There is an unnecessary stigma around pole dancing- Flirty Fitness Founder, Queen Nkpubre

Queen Nkpubre is dedicated to nurturing Flirty Fitness- a space where Nigerian women can freely explore their sensuality through pole dancing. “I noticed that women express a certain level of discomfort when they exercise in the same spaces as men and it made them less likely to return to the gym. So I decided to do something about it,” she said.

This article covers Queen Nkpubre’s experience running Flirty Fitness and valuable lessons you can learn and apply in your journey through life.

What is the drive behind Flirty Fitness?

First of all, women are running the world and we need to empower ourselves to run it well by staying healthy. Women also statistically live longer than men and tend to have more health-related issues in old age. So while we are living longer, we are living poorer lives.

Women take care of everybody and sometimes it is to our own detriment. We take care of the kids, husbands, extended family members, you know, everyone! There is this famous saying that you can’t take care of anyone properly until you take care of yourself and I strongly agree. Dance is a great way to unwind and take care of ourselves. It is something that we can happily lose ourselves in and be energised by.

Another important thing is that our bodies are constantly changing- from puberty to pregnancy to menopause- it is easy for us to lose touch with our sensuality, our confidence and our beauty. So an activity like pole dancing is a good way to keep those core parts of ourselves alive.

What is a common misconception people have about pole dancing?

People still associate it with stripping. The stigma around pole dancing keeps “respectable” people from trying it out. Even when they do, they do not want their pictures to be taken or shared online and I understand that. Still, there are people that are bold about it because appeals to their adventurous side.

What are some lessons we can learn from your experience with Flirty Fitness?

  1. Be at the forefront of your brand: Don’t shy away from your brand, if anything, pitch your brand. Have enough confidence in your brand to passionately advocate for it in spaces you think it should be in. Be ready to do the backend and frontend work. Don’t hide.
  2. Be sure about your why: Before you go into anything, you should know why you want it. Do not start something just because it is trendy or it seems like it will gain popularity. You need to be very sure because there are things that will discourage you. If you are sure of your “why” even when those challenges come, they won’t make you give up easily.
  3. Ask for feedback: It is so easy to be so caught up in the process of what you are doing. When this happens you may not easily see some things that someone removed from the process may notice. We all have blind spots no matter how smart we may be.

For amazing exercise-related content and valuable health tips, visit the Flirty Fitness Nigeria website and follow on Instagram.

Can Your Business Survive Without You? Here’s How To Be Sure

If we were sitting down for coffee and I ask what you believe to be the most important factor for success in business, what would you say?

If you’re like most people, you might respond that it’s something along the lines of perseverance, determination or talent.

What if I told you that while these things are valuable, they do not determine success? There is a more telling factor.

The true key to a successful business lies in the strength of its infrastructure – @andrena_sawyer Click To Tweet

But, what exactly is infrastructure? The simple answer is that it’s your design and blueprint.

It is made of the basic facilities and structures of the business and includes everything from software and services, to operational procedures. It is the work you do on the business that allows you to work in your business.

Imagine taking a one-week vacation. What happens to your operations? Would your team know what to do in your absence?

Would your customers panic? If the answer to the last two questions is yes, then you’re currently lacking a sustainable infrastructure.

I get it: most of us do not like creating systems. They can be boring, tedious, and may appear unnecessary.

If you’re a clothing designer, you went into business to bring your designs and creativity to life.

However, if you’re a life coach, you want to help others improve their quality of life, not to work on systems.

Again, I get it but imagine not being able to do the thing you love because most of your time is spent putting out fires, experiencing burnout, or making up procedures on a whim.

Creating good business systems allows you to automate your processes, increase productivity and improve effectiveness – @andrena_sawyer Click To Tweet

For example, think about the transportation and tax systems in our country.

While we may not like it, we have to pay parking meters, tolls, and vehicle taxes to commute within our communities. The expectation is that the money is used to build and maintain our streets and neighborhoods.

Similarly in your business, developing an intricate infrastructure creates sustainability through interdependent processes.

There is a common adage that is not wise to put your cart before your horse. That has never been more relevant than in this context.

Your cart is your thriving business—in a state that allows you to do what you love to do. Your horse is your infrastructure. The more robust it is, the more likely your business can go the distance.

I have had the pleasure of consulting with hundreds of entrepreneurs. The concern I hear most often is that people feel like they are reactively going through the motions, rather than positioning themselves for proactive oversight.

My advice is always the same: build your business from within. The time and resources spent on this approach will determine the health and success of everything else.


How are you improving your spending habits this month? Click here to join the SLA #SecureTheBag challenge.

Investing in African Women Entrepreneurs: Highlights from Social Capital Markets (SOCAP18)

There is an immense opportunity for economic growth and social impact by investing in Africa women

According to McKinsey, the female economy is the world’s largest emerging market, with the potential to add $12 trillion to global GDP by 2025.

Furthermore, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of female entrepreneurship globally, with approximately 26% of female adults engaged in entrepreneurial activity. Ghana is producing more female entrepreneurs than any other country, with 46% of businesses being owned by women. 

However, due to several gender-specific challenges, the African Development Bank estimates a $20B financing gap for African women causing the growth of these businesses to suffer.

This year’s annual Social Capital Markets (SOCAP18) Conference, a convening for over 4,000 actors in the development, social entrepreneurship, and impact investors held in San Francisco, discussed the importance of driving investment capital towards social good.

