WAMBUI GICHOBI: On a quest to travel the world with her project – #Adventure197. (49 countries down)

Wambui Gichobi is a visual media producer based in Nairobi, Kenya with Survival Media Agency. Over the last 8 years, she has produced short films on issues regarding adaptation and mitigation for environmental degradation and social justice issues.
While working with SMA, she is currently trying to travel to all the countries of the world with her project Adventure 197. She is currently on country number 49 and hopes to cover continental Africa by road.
 
Wambui is an Environmental Science graduate from Kenyatta University, Keny, and a keen environmentalist with a specific interest in climate change and media for climate change. For the entire time of her career, she has followed the yearly international climate negotiations creating media with SMA yearly for environmental awareness.
 
She has been at the forefront of environmental activities in Kenya, initially heading Sustainable Africa Youth Foundation (SAYF) in university, which promoted environmental awareness and tree planting, especially in schools. 
She has also worked for the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) and Kenya Wines Agencies Limited (KWAL) in the Quality, Safety, Health, and Environment sector.

Tell us about #Adventure197. What was your biggest motivation to start this journey to travel the 197 countries?

Prior to my decision to start Adventure197, I had traveled previously on work assignments.

In 2017, I read an article about Cassie De Pecol, who was the first documented woman to have traveled all the countries in the world.

Further research showed that they had been no black or brown person who had traveled all the nations in the world. Adventure 197 was born of the need to travel the world as a black person and show the world that it is possible for a black person to accomplish the same.

The visa processes are much more challenging while traveling with a Kenyan passport as compared to other travelers i.e. with American or European passports.

My biggest motivation is to prove that it is possible for a person, male or female, to travel the world.

How do you believe travel impacts you as an individual and a professional?

Travel has impacted me in very many ways.

As an individual, I have been able to build my confidence through meeting and interacting with new people and sharing our stories. Traveling solo teaches you to have fun by yourself and to bond with others.

It has also taught me time management. Prior to the start of Adventure197, I was always late to meetings and appointments. Being responsible for my own flight schedules, train rides among other details has taught me to be time conscious and manage my time effectively.

I have also learned to measure growth by the clarity of progress. Traveling to different countries is very quantitative and there is no grey area in the number of countries you have traveled.

This is a measure I have adopted in other areas of my life whether emotionally, financially, etc. It is important to be clear on the position you are at any particular point in life in order to measure your progress.

Having to fund my own travels have also taught me how to manage my own finances. I have to learn how to get the money I need and plan for all my expenditures and be financially stable while at it.

People and cultures differ from one place to the next and it is important to learn and take note of the important cultures of the place you are visiting. Additionally, I have also learned financial management in terms of what jobs to pick up as there is always a need to get more income for my travel.

Travel has impacted me in very many ways - @WambuiGichobi Click To Tweet

How do you manage work and travel at the same time?

When I traveled my first 14 countries, I held two jobs where I worked an 8-5 and also worked with Survival Media. I would schedule my travel to coincide with weekends and or public holidays.

In other instances, if my job with Survival Media required me to travel, I would apply for leave days at my 8-5. Most of my travel at this period was work-related.

When I made a decision to start Adventure197, I had to quit my 8-5 job. I currently work with Survival Media. The job is purely on an online basis and I will, therefore, go where the job takes me.

This has created flexibility in my schedule as I can work and travel at the same time.

In the first leg of my journey, I worked while I was in the United States at St. James, Louisiana, and also covered the caravan moving from Honduras through Guatemala in Mexico to the United States border.

Some of the benefits of my job are that I can pick up jobs from clients whenever duty calls or when the need arises. Once the job is done, I can then pick up from my current location and continue with my travels.  

As an environmentalist, you have purposed to offset your carbon footprint as you travel around the world, how do you intend to undertake this?

I am an environmentalist by profession and have been passionate about the environment from a very young age.

Through research, I discovered that most of my travels via air or trains would be very carbon intensive and I would have to offset as much of my carbon footprint as I possibly could.

I try to travel green as much as possible and in cases where this is not possible, I will try as much as possible to offset my carbon footprint. Cycling is one of the most effective ways of traveling green and this was very easy in the Eastern European countries where cycling is a huge part of their culture.

In addition, I have to be a mindful traveler which means traveling to countries close to each other thus reducing the distances covered by air or train and also avoiding plastic straws and Styrofoam packages.

My biggest motivation is to prove that it is possible for a person, male or female, to travel the world - @WambuiGichobi Click To Tweet

This is quite challenging especially in countries that package their food in Styrofoam which means that I have to research and try to find restaurants that will serve their food in plates rather than Styrofoam.

In order to determine my carbon footprint, I keep track of all the miles I have traveled and then get an expert to calculate my carbon footprint. I have set to offset my carbon footprint through the planting of trees which I started before I started Adventure197.

I have partnered with schools and individuals on tree planting projects. In my former primary school, I partnered with the school to plant mango and avocado trees on their land. I have also planted about 200 trees on our family land and over 1400 trees in a parcel of land that belongs to a friend.

I also plan to plant at least 1000 trees in Kirinyaga before I set out on the African leg of Adventure197.

What has been your biggest challenge meeting this target?

My biggest challenge has been getting land to plant trees. Most of my tree planting initiatives are centered on working with schools to plant fruit giving trees which are beneficial to the environment and to the school in terms of food provision.

I have come to realize that schools are very receptive to my goal of offsetting my carbon footprint and they will be willing to assist by holding tree planting initiatives.

49 countries down! What lessons have you learned and will carry forward to the next leg of your journey?

My biggest lesson so far has been “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and to always do my research. When I started Adventure197, I would worry about what to do and where to stay when I arrived at a new place. I have since learned to let go and enjoy my journey wherever I am at.

The second leg of my journey is to travel the African countries. I have traveled 10 so my goal is to travel the remaining forty-four.

In order to determine my carbon footprint, I keep track of all the miles I have traveled and then get an expert to calculate my carbon footprint - @WambuiGichobi Click To Tweet

What advice would you give to women looking to travel in terms of saving and planning for their travel?

It is important for people to travel solo. Solo travels will help you learn about yourself quicker, faster and much deeper due to lots of quiet time. You will get to learn about yourself and your character.

Additionally, it is important to save for your own dreams. Nothing in this world is given for free, you have to fund for what your dreams look like.

Here are my top tips for achieving this:

  • Be financially savvy.
  • Learn to manage your money and save whatever income you get whether you are earning at ten or fifty.
  • Have different accounts for different items and if you have plans for travel, have a specific account for this expenditure.
  • Invest and keep money aside. Whether for emergencies for your own dreams.

Any last words that you would like to share with our audience?

Of all the lessons that I want you to take home with you from my journey, the biggest one is to have a sense of confidence. You can achieve anything you put your mind to.

