In conversation with creative agency JamJar about their website relaunch

JamJar was created in 2013 out of frustration with the way corporate and creative events were organised in Ghana. Many events felt poorly organised and were identical. As a result JamJars’ founding partner, Frances Quarcoopome, found the need to put her skills to work and provide the industry with a creative alternative.

JamJar continues to be recognised for its innovative and forward thinking design concepts and exceptional event planning services.

Their vision is to be the top African creative agency, fueled with passion, innovation and the desire to make every client happy.  


Tell us about Jam Jar

JamJar is a creative agency dedicated to providing clients across Africa with innovative, affordable and locally relevant concepts in events, design and pr.

You recently decided to rebrand and relaunch your website, why?

Our website got hacked. Although this was unfortunate, we saw it as an opportunity to review the layout of our website and the elements which needed to improve; and making sure potential clients have all the information they need.

 

Key steps to rebranding and relaunching a website

  1.  Assess what you want to achieve/ goals
  2. Ensure that your website development team is on board and understands your vision
  3. Decide on your layout
  4. Create or gather all the relevant content
  5. Proof read it,
  6. and send it to your development team
  7. Launch a demo site to see how everything looks
  8. Eliminate any kinks
  9. Make any changes necessary and then you’re good to go.

 

Why do organisations need to rebrand or relaunch?

I think it’s really important for organisations to rebrand or relaunch because it gives them an opportunity to reach a new audience; and to also look at how far they’ve come, and to ensure that this is reflected in the company branding and website.

Our main goal was to make it much easier for potential clients and partners to look through our portfolio and understand who we are as an agency. Hopefully creating a good enough impression that they want to hire us.

 

What tips do you have for someone looking to relaunch their website?

(1) Make sure you give yourself a deadline; (2) that your content is organized; (3) your images are high quality; (4) and remember to have fun.

 

You need a team that can provide you with all the support to make those things come to life. Our A-team is Ronin Africa. They’ve supported us from the beginning; they understand our vision as JamJar and allow us to be creative. They are flexible and open to new ideas; therefore we can create something truly unique to JamJar.

 

What goals do you aim to achieve through your website?

With our new website we hope to reach new clients, particularly international clients. We also want to provide our existing clients with a reference point, and to use our blog to share knowledge and events.

 

How has your new website positively impacted business?

So far the website has allowed us to confidently market our services, knowing our product is represented clearly. Our plans are to expand to the rest of Africa in the next 5 years, and the website provides a great launch pad for accessing these markets. It also ensures that we keep ourselves dynamic and fresh.

 

Website: jamjargh.com

Instagram: @jamjargh


Do you have an insightful story to share about your company rebrand/relaunch?

Let us know here.

Lessons on Pitching: from JamJar Founding Partner Frances Quarcoopome

About Seedstars Pitch competition

Seedstars World promotes, connects and invests up to $1.5 million in emerging market startups, through its exclusive startup competition, held in in 60 countries. Seedstars is one of the largest pitch competitions in the world, they hold a series of local start up competitions, a regional one and then global.

 

The motivation to pitch

I had been following Seedstars for over 3 years, and had been thinking about pitching, however I didn’t quite have the idea yet. I just knew that if JamJar was going to expand into Africa we needed something scalable and relevant. Within the last 3 years of working in the events industry, our experience has highlighted challenges that our customers face, particularly international customers who are unsure about the African market.

I decided there was a solution for this: A platform which makes it easier for clients to find, book and plan events in Africa, through our network of venues and suppliers. This is what I pitched and although it was my first time pitching ever, I came second place.

The whole experience of pitching was thrilling and also interesting, in terms of venturing into the tech space. The one thing I noticed was also the fact that in Accra, I was the only woman pitching. Now, some people say this would have been an advantage, but considering that all the other contestants and the judges were male, I wasn’t too sure. I did however see this as a great opportunity to stand out further by delivering a stellar pitch.

 

Lessons learnt as the only woman pitching

  1. Don’t be intimidated, You know what you are capable of and no matter what, do what you have to
  2. Put your gender aside, let your capabilities shine through
  3. Never see it as a problem, rather an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

 

Lessons for a successful Pitch

  1. Be clear about what your product is and what you are trying to achieve
  2. Practice your pitch, but most of all, your answers to the tough questions
  3. Get a mentor, someone who has pitched before that can guide you and give you valuable insights
  4. Sometimes it’s not about whether your product is good, but what the pitch competition is trying to achieve. You may have the perfect pitch, but if your solution doesn’t align with the goals of the fund, it may not work out. If you can find this out before hand, do so.
  5. The key here is to keep going, believe in what you are trying to create, and the problem you are solving.

The biggest lesson I learnt is that, there is still a long way to go for people and companies to acknowledge the tech innovations in the creative industries, particularly fashion, events, photography, design etc.

