Kukua: Changing the narrative of the Motherland with africaboutik.us

africaboutik.us is the online store of Ghanaian-German designer and fashion blogger MsK NY. Five years ago MsK started her fashion blog African Prints in Fashion (APiF) and has expanded it since to a lifestyle brand with over 350K followers worldwide.

African Prints in Fashion is focusing on exploring the Imprint of Africa/African diaspora on Fashion and Design and aims to empower by showcasing the creativity and innovation that comes from the African continent educates and changes the perception of what people perceive to be African Fashion & Design.

africaboutik.us is bringing to you a contemporary mix of modern African Fashion and Interior Design. The platform offers a curated selection of Africa-inspired fashion, fashion produced on the African continent, accessories sourced from local artisans as well as designs handmade at our home base in Brooklyn, NY.


Kukua (MsK NY)

Tell us about yourself and what is africaboutik?

My name is Kukua and I am a professional Marketer and curator. Over 5 years ago I started with my Blog African Prints in Fashion. I used to always direct readers to online stores and online platforms when they asked me “where can I find that” or “where can I buy that?”

Eventually, it felt like it would make more sense to offer a platform with products instead of always directing the traffic elsewhere. That is how africaboutik.us was born.

africaboutik is a curated platform where I sell accessories and interior design items from artisans across the continent. And yes I do ship worldwide – also to the continent.

 

Which artisans across Africa are you working with and how do you connect with them?

I am half Ghanaian, so initially, I only worked with small artisans from Ghana as I felt more comfortable engaging with them and it was easy as I was able to meet them in person whenever I visited my family, and for new relationships, it helped to have parts of my family onsite.

My longest standing relationship is with an artisan in Accra, but I am also now working with artisans and small creative hubs in Morocco, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Senegal.

My key communication tool with my artisans is WhatsApp – that really works best for status updates, exchange of images etc.

Authenticity is really important to me. I don't want to sell the same thing like everyone else - @MsK_NY Click To Tweet

 

How is africaboutik changing the narrative about Africa?

The frustrating thing about many textiles and even accessories that initially are made on the African continent are that so many are now made in China.

Even if you are in Accra or Nairobi you can easily come across products made in China. At Africa-themed events in NYC, I see a lot of so-called “Made in Africa” items that are 100% made in Beijing.

My goal from the beginning was to only select and produce items that I like and that are not too common on other platforms and that is authentic.

Authenticity is really important to me. I don’t want to sell the same thing like everyone else. I like to be different and unique.  Being connected to my makers individually, I know who creates the items, I know their personal situation and they know I am a one Woman Business. We work together to make things work for both of us, and I love that.

 

Can you give an example of products you are selling and how you are involved in some of the developments?

What I produce myself is the African City Bag – a high-end canvas bag that sports African City Names. That was my very first and for a long time my only product.

I also do temporary tattoos of Adinkra Symbols and furniture like the lollipop stools. All these things are made in Brooklyn where I am based.

Besides that, I am sourcing different basket designs and accessories from Ghana, Morocco, and Tanzania. My best selling accessories come from Ghana and South Africa.

I keep on editing and adding or removing products from the store, depending on seasonal trends or things I like.

 

What’s next for africaboutik?

I am focusing more and more on interior design and want to eventually make it my sole focus. I loved the process of creating my lollipop stools, so I want to my make more like that.

Currently, I am looking for young fashion/design influencers who can help me elevate my brand. If you are one and you are reading this, holler at me!

 

Where can people learn more about africaboutik?

Follow me on Instagram, check-out my online store, and follow my blog.


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Amal Oumimoune: Stand out from the crowd by doing what you admire

amal oumimoune she leads africa
It’s always beneficial to stand out from the crowd by doing what you admire - Amal Oumimoune Click To Tweet

Amal Oumimoune is another Moroccan student running things. She’s in her fourth year studying business at ENCGA (Ecole National de Commerce et Gestion d’Agadir) —that’s National School of Trade and Commerce in English. As a #MotherlandMogul in the making, Amal has started making moves while in school.

With friends, she started an English club at ENCGA that helps other students practice English while developing leadership skills. Through this club, Amal has boosted her organisational skills and has come in contact with important personalities from all over the world.

Amal also started a Korean-Moroccan Association with fellow students which is bringing the Hallyu (Korean pop culture) wave to Morocco. On top of that, she’s a polyglot who speaks/understands 5 languages! Basically, if you’re a student, you should be like Amal Oumimoune.


