Don’t be afraid to wear your pink panties

shehive accra she leads africa pink

Five years ago, I was certain that my favourite colour was purple. With time, I started feeling like it was suddenly everybody’s favourite colour so I started looking for a new favourite colour.

Why? I wanted people to wonder and ask me, “Why beige?” I didn’t want them to respond with a, “Oh not you too.” pink-panties-2

But, is it so wrong? Take chocolate, wine or coffee for example, would you give it up if the whole world said women loved it? I didn’t think so.

So, what are these pink panties and how do I know I’m wearing my pair? Pink panties are the “common and safe option.” Most people would describe those choices as “security” or “stability”.

Wearing your pair is simple, find your passion and stick to it whether it makes you part of the 99% or the 1%. When you devote yourself to it, you’ll find that there are many ways to kill a cat.

Real time effects

Of course, this issue stretches far beyond the sweet things in life. It’s the fear that roams in the workplace, in academic spaces and in business.

I remember having a chat with a 14-year-old girl from back home and I asked her what she wanted to do after matric. “I wanted to study politics but my sister is already doing it,” was her response.

1. The belief that to be unique or your own person directly translates to making a different choice from the next person is a problem even in young kids. I call it the “if I’m not the only one, then I’m not doing it” syndrome.

These kids spend a lifetime waiting to stand out, all the while missing out on all the opportunities that come their way.


prince-um-noThat attitude does nothing for you. Imagine walking into a supermarket only to find one brand of sanitary pads, the one you really don’t like and you don’t want to buy it because well, you know where this is going. Let’s get a tad more serious now right?

2. Look at all the current issues that women across the globe are facing. The possibility that someone with a sustainable solution could be sitting pretty somewhere because ‘there are so many women empowerment groups’ is a disturbing thought. Yet, we can’t ignore the fact that it is a real thing.


I recently finished writing my first novel, a short story about women and their incredible strength and I can’t believe how fulfilling it feels. Now, if I had written that book the moment I felt it was what I wanted to do —instead of worrying that people would think I did it because someone else I knew already had a book— I would have missed out on months of  questioning.

The journey to starting and finishing the book has allowed me to learn things about myself that I never, in a million years, thought I could ever possess.

3. The sad thing about it all is that we don’t realise it. In our hesitation and fear, we hinder not only the progress of ourselves, but possibly, the potential of the next young girl.

By trying to hard to be “unique” we may be stomping on other dreamers. The main reason why we don’t want to be like everyone else is because we are afraid of failing. This scares us more than the regret we’d have to live with if we gave up on our dreams.

For the future

I believe we are all meant to excel. How? It’s simple, be you and do you! Yes, but again, how? Okay, so maybe everyone chooses to study law or start an events management business or blog…at the end of the day, this is your life and your choices are for you.

Here is little check-list to help you find your best fit.


  • Stop wearing the green, blue, floral, white or yellow pairs, we love them!
  • Let social seasons and trends define your decisions and choices regarding what you love and your future;
  • Choose something because nobody has or because everyone has
  • Develop an “I either sit the round out, or obliterate the rules” attitude, there is place for all of us, even those who don’t mind the rules


  • Wear what you want;
  • Find your passion and purpose, work at it and stand out;
  • Remember that you don’t have to stand alone to stand out!

Your pink panties matter, go forth and wear them proudly.

Discover your passion with these 6 commandments

shehive london passion she leads africa

For some, identifying their passion is a walk in the park. They don’t need the help of a guardian counsellor to point them to the rainbow’s end because they already know where it is.

This category of people know what drives them —an awareness they discovered in the womb or accidentally stumbled upon early on in life. Either way, they’ve been spared the trouble of having to find where their heart lies.

The rest of us, however, are stuck with hours of self-reflection, countless meetings with a career coach and general cluelessness. The very question; ‘what are you passionate about?’ elicits the same level of dread as having one’s tooth pulled without anaesthesia, because society expects us to know what it is.

If you fall in the latter category, fear not, kiddo, for these six commandments have got you covered.

1. Thou shall quit your job

Staying on a job you hate and griping about how much you hate isn’t going to lead to a light bulb moment. Trust me, it won’t. But quitting will.

