If you meet Feranmi, you may wonder, “why does she love skincare so much? What is it about skincare that makes her tick?” Feranmi’s love for skincare stemmed from her personal battle with acne some years ago. During our conversation, she said, “I wasn’t one to have acne and at one point I had terrible acne and everyone was like “Feranmi, what is going on with your skin?”
I remember walking into pharmacies to ask for a solution and they couldn’t quite give me guidance. I remember going back and asking a new friend that I just met because I saw that she had some insight into skincare and she said, “I think you have combination skin and you should get a gel cleanser.”
I got the gel cleanser and just that small tip from her made my life so much easier. My co-founder and have had this type of experience so we said why don’t we just create something for skincare that will help people out?”
“Your skin is a priority”
Feranmi believes that skincare is a necessity for every person. That is one of the guiding ideas for the platform she and her co-founder are working tirelessly to create. However, she acknowledges that different reasons- a major one being money, keeps us from making our skincare a priority.
Adi + Bolga plans to help out with this by creating a budget-friendly system for buying skincare products. As Feranmi said, “we are trying to see if we can help people pay in installments for some of the products because not everyone can afford to buy all of the products they need at once. This will really be for those who have serious problems with acne or other skin care conditions.”
Adi + Bolga has just launched its platform, BARE to help you navigate the confusing chatter around skincare, particularly for black men and women anywhere in the world, through virtual consultations and accurate product matching to skin type and skin conditions. On their platform, you can get a skin analysis, product recommendations, and a clear plan on how to use them.
Adi + Bolga is also the parent company of Bare the Community, an interactive online community for skincare lovers. On there, they share stunning skincare content and offer great advice and product recommendations for different skin types and conditions.
What you can learn from Feranmi’s business experience
Know your why: Your goal should be at the forefront of your mind. Be clear on your why. Know what you are in that space to do. This will guide the skills you decide to learn to run your business well. This will also guide the kind of strategies you put in place for your business.
Listen to your customers: Sometimes, people reach out to us for product recommendations and the product we may want to recommend is not within their budget or easily accessible in their location. This lets us know how best we can serve our audience. It may now lead to questions like, do we look for cheaper or more accessible products to recommend? Do we contact the brand to find out if they can make their product accessible to our audience?
Make your services clear: It is important to make your services clear and understandable to the people you are trying to serve. One of our main challenges is getting people to understand that our service is new. It is not common. We are introducing a new idea to the public and it is always a challenge getting them to understand what we do and why it is beneficial. Let’s say I develop a cream, that will be easy to sell because everybody understands what cream is and what cream should do. I can easily push that but a beauty tech platform is different. It is a very new idea so I need to make sure our services are clear.
Eva Warigia is a jack of many trades with a passion for Africans and their economic advancement.
As one half of the executive directing team of the East Africa Venture Capitalists Association, representing over sixty firms, she uses her knowledge of finance and strategy to position East Africa as a thriving investment hub.
In this interview, she talks about her leadership position, and how she’s working with stakeholders to promote investment in East Africa.
At what point in your life did you first learn about your field of work and what drew you to it?
I probably came across private equity in 2011. At the time I worked for a technology and corporate advisory firm as a strategy analyst focusing on helping businesses fundraise.
It was there that I got to interact with the different structures of funding.
You are one of the two executive directors of the East African Venture Capitalists Association (EAVCA) what exactly do you do?
EAVCA is a member association for private equity and venture capital firms who are interested in deploying capital in East Africa.
As a trade organization, we represent the interests of member firms deploying private capital in the region, which constitutes Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
We are the interface between the region’s stakeholders, the general public and the investors.
Our activities largely involve advocacy for the private capital sector, research, and intelligence for investors considering the region for investment.
Being the foremost networking platform for East Africa to advance thought leadership in the PE and VC space, and finally, conducting training for the sector. We also nurture the local professionals, as well as building awareness with the sector stakeholders.
My docket as one half of the leadership of EAVCA is in leading the advocacy and intelligence. This entails working with the sector stakeholders to create partnerships that promote investment inflows in East Africa.Internationally, less than 10% of venture capital funds go to female entrepreneurs. Is this situation just as bleak in East Africa?
This is also the case in East Africa.
There was a time when female-led enterprises were not as visible as they are now, especially on the funding front. Emerging trends for conscious investment (particularly gender lens investing) mean that the tide is slowly turning to acknowledge that female-led enterprises are equally lucrative.
Furthermore, women are more deliberate in their business planning and less likely to take investment capital for personal use.
