HGCP 2021 Participants: Founder of Closer Adenike Bamigbade is all about the impact and value their products delivers to Nigerian women and girls

I sat down with Adenike Bamigbade, the founder of Closer to get to know her and how she’s empowering women to take charge of their menstrual health.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Adenike and I work in the social development space; so I guess you can call me a social worker. I work on ideas and solutions that solve critical issues that affect young people and women. I am working on three things at the moment; raising young anti-corruption champions, improving access to employment for youth and building a sustainable way to end period-poverty in Nigeria. 

What is your ‘why’ i.e. bottom line, and how do you stay motivated?

There are myriads of problems around us and this keeps my brain active. I am always asking; how do we solve these problems? Being an avid reader, I have read about how ordinary people create ideas that change the world, so this inspires me to keep creating, iterating and not give up trying to solve a problem I care about. 

Period poverty is a real issue in our world, though the main problem is poverty. However, menstrual health should not be dependent on how rich a girl is, because she is only obeying nature’s call and it’s not her fault. I have seen lots of campaigns around period-poverty, but I feel most have short-impacts, we need to create a more sustainable solution to solve this big problem. This is purely what Closer is here to address, ensuring women and girls have access to good menstrual health. 

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

Closer is a new business and I am overwhelmed by the acceptance everywhere I had the opportunity to talk about the idea. Working on the idea and seeing the idea come to life is my biggest achievement so far. We took our time to work on the product, identify the best suppliers and ensure the experience is great. For us at Closer, every subscriber is a real woman, and she matters to us dearly. For every profit on each Box of Closer, 10% is used to help a girl from disadvantaged home to be out of period poverty. The smile and excitement on the girl is one I can’t buy. Also, each girl writes a ‘thank you’ letter to each subscriber that donated towards her period box. 

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

I enjoy the fact that I am adding value to people’s lives. Closer is all about our women and our girls. We are all about the impact and how valuable our products are to people’s lives, not the profit at all. As a business, we make profits, but the experience of our women and girls is fulfilling for me as the founder. 

Introduce your company the way you would to a potential customer.

As a woman, you ought to be in charge of your menstrual health. Closer conveniently gives women access to the best-selected products specific to their menstrual needs through a subscription-based platform.

A woman’s lifecycle is largely controlled by her reproductive health starting from puberty to menopause. She is an egg-bag and her dreams can be tied to how well she is able to manage her reproductive health. With Closer, we are providing access to organic sanitary pads, organic panty liners and very important products women need each month to be in control of their menstrual health. Closer wants more women and girls to show up whether the red-visitor is around or her belly is pumped with a baby or she is in her grey-old-days enjoying menopause. We deliver the appropriate intimate care kits women in each category need without any worry. 

Where can people find out more about your business?

At Closer, we want to take the stress off you every month. Start your subscription on our website at  www.closer.ng. We also want to be with you all month round, so ensure you subscribe to our mailing list where we unfold the little secrets women shy about.

You can also connect with us on Social Media on Instagram.com/closerng, Facebook.com/closerng

and Twitter.com/closerng

How have you carved a niche for yourself in your industry?

Quality, quality, quality. At Closer, we work directly with suppliers who are producing quality products. Our sanitary pads are safer for you and the environment. Our bikini shavers are healthier alternatives. We don’t do normal, we go extra to ensure we provide quality products. 

This has made us distinct. Also, we are in the big e-commerce health industry, but we narrow it down to menstrual health only. This is a niche with low penetration in Nigeria at the moment, the ocean is still blue here and Closer is positioning itself rightly in that niche. 

What challenges have you faced first as a founder and then as a female founder?

Human resource in terms of getting the right people to work on the idea. This would have been easier if there was enough capital to pay people, but I am willing to allow the business to grow and pay people at our own capacity. I do not want to take the risk of paying more than the business is making at the moment. 

If you were given $1m to invest in *business*, where would it go?

Closer is a subscription business solving an important problem. It has the capacity to scale. With an investment funding of $1m, we will purchase more assets to aid logistics and distributions and also increase marketing budgets. With this investment, we can reach 1 million women per month and that means at least 100,000 girls will be out of period poverty every month. 

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our community?

Just start. I can be a perfectionist, so I always want everything to be perfect before I start. Launching Closer in March 2021 was not my ideal way of doing things but I obliged to the advice I got and I started. I noticed that I have learned so much from my customers than from the market research and survey I did in the past. So, I got real feedback which helped me tweak the products better. So, here is my advice to you as well, just start, it will get perfect along the way. 

What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?

As entrepreneurs, we often create an idea that solves our own problem or someone we know. We then believe that other people are experiencing that same problem. When we are building a business brand, we make the mistake of creating a brand we love, not a brand that will appeal to our ideal customers. 

So, I will recommend two things; research and feedback. First, research to understand if this problem is a common thing indeed and how people are already solving it. Also, research on who experience this problem, it is likely that those who experience it are not the ones that will pay for the solution. Also, ensure you get people to help you interpret the responses you get. Get your friends, people with different perspectives and get their insights. 

Secondly, while you build, ask for feedback. Make feedback your food. Ask your customers to rate you, to share their experience and how they are using your product. Pay attention to the feedback and continue to tweak the products or services based on those feedback. 

What business-related book has inspired you the most? (or, what is your favorite book) ?