Transitioning from employed to unemployed will likely make finding your passion more urgent… and, yes, uncomfortable considering the scary economy and unemployment statistics.

But with the new extra time, you can channel your energy into discovering the gritty stuff you’re made of by following the next commandment.

2. Thou shall experiment

Breaking out of a routine is one way to find your passion. Grab at new opportunities wherever you find them.

This could mean helping a colleague complete a task at work, volunteering in the accounting department in your local church, or watching a play, even if it’s not your thing.

You’d be surprised at what tickles your interest, and in return your passion could be unlocked.

3. Thou shall ask questions

Self-reflection and asking questions offer illuminating insight.

What would you be doing with your time if you were filthy rich with no worries in the world? If failure wasn’t an option, what would you do? Or, if you didn’t give a damn about social approval? What are willing to suffer for or readily do for free for the next six months with a smile on your face?

Be truthful with your answers (even those you think might cause your friends and family to give you the stink eye), then write them all down, evaluating each candidly.

Pay attention to what you enjoy talking about, your favourite novels, songs and movies. How do you spend your days off? A common theme should connect them all. If so, find a way of incorporating it into your current job or converting it into a business.

For example, if you love travelling (both physically and through art), you could start a culture blog featuring photography, book reviews and travel articles —and possibly make money from it.

4. Thou shall consult other human beings

No (wo)man is born an island, and that’s why you need to reach out to those living out their passion for help.

Search the web for articles about how others found their passion. Read memoirs of successful business people and those you admire for inspiration.

Ask your family, co-workers or friends who are likely to support you to highlight your best qualities or talents, and use the information to clue you in on what makes you tick.

5. Thou shall take a trip down memory lane

As a kid, what were the things you did for hours on end that never grew tiring or boring? What classes were a delight before mum and dad forced you to become a doctor, lawyer or an engineer?

Your passion may lie in those lousy poems you wrote in junior secondary that no one read, the games you enjoyed playing, or in that book with dog-eared pages and a cracked spine.

Making a list of all the things that brought you joy at age 7 would help resurrect forgotten passions to life.

And if all fails…

6. Thou shall write an obit

That’s right, an obituary.

No, I’m not wishing death upon you. If you humour yourself and write what you would like it to read, not only would you be amazed at the things you come up with, the exercise will take you a step closer to the things you’re enthusiastic about.

“Do, Be, Give”: How three simple words sparked a quiet revolution in my life

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Like most, I had heard of the book “Eat, Pray, Love” and found the concept intriguing. However, I had never had the inclination to read it up until a few months ago.

I was catching up with a friend one afternoon when she told me about someone she knew  who recently quit a  corporate office job in New York and embarked  on a 3-month journey  to  Europe and Africa to relax and regroup.

What made her story even more interesting was that she had decided on a theme for her trip : “Do, Be, Give”, drawing inspiration from the life-story in the book.

I was  going through a turbulent time in my life. Unsatisfied with the way things were, hearing this story gave me the impetus to make  a change. I decided to also read the book and later went  on a 3-month journey of my own. I would like to share my experience with you.


When I started my second Master’s degree in 2013, my goal was to land a job as a consultant at  the end of the program. I applied to pretty much every consulting firm in the greater Amsterdam area and was met with either a  rejection email, or —worse still, silence.

Self-doubt began to creep in: maybe I was too old, maybe I  lacked a business background, maybe I was handicapped because I didn’t speak the local language, maybe I had picked the wrong major. With every rejection came new forms of doubt.

I landed a job as an analyst for a healthcare non-profit and for a while I got sidetracked from pursuing my original goal. My job was good enough, but I always had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be and I wasn’t doing what I ought to be doing.

After I decided to act on the “Do, Be, Give” concept, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and resume applying for  consulting jobs.michelle-obama-blackgirlsrock

One day, out of the blue, I got a text from a friend about a job with the United Nations. Though I felt like it was a long shot, I applied.  A little over 3 months later, I am packing my bags for a two-year adventure as a consultant for the UN in Zambia.

Challenge: What’s the one thing you’ve always dreamt of doing but haven’t gotten round to yet? Do you dream of starting a business, traveling the world or going back to school? What is stopping you? If money and time weren’t obstacles, what is the one thing you’d do with your life right now?

