That money you want is in someone’s account: Amba Eyang – Ajakaye

Not every “celebrity” is known. There are powerful women who are not just breaking glass ceilings, but also impacting the lives of people they meet.

One of such extraordinary women is Amba Eyang-Ajakaiye, a Brand Storyteller and Business Strategist.

She is the founder of iDare.NotDread Nigeria, a social engineering platform promoting innovation, creativity, and enterprise through storytelling and value sharing.

She is also team lead of the Build My Business initiative born out of iDare.NotDread’s enterprise. Centered on building skills and capacities for young people in the business.

This project launched grand ideas such as the BMB Expo and BMB Training school (online) in 2017.

Amba has gone from transforming ordinary people who would have never thought of writing their own books, to making them authors.

She’s also supporting small businesses to achieve scalability and growth especially, by helping them identify and understand the importance of “target markets” and “market validation”.

In this interview with SLA contributor – Wuraola, Amba Eyang-Ajakaiye bares it all about IDare.NotDread and highlights why small business owners should “do it afraid”.


Do it Afraid. Fight your limitations – Amba Eyang-AjakaiyeI Click To Tweet

Tell us about your company – IDare.NotDread

iDare.NotDread is a social Enterprise promoting innovation, creativity, and enterprise in Nigeria.

Our focus is primarily to build women communities and empower them with creative and innovative skills for business growth.

What’s one business tip you wish most business owners knew and could wield to their advantage?

Network. Meet people.

That money you want is in someone’s account. That unspoken challenge can be solved by someone. Attend workshops, events, and meet people. Most people don’t bite.

How can entrepreneurs begin to understand the power of conducting market validation, and collaboration with other SMEs?

I believe in collaboration. This is why I try to build communities. We started the Abuja food community in May, and its amazing to see how much collaboration has happened in a group full of women.

Yet, we probably thought women prefer to fight. No. The moment businesses understand that collaboration first means ‘here is what I can give you’, before ‘give me what I want’, they will lead better businesses.


With a lot of fake business coaches around, what makes your brand different?

We didn’t just arrive. We’ve been here a while. In 2013 we started with creating a platform for entrepreneurs to share their stories and inspire others.

Over time, we realized stories weren’t enough. Capacities needed to be built.

So we went all in to try to understand the real needs of the entrepreneurs we wished to serve, and since 2016, we started contributing to conversations around digital technology and creating a good impact in the digital space.

Since then, our efforts have birthed super brands.

In the past 3 years we have successfully trained 4,000 entrepreneurs on digital strategies as well as provided opportunities for business visibility.

Many thanks to the opportunity Google granted us through the Digital Skills for Africa programme and a host of other partners who have trusted us to work with them.

Why should SMEs understand their target markets before making an entrance into the market?

Because if we don’t, we would be hitting our heads on rocks. Hard rocks.

You can’t sell to everyone, and this is why research is key to identifying who your market is.

Ever tried selling a #ManchesterUnited jersey to an #Arsenal fan? It's just blind selling. Read more from Amba Eyang-Ajakaiye Click To Tweet

Tell us about your Ebook Challenge

Its amazing! I launched my first ever ebook on March 2019, titled ‘How to write your first eBook‘ and that’s where the ebook challenge began.

We are currently on our 3rd cohort and it’s been amazing!!! Every 2 months we launch a new set of authors who are super proud of their achievements. It feels great to empower people to create wealth with their knowledge.

We are looking to expand the community beyond eBooks to help more women create diverse digital products and generate more income.

How does the “Do It Afraid” catchphrase relate to entrepreneurs who don’t like taking risks?

We all have fear in us. It’s an emotion. I am still learning to tame my fears. And we all should. The best way to go about it is to go ahead and do that very thing you fear.

I have coached a number of businesses and one of the areas I tend to focus on is to help them fight those limitations – the little voices and beliefs that make them feel less of themselves and limited.

It’s important we act despite fear. Accept your fears but act.

What’s the worst that could happen? Failure? Then show me one person who NEVER failed.


Feruz Gebremeskel: This lawyer & entrepreneur is building a platform to reverse Africa’s brain drain

Meet Feruz Gebremeskel. She prosecuted criminal defendants in courts of law, produced and directed movies performed songs that inspired many, graduated with honors. She is a researcher, JSD candidate and the founder & CEO of two social enterprises. Is there anything that this woman can’t do? 

“Be open-minded but skeptic at the same time.  Ask questions and demand answers”, Feruz Gebremeskel often says. When it comes to challenges, she has never been crestfallen, has never stopped aspiring to change the world. “When we face a challenge, I think our primary task should be, to begin with asking good questions. Because almost all of the time these questions eventually lead to great answers and solutions to the problem at hand.”

And so, ever since she was young, Feruz has worked hard to stand up, speak out, and become an incredible inspiration.

Feruz was born and raised in Eritrea. The early years of her life were during the Eritrean War for Independence, in which the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) fought against the Ethiopian Government. This war lasted well into the early 90s. After Eritrea had gained independence, Feruz finished most of her schooling in Asmara, the capital city of Eritrea.

Having a childhood during wartime increased Feruz’s interest in justice. She studied law at the University of Asmara, graduated and worked as a prosecutor at the Attorney General’s office of the country. In 2009, she relocated to the United States to pursue her studies, but her heart and soul continue to breathe for her African roots.


Where do you currently find yourself as a student and entrepreneur? Could you tell us more about the two social platforms you have founded and run as the CEO?

Presently, I am a researcher, currently working towards my Doctorate of the Science of Law (JSD) at St. Thomas University of Miami, Florida.

