Louisa Kinoshi: Revolutionizing the African Beauty Shopping Experience

With the ambition to build the Sephora for Africa, Louisa Kinoshi started BeautyRevNG, a web and mobile based community that helps young African women embrace their beauty, and connects them to their favorite beauty brands in a convenient, affordable and fun way.

In her past life as a public relations and social media expert, Louisa worked on the development and execution of strategic public relations campaigns for companies such as Clean Line Energy, PepsiCo, Starbucks and Pfizer. Her work experience and passion for African trade issues landed her a position as the youngest executive board member for the Houston Mayor’s Trade and International Development Committee, and eventually led her to founding BeautyRevNG.

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BeautyRevNG.com aims to be Nigeria’s leading online destination for makeup and beauty products, providing a platform for young African female entrepreneurs who have developed beauty brands to showcase and market their products to a large audience.

What makes BeautyRevNG unique is that it is more than just a store but an online community for African women entrepreneurs, makeup artists, beauty bloggers, and makeup enthusiasts. Through social media, we tell the stories of African women and celebrate our version of beauty.

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In her spare time, Louisa loves writing and has written on fashion and bauty for various online publications including BellaNaija, The Style HQ, Style Me Africa and Haute Fashion Africa.

cofoundHER: At what point did you decide it was time to start your own company, and what was the first thing you did when you decided?
LK: In April 2014, while I still working full time, I knew that I wanted to start BeautyRevNG. I founded it because I believe that one day, African women and girls will define their own standards of beauty and influence the rest of the world. The idea is to make BeautyRevNG Nigeria’s leading online destination for makeup and beauty products, so the first thing I did was to develop our website. I knew we had to have a cool and edgy online presence to stand out in the Nigerian beauty scene.

When you started out, did you get any resistance from family and friends?
Not really. I am very lucky as both my parents are entrepreneurs and extremely supportive. Once I started my business though, I had to be committed to growing it 100%. So, my friends didn’t quite understand why I couldn’t do normal things like hang out or go on trips.

Was there any point when you felt like giving up on your business?
I’ve never felt like giving up on my business 100%. There are times where I would like to take a break maybe for a month or two. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or burnt out, I reach out to the BeautyRevNG social media community for support. It’s amazing how I have been able to connect with and be inspired by some of our followers who I’ve never even met personally.

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Knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself when you just started your company?
I would tell myself to enjoy the process. I spent a lot of time being nervous and anxious about the success of the company. However, the start of my entrepreneurial journey was one of the most exciting times of my life; I wish I had taken some time to just enjoy it.

What does success mean to you?
I believe a lot of women believe success is being able to balance professional goals with personal goals at the same time. I think that is a myth. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have everything all at once. To me, success is being able to achieve your goals at God’s said time. There is the right time to focus on building your career and there is also the right time to be able to focus on family.

If you win the She Leads Africa competition, what’s the first thing you’d do? How would the prize money impact your business?
In our She Leads Africa video, I talked about infusing technology with retail. We are launching beauty experience centers this year in Lekki, Yaba, Abuja and Port Harcourt and next year in other African countries. All BECs will have iPad stands loaded with an app where you can get product matches, view reviews and tutorials and share your purchases with a friend. There will also be a consumer version of this app that will change the beauty shopping experience for women all over Africa. Our customers and stakeholders are really excited about this and we would fast track this project which is already underway.

If you could give one piece of advice/encouragement to a large group of aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
“Mistakes are not failures, but specially prepared lesson plans to help you succeed in your next journey.”

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To learn more about BeautyRevNG, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To see Louisa pitch live on stage, reserve a ticket to the She Leads Africa 2015 Entrepreneur Showcase HERE.

Every day this week, we will be profiling the six finalists of the She Leads Africa 2015 Entrepreneur Showcase. Follow the series HERE.

Kofoworola Oyeleye: Teaching Children Native Nigerian Culture

Kofoworola Oyeleye is the CEO and Creative Director of Iyin Creative, a company that creates animated content to help children learn native Nigerian languages and the Nigerian culture in a fun way.

