From MIT to Nigeria – Finding Business Opportunity in Recycling Waste for Developing Countries

Co-Founder, WeCyclers

Co-Founder, WeCyclers

Entrepreneur and innovator, Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola sat down with the AWP Network to discuss key lessons she’s learned since starting WeCyclers. The AWP Network also extends a warm congratulations to Bilikiss for being selected as a 2013 Echoing Green finalist. With an MBA from MIT, a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University, and an undergraduate degree in computer science from Fisk University – Bilikiss moved back to Nigeria determined to fix the urban waste management system. Her Lagos-based company is focused on giving low-income communities in developing countries a chance to capture value from waste and clean up their neighborhoods through an incentive-based recycling program.

How did you come up with the name WeCyclers?

Actually, I didn’t. The idea for this company came up in a development ventures class at MIT. The professor leading the class, Joost Bonsen, gave us the name and he has been very instrumental and supportive in helping to move the company forward.

What inspired you to start this business?

I have always been interested in ideas that focus on repurposing waste. As I previously stated, the idea for WeCyclers came up in my development ventures class at MIT. During this class, I met other people interested in doing something about waste in developing countries. Also, I worked at a large company for a few years prior to MIT so I think that this was a combination of several factors, one of which was that the timing was just perfect.

Who is your target market?
Our idea is focused on developing countries, particularly low-income individuals. However, during our pilot, we discovered that there is a demand for WeCyclers from people within every strata of society. People are excited about recycling and they want to do their bit towards building a sustainable planet.

How have you financed your business?
We have raised most of our funding from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) sources. I think that MIT is the most supportive school for entrepreneurs period! If companies started by MIT alumni were classified as a country, it would have the 11th highest GDP of any nation. Companies like Bose, Dropbox, Hewlett Packard, and E*TRADE were all started by MIT alumni. There is a culture at MIT that focuses on making student-led ventures succeed. My company has received funding from the MIT Founders Skills Accelerator, MIT D-lab, and MIT IDEAS. We have also raised funds from our supporters who have a great understanding for the importance of promoting recycling – LAWMA, Coca-Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, and Shoprite have all provided us with funding.

What is your competitive edge?
Our competitive edge is our incentives platform. We are building a strong network of people who are excited about recycling.

What is your five-year business plan?
We see a big opportunity here in Nigeria. We hope that in five (5) years we would be able to build a strong recycling network.

What challenges do you face or have you faced thus far?
Our two main challenges are funding and low awareness for our work. Doing business in Nigeria is also very challenging.

 

What five key things have you learned since starting your business idea?
I have been working on this idea for over a year now and I have learned quite a bit.

1. I have learned not to sweat the small stuff – you have to be very good at time management and sometimes you do not have the luxury to obsess over unimportant things.
2. I have changed quite a bit as a person. Before WeCyclers, it was quite difficult for me to communicate how I felt. I always felt the need to be polite but now, I am more direct and I stand up for what I believe in.
3. I have learned the importance of networking. You only learn when you are interacting with others.
4. I have learned to take some time out for myself.
5. I have learned to delegate and trust my team.

What five things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
1. Believe in your idea even if other people are trying to convince you otherwise. It is great to incorporate people’s feedback into your work, but if you do not agree with them, stick with your plan.
2. Network! Network! Network! I cannot stress the importance of networking. It is very vital to growing yourself and your business.
3. Be comfortable with uncertainty.
4. Help out other start-up entrepreneurs when you can.
5. Learn how to negotiate – negotiating is a very important skill.

What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
The easiest way to get funding is to build a team. You will be surprised at how quickly your idea will take off when you have a solid group of people that are equally passionate about it. Also, like our parents say, two (or more) heads are better than one. The diversity as well as the expanded network will amplify your chances of funding the venture.

How do you think Nigerian youths can continue to support one another?
I find that Nigerian youths are supportive of one another. We have had a large number of young volunteers who are excited about what we are doing and want to see us succeed. I would say they should continue to help out when they can.

