Jessica Layado: I had to tough up and take it like a woman

jessica layado she leads africa

I was barely done with my secondary school education when I found out I was pregnant. I clearly had no business having sex. Yet there I was, at the start of my long holiday, finding out I was pregnant.

My first stop on finding out, was the house of the responsible other party. I got the shock of my life when he frankly told me that he wanted no part in the drama of unexpected parenting. So, here I was, fresh out of secondary school with no idea what was next for me. Watching people parent was one thing but being a single, young parent was a whole other thing.

I could either decide to be a child and cry about how unfair the world had been or tough it up and take it like a woman. I cannot dispute the fact that I was very scared but one of us had to be the grown up and seeing as this miracle was growing in my womb, that person had to be me.

I found a job and started to plan for both of my baby and I. Fast forward to a few months after, my dear little princess was born.

Working with Family Life Network

After that, I decided that I wanted to work with NGOs that focused on family planning and sexual awareness. That was how I got started with the Family Life Network.

Five years and so many workshops later, I cannot even begin to say how remarkable a journey it has been to impact the lives and choices of youth. We encourage kids to know and understand their individual worth at such a crucial stage that is often subject to peer pressure.

It is very rewarding for young girls to look up to me for mentorship, guidance and counsel. It is such a big deal to have the kind of power to influence their choices for good, to cry with them in their hard times and assure them that despite the storm and the pressure, in a little while, they will be just fine.

Moving on to Lamera

Over time I realized that my circle of influence was growing and a lot of the would-be young girls had grown into fine young women in the work force. Now, my focus has also grown to helping them maximize their financial ability and as much as possible, learn to be independent.

A year ago, I started Lamera, a project that seeks to empower young women with as many necessary skills as they need to survive in this era. Some of the practical skills include jewellery making, knitting, cooking skills particularly making and packaging peanut butter better known as odi in Northern Uganda.

The essence of Lamera is to empower women to know that their worth is determined by them and the world will only value them based on how they value themselves. I strongly believe when a woman realizes this fact, the world then becomes her stage. She becomes a force to reckon with and can do pretty much anything that she sets her mind to!

Balancing my initiatives with being a single mum

Starting Lamera is a dream come true for me. My biggest challenge was and still is breaking through to the woman at the grassroots. A lot of the women that have zero access to these skills are hidden in rural Africa. To work my way around this, I am building relationships with churches and individuals who have access to these women so I can assess their needs in order to be relevant to each set of women.

None of my passions were negatively affected when I chose to have Stephanie. If anything, being a mother awakened my creative juices causing them to flow much better and faster. I kid you not!

Amazingly, Stephanie is the split image of me. She loves singing, dancing, reading and always actively participates in her school productions. She is such a brilliant child! She recently reached the finals in her class spelling bee competition and I cannot begin to tell you how proud of her I am.

Never give up

I reckon my work is cut out for me and I’m enjoying the thrill of the challenge. I have been told that I cannot be relevant to all women but I believe in starting one woman at a time and that ultimately is my strategy.

To work with one woman at a time and knowing how much women like to share, the knowledge will spread one way or the other.

My biggest belief is that to start a thing is more important than to say you want to start it. Sometimes you’ll be the only person who believes in what you’re doing but keep right at it. If one way doesn’t work, don’t quit! Try it another way and if that doesn’t work, try another way!

Keep at it until you find your way to what works for you. Believe in yourself even on the bad days, especially on the bad days and keep your head up knowing that it only gets worse before it gets better and surround yourself with positive people.

Getting comfortable with feeling like a fraud

#WOCintech

Ever found yourself in the middle of a great moment a graduation, getting a promotion, being praised by someone you respect or creating something new and caught yourself feeling like you shouldn’t be there? Not in a nice, ‘Is this really happening?!’ kind of way. More like a, ‘I don’t deserve this, and I hope no notices I’m a fraud’ kind of way.

Shocked

Ironically, it is because of your greatness that you are more likely to experience feelings of being a ‘fraud’. This is commonly referred to as the ‘impostor syndrome’. Basically, if you attribute your success to everything except the fact that you really are that good, keep on reading.

Categorized as “the domain of the high achiever”, Clance and Imes first coined the phrase after a study they did of high achieving women. They described it as feelings of, “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement”. Instead of crediting success to ability, they attributed it to circumstances or charm. If you’re not sure if this relates to you, here’s a short test you can take to get a sense of where you lie on the spectrum.

The concept really hit home for me when I read a quote by Maya Angelou. She said: “I have written eleven books, but each time I think, ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.” Listen, if Maya-Freaking- Angelou can ‘fess up to feeling what I felt and still be great, then there is a way to succeed in spite of it.