My research focuses on Law, innovation & technology. My plans include working in the field of social enterprise law, artificial intelligence, and animated innovation or robotics. I think the world of intellectual property law in the future of self-driving cars, internet of things and artificial intelligence is going to be pretty interesting. So I am looking forward to indulging myself into this adventure.

One may have several talents that he/she could offer to the world. If all these qualities can be integrated and directed to serve one main goal, I think that a lot can be achieved. When I make films, songs, do research or found organizations, all of these activities are aimed towards one big goal, the promotion of human rights and dignity.

For example, in 2013, I put together a short film called Dilemma. The story was about a wedding counselor who falls in love with one of her clients. But there was much more to it than that. There is a discussion of cultural practices, women’s rights, and moral code. In 2014, I also worked alongside Raee Productions to direct and produce a compilation of short films entitled Ab Asmara which highlighted the struggles and hopes of Eritrean refugees and immigrants.

I have always been fascinated by how the sharing economy markets (when formed and maintained properly) can positively change the world. They create micro-entrepreneurs, more jobs and can potentially stabilize the global economy. The inspiration for creating native apples & AfroPros come from this way of thinking. I wanted to create systems where social capital is valued and being who you are is celebrated.

What inspired you to form Afro Pros?

Human capital flight is one of the major issues that is draining Africa. We have to work harder in creating sustainable political and social systems so that the push factors for unnecessary immigration are stopped. While working on that, we also should get creative and find smart ways to utilize these intelligent minds we’re consistently losing to the western world.

AfroPros was created in support of this idea. I aim to use Afro Pros as a way to reverse the ‘brain drain’ that continues to grip Africa and make the future brighter for the continent than ever before. I work as the CEO and founder, and I consider myself fortunate to work alongside incredible professionals throughout Africa and in the diaspora due to war, social instability, and uncertain economy. Through AfroPros, these professionals get valuable connections abroad by using the flexibility of the gig economy.

So, what would you say is your ultimate goal for both Afro Pros and Native Apples?

I want Afro Pros to be a center where organizations —government, non-governmental, or businesses— could refer to appropriate and relevant services that represent and promote sustainable development in Africa.

Native Apples looks at the issues I hope to combat with a different lens. With Native Apples, I asked myself, ‘What can I do as a native that no one else can?’ I realized that I had a heritage that others may be interested in. Then I thought, what if others could use their unique cultural practices as a side hustle?

So the main highlights of Native Apples are sustainable travel, global citizenship, and authentic experiences. Native Apples allows people throughout the world to buy, sell, or rent ‘native’ services and products —like, for example, learning native languages or sitting in on a coffee ceremony.

Sometimes people overestimate the state’s power while underestimating individual change makers Click To Tweet

Sometimes, people overestimate the state’s power and political will to protect or respect human rights while underestimating individual change makers to have a similar or even more positive effect. The Native Apples platform highlights the latter; it gives people the opportunity to do good in the world and help others to succeed.

For example, some members used the platform to raise funds for refugees in need of immediate assistant by hosting a food party. By raising the necessary funds and spreading the word they are protecting refugee rights (one of the fundamental basic human rights).

There is a tango master who teaches classes. In 2009, UNESCO listed tango as one of the cultural heritages of the world. This fact automatically makes this dance teacher a cultural rights promoter,(the rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). We also have educators and researchers who support indigenous people’s right to quality life by helping them list their products for sale in the platform.

What do you hope to portray to the younger generations of African women?

To think differently. Try and experiment with things, make mistakes and learn from them. Explore new horizons. Capitalize on what you already have. Believe in yourself. Have clear goals, and remember that those goals do not have to make sense to others as long as you see them clearly. Be social innovators and impact creators who tackle societal and environmental challenges. Be effective altruists.

Create your own system for self-mastery. This is to say that you can learn things from teachers, gurus, and idols, but you are unique in your own way. It should be your responsibility to create rules and disciplines that fit your uniqueness. Last but not least, be open-minded but skeptic at the same time. Always ask questions and demand answers.

Lukunse Betty Paulls: I want to create awareness about the history and culture of Africa

Lukunse Betty Paulls
There is nothing as satisfying as watching a seed you have planted grow @LukunseBettyPaulls Click To Tweet

At 21, Lukunse Betty Paulls has already accomplished more than most women her age could even dream of. The Kampala native who is currently working towards her degree in Business Administration at Ashesi University in Ghana, is also a model, blogger and writer. Most recently, she added the title of social/cultural ambassador to her resume.

What began as a simple idea to find a way to showcase the richness and diversity of African culture has turned into Mutima_Wangu, an online platform that seeks to create awareness about the history and culture of Africa in different settings. Over the past year, Lukunse has directed a lot of effort towards growing the platform. She’s orchestrated everything from picking the concept, finding models and photographers and even doing a bit of creative directing herself.  In her own words “Africa is rich (in culture), let us never forget that”.


For someone so young, you already have quite a list of accomplishments under your belt. Could you share with our readers your story so they understand your journey and how you have managed to take on all these roles successfully?

I don’t see them as many achievements but thank you. To be honest, I still feel like my journey has only just begun. I started writing at fourteen, even though my writing still hasn’t garnered much publicity. I self-published my first poetry collection in early 2015, and the other two books shortly after joining Ashesi.