What does EAVCA do to ensure that besides women-owned businesses there is diversity in general in businesses being considered for funding?
From 2018, EAVCA became more deliberate in local engagement by working with trade associations, incubators and accelerators to grow local awareness of PE and VC as alternative sources of capital. We are also ensuring we carry out industry-specific research showcasing opportunities that exist in East Africa.
One such research was on the opportunities available for fin-tech investing in East Africa, which we launched in March this year. This allows investors deeper access to sectors that have probably been on their radar but whose information may be hard to come by.
What are some of the mistakes you have seen female entrepreneurs make while interacting with venture capitalists, and what can they do to better pitch their businesses to investors?
While I would not categorize this as a mistake, I think it is important for technical entrepreneurs to find partners who will help them with the business side of their enterprise or product.
Far too many entrepreneurs are struggling to raise capital by themselves without the tools or skills to approach this. Thankfully, there are programmes and incubators that equip entrepreneurs with the skills needed to begin thinking of their vision as a commercial venture.
There is quite an array of accelerators available for African entrepreneurs such as MEST Africa which is available in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, and Cote d’ Ivoire or Growth Africa for East Africans.
There are also institution backed programmes like the Trade and Investment Hub (the Hub) by USAID, which is available in East, West and South Africa, or the Stanford Seed Transformation Programme in Ghana and Kenya.
Finally, we have philanthropy backed incubators also committing to support the initiative by Africa’s entrepreneurs such as the Tony Elumelu Foundation or Africa Netpreneur Prize by the Jack Ma Foundation.
EAVCA has been led by women from its inception. Can we interpret that to mean Africa doesn’t share the same discouraging international statistics when it comes to women’s leadership in VC firms?
As an association, we are privileged to have women as the champions of the industry in East Africa. For the VC and PE funds, the bulk of fund managers are still led by men although we have a growing number of women taking up that space.
I believe it is important for women to support each other in male-dominated industries such as ours and share their journeys so that we can all learn from each other.
How has working at EAVCA changed your perception of Africa’s potential to be an economic and innovation hub in the future?
I have always been an Afro-optimist and firmly believe in Africa’s value and ability to influence the future! Working with EAVCA has furthered my confidence in our potential as a continent.
I interact each day with people who are as passionate about Africa as I am and who are effecting positive change within their different spheres.
I am able to see how it is all shaping out from my bird’s eye view at the Association and it just fuels me to want to do more!
What is the favorite part of your job?
Every day, I meet people that are clear about how they want to change the global narrative of Africa. Also, building a pension fund that will channel its funds towards a transformative development agenda, there are also regulators who are removing trade barriers and entrepreneurs that are innovating solutions to unique problems.
There are so many people who refuse to be distracted by the noise and get up every day determined to leave a mark, and it is an absolute honor to interact and work with them!
What is the first thing you do every day to start your day right?
Introspect. I Remind myself of what my dreams are, what my values are and commit to applying the most truthful version of myself that day.
Also, I listen to and recite the Desiderata every morning as a reminder that I am part of something greater than myself.
What do you tell yourself when you are afraid?
“It could have been worse”
What advice would you give other women that are interested in pursuing venture capital as a career?
Be patient and be ready to put in the work. It will be hard, but it will be worth it. Also, do not be afraid to speak up.
What are your tips for someone just joining the professional world looking to start an investment portfolio?
My advice would be to identify individuals with whom one shares goals and interests and pool funds which they can then use for their investment per the group’s shared objective.
In Kenya for instance, this has really taken off with the pooled funds “chamas” investing in real estate, equities, treasury bills etc.
I also know of a group of young university ladies who pooled funds and started lending these funds to their fellow students while charging interest, as an investment.
Be mindful of your network as it is the base of your success.
Spend more time listening to others in a similar position and take notes.
There will be hard days, but do not lose sight of what matters to you.
Above all and to the extent possible, try to have a purpose that is greater than yourself; therein lies true success.
We all have our unique fingerprint for the world and yours is equally important!
When all is said and done how will you know you’ve achieved your dreams?
When people are confident enough to pursue their vision due to the service I provided.
It would be a place where my work for Africa grows beyond personal responsibility when other people buy into my optimism and are able to stand for and contribute to the development of an inspiring Africa.
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This former man’s world is about to be shaken. Slowly but surely, ladies are taking the tech space by storm in Africa and continuing to build that proverbial bridge over what is still one of the widest gender gaps on the planet. Some of the most promising software startups coming out of Africa today boast female founders that have faced the tech boys’ club head on, and they’re not backing down.
