“I Learnt Perseverance After My Fire Accident” Meet Eco-friendly Entrepreneur, Chidiebere Nnorom

If there’s one thing Chidiebere Nnorom wants us to know, it is that she’s a typical Igbo girl with a never die attitude, never ever wanting to give up! Even after going through a rough patch, she refused to succumb and found her way back up.

Chidiebere Nnorom is the Co-founder of Paperbag by Ebees. She has a strong passion for the environment, social impact and business.  

Watch this space as Chidiebere is determined to change norms and make waves as an entrepreneur, environmentalist and a young global leader. Scroll down to read more of her story.


What’s your background story?

Before my business grew to the stage it is at now, I went through a lot! I was involved in a fire accident which kept me indoors for a while. I had to stop business operations and lay off staff. It was unbelievable. Imagine being at a point in life where you are clueless about what to do next. Well, that was me then.

It took me almost a year to heal. I couldn’t work or do anything. My savings had been zapped and I kept wondering how I’d scale through. There was a personal instinct to do something, I knew it wasn’t the time to give up but to breakthrough! I needed to turn the light on in my heart and that I did. 

To cut the long story short, the accident was a validation to move on. Months later, I picked up my business and started building up gradually. Next thing I knew, business calls were coming in! People said they saw the paper bag and wanted to order. Some of the paper bags they saw were made way before the accident. The referral rate was massive! I was so elated and grateful I didn’t give up back then.

What ignited the spark to start Paperbag by Ebees?

In 2016, we started off as a food delivery business but one of the problems we faced was the packaging, we just couldn’t find the right packaging. With a background in geography and my love for the environment, we decided to start creating eco-friendly packages.

There were a lot of “buts!” That was the year the foreign exchange was high, fuel scarcity and other things kept creeping in. We had to take a step back to think of how we could make it. My team and I carried out some research, tried out different products, monitored what was moving and what wasn’t. Everything was coming up gradually.

Before I knew it, we made it official!

 

What business challenges have you faced and how have those challenges shaped your mindset?

At the early stages, our major challenge was accessing raw materials in Nigeria. It meant having to buy in large quantities and also importing from China. We had other expenses to run the business and couldn’t afford it.

This caused a setback. We had to think of how to make it ourselves. We carried out some research and found alternative ways to come up with the resources. That was when we started the business for real!

Business development was our second challenge, it took us a while to see that the market was ready. We had to try out different products to see if the market will accept us. It was quite hard, to be honest. After a series of experiments and market research, we were able to count a milestone. Finally! We achieved growth.

These experiences really shaped our mindset as a company. To every business owner out there, celebrate your little wins! We count every little effort we make as a win and an opportunity to do better. I’m learning to take joy in the little things, every small success is a validation. I say to myself, “Chidiebere well done!” It tells me that every step I took at the time was worth it.

 

How do you come up with the designs on your paper bags?

I won’t take all the credit, I have a really good team. My own inspiration came from purpose. The point is, if we chase our real purpose there are things we won’t struggle to do. I found my passion, and everything fell into place.

Finding the right people who know what they are doing is key. I also took some time to learn product design. It’s a combination of all these things.

 

What have you learned so far from running this business?

I was in paid employment and transitioning was quite drastic.

Take your time and plan! If you’re transitioning from paid employment to business, have enough money to cover up for your expenses. Make sure that the business can take care of your bills. There is no need to go through stress because you’re an entrepreneur, life can be easy!

There is an unnecessary stigma around pole dancing- Flirty Fitness Founder, Queen Nkpubre

Queen Nkpubre is dedicated to nurturing Flirty Fitness- a space where Nigerian women can freely explore their sensuality through pole dancing. “I noticed that women express a certain level of discomfort when they exercise in the same spaces as men and it made them less likely to return to the gym. So I decided to do something about it,” she said.

This article covers Queen Nkpubre’s experience running Flirty Fitness and valuable lessons you can learn and apply in your journey through life.

What is the drive behind Flirty Fitness?

First of all, women are running the world and we need to empower ourselves to run it well by staying healthy. Women also statistically live longer than men and tend to have more health-related issues in old age. So while we are living longer, we are living poorer lives.

Women take care of everybody and sometimes it is to our own detriment. We take care of the kids, husbands, extended family members, you know, everyone! There is this famous saying that you can’t take care of anyone properly until you take care of yourself and I strongly agree. Dance is a great way to unwind and take care of ourselves. It is something that we can happily lose ourselves in and be energised by.

