Nothabo Ncube: You are bigger than your surroundings

When Nothabo Ncube was only 14 years years old, her mother died in a tragic road accident. Before she died, Nothabo had made a promise that she would become a doctor. 15 years later, Nothabo is not only a doctor, but she is also a consciousness speaker and entrepreneur featured on TEDx. 

Her journey to becoming a doctor was not easy. After joining her dad in Canada, Nothabo lived in the projects which were subjected to high crime rates, prostitution, and drug dealing.

In order to survive, Nothabo had to listen to a deep voice within herself that told her she was more than her environment and she will rise through it. 

Looking back at her journey, Nothabo concludes that every moment was important as it revealed to her what her purpose was. Now she lives her life inspiring and helping other women find themselves. 

In this interview, Nothabo talks about her mentorship program – Esther.


What projects are you involved in at the moment

In August 2017, I launched an online mentorship program for young women. The program called Esther’s Mentorship aims to assist women to win back their power, settles into their true selves, realize their potential and be the best of who God created them to be.

I use my personal experiences and testimonies to empower and assist women to realize that it doesn’t matter where one has been. That through their broken pieces, there is hope at the end of the tunnel and God can use their pain.

Before I always played victim to my journey and it took time to get to a place where I started seeing things differently. Now I understand that some of the things that happened were launching me into my purpose. Therefore it is my intention to be a medium, a voice, a source of guidance to enable the mentees to see through their pain.

Why did you name it Esther?

While speaking at an event in South Africa, one of the speakers took an interest in me. We began talking about my life’s journey, my vision and plan for the future. I told her about the mentorship program and she suggested that I call it Esther.

Upon return, during a conversation with my spiritual mother, she said I reminded her of Esther. As if this was not confirmation enough, I then decided to name it Esther because we are raising queens.

How is the mentorship structured?

The mentorship runs every Sunday for 30 minutes, in one on one sessions. As we have women from different parts such as Zimbabwe, USA, Canada and South Africa, we needed a day where everyone would be easily available.

During the mentoring session, I help women structure their goals and create guidelines on how best to move on their journey. I aim to empower the young women and open them up to a different sphere of who they are.

What are your 5-year plans for the Esther Program?

Currently, we have one on one mentorship sessions. However, in the future, I would want the girls in Zimbabwe to have meet up sessions at least once a month. This will help them in creating a platform where sisters come together and support each other.

I also intend on having centers especially in the big cities and branching to the rural areas where I feel those in the rural areas need it the most. My intention is to build a community of sisterhood that reaches every girl that needs it.

Tell us more about your TEDx Talks

My friends have been very instrumental in my TEDx journey. My friend instigated my first TED talk in Canada. She submitted my story to the TEDx recruiters. They then interviewed me and asked me to share my story on their platform. My talk was titled: A inspirational Story of Hope, Faith, and Grace.

Then again in Zimbabwe, another friend also submitted my name for the Bulawayo TEDx Talk. This talk was very historical as it what it the first time TEDx was being launched in Bulawayo. However, my first talk was what opened the door for other speaking engagements.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I think my inspiration stems from my own pain of not having had a mother figure. Growing up, I yearned for that backbone from someone I trusted. This wasn’t always the case but I had a few people that I was led to along my journey who have guided me. Driven by this,  I would want to be that person to someone else.

Which women have been the most influential in your life?

Oprah Winfrey was very influential in my life. In 2011, I was looking for money to go to school and a friend of mine suggested I go on her site. There was nothing on scholarships or bursaries but what popped up was a box that said tell us your story –“you become what you believe”.

I typed my story and put my cousin’s number as my contact details. They called her three times and she kept hanging up on them thinking it was a prank call. She eventually asked me about it and of course, I was shocked, “How does one hang up on Oprah? When Oprah calls, you answer!”

Fortunately, they called again and I got to talk to Oprah. While I did not get money to go to her school, she told me of her journey from her childhood to where she was today. This truly encouraged me and made me change the way I perceived my journey.

I started seeing my pain through a different lens. I started understanding that purpose was birthed by my pain. That’s when I knew I was called to speak.