I love Peter Druker’s books on management. What I have realized having read his books is that ideas are common, but a great manager is rare. As entrepreneurs, we are managing a lot of things at the same time. We are managing our customers, our staff, our finance, our suppliers, our market, etc. Each has its own tactics and ways of dealing with it. Peter Drucker spent most of his life studying management and he has broken it down through his books. 

Adenike is currently on the High Growth Coaching Program scaling up Closer to keep on changing the landscape of menstrual health for women in Nigeria.

HGCP 2021 Participants: Titilayo Taiwo on co-founding Africa’s leading one-stop talent marketplace

I sat down with Titilayo Taiwo, the founder and chief operating officer of Terawork.com to get to know her and how she co-founded Africa’s leading one-stop talent marketplace.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Titilayo Taiwo, the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer at TERAWORK.COM LIMITED. I oversee TERAWORK’s operations; strategic partnerships and I’m also involved in building exceptional teams and driving revenue.  

I am a Biochemist turned Operations/Human Resources expert with over 10 years of experience that spans Wellness, Oil & Gas, Software Design & Development. I am also a partner and volunteer in various charity organizations. I’m passionate about youth empowerment and I’m very committed to building tools to help people work better together and more effectively. I also enjoy wining and dining with families and friends for relaxation.

What is your ‘why’ i.e. bottom line? 

My ‘why’ is all about the vision and the impact opportunity, I am doing my part by using digital technology to contribute towards solving the long age unemployment problem in Africa. My goal is to see freelancers on our platform earn billions of  dollars while helping millions of businesses of all sizes to grow and achieve their goals. I wake up everyday to ensure that TERAWORK grows into a company that has real impact on the lives of millions of African sellers and buyers. 

On motivation I regularly review our goals and progress because I find that seeing progress is a great motivator in itself, and also goes a long way in improving my self-esteem.

How has your entrepreneurship journey been so far?

As a result of my hands-on experience, I’ve been featured on several entrepreneurship panels and master classes hosted by Enterprise Development Centre(EDC), Webtv, Churches, Schools etc. I was celebrated by Sterling Bank Plc alongside 5 other women nationwide during the International Women’s Day Celebration in February 2020, as a founder and a leader of a company that strives to give equal opportunities to women. I’m also in the 2021 Cohort of  AWS Activate Africa for Africa’s inspiring women start ups founders and leaders.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

I’ve never wanted to be an entrepreneur, let alone a serial one. But I absolutely love it now and would never trade it for another occupation. I love the freedom of being able to be wherever you want, with whomever you want, doing whatever you want to. It’s truly priceless.

I love a constant challenge, and the endless opportunities to learn and grow one’s mind. I also love that as my business grows and becomes more successful, it has different challenges and needs that require me to adapt yet again and grow too.

But for me the best part about being an entrepreneur is being in charge of your own destiny. When we’re born, we’re placed into a custody of our parents. Then our society. Schools. Corporations. Entrepreneurs get to break free and take control of their own lives. It’s exhilarating and rewarding.

Introduce your company the way you would to a potential customer.

TERAWORK is a freelance marketplace that is helping small business owners by giving them the support and access to any competent talent they need to succeed. We provide businesses with on-demand affordable and quality freelancing services in legal, accounting, social media management, software development and 54 other service categories to grow. From the comfort of their homes and within a few hours, they can hire vetted on demand professionals which enables them to focus on building their businesses and save operational costs by 40%. Our Escrow system ensures that they don’t have to pay for substandard jobs any more. With TERAWORK value is guaranteed or you get your money back.

You can learn more and sign up by visiting our website at https://www.terawork.com/.

How have you carved a niche for yourself in your industry?

We did so by focusing on just one pain point – the hassle of hiring cost effective quality  talent. Our offering of on-demand quality and proven talent with an escrow system that  guarantees value or money back is unique.

What would you say has been pivotal to your growth and success so far? 

My growth mindset; my belief that skills are built, and that new abilities can be developed through practice and effort. I strongly believe in my capacity to learn and grow, and that my intelligence can be developed. I tend to persist in the face of setbacks, take on board and even invite feedback and find inspiration those around me. I see life as an endless opportunity to figure out new things and appreciate that failure is part and parcel of learning and progressing – it’s necessary and therefore not something to shy away from. I also understand that mastery of a skill takes persistence, practice and time.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our community?

It’s actually a quote by Steve Jobs, ”Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you; the aircraft, vessels, etc. And you can change it, you can influence it…, once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again” 

What’s your number 1 tip for anyone struggling to overcome entrepreneurial overwhelm and keep going?

Learn to do less; the first step to dealing with this is to accept that you’ll never get it all done. I know that’s hard to accept and say, but it’s a reality. Once we acknowledge that, we feel less stressed because we have less resistance to trying to do it to all.

Remind yourself every day that it’s not about getting more done. It’s about getting results that matter. “Do three things well, not ten things badly.” Then outsource, that is why we created TERAWORK!

Titilayo is currently on the High Growth Coaching Program hard at work to grow TERAWORK into a global talent marketplace where value is always guaranteed.

HGCP 2021 Participants: Bethel Bekee, the founder of Whip-Smart Service Providers Limited on working everyday to improve families.

