Why Your Business Ideas Aren’t Working

By ensuring that your goals are S.M.A.R.T, you set yourself up to experience the thrill of an achievement that will become a motivation for future successes.

Did you know that you can give 110% effort and fail miserably, even with a good business idea?

I’ve seen it more times than I can count. An eager entrepreneur has a brilliant idea and quickly forges ahead, only to come back disappointed that things did not work out.

By the time they come to that realization, they have likely invested a lot of money, energy and time that they will never get back.

Entrepreneurs going through this experience usually assume that they are simply not cut out for entrepreneurship.

It is at this point that I dig a little deeper into their execution process and I find that the real problem was that the idea or goal was underdeveloped, leading to poor execution. It was a set-up for failure from the start.

I then have the task of talking the entrepreneur off the ledge by explaining that there may have been nothing wrong with their effort, resources or intentions. The reason for the apparent failure was likely that the goal was an inherently bad goal.

When it comes to execution in business, a good goal is not just noble in its intention, but it also S.M.A.R.T.

It is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Ensuring that your goal meets these criteria increases the likelihood of success.

It eliminates wasted time and hones in on the best strategy for success.

Specific goals break down your general goals into manageable pieces so that they are easier to achieve. A great example of this might be to increase your annual revenue.

“Increase revenue in 2019” is a noble general goal.

An even better goal is to “increase revenue in 2019 by identifying profit leaks and creating monthly marketing campaigns in order to obtain new clients.”

Using that example, it’s easy to see how an entrepreneur can go from casting a wide net and taking a chance on what sticks, to identifying a specific strategy for success.

Even that specific goal can be further developed as you think about other factors that will affect the outcome.

By adding metrics and changing the goal to “increase revenue by 40% in 2019, by identifying profit leaks and creating monthly marketing campaigns in order to obtain new clients,” the direction and initial action steps are even clearer.

This way, there is little room for wasted resources and time.

The attainable and realistic factors in the S.M.A.R.T. formula are subjective factors determined by the individual’s readiness to start working on their goals.

An entrepreneur who does not have a marketing budget needs to first raise the money or create a budget for marketing before embarking on the goal above.

Without a budget for a robust campaign, attempting to increase revenue by creating marketing campaigns will prove futile.- @andrena_sawyer Click To Tweet

It seems obvious enough, but many entrepreneurs still do not count the cost before they set their foot on the pavement.

The last piece of the formula is timeliness. This ensures that the person setting the goal has a sense of urgency and can fend off complacency when working toward their goal.

It is easy to overlook this final piece, but it is just as critical as the others because it has two extremes: too much time allotted for the goal, and not enough time.

When there is too much time, it is easy to fall into traps of procrastination and complacency. These are traps that force individuals to believe they have more time to do the work than they actually do.

They lose their sense of urgency, which opens the door for others to leverage their ideas, or for a competitor to get to a product launch before they do. The other extreme is not to give yourself enough time.

No goal is perfect, and neither is every process, and there is room for imperfection. – @andrena_sawyer Click To Tweet

By rushing toward the goal, entrepreneurs stand the risk of sabotaging by not properly assessing the risks and all of the factors necessary for success.

After all, there’s value for the entrepreneur in trial and error and even failure.

However, by ensuring that your goals are S.M.A.R.T., you set yourself up to experience the thrill of achievement that will become a motivation for future successes.

Annesophie Achera: Bringing African fashion to the forefront of the retail industry

Annesophie Achera is the founder and creative director of AAchera Designs, a chic African fashion brand born in Nairobi, Kenya in 2011.

She created the unique clothing line for women to feel bold, vibrant and confident and has since taken her brand across the region to Rwanda, Ghana and across the pond to the US and the UK.

Annesophie takes pride in her designs as they show her love for the African print and African culture unabashedly.

A fashion force to reckon with, Annesophie has had quite the journey and in this article, she shares her eagerness to do a lot more for the burgeoning fashion industry in Kenya.


On how my career in fashion began…

A few years back, I would make my own clothes to wear to family functions, and would always get positive responses about the clothes I designed.

People always wanted to know where I got this dress or that top and it became so frequent that I started getting a few orders here and there and with the constant push from my family, I decided to start my own line.

Being in the company of my cousin Liz Ogumbo, a well-known fashion designer based in South Africa and my mentor also got me very interested in the fashion industry.

Having worked with True Love magazine as a stylist also helped me learn my ways around styling people from all walks of life.

What inspired my fashion line – AACHERA…

I’m very passionate about fashion and style and I personally like dressing for occasions – every day is my runway.

That is what inspired me to create a line for both myself and for people out there who love fashion and want to look and feel confident in what they wear.

I currently have two fashion lines. One is a luxury line which mainly has stock for occasions – this was inspired by wanting and appreciating the finer things in life.

I recently rebranded the line and what inspired that was the need to have local fashion businesses in the retail space, I felt the need to fill that gap and bring African fashion to the forefront of the retail industry.

My thoughts on the fashion scene in Africa…

I think the fashion scene on the continent is doing quite well. I always say Africa is the new luxury at large as a brand in itself.

The industry is really thriving in West and Southern Africa and it is picking up quite fast in East Africa as well.

I have done business in Kenya, Ghana, Rwanda, and the US and England – so as a designer in Africa, you have quite a big market, especially in the diaspora because they tend to prefer locally made clothes to support their own.

The African Development Bank (AFDB) stated that fashion in Africa is sustainable mainly just by the virtue of creating employment opportunities for our own here, especially for a lot of women and creating a positive working environment.

How I think the fashion scene in Africa can improve…

One challenge I think we face a lot is the challenge of production, and this is something I am constantly working on and gradually overcoming.

It is a case of either growing your in-house production team or taking your designs to the factories and that is always a challenge if you are a small business.

I wish we could have more people taking in small – scale orders so that the businesses that are just starting out can still get the same quality of clothing.

My fashion do’s and don’ts…

Don’t – wear clothes that do not fit.

They give the impression that you’re either not too confident with yourself and it kind of reflects badly on you as a person.

What you wear says a lot about you without you having to say anything at all.

Do – have a good base/foundation to your dressing.

By this, I mean what you wear inside your clothes should also be as good as what you wear outside.

Wearing the right size bra, good clean underwear, provides a positive base for what you will wear on top of all that.

Your style should be a reflection of who you are. Lousy foundations = a lousy fit = lousy confidence.

Don’t – rush into trends

I prefer to make classic pieces that can be worn for a long period of time.

Trends tend to die out quick and you end up wasting money and time on pieces that won’t serve you a long time. Buy clothes that you intend to keep forever.

Quality over quantity any day.

Do – have a signature style.

Be known for something. You don’t need to be a fashion designer or a stylist to be known for that particular style.

How does one get to know their signature style? One should ask themselves various questions like who are you really?

