Come what may…business must go on

Intel Nairobi event

To all intents and purposes, many economies on the continent have seen a slowdown. Businesses are being tested for resilience, they are being pushed to the edge, and the strength and acumen of their value chains are being tested. But come what may, businesses must go on. They may not thrive as they when the economy was buoyant, but they must continue in earnest.

As I think about these times, two things come to mind.

  1.  The need to build a strong brand to have a sustainable and viable business in and out of a slowdown.
  2. The need to continually prepare and plan to scale your business around the core business activity at the earliest possible opportunity.

Building a brand. Building a business

What is the difference between a brand and a business?  A business is an enterprise that creates an opportunity to trade and generate revenue. A brand is made up of intrinsic values, quality and characteristics that endear clients and aspirational clients to the business.

I always say when starting a business, it is crucial to focus on building the brand first, so that you can have a viable, sustainable business in the medium to long term. And building a brand is not child’s play. A business brand is almost always made up of the personal and business values of the CEO.

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Especially for a small business, it is almost impossible to separate the personal brand of the CEO from the business brand. These become indistinguishable given that the CEO is the face of the business, and most likely the primary client-facing representative of the business. 

For the business owner and CEO, this brings home the need to reflect on, define and articulate your personal and business values right from the outset. This delivers you your business brand.  Understand and define what you are trying to achieve with your business and what values are aligned with that personal and business aspirations. 

Then, commit to live those values – through how you operate your business, how you choose and interact with clients, the quality of your services and products, how you recruit and engage with staff, how you present yourself to the world – presentation skills, public speaking skills, networking, and personal style. When we focus on these from the outset, we endear clients, and essentially revenues, to our business, create brand loyalty, and, come what may, in and out of recession, we enjoy a level of brand loyalty.

Scaling your business

Most business start with one core idea, concept, initiative, but there is always an opportunity to scale and expand that business. Think of a fashion brand that starts initially producing clothes, then start to produce and sell accessories, then later on goes into interiors, and maybe even then a lifestyle venture such as a restaurant. 

What enables such a business to do that successfully is the power of their brand.  When a brand is strong, it has a following, and clients will seek out that brand for every aspect of their daily needs.

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It’s an intentional decision. Many global corporations and their CEOs at one point decided to develop their personal and business values (=brand) to keep their clients and customers hooked. In the event of an economic slowdown or economic upturn, their business, through their brand strength, remains a viable and sustainable enterprise.

You can do it!

The price of business and entrepreneurship is uncertainty, and the prize is a vision fulfilled, success even in the midst of uncertainty.Image result

Someone recently shared with me a precise lesson in living. They said, if we knew the times and seasons, if we knew exactly what would happen to us or our business next month, next year or in 3 year, we would not need faith, we would not need to be resilient.

It is often the uncertainty in business and the ambition and determination to curb that very uncertainty that fuels the drive to success. 

Risk taking buoyed by a strong brand can bring some comforting business stability.

When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

Smoothie Express: Bringing healthy food to the people

Smoothie Express

SLA quickly caught up with Tracy and Omowunmi the founders of fast growing fresh food startup Smoothie Express. They shared with us how they developed the idea for the company, how they get around volatile currencies and the best piece of feedback they’ve ever received from a customer.

Where did the idea of Smoothie Express come from and how did you get it started?

I was trying to do a smoothie detox and my biggest challenge was finding the right time to blend my smoothies as I was still working a 9-5 then. That’s where the idea came up, I had seen a problem that was not peculiar to me alone and I wanted to solve it. So I contacted Omowunmi and we both developed a solution for the problem hence, Smoothie Express.

We first of all picked a name, Smoothie Express because we wanted to make fresh smoothies available to customers with minutes. Then we registered the company. We used our savings in starting up the company. We had to prioritize our capital expenditure because funds were limited.

Smoothie Express

Why is healthy food so important to you?

As adults, we have the tendency to go by our lives eating any piece of unhealthy food just to keep body and soul going. With lots of diseases coming up and ill health associated with being overweight, the best and easiest way to keep your health in check is to eat healthy.

Healthy food plays an important role in our health and it’s important for me to indulge as much as possible.

Smoothie Express

What is the most challenging element of running a food startup?

I would say quality control for a food start up. Customers expect nothing less than perfect food/beverage not withstanding anything, all the time.

So as a food company, you have to make sure there is quality control checks all day everyday.

How has currency fluctuation affected your business and what are you doing to creatively manage it and keep your products affordable?

We have always been a company that believes in patronizing Nigerian products. It’s been a struggle everywhere, but we have been able to manage the currency situation because of that.