As an African traveler, there will be a judgment at every turn i.e. at the visa applications, airports but have the confidence to go after your own goals and dreams. I hope to inspire people whether male or female to travel.

In the words of Lupita Nyong’o “Your dreams are valid”


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I have evolved as a traveler: Senzelwe Mthembu shares her ultimate travel guide

27 years old Senzelwe Mthembu is an explorer at heart, a South African traveler, researcher, content creator, and photography enthusiast.

When she’s not curating travel experiences, Senzelwe works as a social researcher at the Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA). She focuses on youth transitions into adulthood, youth (un)employment, and on other topics related to young people.

She has a background in politics, philosophy, and economics and obtained her Master’s Degree in Philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2015.

In this article, she highlights how she’s evolving as a traveler and her experiences traveling on the continent.


What made you fall in love with travel?

My passion for travel started at a young age when, as a family, we would drive down to rural Kwa-Zulu Natal during the festive season.

I remember being fascinated by the change in terrain and context. The first memorable trip for me was to the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga. So my passion for travel and the African continent started right here, in South Africa.

I later realized the need to showcase my love for travel and to highlight Africa’s beauty to other Africans and to the world.

What kind of traveler are you?

I think I have evolved as a traveler and will probably continue to evolve as my interests change. I was once primarily interested in going to the main tourist attractions and wanting to do things because so many other people had done them.

Travel felt like quite a selfish endeavor. I now take a greater interest in the people from the place that I am traveling to and I want to fully immerse myself in the culture and learn as much as I can.

What interesting social customs have you encountered while traveling the continent?

There are two things which I found interesting. The first was just how friendly and helpful people in Kenya are.

I have not experienced hospitality in the way I experienced it in Kenya. It felt like there was a real concern for other human beings, especially those visiting their country.

The second, which we generally don’t practice here in South Africa, was taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s home. Not only was this the case in the traditional Swahili settlement of Lamu where most of the population is Muslim, but this practice was also found in Nairobi, Kenya where on one evening we invited friends we had made over to our Airbnb home and they did the same.

I found it interesting that young people in Kenya were also taking their shoes off when entering someone’s home.

Paradise on a plate… Your favorite meal on any of your travels?

My favorite meal on my travels was at a very unpretentious, buffet-style traditional Swahili restaurant.

It was the first meal I had in Lamu, Kenya and consisted of pilau (a rice, meat and vegetable dish that is very popular in Kenya), lentils, fish in a spicy tomato stew and other vegetables.

I was so impressed by the flavors.

What do you know now about traveling on a limited budget that you wish you’d known earlier?

I wish I took the plunge earlier! Travel is possible for many people and a range of budgets can be accommodated.

But I do wish I learned the art of saving ahead of time and drawing up a budget. There are so many ways of making travel more affordable, whether it’s taking local public transport, staying in someone’s home or eating where locals eat.

Traveling on a limited budget does not necessarily make your experience any less enjoyable.

Got any travel & safety hacks for passport newbies & solo travelers?

Here are 3 tips for keeping safe and for saving money, especially as a solo traveler.

1. Do your research ahead of time.

The first important things to check for international travel in Africa is whether or not you need any vaccinations such as for Yellow Fever or Malaria.

Also, check luggage dimensions and free baggage policies for the airline or be prepared to pay extra, risk missing your flight or be forced to leave things behind!

2. Choose your accommodation wisely.

Solo travel often means paying more for accommodation since you won’t be sharing the costs with anyone. But that is not always the case!

It’s important to ask yourself what you can afford but also, what you can’t compromise on when it comes to accommodation. If your budget is low, you can still find good accommodation but manage your expectations.

Use Airbnb to book your accommodation as it allows you to book a private room in someone’s house at your stated budget. This makes it safer for you as most of the time you are living with a local who can provide invaluable information and tips about the neighborhood.

Also consider staying in a hostel or backpackers, which will work out to be much cheaper and makes it easier for you to meet like-minded solo travelers.  For both these options, remember to read reviews!

Be as prepared as possible.

Prepare for possible long layovers at airports by having a pillow or blanket, WATER (I cannot stress this one enough) and snacks from the plane or from home.

Carry a moon bag or small backpack for your valuables. It’s so much easier to remember the important things when you can access valuables easily. Write out important contact details and information in multiple places, including on your phone and have extra copies of important documentation in case you lose anything.

And make sure you can access your money from more than one bank card.What is your next travel destination, and why?

I will be traveling to Rwanda and Tanzania soon, but this time it’ll be as part of a beautifully curated group trip where West Africans and Southern Africans, amongst others, will meet in East Africa for an experience of a lifetime.

My sister and I have a shared passion for travel in Africa and so we launched our destination travel company, Lived Experience Travel, this year. Our first international trip is in partnership with Ghana-based, The Travel Clan (@thetravelclan on Instagram) and we are heading to East Africa.

This will be a two-country, 11-day trip to Rwanda and Tanzania that fuses culture, art, traditional food and that celebrates what Africa has overcome and what some of our achievements are.

 

Your final travel advice for motherland moguls?

I think we need to take advantage of what technology and social media have enabled us to do and that is – connect.

The best way to experience a new place is by meeting the locals, having real conversations with people and exploring together.

Another piece of advice is not to wait for others to come along and that local travel is valid! If you notice a pattern of passing travel opportunities up, save some of the money you would have spent on eating out and shopping until you can comfortably do a solo trip or an organized group trip.

Be open-minded, humble yourself to the ways of others, be yourself and learning from my past mistakes – draw up a budget (even if it’s rough).


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Cashless Banking in Africa: How we’re creating payment solutions with technology and innovation

African economies are well positioned to benefit from rapidly accelerating technological change if they can harness the current open landscape for innovation.

East Africa is already a global leader in mobile payments, while mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are on an upward charge.

Apart from being able to leapfrog the limitations and costs of physical infrastructure, the continent stands to benefit from having the youngest, tech-savvy workforce in the world in the next decade.

Africa’s working age population is expected to grow by 450 million people by 2035. According to the World Bank and the continent is projected to have the largest working population of 1.1 billion by 2034, notes the World Economic Forum on Africa.

Recent GSMA data shows that mobile money accounts in sub-Saharan Africa are up 18.4% between 2016-17 to 33.8m registered accounts.

Banking in a cashless society will require African solutions for African problems - @nnamdi_oranye Click To Tweet

However, we cannot wait 12-15 years before adequate job creating initiatives and policies are unlocked. The answer lies in harnessing the power of the digital economy today to create African solutions for African problems. An important part of this will require promoting and partnering with African innovators to unlock sustainable growth.

We are already witnessing the significant potential of digital innovation in the remittance and mobile wallet space. Penetration of smartphones is expected to hit at least the 50% mark in 2020 from only 2% in 2010, according to the World Economic Forum, offering the continent a clean canvas for tech-based innovation.