What do you like to do? What do you stand for?

My top 3 fashion icons, locally and internationally…

  • Asiyami Gold
  • Elie Saab
  • Michelle Obama

What motivates me to create and develop new designs…

My motivation comes from different things. I look to different cultures, I try to learn and understand them to appreciate what they offer in terms of creativity.

When I travel I take time to engage with different people from different parts of the world and get to learn the history of the place and the people and understand why certain things are done in a certain way.

All this inspires my designs in one way or another. Some of my collections stem from a personal story that I’m relaying in my work.

AAchera is basically made to incorporate African cultures into the design and telling an African story through our textiles and collections. When it comes to designing, I look a lot to the seasons we experience.

I use different colors according to the season and pick small elements fro what is trending that I add on to the main classic piece that will be the end result.

My advice to those wanting to start their own fashion line…

  • Don’t give yourself an excuse not to start. Just go for it and start. Know your strengths.
  • I knew my strength is in styling so I used that to get my start in the fashion world.
  • Don’t procrastinate – be consistent.
  • When necessary take breaks and you don’t have to explain why, because as creatives we tend to get into a rut or a creative block from time to time so taking a break to get your juices flowing again is not a bad thing.
  • Know your why. If you always remember why you started, no matter what happens or comes in your way you’ll always keep it pushing and keep going because you know your why.

What’s next for the future of AAchera Designs…

We just rebranded in 2017, we had been on a break since 2014.

It’s been a great two years so far of growth and constant learning and I think moving forward, we want to be very consistent and soon have an AAchera Retail outlet.

I want to be able to create clothes for women in all sizes in a retail space. I want the company to grow both locally and globally and continue creating awareness of the versatility of African Fashion.

I want to particularly have a prime presence in East, South and Western Africa with outlets being put up in various cities on the continent.

My biggest lesson in life and business…

Always have written agreements for proof/reference. Be it with suppliers of textiles, employees, any form of business interaction for clarity and all reference in the future, in case things go south. 

Do not make assumptions, communicate clearly.

I’m glad to have learned this early in my business life even before re-branding, and it has saved me a lot.

This has worked well because you end up minimizing your losses and everything is clearly written out for future reference.

It may have cost me earlier in my journey, especially being a young designer in the industry then, but moving forward it has been an effective and important lesson learned.

My mantra in life…

To see a change, you need to become a living, breathing asset to everyone you know and a true advocate to everything you believe in.

It can get stressful, hard, but these are things that are getting you ahead so keep at it – be consistent, practice patience and keep learning.

One thing I recently learned is to do business with people who inspire you.

Chioma Ogbudimkpa: On creating Redbutton and using Green Fashion to meet the SDGs goals

Chioma Ogbudimkpa is a certified project management professional who has served in different capacities and projects across 5 countries and different industries.

She has put in over 9 service years in FMCG, Consulting and Real Estate.

Chioma is also a sustainability advocate and a Green Champion. She has been actively involved in the ‘Going Green’ Initiative from the YALI Network since 2015.

She started her entrepreneurship journey with the launch of her women’s wear label, Redbutton in 2017 to explore her creative side.

Following this, Chioma has received a seat at the table of various local and international platforms; she is a ‘She Leads Africa’ (SLA) Accelerator beneficiary of 2017, a 2018 Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur and the winner, Creative Business Cup Nigeria 2019.

She will be representing Nigeria at the Global Creative Business Cup in Denmark this July. She’s also an alumnus and beneficiary of the Nigeria Creative Enterprise (NICE) program 2019 powered by the British Council.

She has a Bachelors in Project Management Technology and a PGD in Strategic Management & Leadership. Chioma loves to cycle and play scrabble at her leisure time.


There are several ways to stand out. Look around you, look inside of you, talk to people that have the capacity to help you discover new territories – @chiomaredbutton Click To Tweet

What led you to fashion at the beginning and what led to the switch to sustainable fashion

My mum owned a fashion house back in the 90s, that’s where and when I started to sew, sketch and play with fabrics.

I found that I was always stitching something (till date..lol), my mum’s tailors were tired of me because nothing they make for me stays the same. I loved to experiment and add my own touch here and there.

It was fun and engaging so I continued on this path up until I started working in the corporate space. I made my work clothes and sometimes, people wanted me to make clothes for them when they realized I made the dresses myself.

It was extracurricular until 2016 when I decided to start the business properly. I enrolled in Martwayne fashion school while I was still working, just to get a professional grasp of fashion designing and the business of fashion. Following that, I launched Redbutton in 2017.

Because I am a Green Champion, it was only natural for me to incorporate sustainability into my fashion brand. I started to research ways I can be green, while still maintaining fundamental design principles.

There are several ways I have built in ethical fashion principles in my processes, including using recyclable paper packaging, ensuring minimal waste, ethical production processes and fusing sustainable materials.

What are the possible career options here?

It’s quite evident that the Africa fashion space is experiencing the highest rave she has ever had, and doesn’t seem like it will decline anytime soon.

The demand and interest in the over $50bn industry have been incredibly progressive which also implies that there are tons of career opportunities, even in a sustainable fashion.

Some common ones are textile producers (in knitting, weaving, dyeing, etc). Even here in Nigeria, we are yet to scratch the surface in exploring our indigenous woven fabrics from different tribes.

We also have fashion designers, illustrators, machinists, thought leaders in ethical fashion (not very popular in Africa but there are) who are consultants, show curators, editors, etc.

Where do you see this line of business taking you?

Building a strong ethical fashion brand that promotes African craftsmanship and design innovation, and of course, a profitable fashion business that will birth several other ethical fashion advocates and workers is my overarching goal.

Our zest for color, patterns and the intricacy in our embroideries are phenomenal and it appears we are not exploring what we have enough.

This is what I want to project to Africa and the world by exploring eco-friendly materials and African art.

What are the challenges in the fashion business, and how do you manage them?

Production is slow and expensive. But I have realized through this journey that the process and result are far more important than the speed.

It’s also more expensive to run, because eco-friendly materials are not exactly cheap (more expensive than regular fabrics), meaning that your pieces will not be cheap.

But once you can properly project your value and find your target market, you will be just fine

You use water hyacinths for some of your products, why water hyacinths? What was the reception like at the UN?

It was just an experiment, to be honest, I didn’t expect that it will be this serious o..lol!

I was researching on sustainable fabrics, something different from our woven fabrics, I bumped into this social innovation enterprise who also up-cycles waste for furniture and home decor pieces.

I found that water hyacinths can be dried and woven into panels like our Aso-oke.

I said, ‘I never saw anyone try this out in fashion, is it even possible?”

The fact that it wasn’t popular in Africa drew me further into the research. I tested it and realized it could work but the dress will be dry clean only, no machine wash.

We are constantly exploring more eco-friendly materials we can fuse into our designs to create statement pieces.