I sat down with Bethel Bekee, the founder of Whip-Smart Service Providers Limited to get to know her and find out more about her business.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in River State and then I relocated to Lagos about 3 years ago. I am the last born of 5 siblings. I am very passionate about family because family is the basic unit of life and I have great affection for children. I love to travel, I love studying and enjoy cooking. I am the kind of person that jumps into every available opportunity and sometimes I create my own when I need to.

I worked with international organizations for over 5 years before  I started my company Whip-smart Service Providers Limited.

Tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?

I’ve always been resilient and persistent, a go-getter. As soon as I graduated, I made sure that I became independent. I started working at a hospital where I would get referrals from consultants. I have had the privilege of working in one of the best pediatric hospitals in Abuja. It was such an amazing experience because my love for kids is just enormous. It was while I was working there that I got another referral to enter into the NGO space. It took about 2 years for me to finally take the bold step of resigning my good paying job where I was close to getting promoted to start my business. It was a tough decision but I am glad that I made it. 

What is your ‘why’ i.e. bottom line?

The fact that I’m helping families is so fulfilling, I am driven by the knowledge that I am helping young women to better themselves and families to thrive and groom their children into adults that will one day contribute positively to society. In my line of business, everyday you get to see a different version of yourself, and seeing a better version of myself everyday is one thing that motivates and drives me to go out there each day to conquer.

Describe a typical day for you?

I start my day by praying as soon as I wake up, then I’m ready to go. At the office I start by reviewing work from the previous day to ensure that tasks are completed as they should be. Once that’s done I look through my to-do-schedule made the previous night and ensure I carry on those activities diligently. 

I show up every day motivated, and I reward myself for jobs completed. I like to surf the internet every day to learn something new. My work involves a lot of creative problem solving and leadership skills.

After work, I go home where I take a little nap to rest before I begin planning for the next day. In the evenings I either read a book, watch tv, or take an online course before I sleep. 

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

In 2017, I got two certifications from University of Washington, which was a big deal for me. I now also have certifications in sales and marketing.

Starting up my company in 2018 was one of the bravest steps I ever took and one of my greatest achievements. In the last 3 years, we have served over 400 families and we’ve mentored over 400 staff and helped build their professional skills.

I am also proud of the fact that I’ve built a strong team responsible for following up, staff management and supervision. We have developed better strategies to meet our weekly and monthly targets, and it’s been tremendously encouraging to meet those numbers. We’ve advocated for a number of domestic staff and have pretty much done everything possible to dignify the profession.

What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?

My dad, he is an engineer whose job is dedicated to solving problems and improving lives on a daily basis. He has a great work ethic which I admire very much.  

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

The best part of my job is client satisfaction, just seeing the gratitude and knowing that I did something that will change someone’s life for the best.

My least favorite part are the endless activities that form part of the journey to client satisfaction. There are so many things that have  to be put in place for a customer to be satisfied. It is a tough task especially if you’re like me and you’re always striving to be the best at what you do. 

 Introduce your company the way you would to a potential customer.

Whip-Smart Service Providers Limited is a domestic staffing recruitment company. We help families and homes recruit skilled, experienced domestic staff and caregivers. We carry out  background checks and medical checks. We train, supervise and monitor our staff, then outsource them to clients in need. We offer our services for the least amount of money, and we do this by offering different packages for different clients. Our mission is to help our clients get the right help for their family.

You can see more about us on our website at https://whip-smart.org.ng/ or like our Facebook Page.

What would you say has been pivotal to your growth and success so far? 

Consistency, remaining consistent makes all the difference. Every entrepreneur must stay consistent in their journey, they must be patient and resilient. Give your best everyday to your business and someday you will see your business grow and all your dreams come true.

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur

a) Critical thinking (b)  Customer service and C) Analytical problem solving skills

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our community?

You must realize that being a business owner can be a lonely journey. It is all about rocking the boat. You have to consistently and bravely go against the tide and take a risk, which is something a lot of people find very uncomfortable.

What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?

UNLEARN, LEARN, RELEARN and KEEP ON LEARNING. That’s it.

What business-related book has inspired you the most? 

Any of the books by Richard Templar. He has written great books for entrepreneurs and they’ve changed my life tremendously.

What’s your number one tip for anyone struggling to overcome entrepreneurial overwhelm and keep going?      

Cheer yourself up, pat yourself on the back and encourage yourself, then keep moving. Accept criticism as that will make you better. As an entrepreneur you must be selfless, don’t be greedy. Finally, appreciate your staff, every day. 

 

Bethel is currently on the High Growth Coaching Program hard at work to ensure that WhipSmart Service Providers Ltd continues to make a difference in families on an even bigger scale.

Whip-Smart Service Providers Limited

HGCP 2021 Participants: Ruth Agbasimalo birthed her skincare brand, Omari Skin, from a place of frustration.

I sat down with Ruth Agbasimalo, the founder and managing director of Omari Skin to get to know her and find out more about the inspiration behind Omari Skin.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Ruth, I am the founder and managing director of Omari Skin. I am a former software developer who loves learning and doing research as I’m always looking more information to increase my knowledge. I am passionate about skincare and business.

Tell us a bit about your background – how did you get to this point?

I studied Computer Engineering at Covenant University and it was during this time that I got to know myself and figured out that I had a knack for business. I started my first business when I saw a need, I saw that a lot of students wore shoes that were worn out during the rain. So I asked my dad to get me stock and began selling umbrellas and shoes. After I graduated, I went on to work for Andela and during this time I started selling wig making tools and make-up brushes. I am now running Omari Skin while working for a corporation as a product manager.

