3 young African women software developers want to give you global hair inspiration

SLA interviewed Priscilla Hazel, Cassandra Sarfo, and Esther Olatunde, cofounders of the Tress App. In this interview, they share insights on how they met, their Tress app, and their vision for their enterprise.


Who are the women behind Tress and how did you all meet?

We are three software entrepreneurs from Ghana and Nigeria who are passionate about using technology to improve lives. Priscilla Hazel is the team hustler and is responsible for business strategy, public relations, and keeping morale high.

Esther Olatunde is the hacker within the team. She’s the backbone of our technical development and responsible for keeping the app running. Cassandra Sarfo is our resident hipster – she has a keen eye for detail, and is responsible for the user interface design and user experience of the Tress app.

tress app

We’ve known each other for about 2 years after first meeting at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, and we’re are excited to be working on something that affects us on a daily basis.

What is Tress ?

Tress is a mobile app and a fun, passionate community of black women from around the world sharing and discovering hairstyle inspiration. mockup-phone-for-web-front---feedWith Tress, women can:

1.  Discover new hairstyles to inspire them the next time they’re at the salon.

2. See detailed information about hairstyles such as the products used, the name of the salon, and price range.

3. Share their favourite hairstyles and get compliments and recommendations   from our supportive community.

4. Follow fashionable people and discover their hair care secrets.

Whether you’re rocking a weave, extensions, cornrows, braids, locs, relaxed hair, wig-caps, or anything in-between, Tress is your home for hair inspiration and information.

What was the inspiration for the app? What problem are you trying to solve with the app?

It’s surprisingly difficult to find accurate information about hairstyles. Many ladies have at some point walked up to complete strangers to compliment and inquire about their hair, or stalk social media accounts not only for inspiration but adequate information about the style.

We wanted to bring the experience of getting answers on the mobile phone, without the hassle. So now on the app, women have access to hairstyle inspiration that is relevant to them and they have adequate information to help rock the look they want.

Tress App

Who is your target market?

Our target market are the 100+ million black women around the world who have access to a smartphone and are crazy about hair. According to Nielsen, black women on average spend a disproportionately high share of their income on haircare products, which is 9 times more than other races.

Mintel estimates the black haircare industry to be worth 500 billion dollars. We consider the market to be extremely attractive.

You are currently based in Ghana, what’s your vision for Tress in Ghana? What about in Africa and globally?

While we piloted the app in Ghana, where we’re currently based, Tress is available globally. We want Tress to be synonymous with anything hair: hairstyles, hair-products, hair-stylists, hair-extensions, you name it. It should be the go to place for hair related queries.

What’s one of the biggest challenges you face right now?

Our biggest challenge is distribution. Getting the word out there about Tress has been challenging, as well as getting the kind of community engagement we aspire to have.

What would a successful Tress look like?

mockup-phone-for-web-front---post

A successful Tress will be an app that is used by practically all black women for their hair and hairstyle needs. It should be the go-to app for any woman looking to find hair inspiration, hair-stylists, and high quality hair products.

Beyond the app, we’re also excited to have Tress become active in all kinds of media products for black women – television, magazines, events, and more. A successful Tress would also be an active social network of black women thriving in all aspects of their lives.

Is there any other insight about being business women and entrepreneurs you would like to share?

My co-founders and I have grown extremely close through working on Tress together. We have our individual and collective ups and downs, but we’ve learned to support each other mentally and emotionally, while also having fun together to maintain our sense of humour.

When embarking on the entrepreneurial journey, it’s extremely important to have a great team with you that you can trust to be with you through both the inevitable disappointments as well as the exciting times.

Finally, we’ve really enjoyed working on a deeply personal problem. We’re able to use our unique experiences as black women to inform the development of the company and this also helps us empathize with our users and anticipate the needs of women like us.

I’d encourage more women to start business focused on solving the unique challenges we face. Black women wield a large amount of purchasing power, and their multiple businesses waiting to be started to harness that.


Want to know more about Tress? You can find them here:

FacebookTressApp
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We want to know what amazing things women are doing in your communities. Tell us about them here!

How to start an event planning company with no money and no clients

So you want to quit your job to start your own event planning company (or any other one) but you have no money and no clients, yet. What do you do?


Have a roof over your head and food to eat

JamJar Frances Frances QuarcoopomeFirstly, if youre going to quit your job, make sure you have some back up. This doesnt necessarily have to be cash, but a family or someone that is willing to maintain a roof over your head and food on your table. If you dont have that, then you will need to ensure you have some cash back up to keep yourself going through your start up phase, this will be a minimum of a year – two years, depending on your company.

This back up, in whatever form is comes is essential! Its essential because you will need all the energy and focus to get clients and start earning an income.

For an events company, you should be earning a small income within your first year to at least cover some costs.

Once youve figured out your back up, quit your job! It will be the scariest but most liberating thing youve ever done, but a word of caution, you will now work 24/7. Be prepared!

What makes your company unique

The next step is to figure out what your unique selling point (USP) is, what sets you apart from all the other event coordinators. As JamJar, our USP is customer service, efficiency and pushing the boundaries. We are willing to go the extra mile for our customers and promise to push ourselves as we create concepts and experiences that are truly one of a kind for the customer.JamJar Frances QuarcoopomeOnce  you have your USP, start using your contacts. Your first job is likely to be someone you know. If you do a good job, the word will start to spread. E-mail people you know and ask them to recommend you. Send out your company profile to people and test their reaction to your information.