Another important thing is that our bodies are constantly changing- from puberty to pregnancy to menopause- it is easy for us to lose touch with our sensuality, our confidence and our beauty. So an activity like pole dancing is a good way to keep those core parts of ourselves alive.

What is a common misconception people have about pole dancing?

People still associate it with stripping. The stigma around pole dancing keeps “respectable” people from trying it out. Even when they do, they do not want their pictures to be taken or shared online and I understand that. Still, there are people that are bold about it because appeals to their adventurous side.

What are some lessons we can learn from your experience with Flirty Fitness?

  1. Be at the forefront of your brand: Don’t shy away from your brand, if anything, pitch your brand. Have enough confidence in your brand to passionately advocate for it in spaces you think it should be in. Be ready to do the backend and frontend work. Don’t hide.
  2. Be sure about your why: Before you go into anything, you should know why you want it. Do not start something just because it is trendy or it seems like it will gain popularity. You need to be very sure because there are things that will discourage you. If you are sure of your “why” even when those challenges come, they won’t make you give up easily.
  3. Ask for feedback: It is so easy to be so caught up in the process of what you are doing. When this happens you may not easily see some things that someone removed from the process may notice. We all have blind spots no matter how smart we may be.

For amazing exercise-related content and valuable health tips, visit the Flirty Fitness Nigeria website and follow on Instagram.

Be Consistent About Your Growth- Kutama Peanut Founder, Mary Asanga

Mary Asanga juggles being a full-time student of biochemistry at the University of Uyo and running a business with grace and grit. “I started my business to make ends meet but along the line, I wanted to make my business distinct. I wanted to serve a purpose,” she says.

Once Mary was set on what she wanted to do, she decided to be intentional- “When I started, I wasn’t business savvy. I didn’t know the basics but I wanted to learn. There was this drive to be better and that drive gave me the desire to apply for many opportunities.”

In this piece, Mary shares her business story and valuable insights from her experience as a business owner and full-time student. 

Why did you choose to sell peanuts?

I got a Nature Valley snack bar as a gift from a friend and it was really nice. So I went to the supermarket to find something similar that is locally produced and there was hardly any. It was just imported peanut snacks or regular peanuts.

That inspired me to do something. So, I began researching peanut snacks and how they can be used to support the diet plans of diabetic people. I noticed that this particular group of consumers are often ignored by the food and beverage industry.

What does Kutama mean?

Kutama means, “when you see, you will love.

How do you juggle being a full-time student and a business owner?

When I started, I ensured to move productions to weekends, I would source for raw materials during the weekdays after lectures. This way production was less tedious.

On weekends, my team and I would block off a time to produce and then on Mondays, we distribute to schools, staff quarters, student hostels, stalls and some locations in Lagos. We managed this model up until 2019. Once my course load reduced and I had more time, we increased production by 50% and our customer base also grew.

What are some lessons you have learned from running a business?

  1. Fight your fear- One of the problems I had when I started my business was fear. There was this fear that, “Oh, it is just peanut snacks. What is so special about peanuts that other people cannot do?”  At some point though, I realised that I had to fight the fear. There are still times when I doubt myself and when I fall into that trap, I look at where I am compared to when I started and it gives me hope.

  2. Be consistent about your growth- Never stop looking for opportunities that will further your growth. Regardless of what your business is, so far, if you are providing a solution that people need, you should not hold back from seeking avenues to be better. There are so many lessons to learn from experienced business owners who have gone before you. They can give you insights so that you don’t step on the same land mines that they did. It also gives you an opportunity to network. When you are hungry for personal growth, you get to learn more, broaden your horizon and realise that your business has the ability to create more impact than you ever imagined.

  3. Do your research- Study your customer. It is very important to research your potential customer. Don’t assume that you know what they want. Research on how you can serve them better with your product and your business practices.

Follow Mary Asanga to keep up with her journey and you can buy delicious peanut snacks from the unstoppable Kutama brand via Instagram or Twitter.

5 Reasons Why Your Budget Is Not Working and How You Can Fix It.

Sis, let’s be real. Since you created that budget, you probably haven’t used it more than once or twice. If you are like me, you sat down when you were extra broke and created that “wonderful” budget that accounted for every single thing- including chewing gum. Once you got a little money, you forgot all about it.