Tell us about ENCGA’s English club, what are your plans to grow it in the next five years?

The ENCGA’s English club was created in 2014 by a group of English enthusiasts; it’s a space that gathers ENCGA students in order to practice their English and develop their debating and leadership skills through holding weekly talk sessions and also hosting international speakers to share their experiences.

Last year, we had the pleasure to host authors from the US and Singapore, and some exchange students from Guatemala and Brazil. Also, we had the chance to indulge in the company of two Fulbright exchange teachers.

I am so thrilled to be this year’s team leader! There are many plans I would like the club will accomplish. For example, the first “little free library: take a book and leave a book” in our university to encourage students to read more. Also, organizing leadership and writing workshops, as well as continuing hosting inspiring personalities.

The English club is from students to all the students so we work as a team and we welcome everyone’s suggestions and ideas.

Based on your experience at ENCGA, what tips do you have on hosting international personalities for local events?

When it comes to hosting international personalities having a wide network always works. Also, keeping an eye on every opportunity is quite important. If there’s someone in town, why not contact them and explain the whole concept of your organization?

Most people nowadays are open to sharing their ideas and experiences while discovering another culture and meeting people from different backgrounds. What matters the most is to stay updated and have the needed information about the person you’d like to host.

Amal Oumimoune shares her tips on working with embassies from her experience Click To Tweet

Why start a Korean-Moroccan Association? Is there a particular reason young people should want to learn Korean?

Korean culture is well promoted nowadays and many youth in my community wanted a space to share their passion for the land of morning calm. Since there are many people interested in this culture, we resolved into founding Hanmate the Korean-Moroccan Association in order to encourage cultural understanding through both education and entertainment.

Although there’s a lot of difference and distance between the two countries, we strive to bring their cultures closer. The Korean language is not widely spoken in Morocco; it’s always beneficial to stand out from the crowd by doing what you admire.

However, many young people desire to learn this language due to the Hallyu (Korean wave). This refers to the popularity of Korean entertainment such as TV dramas and pop music. The Hallyu wave gives consumers a glimpse of South Korea and makes them want to learn about every aspect there is, including the language.

amal-oumimoune2As you’ve partnered with the South Korean embassy in Morocco, what advice do you have for other young people looking to collaborate with embassies and international organizations?

In order to collaborate with embassies and international organizations, it is really important to build a notoriety and visibility for your organization. This starts from adopting an effective communication plan, to share all the amazing work your organization is doing.

It is always helpful to differentiate yourself from others by taking measurable risks and thinking outside the box. What matters the most is to work earnestly and being creative.

In this regard, we organized the first event of its kind in all Morocco, “Taste of Korea: the Korean cuisine contest”. This contest was the beginning of our partnership with the Korean embassy.

Besides, we had the opportunity to have a native speaker as a Korean teacher. That sort of worked as a tie between us and helped circulate information better. Overall, we are lucky since the Korean embassy is quite helpful and encouraging.

Tell us about the current project you’re working on. What kind of educational program(s) are you in the process of designing to encourage girls’ education?

The project that I’m currently working on is an educational program that will provide young girls with a place to express themselves and develop their potentials. Zahra Program will focus on four components; language, creativity, leadership and orientation.

Learning English can be very empowering, and allowing young girls to express their talents and emotions through artwork is very healing. Zahra Program’s mission is to empower and enable young girls to develop their skills and self-esteem and encouraging them to give back to their community by educating them in different aspects.

I’m really passionate about this project. As a young girl, I struggled with a lack of confidence and self-doubt. I was given the chance to be a part of Access program and that helped in shaping the person I am today.

I really want to provide as many girls as I can reach the same opportunity I’ve been given.

Amal Oumimoune: I really want to provide as many girls as I can the same opportunity I’ve been given Click To Tweet 

I’m assuming you’re multi-lingual, what’s your secret to learning/speaking many languages?

Indeed. I’m fluent in Arabic, French and English and I’m yet a work in progress in Korean and Spanish. The mystery of learning languages is actually to indulge in it, don’t confine yourself with textbooks and classes.

Just carry the language you’re learning wherever you are and be as creative as possible. You can’t separate language from the culture, so try discovering it either by tasting food or having foreign friends with whom you can practice the language.

I’ve always been driven by my curiosity and passion to explore everything that’s new. In times when that spark fades, I remind myself why I started or take a brief break to return with more energy.