Many actors came together to advocate for a greater African presence at this event, as a result, SOCAP18 invested in bringing on partners, such as my company Baobab Consulting, to ensure that African voices were heard and received the appropriate business and strategy advice to make the most out of the conference.

Not only was Africa a focus this year, but SOCAP also picked Gender and Markets as a theme with its own track. The community has discussed these issues long before the #MeToo movement, but this year, an entire track was dedicated to hearing from women entrepreneurs, investors and other actors actively working to push the agenda to drive investments to women.

To combine these two themes, I organized a panel called “Women’s Entrepreneurship in Africa: The Key to Sustainable Development.” We had two female entrepreneurs, one male, and one female investor, all originating from the continent.

The discussion focused on explaining the landscape for African female entrepreneurs and encouraged the audience to value and respect the inputs of women as they build their investment and social impact portfolios.

Both Margaret Nyamumbo, Founder of Kahawa1893, and Salem Afangideh, Founder of Thrive African Girl, gave their perspectives as female entrepreneurs.

They highlighted the need to value local talent, compensate African women for their expertise, and spread the right narrative to represent them.

Salem highlighted that so often, investors will expect the entrepreneur to educate about the African context, but they should be doing their own due diligence to establish mutual respect and build trust.

Margaret highlighted that the way in which people are represented matters, and that African women entrepreneurs must build a positive narrative surrounding their work and the opportunities they are creating.

James Thuch Madhier, Founder and CEO of the Rainmaker Enterprise, and the only male represented on the panel, told stories of his life as a refugee in South Sudan.

“My mother brought me up during the war and we survived because she was entrepreneurial.  My entire female ancestry were great leaders so I am proof of the value of African women,” he said.

At SOCAP, James was one of the many men present who embodies the #HeforShe mentality, and it is clear women entrepreneurs do have allies, even in a competitive funding ecosystem.

A highlight that sticks out comes from Pauline Mbayah, an impact investor and Director, Strategy and Partnerships at the African Enterprise Challenge Fund based in Nairobi. She advised the audience that,

“The continent has hope, the continent is on the move, and opportunity exists. We ask [foreign] investors to work with people on the ground to make new opportunities, and  match-make your money to opportunities that already exist.”

Another takeaway from her is that building smart partnerships with women entrepreneurs on the ground is the best way to invest your money and receive both financial and social returns.

Beyond the panel, SOCAP also offered scholarships for African women entrepreneurs to attend the conference.

There was an array of talented women, from Ivy Appiah from Ghana, who makes high quality black soap products which are sold across Ghana and Nigeria, to Charlotte Magayi, Co-Founder of Mukuru Clean Stoves, which enables young mothers from low-income households to keep their children safe, save on fuel consumption, and reduce household air pollution in urban slums.

As women entrepreneurs, we face a different set of challenges that our male counterparts will never have to face.

But one takeaway from SOCAP is that there is a support system seeking to empower women, especially those from Africa, to attract investment and scale their businesses. I look forward to pushing forward their stories and carving spaces across the world to showcase them.


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Kukua: Changing the narrative of the Motherland with africaboutik.us

africaboutik.us is the online store of Ghanaian-German designer and fashion blogger MsK NY. Five years ago MsK started her fashion blog African Prints in Fashion (APiF) and has expanded it since to a lifestyle brand with over 350K followers worldwide.

African Prints in Fashion is focusing on exploring the Imprint of Africa/African diaspora on Fashion and Design and aims to empower by showcasing the creativity and innovation that comes from the African continent educates and changes the perception of what people perceive to be African Fashion & Design.

africaboutik.us is bringing to you a contemporary mix of modern African Fashion and Interior Design. The platform offers a curated selection of Africa-inspired fashion, fashion produced on the African continent, accessories sourced from local artisans as well as designs handmade at our home base in Brooklyn, NY.


Kukua (MsK NY)

Tell us about yourself and what is africaboutik?

My name is Kukua and I am a professional Marketer and curator. Over 5 years ago I started with my Blog African Prints in Fashion. I used to always direct readers to online stores and online platforms when they asked me “where can I find that” or “where can I buy that?”

Eventually, it felt like it would make more sense to offer a platform with products instead of always directing the traffic elsewhere. That is how africaboutik.us was born.

africaboutik is a curated platform where I sell accessories and interior design items from artisans across the continent. And yes I do ship worldwide – also to the continent.

 

Which artisans across Africa are you working with and how do you connect with them?

I am half Ghanaian, so initially, I only worked with small artisans from Ghana as I felt more comfortable engaging with them and it was easy as I was able to meet them in person whenever I visited my family, and for new relationships, it helped to have parts of my family onsite.

My longest standing relationship is with an artisan in Accra, but I am also now working with artisans and small creative hubs in Morocco, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Senegal.

My key communication tool with my artisans is WhatsApp – that really works best for status updates, exchange of images etc.

Authenticity is really important to me. I don't want to sell the same thing like everyone else - @MsK_NY Click To Tweet

 

How is africaboutik changing the narrative about Africa?

The frustrating thing about many textiles and even accessories that initially are made on the African continent are that so many are now made in China.

Even if you are in Accra or Nairobi you can easily come across products made in China. At Africa-themed events in NYC, I see a lot of so-called “Made in Africa” items that are 100% made in Beijing.

My goal from the beginning was to only select and produce items that I like and that are not too common on other platforms and that is authentic.