Many investors continue to focus on Fintech, agriculture, health and education, and although these may be the big industries, it’s also time to value the creative and service industries and provide them with the support they need.

 

About JamJar

JamJar was created in 2013 out of frustration with the way corporate and creative events were organised in Ghana. Many events felt poorly organised and were identical. As a result JamJars’ founding partner, Frances Quarcoopome, found the need to put her skills to work and provide the industry with a creative alternative.

JamJar continues to be recognised for its innovative and forward thinking design concepts and exceptional event planning services.

Their vision is to be the top African creative agency, fueled with passion, innovation and the desire to make every client happy.

http://www.jamajrgh.com/

instagram.com/jamjar


 Do You have any tips on how to deliver a successful pitch? 

Let us know here.

How to Keep Motivated While Job Hunting

Looking for a job? We have all been there. At SLA, we are all about empowering women who are successful in their industries, but it’s just as important to empower those who are still trying to make it. Looking for a job is no easy feat, and a couple of rejections here and there can really get to you. Staying positive is not easy and sometimes you need make a few of changes to get you ahead.

We spoke to HR Specialist Sonia Hlahla, who has great tricks up her sleeve to give us for the perfect job hunt. Hailing from the Free State, Sonia majored in Industrial Psychology and has since then, used her skills and expertise to empower the youth in the professional environment. Take a look at Sonia’s tips on what you need to do to land your dream job.

Make sure your CV/Resume is detailed

The first thing the recruiter needs to see are your most recent qualifications and jobs . Your CV is meant to sell you to us, so make sure it is highly detailed according to the job spec you are currently looking at. We also take references very seriously, so eliminate your friends and family from that list. You would also be surprised at the amount of CV’s we get that do not even have contact details, so make sure we are able to reach you for an interview!

 

Volunteer if you have time

Volunteer at your local school, hospital or children’s home. Especially if you are not working. Even if it’s not in your field, it helps in building great communication and interpersonal skills outside of your expertise. Getting a job is not just about being good at it, recruiters also want to see that you are able to interact with people from different backgrounds, it shows you can be a great fit for any company.

 

Skills, skills and more skills

Take a short course online, especially if you want a job in a certain industry. This tells recruiters that while you were unemployed, you are still eager to learn and improve yourself. This looks amazing on a CV, especially as a young professional. Most online courses are free and easy to get through if you are dedicated.

 

Career Portals are important

Always keep your LinkedIn page professional. A great tip that I love to give to people is that you should use these portals as a way to apply directly with the company. This eliminates the middle man and gives you direct contact with the company you want to apply to.

 

Never give up

Keep looking! Make an effort to apply for at least one job a day. Looking for a job can be a job in difficult and as human to get lazy at times, but you may miss out a job post that could be perfect for you. Pushing past your frustration will probably become challenging, it’s important to stay positive when you’re in a difficult spot, and a positive you creates a much happier job seeker.

So use these tips to stay level-headed. Keep on pushing and praying until you find the job of your dreams.


How did you stay motivated when you were job hunting? We’d love to hear your story and tips.

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

Jacqueline Nwobu: I Am Proud Of The Changes We Have Sparked In The Wedding Industry

Jacqueline Nwobu is the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Munaluchi Bride Magazine, the leading and nationally distributed wedding magazine and online wedding marketplace; which caters to multicultural couples and serves the $200 billion wedding and events industry.

Since the launch of Munaluchi in 2010, Jacqueline has grown the brand into an industry leader with a robust multi-cultural marketplace and social media influence of over 600,000 followers worldwide.

With a strong and focused vision to champion diversity, Jacqueline has successfully disrupted the industry to influence positive change and inclusiveness. Her TEDx talk on “Reshaping an Industry, One Like at a Time” has received rave reviews.

Jacqueline obtained her B.S. degree in Medical Technology and has worked for major pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies, including Johnson and Johnson. The rapid success of her magazine has landed her interviews on NBC, ABC and WPIX NY.

Jacqueline resides in New Jersey with her husband and three children.

Click To Tweet

Why choose to start a bridal magazine publication?

I initially started out as a photographer shooting alongside my husband. In the first year that we began shooting weddings, we noticed a void in the wedding industry. Weddings, like the ones I was attending and shooting, were not being featured in mainstream magazines or blogs.

From that point, it became my mission to launch the first nationally distributed wedding magazine, catering to women of color, and that was how Munaluchi Bride Magazine was born.  I did a TEDxtalk in 2013 describing in more detail how we got started.

Did you acquire any training to help run your business?

My background is in Science, specifically Medical Technology.  I worked as a QA Scientist at Johnson and Johnson, and then a Technical Specialist for a major Diagnostics Company, so publishing a magazine was not something I studied or had any training in.

