Want to do business with the United States from Africa? DO NOT MISS THIS VIRTUAL SUMMIT

Over the years, the United States Government has funded a number of agencies and platforms to support African companies to do business with both the U.S. government itself and with the U.S. private sector.  

To provide more clarity on ways in which the U.S. can assist in growing African businesses and entrepreneurs through trade, investment, and technical assistance, Africa.com is organising a one-day Virtual Summitif you are a Motherland Mogul looking to expand your business into the United States, this is not the one to miss!

This Virtual Summit will bring thousands of c-suite executives and decision-makers of African businesses together with high ranking U.S Government and business officials. It will be held on Wednesday the 14th of October 2020 with the following panel sessions:

Register for The Virtual Summit Here

Panel 1: View From The Very Top
The Summit kicks off with keynote remarks by the highest-ranking U.S. government official responsible for relations with Africa, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, The Honorable Tibor Nagy. Then, the Chairman of the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (President and CEO of GE Africa) Farid Fezoua, will deliver keynote remarks from the private sector perspective.

Panel 2: Hear It From The Agency Heads
A panel discussion featuring the Chief Operating Officer of Prosper Africa, a new U.S. government initiative that brings together the resources of over 17 U.S. Government agencies to connect the U.S. and African businesses with new buyers, suppliers, and investment opportunities. Joining this panel are the ‘Africa heads’ of some of the key U.S. Government agencies that do business with Africa, including the International Development Finance Corporation (formerly OPIC); The Export/Import Bank; USAID; and the U.S. Africa Development Foundation.

 

Panel 3: Hear It From African Business Heads
The third portion of the summit is a panel of very senior African business leaders who have done business with the U.S., who will provide their perspectives on their experiences and guidance to those who seek to follow their footsteps.

Panel 4: Views From Ambassadors Country-by-Country
The fourth portion of the summit is a panel of U.S. Ambassadors to several key African countries who will speak about the resources available specifically in their markets to support African businesses.

This event is free so don’t miss this opportunity to take your business international! 

Register for The Virtual Summit Here

“I LEFT THE USA TO PURSUE MY PASSION IN NIGERIA.” MEET UGOCHI NWOSU, FOUNDER OF RELIANCE CLINICS

ugochi

Not everyone owns up to their purpose especially when it takes you from one continent to another. Ugochi left the United States to pursue purpose in Nigeria.

Ugochi is the founder of Reliance Clinics. She’ll be sharing insights into her life as a medical practitioner, health tips, the numerous challenges she faced and how she was able to overcome them. 


Who is Ugochi Nwosu?

I was born in Nigeria and lived there until I was 7 before my family immigrated to the United States. That was where I did all my schooling. After my undergraduate degree, I did my residency training in the States also until I returned back to Nigeria in 2019. This kick-started my goal to start a business that provided quality private healthcare services. 

What are you passionate about?

Healthcare! I really want to live in a world where everyone has full access to adequate healthcare. In Nigeria, the rate at which people in their early 40s and 50s die is really alarming. All of these can be avoided. 

I just want to help people live healthy and productive lives where they get to see their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Although this would be beautiful, it’s not easy. If people want to live till their late 80s, it starts from now. So, I want to keep educating people about this. 

What ignited the spark to start Reliance Clinics?

For me, the inclination to work in healthcare came since my undergraduate studies. I learnt about the possible challenges, the requirements and mapped out the areas to make an impact. It was important to be properly grounded in what I was planning to do to avoid making any silly mistakes.

I also worked with a whole lot of NGOs to ensure I had a feel of what I was about getting myself into. I didn’t really plan to start a business for myself. The decision to do that came after I kept searching for an NGO to work with but couldn’t find any at that point. This made me start looking for other possible opportunities

During my residency training, I met people who were interested in digital healthcare services and connected with them. They encourage me to just do what I need to do because no one makes actual change by talking and observing. It was great for me because I didn’t see myself as someone that could take up that level of responsibility upon myself. The plan had always been to work for someone who was already doing the things I needed to do. That’s basically how the business came alive. 

How was the startup phase of your business?

I’m not going to deny the fact that everything was new to me. Firstly, we had to scout for a suitable location, then we had to figure out a way to get supplies for the clinic and basically test these supplies yourself because everything had to be reliable 100%. 

For funding, I met the founders of a health insurance company during my residency training so things sort of worked out for me in the sense that they needed a trusted clinic that they could send patients to so they kind of gave me the initial funding for the clinic. 