As for modelling, I had my first photoshoot ever in June 2015. It was a great experience and the support I received from my manager and the filmmakers at the Uganda National Theatre was overwhelming. I’ve done a bit of modelling and had a few photo-shoots since moving to Ghana as well.  I started blogging on and off since January 2015 and have only recently decided to start blogging more consistently and using that as a platform to share my voice and my work. And finally, about being a cultural ambassador, I guess that came about when I realized I could not focus on modelling without combining it with something else. For me, that something was art.

I have no intentions of being a runway model. I have always focused more on the more commercial aspect of modelling than the typical struggle of making it as a runway Queen. And I decided that if I was going to take the commercial route, I wanted to do it in a way that would be beneficial to society. Bearing all this in mind, I went through a period of soul-searching and consulting with my mentors Kobby Graham and Dean TK, and through this the idea for Mutima_Wangu was born.

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I checked out the website for Mutima_Wangu and I think it’s really impressive how you are working to develop a platform that not only showcases but celebrates the diversity of African cultures. How did you come up with the concept and what are you hoping to accomplish through this platform?

The idea for Mutima_Wangu first came to me in my philosophy class. I’m a firm believer in acting on an idea the moment it is conceived and so I knew I had to do something about it. But I also realized that I could not do it on my own, so I started looking for photographers on campus and sharing my idea with them until I found one who was willing to work with me. Next, I scouted potential models for the project.

For Mutima_Wangu, it was never about finding the girl or boy who was perfect for the runway, it was more about finding the person whose composure suited the craft. Through this project, we are teaching people what being African means to us and we demand to be heard. Our ultimate goal is to create awareness about the history and culture of Africa in different settings.

Our goal is to create awareness about African history and culture @LukunseBettyPaulls Click To Tweet

What is the process like for curating the content on the platform? How do you identify the topics that are discussed, what is the research process like and how do you decide on what aspects of the topic are important enough to be showcased and how?

To be honest, the process is not hard. I personally think that there is a lot of content to choose from. I also believe that I am naturally creative. So when an idea pops up into my mind, I note it down. I also get ideas from my sketches, from lectures I attend, from the literature I read and the images I see, from conversations with my neighbors and from observing people I meet.

My sources of inspiration are limitless and once an idea is conceived, I work on expanding it and bringing it to life. Throughout this process of creation, I remind myself that there must be story, a lesson, a history, a piece of information that the idea delivers to the intended audience. In the end, it must be art.

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What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced in running this social enterprise?

So far the biggest challenge has been sourcing funds for the project. We are in the process of devising the best strategy to get sponsorship to drive Mutima_Wangu forward. I did not realize how expensive this project would be when I started it. But after completing our first shoot, and seeing the number of people who would like to be part of this project, especially those who would feature as models, I quickly realized that it was going to cost more than I had expected.

It takes a lot of time and effort to come up with a concept and implement it, it takes time to style all the models, to bring the concept to life the way I envision. There are costs involved in shooting, directing the project and securing the right locations.  This means that to keep the project going, we must first find a way to secure the funding we need.

I did not realize how expensive this project would be when I started it @LukunseBettyPaulls Click To Tweet

What have you learnt through this process that you have found most surprising, exciting and/or enlightening in terms of African culture?

I have learnt that African culture is diverse and that it is inexhaustible. It is impossible to capture it in its entirety. For every shoot that we do and for every story that we tell, there are tons more stories waiting to be told. There is a lot about African cultures that is not out there yet in the mainstream media and it is up to individuals to create this awareness. Thank God Mutima_Wangu is one of the many ways to make this dream come true.

I have also learned that with a project of this magnitude someone has to step up and take responsibility for the outcome of the events. And I have risen to this challenge. I am learning how to be in charge of things and how to manage people efficiently. In the long run, Mutima_Wangu has given me the opportunity to polish my creative skills in terms of directing and problem-solving.

So far, what has been your favorite piece that has been showcased and why?

My favorite piece has been the concept of  ‘THE TRINITY’. Originally, it was meant to showcase three divine African females from different African cultures, Spiritism and animist perspectives.

However, it came out a little differently in the shoot, making me realize that the concept had way more potential than I envisioned. I am certain that in the future numerous other concepts/series under this theme will arise.

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What is your vision for Mutima_Wangu moving forward? How do you plan to scale the platform to reach a wider audience in and beyond Africa?

My vision is that Mutima_Wangu will become a large foundation with several affiliates. Like I mentioned before, African culture is extensive and so diverse that we are never going to run out of ideas and concepts to explore and talk about. My goal is to create something with a long-term vision and mission. And despite the initial setbacks that we have encountered, I can say with all conviction that Mutima_Wangu is here to stay and we are not going anywhere. We are still up and running and moving forward every day, along with the rest of Africa.

In terms of publicity, the intention is to use the media to push our agenda even further. Through online publications, for example, the site,  my blog and numerous hashtags, on both Instagram and twitter, we’re hoping to expand the network. Check us out and help spread the word!

Africa is rich, let us never forget that @LukunseBettyPaulls Click To Tweet

If you could leave the readers with one piece of wisdom, to guide them as they strive to delve more deeply into African cultures and understand its richness and magic, what would it be?

My advice would be that they open their eyes to the vastness that this culture has to offer. That they are willing to be optimistic, creative, and diligent when it comes to understanding, being part of and spreading awareness about African cultures.

There is nothing as satisfying as watching a seed you have planted grow, and knowing that it is causing a positive change somewhere in someone’s life. Africa is rich, let us never forget that.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.