It is an opportunity we must not miss. These are exciting times and are forcing us to think differently to come up with true Pan African innovation and development.

MFS Africa is a good example of how carefully harnessed and supported technological innovation can have ripple effects through the continent. It now operates the largest digital payments network in Africa and connects over 170m mobile wallets through 100+ partners, including Airtel, Ecobank, MTN, Orange and Vodafone across 55 markets.

It has about 15% of the African population connected to a platform.

M-Pesa, launched in Kenya in 2007, is an often-touted example of African technology making waves even outside its own borders. After capturing the local market for cash transfers it has spread to three continents and 10 countries.

Residents transfer money using the M-Pesa banking service at a store in Nairobi, Kenya, on Sunday, April 14, 2013. In the six years since Kenya’s M-Pesa brought banking-by-phone to Africa, the service has grown from a novelty to a bona fide payment network. Photographer: Trevor Snapp/Bloomberg via Getty Images

MicroEnsure, meanwhile continues on the path of developing pioneering insurance solutions for low-income people like micro-health, crop, and mobile insurance. These are solutions directly aimed at emerging customers and it is little surprise the company continues new customers by cleverly partnering with telcos.

Access.mobile is another major success story, testing and growing its health innovation offerings for seven years in East Africa. The company works with health systems to hone their communications with patients in lower-income but also in growing areas and it hopped the pond in the opposite direction from most smaller startups and landed one of its first American clients.

Standard Bank, as Africa’s largest bank by assets, hopes to support even more start-up and tech initiatives across the continent Click To Tweet

Adventist Health White Memorial Hospital, a Los Angeles facility that works largely with lower-income Hispanics, was looking for ways to use health data to achieve better outcomes within its population.

These are examples of the role models that will inspire our next generation of innovators. We need more and tech-savvy banks to need to continue supporting them as they grasp future opportunities.

Just consider that Findex data shows that sub-Saharan Africa is home to all eight economies where 20 percent or more of adults use only a mobile money account: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Opportunities, therefore, abound to increase account ownership up to 95 million unbanked adults in the region receive cash payments for agricultural products, and roughly 65 million save using semiformal methods.

Standard Bank, as Africa’s largest bank by assets, hopes to support even more start-up and tech initiatives across the continent to ensure these opportunities are not lost.

We are setting a new standard in digital payments with the launch of Africa’s first prepaid virtual cards ecosystem, among many other digital innovations - @nnamdi_oranye Click To Tweet

We are therefore innovating ourselves at a rapid pace to harness the benefits of the digital age to drive financial services inclusion. Mobile payment solutions like Snapscan is now available at over 25,000 merchants and a vast user network across South Africa. We are setting a new standard in digital payments with the launch of Africa’s first prepaid virtual cards ecosystem, among many other digital innovations.

The future will be about solving genuine customer problems rather than putting a band aid on them. One area in urgent need of change, for instance, is remittances, where Africa is still one of the costliest places in the world to remit payments – fees as high as 10% to 20% are still endured.

We need to harness technology to genuinely solve this problem.

Sometimes when we talk about banking in cashless society we look too far out – but we don’t have the luxury of time. Knowing your customer (KYC) is about understanding what they need today based on their culture and context and then unlocking the already available data to provide the solution.

Technology, for instance, can solve the unbanked problem on the continent. However, this does not mean you can “plug and play” by taking something that works in one country and expecting it to work in another. Success will increasingly be centered on having a Pan African view of the problem, but local implementation.

The future is certainly bright for Africa as exponential innovation continues to drive change across the continent we call home, disrupts industries and replace legacy technology.

It is now time to grasp this opportunity with both hands before the innovation wave passes us by.

Article By Nnamdi Oranye, Fintech Author and International Remittances Lead at Standard Bank Group. 

October 2018


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Eyitemi Popo: How I turned my media brand into a lifestyle brand

If you're an entrepreneur who feels stuck with your business, I hope you find this article at the perfect time and it encourages you to keep pushing. Click To Tweet

After five years of building my online magazine, painstakingly growing a social media following, and nurturing relationships with global brands, I had found a comfortable niche in the media landscape.

The night after my magazine’s 5th-anniversary party, I quietly reflected on the journey. I read the congratulatory messages I had received, some reminding me that many online sites and magazines that started with – or even after – Ayiba no longer existed.

But was survival enough of an achievement?

Making my dream my reality was significant. Building a team to drive that vision forward had significance. I mean, I had gone from shooting the first cover of Ayiba Magazine on my college campus to having celebrity photographers shoot the cover with Hollywood actresses.

The growth was undeniable, that had to count for something. And perhaps it did. However, my side hustle was still a side hustle bringing in side hustle revenue. Was that the best I could do? And more importantly, what was next?

Almost a year to the date of my quiet contemplation, I have built Girls Trip Tours, a social venture that is a direct manifestation of my magazine’s mission. It leverages Ayiba’s readership, brand equity, and professional network to design unique travel experiences across Africa with a focus on female empowerment.

Our trips have the goal of empowering future female leaders through mentorship, while taking in the sites and dining around town in the company of high profile business women and local industry leaders. I like to think of it as ‘Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants’ with less soul-searching and more self-actualization.

Where once you could read about Lagos’ nightlife, Nairobi’s startup ecosystem, or Rwandese artisans in the pages of Ayiba, now we can arrange for you to experience these things first-hand through group or solo travel with Girls Trip Tours.

The idea came from the opportunity I observed for digital brands to bring online experiences offline and create deeper more meaningful connections with their virtual communities in real life. The concept of Girls Trip Tours emerged from a perceived customer need. Ayiba readers were emailing to ask for travel advice.

Our articles had inspired our readers in the diaspora to want to visit the continent and they were looking to us as an expert resource. My mission with Ayiba is to connect Africans in the diaspora with those on the continent through storytelling. I have consistently done this through online and print mediums, but now I have the opportunity to create those connections in real life.

Lifestyle brands thrive when they figure out what their customers end goal and design their brand around the experiences that their customers desire - @AyibaMagazine Click To Tweet

Figure out your customers desire, along with the people, places, things, and ideas that inspire them to action.

After surveying 100 plus women in Ayiba’s online community, I decided to organize trips to Kenya and Nigeria in 2019. As per their feedback, there are a mix of experiences to satisfy those seeking ancestral travel experiences to West Africa, wildlife and adventure in National Parks, as well as urban exploration in Africa’s most vibrant cities.

In addition to satisfying a customer need, by expanding my media brand to include travel experiences, I now have a new avenue for creating content. On each trip, there are multiple opportunities to connect with new talents to feature or more contributors to write.

I also will be creatively inspired by my surroundings to shoot video series, photography campaigns, and write OP-EDS on social issues I am confronted with. In the long run, I believe it makes sense for Ayiba to become a lifestyle brand.