So why is impostor syndrome so harmful? There are a few ways that this subtle form of fear could be holding you back from achieving career/business greatness:

You don’t shoot your shots, and if you do they are less than they could be

In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg noted that impostor syndrome made people evaluate their qualifications lower than they should. In the long run, you end up only taking low-risk opportunities, or worse not taking them at all.

raised_eyebrowIt affects how you communicate

Have you ever ended a well thought-out point with something like, “Does that make sense?” Or worse, do you find yourself apologizing all the time?

Seriously, why do you start with “Sorry…” or “I just…” when you speak in a meeting? In an attempt not to be outed as a fraud, you actually can come off sounding uncertain of yourself.

It affects your presence

In the words of Amy Cuddy, “Impostorism steals our power and suffocates our presence. If even you don’t believe you should be here, how will you convince anybody else?”

As with all questions of our ability, there’s no silver bullet to getting past it, but there are ways to not let it hold you back.

i-have-no-clue

Accept that you actually are a fraud

The only reason you are so aware of how much you fall short is because you are brilliant enough to calculate how much you lack. Be aware of the deficit, but act anyway. Apply anyway, pitch anyway, write anyway.

Everyone, brilliant or not, puts their best foot forward and there is nothing wrong with faking it a little before you make it. In the words of Queen Beyonce, “I have accomplished nothing without a little taste of fear in my mouth.”

Communicate power

Even if you aren’t completely comfortable with feeling like a fraud, at the very least stop sounding like one. Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big says, “I keep meeting brilliant women like you, with powerful ideas to contribute, important businesses and organizations to build, provocative questions to share. But so often, the way they communicate fails to command power. They equivocate, apologize, and look away as they speak.”

Be aware of how you communicate. While there is a lot I could add, my one piece of advice would be, watch your cadence and don’t present statements as questions.

Focus on delivering value

Understand the value that you can bring to the table. We often assume that the skills we really excel at come naturally to everyone because we do them so easily. This then allows us to focus on the things that we can’t do, as we don’t see our skill set as valuable.

Keep track of your strengths using tools like LinkedIn. But if you haven’t got it together like that (no judgement, I’m with you!), listen carefully to the feedback you get from colleagues.

“I DID that”

These three magic words, when said every time you do something awesome, are certain to gain you the respect of the only critic that counts, YOU.

kelly_swag

Adomaa Music: Dare to be different and unapologetically you

adomaa

Adomaa is a Ghanaian fast rising afro-jazz singer  who is known for her distinctive style of singing, insightful messages, and creative video concepts. This sensational artiste who believes that music is her drug has chosen to pursue a genre which is totally different from what people are used to. Though she faces disapproval from people who do not relate to her style of music, Adomaa still holds on to what she loves and believes afro-jazz is the next big thing. Judging from the recent Vodafone Ghana Music Awards show where she won the 2016 Unsung Artiste of the year, we believe Adomaa is underway to success.


Why did you choose the afro-jazz music genre?

I wouldn’t exactly say I chose the genre. It’s who I am and how I know best to express myself. I grew up on a lot of jazz, blues, and soul till it became part of me. When the decision came to pursue music as a career, it’s what came instinctively. Still staying true to my love for jazz, I wanted my Africanism to be represented in my music as well. So, I decided to fuse the Jazz sound with African rhythm, hence the name: Afro-jazz!

What makes you think this genre is here to stay?

When I started, I was truly stunned by the overwhelming response from the public. I didn’t think anyone cared about the type of music I did because it isn’t mainstream. The feedback though made me realize that there’s a huge market for Afro-jazz here! It’s still in its beginning stages but it’s catching on. It will soon become a staple!

What would you do if this genre does not get and hold the attention and crowd you expect?

I don’t think that will happen because like I said so far, the feedback has been massive. It can only grow and it is growing. Nonetheless, even if no one was ever interested, it’s still where I will be because quite frankly, it’s who I am. I can’t change who I am.

How is Afro-jazz different from the other music genres? Why should we look out for this genre?

Afro-jazz is simply a unique blend of jazz, blues, soul (basically vintage music) with an African rhythm or flavor to it. Jazz is not a popular genre of music in these parts and even outside, it’s still somewhat low key. The fusion is very different from what we are used to hearing. It’s music like you haven’t heard before. It’s a refreshing, fresh and unique. Who doesn’t want all that?

adomaa-album

Which other musicians are taking or have already taken the Afro-jazz route?