Some of the water hyacinth pieces we fused with Adire were showcased at the 4th UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi and received resounding acclaim from assembly members and delegates.

We were published in the Kenyan dailies and featured on the UN Environment news updates. Between April and today, we have shipped over 50 pieces to the US and UK, following the contacts made from the UN event.

This is a testament to the fact that, even though our designs have the African aesthetic, they are also globally appealing.

Got any advice for younger fashion entrepreneurs?

Some say the industry is saturated, well maybe in some context. But also remember it is growing incredibly and the demand is looming.

There are several ways to stand out. Look around you, look inside of you, talk to people that have the capacity to help you discover new territories.

You can tweak your strategy, innovate, and position your brand for opportunities that are strategic to helping you grow. Not just for fashion entrepreneurs, the journey is HARD, trust yourself and trust the process.

Look for strategic collaborations, that’s one of the easiest ways to gain traction. – @chiomaredbutton Click To Tweet

I still have feelings of self-doubt, but I constantly remind myself how far I have come and how possible my dreams are.

Where can we see, follow and support your work?

You can follow our updates and see our pieces on our website, and our Instagram handle is @redbuttonng.

To follow my not-so-fun and unstructured personal stories, my Instagram handle is @chiomaredbutton.


Kenim Obaigbena: on becoming a Media Mogul – woman in film

“I wanted to tell stories that matter”.

Kenim Obaigbena is a Nigerian-British-American filmmaker and entrepreneur.

With a background in fine art painting, creative writing, photography and photoshop editing, Kenim began her film career in 2007, now she’s focused on her production vehicle OVG Media where she produces and directs films, documentaries, drama series and other scripted content for broadcast TV and digital media.

She was raised in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Togo, and the USA. She has lived in many cities around the world, making her both a true global citizen and a versatile filmmaker.

At the age of 15, Kenim founded Scoop Magazine with her two sisters, the teen publication was distributed across Lagos, Nigeria. While she formed a lucrative business in three years, she decided to focus on her studies and attended Tufts University.

At Tufts she discovered her love for filmmaking and spent her summers interning for music video directing legends Chris Robinson and Benny Boom as well as the production company Anonymous Content.

By her junior year at Tufts, she was producing and directing music videos for her fellow schoolmates and billboard artists like Timeflies and All Out.

In school, she also covered high fashion events like Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and global music festivals, including ThisDay Music Festival, which brought in pop stars like Beyonce and Rihanna. Graduating from Tufts in 2011, soon after the versatile filmmaker worked on big budget film sets, some including ‘Selfless’, and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’.

For several years, she produced live news coverage and documentaries for the 24-hour news network, Arise News, and worked on various projects with high profile global leaders, from former US Presidents Obama and Clinton to Nigerian President Buhari.

Kenim has dabbled in other business ventures from real estate investing, to tech and her pop-up bus service, Rainbow Shuttle.

Now she is focused on her production vehicle OVG Media where she produces and directs films, documentaries, drama series and other scripted content for broadcast TV and digital media.


Making a film is like starting a new business - Kenim Obaigbena: @ovgmedia Click To Tweet

Tell us a little about your background. Did you study filmmaking?

I studied communications and media studies. But I did start making videos in college.

I’ve been in film for 12 years and 14ish years in media. I’ve done every type of filmmaking under the sun, from News to music videos, commercials, Promos, docs, dramas, and even artsy film, you name it. Right now my focus is on docs, tv dramas, and features.

A few years ago, I came to the realization that I wanted to tell stories that matter. Stories that inspire a progression of nature in people. That could be a documentary, a sci-fi, a drama, whatever it is, it hopes to inspire people to be better in their lives.

Has filmmaking and storytelling always been your passion? How long have you been in the industry for?

I’ve always loved telling stories. I started young. My sisters and I started a magazine when I was 15.

I’ve also always done creative writing as a child. It runs in the family. When I was in high school I started taking painting seriously, it then evolved into photography and photoshop editing. But I wanted more so I moved into film. I’ve been in film for 12 years.

As a filmmaker, do you always have a full picture of what the story is going to be at the start, or does it reveal itself to you along the way?

It always starts out as a clear vision, but as I develop the story the vision can change, or become a more tangible version of its original state.

With documentaries, it’s a bit different. Yes, the story reveals itself along the way. But with a doc its important to be focused. Have a hypothesis and stick to it as much as possible.

Otherwise, you can easily fall into the trap of making a film for 10 plus years/.

Your recent documentary – This is Nigeria, highlighted Nigeria’s culture of corruption and election rigging. Why did you decide to investigate such a sensitive socioeconomic topic?

 In Nigeria the poor are invisible. They are neglected, underpaid and mistreated. I wanted to give them a voice. I also feel we live in a demokery, and more people in the media need to speak out.

People should be encouraged to vote for who they believe in and not who they think everyone is going to vote for. It’s the only way to make real change in this country.

What motivates you? How do you come up with ideas and stories to tell?

 Purpose.

My best ideas come in intense and vivid dreams. I give God all the credit for that.

In Nigeria the poor are invisible. They are neglected, underpaid and mistreated. I wanted to give them a voice - Kenim Obaigbena: @ovgmedia Click To Tweet

Besides -This is Nigeria, what other documentaries have you created?

At this stage, I’ve created so many for broadcast tv and youtube. I’m always creating digital content as well which you can find on my YouTube channel.

 How do you go about funding your films/ documentaries? And what advice do you have for others wanting to fund their projects?

 Keep making DIY content until you either create enough wealth to self-fund or get someone to believe in your talent and business structure (because every film is a business)  to invest in you. If you are creative and lack business acumen, partner with a solid producer that can bring in financiers.

I’m designing an online course that goes into the practicalities of independent filmmaking. How to get funding, how to make films on a budget etc.

I will announce it soon, but for now, I have a series on my youtube channel called ‘The DIY Filmmaker’, which also gives practical filmmaking advice.

With a lot of Nigerian women in film coming out to create and show their talent, do you think the filmmaking industry is still male dominated?

Yes and no.

When I started out in Hollywood in Los Angeles, my experience was quite sexist. It was a boys club, and even the few black men and women allowed in were walking on ice.

I’ve never been one to think because I’m a woman I can’t do this or that. I generally don’t see gender or race. That’s just how I was raised. So I didn’t really understand why they wouldn’t allow me in the “clique” until recently.

It took me understanding the nature of the film industry to overcome this.

Make sure you hire the right people for the job they occupy and ensure they are all equipped, efficient and positive - Kenim: @ovgmedia Click To Tweet

Firstly…

Film is generally a very cliquey industry. It’s not easy to get into people’s crews. Over time I have learned there are a lot of reasons for this.

At the end of the day making a film is like starting a new business. Literally, people often register a new LLC or LTD for their film.

