“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.

“I Made This Costly Mistake In My Business So You Don’t Have To”- Meet Onome Ikhimoya, Founder of Mistics Couture

This feature article on Onome Ikhimoya is sponsored by the First City Monument Bank (FCMB) SheVentures proposition. FCMB SheVentures is empowering female entrepreneurs, helping them build their businesses, and improving the overall success rate of businesses owned or run by women. Please click here to learn more about how FCMB SheVentures can support you and your business.

 

 


Onome’s love for fashion is only rivalled by her drive to be the best and her businesses are proof of this. Onome Ikhimioya is the founder and CEO of Mistics Couture and Mistics Sparkles.

Mistics Couture is a fashion outfit that specializes in making bespoke outfits. Their outfits include English wears, traditional wears, casual wears, beach wears, and so on. Mistics Sparkles is an arm of Mistics Couture that brands and designs t-shirts, fabrics, throw pillows and much more. She has styled celebrities like Yemi Alade, Kim Burrell, Oge Okoye, Funke Akinokun, Ngozi Ezeonu, and so on.

This piece discusses Onome’s journey in the fashion industry. It also talks about some struggles she has encountered and insightful advice she has learned from past mistakes.

Running Mistics Couture requires you to be very creative and that can take a toll if you are not inspired. So my question for you is, where do you draw your inspiration from?

God inspires me. Every inspiration I have comes from God because he is the creator of the world. He sees me through my day to day life and guides my path.

Secondly, my inspiration comes from a knowledge of myself. Knowing that I have a lot of talents in me, seeing that I have a whole lot to actualize in my time here on earth. After my first degree and my Masters, I did not want to work for anyone. I think I worked for a while- maybe like a month before I started my own thing. I felt like I had a lot in me waiting to burst out and I was not going to be able to let it out while working for someone else. One talent I have is that I can look at you and sketch what will suit you. I can do a lot of stuff with fabric generally. So I decided to go into fashion design.

My inspirational fabric- if I can call it that- is Ankara fabric. Looking at Ankara fabric gives me this joy that I don’t understand. I look at the fabric and I want to do a whole lot of things with it.

My mum is another person that inspires me. Growing up every Sunday, people would come out and peep at my mum on our way to church and they would call her, “to match, to match.” Even till now in her 60s, she dresses so beautifully. Her age has not really made her step down in her dress sense and she has a lot of strength, faith and hope which she passed on to me.

So in all, I get my inspiration from God. From my belief in myself, the fabrics that I love to work with and my mum.

 

Learn more about the rest of Onome’s journey on the FCMB Business Zone. 

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

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

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

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

Register for The Virtual Summit Here

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

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

 

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

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

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

Register for The Virtual Summit Here

“At the age of 12, I was already selling.” Meet Feligold Food and Spice owner, Felicia Ogumah

Felicia Ogumah is the brains and strength behind Feligold Food and Spices, a food company based in Warri, Delta State that began in October 2019. They package and sell food items like dry fish, crayfish, prawns, melons and local spices. Felicia’s business skill is something that has been cultivated since childhood. She says, “I grew up selling. At the age of 12, I was already selling. I think it is something that is a part of me. My friends tell me ” Feli there is nothing you can not sell. Even if they package stick and give you, you will sell.”

This article covers Felicia’s experiences running Feligold food and spice and valuable lessons you can take away from it.

Warning: Checking Felicia’s Facebook and Instagram page, will make you buy something.

What is the inspiration behind Feligold Food and Spice?

It, first of all, came as an insight, an inspiration from God. When I first started, it was something I really just wanted to do with everything that I have and am. God was stirring it in my heart to do it and so far it has been very profitable. God has been involved in the sourcing to get my products. I had no level of experience, I had no one putting me through, I did not go for any offline or even online training on Food and Spice. Divine connection came in. God was strategically connecting me to people. In fact, I am amazed!

If it is just crayfish you want to sell, put all your effort into selling that crayfish. Don't jump into doing everything at once. Pick one thing and try to get the best out of it before moving to something else. Click To Tweet

How do you manage Feligold Food and Spice?

