the YouWin! grant, he plans to create 10 to 15 new jobs.

Zaguru graduated from Ahmadu Bello University with an honors degree in Geology. He will complete his Master’s degree program this year. Zaguru can be described as a jovial, passionate, knowledgeable young entrepreneur with unlimited potential and goals for his business.   He describes a hectic day as we sat down for the interview – he is happy to be among the 1200 chosen YouWin! award winners.  Winners will receive one  to ten million naira in equity contribution.

What does your company do?

New Qamar Media Ltd. develops and packages media products, which include reality TV shows, short films, and educational programs for youths in Northwest, Nigeria.

What are your thoughts on the YouWin program?

The entire program was properly executed and I feel like even if I did not become an award winner, the training that I received was worth it. This is the first time that the federal government has come up with such an innovative idea along with a strong implementation plan. The three-day program took place at the Arewa house – a formal center based in the North. 510 other competitors were part of this training and the experience was enlightening. The instructors were well trained and knowledgeable.

The breakdown of the program went as follows:
Day 1 – Validation and registration of YouWin! participants,
Day 2 – Training on the various aspects of operating a business,
Day 3 – Instructors told us that success is attainable and that we youths, can achieve anything that we put our minds to.

Like I said before, there has been nothing like this from the federal government that has involved youths to this extent. The youths have lost so much faith in the government because for a very long time, the government has refused to cater to them but I believe that things are changing. In fact,  many youths still do not believe in the sincerity of the program –  they will just have to wait and see what the federal government is up to.

 

What is the one thing you learned at training?

I learned that change is possible when you meet with like-minds who have a common goal. In this case, the common goal is to create jobs. This program has created an avenue for entrepreneurial individuals to meet.

What role do you play at your company?

I am the writer, producer, and director.

What key things have you have learned since starting your business?

I can summarize key things in seven (7) parts:

1. Start small to get big – do the most with the little resources that you have access to.
2. Do not mix business finances with your personal finances – separate the two.
3. Conduct your business with all sincerity and integrity.
4. Do NOT assume what you do not know.
5. Give yourself room to learn from others – even though you are an entrepreneur, you do not know it all.
6. Be very patient – let that quality be part of your character.
7. My business depends on me – therefore it is important that I properly represent my brand and business to clients.

 

Who inspires you?

The first person that comes to mind is James Cameron.  I am fascinated by his work. He is  innovative and does not give up just because he has these “crazy” or different ideas, he follows through. I consider Mr. Cameron, my hero. He is an icon to be reckoned with.   Another person that inspires me is my mentor:  television presenter and MTN Ambassador Abbas Sadiq.

Five years from now, where do you see yourself?

I hope to expand to different states across Northern Nigeria. I plan to increase our media products and productions. I would also like to create a 15 minutes documentary that wins several international awards.

What business challenges do you face?

One of the challenges that I face is not having state of the art equipments. It is challenging because technology changes  and I need to keep up to provide quality content. Another challenge is market research – taking the time to know and understand the niche and target customers. We  have to know what our customers want. Following trends can be risky and expensive but it is something that we have to do to please our customers. As content providers, we have to listen to the customers needs.

What are your plans for hiring?

With the grant, I plan to hire 10 to 15 people – each person will have respective duties and responsibilities.  I also plan to provide my employees with access to several leadership and personal development workshops, seminars, and  customer service trainings.

How did you finance your business prior to this program?

I held various part-time consulting jobs.

How did you meet your business partner?

I met him while submitting a project proposal at a non-profit organization.

What is your competitive edge?

My ability to speak my native language Hausa – I translate our shows into Hausa and English, hence we can attract both English and Hausa speaking audiences to our work.

Could you give an example of a project that you recently worked on?

I produced and directed an European Union Inside Project on Water and Sanitation under the auspices of the Global Initiative for Women and Children-GIWAC, WRAPA . It was a TV series titled Wash Challenge for Kids – the challenge aired in 2011 on various local television and radio stations. We produced a nine episode series to include sections on songs, drama, and quizzes for children. We asked local schools to participate and asked students from selected schools to write and sing a song in their native language.

In Nigeria, it is reported that 103 million of the country’s 140 million population lack access to sanitation facilities and 69 million also lack access to adequate water, the challenge is great.  Using media platforms helps to engage a wide audience in learning about public health initiatives.  In addition,  I developed a TV Series on Polio tagged Tun Ran Gini  (Hausa) that featured prominent actors from the North. It was a UNICEF and Kaduna State Ministry of Health Project.

What parting words do you have for youths reading this interview?

1. Do not claim to know everything – leave room to listen to others.
2. Save your money towards supporting your goals. Having capital matters – everyone has ideas but without money you cannot execute the idea.
3. Find mentors – they help you move forward and serve as a guide.
4. Your personal development matters – I now realize that I have to focus on my image. I am my brand.

 

Contact Zaguru here:

Phone:   (234) 803-658-1430

Email:     zaguru80 (at) gmail.com

Website:  http://dzaguru.blogspot.com/

Website: http://dzaguru.wordpress.com

Wash Challenge: http://www.washchallenge.blogspot.com/

To learn more about the YouWIN! program, click here: https://www.youwin.org.ng/whatisyouwin.php

 

 

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