I am creating a customer journey that can start with exploring content online, which may lead to booking a travel experience or vice versa. The magazine and the trips will feed into one another. In this next phase of my entrepreneurial journey, I look forward to listening to my customers, as well as looking to broader industry trends for my continued evolution.

For any entrepreneur that may feel stuck with their businesses, I hope you find this article at the perfect time and it encourages you to keep pushing.

If your growth has become stagnant and you are looking for a new direction to go in, observe customer behavior, look to the industry for inspiration, and most importantly, ask your audience what they want/need, then test it out.

I did a soft-launch with a Girls Trip to Ghana in July. It was that small group trip, the women I met, and the girls I mentored that gave me the confidence to do more.My advice

  • Consider what other verticals may be profitable before you give up on a business you have put time, money, sweat, and tears into.
  • As tough as it may be, if you have a good foundation: reputable brand and loyal audience, there are many ways you can consider monetizing and scaling up.

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Jane Karuku: A lot of change is happening in Kenyan Boardrooms

When we talk about Motherland Moguls and #BossGoals, Mrs Jane Karuku is the perfect definition of just that.

Currently sitting at the top of the corporate ladder as the Managing Director of Kenya Breweries Limited (KBL), Non-executive director of East African Breweries Limited (EABL) and Barclays Bank Kenya, and a member of prestigious boards such as the Global Sustainability Index board among others.

Mrs Jane Karuku has over 20 years of expert experience in the consumer-goods industry and is not looking to slow down anytime soon. Her passion and energy for great leadership tells an enticing story of grit, consistency and sheer hard work.

SLA contributor Diana Odero had a quick sit-down with Mrs Karuku to learn about her current role now and what keeps her going in the cut throat business world.


As an African woman with over two decades in corporate leadership, what does leadership mean to you?

Leadership is getting people to do what’s good for an organization and more importantly what’s good for them. Leadership is unleashing the potential of people.

Therefore you need to have great influencing skills for moving anything or anyone from point A to point B.

What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?

I don’t think there’s much of a misconception. For me, I have never seen myself as just a woman, I just see myself as a leader.

Once you see yourself as a leader, you get what you give. Within my job, my career, I consider myself a leader – I see myself as a woman in different places outside the professional aspect.

I always tell my fellow women – don’t look for favors because you are a woman and expect diversity to help you. Just turn up and do your job as a human being and you have a better chance to succeed.

Jane Karuku from @Diageo_News talks about leadership, her experience in the business world, and manufacturing in #EastAfrica Click To Tweet

Following the production of fake alcoholic products in the Kenyan market, how do you ensure that these illegitimate products do not get into the market especially working with a brand as big as EABL?

We try to work with government agencies, there’s no knowledge management because people don’t know. Also, we work very closely with Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) and with enforcement agencies just to educate them about our products and the systems we’ve put in place to make sure that these are legitimate products.

We also work with IT solutions, which are mobile based so you can check every brand online and see its legitimacy.

Our borders are very porous but in Kenya we have different classes. You can have a class of genuine products that come in with no duty paid, and that’s the bigger problem with our brands more than the fakes because we have very serious security features.

With lots of surveillance placed around, we can spot something that’s fake and sort it out before it gets to consumers.

The only challenge we’ve had so far is the imported products which belong to Diageo and are under-called in duty value therefore underpriced and not able to compete in the market and this in turn loses revenue so it’s quite a big challenge.

I always tell my fellow women – don’t look for favors because you are a woman and expect diversity to help you - Jane Karuku Click To Tweet

What do you think are Kenyan’s attitudes towards alcohol and alcohol production? How can we make these attitudes more positive?

Kenya is quite interesting in that we have a big population of religious people, both Muslim and Christians so there’s a lot of people who do not take alcohol based on their beliefs. There’s also a big proportion of women who just do not want to drink.

I would say that Kenyans are not the biggest consumers of alcohol per capita, we are actually behind other East African countries such Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. But in terms of responsible drinking, we do a lot of work on that.

One challenge we have is the presence of so much bad alcohol all over the place, therefore people consume or overuse alcohol which demonizes it.

We spend a lot of time on alcohol education, we call it drink IQ – how you should behave and drink responsibly, we press in our campaigns the importance of eating and then drinking, drinking a lot of water after indulging in some alcohol and drinking alcohol within the recommended portions.

We don’t advocate for binge drinking but we do advocate for responsible drinking.

What are some of your favorite products that you manufacture/market and why?

Tusker Cider would be on the top of my list, I think it’s a very good drink and in the spirits section – the Ron Zacapa Rum, it’s a very gentle nice rum.

What trends do you see within the East African region that you find interesting? 

Some new trends would be the places that people drink at first of all. There’s a lot of innovation around bars, a lot of work is going into how bars look – we are starting to get very sophisticated for consumers.

Food and alcohol pairing is becoming a very big deal, it’s an enjoyable and social experience. This is mostly throughout Kenya, wherever you go you can find a nice location where you have a good meal and a drink with ease.

Another trend I have taken note of is the cocktail culture – it’s interesting to see the many new ways of taking alcohol. It’s exciting and different.

This is already a big global phenomenon, East Africa is quickly catching up on that trend. There’s also a lot of innovation in alcohol production with a lot of new alcohol products coming in, we are becoming very globalized which is good progress.

What do you think has been most difficult for you to deal with as a woman rising in a predominantly male industry such as manufacturing?

I wouldn’t say I’ve found much difficulty as a woman, I would say as a leader that any business is difficult. If you are working in the alcohol industry, it’s regulated and our biggest challenge is what the regulations will be tomorrow or the next day because it will hamper the business.

If you’re in a macro-economic environment, like any business, you are prone to changing that environment. For example, Kenya had a very tough year last year. There were too many elections, too many presidents, and we had a drought and flooding in the same year.  That can be quite problematic for a business.

Competition of course is another challenge leaders have to deal with as well as choosing the right talent to bring in and retain to help you grow the business.

I’ve managed to overcome some of these challenges by first having the right people in place because they are the ones who will help you survive through the environment you may be in.

The people you hire are the ones who will help you get innovative and fight the competition, help in smooth distribution of products to the consumers in the most innovative way, they will drive sales for you and will help build relationships with all the stakeholders involved in your business.

The people you hire are the ones who will help you get innovative, fight the competition, help in smooth distribution of products to the consumers in the most innovative way - Jane Karuku Click To Tweet

The percentage of women working in the manufacturing industry is quite small, some companies having less than 10% women employed there. What can be done to counteract this ratio?

In corporate businesses, in middle management to be exact – women are really starting to be significant. I think the challenge comes with breaking in to the next level. Looking at boardrooms in Kenya, there’s a lot of change starting to happen.

People are driving diversity and companies are finally realizing that they have to have diversity in their businesses because diversity is strength.