What do you do for fun?

For fun and to wind down, I love to go out, clubbing and hanging out with my friends. Now that I am a mother, I have become somewhat of a homebody. When I’m at home I make clothes and watch Netflix, I enjoy detective shows such as Lucifer, Criminal minds and Hawaii Five-O.

Describe a typical day for you?

First thing I do when I wake up is my prayers, then I have a cup of tea and workout before I go on with my day. I start at work by checking my emails, then I tackle my day which I typically have planned from the day before. At around 2:00 pm I hang with my kids and afterwards I either finish my work or take a nap. 

I like to have everything planned ahead and ready to go instead of moving from one task to another haphazardly.

What is your ‘why’ i.e. bottom line? and how do you stay motivated?

I birthed Omari skin from a place of frustration. I developed boils over my body right after giving and I kept taking antibiotics that did not help at all. The Nigerian skincare industry is saturated with skin lightening product and has no other product offerings. I didn’t set out to start a business but wanted to learn more about skin. When I started doing research, that’s when I finally figured out that I was using products that damaged my skin.

During the time I was learning more about skin I got my certifications and began making my own products to address my skin issues. About 6-8 months after the whole ordeal, I started the business. My biggest goal was to help people to understand their skin so they could make sure that whatever they put on their skin is good for them. I wanted to help people make educated choices. 

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

My biggest achievement is my attitude towards work. I love what I’m doing which is something not everyone can say for themselves. I love that my business allows me that space to care about the customer, which is also one of our biggest achievement.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

Funny enough, this is my most favorite and also my least favorite. and that is the fact that business is so unpredictable. I’m constantly moving and changing with the climate of things, I love it when it plays to my strengths and hate it when it doesn’t.

What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?

My dad, I grew up knowing he was an entrepreneur. He has a pharmaceutical company and I learnt a lot watching him grow from having a shop to having his own factory. He encourages and inspires me. 

How did you come up with the name for your company?

Omari is derived from an Ibi word Omaricha which means beauty. We wanted people to feel beautiful in their own skin. So our business is literally called beautiful skin. 

Introduce your company the way you would to a potential customer.

Omari skin is a brand that focuses on educating millennials about their skin. We provide research backed skincare products for millennials. We are fully remote at the moment because the company started during the pandemic although we do have a factory where we do manufacturing, testing, production, packaging, quality control, and storage of our products.

You can see our product offerings at https://omariskin.com/ or follow us on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/omariskin/.

What has been a make or break moment in your entrepreneurial journey?

For Omari Skin, it was when we got our first customer. I sat down, looked at them and cried and that was when I knew I wanted to keep doing this. Every time we get reviews from clients about what our products did for them, it touches a part of my heart. It’s one of the best feelings in the world.

What’s been your favorite mistake that you made in your business and what did you learn?

Undervaluing my business. I put more value on what the customer’s opinion of my brand was instead of the value that my brand brings to customers. After a lot of explaining myself , we ended up totally rebranding. I learnt that you cannot put a price to the value your brand brings to your customer. The most important thing you can do is to communicate that value to your customer. 

How have you carved a niche for yourself in your industry?

Our competitive advantage is that we focus on something that other skincare brands aren’t focusing on – which is skin education as well as being customer centric. We offer a  30-day money back guarantee to ensure customer satisfaction. 

What challenges have you faced first as a founder and then as a female founder?

Being underestimated. Such as trying to get your point across to people. I have been swindled and challenged because i am a female during procurement of ingredients we use to make our products. I have had to in some cases get a man to procure the stuff on my behalf just for my peace of mind. 

What’s been the most significant thing you’ve done to grow your business?

Re-branding the business. We took a lot of feedback from existing clients and reworked our figures and have since then had better results. 

What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?

Planning ahead and looking at the data when making decisions. At the same time though, as an entrepreneur I need to be flexible, resilient and have complete confidence in myself and my brand. 

What advice will you give young entrepreneurs who are just starting out?’

Take it one day at a time while planning for the future of your business, otherwise you’ll break down. You also need to be consistent if you want to be successful.

 

Ruth is currently on the High Growth Coaching Program hard at work preparing Omari Skin to grow and scale to one day being in the shelves of Sephora.

 

HGCP 2021 Participants: Founder of Jasmine Ultra Blue Solutions Susanne is motivated by seeing people around her succeed.

I sat down with Susanne Onuminya, the founder of Jasmine Ultra Blue Solutions to get to know her and find out more about JUBS.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Susanne. I am a Biochemist, Safety professional and public health enthusiast. I was born in Lagos and I am married with a beautiful daughter. I worked in clinical health, oil and gas and sales industries before I became an entrepreneur. I love networking, meeting new people and making friends and my passion is helping people.

What motivates you?

I am motivated by seeing people around me succeed, knowing that I’m providing a solution that impacts a lot of lives is what drives me. I love knowing that my daughter will be proud to call me her mother one day.  

Describe a typical day for you.

I’m usually awake up by 6:00 am, then I make breakfast and get my daughter ready for school and drop her off. After dropping her off , I watch a live motivational video while doing my morning exercise. I usually start my word day with meetings, then I do my work for the day and courses on my HGCP curriculum. Around 2:00 pm, I pick up my daughter from school and continue working. After work I bond with family, and then later I do more HGCP courses. 