Be realistic and original. People can tell when you are trying too hard or being fake. Initially, you may need to take a few jobs that you do not make much money from but is worth value in terms of marketing, building your portfolio and experience for yourself. Keep note of this, however: there will become a point where you no longer need exposure, and exposure wont pay your bills. Be aware of your business and your value and continue to reflect. Once you reach that point, own it and do not be ashamed.

calabash corner (5)-1 (1)

Listening is key

Until you reach that point, continue to work, listen and learn from your jobs and experiences. Make sure the experience of working with you is memorable from when the person first takes your card to the end product. This is everything! Even when something goes wrong or you have a difficult customer, remember your response is key and will last forever.

People will tell 4 out of 10 people about a positive experience but 8 out of 10 for a negative experience.

Jamjar Frances Quarcoopome

Get to bookkeeping

Slowly you will start to increase the number of customers you have, do your best to keep them. As you start to grow, make sure you have a good financial system, this does not have to be fancy. Keep track of what you are receiving and what you are spending.

The event planning industry is one that is not heavily reliant on start up equipment – your brain and a piece of paper are all you need to be organised, efficient, and reliable, the main characteristics an organiser should have. Take advantage of this fact, it means your start up capital required is much less and you can pace the growth of your company.

Jam Jar

Share with like-minds

Lastly, Collaborate. Collaboration is powerful if you are strategic. Dont just collaborate because someone asks you to. Collaboration usually means you will foot the bill for whatever you are willing to contribute to the project, or provide your time for free.

Be sure you are prepared to lose or not gain as much as you hoped. Moreover, make sure you do what you can and get the most as much as possible for your brand while working with your collaborators.

Good luck starting up and enjoy the journey!

Blogger’s delight: Lee Litumbe of Spirited Pursuit

Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit

As the face and voice behind the popular travel and lifestyle website Spirited Pursuit, Lee Litumbe’s mission is simple: she is in spirited pursuit of travel, adventure, and new cultural experiences. Founded in 2014, Spirited Pursuit showcases dynamic travel stories, captivating photography, and curated city guides from culturally rich destinations. Geared towards curious and adventurous individuals seeking authentic experiences, Spirited Pursuit is quickly becoming the premier inspiration site for travelers.

As a visual storyteller, Lee uses photography to shape poignant narratives centered around cultural immersion and travel experiences off-the-beaten track. Driven by Lee’s Cameroonian roots, Spirited Pursuit’s primary region of focus is Africa. Other current geographic focuses include The Middle East, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Oceania, with some additional coverage of Europe and North America. Accolades garnered include features in USA Today, The Guardian, and Ebony magazine to name a few. Additionally, Elle Canada named Lee among the most “Inspiring Instagram Accounts that Make You Want to Travel”.

Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit

With a blog that features photography, travel, adventure, and cultural experiences from you and many around the world, what led you to start blogging?

To be honest, Spirited Pursuit was founded as a result of my quarter life crisis. The idea for the website began to develop after I turned 25 and realized I had no idea where my life was going. During that time, I was working a job I despised, struggling to salvage a dysfunctional relationship, and battling a severe bout of depression which all left me with dangerously low self-esteem.

After spending several months curled up in bed feeling sorry for myself, my two older sisters encouraged me to get off my ass and get back to doing the things I love: traveling, taking photographs, writing, and just being creative.

Those passions combined with my desire to provide a platform for others to share their transformative experiences and stories with travel are what ultimately drove me to create Spirited Pursuit. The website now serves as my creative outlet, which has given my life a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

As seen on your blog, you are also a photographer, and a model. How have these hidden treasures furthered the success of your brand?

I think it just comes down to others seeing themselves in what you do. African (black) women are rarely used in major travel campaigns, so it’s a conscious choice to use myself as the face of my projects.

I want other young black girls and women to be able to see themselves traveling and being adventurous, while also giving readers the opportunity to connect with a real person. By using myself and my unique set of skills to capture destinations, I believe it makes my stories more relatable and attainable. It further demonstrates to my readers that if I – a young solo female traveler – can do it, so can they.Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit

Although I use myself as a subject, the narratives I produce always focus more on the place and experience, not so much me.

Have you been able to monetize Spirited Pursuit? If so, through what avenues? If not, do you have plans to do so or are you not interested in monetizing?

Spirited Pursuit began as (and still is) my labor of love, so initially there was no financial motivation. Early on, I made the difficult decision to keep our digital space ad free to maintain a positive user experience, choosing to accept donations at the discretion of our readers instead.

However, as the platform continues to see tremendous growth, I’ve opened up collaboration and partnership opportunities to like-minded brands, tourism boards, and publishers that are interested in promoting powerful travel opportunities to our community through creative advertising. I also separately offer my creative services (content curation/creation, creative direction, consulting, photography, and writing) to other brands interested in elevating the quality of their digital content.

Pursuing earnings without compromising my reader experience is important to me. I am consistently working towards finding a balance between keeping the lights on and maintaining a quality, minimally compromised, user experience.Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit What are your plans for Spirited Pursuit? Where do you want to take the blog/ brand in the future?