Here at EABL we have a target of being 50% women and we are just shy of 30%, so we are working very hard to get to that halfway point. At Diageo globally, the target is 50% as well and at our board level we are doing much better than our local business.

For us as women, we have to define our own path. Not everybody wants to be a leader and you have to be true to yourself.

Once you decide you want to be in the corporate world then you need to map out your end game and once you have that, start working backwards to achieve what you want to achieve.

Some questions to ask yourself are:

  • Where do you want to work?
  • What skills do you need to have?
  • Do you need a mentor/coach which is quite important?
  • Do you have belief in yourself ?

Because at the end of the day you can have the best mentor, all the skills but if your own belief and your own energy doesn’t match up, you won’t get anywhere.

When people are interviewing the low level positions, they look at three things:

  • Does the person have the fabric, is that the right fabric for what you want?
  • Do you have high energy, do you have the drive needed?
  • Do you have good judgement and are you able to influence?

This is what I call the basic fabric and this then changes as you grow within the company.

Who are your role models?

One of my main role models is Nelson Mandela. He was such a big influencer and still is influencing a lot today after his passing.

His influence was on leadership. He influenced in prison, he influenced out of prison, he has even influenced upon death. That kind of power can influence anything.

Mandela has leadership qualities, compassion and was a mentor to many, all three things of which I embody today – he basically taught us how using your own skills to impart on other people so they can achieve better for themselves is important.

I do look up to him and the reason I want to work with people is because I want to be that voice that influences a huge population to move from one point to another even when I’m no longer here.

What values do you have that have contributed to your career and personal growth?

The first would be hard work. Nothing comes for free and nobody gives it to you on a platter. You have to be committed.

You also have to have belief and confidence because you don’t have to be the best person for the job but you can the person that has the highest hunger for it, don’t wait to be the perfect candidate for a job because your drive can help learn and grow along the way.

A good way to help with your confidence and self –esteem would be getting a good mentor and/or life coach, a mentor doesn’t need to be someone senior than you, sometimes I get brave from my own kids and the same young women you are writing for.

You can also have a multitude of mentors, it doesn’t have to be one person. Remember to read a lot. In reading you get the how-to in many things and unfortunately women don’t read a lot. I always tell women to read a lot, even the newspapers, read hard-core material that is good for your growth.

Read broadly because if you are sitting in a conversation and you are too narrow focused, you won’t be able to influence.

A good way to help with your confidence and self –esteem would be getting a good mentor and/or life coach. - Jane Karuku Click To Tweet

What is your vision for EABL in the next 5yrs?

We still aim to be the best consumer goods company in Africa. We have a big vision and we are hoping to be very significant in people’s lives.

What is your mantra in life?

I have been working on my purpose for the past few years and I want to work with energy and passion through people, I want to make sure that people are growing.

So I think I would say that my mantra is live a purpose driven life, to grow people through energy and the passion I have for business.


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Meet the young African women creating impact through international consultancy

International consultants working on finding sustainable solutions for social-economic problems on the continent, are more and more often roles fulfilled by our own young and brightest.

Meet three young inspiring ladies from Kenya, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe who made their way into Dalberg – a firm that is rapidly expanding across the continent – to contribute to social impact and sustainable development through consulting work.

Edel Were is a Consultant and Co-Lead of the Youth Employment and Education Practice at Dalberg Advisors. The 27-year-old is based in the Nairobi office and has been in Dalberg for 3 years.

Within her time at Dalberg, she has built a range of experience in the youth employment and education space in Africa. Her work has supported the Conrad N. Hiltonn Foundation, MasterCard Foundation, Government of Rwanda, NGO’s and more.

Christelle Nayandi is 23 years old and she recently joined Dalberg Advisors as an analyst. Prior to this, she worked on different social impact-focused projects in Africa.

She was a research assistant in the Appropriate Point of Care Diagnostics project in Kumasi, Ghana, where her and her teammates conducted research on Pediatric Tuberculosis in hospitals and generated ideas on appropriate point of care diagnostic devices using available resources.

Fadzai Chitiyo joined Dalberg as an Analyst in the Johannesburg office in 2017 and has made immense strides in her career, having been promoted twice in less than two years!

She is now Strategy Consultant at Dalberg, with broad development sector expertise across agriculture, financial inclusion, healthcare, mobile for development, impact investing and inclusive business growth. She has conducted several businesses cases and go-to-market strategies for banks in DRC, Uganda and Zambia.  

In this interview, Edel , Christelle, and Fadzai share their tips of how to get your foot into the door with an international consultancy firm while in your twenties.


Tell us about the competitive route towards being hired by a global consultancy…

Chrisetelle: It involved a lot of hours spent on studying for case interviews, practicing and honing my structured problem-solving skills.

Fadzai: Next to the case studies, consultancies are hiring more and more for company culture and global fit, with some building relationships with specific clubs or faculties on university campuses.

It is a good idea to join some of these clubs, so you can gain exposure to current employees at the consultancy you are interested in, whilst also positioning yourself well to be a potential candidate

Edel:I had expressed within my network my interest to engage in actionable problem solving, especially in the development sector, therefore people gave me guidance and how to prepare.

I hadn’t really been exposed to consulting before, so resources such as this and this, but also videos like this one, really helped me.

Edel Were
Before you become a consultant, practice the skills, apply for internships and if that’s not possible read up on case studies and how to solve them - Edel Were Click To Tweet

How did you land your job at an international company like Dalberg?

Chrisetelle: I got to learn about Dalberg’s amazing work through an information session at my university. I also got the chance to attend a talk hosted by a partner in one of the African offices.

I made the effort to reach out people who work in consulting to seek preparation tips, connect to people currently working in Dalberg and being very proactive about it.

Fadzai: A former Desmond Tutu Leadership fellow who saw my potential for a consulting career and introduced me to the firm.

The introduction was a first step, but I really had to prove myself in the interviews to land the job through three case study interviews with senior staff and partners from the Africa offices.

Edel: I met someone who worked at Dalberg and got interested in the company as it matched my desire to work in the social impact space.

Even though they didn’t have any vacancies at the time, I tried to build my experience by doing several internships and jobs in the development space and applied once a position opened.

Want to work with an international consultancy firm while in your twenties? Edel, Christelle and Fadzai share some tips... Click To Tweet

In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of life as a consultant?

Christelle: Working as a consultant is great because you get to work on many projects in different sectors and areas. But traveling often can be challenging because you don’t usually get a lot of time to spend with family and friends back home.

Fadzai: The exposure to some of the top executives and development leaders on the continent or globe position you well to take your career anywhere you like.

However, life as a consultant is also a life on the road. It is important you ensure you can achieve some work life balance and maintain the relationships that matter in your life.

Edel: Working with people who are constantly refining their problem-solving skills has helped me build my skills and knowledge quite quickly.