I know it is tempting to spend. Most of us have the spending bug somewhere in our systems but we must learn to control it, especially now that Ms. Rona is out and about. 

Here are 5 budget mistakes and tips on how you can fix them.

You made it too generic

Budget mistakes

So, remember how you went online to download xyz’s budgeting template and never bothered to make it suit your own spending habits? Yeah, this is a common budget mistake. On a general level, we may have the same basic needs- food, housing, transport- but Akosua from Ghana’s expenses can never be the same as Sheryl’s from Houston. 

You have to modify your budget according to your location, lifestyle, and personal needs. Should you be budgeting for a gym membership when you work out at home right now? 

You do not have your day planned

Budget mistakes, Tamar Braxton

“What is the connection between planning my day and budgeting my expenses?” You may be wondering. 

Planning your day helps you recall those activities that will eventually require you to spend. Create a daily plan around work, chores, cooking, and transport and see if that impacts your budgeting.

Your budget is set in stone

Ah, this one. I’ve been guilty of this too many times to count. I would piously create the most frugal budget known to man and then wonder why I was so miserable after. See babe, budgeting like every other planning endeavour, ought to make your life simpler. Create a realistic budget that factors in enjoyment. That aspect of your life is hella essential too!

The danger of creating a frugal budget is that at 2 AM one day, you may snap and treat yourself to natural hair products you don’t even need. At the beginning of each month,  add a treat to your budget- a book you want to read, fancy skincare stuff, bralettes, etc. Pick one thing and treat yo self!

Budgeting like every other planning endeavour, ought to make your life simpler. Create a realistic budget that factors in enjoyment. That aspect of your life is hella essential too. Click To Tweet

You have not adjusted your budget in forever

You still have the same budget since last year and you wonder why it is not working for you. If you work from home or you are bored in the house, bored in the house, bored, I am guessing that certain expenses are on pause while others (like grocery expenses) are being incurred. 

If this is true for you, then you obviously should not budget the same amount that you did for transportation last year. Evaluate your budget at the beginning of each month to see if it is realistic to your current lifestyle. 

You have barely used it since you created it

This is another common budget mistake you could be making. What is the use of having a budget if you won’t use it?

If you barely use the budget after creating it, consider setting a good ol’ reminder for checking your budget. And girl, when that alarm goes off, make sure you check, okay?


Join our community of young, ambitious African women to step up your budgeting AND money game! 

4 Ways You’re Losing Money Without Realising It

Money is such an inexhaustible topic – we talk about earning it, investing it, spending it, and even sometimes losing it. We’re usually focused on the first three and barely pay any attention to the likely ways we have been losing cash.

Most of us don’t have trust funds waiting for us, so every naira counts. Being on the lookout for money-sucking expenses can go a long way in increasing your disposable income.

I’m going to let you in on things you’re doing too much of or not doing at all that could cost you some dollar bills (or whatever currency you spend).

Tracking your expense schedule, asking for a discount and buying items in bulk can help save up cash and thereby reducing the risk of losing money - @adeyojuwon Click To Tweet

1. Bank Charges

It’s so funny that the banks are starting to do the exact opposite of what they’re meant to be doing- helping people save money.

The Fix

You probably have more than one bank account/debit card. Each account attracts individual maintenance costs.

A simple solution to ridiculous bank charges is trying as much as possible to have one savings account and one debit card. This will help eliminate charges that may arise from owning multiple accounts.

You can reduce constant cash transactions and erase the need for unnecessary bank fees by having a budget that’s restricted to how much you’ll need for a week.

2. Delay in Paying Off Debts

While taking a loan isn’t a big deal, delaying pay-off is quite a big deal. Especially when it has interest attached to it.

Interest accumulates over time so delaying your debt pay-off inevitably increases the amount you’ll pay eventually. This means you’re gradually losing money.

The Fix

Once you have an inflow of cash probably due to holiday bonus or a salary raise, it is advisable you pay off your debt as soon as possible.

This could give you a little extra to spend on other things and potentially save you a lot in interest payments.

3. Avoiding Negotiation

Another money-draining factor that might not have ranked high on your list is negotiation.

A lot of market vendors on this side of the world rarely quote the actual prices of their products. Most of the time, you’re expected to bargain and beat down the prices a little bit more.