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

My biggest achievements …, I don’t feel like I have achieved them yet. I’ll say being part of HGCP 2021 and Future Females Business school. My biggest achievement will be when we finally open a physical JUBS center.

What do you do for fun/relaxation?

I hang out with my friends. I also read books – mostly business books, motivational books, medical books or books written by women. I also enjoy watching movies.  

 If you had to write a book, it would be on what and why?

Oh, I’m definitely going to write one, on transitioning from your 20s to 3os. Your 20s are Smooth, your 30s are not and nobody tells us these things.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

I’d say being able to see your vision for your business come to life.

Introduce your company the way you would to a potential client.

JUBS is a health solutions provider. We have an Ultra Blue Women Support group where we give support and educate women on living a healthy lifestyle. We also offer convenient health services to our clients such as vaccinations, diagnostics, and medical services. We have full time and locum doctors that provide services to our clients. We also sell health products such as supplements on request by customers as part of our packages.

We sell to upper and middle class millennials. We started with women but have expanded to sell to men and also corporate organisations. You can read more about our services at https://jasmineultrabluesolutions.com/

What was the inspiration behind JUBS, what led you to taking that first step and setting up your own business?

I saw a need and decided to provide a solution. After I had my daughter, I needed to lose weight because of health complications. I tried many different things that just didn’t work. This experience helped me realise that a lot of women have a need for convenient health services to meet their needs with ease of access and minimum disturbance to their daily schedule. I started with Ultra Blue Women Support Group and then expanded to all our present products and services.  

What’s been your favorite mistake that you made in your business and what did you learn?

I’d say winging it instead of properly structuring the business, foe example believing that an aspect of the business is too small to structure and set up standard processes for.

We are now at a point where we are almost restarting the entire business because we have to establish standard processes to make sure that it’s structured properly and running efficiently.

What challenges have you faced first as a founder and then as a female founder?

I have actually been extremely blessed in my journey as a business woman. I have received access to a lot of resources as a female founder. There are also a lot of opportunities to network and for growth. 

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

Innovative, networking (charisma), handle many things at the same time

What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?

Delegating is very important as it allows you to stay focused on your vision. One must also maintain a healthy balance between optimism and realism.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our community?

You need people everywhere – inside and outside the business. Having the right people around you makes all the difference.

What business-related book has inspired you the most? (or, what is your favorite book) ?

Hmm, I’ll say Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. This is a book by Nell Scovell and Sheryl Sandberg.

Susanne is currently on the High Growth Coaching Program hard at work preparing JUBS to grow and scale to being a household name in the health industry.

You can stay tuned to JUBS on Facebook at https://web.facebook.com/ultrajasmine?_rdc=1&_rdr and follow Susanne on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the_health_aficionado/.

 

HGCP 2021 Participants: Victoria Ajayi founded Chow Noodle Bar from her drive to find her purpose.

I sat down with Victoria Ajayi, the visionary founder of Chow Noodle Bar to get to know her and find out more about the inspiration behind Nigerian’s Chinese food noodle bar.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Victoria Ajayi. I was born and raised in Lagos. I later moved to the UK for my tertiary education, where I studied pharmacy and worked in the pharmaceutical industry for several years in the UK. I am married with 2 kids, which keeps me busy and really put things into perspective. 

I am a strong leader who is passionate about my own development as well as that of others around me. I am quirky with a weird sense of humor. I laugh easily, I love easy and I throw myself and all I have into everything I do.

What is your ‘why’ i.e. bottom line? 

I have a purpose and agenda. I am motivated by the drive to find my purpose and live it out in all areas of my life. I want to die empty knowing I did my best and gave my best and lived my best life. 

What do you do for fun/relaxation?

I enjoy going to the movies, hanging out with friends and reading. I read some fiction and a lot of books about self discovery, purpose and self-development. Fun fact about me is that I enjoy watching movies without sound (with subtitles of course).   

What do you feel are your biggest achievements?

Having taken my business from inception to where it is today. I am also very proud of my volunteer work where we run community empowerment initiatives. 

We recently had a Children’s Drive for Valentine’s Day where we spent the day with children on the streets and gave them parcels with colouring books, food, devotionals and colouring pencils.

We also held a Widows outreach for  International Widows Day where the ladies came together to share their experiences with people who understand what they’re going through. We also gave the ladies makeovers. It was an emotional healing session.

What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

My favorite part of being an entrepreneur would have to be learning the different aspects of running a business. Figuring out what needs to be done and getting it done. 

What was the inspiration behind your business and how did you come up with the name for your company?

Chow Noodle Bar was birthed in uni. There was a restaurant/diner we frequented that had affordable generous portions and that is what I decided to go for and bring home. 

I am very passionate about this business and when I started I was very selective about my team so they can share my passion. I am constantly working on identifying areas of self-improvement for them and myself which will in turn grow my business.

Well, there’s three parts to the name. Chow is a Nigerian & Chinese term that everyone associates with food, Noodle because we knew we were making Noodles (duh) and Bar because we were going for a casual bar setting as opposed to a formal restaurant setting. 

Introduce your company the way you would to a potential customer.

At Chow Noodle Bar we are all about providing an authentic tasteful and vibrant Asian street food experience. We have positioned ourselves to cater for those with a fast lifestyle who eat out at least once a day because of long hours.