What advice would you give other young people in a context like Zimbabwe?

Never allow your circumstances to define who you are, you are bigger than your surroundings. God is bigger than the current reality of what Zimbabwe is going through. When you tap into that higher source of power it’s inevitable that things will work in your favor.

Hold on to hope, tap into your truth, and continue fighting things will eventually change. Listen to your God’s voice, the voice that is kind and brings you peace is where your true power lies. It’s leading you right where you belong.


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Pamela Enyonu: Art Rights My World

Pamela Enyonu is a copywriter at ‘Aggrey and Clifford’ and an artist. She’s the kind of woman you want around when things get a little crazy. Something in her air, her manner of speaking, the bold look on her face, her stride…it all tells you that this is a woman who knows how to get things done.

In her art, she bares her soul and isn’t shy about it.  You may choose to blush, look away or judge, it doesn’t matter. She’ll be too busy making important statements through her art to fit into those tiny boxes women are often placed into.


What drives your passion for art? 

Art is my center, my clarity, and my god. When I do art, the world rights itself. I am driven by stories. My art is a re-imagination of my and the stories of those around me. I am inspired by stories of triumph and self – empowerment.

Where did your artistic journey begin and how has it evolved since?

My artistic journey began when I was about 8 or 9 years when I made the decision to do art in primary 4. I vividly remember drawing a yam and finding it so easy and from then onwards, I never looked back. 

I went to art school at Kyambogo University, majoring in printmaking and multi-media crafts elements. This has somehow found its way into my crafts. During my journey, there are times when I have deviated from my path, however, I have always found my way to the things I love.

Could you describe your artistic process?

For a long time, my process was pretty organic. However, these days I have deliberate plans, reading, collecting and educating myself on the stories I want to tell. I use words and photography a lot in my work.

My process begins with composing the narrative before I begin making the art. I then keep adding layers as my point of view gets clearer. For me, it’s important that my message is clear despite all the multi-layered looks.

I am currently acquainting myself with the more abstract thought processes and I have to admit, this is alien territory for me. I am hoping to produce more abstract work in the future. 

How can African artists protect their art?

Africa is a vast continent that has inspired a lot of ideas at home and beyond. As African artists, you always run the risk of your work being misinterpreted. I don’t think it’s something we can control.  

However, we can perhaps get ideas from other industries that successfully manage to protect their work. For example, coders sign their work through embedding unique codes that only them can interpret. Perhaps, as artists, we can begin using tech to protect our work.

Other than that, I think documenting your work and having a good lawyer’s number on speed dial should help.

What do you think will take for African art to gain as much appreciation as say European art?

We need to educate people on how to appreciate art. Unlike music where the beat just takes you, art is deliberate. You must immerse yourself in the art and the artists, learning their motivations, their ethos etc. That way you will gain a unique appreciation.

I think schools should be involved in the arts, arranging tours to galleries and meeting the artists etc. There should a deliberate effort to groom a culture of going to art places. Everyone should visit a gallery at least once a month.

If you could creatively collaborate with any artist in the world, who would it be and why?

Liberian-American artist Lina Viktor Iris and Lady Skollie from South African. Lina inspires my desire to ascend as a mixed media photographic artist. Her work evokes a sense of reverence and worship.

Lady Skollie, on the other hand, appeals to the rebel in me. Her work is thought-provoking in completely unexpected ways. I also like that she draws her inspiration and style from her Khoisan heritage. It’s empowering to embrace our narratives with no apologies.

What does the future look like for Pamela Enyonu?

All I want to do is make good art, turn into a competent carpenter and teach for rest of my life. Everything else will be a bonus.


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Larisa Bowen-Dodoo: African Women in STEM are Real

Larisa Bowen-Dodoo is the founder of Levers in Heels, a digital media enterprise highlighting African women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

She is also a member of the Global Shapers community, a multi-stakeholder initiative of the World Economic Forum.


What inspired you to found Levers in Heels?

In my undergrad years, I was one of four young women in a male-dominated engineering class. It was there that I realized the impact having female STEM role models could potentially have on me and my career.