Kagiso Madibana: Believe in your product, Create your own hype

Kagiso Madibana
Kagiso Madibana driving the change she wants to see with social entrepreneurship Click To Tweet

Kagiso Madibana is a social entrepreneur and a former Chevening Scholar. She was selected as a participant from Botswana for the African Union’s Youth & Gender summit. In September 2016, Mail & Guardian Africa and Gabz FM named her as one of the 50 Batswana Change-makers under 40.

Kagiso is a founder/chairperson of Nayang Association. Nayang aids and empowers the underprivileged, in remote areas through a school clothing, shoes, food, and sanitary pad drive. With an MA in Communications and Media from Cardiff University, she has also worked as a Lead Researcher for Botswana with Global Integrity/Mo Ibrahim for their Africa Integrity Indicators study.

Before that, Kagiso had worked as a print journalist since 2008, during that time she was selected to join the International Journalist Programme(IJP)and was placed with the Deutsche Welle in Germany. Kagiso was also a part of the Women In News Programme from WAN-IFRA. She owns a small communications company called MD Africa Communications which offers editing and proof-reading services for companies amongst other things.

Last year, she self-published a fiction book, “Tales from the Heart of Botswana: Baareng’s Journey” which is available on Amazon and select stores in Botswana.


What would you say is the innovative idea behind Nayang Association and starting MD Communications?

Nayang and MD Communications were birthed from youth driving the change they wanted to see in their communities.

In my case, spearheading the initiative was a chance to get young people involved in contributing to their communities through social work. I also wanted to inspire young people to tell their stories. I wanted us to tell stories that any Motswana or African can relate to.

How did you go about growing your “brand” and impact to run a social enterprise and become self-sustaining?

At the beginning, Nayang Association was dependent on donations and membership fees for us to meet our mandate. We have since moved from that to intensive fund-raising strategies which require innovative thinking and new approaches to show our growth.

Using innovative thinking & new approaches Kagiso Madibana shows the growth of her projects Click To Tweet

We organize yoga sessions, workshops and hiking sessions in the country’s hottest tourist attractions. We also collaborate with other organisations and youth ventures that want to make a difference in the community. Our biggest challenge in the first few months was consistency, something we could not have due to a shortage of funds but we worked on that and we are trying to find ways of becoming a sustainable entity.

MD communications, Kagiso company

What four skills have you found yourself learning frequently since starting your social enterprise and publishing a book?

  • I am learning to become more assertive about public speaking.
  • Also, I am learning how to network strategically and make the right connections for any project that I am undertaking.
  • I have accepted that I don’t know everything and I listen more, especially to people who are in the same industry. I always pick up valuable lessons on how to best improve our everyday operations at Nayang.
  • Finally, I have learnt that delegating tasks and commending the people you work with is important for the growth of your organisation.

What challenges have you faced that are unique to your business and writing a book?

We had to start our project from scratch with nothing and ask the public to get involved. People are skeptical because we have had scams and a lot of community-based projects have failed due to mismanagement. So initially, it was tough to get the support and have people believe in what we wanted to do. We had to prove ourselves first so that required a great deal of financial sacrifices.

We had to start our project with nothing and ask the public to get involved @otwngal Click To Tweet

As a self-published author, I struggled to get my books into an already fraught reading nation. The reading demographic, especially for fiction books, has changed and I had to adapt. Instead of the traditional bookstores which are only available in towns and cities, I had to take my books to Choppies, a chain store that has a presence in most areas of Botswana. This of course also comes at a cost.

In what ways have you diversified your product to suit your market? Especially considering the Botswana context?

Nayang plans activities across Botswana as we want to bring attention to the beauty of the country. We use hashtags such as #VisitBotswana #HikeBotswana #Buildingcommunities on social media platforms because we want the average Motswana to know that they are not only contributing to a great cause but also that they are developing a sense of pride about being a Motswana.

Kagiso madibana organized zumba class

My book, “Tales from the Heart of Botswana: Baareng’s Journey” is a book of untold stories of hope. Any Motswana who grew up in Botswana is able to relate to the stories and feel a sense of belonging. My intention with the book was to inspire through fiction. Ensuring that the book is available for any Motswana to access, whether you are in Mochudi or Shorobe has been my biggest priority.

In both areas, social media and traditional media have been a great platform for me and the team to reach out to the community. This is the main reason why I started the MD Africa Communications company which deals with everything from social media management to Media relations and CSR project management.

With running so many projects, what do you do to unwind?

I watch Isibaya and every TV show known to man, I see myself as a Shonda Rhimes someday. I look up to Ferguson Films productions as well.

Reading is obviously a hobby! I also love travelling, hiking and adventure sports.

Some people want to write a book or start-up social enterprises, how would you advise them?

Believe in your product and create your own hype!

Start, that’s always the hardest part. Funding should never be a reason for you to delay implementation otherwise you never will follow up on your ideas.

Funding should never be a reason to delay otherwise you never will follow up on your ideas Click To Tweet

Kagiso with president of Botswana

Who inspires you?

Any young person willing to take a risk, as well as successful entrepreneurs who are not afraid to talk about their failures. Many times we don’t know about the financial struggles they went through in their transition to where they are today.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

 

Salome Phiri: Don’t ever be afraid to shine, greatness is your birthright

Salome Phiri
Our vision is to build a diverse community of millennial African women - Salome Phiri Click To Tweet

African Women Redefined is an excellent example of women pulling other women along to walk in the light. Started by Salome Phiri, African Woman Redefined (AWR) is a women’s empowerment platform which creates a unique space for women to develop themselves both personally and professionally.

The idea is to create a network of support that will help women embrace their uniqueness and live their lives as phenomenal women. Still less than a year old, AWR has many more exciting things in store and Salome Phiri is working hard to make the organization a success in Zambia and throughout Africa.