For now, we ship to Benin, Enugu, Port Harcourt, Anambra. We have even shipped to a customer in Europe. That particular customer contacted me through Instagram. In fact, I get most of my customers online. The lockdown affected us because most of my clients are outside Delta State.  When the roads were eventually opened, the cost of the way-bill was high. Doing business right now is not the way it was before the virus. I pray everything goes back to normal”

If you choose to do something, let it be something people identify you with because you are passionate about what you are doing. Click To Tweet

From her business experience with Feligold Food and Spice, Felicia has three major business tips.

  1. Have a good reason for starting your business. Don’t go into the food business only because you think it is something that must sell. Everybody is into food business now. You have to have a passion for it and know why you started. It is important to know your why!
  2. Be focused. If it is just crayfish you want to sell, put all your effort into selling that crayfish. Don’t jump into doing everything at once. Pick one thing and try to get the best out of it before moving to something else.
  3. Be known for something. Let people know you for something. If you choose to do something, let it be something people identify you with because you are passionate about what you are doing.

Continue reading ““At the age of 12, I was already selling.” Meet Feligold Food and Spice owner, Felicia Ogumah”

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

Keyara Organics

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

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

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


What is the intention behind Keyara Organics?

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

Keyara Organics

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

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

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

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

Has your experience as a journalist helped in running Keyara?

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

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

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

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

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

Keyara Organics

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


 

where you shop matters

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

SAFE SPACE WEBINAR WITH TOLULOPE FABOYEDE: HOW TO INVEST (SEP 18)

It’s time to get your finances in check!

So you’re one of the people who finds themselves drifting off thinking about how to build wealth with their monthly income? Don’t just sit there daydreaming, here’s a chance to actually do something about it!

Or maybe you think you need to have a ton of money to start investing, think again. This and other investment myths are some of the topics we’ll be covering in our webinar titled Safe Space – A No BS Guide on How to Invest..

On September 18, 2020 at 5PM WAT/ 6PM CAT/ 7PM EAT, Tolulope Faboyede of FSDH Asset Management will be taking you through everything you need to know to build wealth and invest. What’s more? You’ll be able to get started after the class!

Learn how to invest and build wealth with Tolulope Faboyede of FSDH Asset Management! Join us on September 18 at 5PM WAT/ 6PM CAT/ 7PM EAT Click this link to register: bit.ly/safespacefinance Click To Tweet

Here are some of the topics we’ll cover at the webinar:

  • How to design and execute an investment plan
  • What to look out for when building your investment portfolio
  • How to evaluate your financial situation
  • Compounding interest: What it is and how to evaluate it
  • Common myths about investing

Register below to access the webinar!

Webinar details:

Date: Friday, September 18, 2020

Time: 5PM WAT/ 6PM CAT/ 7PM EAT

Location: Click here to register for the webinar on Zoom

About Tolulope

Tolulope Faboyede is a Business Development and Wealth Management expert at FSDH Asset Management Limited. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the University of Lagos and has completed a CFA Institute Investment Foundations Program. Tolu has over 12 years experience in the Nigerian Financial markets and has attended various professional courses and training in Portfolio and Wealth Management. She has worked with several individuals and companies to grow their wealth.Tolu is passionate about providing financial literacy to both individuals and corporate organisations.



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

EVE MAINA

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

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

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


What is the story behind Shoe Space Africa?

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

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

 

EVE MAINA

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

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

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

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

 

What is your big vision for Shoe Space Africa?

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


 

where you shop matters

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

YOMI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOMI

What is your big vision for Joela?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


 

where you shop matters

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

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

LINDA GIESKES MWAMBA

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

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


How did Suki Suki Naturals begin?