So, I thought to myself, “If there is a wealth of real-life experience, insights, and knowledge out there from experienced women in STEM, I’d love to tap into that to motivate, inspire, empower and support women like myself.

What drives you to want to profile these women?

Levers in Heels is driven by my ethos and mission to give a voice to African women in STEM. We examine the barriers these women face from every angle in their respective countries. At the same time, we also amplify their achievements to inspire and empower our readers, particularly the next generation of African female STEM leaders.

Can you tell us more about your business as a social venture?

Women have made many strides in STEM fields, but their achievements go disregarded. These women are needed today more than ever to share their stories; contributions and struggles, to inspire girls into becoming the next generation of STEM leaders.

At Levers in Heels, I have been able to provide girls (from primary to senior high levels) with the opportunity to connect, through shared experiences, with our featured women in STEM via video conference calls. We have started this outreach project in Ghana and are looking for more opportunities to expand to the rest of Africa.

What four skills have you found yourself using/learning frequently since starting Levers in Heels?

Before I started Levers in Heels, I knew nothing about running a website, let alone a digital media enterprise. I did, however, learn not to underestimate the value, impact, and consistency of the content I was sharing.

Whether your digital content is for social good, business or both, consistency is key. This establishes your credibility and authority in the space you find yourself in. 

Talking to Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings – Image Source: Dr. Zanetor Agyeman Rawlings, MP

It has also been important for me to learn how to communicate my passion and enterprise in an engaging way, both online and offline. The more often you put yourself and your work out there, the faster your communication skills will grow.

To improve your communication skills, you need to engage with the very people who find your content useful. One way I do this is through Levers in Heels’ discourse events.

Lastly, I don’t stop learning. It is necessary to keep your own learning and personal development active. There are so many courses online, both free and paid, that you can take to start your own enterprise. With such easy access to knowledge and resources, there really is no excuse that you can’t create your own opportunities.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in growing in this space?

The state of the digital publishing evolves every day. It is challenging having to keep up with new tools and resources if you plan on remaining relevant. It isn’t enough to have a great brand name these days.

Content generation can also be demanding, especially in my case where I have to do quite a lot of research to scout women in STEM across Africa for an interview.

Larisa in conversation with international business leader and advocate for STEM, Lucy Quist.

Is the African Woman in STEM real? How do you think women in STEM impact the continent?

Africa is at a stage where it requires the expertise of STEM in solving its challenges. Today, we cannot think about development without considering how we can leverage STEM to move forward.

Women have an equal role to play in this as some of these challenges, more than often, affect them and their children. With our perspectives and ideas on these issues, we can come up with better solutions which will benefit the whole continent.

I can confidently say that the African woman in STEM is real, with all the evidence gathered from the amazing stories I share on Levers in Heels.

What is your long-term goal/vision for Levers in Heels?

My vision for Levers in Heels is simple – to be the continent’s leading digital media enterprise for African women in STEM.

You’ve spoken to so many women in STEM, what would you single out as outstanding?

I love the diversity that comes with every engagement. For me, there’s great value in recognizing the different perspectives in my conversations with them.

This helps me, and ultimately my readers, to better understand their point of view on specific questions or topics. It is about hearing and learning from them more than anything.

A lot of young African women are seeking guidance in the STEM space, what would be your key advice to them?

Have the confidence to pursue it and be present. 


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Elom Ayayee: Photography for me was a fortunate accident

Elom Ayayee never thought photography would be a part of her life. Her career path was in international relations, policy, linguistics, and publishing. But her love for beautiful images in magazines ignited her desire to pursue a career in photography.

She wanted to recreate these looks which seemed limited to only models for the everyday woman who could be a wife, mother, entrepreneur / employee, believer, citizen and role model.

Elom started with no knowledge of photography. She didn’t know how to take photos and had no clients. But with time, constant practice and determination, she opened her photo studio Elom Ayayee Portraiture where she takes magazine-worthy images of women to remember for the rest of their lives.


How did you start your photography career?

Photography was a very fortunate accident and I fall in love with it more and more every day. It’s all about meeting someone for the first time and finally creating a timeless piece of art that speaks to the essence of who they are or who they want to be in the moment it was created.