The goal is more travel, more stories and more inspiration – particularly within Africa and the African Diaspora. I’m passionate about building a community and platform that takes the anxiety out of traveling to Africa by creating informative and inspiring resources and guides. By curating content that shows others that Africa is not defined by the poverty, conflict, disease, and socio-political issues constantly being projected in traditional media, my ultimate goal is to attract more investment and tourism.

And by attracting investment, I mean compelling and propelling business opportunities within the continent, not just charity. Beyond that, I’d much rather show you than tell you, so please stay tuned for what’s next for Spirited Pursuit and me. Lee Litumbe Spirited Pursuit

What advice, would you have for African women looking to further their brand through blogging or social media?

The best advice I would give to others would be to speak on a topic they truly love and are passionate about; mostly because you’ll need that passion to stay motivated when things get hard (which they will) or uninspiring. If your goal is to build a large audience, focus on producing quality and original content consistently.

The people you hope to connect with will naturally gravitate towards your work if it’s genuine and honest, so don’t lead with trying to make money or being “popular”. I would also encourage others to add value to the lives of their audience by solving a problem they might have, while being as creative and original as possible in the execution of their ideas.

Finally, be sure to support others – particularly women. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on my journey is that another woman’s success is not my failure. Your win is my win, and my win is your win. Instead of viewing other women as competition, reach out and build relationships with them so they become allies; there is enough room for everyone to succeed. Be kind and uplift others, I believe it will take you much further.


Enjoyed Lee’s insights? Share your thoughts and comments below. Have a favorite blogger you want us to profile? Drop us a line.

Xiomara Rosa-Tedla: There are benefits to starting a business with family

Xiomara Rosa-Tedla Unoeth

Many people ask how and why my father and I started our business. And to be honest, it was by accident.

About two years ago, my father returned home from a trip visiting family in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After picking him up from the airport and unloading luggage, he handed me a gifta custom, handmade leather messenger bag. Xiomara Rosa-Tedla Unoeth Immediately, I fell in love with my new gift and sported it everywhere. From work to dinner to weekend trips, I toted my new bag all around the world. And soon after, friends, family members, and strangers started asking, Where did you get your bag? I love it! Can your dad get me one as well?” For months the questions and requests kept coming. Even my father told me he had been getting the same questions, and suggested, Hey, I think we have a business here. Lets start a leather bag business!Shortly after, the birth of UnoEth began.

Starting a business from scratch is a fun creative process, where brainstorming sessions let your mind run free with ideas and opportunities for your business to grow exponentially. Xiomara Rosa-Tedla UnoethBut as with any business, the road to success is never a straight line up. There are dips, curves and encounters with the unknown. In addition, it can be a lot of work. On the bright side, there are benefits to running a business with family.

A family member as a business partner can be extremely beneficialespecially my dad. Having an equal partner with a long history (my whole life) and blood ties helps solidify communication, trust, and dedication to succeed. Neither partner wants to let the other down. From day one of creating our new business, I felt unbelievably confident in our new venture because my dad and I shared the same vision and passion for our budding brand.Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 1.42.31 PM

In addition to trust, communication, and dedication, working with family also means splitting responsibilities. As we both grow our business around our full-time jobs, we wish there was more time in the day to juggle responsibilities. We split outstanding tasks, which alleviates the stress and workload on both of us.

Communication is key to maintaining strong relationships with each other, our vendors, shipping counterparts, business partnerships and most importantly, our customers. In the development of UnoEth, weve learned to communicate promptly to avoid creating a bottleneck in our business. Thanks to apps like Viber, were able to communicate easily internationally via wifi and all stay on the same pagejust in different time zones.Xiomara Rosa-Tedla UnoethIts incredibly important to maintain a positive, can-do attitude with a goal always in sight. As mentioned before, the road to success is never a straight line. Every business experiences road blocks and obstacles, which can deter most individuals from starting a business in the first place.

But with an optimistic, focused, and goal-oriented outlook, one can overcome the temporary downfalls, cross the finish line and push on to the next stage. At the end of day, one must ask, How bad do I really want to be successful?And then simply just go for it!


What are your thoughts on starting a business with a family member? Enjoyed Xiomara’s story ? Share the UnoEth story with your network.

Always be a dreamer: The story of Grace & other successful women

Taiye Selasi

Grace is a seasoned banker with over 20 years on international banking experience in Europe as well as several countries in Africa.  She boasts a successful career and a number of ‘firsts’ in her current bank. Though she at one time loved her job, the enthusiasm is waning as office politics thickens, even as she seeks a more fulfilling vocation.

But Grace has another burning desire – to own her own executive events management and floral business.  Having grown up in Nairobi, with her stay-home mother, being a keen gardener and floral enthusiast, Grace has a keen interest in flowers. She watched how the floral business flourished and prospered in Kenya –even at export level. Grace is also a good organizer and has a keen eye for events management, particularly corporate events.  She has dreamed of having her own events management and floral business for many years – but to date, fear of financial insecurity and stepping leaving her banking job holds her back. She remains frustrated with her job and her life, yet dreams of stepping out into the world working in the area of her passion.

Dreamers are daring people

They dare to imagine. They dare to imagine a change; they dare to imagine a possibility.  Where the audacity to dare becomes a limp hope is when the dreamer ceases to execute for lack of courage and for much of fear.