I work in a variety sectors (health, education, agriculture, energy etc.). At the same time, it can be difficult to specialize in one sector or practice area as you’re expected to a be a generalist.

Fadzai Chitiyo
Life as a consultant is also a life on the road. Ensure that you achieve some work life balance - Fadzai Chitiyo Click To Tweet

Have you worked on any projects which contributed to the overall development of Africa?

Christelle: As I recently joined, I am working on my first project! The bulk of my work involves doing a market assessment for an international education institution here in Rwanda.

I do this in order to identify needs and gaps in the market and see how it can better position itself to address them.

Fadzai: My most exciting project was to design and develop a commercial business case and go-to-market strategy for a leading bank in Zambia.

They wanted to reach 30,000 small holder farmers with business financial services for them to graduate to emerging farmers. The bank is looking to implement soon which is exciting!

Edel: One of the projects I really liked working on was supporting the Mastercard Foundation and the Government of Rwanda. The project focused on rethinking 21st century skills training for your young people in the country by technical vocational training programs.

After involving young people, businesses and institutions in some of the most marginalized districts in the country, we recommended a couple of focus areas as well as an implementation plan. The project is being implemented as we speak!

What advice would you give to other young African women hoping to join an international consultancy?

Christelle: It is important to start practicing and become more aware of structured problem-solving. There is a wealth of material on the internet on how to improve this skill.

Also, networking is very important. Take every opportunity possible to meet up and talk to people in this industry.

Fadzai: I would suggest doing internships during your university holidays (either in a global consulting firm or any other professional services company) By doing this, you can prepare for the high pressure and fast work environment that consultants work under.

This skill will help you to start building some basic research and problem-solving skills.

Edel: With a focus on development consulting, I would say start familiarizing yourself with the sector, read up on important conversations and decisions being made in the space.

Practice the skills, try and apply for internships and if that’s not possible read up on case studies and how to solve them.

Christelle Nayandi
Before I got this job, I made the effort to reach out to people who work in consulting to seek preparation tips - Christelle Nayandi Click To Tweet

How do you make a name for yourself as a young woman in a consultancy office?

Christelle: Be proactive in your everyday activities. The reason why you are there is to help the company fulfil its mission while you also aim for professional development in the process. So own it and be open-minded.

Make an effort to go out there and meet people who have been in the firm longer than you because they often have great advice on what you should keep in mind in your everyday activities.

Fadzai: You don’t go in trying to make a name for yourself! Instead, be willing to ask for help, fail fast and learn quickly. Identify mentors and advisors that can help you in your journey.

Most people tend to overlook the Project Managers and look for a Partner. But you will typically interact more with managers and they will have a clearer line of sight on your professional development.

Edel: I think you should follow the things you are passionate about. Volunteer in internal initiatives and topics that you find interesting. The people around you are a resource, try to engage with people on these topics across the firm, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Also, I’d say participate in industry events, try and get your thoughts and opinions published, and make people aware of your interests.

This article was written by Marthe van der Wolf


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Muthoni Maingi: Glass ceilings are the biggest problem that women face

Muthoni Maingi is a true renaissance woman.  She uses the power of digital innovation to transform lives.

Being the Head of Digital Campaigns at Oxfam is just the latest place she is flexing her muscles. She is also the founding director of the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE). Muthoni was also an integral team member in Safaricom projects like BLAZE and Little Cab. 

In this insightful chat with SLA, she shares some insights on her career journey and growing with the new digital trends.


 

At what point in your life did you first learn about your field of work? What called you to it?

As the Brand strategist at Creative Edge, the director would find my colleagues and me on Twitter fairly frequently.

Instead of reprimanding us, she challenged us to think through how we could begin to sell digital as a service for the agency as it was traditionally lead at the time.

From then I fell in love with digital as a marketing proposition and have never left since!

As the Head of Digital Campaigns, what exactly do you do?

My work at Oxfam really allows me to live true to my passion and purpose!  I stay up at night thinking of initiatives that use the power of digital to connect people and amplify voices to influence decision makers.

With my team, we work to grow the brand to become a leading digital influencing organization. We use mobile, web and social media to drive, support, donations and offline participation of millions of people globally.

Does Oxfam still consider traditional media and offline campaigns in this digital age?

At Oxfam, I am constantly inspired by the amazing work that uses digital technology to influence and leverage the power of people to end poverty.

The organization’s inspiration and drive to achieve change for millions of people is embedded in the values, mission, and vision. It is the exact same whether applied to campaign offline or online, there is no separation from the core objective.

How has your current role changed your perception of how powerful technology can be in changing lives in Kenya & around the world?

I don’t necessarily feel like I am just now seeing that technology can and does have the potential to create change. What I can say has changed is that my approach has always been very Kenya and Africa based.

I think that it is great that organizations across the globe are increasingly making diversity a core strategic agenda and that means that varied expertise in the room allows for improved performance and efficiency.

Consequently, this experience has allowed me to exhibit our regional ingenuity on a platform that is hungry for fresh perspectives from this part of the world.

What advice can you give about personal growth and knowing when it’s time to leave a job even when it throws you out of your comfort zone?    

Prior to working at Oxfam, I held major positions in the telecommunications sector. I have always had very specific objectives in terms of how I see my career going.

I look at what my objective is in terms of my career goal and what space is available for me to explore that as well as to build something of value for myself and the organization.

For example with Safaricom, I was really looking at how I could bring digitally lead segmented prepositions to life.

Being secure in that knowledge, I began to look for spaces where I could grow from a digital perspective and lead a team that actually creates digital products.  The opportunity at Oxfam offered me that.

When you have solid relationships then everything else always figures itself out - @NonieMG Click To Tweet

How important are mentors to you? Do you have any?

I try to avoid what can be termed as the ‘expert by proxy’ bias. Where we tend to listen to the loudest person in the room and assume that as a result, they are competent and capable.

I genuinely look deeper to find people who are ‘true experts’ in the aspect I am looking to grow towards, even if they are the quieter or less visible ones in the room. Or even if they are not in the room at all.

I consider different people mentors in different ways. Actually, I ensure that they are the actual people that I should be talking to.

Having been so successful in the famed ‘Silicon Sahara’, one of the most competitive tech industries in Africa. Does this mean women are getting better recognition for their contributions in the tech world?

It would not be accurate to look at my path and determine that the state of women is improved because of it. My success is not a beacon of change as a lot more should be done and a lot more can be done to ensure that no one is left behind.

Women have a long way to go to get their dues in this industry, not because of their lack of talent or capability but simply because we operate in a world with restrictive, discriminatory and in many cases violent social norms. This applies to all women regardless of class, race, gender and sexual orientation.

I am my own cheerleader, and I am very comfortable with failure... - @NonieMG Click To Tweet

What do you think is the biggest misconception women have about how to become successful?

The fact that this question is only asked of women says it all. Women across the board put in the work, glass ceilings are the biggest problem that women face.