To me, that is the amazing power of portraiture. Photography for me is the power to exist in time. It’s a way to say “I was here. I lived, I loved, I hurt, I suffered, I rejoiced, I was silent, I was loud. I held this space”.

Why do you focus on women?

I started photographing family and friends and before I knew it I had a client base. My move to photograph women was not just a great business plan. But, it was also a way to highlight these women who are sometimes invisible in the roles they play. Women often get lost in their responsibilities and forget to appreciate themselves.

My initial desire was to give women just one day off. A day to get pampered and remember and document who she is outside of all the hustle.

To get her hair and makeup done and the most beautiful images of herself that would be loved and cherished and appreciated for all time.

What were some of the hurdles you encountered and how did you solve them?

Marketing has been the biggest hurdle. I’m naturally a very private person and 90% of my client base is from referrals. Putting myself out there is still a very uncomfortable experience for me.

That being said, my target market is small and very specific so that tends to minimize the effort I would otherwise have to make in marketing myself. It’s a lazy way of marketing I guess; give great service and let happy clients do the talking for you.

How do you get your photographs to spread your messages?

I don’t create my photographs for the general public. I create images for my clients to hang on their walls in their homes – this is very intimate and private. Images that hopefully their great great great grandchildren will see and talk about.

My images are about time, legacy and emotion. All of my images say different things in the different homes they live in. I can usually tell by spending enough time with a woman who she wants to see when she looks at an image of herself. I pull on every resource within me during a shoot to be able to give her that.

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How do you improve your photography and get inspired? 

I do this every way that I can. I enjoy constructive criticism from people I look up to in the industry and my clients. I’m always on the internet trying to figure out how to get what I see in my head right.

My clients are all the inspiration I need. I’ve met such incredible people. Every woman has a story, every child has incredible potential. One day what I create for this person will be a timeless treasure to someone else.

Are you working on anything exciting at the moment?

Yes! I’m doing a series for women that I’m very excited about. It’s easy to promise to take the most amazing picture a woman has ever seen of herself when she’s been pampered and dolled up and looks like the jackpot.

Can I take the most beautiful picture of a woman make-up free? This is my challenge to myself and all my clients. So far, it’s been amazing. Women are so deep and they carry so much behind their eyes.

Each of my clients who have trusted me enough to put themselves in this vulnerable place has been won over. It’s literally the most powerful image you could ever take.

What photography gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best?

I started with a Nikon D3300 and I’ve always used natural light. My first studio was robbed and all my gear was stolen, that’s when I switched to Canon. I’m now shooting on a 5DMark iii.

I own a 50mm lens which I shoot 80% of my shots with and a 70-200 for my outdoor portraits. I use Adobe Photoshop for my editing.

What advice would you give young photographers who want to make it in this industry?

I really don’t feel like I’m qualified to speak for the whole industry, but I would say you need solid people skills and know the basic fundamentals of how to run a business. There’s a huge difference between a business and a hustle.

Also, advise often depends on what area of photography you venture in. So, the first thing I would say is, find your niche, and contrary to popular belief, the smaller your niche the better. Too many photographers are doing too many things. You can’t have it all.  Give great service. Master your craft.


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5 things you can learn from Talaya Waller’s Ted Talk on personal branding

Dr. Talaya Waller is an internationally known, award-winning personal branding consultant, speaker, and marketing scholar who works with thought leaders from a variety of industries.

She combines professional experiences with years of marketing research to build awareness, influence, and credibility for personal and organizational brands. Her mission is to help leaders share their stories and leverage their expertise to make a positive impact on society.

Dr. Talaya earned a Doctorate of Business Administration in 2015 and is currently conducting independent research on personal branding. In 2011, she completed an Executive Education at Harvard. She also holds a BSc and an MBA in Managerial Sciences focused on Entrepreneurship.

With an online presence of over 35,000 followers and haven being published in Forbes, Fast Company, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr.Talaya gave a TEDx Talk where she shares her insight on personal branding.