It’s still fairly early days to say any artiste, in particular, has taken this route. But there’s this super talented singer, Cina Soul that has released some music along those lines. Also, I haven’t heard of anyone before me doing what I do. It’s a new wave of music that I’m proud to say I’m pioneering.

Tell us Adomaa, is your type of music for everybody? What’s your target audience?

Music is universal and Afro-jazz is no different but for now, I think it boils down to preferences. It will take sometime for some people to warm up to it but it will catch on eventually. A classic example is dancehall. Who ever thought it would be the most popular genre in Ghana? My target is everyone! For now, though, I’d say the people who appreciate it the most are the middle class to elite groups of people.

Since you started singing, what has been your major challenge and how did you handle it?

My biggest challenge since I started has definitely got to be my stage fright. I used to dread live performances and would have panic attacks and meltdowns but the best way to overcome an obstacle is to face it. There’s been a tremendous improvement over the months and it can only get better in the years to come. I love being on stage now.

What is the worst thing anybody has said about your type of music?

It’s boring and for old people. Oh, but that’s about to change.

There were some rumours about how you did not deserve to win the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards unsung artiste of the year, how did you handle this issue? What provoked this rumour?

Ha! This issue… Well, you know I started out with doing covers and recreating other people’s songs. It’s what put the spotlight on me and probably what most people still know me for. In the category I was in, the other nominees (Feli Nuna, Wan-O, Ebony, Nii Funny and Perez) were more deserving because they have put out original content. I have original content out as well but I guess the covers are more popular.

Some people didn’t even know I had my own songs out there so there were questions about why I was nominated in the first place. For me, negative comments fuel me. It made me want to challenge myself even more to sell the genre till it becomes a household name. It’s my main goal now.

2

How do you react and respond to criticisms?

I listen, sieve through to see if there’s anything to learn, take the constructive ones, discard the chaff and move on with my life.

Why do you think your type of music is critiqued?

It’s different. It’s a change from the normal. People don’t welcome change easily. That’s normal. It takes a while to embrace what you don’t understand. The criticisms are to be expected when you decide to break away from the norm.

Have you ever considered switching to another genre?

I’ve explored a little. My EP, Afraba was solely for that. I tried pop, rock, highlife, classical music, etc. but my heart still belongs to Afro-jazz. Of course moving forward, I’ll still venture out some more but at the core, Afro-jazz is who I am and who I’ll always be.

For our readers who have never heard your music, explain your sound in 5 words.

  • New
  • Creative
  • Different
  • Afrocentric
  • Refreshing

Where would you really like to perform? Who would you most like to open for?

Madison Square Garden and the Grammy’s. That would be a milestone for me.

Opening for Asa or Erykah Badu would be major! I doubt I’d be able to sleep after that.

Do you play any instruments? What hidden talents do you have?

Yes! I play the recorder. It’s in the flute family and I’m currently learning to play the guitar and would want to learn the sax too.

With hidden talents, I’m very good at nailing accents and impressions. I’ve mastered the British, Indian, French, Nigerian, American, Italian and of course, Ghanaian accent. It’s a fun hobby learning them.

What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue this career with a unique genre like yours?

In two words. Be you!!!

People try so hard to fit in because they think it’s the fastest way to make it. I say, yeah you’ll make it but will you last? No one can do you better than you, so be you! Also if you must, dare to be different. It sets you apart.

What’s your motto or the advice you live by?

If you dare to be different and unapologetically you no matter what and always keep a positive outlook on life, you’re basically going to be unstoppable.


Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.

3 ways to connect with your dreams as a young African

When I first talked to Khadijah Oyerinde, a 14-year-old high school student in Osun, southwestern Nigeria, I was able to see her dreams clearly. This was because of the confidence and passion with which she conveyed them to me. Within the first two minutes of our conversation, the young and inspiring Khadijah had mesmerized me. She’s got guts, no doubt!

When I inquired about her greatest dream and the likely stumbling blocks, she gave me a sharp response. “I want to become a caterer that would be known all over Nigeria and Africa for excellence,” she said. “And only death can stop me. I cook well and I’m working on myself every day.” She was one of the participants at Leadnovation 2016, a flagship initiative of Hope Rising Foundation (HRF) Nigeria, a NGO I co-founded to raise responsible and innovative young leaders in Nigeria.

Having been impressed by her clear vision, I quickly asked how she hopes to reach her destination. Khadijah stared at me with some discomfort, and said; “Well, I just know I’ll get there. I haven’t seen anyone on TV to look up to as far as my exact dreams are concerned. But I’ve just learnt from this leadership training that I can get help on social networks.”