This negotiation rule also applies to the professional world. You’re expected to negotiate your salary and not simply accept what you’re initially offered when you apply for a new job.

According to a paper by Harvard Business School, women are most likely to agree to the first offer on the table and lose money in the process, as well as better chances for career growth. It is time we change the narrative.

The Fix

Weighing other options available to you by knowing what prices other vendors are offering will go a long way when it comes to saving money. This also applies to knowing what other employees earn before you take a new job.

This similarly applies to online stores, when I was buying my new phone, I checked a couple of online and physical stores to get the best price and avoid being overcharged.

Always remember that avoiding negotiation comes with a price!

4. Subscriptions

Technology comes at a cost. There is a cost attached to watching an endless stream of movies and listening to your favourite music. There’s a long list of other subscriptions- magazines & newsletters, fitness groups, diet plans and a whole lot more.

It’s easy to forget what you’re subscribed to when payments are done automatically.

The Fix

You should only subscribe to plans you use regularly. This will help you avoid wasting money on plans you don’t get the most from.

Certain subscriptions can be done with a group of people to save money on the total cost.

Other significant ways you might be losing money includes wasting food, cancelling your Uber or Taxify rides, and impulsive spending.


 Interested in contributing for She Leads Africa? Click here.

Overwhelmed? Here’s How to Succeed in these Times

For a start babe, how are you feeling today?

I know that these past few months have been challenging. Business sales are declining, pay cuts at work, bank accounts are turning red and being indoors is getting the best of us. For some of us, thinking of how to succeed is the last thing on our minds. We’re more about how to survive.

There is SO MUCH going on and I bet we are all looking for ways to stay sane during and after this pandemic. 

But the truth is, bags still need to be secured and money has to be made- pandemic or not! So here are a few tips on how you can succeed in the new norm.

1. Stop feeling sorry for yourself

If you really want to succeed, you will find ways to change where you are right now. Self-pity won’t take you there. If your mood is not right, take a brief meditation break or dance to your favourite song. Shake off that bad energy because better days are here!

2. Create a gratitude journal

Get your notepad and list out a few things you’re grateful for today. Think about your family, friends, things that went well, the growth you’ve experienced and any other positive parts of your life no matter how big or small.

3. Never stop marketing yourself

If you’re a business owner, start treating every piece of communication you send out as another chance to market your product. Show your best pieces and update that Instagram account with your latest products or discounts. Most importantly, remind family and friends about your business.

4. Don’t be stagnant

We’ve been forced to conform to changes that we have little or no control over. If you’re thinking about how to succeed, this is the time for you to re-evaluate your business goals in relation to the current economy. Find ways to thrive girl! The world is evolving and so should you. Don’t just exist. Live. Explore. Challenge yourself.

There are many hidden opportunities right now. You just need to put yourself out there! Click To Tweet

5. Keep the vision alive!

You need to have a vision of who you want to be. Succeeding in the new norm means breaking through the hard shells to come out renewed and rejuvenated. It means doing it your own way and making the best out of everything.  

To build that amazing business or career, you need access to resources that can help you. She Leads Africa has consistently delivered valuable content and experiences for women to live their best lives over the years.

Where did the pandemic hit you the most? A decline in business sales, a pay cut or you’ve exhausted your savings. Whatever it is, you need a strong support system to push you to exceed limits and take on opportunities you never thought you would. These are some benefits of being a part of the SLA community.

 

 


Grab your squad and join the train of successful women in the 21st century. Join the SLA community!

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Here’s how to switch up your money management style!

Much of our anxiety stems from the fact that we just don’t know what's going on with our money Click To Tweet

Have you ever interrogated your feelings about money? How would you define your relationship with money management; comfortable, in control, dysfunctional? Even with solid financial advice, some people still feel a level of anxiety around personal financial management.

Sadly the topic of money is still viewed by some as ‘the last taboo’, and as a result, many of the attitudes we have towards it go unexplored. As budding #MotherlandMoguls, building a healthy mindset around money management should be a priority. Here are a few tips to help you to make peace with your bank balance, manage your personal finances and develop a healthy money mindset.

Determine your ‘money personality’

A useful place to start is to try and understand how you instinctively relate to it. Similar to taking a regular personality test, this will help you to understand some of your predispositions toward money management. You can find a whole bunch of free ‘money personality’ tests here.