As with any business you want to make sure you hire the right people for the job they occupy, and they are all equipped, efficient and positive. Aspiring filmmakers aren’t often experienced enough and you can really only take on so many interns.

So it wasn’t necessarily because I was a woman, that I was often not allowed into the boys club, but because I wasn’t part of their clique. And being a woman, especially being a black woman in America, it made initiation harder.

Secondly…

Regardless of one’s gender and race, as a producer/director you are an entrepreneur and you have to build your own team. So really I was wasting my time trying to fill in other jobs on those sets.

Ultimately you should not be looking for a seat at their table, you should build your own table and hand out your own seats.

Sure, not everyone wants to be a producer/director, and even to you, I would say find a way to build your own table. Find some up and coming directors and producers and attach yourself to them. So they call you for every shoot.

Honestly, if you offer your services to an aspiring director/producer pro bono, they will look at you as a co-founder of their career, and they will likely make you a part of their team in the long-run.

People are more loyal to their day ones.  But don’t just do this with one director/producer. Do this with as many as you can.

To conclude, yes the industry is male-dominated, but if you build your own pathway, it does not have to be.

Nigerian women in Nollywood have done this, and their movies are more financially successful than that of their male counterparts. It’s inspiring. 

What advice do you have for women filmmakers in general when starting their own projects?

 Focus on craftsmanship and expertise. Put in your 10,000 hours to become an expert. These days you can learn how to do anything on youtube.

Purchase gear, so that you can go out and shoot any day you wish. I go into more details about this on my online course.

The more you learn the more you realize you don’t know everything - Kenim Obaigbena: @ovgmedia Click To Tweet

 What are the top 5 skills every aspiring filmmaker needs to have? And what tools will they need?

    • Attention to detail
    • Willingness to learn. The more you learn the more you realize you don’t know everything. Be an open book and consume information and practical experiences.
    • Be honest and recognize your flaws and weaknesses. So you can hire or partner with someone else with strengths in areas you are weak in.
    • Have patience, but at the same time put your destiny in your own hands
  • Only seek advice from experts in a specific craft. Don’t ask your Uncle or aunt that’s a random businessperson what business practices you should use in film. Go on youtube or find a mentor with adequate experience.

 What’s next for Kenim? How do you plan to further grow your career and business?

 I’ll be creating more documentaries, more tv dramas, feature films, you name it!


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WAMBUI GICHOBI: On a quest to travel the world with her project – #Adventure197. (49 countries down)

Wambui Gichobi is a visual media producer based in Nairobi, Kenya with Survival Media Agency. Over the last 8 years, she has produced short films on issues regarding adaptation and mitigation for environmental degradation and social justice issues.
While working with SMA, she is currently trying to travel to all the countries of the world with her project Adventure 197. She is currently on country number 49 and hopes to cover continental Africa by road.
 
Wambui is an Environmental Science graduate from Kenyatta University, Keny, and a keen environmentalist with a specific interest in climate change and media for climate change. For the entire time of her career, she has followed the yearly international climate negotiations creating media with SMA yearly for environmental awareness.
 
She has been at the forefront of environmental activities in Kenya, initially heading Sustainable Africa Youth Foundation (SAYF) in university, which promoted environmental awareness and tree planting, especially in schools. 
She has also worked for the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and Kenya Wines Agencies Limited (KWAL) in the Quality, Safety, Health, and Environment sector.

Tell us about #Adventure197. What was your biggest motivation to start this journey to travel the 197 countries?

Prior to my decision to start Adventure197, I had traveled previously on work assignments.

In 2017, I read an article about Cassie De Pecol, who was the first documented woman to have traveled all the countries in the world.

Further research showed that they had been no black or brown person who had traveled all the nations in the world. Adventure 197 was born of the need to travel the world as a black person and show the world that it is possible for a black person to accomplish the same.

The visa processes are much more challenging while traveling with a Kenyan passport as compared to other travelers i.e. with American or European passports.

My biggest motivation is to prove that it is possible for a person, male or female, to travel the world.

How do you believe travel impacts you as an individual and a professional?

Travel has impacted me in very many ways.

As an individual, I have been able to build my confidence through meeting and interacting with new people and sharing our stories. Traveling solo teaches you to have fun by yourself and to bond with others.

It has also taught me time management. Prior to the start of Adventure197, I was always late to meetings and appointments. Being responsible for my own flight schedules, train rides among other details has taught me to be time conscious and manage my time effectively.

I have also learned to measure growth by the clarity of progress. Traveling to different countries is very quantitative and there is no grey area in the number of countries you have traveled.

This is a measure I have adopted in other areas of my life whether emotionally, financially, etc. It is important to be clear on the position you are at any particular point in life in order to measure your progress.

Having to fund my own travels have also taught me how to manage my own finances. I have to learn how to get the money I need and plan for all my expenditures and be financially stable while at it.

People and cultures differ from one place to the next and it is important to learn and take note of the important cultures of the place you are visiting. Additionally, I have also learned financial management in terms of what jobs to pick up as there is always a need to get more income for my travel.

Travel has impacted me in very many ways - @WambuiGichobi Click To Tweet

How do you manage work and travel at the same time?

When I traveled my first 14 countries, I held two jobs where I worked an 8-5 and also worked with Survival Media. I would schedule my travel to coincide with weekends and or public holidays.

In other instances, if my job with Survival Media required me to travel, I would apply for leave days at my 8-5. Most of my travel at this period was work-related.

When I made a decision to start Adventure197, I had to quit my 8-5 job. I currently work with Survival Media. The job is purely on an online basis and I will, therefore, go where the job takes me.

This has created flexibility in my schedule as I can work and travel at the same time.

In the first leg of my journey, I worked while I was in the United States at St. James, Louisiana, and also covered the caravan moving from Honduras through Guatemala in Mexico to the United States border.

Some of the benefits of my job are that I can pick up jobs from clients whenever duty calls or when the need arises. Once the job is done, I can then pick up from my current location and continue with my travels.  

As an environmentalist, you have purposed to offset your carbon footprint as you travel around the world, how do you intend to undertake this?

I am an environmentalist by profession and have been passionate about the environment from a very young age.

Through research, I discovered that most of my travels via air or trains would be very carbon intensive and I would have to offset as much of my carbon footprint as I possibly could.

I try to travel green as much as possible and in cases where this is not possible, I will try as much as possible to offset my carbon footprint. Cycling is one of the most effective ways of traveling green and this was very easy in the Eastern European countries where cycling is a huge part of their culture.

In addition, I have to be a mindful traveler which means traveling to countries close to each other thus reducing the distances covered by air or train and also avoiding plastic straws and Styrofoam packages.

My biggest motivation is to prove that it is possible for a person, male or female, to travel the world - @WambuiGichobi Click To Tweet

This is quite challenging especially in countries that package their food in Styrofoam which means that I have to research and try to find restaurants that will serve their food in plates rather than Styrofoam.