Focus intently on your goal, let the attainment of it motivate you daily and have the courage to go for it.


In a previous article, I talked briefly about my struggle with depression. For me, this disorder is like knowing the sun is shining but not feeling its warmth. It has not only affected my mental and emotional state but also my physical and social well-being.

Alongside therapy and support from friends and family, I chose to start medication during an especially tough period last year. This helped for a while; I was able to get through the day but on the flip side, I  felt like my life was on mute. I could finally see all the colours but I couldn’t hear the music. Even though I no longer felt sad, I didn’t feel happy either.

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For the “Do, Be, Give” challenge, I have made the decision to wean myself off of medication* because I feel I am at a place in life where I am stronger, both mentally and physically. I want to know how it feels to be free from medication: to eat and sleep “normally”. It was a huge, scary step. I kept asking myself; what if I failed? What if things became worse again? So many what-ifs.

I prepared myself for the unknown and took a leap of faith. So far, so good. I feel free and some days, I am happy. Other days are still a struggle, but I’m getting to where I want to be. This experience has strengthened my self-confidence, and ability to think and act in my best interests.

Challenge: Who are you are now, and who do you want to be in future? What do you need to do to become that person? Any limiting self-beliefs you need to let go of? What truths do you need to embrace to finally inhabit the state of being you have been dreaming of?


For a long time, I toyed with the idea of starting a non-profit organisation. I wanted to help improve the lives of others in a  meaningful and engaging way. I knew what I wanted to do, but couldn’t do it alone.

A close friend got married this year and I had the privilege of being one of her bridesmaids. As fate would have it, one of us turned out to be a young doctor with a passion for non-profit and youth development. I went out on a limb and shared my vision with her of wanting to create an NGO based in Nigeria. She embraced the idea wholeheartedly and this is how, Give Girls A Chance was born.


Our goal is to provide educational and mentorship opportunities to girls from disadvantaged backgrounds so that they too may enjoy access to and benefits of quality education. My working on this project has given me a new friend and a co-visionary: we are one inch closer to seeing the manifestation of our dream.

Challenge: What change do you wish to see in your community and in the world? Are you willing to give up something to see this dream become a reality?

Your turn

If there is something you’ve been meaning to do, find the courage to do it. If there’s a state of being that you’ve been meaning to inhabit, find the fortitude to embrace it. If there’s a cause dear to your heart, find the time to give to it wholeheartedly.

I think the beauty of the “Do, Be, Give” concept lies in its simplicity. I urge you to take 3 days or 3 weeks or even 3 months off your time to sit and contemplate on what it is you really want to do with your time and talents; who you want to be in life or how to embrace who you already are and dare to share that with the world.

You, as much as everyone else in the world, deserve to have a beautiful life. What are you willing to do to have it? Apart from Do, Be, Give, what other words can you think of that would go well together and inspire you to make a positive change in your life?

*Please note that I am not a mental health professional neither am I recommending that anyone on medication stop taking it. I am also not suggesting that you cannot be free just because you take medication. I am simply sharing my experience and how it affected me.


Unleashing the phenomenal woman in YOU!

As a young girl I grew up around a family of strong, opinionated, yet very respectful women. I always saw my mother, aunts and grandmothers exhibit everything I wanted to be. They are pillars of strength in the family, they are wise and always have a comforting word. But one thing that stood out most was their resounding support for one another. This is a character trait they have passed down to all the girls in the family.

It always bothered me that I could never fit in with most of the girls at school. I thought it was because I was not cool enough. I was too much of a nerd, I was too interested in sports, certainly something was wrong with me.

Finding the right community

That was until I started interacting with a group of “different” girls. Our conversations were never about another girl’s flaws. We were all about encouraging each other to study, helping one another with school work and constantly supporting each other.

This was when I realised that what my mother always wanted for me was to be part of a group of girls who love each other and ultimately grow up to be part of a society of strong, independent women.

When I started my company, Ziphora Events, I always knew it would be my platform to help women and the youth to realise and maximise their full potential. I am a strong believer in women working together to create a society of inspiring and driven individuals. For young people, I have done this by hosting a Young Leaders Dialogue in 2014 and a Game Changers Dialogue in 2016.