Although, we are struggling with increased prices for a few items. It’s such a shame how dollar still controls our economy this much.

Smoothie Express

What is the best thing and the worst thing about having a business partner?

The best thing about having a business partner is that, there is always someone to cover your weaknesses and loops.

The worst thing about having a business partner is that you guys get to disagree a lot of times but the ability to push past it makes it worthwhile.

What is the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received from a customer?

Oh well. A couple of customers say we make the best smoothies in the world.

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

The mentorship advantage

She Hive Accra

Sugar. Spice. And everything nice.

What do you need to be a successful entrepreneur? More than it takes to make the Powerpuff Girls. Some say passion, commitment, and willpower are top of the list —all very true. I believe to be a successful entrepreneur you need a viable business model and a good mentor.

What is the role of a mentor?

One of my favorite books on this topic is, “Expect to win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace” by Carla A. Harris. She defines a mentor as “someone you rely upon to give you good, tailored developmental advice”.

According to Futurpreneur Canada, the advantages of having a mentor are described in six points.

A mentor helps you:

  • Gain insights and perspective by having someone to bounce your ideas off of
  • Focus on and strategically work towards your business vision
  • Shorten your learning curve
  • Identify opportunities and risk by learning with someone experienced
  • Grow and enhance your business network and acumen
  • Build confidence knowing you have someone in your corner

Key traits of mentors

As I write this, I think of all my mentors and the two key traits they all share:

  • Expertise and integrity: Find a mentor you believe to be brilliant, knowledgeable and trust worthy. You want your mentor to be someone you will listen to because you trust their expertise
  • Genuine interest in my development: This is what I call the mentor/mentee chemistry. Choose a mentor who is genuinely interested in who you are, understands your strengths and weakness and wants to help you develop and grow. Mentorship is a deep and personal relationship and for the relationship to be truly useful, you both must feel safe sharing the “good, bad and ugly”

How to be a good mentee

Having discussed the importance of mentorship and what to look for in a mentor, how do you become a good mentee?

  • Listen
  • Consider the advice you get and apply when relevant (This is why your mentor has to be someone you can trust)
  • Set SMART goals and hold yourself accountable
  • Ask for feedback and provide feedback in return
  • Be honest and communicate openly with your mentor
  • Invest time and effort in your relationship
  • Most importantly, as a mentee, remember to pay it forward

Peer mentorship is a form of mentorship that is often neglected but I find very valuable especially in my professional and business life. Keep in mind; your mentor must have some expertise and be genuinely interested in who you are and your development from a point of low self-interest. Many times, you can find these qualities in a peer.

To my mentors:

Thank you for teaching me to be positive and fiercely myself. Reminding me I have all I need, to be who I want to be—a healthy mind and body. Thank you for demanding I think big. Because, why the heck not.

Webinar with Stephanie Obi: How To Start An Online Business (Mar 5)

Steph Obi

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RSVP for the webinar


Online businesses are booming and represent a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs to build a name for themselves and generate cash flow. Join us for this webinar where SLA cofounder Afua will discuss with Stephanie the A-Z of building an online business.

Some of the questions we’ll cover:
– How can I create interesting content that gets traffic and builds a following?
– Which platforms are the best to monetize?
– Can only beauty, fashion and gossip bloggers make money online?
– Do I need professional video and photography equipment to get started?
– How can I connect with potential brands and sponsors?

About Stephanie:

Stephanie Obi is a Business & Marketing Strategist where she runs a consulting firm,  ST HUB LIMITED, focused on Online Marketing,  Online Branding, and Online Business strategies.

She is the founder of Steph B-School, an award winning Online Business School that was created to equip people who want to start and grow a business, with the skills and insights they need to build a Successful Business Online, so that they can reach more people, make more money and leave a legacy in the world.

She is also the founder of ST Colours A-School, an Online Accessories School, set up to empower young ladies who want to learn how to make accessories. To date, this platform has trained ladies in United Kingdom, United States of America, Cameroon, Kenya, Australia, Zambia, Canada, South Africa and Nigeria. She now shares all she learnt on this journey with other people who want to build an Online Platform to teach what they know.

She is a First Class graduate of Computer Science from Covenant University and holds an MBA from the prestigious Lagos Business School. She brings all the experiences she has gathered at her fashion accessories business, ST Colours, Ericsson, The Tony Elumelu Foundation and L’Oreal, to create relevant training programs that help individuals build Successful Businesses Online.