More often than not, I have come across many Khadijahs in Nigeria. I have met and interacted with numerous young Nigerians who are brilliant and ambitious. They are high school students, undergraduates, or even graduates eager to shape Africa with their lofty dreams. But as much as they are passionate about their dreams, connecting with them remains the big challenge. So as a young African, how can you connect with your dreams?

Believe in your dreams

In reality, no dream is too big to be realised as long as you have a “can-do” spirit. As a young person, it’s good to have a clear vision of what you hope to achieve, and start working towards it. You shouldn’t be discouraged by what other people say. People don’t really care about your dreams, they only care about results. Once you reach your destination, everyone will want to associate with you. So, get on the wheels and start driving into the kind of future you desire.

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice”

These were the exact words of Steve Jobs, the legend who must have had YOU in mind when he was crafting this beautiful sentence.

Take advantage of MOOCs

Right now, education has moved beyond the walls of a classroom. And the effects are magical. That you don’t yet have the opportunity to receive lectures within the walls of your dream school shouldn’t deter you from working on your dreams. Start from where you are and with what you have. You can sit in your village, so far you are connected to the internet, and learn from the best professors in top universities in across the world at no cost. Yes really, at no cost!

So far, I’ve taken over fifteen Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from some of the world’s best universities in the last three years or so. There are a number of sites offering courses to help you get the expertise that would move you closer to realizing your big dreams.

Get a laptop, tab or smartphone, connect to the internet and start learning.There are many MOOC websites available, including Future Learn and Harvard. Choose the course(s) that best fit the kind of skills you’d like to acquire. There you go!

Use social networks effectively

For me, social media remains the next greatest invention after the discovery of electricity in the 17th century. With the effective use of social media, you’re not only able to expand your network but also able to connect with the people that matter, as far as the realization of your dreams is concerned.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, YouTube are fantastic social networks you can leverage to connect with your dreams. You should find role models and people who can help you believe more in your future, and then connect with them via these networks. It’s that simple. SheLeadsAfrica and a few other platforms also offer the unique opportunity to connect with mentors who can help you better navigate your life’s journey. What are you still waiting for?

You can go the extra length to connect with your dreams by believing in yourself, taking advantage of MOOCs, and making effective use of the various social networks. No matter how short it is, just take a step. Keep moving!

I have discussed just three of numerous useful tips. You can add one or two tips of your own in the comments section as well. I’ll be glad to hear from you.

How a slash can transform your answer to the dreaded question; “What do you do?”

Before I delve into the slash, let me start with a question…When people ask you, “What do you do?” Does a one word answer come to mind? Or, is there a bit of mumbling, as you try to find the best way to describe what it is you do in a way that this person might understand.
This one is for all my fellow Motherland Moguls who explain what they do by referencing one thing and then feel like they have left out a huge part of what they actually do.

I used to just give up and say the title of my job, but since finding out about the slash effect by Marci Alobher (from her bestseller “One Person/Multiple Careers”) has helped me understand that we can create very interesting dynamics in our lives when we combine all our gifts and talents into our ‘what you do’! It is all a matter or being strategic and adding a simple “/”.

According to Gail Sheehy, “a single fixed identity is a liability today”. She was totally right then, and is definitely right now. In this challenging economic climate, we have to be flexible and creative! So, what is the slash effect? In very simple terms, it is multiple identities, managed simultaneously! If someone asks me what I do? I’ll say I work in finance/life-coaching. I am a SLASH and that is totally okay.

The thing is so many people already have the slash effect, but because the role on the other side might not make money, they disregard it and think of it as a side-gig only. That may be so, I mean we all have our side hustles, but embracing your slash just might be the extra step you need to make it profitable. Let’s look at some basic questions: Why? What? and When?

So, why SLASH?

  • Having a slash in your back pocket can be a wonderful luxury if your primary vocation turns out to be anything less than what you hoped for.
  • Taking on a hobby as a full time career puts a lot of pressure on it to succeed. Instead, if you take it on as a slash, the pressure to succeed is off. You already have a career so there is a lot less to lose.
  • Taking on slashes is a personal challenge that shows you just what you are made of!

So, what do you actually SLASH?

Like many things in life the answer here is: whatever. The slash life is not exclusive to certain type of passions or jobs; it is completely inclusive as long as it is an investment in something that is in line with who you are. The ‘what’ in this case depends on two key things: creativity and discipline.

I will use myself as an example here. No one ever gave me permission to call myself a full blown life-coach. I constantly found myself advising people on life issues spanning form careers to relationships. With encouragement from good friends I realised that inspiring people either through speaking or writing was something I wanted to be more intentional about so I created my website.