These ceilings appear in overt, micro-aggressive or in hidden values and norms that keep women consistently not only fighting to deliver results in their day job but also having to work around harmful social norms as another layer of labor.

The only work that women should be doing is working to deliver to the bottom line, the strategic objectives of an organization.

In moments of self-doubt, what do you tell yourself?

I really believe that I am my biggest cheerleader. I know myself, and I am very comfortable with failure. My self-doubt, as a result, is usually very short-lived.

I’m lucky that the only ‘right’ thing that I have done in my life is to surround myself with a fantastic network of cheerleaders and truth tellers.

They really keep me away from damaging self-doubt with great advise, recognition and validation.

What are your proudest career moments so far?

The Bloggers Association of Kenya is the baby that I am most proud of. Being a part of something that has helped so many people and grown an industry that otherwise did not exist as a Founding Director fills me with a lot of joy.

What advice can you give about being fearless and following your dreams?

Fearless? That isn’t me, I have a lot of fears. That said, the best advice that I have ever been given came from Sylvia Mulinge who was my Director while at Safaricom.

“Progress not perfection, believe that if you have been called into the room then your contribution is valuable. The people in that room want you to succeed.”

What is the one thing you will not be happy if you haven’t achieved when everything is said and done?

I am increasingly concerned about my relationships with people, friends, family, workmates and several others. I would not be happy if I did not achieve a real and authentic relationship with these people.

Personally, I think that when you have solid relationships, everything else will figure itself out. Without that, what are we really here for?.


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Nnedi Okorafor: All hail Black Panther

All hail Black Panther!

For weeks on end, Africa has been celebrated across continents. There has been a glorious showcase of its beauty, wealth, culture, resilience and diversity, on screen. 

From both young people and the people, many around the world have come out to embrace the African heritage. The Wakanda fever has seen people dressing in African fabric, rocking natural and bald hairstyles, and chanting Xhosa battle cries. 

But, beyond the outstanding representation of African culture, the Black Panther production also featured award-winning actors of African descent such as Kenya’s Lupita Nyong’o, Zimbabwe’s Danai Gurira, and Uganda’s Daniel Kaluuya. 

Currently, Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor is writing the ‘Black Panther: Long Live the King’ comic book. Using her unique brand of storytelling, Nnedi hopes to inspire others to re-create the African narrative. 


With a worldwide box office record or $897 million according to Forbes Magazine, Black Panther has had a phenomenal influence on the world. Originally a comic book, this story has changed the narrative of black characters in comic books and in the media. And instead of the typical American superman, we are now seeing an African, black, superhero!

But this is not it! Other than T’Challa’s superhero skills, we see women who do more justice to #girlpower than Wonder Woman or Cat Woman ever would. Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), Ramonda (Angela Basset) and Shuri (Letitia Wright), showcase the strength and power of women who slay!

Writing about women who slay is something that Nnedi is familiar with. Her award-winning Afrofuturistic novels combine culture and science to break the limits and the usual narrative of girls can do.

This passion is what led her to bring her unique brand of storytelling to Wakanda land. As the latest writer for this Marvel comic series, Nnedi seeks to remind us that our stories as Africans, as women and as superheroes, need to be heard.

Nnedi Okorafor

 

In changing the African narrative, we help the world recognize that Africa can create solutions towards the world’s development. But more importantly, we showcase the depth and diversity of the African people and their heritage.

Finally, through her contribution to Black Panther, Nnedi hopes to challenge people to rearrange their thinking. It is possible to create a new Africa. By telling these stories of Africa’s great future and her present achievements, we will create this new world that others have no option but to believe in!


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Meet the women taking their place as CEO’s in Kenya

A lot has been said about women entrepreneurs in Kenya.

Women have distinguished themselves and we have trailblazers like Tabitha Karanja of Keroche Industries, Flora Mutahi of Melvin’s Tea, Gina Din Kariuki of Gina Din Communications, Judith Owingar of AkiraChix, Lorna Rutto of Eco posts, Ruth Mwanzia of Koola Waters, Shikha Vincent of Shikazuri and Michelle Ntalami of Marini Naturals to name a few.

Entrepreneurship is mainly about business skills, determination, resilience, networking, and social impact. Women are working their way into this area and are slowly but surely making headway.

A lot of focus and support has been given to women entrepreneurs through grants, training, access to finance and favorable government policies like Access to Government Procurement (AGPO) to name a few. More women are encouraged to participate in this sector.

Women in the corporate world have an uphill task to get their place and break all the glass ceilings. Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook, in her book LEAN IN, gives insights into what the life of a woman in corporate America is and how to maneuver it.

According to Fortune.com, there were 27 women at the helm of Fortune 500 companies as at January 2018. How about corporate Kenya?

I admire women in the corporate world because apart from the normal barriers they encounter and overcome, boys club mentality, patriarchy, high technical skills, experience, glass ceiling mentality (Gender stereotyping), sexual harassment, inflexible working conditions and integrity.

The corporate world is harsh and cutthroat. The impact is mostly measured in terms of PROFITS and PROFITS. Only recently have corporates embraced a wider scale to measure the impact of CEO’s to include social impact, teamwork, employee innovation and customer retention to name a few.

This shift gives women a chance to shine as their natural skills of collaboration and teamwork are an asset.

Entrepreneurship is forgiving on the requirements of higher education and experience. A person with a basic education can quickly become a business mogul. However, in the corporate world, experience and education have a lot of weight.

The current trend to consider leadership, softer skills and strategic leadership has made it more accessible for women.

Due to gender roles and social pressure, many women in the past were not in a position to access higher education and therefore did not get promotions to enable them to rise up.

Currently, women are taking up chances to improve their education hence giving them more edge to compete in the corporate world. Experience is a matter of time; men had an advantage of this. In the last 20 years, women have proved that given a fair chance they too climb the corporate ladder right up to the top.

Why do we need women in CEO positions?

 

People in the corporate world manage a large amount of money and direct how it is used. Gender diversity has also been proven over the years to increase profits and performance of corporations.

Therefore, further inclusion of women has been proved to attract talent in the boardrooms where innovative solutions are created. Invariably more women-friendly products and policies emerge from companies that are managed by women. After all, women are 50% of the consumers of products and services.

The simple fundamental reason why women should be in the corporate world is that it’s fair and inclusive to do so.

In Kenya, we have many distinguished ladies at the helm of corporates and organizations. This has increased recently, but to date, only 2 women lead corporations listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange i.e. Maria Msiska of BOC  (until 2016) and Nasim Devji of DTB Bank. We can do better.

Here are examples of Women CEO’s in Kenya:

  • Jennifer Riria is a pioneer of women in CEO position and has been holding this and similar positions in the microfinance and banking industry for 20 years. She is the CEO of Kenya Women Holdings that has a subsidiary Kenya Women microfinance Bank which is a leading bank for women entrepreneurs. She is a Ph.D. holder and has a Degree and Master degree as well.