But when we cease to dream and to execute our dreams, we make a folly of our hopes. Our dreams form the very essence of our desires and hope –and we owe it to ourselves, and perhaps even to the world at large, to have the audacity to execute.

Oprah Winfrey

Ms Oprah Winfrey records that when she decided to move from Baltimore to Chicago as a Talk Show host, everyone thought she was insane, for she, a black woman, was going to the eye of the storm. Chicago was Phil Donahue land, and Phil Donahue was the king of talk show hosts. How and why on earth could Ms Winfrey do this to herself?  

Why would Chicago want to see a black woman hosting a talk show when they had Phil Donahue? Oh, but Ms Winfrey was a Dreamer. Ms Winfrey was not only a Dreamer but she was also a Doer.

She dreamed about her tomorrow, envisioned her futurist self, and had the audacity of hope. She packed up and moved to Chicago.  Her audacity delivered on to her – even far beyond what it did for Phil Donahue.

Taiye Selasie’s example

Let us bring it more home. I recently came across Ghana Must Go, a fascinating book by Taiye Selasie (in feature image). Reading her interviews and her book itself, I was reminded of what Selasie said in one of her interviews on the book: ‘I’m very willing to follow my imagination’.

She recalls that the idea for Ghana Must Go came at a yoga retreat in Sweden and got typing. For her, the book was entirely realized. It was a book that she wanted to read, a book whose characters she had dreamt about and conceived, and a book she dared to write.

She dared to dream, she dared to write, and the book has delivered much international acclaim. That’s the audacity of hope.

Writer, Producer, and Director Nicole Amarteifio with An African City stars Maame Adjei and Marie Humbert

Nicole Amarteifio’s example

Some of you may have seen the web movie series An African City, created by the fabulous Nicole Amarteifio. The story goes that whilst at University, and having recently seen Sex in the City, Nicole was intrigued to imagine what an African story line may look like. The intrigue literally captivated her, and Ms Amarteifio began the journey of script writing.

Research, research, research; script, script and yet more script and a few years down the line (even whilst working an international job), the final script was born. Still working a full time job, Nicole made time and used funds from her savings, friends, and family to gather actresses and all necessary resources to produce the movie, and now the rest is living history.

From CNN and BBC interviews, to Forbes Africa Woman features to speaking at the Cambridge University Business School, and being contacted by numerous international TV channels for Season 2 of An African City. Small, deliberate steps.

Yes, Oprah Winfrey, Taiye Selasie and Nicole Amarteifio could have fallen flat on their faces, like many others. Yet, the bottom line is that they took small, deliberate steps to actualize their dreams.   

Small, deliberate steps.

They bring us nearer to our hopes and dreams.


Images:

1. Oprah Winfrey. Fabrizio Ferri / Harpo Productions.

2. Writer, Producer, and Director Nicole Amarteifio with An African City stars Maame Adjei and Marie Humbert.

Emi-Beth Quantson: There is still so much I want to do

Emi Beth-Quantson

[In picture above, Emi Beth Quantson at SheHive Accra 2016]

As part of SheHive Accra 2016, I caught up with Emi-Beth Quantson, CEO and founder of Kawa Moka, after her talk on how she won Startup Cup Ghana. Kawa Moka is a “social enterprise coffee shop and creative space” that empowers underprivileged women through employment and mentorship.

The Startup Cup competition provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to network and gain financial support, which were essential for Kawa Moka to thrive.


What was your childhood like?

I had a very happy childhood. I have two older brothers who used to bully me shamelessly. And as my parents always entertained, we had to serve. I think that is where the interest in hospitality came from because my parents were always throwing parties – entertaining, they told jokes.

We used to have Christmases where all our cousins would come together and we will have nine lessons and carols and sing and do firecrackers. It was pretty cool.

What dreams did you have growing up?

A lot! I wanted to do so much. I still want to do so much. One of the things I wanted when I was in Ashesi [University] was to be the first woman governor of the Bank of Ghana.

I still have not lost that ambition. I am just praying that nobody gets there first. I still want to go to grad school, maybe go back into corporate and do something finance, sort of setup Kawa Moka, and then afterwards have it run a little and do something else.

I have a million and one ideas. We will see which ones get done and which ones do not. But there are a lot of things I want to do with my life.

What would you say are some of the influences that have shaped you into the woman you are today?

I come from a close knit family, and I would say my mum, aunt, and grandmother were my closest influences on my mum’s side. And on my dad’s side, there were also a lot of women – aunties and grandma. I guess each family sort of taught me different value sets and opened me up to different experiences.

I remember my grandma was always concerned about me: she calls me Aku. She was always like, “Oh Aku, what are you doing again? You say you want to do this or you don’t want to this, ohh”. She is always concerned and finding ways to impart knowledge from way back, not try to necessarily put me down, but then she will use some nice way of telling you that, hey you should do this.

And it was fun to have all those family gatherings so I think my family has probably been my largest influence.

How was your transition from Ashesi University  into the corporate world?

Very easy. I worked part time in my final year of school. I worked part time for Ghana Home loans so I had some corporate experience.

My final internship was at PWC so before I graduated, I already had a job and had already gained experience in that job. As such, it was a very easy transition for me – I did not have to send out a million CVs.