Born and raised in Lagos, Kofo started working at an early age, serving as her father’s unofficial personal assistant, a position she held till she got married and had to relocate. Her first formal job was at a management consulting firm followed by a project management company, after which she decided to start her own business. She credits her work ethic and knowledge about the business world to her 9-to-5 experiences.

Kofo’s journey to entrepreneurship was not accidental. From a young age, she had a book where she wrote ideas and businesses she wanted to start; the problem was that she didn’t know when that would be. She has a wide range of interests all centred around creativity — sewing, design and crafts. She loves roller skating and ice skating and once worked as the ice skating instructor at the artificial rink at Silverbird Galleria in 2007.

What is Iyin Creative about?
At Iyin-Creative, our primary objective is the creation of fun animated content, teaching children our native Nigerian cultures, history and heritage. Our goal is to create a global appeal for our Nigerian heritage using animation.

Our premier product is the Anilingo series which introduces children to the foundational aspects of Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba through the numbers, alphabets, words and actions in daily life. We also do animation training and, in line with children being priority, we organised Nigeria’s first ever Animation Summer Camp in August last year and will be having another this year.

Why do you think it is important for us to preserve our language and pass it on to our children?
Our native language and culture is our identity — not English, not French or any other language. If we don’t pass it on to our children who are the future, we will be a people with no heritage and in no time, we’ll have no heritage, no values, no identity.

Our culture is rich and is in not of less value than that of Europe and other foreign cultures, but unfortunately a lot of us treat it as so. We at Iyin Creative, through our quality animated content, are creating a global appreciation for our native Nigerian heritage, history and cultures.

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How did you get the idea for Iyin Creative and why did you decide to start this company?
At some point in 2013, I no longer had the drive to work for anyone. I knew it was time for me to bring one of my many ideas to life, so I quit my job at the project management company I worked. At this point, I still wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to do.

I had heard about the YouWin Programme, but wasn’t interested for two reasons: I didn’t have faith in any government project, and I didn’t quite know which of my ideas would be good enough. But my best friend kept insisting I try with any of my ideas.

One day, while tidying up the sitting room, my then 3 year old daughter  was watching Dora the Explorer. It then crossed my mind that if my daughter was picking up Spanish words, which no one spoke at home, by watching Dora, I might as well create animated content that will teach her our native Nigerian cultures and heritage instead. Our language of conversation at home was English, so she neither understood nor spoke Yoruba.

So, I applied with that idea in 2013, won and started the business. Despite starting with a grant, it hasn’t been the easiest of journeys but I still wouldn’t trade it. I’ve grown as the business has grown too, weathered storms, and become even more innovative.

You’ve been twice lucky: getting the YouWin grant and now the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme grant. After YouWin, why did you need to apply for another grant?
I got 7.5 million naira from YouWin. I know that sounds like a lot of money, but for an animation studio starting from the scratch, it’s not that much. From creating the business plan, I knew I needed about 13 million naira to setup, start and finish the first project. Working with what I got and with financial support from my husband, as well as creating other services for revenue generation, I scaled down on several aspects.

Outside work tools, you don’t come by skilled animators easily in Nigeria and the available ones come at a high price. There was no way I could do it all on my own, so the high cost of running the business was unavoidable. By the time the project was completed YouWin funds had long been expended, and a whole lot of funds had been pumped in by my husband as well.

This left us with a tight budget for replication, so we couldn’t produce as many copies as we would have loved to. My applying for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme was to gain access to financing to produce a larger volume.

One problem entrepreneurs face is knowing how to juggle multiple tasks effectively. How do you manage your time and prioritize tasks?
It hasn’t been the easiest of things especially given the fact that I have two children. I don’t know if it comes with being a woman, but I’ve somehow through the grace of God been able to build my work schedule around my children. When I have a backlog of work, I sacrifice some hours of sleep to catch-up. I also have a great team, so it’s not a one-man-circus.

Where do you see your company in the next three years?
In the next three years, I see Iyin-Creative becoming a household name. We will create a platform not just for our content, but also for content from other animators, that promote Nigerian cultures. It’s not about us, it’s about our heritage.

What does success mean to you, both in business and personally?
Success to me in business is being able to impact the society with my vision. In my personal life, it’s being able to bring up visionary Children who love Christ.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Stick with the vision. It may be tough and you may get really discouraged, but persistence and prayer pays off eventually.