What has been a make or break moment in your entrepreneurial journey?

When I was pregnant with my first son, the business was still new and I was still doing everything myself. It was a very challenging time and I wasn’t in a position to hire anyone so I had to either carry on by myself or quit. I carried on and managed through the ups and downs of pregnancy and got done what needed to get done. 

How have you carved a niche for yourself in your industry?

We’ve established and positioned our brand as a household name through packaging.

Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

My goal is for Chow Noodle Bar to become a Franchise model with multiple stores around Africa. We also want to host a training academy for youth that focuses on skill acquisition such as offering internships in different industries using our franchises.

    What’s been the most significant thing you’ve done to grow your business?

    I’d say constantly asking and listening to what the customer wants and then changing and evolving with our customers.

    What would you say are the top three characteristics needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

    Having a spirit f persistence and determination, leadership and having a clear sense of purpose and self awareness, having values and staying true to them.

    What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?

    Putting some system in place  and automating and delegating as much as possible.

    What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our community?

    Do not allow the state of things (in business, industry, economy etc.)  to dictate your emotions.

    What is your favorite book?

    How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie

    What advice will you give young entrepreneurs who are just starting out?’

    Have a clear plan and persist to make your plan come to pass. You must also be flexible.

     

    Victoria is currently on the High Growth Coaching Program hard at work preparing Chow Noodle Bar to grow and become a franchise model all across Africa.

    “Small Businesses Matter”: Sparkle for Business Launches to Power Nigeria’s SMEs

    Sparkle Business

    Fact checks. Do you know that in Nigeria, SMEs contribute 48% to the National GDP? They also account for 96% of businesses in the country, as well 84% of employment. You would think with these numbers we would have more small businesses thriving, but the reverse (sigh) is the case.

    Apart from lacking access to basic services that will help their businesses grow, Small businesses are also challenged with making strategic decisions due to a lack of data for key insights into important issues that affect their business. Stuff like keeping records of your goods and services, managing your payroll and the people who work for you, making payments, and staying tax compliant are all things we need to stay on top of.

    Now imagine having a platform that helps you store necessary business data, calculate the necessary payments, invoices, taxes, and provides you information and insights at your fingertips? Using technology and data, this is designed so you can make better-informed decisions on how you can create great customer experiences, motivate your team, and manage and optimize your stock of products or services.

    We know these things matter to you, so let us tell you about Sparkle and their recently launched digital business management solution called Sparkle Business. Licensed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sparkle MFB is a digital bank, a lifestyle and financial ecosystem providing seamless solutions to individuals and SMEs by leveraging on technology and data. Sparkle is founded upon the values of trust, transparency, freedom, inclusivity, simplicity, and personalization. Sparkle is also deliberately focused on female-owned businesses and how Sparkle Business can provide necessary solutions for them to scale.

    Sparkle Business is way more than your regular business account. With small businesses in mind, now you can easily manage tasks like payroll management, tax management, inventory and invoicing, customer management, and much more, all taking place in the Sparkle app.

    So, what does this mean for you as a small business owner? You can know and manage all your customers. Avoid miscounts and stock loss. File tax deductions for your business and staff at the click of a button. Send invoices from the comfort of the Sparkle app, with the freedom to do much more.

    Interested like we are? Click IOS or Android to download the Sparkle app with the Sparkle Business update. Do not forget to share your experience with Sparkle Business with us and other small business owners. When you win, we all win. Keep leading!

     

    “I’ve Had A Lot Of Rejections But I Keep Going Back For My Yes”- Abimbola Oludare-Ojo, Founder,  Nareli Farms

    One of Abimbola’s greatest motivations is the look of pride on her little daughter’s face when she is excited about one of her mother’s products. This keeps the illustrious agro-entrepreneur going regardless of the harsh tides and seasons in her business. “I want to always make something she can be proud of. I want to always be someone she can look up to,” Abimbola says.

    Abimbola Oludare-Ojo spent 17 years in the banking industry before leaving to start Nareli Farms and Agro-Allied Business in 2017. Nareli Farms is a budding business in the agricultural sector that trades and packages items like Shea Butter, Black Soap and edible products like bread and spices. 

    This article discusses her journey and lessons from her experience as an entrepreneur.  

    You left a fulfilling career in banking after 17 years to pursue your agro-business, what spurred you to make that change?

    Farming has always been a part of my being. Growing up, my father was a passionate farmer. He worked full time as an electrical engineer but he had a rural farm that he always took my siblings and me to. At the farm, he taught us how to plant corn, cassava and other local foods. He also taught us how to fry Garri. 

    I have always wanted to run my own business. After I graduated from the Master’s program at the University of Ibadan, I tried to get a job in the food processing industry. That was tough so I ended up getting a job at the bank as a Relationship Manager. In that role, I learned a lot about satisfying customer’s needs, I learned about different businesses and read a lot of feasibility studies.

    While I enjoyed my job there, I always had this longing to leave and start something of my own. I kept saying, “one day, one day” but of course, one day turned to 17 years. I got moved to another sector and it made me interact even more with business owners. When I would see a business similar to the one I wanted to start, I would feel bad and thoughts of leaving would come up again.

    Another thing that spurred me to leave was the feeling that I was not spending enough time with my family. It had been tugging at me for some time and starting a business where I could manage my time proved a solution.