Using Ziphora to spread my vision of community

The main aim of these events was to bring ordinary young professionals in conversations with individuals who are striving in their industries. The result was idea sharing, collaborations & building a network of people who are also interested in making South Africa a better place.

In July 2016, I hosted a Women in Lead High Tea in partnership with Divine Women Empowerment. The aim of the event was to bring women together in a relaxed environment, to discuss issues affecting us and contribute positively to society. Our speakers spoke about personal branding, seeking greatness, emotional de-cluttering and beauty. These are some of the things that make up a well-rounded woman. I believe that before we can even begin to influence society, we need to work on ourselves first.


Soon, Ziphora Events will be launching The Phenomenal Women’s Dialogue. The theme will be “Unleashing the Phenomenal Woman in YOU.” The purpose of the Phenomenal Women’s Dialogue is to uplift and build a generation of vibrant women. These are women who know what they want in life and are able to position themselves for greatness.

At each stage of life, women have a rich perspective and wealth of experience to share with one another. The Phenomenal Women’s Dialogue will give women a platform to share these experiences and perspectives. Ziphora Events is committed to the valuable leadership of women in every aspect of life. The Phenomenal Women’s Dialogue is one way in which we support that.

This vision is aligned to one of the Africa 2063 Agenda aspirations, which is “an Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth.”

What does a phenomenal woman look like to you?

For me personally, a phenomenal woman is the ordinary woman we meet in our communities every day. From that working mother juggling building a career with building a loving home, to the housewife who puts her energy in taking care of her husband and kids.

The local Pastor’s wife, the granny who the entire community looks to for advise, these are all phenomenal woman who play a big part in building our communities. As often as I can, I ask myself, “What am I doing to help someone realise and maximise their potential?”

I am always honoured when after an event I have hosted, women come to me and tell me how attending the event turned out to be the most important thing they did on that day. It is an even greater honour when after some time, they contact me saying they are still working on themselves and have invited another lady in the journey of seeking greatness.

This is indeed how we will build a society of phenomenal women and it is the legacy I want to leave behind. What will be your legacy?

3 ways to connect with your dreams as a young African

When I first talked to Khadijah Oyerinde, a 14-year-old high school student in Osun, southwestern Nigeria, I was able to see her dreams clearly. This was because of the confidence and passion with which she conveyed them to me. Within the first two minutes of our conversation, the young and inspiring Khadijah had mesmerized me. She’s got guts, no doubt!

When I inquired about her greatest dream and the likely stumbling blocks, she gave me a sharp response. “I want to become a caterer that would be known all over Nigeria and Africa for excellence,” she said. “And only death can stop me. I cook well and I’m working on myself every day.” She was one of the participants at Leadnovation 2016, a flagship initiative of Hope Rising Foundation (HRF) Nigeria, a NGO I co-founded to raise responsible and innovative young leaders in Nigeria.

Having been impressed by her clear vision, I quickly asked how she hopes to reach her destination. Khadijah stared at me with some discomfort, and said; “Well, I just know I’ll get there. I haven’t seen anyone on TV to look up to as far as my exact dreams are concerned. But I’ve just learnt from this leadership training that I can get help on social networks.”

More often than not, I have come across many Khadijahs in Nigeria. I have met and interacted with numerous young Nigerians who are brilliant and ambitious. They are high school students, undergraduates, or even graduates eager to shape Africa with their lofty dreams. But as much as they are passionate about their dreams, connecting with them remains the big challenge. So as a young African, how can you connect with your dreams?

Believe in your dreams

In reality, no dream is too big to be realised as long as you have a “can-do” spirit. As a young person, it’s good to have a clear vision of what you hope to achieve, and start working towards it. You shouldn’t be discouraged by what other people say. People don’t really care about your dreams, they only care about results. Once you reach your destination, everyone will want to associate with you. So, get on the wheels and start driving into the kind of future you desire.

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice”

These were the exact words of Steve Jobs, the legend who must have had YOU in mind when he was crafting this beautiful sentence.

Take advantage of MOOCs

Right now, education has moved beyond the walls of a classroom. And the effects are magical. That you don’t yet have the opportunity to receive lectures within the walls of your dream school shouldn’t deter you from working on your dreams. Start from where you are and with what you have. You can sit in your village, so far you are connected to the internet, and learn from the best professors in top universities in across the world at no cost. Yes really, at no cost!