You have a background in consulting. What would you say are some of the key skills that make you a successful consultant?

Being able to think on your feet. Even though a lot of assignments have a lot of similarities, everything is unique in its own way. For every assignment, you need to think on your feet and find innovative solutions based on the parameters that you are given.

I think that is a key skill. Another key skill is networking and just learning how to talk to clients and establish a relationship because a lot of the consulting assignments are based on relationships. They feel the connectivity because you give them the best solution and you do it with a smile and you do it nicely.

So, I would say those are the two key skills, and of course the analytics is a given. You need to have the technical skills. A lot of which, if you are working with a multinational they will teach you, but you can also teach yourself.

You are the CEO and founder of Kawa Moka as well as the CFO at Impact Hub. How do you juggle all these responsibilities?

With Impact Hub, I am transitioning. We are hopefully going to put out a job description for finance manager so that at least I can have support in the sense of the day to day stuff. But I mean it has not been so hard.

I have had a lot of support from the Impact Hub team so there are other team members who sort of put in data and do the rudimentary stuff as well so that helps me with balancing.

But it has also not been easy because, of course, you have your peak seasons running your own business. I also do a bit of consulting on the side so that has been a challenge as well.

Emi Beth-Quantson

Some days you wish there are more than 24 hours in a day, but I think one tool that helps with balancing is communication – just make sure you set realistic deadlines and then you work to make sure you accomplish them.

I also take courses all the time on setting smart goals and managing time just to remind myself how to be efficient and plan things out properly.

How has being an entrepreneur affected your personal life?

My husband is really fantastic. He is like my number one fan. He is always like, “why are you not doing this?” So he is giving me that male aggression in my business. He always pushes me to make sure I get to the next level and stay honest with my goals and visions.

 So even though sometimes, I spend late nights at work or do events, he understands and he always asks how he can support me. It has been a bit harder on the weekends, especially if there are family events. I have missed a couple.

As I have slowly built capacity at Kawa Moka, I have not had to be there all the time because my capable team keep on top of things.

What motivates you? What keeps you going?

What keeps me going is having something in my head, believing it should be out there, and building it to get to that point. Basically, trying to achieve what you believe is possible. It keeps me going because at every level, I’m like ‘ok, I am here now, but I want to be here so how do I get there?’

And then just a reminder that I want to be at a different level sort of pushes me to get up, to stop being lazy and think about the next thing. So you have hit a roadblock, it is not the end of the world. What is the way around? Do you jump off?

This perspective keeps me honest as well. Also knowing that there is so much I want to do with my life gives me that pressure that ,”time waits for no man”, you need to get it done, you need to move to the next stage drive.

Also, just how do I let other people do a lot more? Because obviously, you cannot do everything by yourself. How can you get other people’s input so that it is a team effort and I am not dependent on just me.

With all of these experiences, what would you say has been your greatest accomplishment?

That is tough. I think it is staying true to myself. Every stage I have been in my life, I have explored, I have challenged myself to be better, to accomplish more and not necessarily be confined by the expectations of society.

For me, it is that ability to stay true and still earn money and still create things that for me. I think is my greatest accomplishment.

Want to learn more about Emi Beth-Quantson, read this ’07 feature of her on Ashesi University’s career services page.


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Imoteda Aladekemo: I was bothered by the lack of black faces in the food T.V. world

Imoteda Aladekemo Heels in the Kitchne

There is obviously a lack of diversity in the food television industry and Imoteda Aladekemo had to do something about it. She birthed the idea of ”Heels in the Kitchen”,  a Nigeria-based cooking show that teaches viewers how to plan, prepare and plate amazing meals, while looking like they just walked off a magazine cover. Heels in the Kitchen provides interactive content to encourage Nigerians to use local products to create nutritious and stunning meals.

Imoteda, who previously worked as a makeup artist and in the television and film industry, is a Cordon Bleu trained chef. She combines her expertise to provide her audience with an unforgettable viewing experience. I caught up with her via email to discuss her Heels in the Kitchen journey so far.


Tell us a bit about yourself

My personal life is sorta boring. I’m a mother, which seems to surprise a lot of people. I have an 8 year old daughter. I come from a pretty large family – 4 kids and too many extended family members to count.

I’m an introverted-extrovert, if that makes sense. I love socializing but I’m happiest in a cold room with a warm duvet and an amazing book.

Professionally, I’m a certified makeup artist and a Cordon Bleu trained Chef. I have over 5 years experience working in the film and television industry both in Nigeria and in Canada. Right now, I am the head chef and hostess of Heels in the Kitchen.

What inspired you to start Heels in the Kitchen?

I watch the food network a lot and was bothered by the lack of black faces in the food television world. I also thought it sad that as prominent a nation as Nigeria is, there was not reflection of our culture and palettes on television.

Heels in the Kitchen

Why did you decide to name your company Heels in the Kitchen?

The “Heels” bit came from the fact that I didn’t own any flats at the time. I lived in heels, and that included when I was cooking. Even my bathroom slippers were wedges. I thought it would be fun to create a different kind of cooking show with more glam, especially since we, Nigerians, love fashion.

What did you once you decided Heels in the Kitchen was going to become a reality?