The women of the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) are speaking out about their experience as software startup founders and voicing the need for more women in STEM fields. MEST is a training program, seed fund, and incubator for aspiring tech entrepreneurs in Africa and is headquartered in Ghana. From just 10% women in its first class in 2008, MEST now boasts 30%, and it wants to see even more.
The ratio of women to men in tech isn’t where it should be
Head of Recruitment at MEST, Amma Baffoe, notes that though on the rise in Africa, the ratio of women to men in the tech sector is not nearly where it should be. The team is now on the hunt for even more driven, ambitious ladies to show the world how it’s done.
“We collectively need to ensure that as tech continues to thrive, we also take the necessary steps required to bring our women along with us by actively seeking to identify, recruit and mentor more African women into tech. This has enormous potential to empower families and create new opportunities for generations to come.”
Communications Director, co-founder of startup Skrife and former MEST student Kelechi Udoagwu feels the bridge is already getting stronger: “These are exciting times for women in tech – in Africa and all over the world. We are increasingly becoming visible and accepted in the tech industry, and this gives us to room to innovate and be creative in creating solutions for problems that are peculiar to females alone.” Of course, visibility isn’t nearly enough – but it’s a pretty promising first step.
A number of successful female-led startups
Female-led startups coming out of MEST have been blowing up over the past few years. Tress, the African woman’s go-to app on hair trends, styles, products, and stylists, was recently selected for the prestigious Y Combinator accelerator program in Silicon Valley, an honor founders Priscilla Hazel, Esther Olatunde and Cassandra Sarfo don’t take for granted.
“It’s been a great experience…I learned that what I’m going through in my startup is the same thing someone in another country is going through – bootstrapping, looking for money, trying to get users, or coming up with value for your users. It’s the same issues that many startups around the world face…And now I have a network of people to ask for support,” says CEO Priscilla Hazel.
“I love the fact that by working on something that we are passionate about and is at the same time very personal to us as cofounders, we are creating value for black women all over the world.”
Current MEST student Stella Ngugi notes how influential it’s been to work with changemakers and tech stars like Priscilla: “Sometimes you don’t know what you’re missing until you get it. I didn’t know the true value of women tech makers until I came to MEST. There’s no denying the snowball that is women tech makers; we are driving change throughout Africa, moving fast and paving a way with no boundaries.”
Outside of their startups, the MEST ladies are going even further to encourage more to follow in their footsteps. Former Entrepreneurs in Training (EITs) Linda Ansong, Angela Koranteng and Lady-Omega Hammond have been leading the way in STEM subjects since university. After swapping stories about the incredible gender division they saw in school, they decided to get serious.
It was exposure to strong, successful women in STEM that encouraged these ladies to pursue their passions from the start, and they wanted to ensure the next generation of African women could find the same exposure.
They hunkered down in a MEST classroom to decide how best to approach the issue, and very quickly, STEMBees was born. This non-profit is now filled with smart, successful, buzz-worthy women who offer computer literacy training and career exploration for future female changemakers in Ghana.
Lady-Omega, who is also the CEO of Ampersand Technologies Ltd, believes that change is already happening. “I believe awareness around the potential of a woman being maximized outside the home is growing more each day. It’s encouraging to see men around us becoming more supportive and women being role models and actively engaging with other women, young or old. This changes mindsets and gives us women the opportunity to grow to our fullest potential.”
These female tech entrepreneurs are breaking barriers with force. But so are many of our male colleagues. According to Cassandra and Priscilla, it’s important that we don’t attribute too much of our success to gender alone.
“Everyone can go into the technology field, whether female or male,” Cassandra says. “It’s just about your drive, your passion. If you have a passion for something, you can achieve it. It doesn’t matter your sex – everyone can do it. I’m doing it, so believe it.” After all, the keyword here really is equality.
Thanks to these #MotherlandMoguls in Ghana, general interest in technology from young girls has drastically increased since the program was founded in 2008. Girls from the community are seeing the number of African female founders from MEST being recognized globally, and as a result are seeking some of that tech startup glory for themselves. Here are some #humblebrags from the women of MEST:
Anne Amuzu, CEO of MEST-incubated Nandimobile, was named one of Forbes 10 Female Tech Founders to Watch in Africa. The Tress team, led by female entrepreneur and CEO Priscilla Hazel, raised $150,000 USD from Y-Combinator before even graduating from the MEST program and was named one of 5 African inventions to look out for in 2017 by the BBC.
Female-led Beavly has raised $40, 000 and created more than 200 job opportunities for people on their platform.
These are great first steps, but we’ve got a bridge to finish building. What are you waiting for?