How many jobs have you created so far?
We have created 15 jobs so far

How can we support and improve innovation in Nigeria or Africa?
We need to invest more in education. You cannot innovate when you do not have a good education. Also, we need more technology incubators and accelerators like the Co-Creation Hub (CChub). The team at CCHub has been very supportive. They are working hard to ensure our success. It will be great to see more organizations like CChub in Nigeria and throughout Africa – dedicated to supporting aspiring entrepreneurs.

 

Want to contact Bilikiss:

Twitter: www.twitter.com/realwecyclers
Website: www.wecyclers.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Wecyclers
Phone Number: (234) 808 -583 -2423

 

 

 

 

African Techpreneur Wins the Etisalat Prize for Innovation

MD, Future Software

MD, Future Software Resources

Nkem Uwaje is Managing Director of Future Software Resources Nigeria Limited and winner of the 2012 Etisalat Nigeria Prize for Innovation. Her company created the iConnect project, focused on making ICT and education more accessible to youths in Nigeria. In this interview, Uwaje talks about how she got started and gives advice to young people interested in starting a business. Uwaje also discussed her thoughts with AWP Founder, Mary Olushoga on gender equality, and accessibility in the ICT sector in this Huffington post article. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-olushoga/african-women-in-tech_b_2728195.html

How did you come up with the name Futuresoft ?
Actually I didn’t. My dad came up with the name in 1999 when he first incorporated the company. He always told me that he created the company for me, so when I was ready to start my own business in 2008, I inherited it.

What inspired you to start your business?
Two things inspired me to start. The first is my dad. He runs his own business and for as long as I can remember, I have always admired that. I have always wanted to be like him – he inspires me. The second is that I once worked for a startup and realized that I could run the business better than the founder did, and that gave me the confidence needed to take the bold step towards leading this company.

Who is your target market?
Our target audience are small to mid-sized companies (SMEs).

How have you financed your business?
I initially invested $600 dollars into the business and grew it from there. I then began to re-invest back any profit that I made. Since then, I have recovered my investment and I find that very encouraging.

What is your competitive edge?
My team is able to produce high-quality web solutions at an affordable price and in a timely manner. We stay true to our core values, which are: quality, integrity, mutual respect, professionalism, efficiency, team spirit, honesty, and attention to detail.

What is the long-term plan for your business?
The long-term goal is to launch various projects like iConnect and grow them into self-sustainable business units. This will position us as a leading ICT company in Nigeria and West-Africa. All our projects can be easily replicated in other countries.

What challenges do you face or have you faced thus far?
I would say that my team faces the usual business challenges of operating a business in Nigeria. No light, traffic congestion, low employee skillset, tedious processes and structures, clients not paying on time, slow internet, the lack of understanding and value of technology. Anyone doing business in Nigeria will face these core challenges, and the sad part is that they are not going away any time soon.

What five key things have you learned since starting your business idea?
1. Be bold
2. Be patient
3. Never give up
4. Stick to your principles
5. This sounds funny but I find that it’s true – when people say your ideas won’t work, dig them up again two (2) or four (4) years later and suddenly people think that they are innovative.

What five things do start-up entrepreneurs need to know?
1. Understand that being an entrepreneur means living a few years of your life the way most people won’t, so that you can live the rest of your life like most people can’t.
2. Be prepared to sacrifice, and to work harder than you’ve ever thought possible.
3. Be prepared to work around the clock.
4. Be prepared to be laughed at and be called a dreamer, and to be told several times that your ideas will not work.
5. Always, always find your passion and LOVE what you do.

What advice do you have for youths looking to start an idea but say ‘there is no money’?
• Start small and grow big.
• Try to fund your business yourself or ask your family and friends.
• If you really want something, believe in your product or business model and you will succeed. It’s just a matter of time and how long you can endure.
• Focus on your goals and don’t get distracted.

How do you think Nigerian youths can continue to support each other?
Collaborate – Partner – Support – Mentor – Empower; those are the key words that describe what youths need to do for each other. Youths need to understand that no one is going to come and help them, so they need to help themselves.

How many jobs have you created so far?
It’s quite hard to measure, as our development team grows and shrinks based on the number of clients and projects that we have. We usually hire about 3 to 40 developers, depending on upcoming projects.