What is African Women Redefined all about? How is the organization structured, what type of activities do you organize?

At African Woman Redefined, we believe that all women are phenomenal and by embracing their uniqueness and tapping into their full potential, they can define themselves by their own standards and ultimately live purposeful lives.

Our mission is to promote positive narratives about African women by celebrating, inspiring and empowering them through digital content and events that are aimed at addressing various themes which are central to the modern African woman. Our focus is to help the millennial African woman develop a strong sense of self and grow into a well-rounded and balanced individual who thrives in various areas of her life through her own efforts and with the support of other women.

The AWR team comprises of myself and two other phenomenal women from different backgrounds, who share my passion and drive to contribute to the upliftment and betterment of women in our society. Together we dedicate our time, resources and expertise to achieving our common mission of changing the world one woman at a time.

Salome Phiri: At African Woman Redefined, we believe that all women are phenomenal Click To Tweet

What was your motivation for starting this social enterprise? 

Growing up I was a very timid and quiet child who lacked the confidence to speak up and stand out. This behaviour spilled over into my adult life and for many years I struggled with insecurity and low self-esteem. My turning point came at a time when I had experienced setbacks in my personal and professional life that left me so emotionally drained that I could no longer recognize myself.

As a way to transcend the pain from these experiences, I resolved to search deep within myself and find out who I was at the core of my being and what I really wanted out of life. It was like I had finally woken up to myself. I became more confident and self-aware, and suddenly my life became more colourful, hopeful and meaningful.

As I began to walk in my light, however, I noticed that many of my peers were still in the shadows –lacking a sense of identity and living unfulfilled lives. We live in a society that is predominately patriarchal and deems a woman successful if she has an education, a job, a husband, and children.

This mindset has resulted in many young women making decisions that conform to societal expectations, some of which are to the detriment of their psychological and emotional wellbeing. I found this disheartening, and so my personal mission became not only to change the way society viewed its women but also to change the way women viewed themselves –as extraordinary beings that have great potential and purpose, hence the birth of African Woman Redefined.

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What is your vision for African Woman Redefined? How do you hope to achieve that?

Our vision is to build a diverse community of millennial African women, who are secure in their identities and use their unique set of gifts and abilities to positively impact society.

AWR aims to position itself in Zambia and throughout Africa as a reliable and trusted source of information where young African women can learn to embrace their unique identities; learn to harness their potential, discover their purpose, and foster relationships with other women.

We aim to achieve our mission by targeting millennial women between the ages of 25 and 40. These women are likely to be professionals, entrepreneurs, creatives, influencers and change agents who continually seek personal growth and wish to inspire positive change in their communities.

Your organization has been around for about half a year now. What is your biggest accomplishment so far?

Our biggest accomplishment so far would be successfully organising our first major event under the theme “Be bold. Be beautiful. Be You”. The aim of the event was to bring together a group of women to connect with one another and to be inspired to live authentically and be bold in pursuit of their dreams.

Despite it being our first time hosting such an event, we received great reviews from the attendees, most of whom highlighted that the event was well organized and that it had effectively achieved its objectives.

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Looking ahead to 2017, what can we expect to see and hear about AWR?

We have loads of exciting things in store! We are currently planning our next major event that will take place in March in celebration of International Women’s day.

In the long-term, we aim to expand our target market to include young women between the ages of 18 and 25 who are in college or university, and offer them mentorship programs designed to guide them through their academic careers. We also intend to grow our network by collaborating on special projects with other women empowerment platforms both locally and internationally.

Embrace your uniqueness and live your truth - Salome Phiri Click To Tweet

From your personal experiences and through the work that you are doing, if you could use this platform to share one message with young, African women scattered all over the continent what would that message?

Embrace your uniqueness and live your truth.

Don’t ever be afraid to shine because greatness is your birthright. The world is in need of your light; shine brightly.

Your three words for 2017

Intentional. Strategic. Bold.


If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here

Sandra Myambu: Uplifting young people through social entrepreneurship

sandra myambu
Sandra Myambu is working towards giving school-leavers the skills that will make them employable Click To Tweet

Sandra Myambu is currently a Portfolio Programme Analyst at Dimension Data where she is involved in delivery and support of global, strategic projects. She is also the MD for Masana Social Innovations. During her university years, Sandra joined Enactus as Project Manager then Vice President. She also volunteered as a Skills Development Trainer and Project coordinator at an NGO.

When Sandra began working for Dimension Data, she still wanted to continue having an impact to society. By seeing the number of graduates increase in parallel with youth unemployment, the idea for Masana Social Innovations was stimulated. Sandra found out from various research exercises that many graduates lacked skills that deemed them employable, especially in the ICT sector. This is when she started Masana Social Innovations to uplift young people.

Sandra shares with SLA contributor, Anelisa Kasper her challenges and motivators of starting Masana Social Innovations with a full-time job. 


How has your journey/transition from corporate to entrepreneurship been like?

As I’m currently still in corporate and have recently started with Masana, my transition into entrepreneurship hasn’t been hard. Masana’s aim is to use technology innovations to enable the civil society, corporates and state entities to deliver sustainable social solutions to communities. This will be achieved through bridging the skills gap in the ICT industry with a key focus on women, through the facilitation of various skills development programmes.