Authenticity is really important to me. I don’t want to sell the same thing like everyone else. I like to be different and unique.  Being connected to my makers individually, I know who creates the items, I know their personal situation and they know I am a one Woman Business. We work together to make things work for both of us, and I love that.

 

Can you give an example of products you are selling and how you are involved in some of the developments?

What I produce myself is the African City Bag – a high-end canvas bag that sports African City Names. That was my very first and for a long time my only product.

I also do temporary tattoos of Adinkra Symbols and furniture like the lollipop stools. All these things are made in Brooklyn where I am based.

Besides that, I am sourcing different basket designs and accessories from Ghana, Morocco, and Tanzania. My best selling accessories come from Ghana and South Africa.

I keep on editing and adding or removing products from the store, depending on seasonal trends or things I like.

 

What’s next for africaboutik?

I am focusing more and more on interior design and want to eventually make it my sole focus. I loved the process of creating my lollipop stools, so I want to my make more like that.

Currently, I am looking for young fashion/design influencers who can help me elevate my brand. If you are one and you are reading this, holler at me!

 

Where can people learn more about africaboutik?

Follow me on Instagram, check-out my online store, and follow my blog.


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Mpho Maseko: Take risks or you will never know

Mpho Maseko was born in Swaziland and raised by a single mother. She completed her primary education in Swaziland and her secondary education was split between Malawi, Blantyre and Nelspruit. Her higher education started in Durban, then she completed her Bachelor of Business Administration in Johannesburg. Currently she has 14 years of work experience  from Customer Services to Human Resources Development. 

Ripinde Virtual Admin was founded in 2015 after she resigned from her full time job because of a family influenced decision. In the process of finding her feet she quickly learnt that self belief is the key to growth. Goal setting and time management strategies help her accomplish the things that matter. Most of the time that means redirecting her energies into things that will add value in her life.


 

Goal setting and time management strategies help Mpho Maseko accomplish the things that matter Click To Tweet

 

 

Mpho Maseko

 

 

What is the most influential factor that has contributed to your company’s success?

The most influential factor that has contributed to Ripinde Virtual Admin’s success is the drive behind the brand. We value success and always strive for excellence in everything we do, no matter how small the tasks may be.

 

 

As a virtual admin firm what are the challenges you face as you have to deal with companies that have different ways of doing things?

The challenges we face as a Virtual Admin service provider vary from one client to the next. For example, 80% of our clients are small businesses that range from a one man show to a maximum of 15 employees on payroll.

Understanding and managing people is a very important aspect in this industry. We conduct a profile analysis of each client, and through communication with our clients, we are able to deliver according to each client’s expectations- we do not have a one size fits all service.

 

 

Essentially, to get clients requesting some of your services such as bookkeeping and business management there has to be trust. How do you ensure that your firm is trustworthy?

Our four values sit at the heart of everything we do . We respect our business, we value excellence, we are customer-focused and we serve with integrity.

We have a strategic support team ranging from certified payroll administrators, bookkeepers, and business administrators, and they all ensure that we provide quality and professional customer service.

We gain trust from clients through managing and instilling confidence. By taking our clients through the process of explaining how we work  and ensuring that we have understood the scope of work. Most of our clients come from referrals and we can only be certain that we are doing a great job.

Mpho Maseko

 

 

Do you ever decline client requests?

Yes, we have declined a client request before. We have processes in place to protect our clients and ourselves as the service provider. Unfortunately we do not start work without an agreement in place- signed by both parties. We have had clients before that want us to begin without the correct measures in place, and we have burnt our fingers before and now we know better.

 

 

Do you consider yourself a risk taker?

Risk taker? I have learnt that in business you have to take risks or you will never know and if you do not know how do you move forward?

 

 

When you launched Ripinde Virtual Admin, you basically gave up on the security of having a full time job to start your business. Did you resign after Ripinde had started?

I resigned and then started my entrepreneurial journey. I love the journey because I get to set my own schedule and make my own rules.

 

 

Brave! So was there a backup plan or were you just confident that this was going to work?

I had no back up plan, I had no choice but to make it work.

 

 

And moments of doubt, how do you conquer those?

I do not make decisions when in doubt, never. I realised that doubt is not unique to me and that it can be disruptive. So in those moments I accept that I need to relax, distract myself by taking time out to play, talk to myself and seek wisdom from my mentor – my  husband.

 

 

Mpho Maseko

 

 

Why is it important to not sweat the small things in life?

Worrying about things that are not important can take over your life, limit the chances of your success and cause health issues. When I don’t sweat the small stuff I find that I’m more confident to deal with the bigger stuff.

 

 

Any entrepreneurial tips on how to avoid a burnout?

  • Healthy eating & exercise
  • Always do your best and don’t take anything personal
  • Establish boundaries – personal and business
  • Stay true to your boundaries and values
  • Remind yourself why you started your business, and how far you have come
  • Manage your time
  • Change your routine – work from different environments, meet & learn from new people
  • Be bold and take time off to relax

 

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen or read this week?

I recently learnt that there is a website that enables students to raise funds for their education – crowd funding for students. Its amazing!


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Grace Ouendo: Promoting creativity and innovation in Africa

grace ouendo

To develop a unique voice, blog your passions - Grace Ouendo Click To Tweet

Beninese Grace Ouendo is very passionate about Blogging and Technology. When she founded the LadyGracious blog, her aim was to promote creativity and innovation in Africa.