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

One major challenge has been hiring and training staff. For those in healthcare, the quality of services offered has to be nothing but excellent. Most times, doctors, pharmacists, nurses etc expect some things to be done in some certain way based on what they’ve seen before or something which might not necessarily be the right thing. 

When you tell this category of people that there’s a standard that should be met and we’re not going to overlook that standard just because we’re operating in Nigeria, it turns into a situation where it feels like you’re telling them that they’re not properly trained or something so that was a major challenge for me. 

Another challenge we had, in the beginning, was dealing with patients and staff who were used to things being done in certain ways and then we do them in totally different ways. For instance, most patients that come to our clinic are used to being given so many drugs even for not so serious cases. When we give them just 1-2 drugs, they feel like we’re not treating them the right way or we don’t really care about their wellbeing which is why we’re given them little amounts of drugs and that’s not the situation at all. 

What have you learned so far from running this business?

When it comes to hiring, you have to ensure that those people actually have the skills they claim to possess. It’s mandatory that you do. I’ve learnt over time that you have to be very intentional when deciding who to bring on board, how to evaluate their skills and how to train them so that from day 1, they can actually deliver. 

 

Ugochi is a participant in the High Growth Coaching Program 2020. Catch up on her business journey on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

“My Goals Define Who I Am.” Meet Ayomiposi Ogunsi, Founder of Ideabud

ayomiposi

Your goals are the key to success in your career or your business. As you get closer to achieving your goals, the chances of truly finding yourself increase immensely because you’re constantly breaking barriers and getting to know who you truly are. 

“My goals define who I am!” Ayomiposi isn’t taking chances when it comes to achieving the impossible. She’s the founder of Ideabud and is breaking boundaries in her business.


Who is Ayomiposi Ogunsi?

I’ve lived in Lagos almost all my life till I went to the University Of Ilorin for my tertiary education. Before I started Ideabud, I had worked with two management consulting firms as a research analyst and a team leader for mass monitoring and evaluation. I did this for a while before deciding to start my own business

ayomiposi

I’m really passionate about people’s development as regards their careers and personal growth. I’m also passionate about entrepreneurship and creativity. One thing about me is I get excited about new things. It could even be something old that’s done in a new and refreshing way. 

What ignited the spark to start Ideabud?

Deep down, I always wanted to help people bring their ideas to life. No matter how scary or tasking those ideas are. I just enjoy helping people out with whatever it could be. People would always say, “Ayomiposi has the answers!”

After numerous conversations with top executives, colleagues, friends and the likes, I discovered that most people had brilliant ideas but couldn’t bring it to life. They were always stuck at the implementation stage. I saw a void and decided to fill it. 

The heart of IDEABUD is passion. Let’s track back a little since I started working with corporate organizations, I had always wanted to see people excel in their respective fields and businesses. Not everyone has the luxury of time to monitor a project from the startup phase until it gains ground and becomes something spectacular. This is where my passion comes in.

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

Most businesses that operate in the field of consultation experience a very similar challenge which is getting clients. Without clients, a business cannot operate. You can discuss with clients over and over only for them to change their mind when you think the project is 95% ready to kick off. 

Another challenge I’ve faced is how to create content to drive IDEABUD. This might appear like a minor issue but it was a major stumbling block. The thing with consulting is you have to be careful how you project your content to your audience because it tends to become technical rather than relatable.

It got to the point where I needed to take a step back and reevaluate the situation of my business and map out ways I could reach out to people better. It was during this evaluation stage I came across a guide from SheLeadsAfrica’s Facebook page about storytelling. It really helped me in so many ways. 

These challenges have helped Ideabud become a business that people can actually relate to. It put us on a path to being the best at what we do. 

What have you learned so far from running this business?

I learnt at the early stage that establishing a standard operating procedure goes a really long way. This procedure has served as a guideline for me when dealing with clients, because, before then, I just dealt with clients as the spirit led. It really messed up a whole lot of things for me and the client. So, you should always have a standard operating procedure that helps you identify what needs to be done at specific points in time.

 

Ayomiposi is a participant in the High Growth Coaching Program 2020. Catch up on her business journey on Instagram and LinkedIn.

“Your Skin Is A Priority” Meet Adi + Bolga Co-Founder Feranmi Ogundipe

If you meet Feranmi, you may wonder, “why does she love skincare so much? What is it about skincare that makes her tick?” Feranmi’s love for skincare stemmed from her personal battle with acne some years ago. During our conversation, she said, “I wasn’t one to have acne and at one point I had terrible acne and everyone was like “Feranmi, what is going on with your skin?”