 

  • Stella Njunge: CEO of Sanlam Life, part of Sanlam Kenya Group. She has over 15 years’ experience in the insurance industry,  a CPA(K), CPS(K), and holds a degree and masters. Stella also has over 16 years’ experience in Insurance.

 

  • Catherine Karimi: CEO of APA Life part of Apollo Group a leading insurer in Kenya. She has 18 years’ experience in Insurance industry, a degree, postgraduate certificate in Actuarial Studies, and is a member of Chartered Insurers (UK).

 

  • Rita Kavashe: is the CEO of General Motors East Africa, Kenya with 35 years’ experience working at GM. She has a degree and postgraduate certificates and rose through the ranks.

 

  • Phyllis Wakiaga: is the CEO of Kenya Association of Manufacturers. She has a law degree, Higher Diploma in Law and Human Resource Management, Master Degrees in International Trade and Investment Law and Business Administration.

There are many more female CEO’s in Kenya. The common items in their profiles are EDUCATION AND EXPERIENCE.  This is a true testament that education is an equalizer.

Given equal opportunity and based on merit, women can excel and are excelling in the corporate world. Girls need to be encouraged to plan their career path early to help them reach the top CEO positions to bridge the current gap.

I look forward to more women taking up the CEO roles and reducing the barriers to getting there.


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Evelyn Ngugi: Hard Work Only Makes Things Better

The YouTube world has grown exponentially in the past few years thanks to more and more people using it as a platform for content creation.

YouTube has produced big names in the digital world such as Lily Singh, Patricia Bright, Jenna Marbles and the like. Kenyan-American YouTuber, Evelyn Ngugi is well on her way to the creme of the crop of content creators with her channel, Evelyn from the Internets which currently boasts 150k+ subscribers and even got the stamp of approval from the Queen bee herself, Beyonce.

Evelyn recently took a trip back to her home country for the first time in over a decade and spent some time meeting her internet cousins (her name for her subscribers) and discovering Kenya again as an adult.

SLA managed to get some time to chat with the hilarious Texas native on her growth in YouTube, her thoughts on the creative industry in Africa and what’s in store for her in the future.


You started making YouTube videos way before it became the IT thing to do. What got you interested in that medium of sharing?

Tinkering with different media has always been an interest of mine. As a child, I would dub my “radio show” over old cassette tapes.

As a teenager, I would enlist my little brother to record “TV shows” and burn them onto blank DVDs. YouTube/the Internet was just next up, in terms of accessible technology.

How has social media helped grow your brand?

I’m more interested to know what people think my brand is, to begin with! Social media changed the game because it makes people and their processes accessible. For example, we used to only be able to interact with musicians or actors when their work was released or they had a press interview.

With social media, those barriers are gone. It’s scary and cool but mostly cool. Social media helps grow brands by putting creators directly in touch with consumers.

Focus on making an amazing product first. Social media algorithms will have changed 10 times by the time you’re ready to advertise - Evelyn Ngugi Click To Tweet

We love that you stan hard for various Black Girl Beauty Brands. What advice would you give to young women out there looking to start and/or build their own brand?

Focus on making an amazing product first. These social media algorithms will have changed 10 times by the time you’re ready to advertise anyway.

So many people want to be a “brand” but they don’t actually have a product yet.

 

You recently took a break from the daily routines of life as explained in your recent video. Why did that happen?

The break was the decision and goal I made for late 2017 and the rest of 2018! Something about being 27, girl… it makes you realize that you are in control of your time.

Do I want to spend the tail end of my precious twenties feeling stuck, or do I want to pivot into something greater? I chose greater.

What inspires you as a creative and what drives you as an entrepreneur?

I’m definitely a creative, but not an entrepreneur (yet). I think that’s just a misconception of being on the Internet. I’ve been #TeamHaveA9to5 my entire adulthood (which isn’t long) and I’m only now figuring out if I want to work for myself.

What inspires me as a creative are how innate and infinite my imaginations are and how hard work only makes things better.

So toddlers are creative, but those toddlers eventually grow up and become Martin Scorsese or something and that’s just incredible to think about. Not even trying to be funny, but as an entrepreneur, I imagine not being homeless or hungry would be the biggest driver.

You cut your own check and that sounds stressful fam!

You recently visited Kenya for the first time in over a decade. What are your thoughts about the creative space in Kenya vs other African countries?

Hmmm – that’s such a huge question for a first generation kid-essentially-turned tourist! From my brief time there, I noticed creative folks were frustrated.

What does it mean for music to sound Kenyan? Fashion to look Kenyan? When we talk about Nigeria or South Africa or even neighboring Tanzania, some of those things are more clearly defined or accepted.

I think Kenyan artists need more financial, governmental, and societal support to elevate Kenyan creative works where they belong.

Who are your top 5 YouTubers?

I feel like these answers change every time – thanks to YouTube algorithm! So right now, in no particular order:

KickThePJ: He’s just fantastical and whimsical and embodies what I still admire about YouTube. Making stuff up. Making stuff with your hands. Combining the two. A multi-media filmmaker.

Beleaf In Fatherhood: As a single, child-free person, it is difficult to find a family channel that holds my attention. This family combines my love of dope music with an attention to detail and story that is unmatched.

Oh, and it’s #blacklove all the way.

Patricia Bright: She is OG YouTube. She is still here. And she’s killing it. I think she’s gorgeous and hilarious and if you can make someone who wears black 90% of the time (me) still be thoroughly entertained by a 30-minute video of you trying on clothes??! SUBSCRIBE.

F0XY: Jade has such a distinct comedic tone and voice and I just want her to win. Because if she wins, I feel like I can too. She’s relatable like that. Inappropriate and so, so relatable.

Lavendaire: She is a sweet whisper of lavender essential oil infused vapor that calms me down and helps me be productive all at the same time. Gorgeously branded channel and impactful content.

Do you plan on moving on from YouTube to mainstream television or the big screen?

My plan for 2018 is to do more screenwriting and share more stories – both my own and those of my fellow earthlings.

Where those stories end up for your viewing pleasure isn’t necessarily the most important part of my plan. But if a TV show or movie wants to holla, I’ll definitely clear my google calendar!! Shoot!

What would you be if you weren’t a YouTuber?

YouTube is just a platform. I’d be doing the same thing I’m doing now, just on whatever website ended up popping off instead of YouTube. I’m a journalist, storyteller, funny girl, and hopefully, a friend in your head.

What is your mantra in life?

“Be thoughtful and silly.” That’s a quote from Hank Green about what it means to be an adult. Growing up and becoming boring/bored terrifies me, so I find comfort in that idea.

Being silly is still allowed – thank God. Stay childlike, not childish.


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