In order to determine my carbon footprint, I keep track of all the miles I have traveled and then get an expert to calculate my carbon footprint. I have set to offset my carbon footprint through the planting of trees which I started before I started Adventure197.

I have partnered with schools and individuals on tree planting projects. In my former primary school, I partnered with the school to plant mango and avocado trees on their land. I have also planted about 200 trees on our family land and over 1400 trees in a parcel of land that belongs to a friend.

I also plan to plant at least 1000 trees in Kirinyaga before I set out on the African leg of Adventure197.

What has been your biggest challenge meeting this target?

My biggest challenge has been getting land to plant trees. Most of my tree planting initiatives are centered on working with schools to plant fruit giving trees which are beneficial to the environment and to the school in terms of food provision.

I have come to realize that schools are very receptive to my goal of offsetting my carbon footprint and they will be willing to assist by holding tree planting initiatives.

49 countries down! What lessons have you learned and will carry forward to the next leg of your journey?

My biggest lesson so far has been “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and to always do my research. When I started Adventure197, I would worry about what to do and where to stay when I arrived at a new place. I have since learned to let go and enjoy my journey wherever I am at.

The second leg of my journey is to travel the African countries. I have traveled 10 so my goal is to travel the remaining forty-four.

In order to determine my carbon footprint, I keep track of all the miles I have traveled and then get an expert to calculate my carbon footprint - @WambuiGichobi Click To Tweet

What advice would you give to women looking to travel in terms of saving and planning for their travel?

It is important for people to travel solo. Solo travels will help you learn about yourself quicker, faster and much deeper due to lots of quiet time. You will get to learn about yourself and your character.

Additionally, it is important to save for your own dreams. Nothing in this world is given for free, you have to fund for what your dreams look like.

Here are my top tips for achieving this:

  • Be financially savvy.
  • Learn to manage your money and save whatever income you get whether you are earning at ten or fifty.
  • Have different accounts for different items and if you have plans for travel, have a specific account for this expenditure.
  • Invest and keep money aside. Whether for emergencies for your own dreams.

Any last words that you would like to share with our audience?

Of all the lessons that I want you to take home with you from my journey, the biggest one is to have a sense of confidence. You can achieve anything you put your mind to.

As an African traveler, there will be a judgment at every turn i.e. at the visa applications, airports but have the confidence to go after your own goals and dreams. I hope to inspire people whether male or female to travel.

In the words of Lupita Nyong’o “Your dreams are valid”


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I have evolved as a traveler: Senzelwe Mthembu shares her ultimate travel guide

27 years old Senzelwe Mthembu is an explorer at heart, a South African traveler, researcher, content creator, and photography enthusiast.

When she’s not curating travel experiences, Senzelwe works as a social researcher at the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA). She focuses on youth transitions into adulthood, youth (un)employment, and on other topics related to young people.

She has a background in politics, philosophy, and economics and obtained her Master’s Degree in Philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2015.

In this article, she highlights how she’s evolving as a traveler and her experiences traveling on the continent.


What made you fall in love with travel?

My passion for travel started at a young age when, as a family, we would drive down to rural Kwa-Zulu Natal during the festive season.

I remember being fascinated by the change in terrain and context. The first memorable trip for me was to the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. So my passion for travel and the African continent started right here, in South Africa.

I later realized the need to showcase my love for travel and to highlight Africa’s beauty to other Africans and to the world.

What kind of traveler are you?

I think I have evolved as a traveler and will probably continue to evolve as my interests change. I was once primarily interested in going to the main tourist attractions and wanting to do things because so many other people had done them.

Travel felt like quite a selfish endeavor. I now take a greater interest in the people from the place that I am traveling to and I want to fully immerse myself in the culture and learn as much as I can.

What interesting social customs have you encountered while traveling the continent?

There are two things which I found interesting. The first was just how friendly and helpful people in Kenya are.

I have not experienced hospitality in the way I experienced it in Kenya. It felt like there was a real concern for other human beings, especially those visiting their country.

The second, which we generally don’t practice here in South Africa, was taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s home. Not only was this the case in the traditional Swahili settlement of Lamu where most of the population is Muslim, but this practice was also found in Nairobi, Kenya where on one evening we invited friends we had made over to our Airbnb home and they did the same.

I found it interesting that young people in Kenya were also taking their shoes off when entering someone’s home.

Paradise on a plate… Your favorite meal on any of your travels?

My favorite meal on my travels was at a very unpretentious, buffet-style traditional Swahili restaurant.

It was the first meal I had in Lamu, Kenya and consisted of pilau (a rice, meat and vegetable dish that is very popular in Kenya), lentils, fish in a spicy tomato stew and other vegetables.

I was so impressed by the flavors.

What do you know now about traveling on a limited budget that you wish you’d known earlier?

I wish I took the plunge earlier! Travel is possible for many people and a range of budgets can be accommodated.

But I do wish I learned the art of saving ahead of time and drawing up a budget. There are so many ways of making travel more affordable, whether it’s taking local public transport, staying in someone’s home or eating where locals eat.

Traveling on a limited budget does not necessarily make your experience any less enjoyable.

Got any travel & safety hacks for passport newbies & solo travelers?

Here are 3 tips for keeping safe and for saving money, especially as a solo traveler.

1. Do your research ahead of time.

The first important things to check for international travel in Africa is whether or not you need any vaccinations such as for Yellow Fever or Malaria.

Also, check luggage dimensions and free baggage policies for the airline or be prepared to pay extra, risk missing your flight or be forced to leave things behind!

2. Choose your accommodation wisely.

Solo travel often means paying more for accommodation since you won’t be sharing the costs with anyone. But that is not always the case!

It’s important to ask yourself what you can afford but also, what you can’t compromise on when it comes to accommodation. If your budget is low, you can still find good accommodation but manage your expectations.

Use Airbnb to book your accommodation as it allows you to book a private room in someone’s house at your stated budget. This makes it safer for you as most of the time you are living with a local who can provide invaluable information and tips about the neighborhood.

Also consider staying in a hostel or backpackers, which will work out to be much cheaper and makes it easier for you to meet like-minded solo travelers.  For both these options, remember to read reviews!

Be as prepared as possible.

Prepare for possible long layovers at airports by having a pillow or blanket, WATER (I cannot stress this one enough) and snacks from the plane or from home.

Carry a moon bag or small backpack for your valuables. It’s so much easier to remember the important things when you can access valuables easily. Write out important contact details and information in multiple places, including on your phone and have extra copies of important documentation in case you lose anything.

And make sure you can access your money from more than one bank card.What is your next travel destination, and why?

I will be traveling to Rwanda and Tanzania soon, but this time it’ll be as part of a beautifully curated group trip where West Africans and Southern Africans, amongst others, will meet in East Africa for an experience of a lifetime.