The future of branding is personal - Talaya Waller Click To Tweet

Watch the Ted Talk here:

Here are 5 things you can learn from this TED Talk

 

1. Technology has caused a major shift in influence. Today, one employee can have more influence, and also consumer trust than their entire organization.

2. People are tired of being sold. In business marketing, we have moved away from humanizing objects to influencing people with other people who they know, like, and trust. Individuals who want to build an influential personal brand can use the know-like-trust formula.

3. Everyone has a brand, but most people don’t manage it strategically, effectively, or consistently. Individuals who have a well-defined personal brand usually generate increased value for their company, whether they work for themselves or someone else.

4. Your personal brand is the most powerful tool you have to accomplish your goals. A branding strategy is essential to success in fundraising, growing a business, or changing careers.

5. Branding is no longer about companies trying to manage our perception. Today, it’s about people creating and sharing human experiences.

The future of branding is personal.


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Brief essentials: The solution to Nigeria’s untapped online lingerie and underwear marketplace

As at 2010, Nigeria’s growing online landscape was missing a lingerie and underwear destination with a variety of options, which will also educate Nigerians on their appropriate sizes.

It was also important that more women begin to see their lingerie as a fashion statement, and also have easy access to great underwear, lingerie and shapewear without breaking the bank.

Brief Essentials was that solution we were all waiting for. It was the solution to Nigeria’s untapped online lingerie and underwear marketplace.

Seun Tayo-Balogun – the CEO of Brief Essentials and Lead Consultant at Techmonks Limited (a business solutions provider leveraging technology recounts how she maximized her experience in e-commerce and digital ventures, strategy, research, media and communication, and web authoring, to change Nigeria’s online landscape.

Until January 2015, Seun was the Head, Research and Strategy at Kakawa Discount House (now FBN Merchant Bank).


 

How did Brief Essentials come about?

There was a time in Nigeria when many retailers focused on electronics, fashion merchandising, shoes etc, but lingerie was not given the attention it deserved. Lingerie was mostly sold in brick and mortar stores, as well as the second-hand market.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, lingerie options at this time were limited and mostly overpriced, or of questionable quality.

We’re here to change how women view themselves and restore confidence to many homes - @briefessentials Click To Tweet

Equipped with this knowledge and the determination to make a difference and meet the needs of the Nigerian market, Brief Essentials set out as an online lingerie store to cater to the needs of everyone, in addition to providing lingerie education and highlighting the importance of fit, style, and function of undergarments using digital platforms.

Brief Essentials launched in April 2011 and since then have revolutionized lingerie and underwear shopping in Nigeria’s budding online marketplace.

As an industry pioneer, Brief Essentials delivers unparalleled and top range products that fit your specific body shape and that’s right for any kind of fashion ensemble (featuring up to 50 world’s best brands, over 5000 SKUs) at the best prices you can find in Nigeria.

Brief Essentials has successfully helped other lingerie stores get started – by providing merchandise, branding, store set-up, insider training and 360 degrees consulting to new lingerie startups in Nigeria.

Aside retailing other brands, brief essentials launched it’s shapewear and active line in 2017 with a goal to continuously combine its ethos of function, fit and affordability.

What makes Brief Essentials stand out?

Brief Essentials was founded on the belief that:

  • Great lingerie should not only be affordable but accessible.
  • Brief Essentials offers lots of options for everyone. This way you won’t have to settle for what you can find, but what you truly want.
  • The fit is always more important than the fashion. Our promise is to blend fit, function, and fashion.
  • Our lingerie pieces are affordable and our quality continues to be top notch.
  • We give loads of lingerie education in addition to using our platforms to empower and inspire. We recently concluded a campaign in March 2018, with the theme #PowerWithin which focused on the need for women to pay attention to who they are. The inspiring and powerful messages from the women we featured can be found on our blog.

Tell us 5 things women need to know and understand about their undergarments and lingerie.