    One day, after some soul-searching I walked up to my boss and told him it was time to go. I made him realise that I had to leave. I had to start Nareli Farms. 

    If you could go back, would you change how your entrepreneurship journey played out?

    No, I actually would not. Leaving was a tough decision, but I am glad I did it. Leaving took a lot of courage. In fact, some people thought I wasn’t normal. The pay in banking is good and when you think about how your next venture might not sustain the lifestyle you have, leaving seems less enticing. My supervisors could not believe it. They kept asking me if I was sure. But till now, I know I made the right choice.

    The only thing I would have altered was my spending habits. While I was working, I spent a lot of money on equipment I thought I would need for my business but till date, I have not used many of them. 

    There will be challenges regardless of whether you are on the right path or not. - Abimbola Oludare-Ojo Click To Tweet

    There’s this idea that when you are on the right path as an entrepreneur, there won’t be challenges, has that been true for you in your journey? What are some of the challenges you have faced in the course of running your business and how have you been able to manage them?

    There will be challenges regardless of whether you are on the right path or not. When I initially started, I had a million and one ideas in my head. I did not know which product I wanted to launch first or how to really go about it. So I joined a network- NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women. 

    The amazing women in this network helped me to figure out my business in the early days and held my hand through the process. Joining this network was also instrumental to me leaving my job. Before joining, I did not have the courage to actually take that step. I was three months into the network when I realised that I could do this, I could actually start something for myself. 

    I was also a part of the cohort at the last FCMB SheVentures program where I learned about growing and running a business. In fact, it was like attending Business School. I would have made some wrong business decisions if I did not attend some of the Masterclasses in the program. My amazing mentor, Cynthia Umoru helped me to challenge myself as an entrepreneur and I grew from that. 

    To learn more about Abimbola Oludare-Ojo and Nareli Farms, read the rest of this article on the FCMB Business Zone.

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    This feature article on Abimbola Oludare Ojo is sponsored by the First City Monument Bank (FCMB). FCMB is passionate about empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women.

    “Being An Entrepreneur Is Not A Walk In The Park”- Meet Taiwo Oludairo, Founder Of Ejire Onigarri

    ejire onigarri

    The art of balancing a 9-5 job, side business and managing a family cannot be underrated, it is the work of a superhero! Taiwo of Ejire Onigarri describes herself as industrious, ambitious and a go-getter not just because she has her way with words but it is a description of who she truly is. 

    She started her business, Ejire Onigarri, to fill in a gap in her community. Repeatedly, people had complained bitterly to her about the dirt-filled Garri they buy at the local market. They would always ask her to buy Garri for them from her hometown.  This she turned into a business, added a unique twist and has since then been evolving. 

    Her business journey is one filled with challenges, successes and lessons learned to help other female entrepreneurs map out their way in the business world.

     

    How did you become an entrepreneur, where did the idea of your business come from?

    My mum used to work in UBA, and that always excited me. I dreamt of working there or any other bank of my choice. Everything was going well for my mum until there was an overturn in the banking industry that made banks lay off their staff. This was a major struggle for my mum because she only knew about the 9-5 life. It was difficult for her to get another job or enter into the business world. This hit me deep and ever since then I made the decision that I wouldn’t rely on a 9-5 job. The urge to start a business sparked in me.

    I personally don’t buy Garri from Lagos, it always has stones, dirt and other impurities. For those who do not know what Garri is, it is cassava grained into dry edible granules. Anytime, I travel home, my colleagues and friends would always tell me to bring Garri for them. This demand kept on increasing and I thought to myself why not start a business out of it. Garri is a  fast-moving product that people can affordably buy. No matter what is going on in the economy, people will always eat, food will always be a priority.

    ejire onigarri

    What’s the biggest factor that has helped you become successful?

    I won’t say I am there yet, I’m on the path to success! I see feedback as an opportunity to do better. Customer service is key! I don’t do transactional relationships with my customers, I go beyond that and invest in building a long-lasting relationship with them.

     

    What significant struggle have you faced running your business and how did you solve it?

    • Financial: Funds are usually needed to scale up an enterprise from being a hobby to growing into a profitable business. To achieve this upscale, I began monthly contributions. 
    • Having to get equipment for the business: At inception, my Garri bags were handmade by me. However, as I interacted with colleagues in the industry, I learnt there were machines available that will save time, manage resources and maximise profit. 
    • Social media: Social media can be a hard nut to crack sometimes. My degree in English couldn’t save me as the terrain spans beyond that. To succeed, I enrolled in digital marketing courses as well as conducted research. 

     

    What has been the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?

    Having something to call my own and building my dream. I am building something that generations behind me can take over. As a mother, I want to leave a worthy legacy for my daughter.

    Ejire Onigarri

    Beyond Garri I am preserving the Nigerian heritage, providing crunchy nourishment and creating customer satisfaction and happiness.   

    What are some lessons you have learned?

    Being an entrepreneur is not a walk in the park, it is definitely not a bed of roses. There is a lot of struggle behind the smiling face, behind that exciting post you see on social media. As a 9-5er, I have to balance the orders, package the Garri, prepare for work, get the kids ready for school and put the home in order, I’m still learning, I learn new things every day.

    To learn more about Taiwo Oludairo and Ejire Onigarri, read the rest of this article on the FCMB Business Zone.