My sister and I have a shared passion for travel in Africa and so we launched our destination travel company, Lived Experience Travel, this year. Our first international trip is in partnership with Ghana-based, The Travel Clan (@thetravelclan on Instagram) and we are heading to East Africa.

This will be a two-country, 11-day trip to Rwanda and Tanzania that fuses culture, art, traditional food and that celebrates what Africa has overcome and what some of our achievements are.

 

Your final travel advice for motherland moguls?

I think we need to take advantage of what technology and social media have enabled us to do and that is – connect.

The best way to experience a new place is by meeting the locals, having real conversations with people and exploring together.

Another piece of advice is not to wait for others to come along and that local travel is valid! If you notice a pattern of passing travel opportunities up, save some of the money you would have spent on eating out and shopping until you can comfortably do a solo trip or an organized group trip.

Be open-minded, humble yourself to the ways of others, be yourself and learning from my past mistakes – draw up a budget (even if it’s rough).


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Chiedza Museredza: Making the move from Zimbabwe to Canada

Moving to a whole new country, a whole new continent may seem like the scariest choice you could ever make. Will you like your job, will the move be worth it, or what if you never manage to settle in?

These are just a few questions you may ask yourself. On the upside, what if it becomes the best decision you will ever make, what if you find a great group of friends and your job is the best career choice you could have made?

Chiedza has previously detailed her experience on immigrating to Canada to be a lawyer. Starting as a Masters student, she got an internship at one of the biggest law firms in the country and currently is completing her articles at McMillan LLP. She details below her experiences moving countries to kickstart her career

There are various ways you could immigrate to a new country – as a student or as a professional. The choice may lie with your experience and qualifications.

Professionals who qualify have the option of applying for an Express Entry Visa into Canada whilst students have the opportunity to qualify for a post-graduate work permit. Consider what your best option could be.

Making the move…

Going in blind when making such a seismic change to your life requires preparation. Moving to a new country takes a lot of research, time and money.

Plan what you need to do to, how you’ll do it, then take the huge leap and DO IT! Sometimes it means finding new ways to create opportunities for yourself and opening doors through your own initiative.

Chiedza describes the experience of moving to another country as challenging. In particular, moving to a country where she did not know anyone. It felt like starting all over again.

“To prepare for my move I connected with people on LinkedIn who had made the same move as I wanted to make. They, in turn, connected me to other people. I was very lucky to connect with helpful people.”

The power of networking…

Qualification and experience from back home may not always be recognized by potential employers. Some may prefer someone with Canadian experience and those with prestigious work experience or attended Ivy League or Oxbridge universities may fare better on the job market but not everyone has this experience.

Networking has a major impact on the impression you could make to your future employer. Before approaching someone to discuss opportunities it is definitely worth it to research the company and anything else you can find out about the person off LinkedIn (i.e. Google them).

This helps you determine how to approach them- what do you have in common and more importantly what do you specifically need help with.

“I found the best way was to network with someone in the company/firm/organization and they would recommend me.

Most companies trust recommendations from their employees. I have noticed that broadly worded networking emails are not very helpful.

Being specific with emails always shows that you know what you want So in essence what makes one the best candidate as a foreigner is effective networking that will result in getting recommended for the job you want.”

Be mentally prepared…

The job hunt is one of the hardest processes you could go through, but remember, perseverance is key.

“You have to have a thick skin and be resilient. You will be told “no” more than “yes”. Don’t take it personally – just keep going until you achieve your goal.”

Nobody deals with rejection well, but one small setback does not necessarily mean you should give up.

“I believe that what is meant for me will be for me and that rejection is not a denial of my dreams. So, I keep it moving. In terms of managing my expectations, I hoped for the best and prepared for the worst.”

Managing the corporate world has been extremely busy. “I struggled with impostor syndrome the first days. I had to remind myself that I worked very hard to get where I am so I deserved to be at the firm just like everyone else.”

Chiedza shares the key lessons she has learned from her immigration to Canada:

  • Failure is the best form of feedback because it forces you to change and grow – so failure works for you and not against you;
  • Don’t let your achievements set you back. It is very easy to relax after getting successful at something; and
  • Be grateful. Each time you want to complain (even when the complaint is valid) – just think of what you’re thankful for. This is one of the best ways to deal with stress.

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Mamy Tall – The Young Architect putting Senegal on the Map through Art and Design

Mamy Tall is a 26-year-old Senegalese powerhouse, architect and art director. Over the past 3 years, her work has not only catapulted and heightened Senegal’s global artistic merit and tourism, but it has also created trends in Senegalese and African art direction outside of the white gaze— a sort of ode to “our art, for us and by us”.

In 2014 Tall co-founded the social media platform, Dakar Lives, that has won third place at the Linguere Digital Challenge. It has been recognized by CNN, Konbini, OkayAfrica, Hypebeast etc. It has also been classed in the top ten best digital platforms promoting African destinations, by numerous websites like Trace, Le Petit Journal and Tech in Africa.

In 2018, she worked as the artistic director on projects like; the launch campaign of Selly Raby Kane’s Pichkari collection; the Sidy collection by L’Artisane; the music video to Nix’s Highlander; and the photo-booth of the Afrodysee Festival in Geneva.

As an architect, Tall has worked on awareness campaigns about the use of local materials in African cities and the necessity of the rehabilitation of Saint-Louis (the ancient Senegalese Island recognized by Unesco World Heritage).

She has also worked with architectural teams designing public buildings in Dakar such as the Ministerial Spheres and the United Nations Headquarters, in Senegal’s newest city: Diamniadio.

She is currently finishing her first solo project, The Slim VillaRather than a “Jack of all trades, and master of none”— Tall is a clear “Jane of all trades and mistress of all”.

Mamy Tall is also a celebrated photographer whose work has been featured in Elle South Africa x Cote d’Ivoire, Elle Decoration, the  Afrourban exhibition in Montreal and Toronto, OkayAfrica, and on the accounts of Africa’s top Instagram influencers.

Mamy Tall’s aesthetic across her IG platforms @mamytall and @mamymaliste echoes the clean and futuristic feel of African millennials fusing innovative local designs and Global South inspired art for projects that represent the third culture kid who speaks their native language like they never left ‘le bled’.

SLA contributor Mariama Wurie caught up with Mamy Tall, to find out what it takes to be so young, yet a leading figure and force for culture, architecture, and innovation in one’s hometown— making waves across Africa!


What’s it like as a young Senegalese woman, fiercely pursuing a career in this field? Tell us about your journey to becoming an architect? 

It’s true that the field of architecture is perceived to be a male-dominated one in our society. What’s funny is that during my studies in Montreal, there were more women than men in my faculty.

I knew I wanted to be an architect since I was 8 years old. I know that’s an early age, and I don’t even know if I can say where it came from… maybe because I love sketching, imagining, tinkering with stuff and above all— I have a lot of energy.