She won First Prize at the Wimbiz Impact Investment Competition and was the 1st Runner up at Standard Chartered Bank’s Dragons Den Competition. She has been featured on various platforms including Channels TV, Metro Radio, Enterprise Radio, etc

Through her website,, Social media platforms, Online Business School, Steph B-School and various training events, she inspires thousands of people to fulfil purpose and to shine their light to the world.

Her philosophy is – “You have a light within you that the world is waiting to see. It’s time to shine that light to the world”

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Watch the webinar live

The one benefit of entrepreneurship no one talks about


In the early stages of starting PaintSpace Art Lounge, I went to visit a close family friend, who also owns her own business, to get advice and direction. As we talked, she said something to me that has shaped me as an entrepreneur: “Ehi, no one really knows what they are doing when they start a business. You can plan but at the end of the day, things will happen and you will have to figure it out. Trust me, whether you like it or not you will learn!”

Whether I like it or not, I learn every day.

I recently opened a mobile paint studio in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada and it has been a world of learning. I am learning about my business, industry, the clients and myself. Learning has, by far, been the most rewarding benefit of entrepreneurship.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past year as an entrepreneur:

Be adaptable

Change is inevitable. Period. Be ready to embrace change. This is the only way you will find out if you are doing the right things or not. When you make mistakes, forgive yourself, learn from them and move on.

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I learnt how to allow myself to make mistakes. Once I made the decision to not beat myself up, I discovered a new depth of freedom.

Surround yourself with positive people

I cannot stress enough the importance of positive energy. Negative people will bring you and your spirit down.

As an entrepreneur, avoid negativity like a plague. Protect your thoughts and feed your energy with pure goodness.

Where there’s a will there’s a way

Let your passion burn and colour every thing your do. Willpower is the fuel you need to move your business idea from abstract to concrete.

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If you can’t exercise your will, forget about being an entrepreneur.

Develop your interpersonal skills

I manage a team of artists and from experience I have had to learn to listen and communicate with tact.  


Empower your team

As a new entrepreneur, my business feels like a newborn. I cannot imagine anyone else more capable of keeping my baby safe! But I have had to learn to delegate.

I now spend time training my team so they can take on more responsibilities. This not only demonstrates I trust them, it makes them feel they are part of the business. Empowering my team has made them more effective.


This has been the hardest lesson for me. Learning to be thankful for the wonderful things I have now and not focusing on the things I didn’t have was difficult.

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But once I embraced true gratitude, I found a new kind of happiness.


Launch Your Business In 10 Days

What do these three women all have in common? rsz_1rsz_cherae_robinson_nour_drissi_and_taffi_woolward_with_checks

They are obviously SLA rockstars but more importantly they are young women just like you who decided to take the leap to do something about a business idea they had been thinking about for awhile. They decided they wanted to put themselves on the path towards self-sufficiency, independence and success by becoming an entrepreneur. If you’re looking to start your own business but don’t know how, our email course on “How To Launch Your Business In 10 Days” will give you all the fundamentals you need to start successfully.

In the course we’ll cover these major topics:

What Are You Passionate About?

Before you launch your business, you need to know what type of business you actually want to pursue. We’ll help you figure out exactly what that is—so you can go after it.

How to Find the Right Problems for You

A major part of building a successful company is solving an actual problem faced by people who will pay you to solve it. We’ll show you how to identify problems worth solving and evaluate all the options out there.

How to Make Your First Sale

When it comes time to launching a business, the best proof that it works is having someone pay for it. We’ll help you develop a plan to reach your first customers and actually generate revenue.

How to Market Your Products

Once you’ve found some initial interest and a couple of customers, you’ll now need to think about how to reach more customers and position your products in the broader market.

Want to sign up for this class and get yourself one step closer to the SLA stage?
Kasope Ladipo-Ajai - Entrepreneur Showcase 2015 winner

We’re starting a new cohort every two weeks, so you’ll get an email when your cohort is ready to start.

Build A Pitch Deck That Brings In The Cash

A pitch deck has become the standard way to introduce your business to potential investors and partners. Unfortunately this is not something you’ll learn on the job or in school and very few people are willing to share their pitch decks with others.

We’ve pulled together the best examples from more than 1,000 pitch decks that we’ve reviewed to prepare the ultimate guide for creating a pitch deck that will connect with investors.

What you’ll gain from this guide:

– The fundamental structure of an investor pitch deck

– The do’s and don’ts that all entrepreneurs need to know before they share their deck with an investor

– A template that you can immediately fill out to create your pitch deck

– Examples from successful She Leads Africa entrepreneurs

Want access to this guide and slides from some of the best pitch decks from previous Entrepreneur Showcase finalists?

Then just fill out the form below to join our community and get access to this guide and AWESOME weekly content.