Another route in developing a slash based on talent and gifts is to see a need and fill it. This is how my friends and I gathered to form a foundation focused specially on educating girls in our home town Nigeria. None of us had any experience, but we have passion, dedication and a willingness to fail and learn along the way. We also have a lot of help, which is crucial as well.

My work slash is my biggest slash, it’s the most for me. The other slashes are a lot about pouring out, whereas work is for my personal development and financial stability. All these aspects form my answer to the question, “What do you do?”

Key points in slashing

You may be wondering, how do I decide what my slash is? Some key points ladies!

  • Choose anything, but be clear on the reason. Is it a raw talent? Meeting a need? A niche service? It needs to come from YOU.
  • Make sure there is a balance between things you spend your energy on and things you can gain energy from. Life is all about balance, even in a busy slash life.
  • Think about the whole picture, and not just the parts. If you work 16 hour days, and are thinking of slashing by running a website that requires 10 hours of reading and writing weekly, think Again sister! Clearly those are not compatible slashes. You will be exhausted. A slash is meant to elevate you, not cripple you with unattainable obligations.
  • Know your limits and create a platter of slashes that makes you full enough to be satisfied. Not overwhelmed because you’ve eaten too much, or snacking because you are hungry. You know that feeling you get when the food was just enough to fully satisfy you? That nice and easy feeling? Yep…that’s the one you need here. A slash should bring balance and fullness to your life, not stress and angst.
  • Slash something you are proud of! If you can’t sing your praises, no one else will! Say it loud and proud! I am a banker/dancer or I am a lawyer/blogger. Own who you are and enjoy the ride!

For the third question, ‘when to slash’, look out for the next post. Before that get in formation ladies! Start thinking about your slash and when next you are asked, “What do you do?” Like a badass include that slash. Girl, Show them!

10 more TED talks by African women that will inspire you

siyanda ted talk

In January, we shared 10 TED talks that will inspire you this year. As we’re already midway through the year, we figure inspiration levels may need a reboost. So, here are even more TED talks by African women running things that will remind you how awesome we all are at winning.

1. Siyanda Mohutsiwa

Siyanda Mohutsiwa is a 22 year old blogger and writer from Botswana using the Internet to pursue her pan-African dreams. She is the person behind the #IfAfricaWasABar hashtag that went viral gaining over 60,000 tweets in July last year. Siyanda’s TED talk is a funny look into how young Africans are using the Internet, particularly through Twitter to get to know each other better.

2 Kechi Okwuchi

Kechi Okwuchi is has achieved a whole lot in her lifetime. She survived the Sosoliso plane crash in 2005 that took the lives of 60 of her schoolmates who were flying home for the holidays. Kechi used her second chance at life to uncover her passions and went on to graduate magna cum laude from university. Her story inspires us to know ourselves and our vision. To remember that scars that don’t define us and that our passions can make our dreams a reality.

3. Achenyo Idachaba

Achenyo Idachaba’s idea turned a plant associated with death and destruction to a source of lifelihood. In 2009, Achenyo left the United States to relocate to Nigeria where she put to life her concern for sustainable development in the country. She took the water hyacinth, a plant that clogs many Nigerian waterways and found a way to dry and weave its stems, transforming the plant into ropes that make pens, purses, tableware and much more.

4. Kakenya Ntaiya

As a young Maasai woman, Kakenya Ntaiya already did things that no one else in her community had. She bucked gender expectations, negotiating with her father to stay in school, getting the male elders to support her to go to university in the United States and returning to set a girls’ school in her community. Kakenya’s story reminds us that when there’s a will, there will always be a way.

5. Juliana Rotich

Juliana Rotich is the co-founder of Ushahidi and iHub. Ushahidi is a Kenyan open-source software used globally that collects and maps out information while the iHub is a collective tech space in Nairobi. In her TED talk, Juliana shares how she and her friends developed BRCK, a service that offers stronger Internet connectivity specifically designed for African needs such as power outages.

6. Ory Okolloh

Ory Okolloh is an activist who regularly reports on the going-ons of the Kenyan parliament. She started the blog Mzalendo that shined a light into the goings-on in the parliament, bringing citizens closer to their government at a time when what went on in the Kenyan parliament was secretive. Here she gives insight into her heroic work as an activist.

7. Kah Walla

Kah Walla is a Cameroonian entrepreneur, activist and political leader. She is also the first woman to run for president in Cameroon. Kah has worked in developing solutions to encourage economic growth and democracy in her country. It doesn’t get more inspiring than listening to the words of a pioneer.