My parents really pushed me in this direction, not to mention meeting Atepa Goudiably (a famous Senegalese architect) at the of 12, was a determining point in my life.

Becoming an architect allowed me to discover who I was, what I wanted, what I don’t believe in, and what I support— it’s been a rediscovery of my sense of vision (through an architectural lens)!

It’s this experience that today allows me to assert myself as a woman architect with convictions. As architects, our common mission is to constantly solve problems posed by the environment and society, we must never let misogynistic remarks hold us back.

What was your favorite project you worked on in Dakar? What was your motivation for this project and how did you accomplish the project’s goal(s)?

I have been back home in Dakar since May 2017 and I must say that I have had a lot of stimulating creative experiences.

However, to date, my favorite experience has been working on the music video for Highlander (April 2018).

The reasons that motivated me, the building featured in the video, the people I worked with— everything was in perfect symbiosis. I had already been contacted by the Nix team for the art direction/realization of the video, but it happened a month or two later— Nix called me one Tuesday saying “Mamy! We need to shoot this weekend, I’m going on tour next Monday”.

We had to mobilize and manage all the logistics in 5 days— the equipment, the mirrors, the choir, etc. And on Saturday, everything went perfectly!

I think one of the strengths of this project was the synergy that was on the set and the fact that almost all of us knew each other! The shooting was top, editing with Moshady (the director) even more top.

The day of the release, we had so much encouragement that it was really validating… and a few months later, the clip won the Best Music Video of The Year at the Galsen Hip-hop Awards— even more rewarding for us.

Becoming an architect allowed me to discover who I was, what I wanted, what I don’t believe in, and what I support - Mamy Tall Click To Tweet

Your designs are strikingly original. How do you get inspiration? 

I’m inspired by everything! Everything inspires me here (in Dakar). From— the most insignificant scenes that I see on the street, to the daily inspiration of the African creative scene on social media— which I am quite fond of and close to.

I’m also inspired by the daily struggles that our society faces. One of my challenges is to make these problems that may seem trivial, “visual” to the as many people as possible— today’s digital generation.

I don’t limit myself in my creativity, I think that trying to go find inspiration is a very difficult/limiting thing.

Processed with RNI Films. Preset ‘Agfacolor 40’s Aged’

What advice would you give to African women in architecture and creative/design roles for finding inspiration?

The most important thing is to develop your vision of things, your capacity to rediscover banal things. In general, we look at things on a shallow level— except what is deemed societally interesting.

The challenge becomes, being interested in everything!

Got any key advice for African women working up the corporate ladder in traditionally male-dominated professions?

I would advise them not to wait for validation from others to move forward. Unfortunately, we are in a society where gender equality is still a desire, we must work twice as hard to stand out.

I would advise them not to set a barrier in their creation and imagination. Do not talk a lot, just act. To believe in themselves and to not take too harshly to the misogynistic comments they might hear.

They should pick up on the underlying concern and issue that is feeding into that narrative that makes the person a closed minded individual. I would advise them to not feel obligated to do something, but rather to do what they really want to do.

To always try to rise above. To be the only masters of their image and not to deviate from their own universe, to remain oneself in any situation.

Processed with RNI Films. Preset ‘Agfa Optima 200’

What cool and exciting projects can we expect to see from Mamy Tall in 2019?

I think one of the things that allow me to express myself so freely, is not giving in to outside pressure— to do what I want, to move at my pace.

That’s why I rarely speak about my projects while I’m working on them.


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Your lifestyle is what determines your fitness levels: Evonne Mudzingwa

Evonne Mudzingwa is a Group fitness coach trained and certified in the Asia Pacific.  She has been successful in completing several, marathons, ultra marathons including Two Oceans 56km and Comrades 90km medals.

She was born and bred in Chegutu, a small town in Zimbabwe and currently has two girls.

Eve decided to change her career in 2008 after she realized hiring a fitness coach for an event she was planning was expensive, she decided to equip herself with the skills in Fitness and exercise.

In 2008, Eve who was a professional at the time embarked on her career change in Malaysia and Singapore over a 10 year period.  Here she was trained by LesMills International.

In her spare time, Eve loves to travel, Adrenaline sports like zip lining,  bungee jumping, mountain climbing and riding her motorcycle.

In this article, she speaks about her early journey and her career as a fitness professional.


A healthy, fit entrepreneur is more alert and focused - Evonne Mudzingwa Click To Tweet

On why she choose the Asia Pacific…

‘A friend recommended the LesMills Training as it was unique, there wasn’t anyone offering it in Zimbabwe and Southern. Africa back then,  so I went for it,’ says Eve.

She went on to train as a Zumba instructor and personal instructor. She has Lesmills Certification in their training modules body combat, body step, body pump and RMP (studio cycling ).

Upon qualifying in Bodycombat, Eve realized that she needed experience and to acquire a clientele base before she could open her own establishment.

“I worked for a gym in Harare(Borrowdale Brooke) for 2 months thereafter I got my experience and enough clientele.

This experience gave me a glimpse of the void in the fitness industry. This gap was a center that understood and identified with the average, conservative voluptuous Zimbabwean woman.

This is what inspired me to open what initially was a Ladies only fitness center. The traditional gym was too intimidating and male-focused, ignoring the minority female gym goers. I wanted to bring a more personal approach to the fitness world,” she continued.

Eve states she looked around for space to establish her own center, then she came across a small building in a Sports club which had not been last used for 25years as a rugby changing room and was almost dilapidating.

“I contacted the property owners and asked to refurbish it, they were shocked but it worked. I used it for free for the first 6 months.  With this, Eve’s Fitness Studios was born.

Classes commenced in April 2009 hand the studio has evolved and grown over the past 10 years with our 10th anniversary coming up this April 2019”.

Eve’s Fitness Brand established in 2009 now encompasses the Eve fitness Studios – a quaint little fitness center that offers various training programmes.  It also has Eve’s Fitness Battles, Eves Wine Dash Series  – a lifestyle series in partnership Bushman Rock.

Eves 10km Obstacle Race Series molded on the Spartan Race Series and Vainona Running Club which hosts trademark runs namely Eve’s Mazoe Hotel Run and Eve’s Pink Marathon to raise funds for Cancer.  And recently Eve’s Fitness Training – a fitness training center for aspiring Group Fitness Instructors.

Some of her achievements…

Evonne Mudzingwa has been awarded several awards including Women Excel top 100 most successful businesswomen in 2018, ZNCC Service Industry Award, Award for Women who Roar in their Industry and Shero Women Entrepreneurship Awards.

On how body maintenance helps in day to day productivity as an entrepreneur…

A healthy, fit entrepreneur is more alert and focused.  Exercise releases endorphins which leave one feeling happier and more energetic. It also boosts one’s self-esteem, an important requirement in anyone in business.