I remember walking into pharmacies to ask for a solution and they couldn’t quite give me guidance. I remember going back and asking a new friend that I just met because I saw that she had some insight with skincare and she said, “I think you have combination skin and you should get a gel cleanser.”

I got the gel cleanser and just that small tip from her made my life so much easier. My co-founder and have had this type of experience so we said why don’t we just create something for skincare that will help people out?”

“Your skin is a priority”

Feranmi believes that skincare is a necessity for every person. That is one of the guiding ideas for the platform she and her co-founder are working tirelessly to create. However, she acknowledges that different reasons- a major one being money, keeps us from making our skincare a priority.

Adi + Bolga plans to help out with this by creating a budget-friendly system for buying skincare products. As Feranmi said, “we are trying to see if we can help people pay in instalments for some of the products because not everyone can afford to buy all of the products they need at once. This will really be for those who have serious problems with acne or other skincare conditions.”

Adi + Bolga is using technology to make it easier for black people to access skincare education, professionals, and products. On their website, you can take skincare tests and quizzes and this will be used in formulating a personalised skincare regimen for you.

Adi + Bolga is also the parent company of Bare the Community, an interactive online community for skincare lovers. On there, they share stunning skincare content and offer great advice and product recommendations for different skin types and conditions.

What you can learn from Feranmi’s business experience

  • Know your why: Your goal should be at the forefront of your mind. Be clear on your why. Know what you are in that space to do. This will guide the skills you decide to learn to run your business well. This will also guide the kind of strategies you put in place for your business.
  • Listen to your customers: Sometimes, people reach out to us for product recommendations and the product we may want to recommend is not within their budget or easily accessible in their location. This lets us know how best we can serve our audience. It may now lead to questions like, do we look for cheaper or more accessible products to recommend? Do we contact the brand to find out if they can make their product accessible to our audience?
  • Make your services clear: It is important to make your services clear and understandable to the people you are trying to serve. One of our main challenges is getting people to understand that our service is new. It is not common. We are introducing a new idea to the public and it is always a challenge getting them to understand what we do and why it is beneficial. Let’s say I develop a cream, that will be easy to sell because everybody understands what cream is and what cream should do. I can easily push that but a beauty tech platform is different. It is a very new idea so I need to make sure our services are clear.

You can join the Adi+Bolga community by following Bare the Community on Twitter and Instagram. For more juicy skincare tips sign up for their newsletters.

 

“Pay Attention To What You Eat!” Meet Patience Bature, CEO Parkea Ventures

Most times, we can’t really determine what life has in store for us. Some people already know how the next few years of their lives would go but all of that could change with one experience.

Patience is the CEO of Parkea ventures. She’s proud of how she’s been able to juggle life as a mother, wife and business owner. 


Who is Patience Bature?

Watching my mum handle food-related businesses sparked my interest in business which grew as I got more involved. After school, my siblings and I had to assist her at the shop so there wasn’t any room for laziness. You always had to be engaged. So I’d say my childhood was really engaging! There was always something to do. 

Seeing the effects of years and years of hard work on my mum made me stop to think and reevaluate things. It gave me an idea, so I switched my focus towards general well-being and why we need to be intentional about the food we eat.

What ignited the spark to start Parkea ventures?

I needed to find the perfect cereal for my baby who was fast approaching the stage where he had to stop breastfeeding. I tried various products but none was able to keep him satisfied till the next morning. This pushed me to carry out research and I discovered something golden.

I was able to create a formula that had numerous nutrients which were perfect for my baby. After making the switch to this formula, I noticed that he slept better. He didn’t wake up at intervals like he used to. I just had to recommend it to my friends who were also nursing mothers.

Let’s just say it was a long chain of recommendations, my friends recommended me to other mothers and it went on and on until I could no longer produce at home. Even a doctor got to find out about the formula and requested for a batch. That was how the business itself started. 

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

My first challenge was moving from producing in my home to producing in an actual factory. It wasn’t easy getting used to that switch at all. Secondly, we had to approach a commercial factory for production and it’s been affecting our profit margin. The more we discover new products from the archer grain, the more the business grows which demands more from us and that could be tasking.

Thirdly, it’s been difficult to get the necessary equipment that would help increase product range. This leads us to the last challenge which has been funding. It hasn’t been easy getting the funds for this business. I can see there’s a potential market for it. I just need to find creative ways to tap into it. 