In fact, it took me 6 months to tell my proud Naija parents that I had quit my very well paying job, to launch a bridal magazine while we were in the middle of a recession in the United States.

When my husband and I decided to launch the magazine, I taught myself InDesign and Photoshop via the awesome website Lynda.com.  I used my newly acquired InDesign and Photoshop skills to layout the magazine and build our first website.

Everything I learned in business was truly through trial and error – and a heavy dose of faith!  Truthfully, Google was my BFF. There is nothing you can’t learn online. You just have to put in the work and be committed to it.

 

Were there times you doubted your business decision? How did you snap out of it?

Of course! Leaving a great career in the middle of a recession (with two children under the age of two, and pregnant with my 3rd) to launch a bridal magazine, when print was being considered “dead”, was not a seemingly logical decision.

So there were times when I would wonder if my decision was the right one. Those thoughts, nevertheless, were very short lived because I had an extremely strong belief that what I was doing was necessary and important.

I knew that it was going to be hard work, because nothing good comes easy.  But I was faithful to God that this idea and blessing wasn’t given to Chike and I haphazardly.

Moreover, it was given to us because He knew we could handle it.  At the end of the day, there was no opportunity for failure, because every action deemed as a “failure” by many, was instead an educational component for us. It was an opportunity to learn from our mistakes and grow a stronger brand.

 

Your co-founder is your husband; can you share three (3) points to note before starting a business with your spouse?

 

1. Ensure that the marriage is on a solid foundation

The last thing you want to do is get started in business, without understanding the sacrifice that a solid marriage takes. If your marriage is suffering, a new business will not necessarily bring you together.  On the other hand, a new business can cause strain in your marriage if you aren’t discussing openly the number one thing that causes the strain, money.  Have the “money talk” regularly and openly with your spouse.

 

2. Understand your strengths

If you want to succeed as a team, you’ll need to recognize what your strong points are, and those of your spouse. Make sure your roles are defined and you both have an understanding of who’s responsible for what.

You both will be wearing many hats when starting out, so you’ll need to know what those hats are,  to avoid conflicts along the way. I’m involved in the Editorial, Marketing, Content creation and visualization; while Chike focuses on Partnerships, Advertising and large-scale growth. It works out beautifully because we aren’t blocking each other’s lanes.

 

3. Have respect for your spouse and a little time for fun

When you run a business with your spouse, you never stop working. It goes from the office, back to your home and the business becomes front and center.  Remember to respect one another at work and try to keep your personal life at home.

Take some time out bonding time. This is where you do something that doesn’t involve the business, or where work isn’t allowed. For Chike and I, we love to stay home and watch movies. It’s simple, but it works for us and gets us away from talking about work, even if it’s only for a few hours.

 

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What has been your proudest moment so far?

Wow. I can’t say there is a “proudest moment” because I am genuinely proud of what Chike and I have built.  Every.single.day!

I am proud of how far we have come. I am proud of the changes we have sparked in the wedding industry, totally transforming the way multicultural weddings are viewed and admired.

I am proud of the team we have in place, that help propel the brand to greater heights.

What do you love most about weddings?

I love the ceremonies; the walks down the aisle, the vows, the facial expressions, the tears, and the joy; all of it.

 

Do you see yourself ever returning to the field of medical science? 

I miss and still love Science, but I most likely wouldn’t return. Things have changed so much since I was in the field of Medical Technology.  It’s great to have it as a backup plan, but we won’t need that because answer #3.

 

What is the first luxury item you would buy if you got a million dollars now?

This is a hard one! I live a very simple life.  Can I pick a luxury service instead? If someone was to give me a million dollars right now, I would put it back into my business.

But, in the spirit of this question, I would use it on a new house for my parents- fully equipped with rooms for each of their grandchildren, extra rooms for future grandchildren, a basketball court, a grand dining room (cause my mom loves to cook and entertain and we love her okro soup!).

Creating family memories is so important to me. After all is said and done, family will always be there for you, so it’s important to enjoy your family as much as you can.


Do you have a career or business in the wedding industry?

Let us know more about you and your story  here.

 

Women at Afroes: Anne and Gathoni are Leading the Mobile Gamification Path

 

Afroes , short for ‘African heroes’, is a mobile-first enterprise. They’re on a mission to position African youth for productive futures by, innovating in skills acquisition, engagement and connecting to opportunity.

Anne Githuku-Shongwe is a Social Entrepreneur, Social Innovator, a Development Professional and a thought leader on digital and social innovation. Anne founded Afroes in 2010, as a digital enterprise. Creating gamified learning solutions designed to reach, teach and connect Africa’s young women and men to life skills, through their mobile phones.

Her vision is to revolutionise learning in Africa, with a focus on delivering positive, Africa-focused mobile phone entertainment to the youth market across the continent. Anne and Afroes have received multiple awards including, the prestigious Schwab Foundation/World Economic Forum Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2013.