So far, I’ve taken over fifteen Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) from some of the world’s best universities in the last three years or so. There are a number of sites offering courses to help you get the expertise that would move you closer to realizing your big dreams.

Get a laptop, tab or smartphone, connect to the internet and start learning.There are many MOOC websites available, including Future Learn and Harvard. Choose the course(s) that best fit the kind of skills you’d like to acquire. There you go!

Use social networks effectively

For me, social media remains the next greatest invention after the discovery of electricity in the 17th century. With the effective use of social media, you’re not only able to expand your network but also able to connect with the people that matter, as far as the realization of your dreams is concerned.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, YouTube are fantastic social networks you can leverage to connect with your dreams. You should find role models and people who can help you believe more in your future, and then connect with them via these networks. It’s that simple. SheLeadsAfrica and a few other platforms also offer the unique opportunity to connect with mentors who can help you better navigate your life’s journey. What are you still waiting for?

You can go the extra length to connect with your dreams by believing in yourself, taking advantage of MOOCs, and making effective use of the various social networks. No matter how short it is, just take a step. Keep moving!

I have discussed just three of numerous useful tips. You can add one or two tips of your own in the comments section as well. I’ll be glad to hear from you.

Aphia Sekyerehene: I design clothes for non-conforming women

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Aphia Sekyerehene is an emerging fashion designer, choreographer, singer and event decorator who discovered her passion for fashion at age 14. However, she could not fully pursue her passion until her 20s. Even now after going through design school and establishing her brand, Aphia still feels unsatisfied. She believes that starting her career later in life has deprived her of opportunities she would have had if she had started at 14. Aphia shares with SLA her experience in fashion design and developments in the industry.

Why do you think you would have gained more grounds in the fashion industry if you had started at age 14?

Having an early start in a career offers you ample time and opportunity to try your hands on the various aspects of the job. This means more time to delve into related options and more time for trial and error. Starting at age 14 would have given me more experience and variety to explore but now, I have to first build a brand before I can try my hands on other options.

What prevented you from pursuing your passion after your discovery?

I would say lack of funds. This is because fashion designing is more of a practical course than theoretical. So you need to get materials needed for the course and this was something my family could not afford at the time.

In order to keep my passion alive, I came up with alternative methods like connecting with fashion designers across the world through online forums.

Were there any setbacks when you finally got into the industry?

Yes! Raising capital was one of my major setbacks. I am glad I have crossed that hurdle. Now, I am very excited to achieve more and more.

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Photo Credits: K-Qube Photography

Now that you have acquired a certificate in Fashion Designing, do have plans of furthering your education?

Yes! Certainly! There is so much more to see, learn and explore. I will never limit myself to just the basics. I have to expand my knowledge. I am looking forward to acquiring a Master’s Degree in Fashion or any other course which will add value to my work.

I am hoping to get into the Parsons School of Design in New York.

How does your designing process work? What are you currently working on?

Every project I work on has its own procedures. But usually I sketch ideas as they come and do clone drafts before the actual design. Some projects take just a day to figure out, others are time consuming. The latter requires a lot of inspiration which I get from the various colours that surround me.

I am currently working on my summer collection. It is a hip, fun, free, colourful, light, stylish and original for every woman. This collection depicts the African culture in a creative way. It will be out in July.

What part of your job do you find most challenging and how do you tackle it?

Working with indecisive clients is very stressful. I tackled this challenge by coming up with a very detailed order sheet that allows clients to vividly explain what they want. This way, we get a win-win situation.

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Photo Credits: K-Qube Photography

In one word, define your work.


Who is your target audience?

My main target is the woman who is not afraid to stand out in her own unique self. My designs require my breaking free from the usual expectation so I target those women who stay true to their nature and are non–conformists. Having a target group also creates a niche for you, making your brand easier to handle and be identified.

Photo Credits: K-Qube Photography

Which African fashion designers do you admire the most?

For one there’s Christie Brown, I admire her abstract, sophisticated and classy designs. Then there’s Pistis, her beading creates exceptional masterpieces. I also admire Oswald Boateng, his eye for clean cut is evident in his designs.