As for me, I keep fit by doing 2hours of training every day and a 5km run on a daily basis.

My diet mostly consists of organic, high fiber food which I mainly pan-fry or boil, lots of fruits and vegetables, fish & chicken with beef or pork once a week. I also love herbal teas and snack on our mutakura (mixed boiled grains).

On how a career woman can balance between the gym, work and family life…

One only requires just a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise a day out of the 24 hours. A family working woman can go to the gym early morning whilst the household sleeps or soon after work.

Every woman needs this Metime to exhale, regroup and be a better mother, wife, and employer. I believe people make time for the things they deem important in life, one just needs to decide that their health is a priority.

There is always time.

On dispelling the societal notion that the gym is for rich people or luxurious activity…

Contrary to that misconception of the gym is an elite activity. Exercise is an important aspect of total wellness.

Understandably gyms are beyond most people’s budgets but there are various cheaper ways of exercising. Running and bodyweight strength training exercises do not cost anything and can be done anywhere.

On providing special sessions for pregnant women and people recovering from injury…

Our Programmes cater to various fitness levels including pregnant and recuperating clients. We offer options relevant to the clients special condition.

It is actually encouraged for women to train throughout their pregnancies. The ambiance at our studio inspires and motivates everyone to not give up.

I also have personal relationships with my clients making it easy to encourage them from losing their mojo.

On the Myth that frequent Gym Exercise makes women look masculine…

The myth that exercise and strength training, in particular, makes females look masculine has sadly been around for the longest time and strongly believed.

There are various kinds of training programmes to achieve different results. There are those women who actually choose to build a masculine look, these are usually bodybuilders and professional figure athletes.

To look that masculine however these women have to be on specific training programmes, restricted diet and taking the relevant supplements.

A woman just exercising is incapable of looking masculine as the female body does not have sufficient protein to build that much muscle.

Women fearing to look masculine should shy away from using heavy weights but instead opt for lighter weights but doing plenty repetitions of the same exercise. At Eve’s Fitness Studios we offer a variety of training programmes that complement each other for that balance total body workout to get a lean, fit and toned body.

A woman just exercising is incapable of looking masculine as the female body does not have sufficient protein to build that much muscle - Evonne Mudzingwa Click To Tweet

Advice for women in exercise and fitness programs…

“Fitness is not a size”.

There is this sad notion that if people are skinny then they don’t have to exercise or are automatically fitter than the bigger people. You can be a skinny unfit person, we call this skinny fat.

Equally a person can be of big built but fit. One’s lifestyle is what determines their fitness levels.

Women should support each other in business. I faced less support when I started my fitness Studios and had to work extra hard to show that what I do is the same or better than in male-led fitness Studios.


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Your Self Care shouldn’t suffer at the expense of Career Excellence – Nnennaya Udochu

Female engineers have been branded to be nerds and unattractive. It is a common belief that female engineers have no sense of style, not feminine enough and probably too strong for the average man.

Contrary to this widely held bias, Nnennaya Udochu is a firm believer that female engineers can be trendy, decent, and elegant.  Nnennaya’s life and style is full proof that women are going against this bias.

As an analog engineer, she doesn’t fit into what you’d typically call your hard hat-wearing engineer. She has held the office of a Professor Faculty in the Mathematics department at the University of Portland, Oregon., and she balances career with self-care.

Nnennaya doubles as a fashion blogger and also motivates ladies who fear that taking a career in engineering or any career in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) would impede and perhaps limit their chances of a relationship.

In this article, she shares her experience in the profession gives her insights on the misconceptions placed on women in STEM.


 What prompted you to want to become an Engineer?

I enjoyed solving a lot of Math problems and enjoyed a particular topic in my physics class, Electromagnetics.

It was from that course in Secondary School I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering.

 What setbacks did you experience pursuing this dream?

Taking some engineering courses that would make me think, “why me” or “God help me” because I found them very challenging. For example, Thermodynamics and Statics.

Aside from those challenges, the fear of self-doubt. Sometimes, just believing in yourself regardless of what people think goes a long way. I remember being in a study group where we were discussing our prospective first jobs and I said Microsoft or any Fortune 500 company.

The whole group burst out laughing but today here I am staying in the course of what I want for myself.

 Did you have a hard time proving your credibility to your male lectures/superiors?

Yes, I did most of the time. It took a lot of hard work and proving myself but I would always let the quality of my work delivery speak volume.

Once you’re very knowledgeable about your expertise and firm about making decisions, it would be difficult for anyone to question your abilities in the workforce.

 Females in #STEM tend to recline to the background whenever leadership or academic roles are called for. Was this your experience?

No this isn’t my experience. I am very tenacious in the pursuit of leadership or academic roles in my career; certainly not shying away from it.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been an Adjunct Professor at the University of Portland, Oregon and I’m continuously getting mentored by senior leaders in my industry.

 As an Analog Engineer, what does your typical workday look like?

My workdays are very busy and a lot of critical thinking is involved.

Every day I am faced with new challenges on addressing power issues and honestly, everything I learned in Physics II (especially applied principles of electromagnetics) are applied from day to day.

Basically, I am mentally tasked each day.

 You are also an Instagram blogger. Tell us about your journey.

The journey so far has been great! I continue to curate content on my platform to inspire people across the world through my travel shots, beauty, hair and showcasing different fashion looks ranging from street style to guest inspired looks at a wedding.

I’ve collaborated with brands such as Pitusa, Chi Chi London, Res Ipsa, Palmers, Victoria Emerson just to mention a few and my work has been featured on various Instagram and media platforms.

The most exciting experience I’ve had from my journey so far was being privileged to have featured on a fashion segment on Fox News (Fox12 Oregon) discussing the latest Fall fashion trends in 2018.

 In your opinion why do you think women in #STEM do not take self-care as a top priority?

I feel it’s because they don’t want to appear unserious for their jobs and have their co-workers not take them seriously in a meeting or on a project.

The perception of a woman figure in STEM is always painted wearing dirty clothing, or plain tops and jeans and this have clouded some women’s judgment on how they would like to present themselves.

 What advice do you have for women starting out in #STEM?

Stay persistent and confident in the pursuit of your career goals. Don’t let the presumptions society has about women in STEM be a reason you get discouraged in achieving your career goals.

Who you are or aspire to be shouldn’t be limited by someone’s experience.

What’s the look on people’s face when you’re all dressed up like a diva and you tell them what you do?.

They are always astonished and perplexed. Some make decent remarks like, “Beauty and Brains” while others find the need to argue.

Once a co-worker said I was in Finance and I said, “No”. Only for him to turn back around still amazed and say, “I always thought you were in Finance and you were a spoilt brat because of the way you dress”.

Between anger and range, I managed to get my emotions in check and simply responded, “For someone educated that is quite shallow of you to say”.


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