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Fatima Zahra Nassik: Treat your business like a rollercoaster

fatima zahra nassik

There’s nothing as inspiring to us as seeing students getting their hustle on. Talk about getting into things early. Fatima Zahra Nassik is a bomb-ass social entrepreneur from Morocco. While pursuing her studies, Fatima co-founded Enactus ENA, a platform for student and business leaders, with her friend.

Fatima didn’t stop at Enactus ENA though, she also started Laymouna with Fatima-Azzahra Benfares. Laymouna is an initiative that brings fruits and healthy snacks to busy students and working people. She’s also involved in starting other ventures and still interns at the same time! Read on to find out how Fatima brings her academic savvy into her entrepreneurial life.


Tell us about your organization, Enactus ENA. Why enter into social ventures?

Through Enactus ENA, the idea was to show that architecture students can also have an entrepreneurial mindset. In our first year, this was basically our goal. We started organizing conferences and events like, ‘Find the leader in you’. At this event, we had interesting leaders and speakers give inspiring speeches.

We also had the first edition of the Enactus Regional Summit. It gathered 8 teams from the region to share experience, knowledge and especially communicate on their projects.

Through workshops where business tools and team building activities were taught, we had several on-field types of research where we spotted different needs. After many interactions on ideas that responded to those needs, Laymouna, TownOut and C-Home were founded.

Tell us about your social ventures. How do you ensure that they achieve success?

Laymouna is an enterprise that aims to make fruits and healthy snacks readily available to students and working people. The idea of Laymouna really came from a need that we, as students, faced in university. We decided to do something about it.

We do this through innovative vending machines and stands that provide fresh and accessible choices for people who want to eat healthily.  On a more ambitious level, we want to improve the food culture in Morocco.

Then through TownOut, we organize trips to remote areas in Morocco. We promote them as new tourist destinations and therefore empower them economically.

Finally, C-Home is an alternative construction method where we use lightweight cardboard for homeless people. The idea is to build at a lower cost and quickly too.

To ensure our ventures achieve success, we give presentations of our project’s progression to an advisory board formed by many professionals and business leaders. We organize this approximately every two to three months.

We also ensure our projects participate in as many competitions as possible to maximize feedbacks and improvement. Most importantly, we have Enactus Morocco as a constant counsel.

The board of Enactus ENA

What difficulty have you faced in founding and co-founding? What advice will you give other women looking to start a project together?

Concerning founding and co-founding the venture, we discuss and respect each other’s opinion at every single step. Of course, final decisions are made by the CEO if a mutual agreement takes too long.

I would advise women planning on starting a project together to view their ventures as rollercoasters. Ups and downs would be a recurrent feature. Aspiring entrepreneurs must see them as necessary challenges to reaching goals.

Instead of being discouraged, see them as opportunities to show that things can be different and especially like you imagined. At the end of the day, you are here to create impact and value to the world.

How has your organization grown since you started on it? What steps have you taken to get it to where you want it to be?

The organization is growing pretty fast. Actually, we come top to mind when it comes to entrepreneurship in our university. We are looking forward to gaining more impact in the next year and to give birth to other projects.

Professors and trainers have shown interest in coaching us. We’ve been contacted by many foreign partners interested in not only our events, but also our projects.

For this year, we aspire also to have more projects in the field of architecture or urbanism, a domain that we master.

Tell me about your experience at the Henry Ford Academy. What steps did you take to ensure that your project won the best pitch prize?

My experience in the Henry Ford Academy (in partnership with IIHEM) was rewarding. Several entrepreneurs and business leaders came and we heard their inspiring stories. We had many courses from shaping the idea of a project to how to pitch it. And finally, how to finance a business venture.

For three different prizes, a presentation of our project was to be made in just one minute. Since the training was in French and English, my colleague and I decided to pitch Laymouna in both languages in exactly one minute. I think the originality of the pitch is what made us win this prize as we caught the attention of the audience.

Furthermore, Laymouna was the startup selected for the HFEA ICP program for a two-week consulting with IIHEM alongside VCU students who came from the US.

TV interview at the Enactus Regional Summit

As a freelancer and businesswoman, how do you manage all these projects? What do you do to unwind and relax?

I think the answer to this question is actually passion. I am a super active person. I really believe that my actions can give a positive impact in this world. Freelancing is most of all, a way to help me gain experience in the professional field beside my studies.

My passion has helped me find a way to manage these projects. It’s my strength especially in my lowest moments (rollercoaster, remember…).

Personally,  I believe travelling for a few days or spending time with family is the best way to unwind and relax. It helps me achieve a broader vision of where I’m going and how. Lately, I’ve started working on starting some dancing classes. I want a physical activity that includes fun.