  • You should wash your bra more often than you think.
  • There is a lingerie piece for every shape, every need and occasion and one Bra doesn’t do all the job.
  • Hand washing is still the best way to care for your lingerie and undergarments.
  • Most bra issues are from the band when your band size is wrong, everything will be wrong. The band provides 80% of support in a bra and not the straps.
  • You would not wear a shoe that does not fit, same should apply to undergarments. Buying a bra especially is a very important purchase, we owe it to ourselves as women to find bras that fit, and to get lots of them. Finding a bra that fits, for me, is part of knowing our bodies and embracing the totality of who we are.

Sponsored post.

Vivian Atenaga: The Gospel isn’t Enough Without Impact

Vivian Atenaga is a pastor, conference speaker, and an educationist. As a preacher, Vivian believes that the message of the gospel is not complete without making a physical impact on peoples lives. 
Driven by this, Vivian co-founded a project named Smile Naija. Smila Naija is a platform that is used to reach out to the indigent in the society. In this article, Vivian tells us more about her passion. 

What inspired the Smile Naija Project?

Seeing the sufferings of people in our society has truly touched me. I thought to myself that though I was encouraging people through preaching the gospel, this was not enough. So, with a team of other passionate people, we began collecting food items, furniture, and kitchen utensils to donate to those who needed them through Smile Naija.
Through our diverse team of professionals, we offer free legal counseling and medical checkups from experts. After the medical checkups, patients are given free drugs also. The services we offer are open to any member of the society and so far we have reached a number of people.

What is your plan for the project in the future?

By the end of this year, we are hoping to feed and clothe at least five thousand families. It sounds ambitious but we strongly believe that we can achieve these goals. When looking at the future, we hope to have empowerment programs. Through these programs, we hope to give startups the training and funding they need to be able to start their businesses.
We also plan to establish scholarship programs that will especially benefit children in the Northern part of Nigeria as it holds a larger population of children that are out of school. All in all, we have many plans for Smile Naija and hope to make it more impactful.

Can you tell us more about your mentoring program?

I have often heard about this phenomenon that the younger people will outlive the older generation. Therefore, I believe that impacting the youth is a deliberate effort to designing the desired future that we want.
Through our program, we look into all the aspects of life that affect young people. We then deal with these aspects through teachings and dialogues. I’ve realized that the reason we keep having challenges in society today is that young people usually lack the requisite skills and tools to deal with challenges as they face them.
Therefore, I hope through mentor-ship, young people can get the help they need to face challenges.

How do you stay motivated with your various projects?

I understand that I am here on an assignment, and mediocrity is not one of the kingdom traits, which means that excellence is a basic mark I must meet. I keep setting new standards based on the vision God has given me for my life.
I know my purpose, and I ensure I stick to it through prioritizing my life, whether it is focusing on the home front, pastoring or even running my business. However, I have prioritized my life in a way that my home comes first, ministry second and my business third. With this order, I give to Caesar what belongs to him.
There is life after your wedding day, you are more than you think you are. - Vivian Atenaga Click To Tweet

What will your legacy be?

 At the end of the day, I hope that my legacy will be that I served God through everything that I did. I also want to have impacted humanity without any reservations.

Any inspiring messages for women seeking to start pursuing their dreams and fulfilling their purpose?

 You only live once here in this world. I know the period of giving birth and raising the kids are quite challenging, but I also believe that you can find time to document your ideas and sketch your plan to execute them once the kids are a bit older.
Don’t ever allow being married to be your life’s last dream.There is life after the wedding day and you are more than you think you are.

Do you have a story you would like to share with She Leads Africa? Let us know about yourself and your story here.
 

FACEBOOK LIVE WITH THANDO’S: TRANSFORMING THE WORLD WITH AFRICAN FASHION (APR 25)

African innovators are capturing the world’s attention through their unique designs –particularly in the fashion industry!

Examples include African designers like Mimi Plange, whose works have caught the eyes of Michelle Obama and Rihanna or Kisua, a luxury African brand that Queen Bey is a fan of!  

Amazing shoe brands like Thando’s, are revolutionizing the fashion scene with Africa’s first fashionable, comfortable and foldable ballerina flat that can fit inside a small handbag, office drawer or the glove compartment of a car!

Talk about convenience with style!

That being said, if you are looking to break into the fashion industry or want to harness your passion for fashion – this is one is for you!