How do we support and improve innovation in Nigeria or Africa?
We can start by supporting people with innovative ideas and promoting them. Competitions are a good way to increase visibility so I think that the government and the private sector need to launch more competitions that focus on innovation. Furthermore, innovation needs an enabling environment. This means creating hubs where innovators can meet, share ideas, and collaborate. In addition, we need a space where ideas can be incubated and where prototypes can be developed.  Without this, we are bound to fail as a nation and as a continent.

Lastly, ICT development is very important to me and the youth population throughout Africa. I strongly believe that ICT is vital to ensuring that Nigeria and Africa will not be left behind. Everyone keeps talking about the digital divide, but instead of bridging it, it keeps on getting bigger. We need government policies that ensure that technology is not a privilege but a basic amenity.

Futuresoft is playing its part in making ICT more accessible through our iConnect project. I am even more excited about building an actual prototype and proving that our concept will impact the lives of young people in Nigeria.

Learn more about the iConnect Project:
http://www.etisalat.com.ng/innovation/index.php

http://www.futuresoft-ng.com/IT-Talk/Articles/ict-education-africa/

Nkem Uwaje is Managing Director of Future Software Resources Nigeria Limited, a company that won the 2012 Etisalat Nigeria Prize for Innovation. Nkem is an active board member of the World Summit Youth Award (www.youthaward.org), a global online e-content contest focused on the implementation of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UN MDGs). Uwaje is also a graduate of Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) & Technical University Munich (TUM) in Germany, where she received a Bachelor’s degree Bioinformatics.

Want to get in touch with Nkem?

Phone: +234 1 2705560 Ext. 631
Email: nkem@futuresoft-ng.com
Website: www.futuresoft-ng.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/futuresoftnigeria
Twitter: @MissUwaje

 

 

 

 

I Love Being A Girl Blog talks with the AWP Network

What is the AWP Network about?
Awpnetwork.com is a small business blog that provides business education content and showcases the work of African women and youth entrepreneurs. It is our goal to tell their entrepreneurial stories, discuss the business challenges and successes. As a start-up organization, we are proud to say that we have engaged over 150 entrepreneurs through our online trainings and webinars. Participants signed in from Lagos, Abuja, and throughout the United States.

Webinar topics were selected based on small business trends and included conversations regarding (1) how to use mobile technology to start, expand, and move business ideas forward (2) how to use marketing, branding, and PR tools to start, grow, and expand business ideas and (3) how to build one’s personal development brand. Based on the feedback that we recieved, participants found these topics very useful. The AWP Network will continue to provide small business support services to help African women and youth entrepreneurs be better positioned for success.

Click here to read the interview: http://iheartbeingagirl.blogspot.com/2012/12/wsya-power-2-women-african-women-power.html

International Reporters features the AWP Network

Mary Olushoga is the founder of the African Women Power (AWP) Network, an enterprise recently given distinction at the World Summit Youth Award (WSYA) 2012. Through AWP, Mary supports and consults young Africans interested in starting a business. We met her at the WSYA ceremony in Canada and asked her about her passion to support African women entrepreneurs.

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 the business challenges and success stories of African women and youth entrepreneurs. The big picture goal is to promote a positive image of Africa. The AWP network began with a tweet in 2011. I started simply by tweeting out business related information like sources of funding. To date, I have over 500 followers. It began with the idea to provide business related content to African entrepreneurs anywhere in the world, with a particular focus on women and youths. Not long after I started, I was invited to speak on BBC about the fuel subsidy strike in Nigeria and since then, things have really taken off – in a good way.

With the exposure, I felt something was right. I began to think about how to expand beyond twitter, so I started a wordpress blog (awpnetwork.com) that would feature and profile African women and youth entrepreneurs both in the U.S. and throughout the continent. It has been a very exciting year.

The whole idea of AWP began after working in the small business industry for a number of years. I saw how business support services could really help entrepreneurs grow and expand. I know that Africa has a different set of challenges than the U.S., but I think that free and available business support services would immensely help the small business industry. African women have always been entrepreneurial, so I am not promoting anything new – I think that supporting them can help some to grow and expand quickly, which in turn, will enable them to hire and create jobs for the unemployed.