The first thing I did was get certified as a chef. I attended Le Cordon Bleu in London to get a background in classical French Cooking. I don’t believe in jumping into things without proper knowledge. I also took some acting and elocution classes to prepare for the camera, and classes in film and television production to ensure that I knew what the technical processes are.

Tell us a bit about the process – from creating recipes and sourcing ingredients to picking the outfits and shooting the show?

Getting the show from concept to TV is a grueling process, especially if you’re a micro-manager, like I am. The recipes are a mix of all the cultures and cuisines I enjoy. I give everything a slight twist to make it more acceptable to the Nigerian palette. Sometimes, it is as simple as adding more pepper. Other times, it’s deconstructing the entire dish and building it up again with Nigerian ingredients.

I have gotten quite familiar with almost all markets in the Ajah-Lekki-Vi axis. When I moved back to Nigeria, I would spend days going from market to market and grocery store to grocery store, searching for where to get the freshest ingredients and the most reliable supply. The aspect of having reliable supply is super important because it’s possible that a store might have lamb chops one week and then not have them for another 8 weeks. On one occasion, I had announced that I would be serving pork chops, only to discover that the pork suppliers hadn’t delivered to store in Lagos for two weeks. Lesson learned! Now, I talk directly to suppliers and give them advance warning.

A major part of the show is the style. I was lucky the first stylist I worked with, ToyoC, understood my vision. ToyoC is great at bringing my look to life. I prefer feminine and classic looks with a bit of an edge. I would have loved the 60s housewife (well style wise at least).

The first step in getting styled is creating mood boards. Sometimes, I just send ToyoC pictures of outfits or pieces that I really like and she does her magic – talks to designers, finds tailors, sometimes takes trips to the market – and then brings me options. Sourcing from designers can be difficult because I’m a bigger girl. But most of the time, they make all the necessary adjustments.

On the more technical side of things, I have a very solid team. The team knows what it is doing. We are creating a show worthy of being on the food network so we do a lot of practice sessions. Also, I work closely with script writers to keep the flow natural. The set is arranged to make you feel you’re hanging out with one of your girlfriends in my house. It’s all very organic.

Heels in the Kitchen

How have you been able to break through the food/cooking show industry?

Heels in the Kitchen is truly the first show of its kind in Nigeria. We are shooting 96 episodes and intend to be a daily presence in people’s homes. That kind of exposure alone is more than enough to shoot us to the top. Add to that, premium quality production and we are confident we will be the best.

What are some challenges you have faced as a chef and cooking show host, and how have you dealt with them?

Like I mentioned earlier, sourcing for products is difficult because of the lack of reliable supply. But, by building relationships with various suppliers and stores, I have managed to avoid running into such issues.

Another issue is finding reliable people with solid skills and technical knowledge. Because we are going for such high quality production, we can’t settle for the run of the mill Nollywood type production that people are used to. Luckily, Nigeria has a lot of talented people, and we found a team who sees the vision and is excited to help create it.

Entrepreneurship is a difficult and often lonely journey. What keeps you going especially on difficult days? Do you have a support system?

My family. My family is the most amazing, supportive and funny group of people you will ever come across. The times I’ve been broke, everyone chipped in. When delivery drivers don’t show up, my sister and my mom will get into their cars and go deliver. When I’m feeling down, they make me laugh and forget the problem. They are my sounding board for new ideas and are unfailingly honest. I could go on and on about how amazing they are. I wouldn’t have made it a quarter of the way here without them.

Something else that helps on tough days is looking back on where I started. I’ll look at events I first did and cringe at how bad my plating was, but, I’m happy because I can see how much I’ve grown. I think about when Heels in the Kitchen  was just a random concept in my head and marvel at the fact that I’m actually creating my own TV show on my own terms.

What excites you about Heels in the Kitchen, right now?

Everything! Honestly, I’m amazed and excited by every single thing. Every new client, every piece of equipment we purchase for the kitchen, every time we pick an outfit to go with an episode – I get so hyper and excited. We’re also getting a fresh inflow of investors and that is very exciting.

Right now, I’m most excited about pitching for SLA. I’m trying not to think too much about it because cause that excitement might turn to nerves. It’s amazing and gratifying to see my work grow to this point.

If you win the SLA competition, what do you plan on doing with your winnings?

Buy a robo coupe food processor, lol! All the money is going to go back into HITK. Startups are money guzzlers. Every time we buy something we need, 4 more things that we MUST have pop up.

Imoteda pitched Heels in the Kitchen at SLA’s Entrepreneur Showcase September 2015. Learn more about developments at Heels in the Kitchen on their website.


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

Five types of employees you want to fire immediately

We all have that one person in our squad or team that we could live without. They want the worst for you, but you want the best for them. You want a team as synchronized Travel Noire‘s, they want a mosh pit. You’re thinking savings, they’re thinking spending.

In short, you two are on different pages.

And so you fire them, which is what any reasonable person would do if they cared about saving their business venture. And if you have the below mentioned five employees on your team, please fire them all before they poison the well.

1. The Social Media Butterfly

These are people who wake and sleep on social media. Give them a day to research five smoothie ingredients for a new flavour, and all they’ll come with are a bunch of IMDB tab sheets and a desktop background image of Idris Elba. 