Gathoni Mwai is a Sustainable Development professional. She has over 7 years experience working on social development issues in Africa, and on the use of data, technology and innovation for development.

Having been brought up in Kenya she is passionate about the country, its people and seeing them all thrive. Gathoni joined Afroes as project manager for the development of the PeaceApp award winning Haki II: Chaguo Ni Lako, ,a mobile game that was used for peace building in Kenya, in the run up to the 2013 elections following the post election violence experienced in 2007-8.

She recently completed her Masters in Sustainable Development Corporate Responsibility. Currently, she takes on the role of Kenya programme manager, where she is tasked with scaling the Afroes product range and developing partnerships.

Join us on this inspiring  journey as we share the stories of these two front-running African women in tech.


Tell us the story behind Afroes

Afroes (the name comes from a play on the words African Heroes and Heroines) was inspired by conversations with my children. I was worried that they weren’t being exposed to any positive African media content; and that their ideas and aspirations for Africa were being influenced by the Western media’s pervasively negative messages about the continent.

I wanted to do something to change that. But it was whilst I observed my son excitedly relating things he’d learned while playing the computer game, Civilisations, that I realised that, children who play computer games are a captive audience for anything you want to teach them.

I knew from that point onwards that I needed to harness the power of computer games, to deliver positive messages to African children. Given the growth of mobile phone usage and ownership across Africa the idea of computer games evolved to mobile phone games.

 

 

How effective has the Afroes’ strategy been, in achieving its set goals and what successes have you recorded in recent times?

The Afroes strategy has had to be very adaptable to the changing times, technology and issues that affect African youth. At our core ,our main goal has been to inspire and empower young Africans with 21st Century skills, which will help them transform their lives and the lives of people in their communities.

We have set out to build partnerships with like-minded organisations that see mobile phone technology as a medium to change mindsets and positively impact young Africans. In the last 3 years we have been lucky enough to receive the following awards:

  • Winner of PeaceApp – promote digital games and gamified apps as venues for cultural dialogue and conflict management, 2014;
  • Winner, Gender Mainstreaming Awards, Empowerment Initiatives, South Africa, 2014;
  • Winner, ICT Innovation Award for Gender Youth and Vulnerable Groups, Kenya, 2014;

To date we have had over 800,000 users download our games and 100,000s more through offline activations.

 

Our core our main goal has been to inspire and empower young Africans with 21st Century skills Click To Tweet

 

 

What challenges have you faced in the course of running your business and how have you been able to walk through them?

Sustainable financing has been a major challenge. We have been lucky enough to have our games fully funded by our project partners, but this has been quite limiting. Another challenge we have had is convincing programme/ solution stakeholders to adopt an alternative media/ mediums, strategy and methodology to reach and engage their traditional intended audience; as well as appeal to a new demographic of social issue based content advocates, stakeholders and consumers.

 

How important is technology for Africa’s future and how well has the African market tapped into it?

Technology is important on a global scale. What is more important for Africa is appropriate technology to enable sustainable growth and livelihood development for all. The African markets have not only tapped into the technology, but are leading the charge in technological innovation.

From Mpesa (mobile money), to the use of drones to transfer essential goods. Recent statistics have showed that 2/3 of young people own a smart phone, giving them access to a world of information, allowing them to tap into new ideas and adapting it for themselves.

 

Technology is important on a global scale Click To Tweet

 

If you had to binge watch any movie series, which would it be?

The Wire – because it’s on my watch list but I’ve never watched it.

 

 

Tell us about the Job Hunt game launching soon and the concept behind it

JobHunt is a mobile game designed to simulate the online/ digital work experience. The concept of this game is to create awareness on digital jobs and the opportunities to earn an income for young people. In the game you bid for jobs, improve skills and ultimately build the skills required to win jobs in this space.

 

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt on your entrepreneurial journey so far and how has it helped you in the course of your work at Afroes?

Being an entrepreneur is not an easy life, very often you need to be motivated even when things may not be working in your favour.

There is this image of a man digging in a cave with a huge diamond just a few digs away. He has to choose whether or not to keep digging, not knowing if he has reached the diamond or not.

This for me sums up the life and motivation of an entrepreneur and my journey with Afroes – if you believe in your product, your idea your company you have to keep digging to find that diamond. So we must keep digging.

 

What the next step for Afroes in another five years?

Over the last year we have been redeveloping the Afroes strategy. We have streamlined our strategy to enhance the current games catalogue and from our research we have decided to target specific areas that affect African Youth, such as Jobs and Health.

 

 

What one quote resonates with what Afroes represents?

“The future of Africa lies not with external actors but within Africa itself. The future of Africa lies here in Africa.” I strongly believe in Africa and the power of her people to make a difference in our lives.