Keep good records, make good plans

Recognizing your financial patterns and setting financial goals is the key to building a healthy relationship with your money. Much of our anxiety stems from the fact that we truly just don’t know what is going on with our money.

Sound daunting? Don’t worry, we are here to simplify the struggle. Finance guru and friend of SLA Samke Ndlovu Ngwenya put together this worksheet to help you think through your goals, and keep track of your personal financial management.

While you are doing this, take a look back at money management mistakes, or successes you have made and look out for patterns and lessons.

Figure out your conditioning

We all have a certain level of conditioning when it comes to money which has been proven to affect how we relate to it. For example, if you sincerely believe you deserve to make money, and that you are able to do so, this conditioning is considered positive.

It can also be negative and limiting, for example, thinking about money with fear or scarcity. This conditioning is the filter through which you interact with your money.

Money coach Lynette Khalfani-Cox says, “You have to ask: what falsehoods and ideas am I believing that are actually sabotaging my efforts, or keeping me from fulfilling my potential?” Work to change these ideas. You could even try out money affirmations if that’s your thing.

To help you out with all the serious introspection you are about to do, I caught up with two savvy businesswomen. They gave me some insight into how a successful entrepreneur relates to their money.


money management

Money means the ability to uplift - Carol Bouwer Click To Tweet

Carol Bouwer is the Founder and CEO of Carol Bouwer (CB) Productions. This pioneering businesswoman is a committed champion of women. Her company PB Productions is behind The Mbokodo Awards which celebrate the work of South African women, as well as The African Odyssey experience.

What does money mean to you?

For anyone with an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to be part of shaping our community for the future- money gives you the ability to uplift. Materially and psychologically- money gives you the opportunity to create employment and empower others.

It gives you the ability to inspire others to see what results could be possible if they apply the same level of discipline. Money is not the goal but it helps you achieve the goal.

Is there a specific event/lesson that has shaped how you relate to your money?

Losing it young. Some of the mistakes I made with money management as a youngster have been the greatest gifts in my financial life. The lessons are etched in my mind so they can never be repeated. My big thing with this as in everything in life- don’t lose sleep and lose the lesson- lose the former and gain the latter at all times!

What do you wish you knew about money management when you received your first salary/ paycheque?

Budgeting! I had a whole list of needs and wants but lacked the wisdom to differentiate between the two. To this day I remain grateful for being raised by an “interfering mom”… many of the mistakes I could have made did not happen thanks to her wise interventions.

What habit have you formed, or what trait do you possess, that you believe helps you with your finances?

Sobriety and respect. This applies to finances and many other aspects of life. It is easy to be impulsive but the most important trait one requires is respecting the work that goes into building one’s wealth.

Being mindful of the energy you put into making every cent is what makes you more discerning about the choices you make when parting with it. Mindless spending is sometimes unavoidable in our youth but in this day, if I am not mindful of what I am spending my money on then I don’t deserve a cent of it.

If I'm not mindful of what I'm spending my money on, I don't deserve a cent of it- Carol Bouwer Click To Tweet

Where do you go to get sound financial advice?

I could tell you to get a financial adviser or acquire financial planning services but I am not one to say that. My answer is, go internal. You inherently know what to do. You had the wisdom to acquire it, trust in your wisdom to grow it.

Read and study the markets. Even when you go to your broker, ensure you are not solely an audience but participate. This is even more important for times when there are losses. It allows you to feel you made empowered and informed choices rather than blaming those to whom you hand your money over.


money management

Be honest with yourself and those who need your financial support - Nicolette Mashile Click To Tweet

Nicolette Mashile is a social entrepreneur, property investor and broadcast media personality. She is passionate about people advancement and development. You may recognize her from her popular Financial Literacy Vlog and talks. She is also a communicator by profession.

Is there a specific event/lesson that has shaped how you relate to your money?

Yes. When I was buying my first property, I didn’t know that an Offer To Purchase was legally binding. As a result, I signed for a property well out of my means. I had to fight the bank to retract a home loan of over 30 years which had been approved.

The loan had been generated through a Bond Originator, who misrepresented my expenses and understated them. I ended up paying over thousands in lawyer fees. I eventually settled the issue at the cost of the money I had saved as a deposit. That day I learnt that it is very expensive to be financially illiterate.

What habit have you formed, or what trait do you possess, that you believe helps you with your finances?