Azealia Girlbye

2. The Raver

Everyone has a bad day, but that doesn’t mean we should scream like banshees at work. Home, yes. Work, no. No on wants to work with someone who stresses them all day, every day with strident remarks or caustic put-downs. 

3. The Warlord

These are career trouble makers, and all-around instigators. They’re ready to fight at the slightest perceived provocation, sowing seeds of discord in the office.

If you dream of fostering a collaborative and friendly work environment, then caution them to cut it out, and if they don’t, give them the sack.

4. The Know-It-All

Spews a never-ending stream of suggestions and unsolicited advice, but barely listens to second opinions nor take corrections. This kind of attitude breeds resentment and could spell trouble for your company if they’re their job requires them to liaise with clients.

Encyclopedias are books, as in inanimate objects. So if your employee fancies themselves one, you have every right to be worried. And what do we do with worrisome employees? We fire them. That’s right, we fire them.

Britta For The Win

5. The Indecisive

is afraid of mistakes and wants to run every full stop by you. They can’t take any initiative, and need constant reassurance and feedback. If you enjoy baby-sitting adults, keep them. If not, let them go or you’ll be doing their job and yours. 

Who else will you fire? Any personalities we didn’t mention? Care making a list?

Kambili Ngozi Ofili-Okonkwo: We want to make sure the average person looks good

Kambili Kamokini

A personal need for interestingly stylish, practical and affordable swimsuits led Kambili Ngozi Ofili-Okonkwo to start KAMOKINI. The Nigeria-based brand, which officially launched in September 2014, merges fancy designs with an understanding of the average woman’s body consciousness and sensuality to create swimwear that makes women feel and look good.

Prior to taking the leap into KAMOKINI full time, Kambili worked in the oil industry and in the fast-moving consumer goods industry. She has a Bachelors and Masters degree in Engineering from Imperial College London, as well as a Masters in Supply Chain and Logistics Management from Cranfield University. I spoke with the swimwear designer about her entrepreneurial experience.

Starting out

In 2012, Kambili found herself struggling to find appropriate swimsuits for herself. “I don’t consider myself to be a model size,” she said. “I was looking for something that was not too revealing, fashionable and inexpensive.” Unable to find a swimsuit that met her criteria, she decided to design what she had in mind for herself, then reached out to manufacturers in China. Her first order of business was to send them a detailed list of specifications for the swim suits. The factory also had to be willing to sign a confidentiality agreement with her. “When I found one that was happy to sign and work with me, I started sharing my designs with them,” Kambili said.

Kamokini

When her friends complimented the swimsuits that she had made for herself, she made some in similar styles for them and received overwhelming positive feedback. “It made me think, ‘OK, I can do this commercially’. Why don’t I try to make these kinds of swimsuits available?”she said.

With her savings and investment from family and friends, Kambili embarked on her entrepreneurial journey. “From the get-go, I was working with an experienced production facility so it was easy to move from making sample sizes to making larger quantities,” she added.

Kambili’s spending priority with this initial capital has been on the quality and cost of the product. “I want it to be as close to perfect as possible but also affordable,” she said. She wants to ensure that her clients don’t have to break the bank in order to access her products, and wants to ensure they enjoy the KAMOKINI experience. “I feel like if it’s not adding value to my customers, then I don’t spend money on it. If I can find a way to do it without spending money, then I go for it.”

From design to delivery

Drawings and sketches of the swimwear are done by Kambili. These are then turned into computer-aided designs. She writes down specifications for the print or color that she wants to use for each item, and the material and textures that will be put together to produce it. “We have the standard elastane fabric for swimwear but I may want to play with textures,” Kambili said. “For example, you might see that some of our swimsuits have lace on them. I like playing with textures, maybe it is the engineer in me,” she added. The manufacturers she works with do the dying and printing of the fabric.

The product sample making is a three step process. First, Kambili receives swatches so that she can choose the exact color of fabric that she wants. The sample is then made and pictures are taken from different angles. After this, the sample is washed to make sure that it doesn’t run or fray, the elastic remains taut, and that the zippers, if any, work well. This testing is carried out by the technicians in the factory. Once they are satisfied with the test results, they deliver the samples to Kambili.

At this stage, Kambili analyzes the samples. She works with models who try them on to see if they fit well, the bust sizes that can fit into each, and if any adjustments are needed. And on completion of the analysis, she either sends the samples back for amendment, in which case the three step process is repeated, or she confirms for production, and the factory manufactures and labels the products to be sold. Kambili and her team, which comprises of a photographer, graphic designer, accounts manager and models, also use the samples for creating campaign marketing material and promotional content. An added advantage of doing this is that it allows the team to see how the colors look on film.

The key element for KAMOKINI in this entire design and production process is the desire to create stylish swimsuits that are practical for average people. “We are listening to what our target customers want. They want things that are pretty and can hide aspects that they don’t want to show,” she said.

For example, the company has swimsuits that have short sleeves for people who are uncomfortable with showing their arms. It also has swimsuits with inserts for padding for people with smaller busts who may want a little bit of enhancement. “That’s what sets us apart,” she said. “We want to ensure that the average person looks as good as she wants while physically exposed. It is really about meeting people’s desires,” she added.