The plan was not just to have a blog but Grace also thought it would be life changing to enhance African girl’s tech skills. So this #MotherlandMogul is a Founding Member and Communications Manager of the NGO, Access to Computer for Every Girl. To top it off Grace Ouendo is also a community manager.

Grace was interviewed recently and this is what she had to share with us…


What do you find the most frustrating aspect of blogging?

There are two things that are quite frustrating in blogging. One is generating ideas when your inspiration is gone but you still have to produce content for your website it is quite frustrating.

The second thing is chasing your interviewees, when you have to get the information out of a resource person, sometimes you have to comply to the availability of your resource person and it gets frustrating when your meetup rendezvous is not working you just feel like giving up.

What type of networking do you think is better to enhance your traffic to the LadyGracious website?

To enhance traffic to the LadyGracious website it’s all about networking with the category of people who are passionate about the development of Africa in every domain, broad-mind people who like discovering things happening on the African continent, and there is currently a wave of proud African youths that are trying to make Africa proud.

Grace Ouendo

Can you tell me some of your strengths that really helped you in blogging?

Reading: Having a journalism background, one thing I loved doing since childhood is reading. I read a lot about blogging on the internet. He who reads cannot run away from writing. So knowledge acquired from reading was translated in writing for the web.

Curiosity: I single-handedly learnt how to start a blog, I have never received any training till today, just because curiosity is what is helping me come this far.

Observation: I observe a lot my environment, my circle of friends and things around me, so I try to learn from others by observing and thinking through what they do and pick the good from it.

Grace says, 'The best thing a blogger can give his/her audience is added value' Click To Tweet

What’s the best thing a blogger can give to their readers?

The best thing a blogger can give his/her audience is added value. When your audience reads from you and goes back with new knowledge or information they will always come back because you give them value.

I must say there are quite a lot of blogs these days showing almost the same thing, do you have any tips for the newbies on how to develop a unique voice?

For the little I know, to develop a unique voice, blog your passions. In reading, readers will feel that this is something you love and are passionate about.

Another, is to be creative, bring out something that is particular to you, by observing other blogs you can easily find something they don’t have that you can offer your audience.

Grace Ouendo

Great! So now moving on to the NGO, Access To Computer For Every Girl. How did it start and did you have a blueprint?

It all started with a text message, a male friend had the idea and was like, ‘Lets do this together’ and I was like, ‘Why not’.

With my knowledge in ICT, it’s the best way for me to share what I know. Yes, we did have a blueprint. Our blueprint is dynamic, we adjust it seasonally as we are growing in number, in years and in credibility.

How is the organization funded?

Currently, the NGO is funded by ourselves, family and friends. We are also actively applying for grants and funds offered by international structures.

What’s a typical day like training the girls?

It’s always exciting because we get to meet new faces. On a typical day the group of trainers assigned for that particular training go to the school to set-up the computers, there is a maximum of 4 trainers present.

We roll out the lesson and then move to the practicals, whereby you have to monitor if the girls have understood the assignment given or not.

Grace Ouendo says, Women should level up and take their businesses international. Click To Tweet

With the future in mind, why do you think its important for women to embrace technology now?

Technology is ruling the world, its a fact. To be successful, popular even professional you can’t get far without technology being involved.

Therefore women have to level-up, because international business opportunities are online which I often published on my website. Any woman’s dream or business can go international with the right use of technology.

Grace Ouendo

Grace, what’s your vision for Access to Computer for Every girl for the next few years?

The world of technology is quickly advancing and our aim is to break the digital divide by giving girls technology at a very young age.

In the next few years we want to get to the level where we are able to give out free computers to schools, communities and more especially to girls leaving in remote villages.

Basically with LadyGracious it’s just you and when it comes to the NGO, you are working with other people who are your co-founders. What do you find different working in both setups?

With the website, I have a team as well, my chief-editor, graphic designer, photographer etc.

The difference is that with the website you go and search for the information and deliver it to the world whereas with the NGO its more like giving out your knowledge to a group of people. When it comes to team work it’s always tough but the job gets done anyway.

Tell us, would you rather live your entire life in a virtual reality where all your wishes are granted or in the real world?

I would loooove to live in virtual reality forever but, if all my wishes were granted I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t be of any help to myself nor society. So yeah, that’s why its called virtual reality.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Mahlodi Legodi: I manage the business, God owns it

Mahlodi Legodi

Public relations is basically free advertising. The thing is, it is important to be able to relate with the people on which your business relies. It is those relationships that will make people support your vision by choosing your product or services over your competitors. As a client I’d want some transparency, I mean who supports a vision they don’t understand? Mahlodi Legodi will help you with that. 

With 5 years experience in Public Relations, Mahlodi has managed and improved the media relations and reputation for prominent African and international brands. Notable among these are Carlson Rezidor (Radisson Blu Hotel group), LG Electronics, Bosch power tools, Ask Afrika and Subinite. With this extensive clientele base spanning corporate, consumer and retail sectors, Mahlodi has overseen and executed successful internal and external campaigns, exhibitions, product and service launches, media roundtables, internal and external communication strategies.

SLA content fellow Rumbie had the opportunity to interview Mahlodi Legodi and this is what the PR guru had to share…


Mahlodi Legodi, some of the readers would want to know what the
few months before starting up your company were like.