This doesn’t mean it will be easy for everyone, as experiences vary from one person to the next. I haven’t had to transition as much. The most important thing was to find a balance between my corporate and my entrepreneurship venture. I have always been involved in entrepreneurial activities so juggling my job and my new business is familiar territory. There have been serious adjustments, where Masana and my job are demanding at the same time. What has helped me keep the balance was to be able to effectively manage my time. As I am the MD of Masana, it’s easier to manage my work and assign work to myself that also ensures that my job does not take major strain.

Sandra Myambu found out that many graduates lacked skills that made them employable Click To Tweet

What have been your hardest moments, and how have you overcome them and still overcoming them?

I have big dreams and aspirations for Masana as a social enterprise, and not just as an NGO. Articulating my vision for the organisation has been one of the biggest challenges to date. What I’ve learned from trying to explain that vision is putting it into smaller goals, e.g. this is where Masana is going this year in order for it to get where Masana ultimately needs to be.

Articulating the vision to people will still be a problem in the future because Masana is trying to use innovation to drive real social change. The issue is that people are still not ready to invest in social innovation or community programmes. The hope is that reaching out to more people in smaller scales and trying to explain the vision will help in increasing the buy-in.

One of the major challenges that Masana is still experiencing is getting the right buy-in from the right people. It takes time to establish those relationships and to most importantly, maintain them. Common ground and common interest are key in getting buy-in from investors for your business.

Sandra Myambu: I've always had entrepreneurial activities so balancing is familiar Click To Tweet

What keeps you going in making sure you make Masana Social Innovations an even bigger success?

It’s about knowing how whether small or big the initiatives Masana has, they are valued and they have a real impact on young people and the community. Recently, Masana hosted Africa Code Week in October. During the code week, Masana trained over 600 young people on basic coding skills. In addition, 60% – 70% of the participants were women. The programme had a big impact, and has opened up more women to coding, even if it’s starting at basic coding skills.

The initiatives that Masana holds have had a big impact. Not just to impart people with coding skills which are essential, but also to make people realise that technology is also essential. The success of a business can also be determined by the technology you choose to run your business with.

Uplifting young people is a motivator for continuing with my entrepreneurship venture. My target market has been young people from under-serviced communities and previously disadvantaged areas. Uplifting young women who do not believe they can get the same opportunities that our male counterparts receive. Most importantly, to uplift these young women in believing that they can do well in the world of tech.

According to @_WisaniSandra people aren't ready to invest in social innovation Click To Tweet

Who have been your biggest supporters through your journey? How have they been supportive?

My biggest support system is my family, my friends and a few of my colleagues. I have also received support from mentors in my professional and academic life, and conferences. Those mentors have played various roles in different stages of  my life. My mom and sister have been the most supportive where I’m able to bounce off ideas with them.

What has also helped has also been surrounding myself with friends that are also entrepreneurial and who have similar interests.

Attending the #SheHiveJoburg event this November, in that short period of time, meeting amazing, young black woman who are also visionaries and have aspirations of their own. Those ladies have become key individuals in my networks.

Masana is uplifting young women who don't believe they can get the same opportunities men receive Click To Tweet

What are your plans to ensure that Masana reaches a bigger audience and brings value to more people?

Masana is still at it’s very beginning stages. So far, we’ve successfully implemented the Africa Code Week initiative. A SAP Skills Development programme is in the works. It’s important that we also become more present, especially in the digital space. Growing digitally will, in essence, help in reaching bigger audience.

We’re also targeting learners from matric, so that they know about Masana and get acquainted with our skills initiatives. We’re working towards ensuring that the skills that school-leavers get are not only from university, but we also provide programmes that will make learners employable.

@_WisaniSandra - Ditch the dream & start doing. Start small, start messy, just start Click To Tweet

Any advice for Motherland Moguls?

A quote from Shonda Rhimes from her speech at Dartmouth University; “The most interesting, happy, creative and engaged people are the ones who are doing”. Ditch the dream, and start doing. You don’t have to start when you have all the resources, or the right connections, or in the right space. You just need to start. Start small, start messy but you just need to start. Eventually you’ll get used to the idea that you are working towards something and all the right resources and networks will come.

At Masana, we don’t have all the right resources but the important thing is that we have started and people are showing interest in our initiative.


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

Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien: My personal growth story

Ndidi Nnoli Edozien (Founder Growing Business Foundation) & Aisha Abba Kyari

If you weren’t at the Building A Social Enterprise session presented by Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien at She Hive Abuja, you missed what I would call a transformational experience.

The founder of Growing Businesses Foundation opened Sunday’s session with an uncharacteristic anthem: Timi Dakolo’s ‘Great Nation’.

The song resonated deeply and set the tone for a session which was powerful, inspiring and emotional all at the same time. At several points during the program, I felt chills all over as I connected deeply with the message Dr. Edozien put across.

The talk was simply geared at using her personal growth story to help the participants overcome the fear of failure and step out. She started off by describing entrepreneurship as emanating from something you feel, going further to state that you cannot fail at what you love.

“Social enterprises are aimed more at solving problems thus it is impossible to fail because you’re solving a problem. An important way to measure impact is by making profit. You cannot separate enterprise from the ability to make profit.”

Although she loved to give money out, it took Dr. Edozien 17 years to realise she had to develop the love to yield profit.

Dr. Edozien spoke to her audience about the ability to reach inside and find a feel that’s right. She explained that her life has flowed like a river due to never neglecting her gut feeling. This she likened to religion and how we follow our beliefs because it feels right inside.