8. Panashe Chigumadzi

Panashe Chigumadzi is a writer and storyteller from Zimbabwe. Her debut novel, “Sweet Medicine” is highly acclaimed and she has produced a documentary, “Africa’s Upstarts”. Here, Panashe reminds us that stereotypes can shape the way even we view ourselves. While this makes them hard to shake off, technology can change that by more equally distributing power that Africans can use to their advantage.

9. Jepchumba

A digital artist and founder of the African Digital Art Network, Jepchumba is a role model for working where your passions lie. At TEDxEuston, Jepchumba says her entire life is based online and reveals that Africa’s digital potential is hidden submerged under the surface just waiting to rise.

10. Lindiwe Mazibuko

Lindiwe Mazibuko was the youngest parliamentary leader and the first black woman to be the Leader of the Opposition in South Africa. In her talk, Lindiwe gives her reasons why young Africans in the Diaspora should return to work in civil service in their respective countries. Lindiwe reminds young people not to run away from politics and find ways to give back to our countries for the better.

Business Alchemy: Creating the extraordinary from the ordinary

the alchemist alchemy business

In its simplest form, alchemy is the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary -sometimes in a way that cannot be explained. Alchemy is seen in the way an artist can, quite magically, transform a heap of scrap metal into a breathtaking piece of art.

I believe that in the business world, we are all trying to create alchemy. We want to take something ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary. Whether you are social entrepreneur Patrick Awuah, taking tertiary education through it transforming lives so that students learn to shape their societies in remarkable, unique ways. Or whether you are Mo Abudu, CEO of Ebony Life TV, Africa’s first Global Black Entertainment and Lifestyle network, taking up the challenge of owning an African TV network where Africans can demonstrate their artistic skills and creativity in a relevant way.

Lessons from Coelho’s “The Alchemist”

One book that continues to have a profound effect on me is “The Alchemist”, by Paulo Coelho. A simple fable about pursuing your dreams, “The Alchemist” has enough wisdom in it to inspire and motivate you. It can push you to pursue and take charge of your business aspirations as much as any work you will find in the Harvard Business Review –the story is that good.

It starts in Spain, where a shepherd boy, Santiago has a dream. He literally slept one night and had a dream that he travelled and found a treasure in Africa, Egypt to be precise. The dream was so compelling –just as your business aspiration might be– that Santiago could not let it go. He had to actualize it. Selling all his sheep, he set off across the ocean to find his treasure.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be

Much of “The Alchemist” is about the Santiago’s odyssey. His adventures, the people he came in contact with (the good, the bad and the ugly), his new learning, love, and eventually finding his treasure in the most unusual place. This reminds us that as we pursue that compelling vision, that business aspiration, we must be aware of the dynamic world we live in. We need to be flexible to succeed at alchemy.

Now to connect “The Alchemist” to Patrick Awuah and Mo Abudu. It may have been on a CNN’s African Voices interview, that Patrick recalled that he was driven to leave his work and life in the US. What pushed him was his vision of starting a first class tertiary institution founded on strong leadership principles in Ghana. He was further motivated by that most famous quote from Goethe; “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Like Santiago in “The Alchemist”, I imagine that the dream was so compelling for Patrick that he could not let it go. And similar to Santiago who sold all his sheep and set off to find his find his treasure, Mr Awuah forfeited an assured life in the States and came to Ghana to start something new and risky. And what genius and magic that boldness has delivered through Ashesi University, Patrick’s creation.

The first lesson that you learn from “The Alchemist” is that business, often requires us to leave our comfort zone and take risks, but wherever your heart is, your treasure will be.

For Mo, she was a succcessful HR consultant who left a fabulous international career to host a talk show. Many people asked why, let them wonder. Like Santiago, Mo was drawn to her dream and focused on her purpose. She perfected her art by raising and talking about pertinent national issues. She gave visibility to the work and lives of remarkable Nigerians and international personalities on her show Moments with Mo. Her show may have awakened Mo to the opportunity of creating something bigger than Moments and giving Africans an opportunity to display and demonstrate their own creative skills through the platform of a global entertainment and TV network.

Today, EL TV is a testament to not only Mo’s hard work, resilience and vision. The network has also become a channel through which many other African creative entrepreneurs and story tellers can effect and build their own creative dreams.

That is alchemy. Transforming the ordinary to extraordinary.

4 things you can learn about branding from Yemi Alade

yemi alade branding

Yemi Alade does not need any introduction. Raise your hand if you start singing the words to “Johnny” anytime you meet someone called John. For some of us, it is difficult to remember how Yemi Alade was before the Johnny era.