I’ve been able to learn from all those challenges that it’s okay to fail and experience difficulties because that’s the only way to truly grow. I could work with smallholder farmers to fight the issue of scarcity which would protect me from various market factors. Giving up is not an option.

What have you learned so far from running this business?

Entrepreneurship is war but the customer is key. This means that everything should always revolve around your customers. This has helped me develop patience. I fully understand that life is filled with challenges and we just have to keep striving till we’re able to achieve all our set goals. 

How have you been able to balance life as a mother, a wife and a business owner 

It’s not been a very easy ride. The funny thing is I’ve always been into business. Till this day, I’ve never worked as a staff for anyone and I intend to keep it that way. The best part about this is I married a man who really understands my goals. He’s very supportive so it’s easy for me to handle all of these without any hassles. 

 

Patience is a participant in the High Growth Coaching Program 2020. Catch up on her business journey on Facebook.

“You Have To Learn To Stand Your Ground”- Jane Frances Esegha, Founder, JF Segha

Although Jane studied architecture, she had very little interest in designing structures. After NYSC, she worked in an architecture firm but felt stagnant in her role and this made her depressed. One day, Jane’s boss introduced her to site supervision and in December 2017, Jane Frances quit her job to go into construction full-time.

In January 2020 she established JFSegha. In five years, Jane hopes that JFSegha will be working with international construction brands to execute global construction deals. Jane has a diploma in Interior Design from the British School of Interior Design and a certificate in Project Management.

This article contains Jane’s business journey, tangible lessons from Jane’s experience with her construction company, JF Segha.

What inspired you to start your own construction company?

In secondary school, my teachers kept telling me that I would become an architect because I was good at Technical Drawing. At the time, I didn’t even know what exactly an architect did. I grew up in a small town in Ondo and there were no architects there.

When I got into university, it was a different ball game altogether. Studying architecture was fun but I did not enjoy it if I am being honest. I was supposed to do a masters degree in architecture but I did not. I deferred my admission because I just knew that it wasn’t for me. I am glad I did not waste those two years.

I got a job after NYSC and that job introduced me to construction work. I found that I loved being on-site, I loved supervising the artisans and seeing the construction come to life. I could relate well with the workers, talk about materials, finishing and I loved every bit of it. 

How do you manage to work with different people on a construction job?

When we have work I am on the site 24/7. If I am not there, someone else I trust will be representing JF Segha. Our motto at JF Segha is to be thorough in our approach and dealings so we do not leave anything unsupervised.

I design what I want to see and give clear directions but I also stay there to make sure that everything is done well and that they pay attention to details. Also, my experience supervising constructions since 2017 has taught me a lot about managing people and artisans in general.

From your experience with JF Segha, what advice do you have for fellow entrepreneurs and business owners?

  • Stand on your word! As a woman in my line of work, you have to learn to stand on your word. The artisans will try to advise you to go their way. They will say, “ah Madam do this now, leave am like that…” You can’t listen to that. You have to be stern. You have to know what you want to achieve.
  • Don’t fall into mediocrity. If you are selling quality, you cannot allow anybody to sway you because there is a lot of mediocrity in this country, a lot of people telling you to manage. No, I do not want to manage. You have to know what you want and stand by it. No one should change your mind. I have had to let go off a lot of workers because of mediocrity. What do you mean by I should manage?”
  • Perseverance is very important. Running a business is stressful and as such, you must be strong enough to withstand the challenges that would come your way. Artisans will try to stress you, clients, almost everyone will make demands on you and your time but you have to remember why you wanted to have a business in the first place

Jane is one of the She Leads Africa x Oxfam High Growth Coaching Program. Click here to find out more about JFSegha and keep up with their journey on Instagram and Facebook

 

VISA SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON SKINCARE ENTHUSIAST: TERRYANNE CHEBET – FOUNDER, KEYARA ORGANICS

Keyara Organics

When Terryanne’s eldest daughter was little, she struggled with a dry skin condition called Eczema. Terryanne searched for a natural skincare solution that would heal her daughter’s skin but could hardly find any in Kenya. Based on a doctor’s recommendation, she tried shea butter and it worked. Terryanne soon realised that some mothers in her circle were also searching for natural solutions to their children’s eczema. This spurred her to start Keyara Organics- a leading home-grown skincare brand in Kenya. 

Terryanne Chebet is a Media and Communications professional with more than 15 years of experience in Media practice, Media leadership and Management. She is also the founder of Africa’s Leading Ladies, an online group for African women to connect, learn and share experiences. She started Keyara Organics from her kitchen and it has flourished because of her expertise and passion. 