Starting a company isn’t an easy process! The first few months before I decided to embark on this entrepreneurship journey I spent in prayer, research, planning and preparation for the birth of FR Communications Pty Ltd.

It is very important to gather as much information about your business venture. Speak with a few industry players about what worked for them and what didn’t in order to position yourself well in the industry.

Mahlodi Legodi

From the outset what was your mission?

Our mission is to create and deliver award-winning services to our clients by providing modern strategic and creative ideas that are tailored to clients’ business objectives.
We aim to be crucial creative partners to the brands that require effective and professionally executed PR and Communications solutions.

Did you ever consider letting go and probably getting yourself a 9 -5?

No, I have never considered getting another 9 to 5.

The beauty of venturing into business for me came with the assurance that I had nothing to worry or stress about for greater is He that is in me (1 John 4:4) than he (challenges or struggles) that is in the world. I manage the business but God owns it!

What gets you out of bed every morning?

What gets me up in the morning is the reminder that my clients trusted me enough with their brands (dreams, aspirations and livelihood) accompanied with the love and passion for what I do.

When you lead your industry through communication, ensure it's not just pretty but right Click To Tweet

‘FR Communications believes in the importance of not just having a great idea but to have the “right idea”.’ How do you know your idea is the right idea?

We are committed to setting brands apart in a crowded marketplace by offering unique, innovative and media savvy PR services that don’t only focus on creating great ideas but delivering the right ideas. Ideas which produce proven results that have a direct and positive impact on our clients brands.

The right idea is more than just something you’re excited about —it is an idea that is actually viable to ensure the overall success of the clients business and communication needs. The right idea will always solve a business problem and set your brand apart in the industry in a memorable way. It is extremely hard to consistently create content that’s truly unique and new. So when you do have the chance to lead your industry through your communication, you have to take it and ensure it’s not just great (pretty looking, sounds amazing) but it’s right (viable, educational, factual, and speaks to your target audience)

It is extremely hard to consistently create content that’s truly unique and new. So when you do have the chance to lead your industry through your communication, you have to take it and ensure it’s not just great (pretty looking, sounds amazing) but it’s right (viable, educational, factual, and speaks to your target audience)

Mahlodi Legodi

What is the most gratifying part of your position as owner and senior consultant?

In this role, I learned that if God puts authority and credibility in your life, the title (owner and senior consultant) is irrelevant. I do everything from filling, writing, recons, mentoring, and media monitoring.

What does it take to be a co-owner of a company? Who do you need to be connected to and what does one need to bring to the table as a cofounder/ coowner?

Being a co-founder of a company means that you are part of a team that came together to compliment each other and validate the plans concerning the company before implementing them.

When you decide to get into partnership with someone in business (being a co-owner/co-founder), it is very important to have a mutual understanding and vision of the products and services that you want to provide to the market and how you will ensure the company continues to grow.
A partnership agreement should contain the following:
  • It needs to define who contributes what: You need to discuss with your business partner what you both will be bringing to the table in terms of labour, cash, clients, property etc. Who plans on working on the business full-time, part-time or just act as a silent partner?
  •  It is very important to define who gets paid what: This consists of an outline of how profits will be distributed. Will each partner be paid a salary for his or her role in the business? If so, how much? And what about any extra profits for the year?
  • You need to be able to define how decisions get made: What type of decisions require unanimous votes, and what type of daily decisions can be made by a single partner? Discussing these matters upfront and deciding what decision-making structure will let your business run the most effectively is important in a joint venture.
If a co-founder doesn’t come to their part as agreed, their decisions and actions could lead to the downfall or the business, employees not being paid on time and clients been unhappy with the services provided.

What personal trait has gotten you in the most trouble?

Being a perfectionist. That is one of the reasons why I find myself working at wee hours and only sleeping for 2 or 3 hours often.

If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Lynda Aphing-Kouassi: I have brought back with me this mindset of a winner and the power of excellence

If you want a career that fulfils you, you need to focus on your interests rather than your qualifications -Lynda Aphing-Kouassi Click To Tweet

Lynda Aphing-Kouassi is a former banker and Founder and Director of Kaizene, a firm specializing in training, coaching and networking conferences. The process of creating African leaders and encouraging the inclusion of women is the core of her business which she tries to achieve by her coaching and training sessions.

Passionate and rigorous, Lynda has extensive experience in the management of companies and employees in the following sectors, portfolio management; training, coaching, and seminars; conferences organization for more than a decade.

For Lynda, the biggest resource a successful company should rely on is its workforce. Not being visible on the balance sheets it’s often relegated to the bottom rank. Via its various initiatives on leadership and training seminars organized, Kaizene accompanies multinationals and SME’s by reminding them of the best leadership techniques to use in order to enhance the skills, inspire the employees, create partnerships and synergies and ensure a stable and sustainable development.

“Our beautiful Africa is full of leaders we just have to accompany them to the best of our abilities, mentor them, remind them of their potential and reiterate to them the soundness of excellent leadership in order to give back to Africa the place that it should have: “the provider of excellence”.


You spent 19 years abroad, fill us in on your experience in a foreign land.

As a French speaker who disliked English at the time, living in London was a most difficult experience. My sister who was married to an Englishman lived in London already and they kindly allowed me to live with them. I soon found I could express my fears and got to speak English more often. My brother-in-law’s help was tremendous because he was patient and understanding despite the many mistakes that I made. I then started uni and work during which I experienced a lot of setbacks and a feeling of non-belonging as far as the lifestyle was concerned. It is at that time I realised that to belong you had to embrace the new culture. But I could see that others embraced it to the point of forgetting their own!