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

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

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

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

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

Linda Gieskes Mwamba

How do you keep Suki Suki Naturals authentic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LINDA GIESKES MWAMBA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


 

where you shop matters

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

VISA SPOTLIGHT SERIES ON PLUS SIZE FASHIONPRENEUR: OUMA TEMA – FOUNDER, PLUS FAB

where you shop matters

Ouma Tema decided that finding beautiful clothes would stop being a cause of frustration for her simply because she was plus-size. This tenacious mindset inspired her to start making her clothes and posting them on social media. Soon enough, friends who admired her style began asking where her clothes were from so Ouma started Plus Fab – a South African fashion brand that caters specifically to plus size women. 

Although Ouma started her business from the boot of her car, today she produces her clothes in top-notch factories and they are distributed in the fastest growing retail chain in South Africa. This article is about Ouma Tema’s incredible journey and how she has been able to turn her frustration into a thriving business.


What was your life like before you started Plus Fab?

Before I started Plus Fab, I was working for the government. I had a good time there because I learnt a great deal of professionalism. That was the foundation that helped me grow as a professional. I loved my job when I was there but I got tired of it. Also, I knew that this was not where I was supposed to be so while I was there, I began working towards my exit.

Did you ever know you were ever going to start a brand like Plus Fab?

As I was struggling to get clothes for myself, I was like, I need to do something to solve the problem of there not being stylish clothes for plus size women. It wasn’t something like, “oh I really would like to have a fashion brand.” I was not inspired to start my business, I was propelled by the problem at hand. So Plus Fab is a product made out of frustration. 

What do you think makes Plus Fab stand out as a brand? 

I always say that anybody can make a dress, anybody can do a jumpsuit but not everyone can instil confidence in people. We want women to go out in the world and be badasses. No black queen should lose her energy because she has nothing nice to wear. We do not want people to miss their graduation ceremony. We do not want clothes to be a barrier to that amazing life that you want to have.

So we stay true to our promise. We do not sell something just because of the size. We also sell you the fashion, the fabulosity, the amazingness and the comfort. You can wear our dresses 10 years to come and you will still be popping.

where you shop matters

How were you able to keep Plus Fab running during the lockdown?

What was nice about this whole thing is that people could buy online. At Plus Fab, we are proud of the fact that we produce all our clothes so as soon as facial masks could be worn in public, we were ready and pumped to produce scarf masks. It was challenging but making those scarf masks helped us push through.

How did you communicate with your customers during the lockdown?

We kept on communicating with our customers on social media letting them know that the frustration was mutual. Some customers lost their jobs but still came to buy their last dresses from us. They were like, “I do not know when I will get my next job but this is the last item I am buying from you guys for now.”

How important do you think local communities are for small businesses? 

They are incredibly important. I always say buy local. It is the utmost act of patriotism because you are affirming that jobs must be created, sustained and there must be no poverty in your country and your community. In Africa, the biggest enemy is poverty so it is incredibly important for us to support our local communities. 

where you shop matters

You make prom dresses available for young plus-size girls. Can you speak about that?

I did not go to prom because I did not have a dress to wear. So I started this because I did not want young plus-sized girls to miss out to prom simply because they could not find the right dress to wear. I do not want dresses to be a haggle simply because of their size. 

What is your big vision for Plus Fab? 

Plus Fab is a fabulous movement. We cannot wait to start trading across Africa and then the world. I want Plus Fab to be a household name. I want it to be known from Cape Town to Cairo, Morocco to Madagascar, New York, Ghana, Nigeria, Lesotho and all around the world. So global domination is the idea.

What advice would you give to people who want to start sustainable businesses?

  • What problem are you solving and at what price are you solving it? I think the most important question you have to ask an entrepreneur is what problem are you solving? If you know, you will do the right business. Look at your community and see what they need and how you can provide value. Ultimately, entrepreneurs are problem solvers. If you are honest about that, the money will come.
  • Know your customers: Some of our customers who love and support us got salary cuts and as much as they would love to buy from us, we understood that we were not a priority at the moment. We kept communicating with them and that’s why I can sit here and tell you today that we know where our customers are at. Some say, “I want to buy a dress but we are on lockdown. We can’t be seen in public, we can’t go to parties, We can’t go to weddings, so where am I going?”

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


 

where you shop matters

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