Click here to read more: http://www.internationalreporters.org/node/295

Voices of Young African Entrepreneurs: YouWin Nigeria Award Winner Shares His Dream for the Mining Industry

CEO, BayRoyal International Ltd

CEO, BayRoyal International Ltd

Peter Owoeye, CEO of BayRoyal International Limited and YouWin Award winner discusses his company’s role within the mining industry in Nigeria. YouWIN (Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria) is a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Communication Technology, and the Ministry of Youth Development. These ministries launched an annual business plan competition to assist young entrepreneurs in obtaining start-up or expansion capital. The underlying goal of the program is to spark job creation in the country. 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.

What does your company do?
My company extracts and exports on a small-scale, non-ferrous metals such as lead ore and zinc ore and precious metals: tin ore and columbite – the ore of niobium. Right now, we supply in small quantities to middlemen – manufacturers and factories use our products. Most of our customers are based in China.

How do you meet them?
We do a lot of business on LinkedIn and through trading websites.

How does this process work?
It is not as complicated as you might think. We have structured trading lines and clear expectations from both parties. It is quite easy to do business with us. We are very transparent and banking transactions are done online.

We serve as a major reference point in the supply chain. We work in Jos and Lagos. My dream for my company is to export in large quantities these metallic ores. The mining industry is underdeveloped, and Nigeria imports minerals it could refine locally. I would like to see the mining industry develop to a competitive standard that can attract foreign partners, investments, and expertise.

 

How is it operating a business in Jos?
What I experience in Jos is very different from what the media portrays. Businesses here in Jos are thriving and surviving. Violence is away from commercial activities. Jos if you don’t know is the center of mining activities in Nigeria. As a result of the mining boom in Jos, many young men like myself became involved in the industry informally. Jos also has the largest pool of locally trained mine workers. The mining industry is not the easiest place to be in. The industry is labor intensive and costly. We struggle with the ability to export the ores in large quantities as we cannot afford the heavy machinery needed to do the work efficiently. We depend heavily on manual labor which can be very tedious.

I give credit to Oby Ezekwesili. She was influential in helping young people like myself break into the industry. She helped to transform the process when she served as the Federal Minister of Solid Minerals, a position she held for one year. During her time as Minister of Solid Minerals, Oby Ezekwesili worked hard to reform Nigeria’s mining sector, bringing it up to international standards and making it a globally attractive location for credible mining investments.

What motivated you to apply for the YouWin program?
I learned about the program through Nairaland.com. An online moniker named “Beaf” provided the information so I applied. The process was simple, open, and transparent.  I have received the first installment of the prize money through Zenith Bank. The money is awarded to winners as they reach certain milestones. My company will use the money to hire staff and buy machines.

How have you financed your business so far?
I used my personal savings. I have also received some financial support from family and friends. Most banks do not offer financing to young entrepreneurs so it is quite difficult to expand.

How many employees do you have?
I have six (6) staff members and plan to hire nine (9) more. We also have close to 30 part-time employees. The industry is very labor intensive so we need more staff.

What challenges do you face as a small business owner in Nigeria?
• Infrastructural constraints (bad or non-existent roads, no water, no electricity).
• Transportation can be expensive (paying for fuel, trucks and trailers also delay in the delivery time – this maybe due to bad roads and traffic congestion).
• Difficult access to financing.
• Most employees also lack the necessary skills set and are not proactive – you constantly need to supervise and tell them what to do.

What advice do you have for youths looking to start a business?
1. Believe in yourself.
2. Take action – stop waiting for non-existent jobs.
3. Proactively seek opportunities and take advantage of them.

What three things have you learned since starting your business?
1. To succeed, you have to be resilient.
2. Look less at the problem but find the opportunity. In every set back, there is a lesson to learn.
3. I have learned to separate personal finance from business finance.

 

 

Staff at work

Staff at work

Staff at work

Staff at work

Contact:
Peter Owoeye holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Finance from the University of Jos.
Website: www.bayroyal.com.ng
Email: peter.owoeye [at] gmail.com

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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