This piece is about Terryanne’s journey with Keyara Organics and the lessons you can take away from her experience.


What is the intention behind Keyara Organics?

The intention behind Keyara organics has always been to provide a skincare solution for the whole family using as many natural ingredients as we can. We aim to make products available for the man in the house, the woman in the house, the child, the toddler- we want everyone to be catered to.

Keyara Organics

What inspired your decision to leave journalism to start Keyara organics?

There were so many things that I needed to do with my life and I would not have been able to do them while working as a journalist. It would not have been fair to the job. It would take too much of my time and waste their time as well. So I decided to focus on what I needed to do to be able to get to where I wanted to go.

I am 41 years old right now and I have been telling my friends that “this is possibly my highest productive decade so you may not see me much, you may not hang out with me a lot.”When I am 50, 60, 70, I can relax and enjoy life a lot more.

I also left because I needed to be home more. As a journalist, I could count the number of times I was actually home before 10 PM for the 10 or 12 years of my career.

Has your experience as a journalist helped in running Keyara?

My journalistic background has helped me immensely. Being in the public eye has helped me put my brand in a place where I can reach many people. It has helped in building a better brand and getting visibility from media houses. Also, the confidence I have today may not be there if I had not been a journalist before this.

What are some of the challenges you have experienced and how have you dealt with them?

One of the biggest problems is the packaging and I believe this is an African problem. Many of us in the skincare space has had a problem getting quality local packaging. So we end up having to import packaging. That affects the margin because we are paying for freight and a higher grade of plastic. All this eventually affects the pricing of our products. 

We have thought of different ways to solve this problem and one of them involves buying a moulding machine to make our own plastics but it is very expensive. However, one of us in the skincare space decided to fill the gap by shipping in containers in bulk and then we buy from her.

Sourcing products has also been quite a challenge. For instance, shea butter comes from West Africa and shipping it into Kenya is very expensive. Luckily for us, we found out that shea butter is also available in Northern Uganda and South Sudan and they are neighbouring countries. So now we source from Northern Uganda. 

Keyara Organics

In running your business, you interact a lot with local communities and business. In your opinion, how important do you think local communities are to the businesses they choose to support?

They are absolutely important. I think that it is a thing of pride to be able to invest in our own and contribute to these little economies. I am pretty big on working with what we have locally and patronising small businesses in our communities. For us at Keyara, we source raw materials like aloe vera from local farmers in Kenya that harvest those items. 

Supporting local businesses will never stop being a priority for us. In a couple of years, we have seen the skincare industry in Africa grow- brands are consistently popping up in Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana and we are effectively creating an economy of our own through our patronage.

By supporting local businesses, we also create gainful employment. Whether it is a full-time person or a consultant, the people who are working on packaging, the people who print out labels- the whole value chain gets impacted and enriched. The more we push for our African brands to grow and support them, the more we grow our economies. 

 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business of their own?

This might sound cliche but just start. Start where you are, start with what you have. Just start. I started Keyara organics with about 60,000 shillings which is 600 dollars which I took out of my salary. I bought some shea butter and some containers and began producing in my kitchen. Looking back, had I thought that let me wait for big money to come in, let me wait for a million shillings, I would not have started it. So my advice is start where you are, start with what you have and start on something that you are passionate about. 

Nothing beats creativity. There is a lot of copycatting in the small business space and I understand that because it is a lot cheaper and easier to start out copying someone else’s model. Still, I want to challenge us to think broadly and not limit ourselves to the same patterns and thinking. We need to be creative and innovative in our approach because that is how we build a business that can scale.

Be serious about your business. We are in such an entrepreneurial age in Africa. Everyone wants to start something and some people just start and are not serious about it. Be as serious as you can, learn from the mistakes of those of us who started as a “side hustle.” If you can afford to from the beginning, make the business formal, do your accounting right, get a consultant to handle your books, just do it right from the beginning and the business will grow.

 

 

If you want to take your business to the next level and meet more customers online, Visa is your plug! Visit their Small Business Hub to get the support you need. First 100 businesses to sign up get $200 worth of online advertising, so hurry now!


 

where you shop matters

This spotlight feature on Yomi Odutola is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.

VISA SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON THE FOOTWEAR GENIUS: EVE MAINA – FOUNDER, SHOE SPACE AFRICA

EVE MAINA

After Eve quit her much-loved job because of unwanted sexual advances from male colleagues, she was left with almost nothing in her bank account and desperately had to figure out how to make money. Eve’s family have always traded in shoes. So for her, the shoe business is not uncharted territory. 