Are you still a student?

Yes! I’m in my fifth year. Of course, this means I’m basically focused on internships.  But I still find the time to create all of these.

I like that I can add my academic knowledge to my career.


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Safaa Ouchen: You’re going to succeed over those trying to break you

With the rise of social entrepreneurship, more and more Motherland Moguls are using entrepreneurship to address economic and social problems. One of these women is Safaa Ouchen. In 2013, Safaa started Enactus ENA with her friends to address social and economic problems through entrepreneurial action. Here, Safaa clues us in on how she ventured into social entrepreneurship, how she plans to be part of Morocco’s solution and why the haters never matter.


How did you get into social entrepreneurship?

Social entrepreneurship is a passion I discovered when I was 17 years old through my work with Anoual Association. Anoual is a NGO in Kentira, Morocco that aims to develop our community in the field of education and to supports the development of social entrepreneurship. Since then, I’ve always been aware of the economic and social problems in Morocco.

When things started to get worse -with rising unemployment and millions living below the poverty line- I knew I wanted to be part of the solution. In 2013, with an amazing team, I founded Enactus ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Architecture, French for National School of Architecture). Enactus ENA focuses on the power of community development and the entrepreneurial spirit.

My work with Enactus has given me the chance to deepen my knowledge about social entrepreneurship in Morocco and how business skills can be used to improve lives.

What is Enactus? How did it come about?

Enactus is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring students to improve the world through entrepreneurial action. It represents a network of 36 countries around the world with more than 1,740 university programs, and works with more than 69,000 students.

Enactus provides a platform for teams of outstanding university students to create community development projects that put ingenuity and talent at the center of improving their livelihoods. Guided by educators and supported by business leaders, students take the kind of entrepreneurial approach that empowers people to be part of their own success.

We work on projects in three main fields: health and well being, architecture and tourism.

Enactus was started with your friends, what steps have you personally taken to grow Enactus?

It was during an internship on a construction site that I noticed workers didn’t have decent or respectful shelter to sleep in. What they had was made of lightweight material, which can cause serious health problems. Adding to that, their insufficient salary didn’t allow them afford the basic needs for themselves and their families.

After analyzing this problem, I scheduled a meeting with four of my teammates. Then I shared my project idea; a hut made of cardboard. Cardboard is cheaper but resistant and can make sustainable lodging. Together, we brainstormed and came up with more ideas to make the project even better. Then I assigned my team to do more research on implementing the project.

Tell us more about your cardboard housing initiative.

My team responded positively to my idea of finding innovative solutions instead of waiting for others to take the first step. We then came up with more strategies to increase positive outcomes:

  • Training workers to build these cardboard huts so they can work with us in order to increase their incomes.
  • Selling these huts made of cardboard to construction companies.
  • Establishing a production chain that will ensure both descent housing for the workers and a stable income for people who will build the booths.

It’s been 10 months since I started working on this social venture. My team and I have been through a lot of challenges due to the lack of information concerning the cardboard. It was difficult coming up with a prototype, building it and fulfilling the goals we defined at the beginning.

How has your background as an architect affected or helped you at Enactus?

As an architect I learn that results don’t come quickly and it needs time. When I’m working on a social problem now, I have learned that complaining about the results that don’t come quickly never changes anything.

So, I keep an eye out for a better way. I’m always on the lookout for new activities and new procedures, while keeping both short-term and long-range objectives in mind.

What is the one thing you dream of reaching? How do you plan to get to it?

I believe that I’ve never wanted to do just one thing. I wanted to do all the things! While growing up, I learned that most of the successful people succeed because their potential is concentrated on a specific thing. On the other hand, the people that failed did so because their potential was spread out in too many directions.

One of my biggest passion and dreams is to launch my own business and create positive impact in my community. This is the reason I created my social business which aims to solve the problem of temporary housing for workers. My experience in social entrepreneurship and social work has been so helpful in developing my business. Now, I’m actively planning out how to achieve accomplish each task on my ‘dream plan’.

What advice would you give young women looking to start an international NGO?

Go ahead and start it. You might meet people who are going to try to break you and tell you that’s not going work. Don’t pay attention to them. You’re going to go over them and you’re going to succeed.

My other piece of advice is, to forge connections with people inside and outside your communities. This is in order to build a network that going to connect you to different profiles. You’re probably going to need them while setting up the organization.


Want to see women you know featured on SLA? Tell us what amazing things women are doing in your communities here.