Follow your instincts despite what others think

– Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien

Drawing parallels from her story

She used several stories as a way to drive her points home some of them too numerous to share. Below are my three favourites:

  1. “At Queen’s College, I used to come 22nd out of 24 students in a class. I was a quiet, timid girl who wouldn’t say a word. It all changed for me when I got glasses, and literally and figuratively got to see the world around me. That school term, I skyrocketed to the 5th position. Eventually, I was selected for a competition alongside nine other QC students to attend sea school with 30 participants altogether. It was a very big deal at that time.” This particular story was an important one to hear because it helps us understand that it doesn’t really matter what state you find yourself in at the beginning. There is always the potential to turn your story around.
  2. “My family and I moved from our house in the prestigious Ikoyi to my husband’s family home in Central Lagos Island. This was very important to my husband because it was an heirloom that had been in his family for generations. On hearing this, a lot of people told me I was mad. However, it afforded me an opportunity to connect with the locals. It made sense to live there because it was the simple people I yearned to connect with and empower.” Dr. Edozien acknowledged that women have a fear of security. She expressed her belief that forums such as the SheHive help women see that they have the same fears but also have what it takes to succeed.
  3. “In 2001, a man who wanted to empower women in his village approached me for support. This man is now one of my absolute favourite persons in the world. With N1 million that he received, he went on to build a loan portfolio of N12 billion impacting 434,000 women with a 98% loan repayment rate. He sought to recognise and thank me even years later despite my refusal until I finally agreed to have someone represent me. The Kaduna stadium was filled and 90% of the crowd was womenfolk.” This particular story brought tears to my eyes. The man in the story had a simple idea which he ran with because of a passion and conviction in his heart to lift local women out of poverty.

Important lessons from Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien

  1. Trust what you have before you. “Perfect is the enemy of good. Think, feel and then move. If you strive for perfection, you will never get started.” – Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien
  2. Find someone who inspires and believes in you. Not necessarily someone you love or vice versa, have an individual who can hear, see and feel you. Look for different mentors you feel a connection with. A mentor can be someone you never met. Once you discover that person, connect with them, read their books, follow their story etc.
  3. Be vulnerable. Cry! You’re probably thinking, what?! Yes, Dr. Edozien stressed the importance to cry because something moves you. Not alluding to self-pity, it’s okay to feel vulnerable. Her first company logo was a butterfly because it reminded her of how vulnerable the winged insect is.

In Dr. Edozien’s closing remarks she boldly stated, “Do not be afraid of failure. Ask failure what is the worst thing that can happen to me? Take it into cognizance and move.”

She also asked that young women remember the significance of building a team. In her own words, “you cannot grow a business without a team. It might be your idea, but it gets very lonely at the top. A team will help you drive your vision and fill gaps that may exist.”

The purpose of business: The business of purpose

Chioma Okunu - Recycle Points

A few decades ago the notion of the Triple Bottom Line became commonplace. The phrase introduced the concept that businesses, particularly global brands, have a responsibility to ensure that their business and their business practices not only render to them (internal) economy prosperity, but that their business practices safeguards the environment, and delivers social responsibility (external). The Three E’s – economy, ecology and equity.

More recently, the notion of sustainability and climate change has become a global dictate for ensuring and assessing the actions of corporations – again as a measure of ensuring that corporations take responsibility in and for their global business practices. This ensure that in operating their businesses, they are not in any way depleting the environment and livelihoods, nor negatively impacting the lives of future generations.

As usual, naysayers thought it was all hogwash – a liberal, goody-goody notion that some had latched onto to make their businesses look good. A notion that was good for shareholder value and drenched in profit-making with little thought for ecology and equity.

But I beg to differ.

You see, the future is not only a place we are going, it is also a place we are creating – and as such there can be a trade off between the present and tomorrow, depending on how we live, and ultimately how we lead and how we do business.

What am I driving at?

I am very much interested in the idea of transformational business leadership as opposed to transactional business leadership. My premise is that business leadership should be transformational and purposeful, and not merely transactional. Your business leadership should have a positive and resounding transformational impact on your internal (staff) and external (clients, shareholders, and partners) stakeholders, to the extent that the leadership positively impacts society at large. Not my responsibility, I hear you say. Well, let’s look at the business landscape and how this notion is being played out in the business sector – and particularly by two women in business.

PwC released its 19th Annual CEO Global Survey at the recently concluded World Economic Forum in Davos. Shannon Schuyler, President of PwC Foundation and Chief Corporate Responsibility and Purpose Officer, in an article in the Huffington Post, wrote that the 19th CEO Survey had revealed that while CEOs and companies may define purpose differently, for many ‘purpose is why their business exists’. More importantly, the CEOs noted that they recognise that companies have a wider responsibility to provide value to all stakeholders: ‘business profits and societal prosperity are inseparable: purpose is what aligns and unites them.’

Ms Shannon words were music to my ears. Essentially, global business leaders accept that business is not merely a secular, transactional act, but an intellectual and purposeful act to respond profoundly to societal needs. And that is why you need transformational leaders, leaders with unusual, far sighted ways of thinking and doing, to lead businesses – and ultimately – to shape societies.

Jen Lim is the CEO and Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness – a company she co-founded to inspire science-based happiness, passion and purpose at home, work and in everyday life. For Delivering Happiness, companies can successfully use happiness as a business model to increase productivity and profitability, proving that companies with a higher sense of purpose outperform others by 400%.

Here’s the premise

My premise is that the higher sense of purpose, the ‘why’ of your business, is the strategic and leadership responsibility of the business leader to know, own, cascade and secure buy-in into by internal and external stakeholders. People generally are always pursuing happiness. They want to be part of something big and bigger than themselves – and what a better place to know and find that than the place where they spend two-thirds of their day, i.e. work?