Join us on Wednesday, April 25th, for a Facebook Live with Jibolu Ayodele – co-founder, Thando’s, and Chioma Okonkwo – Winner of 2017 Thando’s Design competition, as they share with us all a fashion innovator needs to know about changing the fashion scene through innovative designs.  

Change the fashion scene through innovative #AfricanFashion, with @ThandosShoes on, April 25th! More info at: http://bit.ly/Thandos Click To Tweet

Some of the topics we’ll cover

  • The art of designing for social impact
  • How crowdsourcing/collaborative consumption can work for Fashionpreneurs
  • Disrupting Africa’s fashion landscape
  • What you need to know about manufacturing in Africa

Webinar Details:

Date: Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

Time: 12PM Lagos // 1PM Johannesburg // 2PM Nairobi

Location: Register below to get access to this opportunity

Watch here:

She Leads Africa Facebook Live with Jibolu Adeyole, co-founder of @ThandosShoes and Chioma Okonkwo, winner of 2017 Thando’s design competition sharing insights on Transforming the world with African fashion. Join the She Leads Africa community by visiting SheLeadsAfrica.org/join!

Posted by She Leads Africa on Wednesday, April 25, 2018

About our experts:

Jibolu “J.G.” Ayodele is the co-founder of Thando’s, a Lagos and NY based fashion company that provides a platform for African artists to design for a global audience. 

Before co-founding Thando’s, Jibolu led the business development efforts of Viacom International Media Networks in Nigeria, where he co-created partnerships with brands such as Hewlett Packard and Lufthansa. He has also worked with Deloitte, Bank of America and GE Capital.

Mr. Ayodele holds an MBA in Finance, Entertainment, Media, and Technology from NYU – Stern School of Business. He received a Masters in Accounting from NC State University, and a Bachelors in Business Administration from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.

Jibolu is married to his co-founder, Taffi Ayodele.

Chioma Okonkwo, is a graduate of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, with a passion for illustration and animation. She recently participated in Thando’s inaugural print design competition, where she won with her unique design – The Akonmi Print.

She used this design to interpret how heavy rains result in flooding that displaces hundreds of thousands of people. Chioma was inspired to illustrate after her internship at an imaging company in Port-Harcourt.

When she is not working at her 9 to 5 call centre job or illustrating, Chioma is busy experiencing new places, cultures and foods. 

Rukky Esharegharan: I am redefining education in Nigeria

Rukky Esharegharan is an early childhood education expert and founder of The Teachers Hub and South Pacific Teachers Academy. This is an initiative she founded to help deal with the lack of skilled teachers in the Nigerian education sector.

In less than two years since founding The Teachers hub, Rukky has grown its membership from 1 to 7500 members. She talks to us about her journey building the Nigerian education sector. 


How did your journey as an educator begin?

I first began my journey 16 years ago as a nursery teaching assistant while I awaited my university admission. Initially, I wanted to be a doctor and later a writer. For my degree, I studied English and later published a series of short stories, wrote a novel and started a blog.

Teaching was just something I did during the holidays to pass time. Our society does not promote teaching as a lucrative profession for high achievers, so even though I was great at teaching, I never thought of it as a prospective career.

Two things changed me.

Firstly, my quest to play an active role in my children’s lives led me to study more about early childhood care and education. Secondly, my teaching experience in a government secondary school in Warri, Delta State, opened my eyes to the decay in our education sector.

When I met the children, something stirred up within me. Each day I would go home upset and worried about how unmotivated the senior secondary students were.

I wanted to help these children but a 40-minute English lesson three times a week was not enough. Therefore, I decided to fully immerse myself in education.

I am redefining education in Nigeria, one teacher, one school owner, one parent at a time - Rukky Esharegharan Click To Tweet

Tell us about The Teachers Hub and the impact it is making

I started ‘The Teachers’ Hub in December 2016 with a singular vision ”to equip parents and educators with 21st-century teaching skills.” Though we have schools for education, we lack skilled teachers.

The Teacher’s Hub community was founded with the aim to network with, and helping other educators. In the past 8 months, I have trained over 350 educators (teachers, parents, school owners and consultants).