So Eve began selling shoes to make some money pending when she could get another office job. When the business began to show fruits of success, she decided to go into it full-time. Today, Eve owns Shoe Space Africa – one of the fastest-growing shoe businesses in Africa. 

This piece is about Eve’s journey with Shoe Space and how she has been able to grow her business from almost nothing to the phenomenal brand it is today.


What is the story behind Shoe Space Africa?

Starting Shoe Space was not intentional at first. I quit my job in 2016 and I was wondering what to do next. The only other thing I knew how to do asides my corporate job was shoes because I grew up in a family where my mum used to make shoes, my cousin used to sell shoes so it was an easy fall back plan for me. I did not know if it would work because I always liked the corporate life.

Shoe Space started in January 2017. At the time, I had no savings so I started Shoe Space from zero. I talked to a friend in the business and she gave me some of her shoes. I posted them online and made some money from it. My capital was gotten from the money I made off those sales. I thought I was going to sell shoes for a short time and then go back to working a corporate job. However, when I started seeing headway, I decided to do it full-time.

 

EVE MAINA

What are some of the challenges you have faced in the course of running Shoe Space Africa, what did you learn from it?

I would not necessarily call this a challenge but this time last year, I experienced a tragic accident for the first time in my life. I was travelling to Kampala, Uganda by bus to consult on some shoes. At the bus station, I met a good friend of mine and because we wanted to sit together, I swapped seats with another passenger on the bus. The person that sat on the seat I was supposed to occupy passed on in that accident. My friend who had a safety belt on was thrown out of the bus and even though I didn’t have a safety belt on, nothing happened to me. I remained seated. 

This moment changed my life forever. After the accident, the way I thought and approached things in my life changed, my heart changed. Up until this day, when I think about that moment, I am stunned. Seeing someone else pass away on your behalf changes something in you. Many times in our life, we take things for granted. You look at your life and see all that you have achieved and you think you did it all by yourself. You forget that it is God that has brought you this far.

With regards to the lockdown, the major challenge we have faced has been sales. What has helped us cope is the fact that we have an online presence. I also gave my clients offers and discounts that made my items more affordable for them. Being online worked to my advantage because most people were at home doing nothing except scrolling through their feed. Most shoe lovers are people that will purchase whatever catches their eye even if it is the last money that they have. 

 

What is your big vision for Shoe Space Africa?

I want Shoe space to be a household name for quality shoes sold at affordable prices. More importantly, though, I want to leave a lasting legacy through Shoe Space. Right now, I am working on establishing a foundation that will provide Kenyan kids with quality shoes. So when you buy a shoe from She Space, you are donating a pair of shoes to someone else that needs them. So my big vision is to make sure African children that need shoes have quality shoes.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to start a small business?

Having a relationship with Jesus. I know not everyone believes in Jesus but Jesus us the one I give all the credit to. There is a certain kind of wisdom and clarity that you can only get from God. When you start a business, you may not be sure of what you are doing or where to go next but if you have Jesus, He will help you out with that. When you pray about something and ask for help, if He says no, if He keeps quiet or if He says yes, you know what to do and where to go as opposed to just doing things blindly and on your limited understanding. 

Discipline is so important. Even if you don’t feel motivated, discipline keeps you going. There are days you will not want to wake up but the discipline you have gets you awake. I call myself the 4 AM boss because I wake up at four am in the morning and I have been doing that since primary school. After I wake up I pray and get ready and then I am usually at Shoe Space at 6 am. That discipline has to be cultivated and maintained.

 

 

If you want to take your business to the next level and meet more customers online, Visa is your plug! Visit their Small Business Hub to get the support you need. First 100 businesses to sign up get $200 worth of online advertising, so hurry now!


 

where you shop matters

This spotlight feature on Yomi Odutola is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.

VISA SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON THE BOSS LADY OF LEATHER CRAFTS: YOMI ODUTOLA – FOUNDER, JOELA LEATHER

When Yomi’s daughter was a small child, finding the right shoes for her was a struggle because of the size of her feet. So Yomi decided to make a pair of shoes for her daughter. She designed the shoes on cardboard, went to the market at Mushin, Lagos, to source shoemaking items and created a pair of sandals for her daughter. 

Doing this filled her with so much joy so Yomi took it a step further and enrolled in a shoemaking and pattern cutting course in the UK. That desire to cater to her daughter’s shoe needs inspired what is known today as Joela Leather – a premium leatherworks store in Lagos, Nigeria. The name Joela is coined from one of her daughter’s names and what solidified Yomi’s choice is the Hebrew meaning – “The Lord is God”. 

