HGCP 2022 Participants: Bolanle is tailoring African Fashion with love and pride

Sometimes the most extraordinary things are birthed from tragedy. On this edition we feature a doctor who is taking the love and pride of Africa fashion to the world.

After Bolanle John Emaimo had a bike accident that fractured her left leg and caused her to be bedridden for 4 months, she used this tragic period in her life to immerse herself in art. She began by doing scribblings to crayons to watercolour pencils to digital paintings on Procreate.

“The legacy I would want to leave in this world is that I am the girl who dreamed of it, worked towards it and became all that she wanted to be.” –  Bolanle John Emaimo

She then moved to making beautiful designs which she was then advised to place on T-Shirts and that’s how her fashion brand came to life.

Bolanle is the founder of Africa Arise Clothing Line and one of the 20 female finalists’ part of the High Growth Coaching Program. We had a chat with her, and this is the story of her entrepreneurial journey with tips on how you can be a better businessperson.

Give us a bit of background about yourself, where are you from and how you came to be the person you are today?

Growing up in a Yoruba and Efik home, I remember that I avoided and despised anything traditional cloth that was made or bought for me. I preferred the English clothes because I felt they looked more stylish and creative.

I was someone who always had an eye for fashion since I was young, but I didn’t just believe our African wears were stylish enough maybe due to the colour of fabric chosen then or the combination or the style it was designed into.

My mindset went through a major reset and a good reformation when I went abroad. While abroad (Take Russia for example where there was Racism), being African and proud was more than a necessity, it became my identity.

I identified with our culture more and valued our African textiles. The way I saw how our textiles stood out and told a great story of our identity as colourful, joyful people and also seeing European people take pride in our African clothing made me value it more.

What is your favourite aspect about being a fashion entrepreneur?

Being able to create that which I have been ruminating on my mind, representing Africa using our African textiles and changing the narrative about African Fashion.

Tell us more about your business

Africa Arise Clothing Line is a Pan-African Fashion clothing line with the aim to deliver the most artistic, creative and Afrocentric fashion pieces that will make you strut into any room with Confidence as you take pride in our African clothing.

What’s been the most crucial thing you’ve done to grow your business?

Opened myself to challenges, stepped out of my comfort zone and became part of this year’s HGCP training program.

What has your experience been like as one of the finalists to the program?

It’s been awesome – I live my life daily with a focused purpose. It’s been an intentional moment of growth for me personally and for my business.


By the end of the 12 weeks with HGCP, what would you like to have learned from the trainers and coaches? 

How to delegate tasks and how to inspire other people.

How do you stay focused and productive every day?

I always put the end result before my eyes. Whenever I lose focus or want to give up, I remember the end goal which I am driving at and keep pushing


What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our community?

Stop procrastinating and just start right now.

What are some of the things you think new entrepreneurs should invest in to grow their businesses? 

It’s important to learn new skills. Be willing to always develop, read books about business and marketing. Put yourself out there and network with other entrepreneurs – online and offline.

What is that one thing you would like to be remembered for and what is the legacy you want to leave behind?  

I would like to be remembered as an African woman who represented Africa both locally and globally. One who influenced many other Africans to love Africa and take pride in being African.
I would love to use Fashion as a means to achieve that. 

The legacy I would want to leave in this world is that I am the girl who dreamed of it, worked towards it and became all that she wanted to be.



HGCP 2022 Participants: Labake is a self-made entrepreneur with so much hope for Africa

While many have lost hope, Labake believes in the future of Africa. She believes without a doubt that Africa can be a self-sufficient thriving continent. 

“I am also motivated by my future self. I have a clear picture of who Labake in the future is, and I am working to become her. “


This is exactly what makes Labake an entrepreneur to watch out for. She Leads Africa sat down with the Founder of AR Initiative to learn about her and her business. 


What led you to taking the first step and setting up your own business? 

I had no desire to run a business growing up. I was always passionate about development and thought I would effect change through the traditional corporate route. However, when I moved to Nigeria and was looking for opportunities in responsible business, I found that there was a gap in the market – corporate responsibility was thought of in more philanthropic terms; building a school etc. While that is great and has an impact, I was more concerned about their responsibilities across their valuation and how they think about the environmental and social impact of their business activities. 


This led me to start The AR Initiative, where for the first 2 years I freelanced and worked to understand businesses and their view of corporate responsibility. Over the last year, i pivoted to the start-up ecosystem because I found that transformative change is easier and possibly more effective in growing businesses. Also, that no one is catering to and measuring the ESG impacts of this fast-growing industry. So, The AR Initiative does this – we work with the start-up ecosystem to make as positive an impact as possible on people, profit and planet. 


Introduce your company the way you would to a potential customer? 

The AR Initiative is a pioneering, data-driven, product consultancy that helps start-ups, venture funds, private equity and impact investors to measure, analyse, and report on their ESG performance metrics. We work with startups to develop sustainability reports and help with investor readiness, and we help investors deploy capital effectively and manage their sustainability compliance.


That is really impressive! Tell us a bit about your background?

I was born and raised in Lagos, where I lived until i graduated secondary school. Over the next 14 years, I studied and worked across Europe and the United States. I earned a double honours degree from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a masters from The Graduate Institute in Geneva. 


Growing up, I was always inspired by travel. I took every opportunity that would allow me to travel to a new place and meet new people. Having the opportunity to learn from other societies and cultures fed my curiosity and spurred my entrepreneurial journey. I was inspired by the systems and institutions in similar countries and more developed countries and kept asking “why not in my home country?” So, I started The AR Initiative to improve development outcomes for Africans by engaging the private sector. I am deeply interested in the human experience and working to make it as meaningful as possible. 


What was your dream job or career path when growing up?

I wanted to be Kofi Annan growing up! I still would like to be. I had the honour of meeting him as graduate student in Geneva and he’s every bit as inspiring in person.

Hahaa!!! Kofi Annan is a legend! Quite a big dream for a little girl…love it.

So, if you had the opportunity to go back in time to talk to your 15-year-old self, what advice or tips would you give them? 

I would tell my 15-year-old self to breathe and trust the journey. I always wanted to accelerate the journey – be an ‘adult’. But as I’ve grown, I realised the magic is in the journey so learning to savour the experience – both the good and the bad.


What do you get up to when you are not working? What do you do to have fun, relax and unwind? 

I love to read, spend time in nature -hiking, long walks, and travel!


Tell us about the legacy you want to leave in this world? What you would to be remembered for? 

I would love to be remembered for changing the business view in Africa to a triple bottom line – planet, people, profit. Currently, most businesses prioritise profit above all else. I hope to effectively alter the business landscape to prioritise impact on the environment and people as much as making a profit.


Now let’s talk a bit more about the AR Initiative, what is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?

There are a few things, but i think owning my time and creating a job that i couldn’t find in the market.


What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our community?

Build up your social capital and make it count. Building a strong network and the ability to leverage it is crucial.


What entrepreneurial tricks have you discovered to keep you focused and productive in your day-to-day busy schedule?

Limiting distractions. Throughout the workday, I often put my phone on work focus mode, a new feature on the iphone and it limits notifications. Also, listening to classical music and film scores really help me with focus.


What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs to invest their time in?

Networking, learning and more networking.


What is your favourite quote or saying? 

If we stare at our giants too much, the fear of them will overtake us.


Finally, can you share with our community what is your experience been like as one of the finalists to the program?

It’s been an interesting experience so far. I am enjoying meeting and learning from the other finalists and coaches.


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