Honesty, discipline and I have let go of FOMO. I used to what everything, what to go everywhere because I convinced myself that I could afford it. But I was refusing to be honest with myself whereby finances were concerned.

What is a small action/habit/idea that people can take up, which you believe could totally change our relationship with money?

Paying themselves first. Negotiating their salaries and knowing how much they actually need so that they can save 30% of their salaries. Most people negotiate just a little bit more than what they are currently getting forgetting the value of money changes over each year.

Do you have any advice on how to avoid over-committing yourself financially to family and friends?

Be honest with yourself and those who need your financial support, then budget for them at all times. Stick with what you allocate to them and don’t budge.

Save for emergencies because its Murphy’s law, once you save an amount that is accessible there will always be a situation that rises to the occasion that needs that money

Here’s why you should attend the She Means Business 2020 Training

She Means Business is back for the third year in a row and we are here for it. Want to know why? We are all about helping you get all the resources you need to be one hundred percent that Motherland Mogul.

Quick warning: This article might make you sign up for the She Means Business training.

So what is She Means Business? 

She Means Business offers digital training sessions for entrepreneurs to come together to learn how to effectively grow their business online and share strategies for success. 

In partnership with Facebook, we are providing entrepreneurs and creatives with the tools and resources needed to thrive during COVID-19 so you can tackle new business challenges and survive this period. We know times are still tough and we have your back.

Do you know the best part? It is completely free and happening online so there is absolutely nothing blocking your success this time.

And now the benefits

Well now that you know what She Means Business is, here’s a look at the benefits you will be getting from the program this year:

  • Informative and hands-on training from our seasoned trainers to teach you how to use online tools to grow your business and reach new customers. 
  • Insightful weekly Facebook Live sessions, with experienced entrepreneurs sharing their journeys about running a digital business, and the tools they have used to help them grow their businesses.
  • Weekly Instagram Live sessions where you can connect with other entrepreneurs in your industry, share business issues, and get advice live on the spot.
  • Tools, tips, and online features, to help your business survive during the COVID-19 period.
  • Certification of attendance to be distributed post-training and so much more!

Want to get access to the training and resources you need to grow your online business? Then sign up for the She Means Business training.

Click here to start learning

How to find a mentor online- without leaving your house!

Since Covid-19, we’ve all been in search of new ways to do things from the comfort of our couches. Figuring out how to find a mentor online can be a bit challenging because successful people are usually booked and busy but it’s very doable!

When you’re looking to find a mentor online, sending a bunch of emails or LinkedIn messages requesting that they take you under their wings may not be the best way to go. If you’re looking to have someone to mentor you, they probably get tons of similar requests every day. You’ll need a strategy that helps you stand out. 

Here are some hacks to help you find a mentor online and possibly a friend for life: 

Find relevant people

find a mentor

If you haven’t already, make a list of people in your field who inspire you. You can then boil it down to 3-5 people. When you have your list, make sure you find out as much about these people as you can. To find a mentor, you can also use the LinkedIn Career Advice feature, a great tool for finding new mentors. 

Make yourself visible

The next step is to make sure your LinkedIn is popping with your work experience and accomplishments. The CEO of a company is not very likely to reply to a message from an account with no bio and 5 connections. Apart from LinkedIn, you want to make sure your presence on social media is clean and reflects who you are in the best way possible.

Hit them up!

find a mentor

Now it’s time to send a message to your mentor. Don’t say who you are and then go on to ask for them to mentor you. What you want to do is show that you respect the work they’ve done and talk about how this has also impacted your own life, you can then go ahead to ask if they can help with a specific area of your career.

Once you do this, don’t forget to give a reasonable time for a reply, preferably a week. Make it easy for them to contact you by providing your contact information.

What can you do for them?

Don’t forget that mentors are people too so what you want to do is gain their friendship. One of the best ways to get a mentor is to build a personal connection.

Volunteer to help them with a project, help out with a cause they’re passionate about or offer to help with some research. You can even interview or write an article about them – this is a great way to get to know who they are and connect with them in the process.

Why your business strategy needs to include women by design – Beatrice Cornacchia, SVP Marketing & Comms, Mastercard (MEA)

Beatrice Cornacchia is Mastercard’s Head of Marketing and Communication for the Middle East and Africa and the creative force leading the company’s brand strategy across the region’s 69 markets.