I then decided that the authenticity of my culture would take me far. So, while learning and understanding the lifestyle in the UK I was also bringing my own to the table. For example, I would make my country’s food during parties and lunches and wear my African print dresses as often as possible. I became an object of curiosity which brought people near me to try and understand where I was from and slowly the feeling of not belonging disappeared. I started to make real friends and began to really enjoy and understand the country. The UK became my home.

LyndaAp

At work in a FTSE 100 company and being a black person, you can imagine that every disagreement or difference of opinion may well be perceived as aggression. I considered this as a form of bullying and refused to be bullied. I worked hard and developed this mindset of a winner where nothing was good enough until it was excellent. Also, I made sure that I was going to be accepted, not just tolerated. This is what you can do if you value and believe in yourself.

I learnt from this experience that only you have the answer to your own doubts and that the only judge is God. So, I have brought back with me this mindset of a winner and the power of excellence. My dream is to influence my peers with this belief so we can be proud individuals, strong, developed and authentic and to then become an example to others. I believe we can and will, with our young population and this mindset of confidence and excellence, have a better Africa.

Awesome! So what did you experience in terms of mindset and lifestyle that you wish to bring to your own country or Africa as a whole?

During my time in Europe, I found the development of infrastructure so important that it created a great communication between companies and people. The buildings are often rehabilitated and well maintained, communities put themselves together to ensure development and the cleanliness of their spaces in order to have a decent living environment.

Technology is well advanced allowing sustainable environment and every child understands the value of a prosperous technology.  I truly wish we have the same type of developed infrastructure in Africa, and I am sure we will get there. All services ( water, electricity, transport etc) go through the infrastructure and ensure the development of the community. This prompted me to plan the organisation of a conference on infrastructure in October this year to discuss our lack of infrastructures and how to ensure a sustainable development for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Africans have all the necessary tools to be excellent - Lynda Aphing-Kouassi Click To Tweet

What does a better Africa look like to you?

A better Africa to me is a stable Africa where we understand politics and don’t use it against ourselves. It is one where we realise that Africans have all the necessary tools to be excellent and should therefore collaborate. A better Africa is one where Africans can freely travel across Africa and use our own products, learn to transform our raw materials and understand our values.

A better Africa is one where one African can’t tolerate seeing another one begging but where possible help others and grow together.  And most of all where we do not envy Europe and strive to be the best.

Lyyynda

Walk us through the journey of starting up Kaizene.

Kaizene is a baby that was born on the underground in London whilst talking to a friend about setting a business. Then the idea was put to bed. I had a job opportunity in Abidjan and although I had never experienced the working life in Abidjan, I had a fantastic manager. There were some difficult moments of integration and being someone who has just returned from the Diaspora, the situation was somehow different and I was not fully assisted in terms of integration.

I felt that my Director could not do it all, it was also upon the team to open up. Alternatively, I had to adjust myself to our realities and accept the fact that I was back home. I was always in tears in my Director’s office because of the absence of integration. It was the most difficult experience and I felt that the training for staff was not sufficient and there was not enough autonomy or empowerment.

After a discussion with my Director, we decided to part ways. This experience was helpful for the successful creation of Kaizene. I will always thank my Director for his understanding, time and belief in me.  I came back to London, opened the drawer that contained my business plan and knew that I wanted to set up a training company where I can use my experience to help develop talent and at the same time secure the development of the companies in Africa. Then came back to set up the company and started selling our services. It’s a rocky road but a passionate and truly rewarding one.

To this day we provide training, coaching, and organise various leadership and mentorship seminars to individuals and companies. We also organise conferences for the creation of partnership and synergies. To me, a true entrepreneur is the one who thinks of transferring some knowledge or skills to others before thinking of the cash advantage associated with it. Only with passion can we ensure the success of our enterprises, and being an entrepreneur is not all about success it comes with a lot of failures but the most important is what we learn from it and how we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off to carry on.

A true entrepreneur is the one who thinks of transferring some knowledge/skills to others before thinking of cash - Lynda Aphing-Kouassi Click To Tweet

Kaizene is now two years old, almost three and we are known in the market. We have a good client base but we still need to carry on to ensure that we reach our main goal; which is putting training and education in the heart of everything we do to ensure a sustainable development and become role models for the younger generations.

So, after your experience in Abidjan what measures did you put in place in your own company that prevents other people from facing the same issues?

I have put in place a strong integration scheme in order to welcome all our newcomers. I also have a mentoring system where one is assigned to a mentor to assist them in their duties and also introduce them to the rest of the team in a better way.

This develops their team spirit and it automatically allows the individual to have a sense of belonging, therefore, increase productivity. To also assist companies that we collaborate with we also provide a tailor-made service based on their visions and objectives.

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You also mentioned that you have a good client base, please advice the reader who might be struggling with creating trust relationships with their clients.

Honesty and passion are important in our company and we believe that our clients sense that we have their best interests at heart. To create this trust we have learned to know our clients and prospects, understand their vision and value, protect their brand in developing seminars and training that responds to their needs and objectives.

We have also learned to respect our deadlines and produced all our tasks with quality and efficiency.

What are your core values and what do they mean to you?