For too long solutions to our problems have been sought from outside, but we have the solutions. Afroes is playing our part by producing games and stories on mobile devices that speak to Africans, which represents Africans and that can ultimately transform Africa.

 

The future of Africa lies not with external actors but within Africa itself. The future of Africa lies here in Africa Click To Tweet
Are you in the mobile technology business?

If you’d like to share your story, let us know more here.

Want to be a kick-ass entrepreneur? You must first become an employee

Not everybody can become a successful entrepreneur without undergoing some level of training Click To Tweet

Early this year, I had a conversation with a colleague, and we both agreed that the ultimate goal of most millennials was to be their own boss. According to a survey that was conducted by America’s Small Business Development Centres, over 61% of millennials believe the best job security comes from owning your own business.

In my opinion, this is a welcome development. More entrepreneurs mean more job creation which in turn leads to an even distribution of wealth, hence reducing the household to poverty ratio. Having said that, it must be stated that not everybody can become a successful entrepreneur without undergoing some level of training whether as an employee or receiving formal (or semi-formal) education. It is quite impossible for you to suddenly acquire the skill set required to become a successful entrepreneur without learning from someone.

Presently, there is an ongoing, albeit subtle, disparagement of people working as employees. The condescension is astonishing, you wouldn’t believe it. Employees are now seen as sell-outs; people with little or no ambition. In their haste to put down employees, most people forget that the most successful entrepreneurs in the world were once employees. And the reason for their success can be partly attributed to the skills they acquired while working under someone.

Most people forget that the most successful entrepreneurs in the world were once employees Click To Tweet

I came across this quote by President Donald Trump which I think is very apt for this post, “Watch, listen, and learn. You can’t know it all yourself. Anyone who thinks they do is destined for mediocrity”. In the same vein, you can only be a great leader by being a follower. Working as an employee can provide you with tools that you need to start-up your own company.

Network

Business contacts and networks don’t magically land in your laps. You have to make a conscious effort to put yourself out there.

By working as an employee, you are able to access the pool of professionals and resources you will need in the future. Never underestimate the power that comes from knowing people and having connections that will act as your referral sources when you do start your business.

Experience

This cannot be over-emphasized. One of the key reasons why most start-ups fail is because the entrepreneurs didn’t have the necessary experience or knowledge about the sector.

A friend who wanted to start a clothing line had no idea what such venture would entail. Her solution was employing someone who had experience. The danger with this is that you are essentially running a business where you know nothing, thus leaving yourself open to failure.

Confidence and clear communicator

When you learn a skill and have mastered it (by doing it over and over again as an employee), there is a confidence that comes with the knowledge that you are a pro in that particular area.

For instance, working as a sales personnel in a manufacturing company. As a sales personnel, you had to learn how to sell a product. By doing this over a period of time, you become very good at it. When you eventually start your own product line, you are already a master of sales and this brings a certain level of confidence.

As an employee, you had to learn the art of good communication, what good communication looks and sounds like. Being able to communicate effectively makes a major difference, and this is a skill you will need when you start employing people.

Learning the art of budgeting

Truthfully, you don’t need to be an employee to learn how to budget your expenses. However, as an employee, you may have noticed that in order for a company to run effectively, funds have to be allocated for various activities.

You learn how to achieve more with less, and how to organise and think creatively. This is important because not all startups have huge capital to invest. You will need to do the important stuff with the little you have.

Avoid mistakes

There is nothing as beautiful as learning from the mistakes of others, especially for entrepreneurs. So, as an employee, you would have noticed the flaws and the loopholes in the business. This will serve as a guide such that when you start your own company, these flaws and loopholes will be avoided.

So, these are the reasons why I believe that one of the best things an aspiring entrepreneur should do before starting up his/her company is to first work for other people.

Nkechi Adimora: 5 things that kept my business running during the recession

Nkechi Adimora

Nkechi Adimora is the CEO of Ozi Express, a logistics business she started with her husband a little over a year ago. This startup is focused on local delivery of food, parcels, and errands within the city of Abuja, Nigeria.

Prior to this, Nkechi has run businesses ranging from retailing authentic human hair, a mobile clothes and accessories boutique, and a food vending stall. Although Nkechi’s educational background in International Relations and Development gained from Sussex University and School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) London seems a little different from her savvy and quest for business, she has successfully integrated these skills to ensure she runs her logistics business with class and excellence.

The young CEO shares with us some key things to note while keeping your startup running during the recession.

I adopt the 'customer is always right principle' because my main goal is not money Click To Tweet

My employees

Let us be honest while it is somewhat fulfilling to become an employer of labor, it is getting increasingly difficult to find good employees. Somehow it seems like everybody wants to earn money but nobody wants to work. My employees are not the best but they all have one thing in common -they are very hardworking.