I would love to work with Christie Brown. She is sophisticated and transfers that attribute into her work. She has a way of blending totally different styles into an admirable design. Her designs are modern yet traditional; contemporary yet antiques. This is something I will love to learn.

What developments on the horizon could positively affect future opportunities for fashion designs?

For an African designer, I would say the removal of cross-country trade barrier laws could be an opportunity. Though this would introduce more competition in the fashion market, it would also provide designers with the chance to diversify and expand their market.

If you were to design an outfit for an African celebrity, who would it be and what would you make?

I will love to design a fitted floor length backless lace gown with long sleeves and beading for Nigerian actress Genevieve Nnaji. Genevieve has an hourglass figure and a high front neckline fitted floor length dress will compliment her figure perfectly. The backless part will give her a sexy touch and an opportunity to show her amazing skin tone.

Business Alchemy: Creating the extraordinary from the ordinary

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In its simplest form, alchemy is the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary -sometimes in a way that cannot be explained. Alchemy is seen in the way an artist can, quite magically, transform a heap of scrap metal into a breathtaking piece of art.

I believe that in the business world, we are all trying to create alchemy. We want to take something ordinary and turn it into the extraordinary. Whether you are social entrepreneur Patrick Awuah, taking tertiary education through it transforming lives so that students learn to shape their societies in remarkable, unique ways. Or whether you are Mo Abudu, CEO of Ebony Life TV, Africa’s first Global Black Entertainment and Lifestyle network, taking up the challenge of owning an African TV network where Africans can demonstrate their artistic skills and creativity in a relevant way.

Lessons from Coelho’s “The Alchemist”

One book that continues to have a profound effect on me is “The Alchemist”, by Paulo Coelho. A simple fable about pursuing your dreams, “The Alchemist” has enough wisdom in it to inspire and motivate you. It can push you to pursue and take charge of your business aspirations as much as any work you will find in the Harvard Business Review –the story is that good.

It starts in Spain, where a shepherd boy, Santiago has a dream. He literally slept one night and had a dream that he travelled and found a treasure in Africa, Egypt to be precise. The dream was so compelling –just as your business aspiration might be– that Santiago could not let it go. He had to actualize it. Selling all his sheep, he set off across the ocean to find his treasure.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be

Much of “The Alchemist” is about the Santiago’s odyssey. His adventures, the people he came in contact with (the good, the bad and the ugly), his new learning, love, and eventually finding his treasure in the most unusual place. This reminds us that as we pursue that compelling vision, that business aspiration, we must be aware of the dynamic world we live in. We need to be flexible to succeed at alchemy.

Now to connect “The Alchemist” to Patrick Awuah and Mo Abudu. It may have been on a CNN’s African Voices interview, that Patrick recalled that he was driven to leave his work and life in the US. What pushed him was his vision of starting a first class tertiary institution founded on strong leadership principles in Ghana. He was further motivated by that most famous quote from Goethe; “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”

Like Santiago in “The Alchemist”, I imagine that the dream was so compelling for Patrick that he could not let it go. And similar to Santiago who sold all his sheep and set off to find his find his treasure, Mr Awuah forfeited an assured life in the States and came to Ghana to start something new and risky. And what genius and magic that boldness has delivered through Ashesi University, Patrick’s creation.

The first lesson that you learn from “The Alchemist” is that business, often requires us to leave our comfort zone and take risks, but wherever your heart is, your treasure will be.

For Mo, she was a succcessful HR consultant who left a fabulous international career to host a talk show. Many people asked why, let them wonder. Like Santiago, Mo was drawn to her dream and focused on her purpose. She perfected her art by raising and talking about pertinent national issues. She gave visibility to the work and lives of remarkable Nigerians and international personalities on her show Moments with Mo. Her show may have awakened Mo to the opportunity of creating something bigger than Moments and giving Africans an opportunity to display and demonstrate their own creative skills through the platform of a global entertainment and TV network.

Today, EL TV is a testament to not only Mo’s hard work, resilience and vision. The network has also become a channel through which many other African creative entrepreneurs and story tellers can effect and build their own creative dreams.

That is alchemy. Transforming the ordinary to extraordinary.