Authenticity, religion, integrity, honesty, passion, determination, discipline and hard work. They represent the defining point of my personality and Kaizene.

Those points must be followed at any given point to allow our development and the development of others. They represent my rule of life and my line of conduct.

What techniques can you give #MotherlandMoguls today to focus on to strengthen their internal teams?

  • Communication
  • Strong Leadership and knowledge of their teams to define the type of leadership to apply to ensure success
  • Empowerment
  • Humility
  • Collaboration

In Africa sadly we realise that with strong management strong egos are also born. This prevents sometimes the effective and efficient leadership. We also work on coaching sessions in order to ensure that leaders are capable of empowering the younger generation and leave a legacy of development.

“If you want a career that fulfils you, you need to focus on your interests rather than your qualifications.” Why is this?

Your interests are part of your dreams and your being and as they say dream big and you will achieve it. Not only this but you have a passion and with passion long lasting great things are achieved.

In your interest, you also have the practical skills and the desire to excel and excelling make this interest a durable source of living which is also socially responsible.

For Kaizene, where do the great ideas come from?

I have a daughter and my ideas come with the need to be an inspiration for her and others. I also know that God plays a strong part in the generation of my ideas. As a team great ideas come from big dreams and passion, they also come from the kids we deal with in whom we can truly identify as a better Africa.

Our great ideas also come from experience and the way we wish to see our Africa and Africans. Mostly the Kaizene ideas come from the desire to positively impact and change the world. Our role is to develop the talents in Africa, create leaders and ensure that within our conferences great synergies and partnerships are created. With the talents have a more developed Africa well equipped to became the hub of humanity.

Lynda yess

You also have leadership programs. What is the must-have trait for a powerful leader?

Inspiration.

Although there are other important traits that make a powerful leader such as humility, self-assurance, social boldness, decisiveness, optimism, focus, and honesty.

For those who don’t have these traits, how can they also possess them?

Following our Leadership programme.😊

What is the hardest thing you ever had to do?

I must travel a lot for the business and the hardest thing that I had to do was to leave my daughter behind with her nanny for work reasons.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Jackline Aseyo Kidaha: God gave me a beautiful mind to inspire others to dream bigger

I believe in touching one life at a time - Jackline Aseyo Kidaha Click To Tweet

Jackline Aseyo Kidaha is a Kenyan lady who founded Golden Hearts for the Vulnerable (GHV Initiative), a CBO in Kangemi, Nairobi.  The 24-year-old is also the Program Coordinator at Edge Disability Mainstreaming Partners (EDMAP AGENCIES), an organisation that convenes disability mainstreaming training and workshops for government ministries and parastatals.

As a young social entrepreneur still in her baby steps, Jackie believes in youth power as key actors to development and agents of positive change.


Why do you say that youths are the best agents of change?

Young people make up the largest population in Africa. The youth are growing up with high energy, creativity, innovativeness, and talents which I believe are key to the attainment of various Sustainable Development Goals.

All this needs to be tapped into as it’s not only for individual benefit but also for the betterment of the African continent to bring up social and economic shifts.

What are your expectations from this generation?

Much sacrifice and aggressiveness in reaching this goal of restoring our mother continent to abundance, wealth, and diversity.

The previous generation achieved the political emancipation but I expect the current youth of Africa to achieve the socio-economical emancipation. Thus this generation of young people needs to be more open-minded, proactive in identifying gaps and addressing them.

Can you give SLA readers a sense of where GHV Initiative is at the moment and what plans you have for the future?

GHV Initiative (Golden Hearts for the Vulnerable) in a glimpse is a registered community-based organization in an informal settlement called Kangemi (Nairobi). It was founded in March 2015 and was officially registered in March 2017. Our main goal being to empower the vulnerable groups in informal settlements with relevant information on life skills, talents and helping realize their rights as enshrined in various legal documents. This is to give them a voice to speak up, be their own decision-makers in life and be actors in development too.

So far I can contently say that we are a notch higher compared to when we began as GHV Initiative. We are now equipped to challenge and ready to bridge the gaps identified in our community. More so I can frankly say that as the Founder I now have a more reliable, committed and dedicated team that I work with to ensure that we achieve the overall GHV vision.

jackiephotoOur future plan as an initiative is setting up a centre which will compose of unique an art space; crafts making and a talent space to nurture the spirit of dancing. The centre will entail teaching crafting, dancing, communication and entrepreneurial skills to more groups.

We are also strategizing on coming up with a charity clothing line/boutique within the centre where well-wishers can to donate. This will have clothes for both boys and girls from ages 5 to 16 to enhance decency and boost their self-esteem which is critical to many of them, especially those in their teenage years who are shy in relation to how they are dressed thus pulling down their self-confidence.

Our empowerment program doesn't give fish but teaches target beneficiaries how to fish themselves Click To Tweet

What programs do you provide and what are some of the setbacks you have faced?

We have two programs so far. One is ‘Limited Edition’ which is a continuous life skill program for teenagers. It mainly seeks to equip young minds with knowledge of life, its challenges and how to overcome them by sticking to their principles. The program aims to reduce issues such as early pregnancies and unsafe sexual behaviour leading to school dropout as early as primary level. Being limited editions means that they are not easily swayed by things which will cost them their lives and not realize their dreams.