The business needed a lot more effort to keep customers which meant that we had no room to mock about especially since we now have an almost saturated market for delivery business. But they wake up every day and self-motivate themselves to work – and this helped us through the recession.

My employees self-motivate themselves to work - this helped us through the recession Click To Tweet

Loyal Customers

I began the business handling the customer relations myself – this meant that despite my regular day job, I spend an enormous amount of personal and family time responding to customers and ensuring that they were satisfied with the service I am providing.

Now I love speaking to customers – and sadly I feel that nobody can handle my customers like I do. This is because I can instantaneously take decisions in order to ensure customer satisfaction such as offer discounts, deal with complaints immediately and appease customers whenever my employees have delayed a delivery/errand.

I also always adopt the good old ”customer is always right principle” because my main goal is not the money but rather to keep them coming back to me. I had years of customer service related training and work experience right from when I was in University – from being an International Student Ambassador to call centre jobs in corporate companies where I sharpened my Customer Service Relations (CSR) skills to the core.

Accounting

Now, this is one area where I am still not an expert in but I realize you do not need to be an expert to do simple numbers. I am very strict with monitoring the accounts (which I do myself).

I keep a simple spreadsheet which helps me track my daily income and expenditure. And this year when the recession really hit, I administered cost-saving strategies so as to keep our costs as low as possible in order to maximise profits.

Pricing

When I initially started I offered very low prices for even far distances. In the new year, we announced a price increase to our customers which was between 100 – 200 naira.

Unbelievably, we lost a lot of customers even though the majority of them understood the reasons for our decision. But of course when you lose some you gain new ones and this was our case. We had to ensure the price was right so that we do not end up running a charity business.

Supporting Small Businesses

Every small business or start-up in Nigeria already understands that the environment is very unfriendly to our business. With this in mind, I consider small businesses when I want to offer discounts to my loyal customers. It’s simple.

If food company A has a product for 5 naira and my delivery cost is normally 5 naira, it does not make sense to me to charge him or her 5 naira for delivery. In such cases, I am usually willing to charge 2 naira for delivery. In my opinion, I am also contributing to support small businesses to achieve their dreams.

A lot of my customers now are startups/small businesses who have negotiated affordable prices for delivery that they feel their customers will be happy to pay (although not in all cases). Generally, in business, people only think of how much they can make out of it.

While this is not in itself a bad thing, I think that money should be the second thought – crazy as this sounds. The first thought could be passion, filling a gap or meeting a need…then comes the money.

Ozi Express is on Instagram as we continue to leverage on innovative ways to support businesses and grow our clientele.

Abiola Seriki: Running a business isn’t as juicy as it seems

Abiola Seriki
It was all fun and games in the beginning as it didn't take so much time to learn Click To Tweet

My foray into the world of crafts began shortly in 2014 after my final year examination as an undergraduate. Throughout my time in school, I had attended several conferences focused on entrepreneurship and also participated in some business-related programs. My mind had thoroughly consumed an understanding that owning a business was the future.

As a young woman preparing for her media career in showcasing African businesses, I believed I had to understand how to either own or work in one. Initially, I wanted to learn how to sew, but I decided to go into bead making because there were very few people in the business.

It was all fun and games in the beginning as it didn’t take so much time to learn. As a matter of fact, it was my only means of survival during my one year stay in Nigeria’s Jos, Nigeria for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme. However, I soon learned that small businesses required more than “fun and games.”

Running a small business requires more than time and concentration. Especially in a creative industry, it requires value, consistency, and direction. I had to learn it the hard way.

Clients had various options to select. As a small business owner, I needed to find out how to convince a customer to choose my services over another. Having lived in Lagos and Ibadan, Jos was a whole new town for me. I didn’t know anyone apart from the ‘NYSC family’ and the few people at the company I was serving at.

Running my business went beyond familiarity and excellent communication. It had more to do with my positioning, people’s perception of my brand and my ability to stay true to my core values.

To run a small business is not as juicy as it seems- Abiola Seriki Click To Tweet

At the initial stage, some of the key strategies I discovered and infused into my business included:

Product differentiation

I had to learn how to make other kinds of bead designs that weren’t in vogue. There were several bead designs that every regular bead maker or buyer was used to. The idea was to make people want something different.

Thus, I decided to create casual designs rather than those for bigger occasions, such as weddings. At first, it was quite challenging to convince people to wear handmade beaded accessories on a casual outfit, but after a few marketing opportunities, I soon started building a small fan base.

Pricing

In Jos, I didn’t have an understanding of how the market worked, but there was one thing I knew; quality didn’t come cheap. Using valuable tools to create an accessory meant investing in a lot of money yet I needed to make something that regular NYSC members could afford as well.

I focused on buying just one type of bead in bulk so that I could design as many styles as I wanted and sell them for a lesser price. However, I still placed a higher value on quality than quantity.