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We are sharing the stories of 20+ African women entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme and whose ideas can change the world. Follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.

Farida Musa Halliru: Taking African Fashion Worldwide

Since her early teens, Farida Musa Halliru has been sketching designs, but her fashion design career really started in 2012 after she completed a course on fashion design and garment construction from The Fashion Academy, Abuja and started her own bespoke fashion design company, Farida’s Atelier.

Farida’s designs are mostly African inspired with Western aesthetics. She also sometimes gets her inspiration from objects, prints, colours, nature, and basically anything that grabs her attention. When designing Farida puts the African modern woman in mind and focuses on designs that are flattering to her body.

From Kano state in Northern Nigeria, Farida is an Alumnus of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria with a degree in Accounting. She loves watching movies and TV shows, listening to Nigerian music, especially The Mavins, Di’ja and Yemi Alade, and playing basketball, at least that was before her career took over her everything.

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What is Farida’s Atelier?
Farida’s Atelier is a fashion brand that makes bespoke clothing for women with the aim of achieving the perfect flattering fit. We are also introducing high street ready to wear pieces to bridge the gap in Nigerian fashion retailing.

Why did you decide to start Farida’s Atelier?
My decision was mostly from tailors’ lack of craftsmanship and dedication; there was little or no professionalism and integrity in their work. This is something a lot of people and I personally have experienced. Also, flipping through African magazines and seeing the unflattering outfits some women wear that they label as the latest “fashion trend” makes me feel sad.

Tailoring should complement a woman’s body to accentuate her unique features. So, I went to a fashion school to acquire the necessary sewing skills I needed. Sketching wasn’t a problem for me because I’ve been sketching since my primary school days. My passion in fashion was something I was born with so the drive was there. I’ve always been a smart business woman, coupled with my training in customer care and better understanding of a client. That was it, Farida’s Atelier was born.

How did you get started? What was the first thing you put in place?
I first started by enrolling in a fashion design school. After completing the course, I registered my company business name. I really didn’t have enough money to set up the business so I tried looking at getting funding from the government and banks but all seemed to no avail. That’s when my family came in. My parents and siblings, everyone chipped in and I got the loan from them to start up a small workshop.

I needed to test the market and grow as the market expanded. So, knowing how expensive rent is in Abuja, I built a port-a-cabin at the back of my apartment, bought two straight sewing industrial machines, one embroidery machine, one serger machine, and a very good Belgium Iron. The other sewing necessities came after as the work proceeded.

Shortly after I started, I was able to pay back all my loans. We’ve been operating since 2013 and this year (2015) we’ve moved into a proper workshop. I’ve showcased in two runway shows, one in Abuja, Nigeria and the other in Amsterdam, Netherlands. In both shows, I’ve won awards of Best Designer 2014 and Emerging African Fashion Designer 2014. It hasn’t been easy but I thank Allah for everything He has done for me.

What was the most difficult part about applying for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme list and how did you feel when you heard you made the list?
For me, the most difficult part was filling the form and wondering if I was being myself and if it was good enough to get me in.

When I found out I made the list, I was quiet about it for hours. I didn’t tell anyone because I couldn’t believe it myself. I wasn’t sure if the video was sent to only the shortlisted applicants or everyone; it took me over two hours after the mail came before I opened it because I didn’t expect to be chosen.

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Was there any time you felt like giving up? How did you overcome that feeling?
Sincerely, since I started, no matter how tough and difficult the situation gets in the business I have never for once felt like giving up on it. All I do when it gets hard is pray a lot, then talk to my sister or my significant other to offload. Sometimes, I just stay in my room and reflect on new strategies and remind myself how important this is to me and this is just a norm in any business, then I go out and buy myself something I really like but wouldn’t ordinarily spend money on because I’m trying to manage my funds. It usually gets better after that and I’m back in the game.

What is your ultimate vision for Farida’s Atelier?
I want Farida’s Atelier to be a household name and I want to showcase my designs on the biggest runways all over the world. I want Farida’s Atelier to go in history as one of the African fashion houses to take African fashion worldwide.

How can someone place orders and do you ever turn down clients?
Presently I only have one workshop/showroom in Abuja and so orders are made there either through a phone call, by email or walk-in.