The second one is ‘Nifunze Nijitegemee’ (meaning “teach me so that I can be independent”) which is a continuous empowerment program that seeks to teach practical skills. We believe in not giving the fish but teaching the target beneficiaries how to fish by themselves. This is to enable them to shift their talents and skills gained into profits thereby making them sustainable.

Rolling out the programs at the beginning was a great challenge, as with any idea or innovation to be diffused both early adopters and laggards are present. Our target beneficiaries are diverse, have different mindsets, knowledge gap levels, lack of enough resources in terms of funds for facilitation and other logistics.

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What kind of response are you getting from the vulnerable groups you are empowering?

From the activities conducted so far by GHV Initiative, we have received positive and overwhelming feedback. This has stimulated and motivated us to do more despite the challenges.

We are constantly receiving calls and messages from the previous schools, children centers and hospital visited encouraging us to do these activities more often.

How are you measuring the impact or effectiveness of GHV Initiative in your community?

We utilize the theory of change in executing and evaluating our programs’ effectiveness. We have set a number of indicators and respective tools to measure that.

For instance, in determining self-esteem among the teenagers we use the Rosenberg Self-Esteem scale which has ten brief questions that an individual is asked to respond to.

After each activity conducted we monitor and evaluate the success and gaps to measure the impact of our programs.

Jackline Aseyo Kidaha is showing the world that something good can come out of the slum Click To Tweet

Besides education, how else are you empowering the people of Kangemi?

I personally make DIY things such as cards, hair accessories, bow ties, crocheted mats, scrapbooks and journals all with an African touch or theme.

Art is cool. I believe in touching one life at a time thus teaching those around me who are still figuring out the next step in life how to make the above stuff and getting small markets for them too. I do this during my free time just in the house.

jacklinekidaha

Are there any GHV Initiative stories you really want to tell?

I have always believed in my life being someone else’s inspiration not to give up on themselves. I would really like to share my personal journey as a young lady with big dreams living and overcoming challenges in the slum until the birth of GHV Initiative.

Moreso demystifying negative perceptions and assure the world that something good can come out of the slum and there’s more rising girl power in transforming African continent.

Tell me about something you would happily do again

Serving humanity, saving the vulnerable and doing charity.

When I do these I feel more accomplished. I have or would not regret doing this for the rest of my life. I believe God gave me a beautiful mind to inspire others to dream bigger and be their own change agents.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Toyosi Ogunmekan: The warrior #MotherlandMogul

Toyosi Ogunmekan
Toyosi Ogunemeka is a Sickle Cell warrior whose start-up answers shortcomings in the healthcare system Click To Tweet
Toyosi Ogunmekan is a “warrior”! Yes, she is a Sickle Cell warrior who got involved in business because she noticed shortcomings in the healthcare system. Instead of getting beaten by the system, Toyosi decided to roll up her sleeves and make an impact.
She started a business in medical technology, Toyo Medical Techs where she provides a range of healthcare products used to diagnose, monitor or treat a disease or medical condition. It includes medical devices, information technology, biotechnology, and healthcare services. SLA contributor Ugochi Obidiegwu caught up with her recently to understand her drive.

What led you to start your business?

After my post graduate in biomedical engineering, I fell in love with the idea of applying engineering principles to medicine. As a regular hospital visitor, being SS, I was very dissatisfied with our Nigerian healthcare system.
I felt we needed to do a lot more technologically to meet up with foreign standards. Hence, the birth of Toyo Medical Techs.

What has been your experience as a woman and SS in your line of business?

Every business, especially at the start-up stage is very stressful and challenging. In my business, I have to do a lot of running around and drive long distances. There are days I feel overwhelmed and break down, there are also days I get comments like “I love what you do, keep it up” and that just makes my day.
It’s been a bitter-sweet experience so far and I’m excited for what is to come.

What is the impact of your business activities on your health?

Doctors advise their sickle cell patients to avoid all forms of stress, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s an “SS-thing” we tend to be very stubborn and still act like we can do it all. Maybe we are trying to prove we’re not as weak as people think we are. Well there are days I suffer the aftermath of over stretching myself. I also thank God for family and friends who tend to “scold” me when I’m over doing it.
Some 2/3 years ago I was diagnosed with avascular necrosis of the hip (it’s a common complication in sickle cell patients). My doctor recommended I do a lot of physiotherapy, avoid standing and sitting for too long, etc.
But you know Lagos and all the traffic, sometimes I sit in traffic for hours! And when I get home, the pain I usually experience from that hip! OMG! It’s unexplainable. Still I’ve been able to understand my body and figure out how to balance my health and work.
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What’s your advice to others with your health challenge?

My advice to other warriors is for them to be religious with their medications, avoid as much stress as possible, stay hydrated, understand their bodies; know when to slow down and join support groups.
I run an awareness page on Instagram @thewarriorstoryng where I share tips and  stories of other warriors to inspire others. I’m also a member of the Sickle Cell Aid Foundation (SCAF).

From your entrepreneurship experience, what would you advice someone about to start?

Be passionate about your dreams and don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t do it.
When one client says no, it doesn’t mean you should be discouraged, move on. And most importantly, pray.

What myths about Sickle Cell disorder annoy you?

A lot of people are still ignorant about the disorder and think warriors don’t live long. There are a lot of warriors that live up to 90+

What are your plans for 2017?

Hmmm… to stay healthy, get that beach body, I pray. I want to keep creating awareness on sickle cell disorder and keep pushing my business forward.

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