This article is about Yomi’s inspiring journey with Joela Leather and lessons you can take away from her well of experience.


You used to work in the corporate world, what made you decide to switch that for entrepreneurship?

When my daughter was born, I wanted to be present. I had a very strong support system but I wanted to be there for her while she was growing up so I stopped working. Once I left the corporate world, I thought of all the possible businesses I could start. Growing up, my daughter had big feet and I could hardly find her size in shoes. At some point, I thought, it can’t be that difficult to make children’s shoes. So I started cutting cardboard and paper and putting them together to look like a pair of sandals. 

After that, I asked for where I could find shoemaking items on a budget in Lagos and everyone was like, “Go to Mushin.” So I went to Mushin with about 5,000 Naira. I came back from Mushin that day with a pair of sandals and a pair of slippers and my husband was stunned. That experience taught me that when you are moved to do something, you should do it immediately. You do not need anyone’s permission. 

YOMI

Why did you decide to centre Joela around making ladies’ handbags?

Like I said, I have always been in the leather industry. I simply moved from making children’s shoes to making ladies’ handbags. My knowledge of the leatherworks industry just made it easy for me to transition from one section to another. 

Joela itself started from requests. I had a leather shoe shop and we would make shoes and bags for little girls and then the moms would come and request me to make bags for them as well.

They started putting in orders for bags and sometime after that I had to close my shops. I had three shops in Lagos and after I closed them all, the next thought was “what business can I do?” Since the request for ladies handbags was still coming in, I decided to give it a try. Once I put out my first set of handbags and the feedback and responses were really great.

What do you think makes Joela stand out as a brand?

The philosophy behind Joela is to make classy bags affordable and readily available. We are consistently crafting beautiful, well-made handbags. I want people to see our customers carrying Joela bags and say, “wow, where is that bag from?” I have had that reaction a couple of times and it brings me immense satisfaction. Most importantly, we do not want to burn a hole in your pocket. 

Joela partners with Footfarm– a charity that gives free school shoes to children in underprivileged communities. Joela also teams up with HR professionals for Work Wear Edit, an outreach program that provides women with employability skills such as HR/interview tips as well as coordinated outfits to gear them up for success.

YOMI

What is your big vision for Joela?

My vision is to see African women carry beautiful and affordable bags. I am particular about the African woman because we go through a lot and we need beautiful things that will constantly bring us joy. When you carry a great bag and you are well dressed, nobody can talk to you anyhow. For me, it is not just about carrying a bag, it is about making us feel beautiful and confident. When women feel beautiful and confident, we get a lot done and positively impact the people around us.

What advice will you give to someone who wants to start a business?

You need structure. Structure and discipline go hand in hand. Don’t think because you are the one running the business, you can do it from your bed. While you can work from bed, have working hours, have structure, have guidance otherwise you will not be productive. Have a to-do list otherwise, your day will pass you by because you will not achieve anything.

How can you help? What can you do to solve a problem? When you actually solve problems, the money will come. Fish and pepper sellers solve the problem of making food items available. We need to eat and we need to get the fish out of the sea, we need to get the peppers as closeby as we can. So look around you, look at the problems that around you and see how you can use your skills to solve them

You need to be patient. Many of us are in a hurry to make money and this mindset can be costly. If you have structure and you are solving a problem, the money will come.

 

 

If you want to take your business to the next level and meet more customers online, Visa is your plug! Visit their Small Business Hub to get the support you need. First 100 businesses to sign up get $200 worth of online advertising, so hurry now!


 

where you shop matters

This spotlight feature on Yomi Odutola is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.

VISA SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON WELLNESS EXPERT: LINDA GIESKES MWAMBA – FOUNDER, SUKI SUKI NATURALS

LINDA GIESKES MWAMBA

When Linda was newly natural, she could hardly find hair products that her hair liked and responded well to. This discontent led her to start making her natural hair products and soon enough, her friends and family encouraged her to turn it into a business. At the time, Linda was a practising lawyer in New York but her passion for beauty and wellness led her to leave Law and establish Suki Suki Naturals– a premium beauty company that sells organic hair and skin care products.

This article is about Linda’s fascinating journey and how she turned her discontent into a sustainable business.


How did Suki Suki Naturals begin?