Audience segmentation

I created products that were meant for a select audience- millennials. A majority of bead designs I saw at the time I started bead making was crafted for the older audience. Except for brides, a majority of women wearing beaded styles were older women in their 40s.

I decided to craft my designs to suit younger ladies. A few weeks later, I launched a line for bracelets to cater for the ladies who aren’t really into wearing beaded necklaces.

Word of mouth marketing

I also had a lot of talking to do at the beginning. There were times when I had to go talk to someone and convince them to buy my product even if they didn’t want it. I remember being shunned off at some occasions.

However, although quite an introvert, I am talkative. So it was quite easy to incorporate word of mouth marketing into selling. My target then was men. It was easy to get them to buy for their significant other.

Digital marketing

As an undergraduate, I had a part-time work as a social media marketer for brands. Thus, with my knowledge of social media marketing, I was able to find audiences that were far away from me. I used my private Twitter account as my major store until I recently opened an Instagram store.

I had to incorporate delivery services at a point when orders came from places farther than where I was. At the moment, my major sales and marketing channel is online. I have no physical store. I am currently rebranding my digital marketing strategy to fit into my creative direction.

Case studies

I blog about small businesses and startups. Over the past two years, I have been able to understand how some of these firms operate. I realized that I couldn’t possibly be sharing all these success stories and not be able to build a successful business as well.

So sometimes, I take the time to read these interviews that I had held, to learn how I could make things work for my business. Other times, I ask the business owners for personal mentoring sessions from them.

To run a business is not as juicy as it seems when you read or watch the stories of how founders build empires. However, it’s not difficult either if you are willing to adhere to your values. I currently manage my small business with several other things I do, and I haven’t regretted starting in the first place.

What’s proof of concept and why you should know it

Test a business idea before scaling up your business with this simple concept Click To Tweet

There’s a huge risk attached to every new business. We’re talking the loss of lots of money. That’s why it is important to test a business idea before scaling up the business. Simply prove a business idea works and is commercially viable, and you’re off to a great start. This is called “proof of concept”.

Most of the time, venture capitalists/investors look out for proof of concept before putting in money in a business venture. This is because it quantifies how much a business has (and is able) to accomplish in a way that’s measurable.

When you create a product/service and are able to achieve a certain level of traction with it, it becomes easy to relate with whatever huge projections you set especially when trying to get investment. Showing that a business works can help zero in on a definite path to follow for success. In the bootstrap model, a business becomes commercially viable somewhere along the “sell” stage, just before the “growth” stage.

victory

How do I know my business shows proof of concept?

Well, when a business idea shows proof of concept, it means one or all of the following

  1. The business has been able to capture its own sizeable audience.
  2. The business has been able to successfully sell a product/service and make money (profit) from its audience.
  3. Systems and processes within the business are reproducible on a commercial scale.

A business that has not attained a proof of concept is not necessarily failing.

However, such business has most likely not been able to clearly identify how to make money from an audience on a commercial scale.

None of this applies to me, what can I do?

To increase your business’ potential for success, it is important to look out for proof of concept before scaling up commercially. The proof of concept verifies important assumptions about the business and reduces the risk involved in taking a small business/startup into the mainstream market.

To increase your business' potential for success it's important to look out for proof of concept Click To Tweet

Here are some parameters to consider when checking for proof of concept in business.

  • Net profit
  • Gross profit
  • Revenue/ revenue growth rate
  • Number of customers/clients/users
  • Customer/clients/users growth rate
  • Systems and processes
  • Total amount invested in business
  • Return on investment

The result from the analysis of these parameters says a lot about the potential of a business idea that has been set in motion.

These parameters can also be used to see how well a small business/startup is doing. This is why recordkeeping/bookkeeping is important in business, it lets you keep track of progress. If your business is funded by personal funds/friends and family, I recommend checking these parameters as you use the bootstrap model to develop your business.

Chellie Clarkson-Brown: Designing for women of color and overcoming the #icebergsyndrome

Chellie Clarkson-Brown wants to make African-inspired apparel an everyday staple in Western Europe Click To Tweet

No one ever tells you about the amount of work that goes on underneath the surface of the water- #icebergsyndrome… but keep keeping on and eventually the tip of your iceberg will emerge.

Enter entrepreneur Chellie Clarkson-Brown the Founder and Creative Director of Afro Couture Designs LDN, a fashion brand focusing on sizes and designs for women of colour. With SLA contributor Neo Cheda, Chellie shares her entrepreneurship journey and what has pushed to her to success.


 

Tell us about you and how Afro Couture Designs come about?

I studied Pattern Cutting and Tailoring at London College of Fashion but left this to work within the retail industry. Well, it wasn’t for me so I returned to university at University College of the Arts. My time there was traumatic, to say the least. I was often denied the opportunity to express myself based on what I felt represented me. Everything I designed in reflection of my African heritage and life experiences, was, in my opinion, belittled and rubbished.