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    This feature article on Taiwo Oludairo is sponsored by the First City Monument Bank (FCMB). FCMB is passionate about empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women.

    #HowWeSpent2020: Zimbabwean start-up teaches women how to farm in pandemic

    Chashi Foods

    While this year has been challenging for most, we’re spotlighting non-profits and social enterprises that have worked hard to continue making an impact despite the added challenges that 2020 brought. If a story connects with you, please support the organization and founders in this series. Be part of our community of outstanding women by joining She Leads Africa today.

    ABOUT CHASHI FOODS (ZIMBABWE)

    Most people know that global hunger is a pressing issue — but what you may not know is that food waste is equally concerning.

    Food wasted every year in the continent could feed up to 300 million people, according to the United Nations. In just Uganda alone, up to 40% of fruit and vegetables end up being discarded. Post-harvest losses have a negative impact on the environment as food decay releases methane, which is 28 times more harmful than carbon dioxide, and is associated with global climate change. 

    However, where many would see a problem, Chashi Foods saw an opportunity. 

    “Much of what’s sold in markets is wasted because farmers cannot store the food. So they have to return home and pick fresh fruit and vegetables to sell the next day. During the dry season very little grows so people go hungry. Moreso due to strict government-mandated measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus we could potentially spark food shortages around the country.” – Forget (Product Development Director)

    Chashi Foods is committed to providing sustainable solutions in reducing food loss. By the use of smart technologies and agro-processing, Chashi Foods has been able to increase the shelf life of farm produce. But their mandate goes further, coining them the three P’s, Chashi Foods concentrates on people, planet, and profit.

    By helping farmers prolong their product shelf life they have managed to increase their income per capita. More nutritious food will be available to rural and urban dwellers, especially children as they can eat the dried produce. Their main target is to hire mainly women to manage the operations and collection of revenue at Chashi stations. All the while stopping food waste will be beneficial to the planet.

     

    DEALING WITH THE MARKET MAFIAS & COVID-19

    Just before the COVID-19 lockdown started in Harare, Forget had been in a plight to eliminate intermediaries or market mafias from the supply. The market mafias have garnered a reputation to buy produce from the farmers at a very low price and then exorbitantly sell them to the consumers. 

    However, as the lockdown was imposed their focus had to shift. Suddenly, they had no product to buy as the rural farmers found it hard to commute to the city center. But their call to action was even stronger as farmers’ harvested produce went to waste since large markets were closed. Eventually, Chashi too had to close their production and their impact seemingly came to a halt.

    Beyond buying from rural farmers, Chashi continued to support farmers by providing mentorship and training in post-harvest management and agribusiness. During the Covid19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown period, they trained over 100 farmers in post-harvest management and helped reduce over 5 tons of produce from being lost. 

    Forget shared a beautiful success story of a female farmer in Guruve, a small village center in the North of Zimbabwe. “After receiving our training manual, this lady was able to dry about 300kgs of tomato harvest which she sold to the local hotel. I haven’t met her personally but she’s come to refer to me as family. That’s what we are aiming to do at Chashi – improving people’s livelihoods.”

    As it became apparent that the pandemic would drag on for long, Shareka looked for new avenues of selling their products. As you might guess, the top of the agenda had been gravitating to selling items online and getting them delivered to doorsteps.

    While this sounds easy in theory, it brought all sorts of challenges. Professional storefront to be built, photography to be taken, secure payment methods, delivery drivers and transport, and getting the message out there that they’re virtually open for business is not an easy job.

    So Chashi came up with an easier plan, they leveraged already existing platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp.

     “The pandemic has only enhanced the need for more supply chain resiliency, and for us to make the most of the food that is being produced, disseminated, and purchased not only in Africa but throughout the world.” – Forget Shareka

    ADJUSTING TO MAKE IMPACT IN A GLOBAL PANDEMIC

    “We created a WhatsApp group in which we were facilitating the selling of farmers’ produce. We identified a common hotspot of activity and traffic in the city, and then created a meeting point for farmers to sell their products and push volumes. We did this free of charge and it was fulfilling seeing the weight we lifted off their shoulders.” 

    The nearly instantaneous economic recession triggered by the COVID-19 shutdown has wreaked havoc on businesses large and small. For Chashi what has kept them going is reploughing all their sales proceeds into the business towards operational expenses which include salaries and maintenance of their machinery. 

    Forget testifies that the pandemic has taught her and the organization an important lesson in resilience. The pandemic now presents additional challenges for managing mental health and other economic challenges.

    Loss and suffering may change a person, but much will influence its trajectory, including biological, environmental, behavioral, and psychological components. “Any life stressor, to some degree, is out of our control. How long will the pandemic last? When can we go back to school? To work? All valid questions, but they are also unknowns and uncertainties; we don’t want to get stuck ruminating about them,” says Forget.

    Lastly, Shareka made a warm invitation. Women constitute nearly 50% of the agricultural workforce and own one-third of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, they are a key pillar of Africa’s food systems. As the challenges related to COVID-19 come into force in various countries, women’s livelihoods and business activities are threatened, ChThasi food is inviting all women in farming, leadership, and business to join them in their journey. 

    “We have the expertise to change the trajectory of female farmers, we’re inviting investors and business developers to help us increase our reach.” Forget says as her last words

    If you would like to support Chashi Foods, visit chashifoods.com