Suki Suki Naturals started as a haircare brand. Suki means hair in Lingala. I am actually from the Congo. So my passion started with haircare and then three years after I launched, I decided to go into skincare. So the haircare was because I went natural back in 2010 and I was struggling with my hair. At the time there was hardly anything on the market and the products you could find were mostly available in Canada and the US. Bringing products into the country was too expensive.

I was like “I have to find a way to make this work for myself here in South Africa.” So I started mixing things and using herbs, clays, oils and powders. I eventually started sharing them with my family and friends because they were seeing that my hair was growing well and they wanted to know what I was doing.

Did you ever see yourself starting a brand like Suki Suki Naturals?

From the age of four, I was already playing with beauty products and as I grew up it just got worse and worse and worse and I had to be banned from my mom’s bathroom. Today when my aunties look at me and they see that I have a beauty brand, they are not at all surprised despite my being a lawyer.

They are like, “we could see that happening.” Sometimes you have to think back on your childhood and ask, “what was that thing that made me so excited?”

Linda Gieskes Mwamba

How do you keep Suki Suki Naturals authentic?

I have had my moments of, “let me take on this partnership even if they do not align with my brand. Let me check if it is going to work out” and that is where lack of authenticity can start to creep in because you think you have to make certain sacrifices to see success. The problem with going with things that are not authentic to you is that you may end up doing business with people that don’t reflect your brand image.

They are not the right custodian of your brand not because they are actively trying to bring down your image but just because you are not aligned. It is important to work with people that are aligned with you. I have had to learn to say no to opportunities that are not right for me. After all, Suki Suki Naturals is here for the long run, we are not here for just short wins. 

Did you face any major challenges as a result of the lockdown?

I have been blessed during this time because my area of expertise is one where people were willing to spend simply because you are spending more time at home. Wellness and beauty are very important to people and most of them are like, “ah, I can’t go to the beauty salon, let me take care of my skin, let me take care of my hair.” I have seen a lot of amazing stories of women who have invested in their wellness.

You know when you are constantly out, you have to go put your best look forward and sometimes, that comes at the expense of actually taking care of yourself- the makeup, the weave, straightening your hair all the time- but when you are at home, you can be yourself and that forces you to cultivate what you have. So skincare has boomed and I am super lucky that skincare and wellness have boomed because that is my sector and I have been blessed with the fact that my business has been good during this time. 

How did you keep the communication going with your customers during the lockdown?

Social media has always been instrumental to my brand. It has always been great at aiding communication but it has shown its power this time. What I love about social media from a business point of view is that it gives you the power to define what your voice is.

You can define what your business is about, to speak to your customer directly and that simplifies the marketing process. It helps to facilitate clear communication between you and your customers. 

LINDA GIESKES MWAMBA

You run a brand that is committed to helping people take care of themselves, How do you make sure you prioritise self-care in your own life?

I try to disconnect on the weekends because my weekends are mine alone. As much as I don’t have a lot of family with me here in South Africa, I try to keep in touch with them.  I disconnect by literally keeping my laptop in the office. On the weekends I don’t even want to open my laptop and my laptop hardly ever sees my bedroom.

Also, I am not a fan of answering emails on my phone, for some reason, I just don’t like it. I try to keep that balance by maintaining opening and closing times and the people and companies I work with respect that.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?

Start today. Don’t worry about starting small. I started small. You don’t have to have it all figured out but get started. 

Operate from a place of authenticity and know your “why.” Why are you doing what you are doing? Don’t follow trends, don’t follow what others are doing. Don’t enter an industry simply because you think it is profitable.

If it is not the industry you ought to be operating in, don’t bother because you are going to constantly be swimming against the tide. A strong “why” will keep you in business even if it means sleeping late, working nights, working two jobs.

There is power in the gift you have. Your gifts are what allows you to forge a career and earn a living. If you know how to sing and people are willing to pay to hear you sing, then you have a career there. Many of us are good with different things and that is not a coincidence. If you are good at something and you have a passion for it, think about what you can do with that gift to give yourself a worthwhile life. 

 

 

If you want to take your business to the next level and meet more customers online, Visa is your plug! Visit their Small Business Hub to get the support you need. First 100 businesses to sign up get $200 worth of online advertising, so hurry now!


 

where you shop matters

This spotlight feature on Linda Gieskes Mwamba is powered by Visa. Visa’s ‘Where you Shop Matters’ initiative aims to champion entrepreneurs across Africa while encouraging consumers to support small businesses by shopping local. Visa’s initiative is supporting small businesses through the Visa Small Business Hub, a merchant platform providing tools and information on how to start, run and grow small businesses.