For me, it will take transformational leadership to build the business of your dreams. It will take transformational leadership to have a sustainable business. And it will take transformational leadership to have a truly loyal, dynamic and productive set of internal stakeholders – as well as a set of external stakeholders that render you and your business profit.

The transformational business leader is concerned about all their stakeholders – the enterprise itself, the clients, their staff, their business partners – and they go out of their way to identify the needs of each one, after which they seek to arrive at a place of business operations that delivers joint value to all stakeholders.

Ms. Schuyler delivered superbly on an enthralling Twitter chat on 18th February about using purpose to drive business. She demonstrated explicitly that in businesses, purpose leads to more innovation, focus, human intensity and quality – and that each of these drive profit.

Business therefore is not only a commercial transaction for financial gain but also a potentially transformational endeavour for financial and societal good. Business is purposeful, and there is business in purpose.

Creating impact that works: Tips from my start-up experience in Ghana

Eu'Genia Shea - Impact

Naa-Sakle Akuete is the founder of Eu’Genia Shea, the first line of premium shea moisturizers dedicated to using 100% natural ingredients in partnership with female cooperatives in Ghana. She shares what she’s learned from working with rural communities for her natural products.


When my mother founded a shea butter manufacturing company in Ghana in 1999, she had never heard the term “double bottom line.” She did, however, know that if she was going to succeed in business, she wanted to do so in an ethical manner.

By partnering with pickers from female cooperatives, paying them above-market prices, and offering organic and financial training, she was able to ensure that her community thrived along with her business. Her decades of experience inspired me to start my own finished products line last year: Eu’Genia Shea.

As I pore through her life’s work, applying lessons learned and trying to avoid mistakes already made, one point shines through brightly: good intentions do not always yield good results.

Hopefully, some of these points will be helpful to others aiming to make mutually beneficial business partnerships in rural developing communities.

Build Trust

You know yourself, you understand your motives, and without a doubt, your heart is in the right place. But even if you are native to the country/region/community, how can others be assured of this goodwill if they do not know you? SNV is a Swiss nonprofit dedicated to “creating effective solutions with local impact”, in this case facilitating savings. They entered Damongo, Ghana with speeches and promises, but without any connections. The cooperatives with which we work were understandably wary.

How many times have they encountered non-profits who raised their hopes only to disappear, or worse still, people claiming to have their best interests in mind, only to cheat them? They sent the confused SNV away then SNV came to my mother to explain their mission. My mother spoke on their behalf, and now SNV is a valued contributor to these cooperatives.

Bottom line: Understand the legacy of the community and approach accordingly, whether through an intermediary or through years of proving yourself (which takes a bit longer, but Mum can confirm it works!)

Listen

There are thousands of aid organizations flooding millions of dollars into poor communities globally. Most of them have good intentions, but their money still goes to waste. For example, on one visit to our facilities in Damango, Mum occasionally saw workers without shoes. As a westerner, or a native with a westerner’s perspective, this is jarring for a number of reasons, not least of all because of the safety implications.

She spoke with the women and made a point of purchasing shoes for all of the workers on her next trip to the US to ensure that no one was left unprotected. Upon her return, some women again were not wearing shoes. When she inquired about it, she discovered two things: some husbands were absconding with their wives’ shoes and some women found it difficult to maneuver in the new shoes.

Had my mum taken the time to dig a little deeper originally, she would have found that buying local shoes closely fitting each woman would have helped solve both problems.

Encourage them to maintain assets

Now you’re partnering with a community whose needs you understand and are able to address. You’ve suggested ideas and implemented technology where appropriate; they’ve told you why half of your bright ideas aren’t quite so bright, and everything is moving along swimmingly. It’s come time to leave them for a couple weeks, months, or years…

Before you leave operations in their hands, make sure you’ve given them the tools and know-how to maintain (and how often to maintain) any machinery you’ve introduced. The once shiny, now corroded Japan Motorbike rusting by our plot is a great example of something that made life easy for a couple months before falling into disrepair.

Choose the right customers

You’re running a business not a charity. On one end, you have Bill Gates in Microsoft era and on the other, Bill Gates in the Bill & Melinda Foundation era. You don’t have to be either extreme, but what you have to do is make enough money to keep yourself afloat and to continue the work you’re doing.

If social impact causes your products to be slightly more expensive than competitors, find the customers who care. And make sure your product is worth it! At Eu’Genia Shea, not only do we pay above market wages, provide training, and give 15% of our profits back to our workers, our longevity in the industry helps ensure our products are always of the highest quality.

Our customers get expertly moisturized skin, our partners make a good living, and we get to keep on doing what we love — win/win!

Transparency

Your aim is to do great things, so be open about it. Maybe you’re not doing quite as much as you’d like yet. For example, 15% of profits covers some of the tuition costs of our worker’s children, but not all. I’d love Eu’Genia to be able to give all the children in our communities a free education. I’d love to provide all past and future workers with a pension when they retire. I’d love to offer free daycare to workers whose children are below school age.

The reality, however, is that I’m not in a position to do any of this yet. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try though. Along the way, I’m sure I’ll make mistakes. But my mistakes can be learning points for me and other entrepreneurs like me. Being transparent about our goals and processes not only allows others to give us valuable feedback, but also supports the growth of all enterprises looking to make an impact.

We live in a big and complicated world with many societal issues I’ve never heard of or understood. If those who are able can contribute to improve the landscape how best they know, our actions will magnify each other’s. I’m excited to be a small part of this effort.


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