I lost so much confidence in my abilities and myself, that I became depressed. To add insult to injury, I wasn’t even able to get any real retail therapy without having to break the bank. Come on now, we all know that the only way to make a girl feel good about herself in circumstances like these, is a good old shopping trip. The only items I could get on the high street were ill fitting for my body shape. As almost any woman of colour will know, it may fit everywhere else, but it “sho’ ain’t gone fit” around your hips, rear and thighs. Or you would go up or down a size to alleviate the problem above and guess what, it would fit everywhere else, but not your waist #BlackGirlIssues.

So I did some extensive market research in order to collate a sizing criteria for women, particularly focusing on women of colour, as our primary target market. This has allowed us at Afro Couture Designs to create a more inclusive sizing range which is a better reflection of the modern day woman. Most importantly, it incorporates the proportions of women of colour too. As part of our initiative, we are committed to being environmentally friendly by being as sustainable as we are practical.

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Tell us about your vision for Western European Demographics.

At Afro Couture Designs LDN, we design and create on trend contemporary African-inspired apparel and products and our intention is to make these products an everyday design staple within the Western European demographic. Our products are not intended to exclude or to be divisive, rather our products are primarily intended to celebrate and embrace all things African and showcase the beauty within the continent and how it can compliment European fashion trends.

We use high end design techniques, pattern cutting, and production techniques and source the highest quality fabrics. At Afro Couture Designs LDN, we fuse and mix together an eclectic range of fabrics from the both the Western European and African Hemispheres to bring you our AfroEurocentric collections.

The collections within these ranges are African inspired with a contemporary twist and are intended for those who not only think outside of the box but actually go one step further and throw it away altogether. Afro Couture Designs LDN, provides a multi-faceted design and production service from fashion, products, and interior design to delivering fashion workshops and property development.

Afro Couture Designs LDN’s business objective, is to be the one-stop shop or boutique for all your design requirements. Akin to the likes of the Selfridges of London or Macy’s of New York- for all things Afrocentric.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

Getting it all together again from being homeless after my home was repossessed and I lost my job. The struggle was harder as I was a single mother at the time.

But all things are possible through God. “Everything is possible for one who believes” Mark 9:23. #Ifyoucanconceiveit- #youcanachiveit

What challenges have you faced that are unique to your business?

Trying to blend Afrocentric influences harmoniously with the Eurocentric to create the AfroEurocentric brand.

Additionally, trying to secure financial support for such a new concept with the intention of making the brand available to the mass market.

Afro Couture Designs aims to give exposure to established & emerging African artisans Click To Tweet

Which 3 African women that inspire you and why?

My Grandmother, the late great Madam Margaret Ntiamoah

For her determination, her tenacity and most importantly how resourceful she was. I remember growing up in Ghana during the coup d’état of 1979. Food was rationed and money was tight. There were so many of us living in one room and my Nana, would create gourmet dishes for all of us from one tin of baked beans, or even crack 2 eggs in a spinach stew and manage to make that stretch around 6-8 of us, with some left over for the next day.

On the days we had money for coal, in the morning before school, Nana would set the coals in the coal pot (which I’d fan) to make the morning porridge, the smouldering coals would then be put into a cast iron, hence the name, to iron our uniforms.  After that, the hot cast iron would then be dipped into the cold bucket of water to warm it up for our morning baths. Talk about resourceful!

She got up at the crack of dawn every morning well into her later years to go set up her market stall at Mokola market without fail. Her work ethic has stuck with me till this day. God rest her beautiful soul.

Ghanaian designer, Christie Brown

For being self-taught and still managing to make it into the mainstream fashion world. I’m inspired by her style and the fact that she has slowly over the years managed to place herself firmly within the Western fashion demographic, paving the way for emerging African designers.

Whilst I know I’m supposed to select 3 African women, I do have to say that I am truly inspired by Edward Enninful, currently the new Ghanaian Editor in chief for British Vogue. He has inspired me even more with what’s described as his intention to end the “white-out that dominates the catwalks and magazines”- what a statement.

Lupita Nyong’o

For setting the tone and also breaking the mould. I love the fact that she embraces her beautiful dark chocolate skin tone and short Afro hair, with ease and pride.

Lupita elevates her beauty just as she is, despite the misconceptions of “light is right”, making it all the more beautiful and easier for other young black women to embrace the beauty within themselves along with the mainstream media too.

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What advice would you give to start-up entrepreneurs?

• Think of every encounter as a potential opportunity.
• Never stop when you’re tired, only when the task is done.
Never lose sight of your vision, as that will be your instruction manual with which to guide you when you lose heart, and most importantly always pray, about everything.


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