In this op-ed, she shares her expert opinion on the benefits of a woman-centric approach to business strategy.


As a marketer, I appreciate when creativity meets great insights and data to deliver an approach that achieves its objectives. As a woman, I also especially love seeing these kinds of successful activities share commentary on the way our world interacts with women, or shed essential light on how much of our world was designed without women in mind.

From Ariel’s powerful #ShareTheLoad campaign to Dove’s inclusivity campaigns, there are some fantastic examples of brands actively shifting the conversation to include women and expand on their contributions to the world we live in. But it’s not just about recognizing changing times or joining a social impact drive, it’s about much more than that.

There is a clear business rationale for brands that adapt their business strategies to include women by design. – Beatrice Cornacchia, SVP Mastercard MEA Click To Tweet

By incorporating the diverse perspectives that women bring, championing female role models as ambassadors, designing fit-for-purpose products that meet women’s needs, and creating content that encourages women to pursue their passions, brands can effectively tap into the spending power and influence of women.

Take sportswear apparel for example.

We took note when Nike put the spotlight on tennis star Serena Williams through its ‘Dream Crazier’ ad encouraging women to dream big and aired a TV spot calling for acceptance and respect, featuring the tenacious South African Olympic 800-meter champion Caster Semenya. These are just some of the prominent and provocative content from multiple brands that put women at the center of the conversation. The sports industry clearly understands the business growth opportunity that exists when we incorporate the true – not imagined – perspectives of women.

By drawing attention to the strength, unique shapes, and differentiated athleticism of women, and showcasing real role models in better designed active-wear clothing, the women’s sports apparel industry has done just that – tapped into a significant consumer base: women. How significant? According to the ‘African Women’ Ipsos Study, women represent the most significant consumer base — 89% of African women are the decision-makers or co-decisionmakers for household purchases.

When we design products, services, experiences and solutions for women, we need to envision them through the viewpoints of women – Beatrice Cornacchia, SVP Mastercard MEA Click To Tweet

When it comes to products and services, are we meeting the actual needs of women? Do we have insights that can help us incorporate women’s experiences into the design and innovation process? We must consider the functionality and practicalities of women’s interaction. In short, we have to help design and develop a world with both women and men in mind.

To do this, we need women to be part of the design and innovation process, especially in this age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We need to inspire young girls to consider and pursue a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) through initiatives like Girls4Tech. As part of this program, Mastercard has committed to reaching one million girls globally by 2025, including thousands in South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya.

So, what exactly is the value of a world that includes women by design?

In addition to the humanitarian benefits, it’s a considerable amount. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank estimates the loss in global wealth from gender inequality at $2.5 trillion. And while five Sub-Saharan countries feature in the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs’ global top 10 countries with the highest number of women entrepreneurs, the IFC says that more than half of SMEs in Sub Saharan Africa with one or more women owners lack access to finance and puts the financing gap at $42 billion. Clearly, there are huge opportunities for finance.

Global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman agrees. It estimates a global revenue opportunity of $700 billion is currently being left on the table by the financial services industry not fully meeting the needs of women consumers.

Think of the increased speed in which we can close the gender gap in terms of financial inclusion if we design better, more helpful digital financial products for women – Beatrice Cornacchia, SVP Mastercard MEA Click To Tweet

As a payment technology leader with global insights, Mastercard has invested significantly in understanding women’s financial priorities, and mapping out those priorities across different life stages. After all, a specific position in time often influences our need for specialised support and ingenious innovations – in sportswear as much as financial solutions. 

Just think of the more than 10,000 female unbanked informal traders, street-side vendors, and township salon owners who can safely accept payments through QR code as a result of Mastercard’s partnership with uKheshe, a financial inclusion platform in South Africa.

Indeed, for the large population of excluded women, financial inclusion is about more than getting access to a bank account. It also means helping level the playing field for the women farmers who are growing Africa’s food, by providing access to buyers, pricing and speedier payments. It’s about hope for the future through financial payment solutions such as Kupaa – which facilitates school fee payments in budgeted amounts – increasing the ability of remote families to keep girls in school.

By making a conscious decision to integrate women’s perspectives into our business, marketing and innovation strategies, more women will benefit from solutions specifically designed for their needs. More companies will see revenues climb. More societies will experience elevated productivity. More economies will grow and thrive. 

After all, a world that works better for women, creates limitless possibilities for us all. 


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