The many testimonials have inspired me to keep going. A parent from one of my courses called me to say she had decided to become a full-time teacher after the training with me and I cried with joy. I am redefining education in Nigeria: one teacher, one school owner, one parent at a time.

How has social media enabled you to grow The Teachers Hub brand and what makes it stand out?

The Teachers’ Hub started as a Facebook group a while back, and we’ll be hosting our first of many Early Childhood Education Conference in April and May across 4 states (Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Delta).

Without social media, I won’t have come this far. I have people contact me from different parts of the world and that’s because of the power of social media.

What makes The Teachers’ Hub stand out is that I give of myself so freely. When I first started, I had a dear friend call me to say ” Why are you sharing so much for free in your group?” She could not understand when I tried to tell her that I just wanted to help other educators find their way.

Without social media, I won't have come this far - Rukky Esharegharan Click To Tweet

What advice can you give aspiring teacher being held back by the poor remuneration in Nigeria’s education sector?

I like to say that ”teaching is a work of the heart.” Do it, not for the money, but for the love of our children, the love and future of our country. Only quality education can liberate us from the mess we face in our country. Make that sacrifice today so that our children will get a better future.

Money is important because we all have needs. However, money is often the after effect of hard work, passion, dedication, personal development. Be the best teacher you possibly can be and the money will come.

What difference did working with UNICEF make in your journey as an educationist?

My current work with UNICEF has opened my eyes even more to the realities of the Nigerian education sector. When one is a teacher or even a school owner or consultant, they don’t fully grasp the decay or damage in the system, unless you have someone show you a bigger picture.

UNICEF helped me look beyond the symptoms of our dysfunctional educational system to the root cause. And our team’s solution will address the root cause and not just the symptoms. It’s a very big project that would have a national impact.

What lessons have you garnered from your entrepreneurial journey?

I have learned that to be a successful entrepreneur, one must be passionate, committed, focused, hardworking, highly self-motivated and be a lifelong learner.

Don’t be too quick to say I have arrived, no matter how good you are, because there is always something more to add, to learn, to be.

There is this saying that a teacher’s reward is in heaven, what is your take on that?

Yes, I believe the saying to be partly true because great teachers are like mothers: our love and commitment to the children can never be adequately compensated with material gains.

While I will say yes we have a very big reward waiting for us in heaven, we can and should experience wealth in financial terms, also good health, peace, and satisfaction here on earth. All we need to do is work consistently on being the best versions of ourselves.

Don't be too quick to say I have arrived, no matter how good you are Click To Tweet

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CloudCover is hosting “Women in Business” with Afua Osei and Ore Onile-Ere for Entrepreneurs and Career Persons on April 11

Pioneer of the revolutionary multi-network mobile data services, CloudCover Limited, is hosting Women entrepreneurs and career persons on Wednesday, April 11th at an event in Lagos tagged Women in Business.

Women in Business is an interactive session that brings together women from diverse industries and organizations in order to help address issues specific to women in all areas of economic endeavors. The event also aims to encourage networking amongst businesswomen.

Set to speak at the event is the co-founder of She Leads Africa, Afua Osei who will be sharing insights on Building a Successful Business in Nigeria.

Speaking about Women in Business, Group Chief Operating Officer of Cloudcover Limited, Eleanor Potter explained the essence of the event.

“Women in Nigeria face a host of cultural and institutional hurdles. Despite these obstacles, they still continue to thrive because they are learning each other’s lessons and listening to voices of those who have gone before them” she said.

“Cloudcover’s goal is to open up and connect people in business to increase productivity and ensure our users keep moving up the ladder of success” Eleanor continued.

Launched in 2016, CloudCover has been providing multi-network mobile data services in Nigeria and over 100 other countries using its revolutionary virtual SIM technology that enables users to connect to the most reliable network available.

Women in Business will feature top female executives, entrepreneurs, startup owners and other prominent women in society.

The event will also be hosted by Actress and On-Air Personality, Omotunde Adebowale David popularly known as Ore Onile-Ere.


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