The mere mention of her name conjures up a certain image. That is her brand. Since rebranding herself, Yemi Alade has reached new heights of stardom with fans across Africa and beyond. She has a lot to teach us about branding.

1. Find a style that is yours…

A successful brand is a brand that is unique. When you’re building your brand, first things first is  discovering what you are doing that others in your industry aren’t. What makes you special and different from everyone else? You may need to add some colour and give your brand a personality that everyone will remember.

Yemi Alade’s edgy sense of fashion just stands out. She has emerged with unique and quirky styles that immediately jump at you. Yemi Alade has described herself as a fashion chameleon, her style is at once easy, simple and edgy. When it comes to fashion, no one else in the Nigerian entertainment industry is doing what Yemi Alade and so effortlessly too.

2…then stick to it

Let’s talk about hair. When you think of Yemi Alade what hairstyle is she rocking? The “pineapple” hair-do has become Yemi Alade’s signature. She has worn it in different colours and added little variations to it along the way. Others might consider sticking to one hairstyle boring yet, a branding essential is consistency.

You have to be consistent in what you do and/or offer. Consistency reinforces the value of your brand. Yemi Alade has been consistent with her pineapple hairstyle and it links back to her style as being part of her overall brand.

3. Show off your best work

When building a successful brand ladies, you’ll have to pay attention to positioning. Once you have put a message out there you must avoid changing it easily. Otherwise you risk confusing your customers. Pay a visit to Yemi Alade’s Twitter page and right there you will see #Johnny. This is a very important branding strategy.

“Johnny” is Yemi Alade’s most successful hit yet and by putting it on her page, she is ensuring that anyone who is a fan of the song will associate it with her. In this way, “Johnny” is now part of her brand, more so than other songs she has released. Using your best work is a great strategy for branding.

4. Don’t be afraid to venture into unknown territory

In finding out what makes your brand unique, you may need to push yourself. Think outside the box, be innovative and bold, be daring and most importantly make sure you are standing for something you believe in.

For me, one more things comes to mind when I think of Yemi Alade; multilingual. She sang a French remix of “Johnny” and brought on a popular French zouk artist for a remix of “Kissing”. Going further she released a Swahili version of “Na Gode”.

Yemi Alade has taken her brand to entirely new levels by speaking to audiences in their own languages. Her brand communicates with fans across borders, something that the only most successful brands accomplish.

What else do you think aspiring #MotherlandMoguls can learn from Yemi Alade? Kindly let us know in the comments section below.

 

Who run the world?: How African women are changing the way we see Africa

In the last few days of June 2015, a hashtag, #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou was trending on Twitter. Within a week, it had been used 54,000 times. Fed up, and in an effort to defy the negative and monoculture stereotypes of Africa, Africans at home and in the diaspora started tweeting vibrant pictures of African landscapes, architecture, food, fashion, and art.

These tweets tell a different story of Africa – one told by Africans themselves.

theafricathemedianevershowsyou

The campaign was reportedly started by  @WestAfricanne, a 17-year-old “aspiring journalist and photographer” and “proud African”. Diana Salah, known by her followers as @lunarnomad, is a 22-year-old American-Somali student and early supporter of the campaign told Fusion: “I got involved because growing up I was made to feel ashamed of my homeland, with negative images that paint Africa as a desolate continent. I used to get questions ranging from ‘were you born in a hut’ to hurtful comments about disease and poverty.”

Poverty, conflict, and marginalization are certainly deep-rooted problems across the continent, but showcasing only these aspects has resulted in what Chimamanda Adichie calls “the danger of the single story”. Here are some of the many ways in which African women are combating stereotypes and prospering against all odds.

We’re blowing up runways

Iman and Alek Wek, hailing from Somalia and South Sudan respectively, are two supermodels who, with their dark and lovely complexions, disrupted the accepted standard of beauty. By sheer example, they paved the way for other dark-skinned women to feel beautiful and comfortable in their skin. Iman is now famous for creating cosmetics for her dark-skinned sisters and Alek Wek has her own handbag line.

iman

Since their come up, models like Liya Kebede of Ethiopia, Ajak Deng and Ataui Deng of South Sudan, Yasmin Warseme and Fatima Said of Somalia, Betty Adewole of Nigeria, Hereith Paul of Tanzania, Maria Borges and Roberta Narciso of Angola, Malaika Firth of Kenya,  and Anai Mali of Chad have all made advances on the runway scene.