Kamokini

Challenges and opportunities

Like every entrepreneur who is starting out, Kambili has dealt with her fair share of challenges. For one, people in Nigeria are relatively conservative when it comes to exposing themselves. As such, they don’t take advantage of the numerous beaches and pools in the country. They are also not used to decent, well-designed swimwear being sold next door. Additionally, KAMOKINI is a luxury brand that also creates awareness. “There is a real threat to spend more money than you intended on educating people and creating that experience so that they want to buy swimsuits.”

To tackle this, she has established business partnerships with alcoholic beverage brands that host beach and pool events. “We are working with them to create that world class experience that you find in places like Miami or Cannes – places with developed beach and pool activations,” Kambili said. “This will be an avenue for the target market to interact with the brand directly.” In addition, the company has invested in marketing. It has an active presence on social media, particularly Instagram. Spice TV recently did a documentary about KAMOKINI which has helped the business reach some of its target market. The brand has participated in fashion shows such as Runway Fiesta and Copa Lagos. Kambili’s products have also been featured in music videos and been endorsed by celebrities and media personalities.

Manufacturing KAMOKINI products in China as opposed to Nigeria or somewhere else in Africa has also come with its own set of challenges. There have been several timing related delays. In addition, the minimum order quantities required by the factory are very high. “I would rather spend that money on a variety of styles as opposed to producing one style in bulk,” she said. She is hoping to be able to have her own factory in the future. “It would be nice to have a vertically integrated supply network. It helps in making quicker decisions from idea to production.”

Staying the course

As much as the challenges are tough to deal with, she sees the opportunities they provide and is determined to explore them. Her resolve is further strengthened by the support she gets from her family, partner, friends and customers. “I am grateful and blessed to be surrounded by people who encourage me and understand my vision,” she said. Her customers encourage her every time they send her pictures enjoying themselves in KAMOKINI products. “It is the most amazing feeling. It means that we are adding value to people’s lives. It’s not world peace but we take it for granted that to wear a swimsuit you are literally going out in your underwear,” she added. “It takes a lot of confidence to do that.”

Kambili, who was 2015 SLA pitch competition 2nd place winner wanted to expand the product line with her cash award. At the time of this interview, the brand had only released eight pieces and was looking to launch a full collection. “I want to produce an extensive range of samples for current and potential wholesalers to order from. I want to give them a good range to choose from depending on their clientele,” she said.

Kambili’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is this: “Understand the money you have. It doesn’t matter how small you are starting, if finance and accounting is not your specialty, get an expert to help you. You need to know how much money you have to play with and how to plan it. As much as you want to make a difference, it all comes down to money.”

See more of Kambili’s designs on KOMOKINI’S Instagram page.

Blogger’s Delight: Love Mavin with Maggie Adofo

Maggie Adofo_Blogger's Delight

Editor’s note: Every two weeks, SLA will feature an African blogger killing the game. 

Tell us a little about yourself

My name is Maggie Adofo. I graduated from the College of Saint Rose with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Marketing, and Public Communications.

I’m a part-time blogger and work full-time.

My blog brings aims to bring women who are interested in beauty and fashion together.

What inspired the idea of beauty blogging on Love Mavin?

Love Mavin started as Love Scrapbook during my Freshman year while I was in The College of Saint Rose. At the time, it was an online diary documenting my college experience, and it’s been a source of motivation for me to become a better person academically, socially and even professionally.

I channel my creativity through my videos and blog posts.

How do you balance a beauty blog (which includes your YouTube channel, your IG, being a Curls Understood brand ambassador) and a 9-5 job?

It has not been easy at all! After graduating college, my full-time required me to work 40 hours from Friday to Sunday. So Mondays through Thursdays were dedicated to developing my brand. I would shoot videos, take photos, and prepare content during this down time.

At the time, I had the opportunity of visiting Youtube Space New York for workshops and NYFW. Now that I work a regular 9-5, I have had to schedule the days on which I film, edit, post and promote. I rely on my planners to keep track of this.

The moment I get home, I dedicate a solid 3 hours to my blog before doing anything else. I try to submit one post / review a month, but I promote the brand on all my social media pages. Currently, Curls Understood is re-branding the blogger submissions which is really exciting.

Blogging takes a lot of time and dedication, but my passion and the satisfaction I get from posting supersedes the sleepless nights and stressful deadlines. 

Maggie Adofo _ Blogger's Delight

Have you been able to monetize Love Mavin? If so, through what avenues? If not, do you have plans to do so?

For about two and a half years, I was able to monetize my blog enough to be considered a full-time job. It was incredible! Google Ad sense wasn’t too bad but my primary source of income came from selling advertisement spots on my blog and external services like video editing, product photos and some graphic designing.

A lot of brands were also very generous with providing PR gifts to be blogged/reviewed so essentially, my ROI was great. I didn’t have to invest too much to begin with. At the end of the day, monetized content is great because you can earn with click throughs. It’s always nice to earn money when you are not around.

What are your plans for Love Mavin? Where do you want to take the blog/ brand in the future?

Personally, I am working towards creating a stronger relationship via collaborations with other bloggers and expanding my brand’s services. As I genuinely love my 9-5, and have no plans on quitting that any time soon, the goal is to maintain a balanced schedule while building a brand that will encourage and inspire others to do what they love and live a full life.

Love Maggie’s story and want more Love Mavin delight? Check out her website and follow her on social media here and here.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, click here