But it doesn’t stop there. African designers are also starting to take the world by storm. Nigerian Deola Sagoe uses traditional prints and fabric in her designs, elevating African cloth with a modern twist. A stylistic trademark, Sagoe’s creations are often layered outfits. She has received nods of approval from the likes of Oprah and Will Smith.

deola sagoe

Folake Folarin Coker is another Nigerian designer and founder of the international brand Tiffany Amber. Coker’s cultural duality is visible in her designs. Twin sisters, Ayaan and Idyl Mohallim, hail from Somalia. Together they founded their brand Mataano (which means twins in Somali) and their debut collection launched in 2009 getting them an interview via Skype on Oprah. Since then, they’ve received attention from Vogue Italia, Essence Magazine, and CNN International.

We’re rebuilding countries

If you’re into architecture, you might have heard of Olajumoke Adenowo. This Motherland Mogul found herself at the University of Ife at just 14 years old, got her first architectural degree by 19, was working and designing her very first building by 23, and three years later endeavoured to start her own firm.

Olajumoke Adenowo

Twenty years later, the 46 year old has worked on the design and construction of over 70 buildings. Her resume spans institutional buildings, estates, offices, auditoriums, and homes. Adenowo’s firm, AD Consulting Limited is internationally known and she even has her own radio show dedicated to mentoring women. One of the most successful Nigerian architects, Adenowo continues to rebuild Nigeria’s landscape with her vision.

We run countries now

As of June 2015, the Motherland has had four female heads of state. Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, a biodiversity scientist, was sworn in as the 6th president of the island nation of Mauritius. Dr. Gurib-Fakim now joins the ranks of Joyce Banda of Malawi (2012-14), Catherine Samba-Panza of Central African Republic (2014-), and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf or “Ma Ellen” of Liberia (2006-).

joyce banda

Banda became president of Malawi after the death of its then president Bingu wa Mutharika. During her presidency, Banda sold the presidential jet to feed over 1 million people starving from food shortages. As an interim president, Samba-Panza was selected to govern her country during a nearly year-long power struggle between Christians and Muslims that has displaced about a quarter of the population.

Sirleaf, the first elected African female head of state and an inspiration to Samba-Panza, inherited a post-conflict Liberia. Her efforts to rebuild the country and her advocacy for women’s rights made her one of the three people to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

What about you? What makes you a part of #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou?

3 ways to find your passion the African way

African education is said to be limiting in that it does not allow children to truly explore their passion, discover their creativity and hone in on their innovative capabilities. This by all accounts is true. Primary and Secondary education for the most part in African countries focus on passing a test. Post-university, if you are not a lawyer or a doctor, for many parents, you have failed.

It is interesting how this poor conceptualization of success is still prevalent in many African homes today. This means that for the average African, average in ability and in aptitude, school isn’t where you will discover what it is that inspires and drives you to succeed. So the question becomes, as a young woman, how does one truly discover this thing called passion in an African context?

1. What comes naturally to you/what are you good at?

The idea of what comes naturally to you in my opinion is very often limited to the ability of your hands or again your aptitude. Your personality and character a lot of the time is very closely aligned with what it is you are passionate about.

So, while very obvious activities such as your love of maths or how well you make a pot of jollof may apply, it is essential that you consider the character that is within you. Focus on the little personality traits that many could miss, such as your affinity for children, or how people taking a liking to you, or better yet how helping people is engraved in your DNA.

While each of these are applicable to a wide range of jobs, it provides you with a starting point for narrowing down what it is you will excel at doing.

2. What do you do in your spare time?

What is that thing that you spend all your free time doing? Are you reading books, writing poems, drawing, singing, free styling, baking or cooking? Think about that one thing you always want to do in your leisure time, what you do to de-stress, what you gravitate towards doing when you are alone.

If you can identify a trend, or the recurrence of a particular activity that isn’t sleep, then you are displaying persistent interest in that activity. Be sure you have found something you are passionate about.

3. What do you like to talk about ?

What we are passionate about a lot of the time is evident in what we talk about. To discover your passion, reflect on all the conversations you are so eager to jump into.

You may not yet have chalked it up to a passion, but it is apparent in how your heart feels conviction for the topic, how your opinions must be heard on the topic, how you must suddenly raise your voice and stand up to display just how much authority you have in said topic.

It is true that we stand for what we are passionate about, especially when we must defend it.

Finding your passion, if it isn’t an innate talent, is not easy, neither is it impossible. Give yourself time to find out what you are passionate about, get a journal and note your likes and dislikes.

As time passes by, you will replace, delete and add more. Your passion may not be the status quo but if everyone on earth did the same thing, we will be boring species.