I have actually turned down clients in the past and even now. Back then, because I was operating in a small space with only two machines, I always avoided situations where I collect an order and end up disappointing the client. I’d rather be honest than give myself a bad name. In today’s case, sometimes when we get late orders and we have so many other early orders we have to turn down the late orders to avoid problems and potential disappointment.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Look within and identify your true passion, stay true to yourself and stick to it, it will make you stronger and most of all believe in yourself, it would definitely not be easy but you will surely fall through.

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Find out more about Farida’s Atelier on Instagram.

We are sharing the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. and whose ideas can change the world. Visit http://www.cofoundher.com and follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.

 

Sharron McPherson: Saving the World, One Social Enterprise at a Time

Former Investment Banker and Wall Street Attorney turned serial Social Impact Entrepreneur, Sharron McPherson’s entrepreneurial journey goes back to the mid ’90s when she started ISES, a successful non-profit organisation in New York City that helped local women from disadvantaged backgrounds start and run successful community based businesses.

Her next company, the Women’s Enterprise Development Initiative (WEDI) grew out of ISES when she moved to South Africa and was encouraged by women in the United States to launch something similar.

My passion remains community upliftment and investing in small and medium sized businesses has been my vehicle of choice for community transformation. It’s what led to my launching WEDI in 2007 in South Africa.

With a doctorate’s degree in Juris Prudence from Columbia University School of Law, Sharron presently teaches Project Finance at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. She also has a special certification in International and Comparative Law from the Parker School and a BA degree in economics.

Sharron defines working very hard and playing hard. When she is not scheming about how to save the world, her favorite thing to do is to lie in her hammock, wiggle her toes in the sun and watch cloud formations. She likes abseiling, driving fast cars, scuba diving reading about the global state of things.

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Which of your ventures did you submit for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) and how would it change the world?
I applied to TEEP in connection with my latest social impact venture which is called Common Ground Productions, and it’s aim is to produce interactive, groundbreaking media that showcases the capacity of young African innovators to solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges.

By focusing on African innovation and solutions to global problems, my idea will not only help to change the perception of Africa, but will also bring together innovators, investors, supporters and collaborators in a unique way that will enable young African social entrepreneurs to address some of humanity’s greatest challenges. So, I’m changing the world by providing a platform for young Africans to change the world.

I’ve spent most of my life investing in others. Finally, someone saw fit to invest in me.

Why did you decide to start Common Grounds Production?
In 2007, when I started The Women’s Enterprise Development Initiative (WEDI), I noticed how many young people, particularly young women, contacted me for support for their amazing ideas. Often times, we were not positioned to help them because our target was growth SMEs in certain sectors. I began thinking about how I could help these young innovators get noticed by the right people so they could gain support for their ideas. Common Ground Productions was conceived as the vehicle to make this  happen through a reality TV show I call “BigIdeas.Africa”.

How did you feel when you heard you had been selected as a Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur?
I was actually speechless. I’d followed the results and didn’t see my name and thought, “Alas, I tried. Now back to the drawing board”. But then I got the email announcing I was included in the winners. I then got down on my knees (literally) and thanked God. I’ve spent most of my life investing in others. Finally, someone saw fit to invest in me.

What was the most difficult part about applying for TEEP?
It was actually changing my own mindset. My ancestors are Nigerian, but I was born in America. I’ve spent the last 17 years living in South Africa. I’m also older than most applicants, I’m sure (my children are out of University). Friends encouraged me to apply because of the synergies between TEEP and my media concept. But I thought I’d never make it because I believed I didn’t “fit” the profile.

Why did you decide to come back to Africa and why did you choose to settle in South Africa, instead of Nigeria where your ancestors are from?
In 2001, I was both hit by a speeding car in New York City and almost lost my life on September 11, 2001. After almost dying in the World Trade Center attack, I got the message and decided it was time to return to Africa. I feel safer on the continent.

I had developed a base in South Africa when I worked here as a researcher at the Constitutional Court back in 1998. I’ve also worked closely over the years with some pretty amazing former freedom fighters in South Africa who are my friends and who are really instrumental in my coming back to Africa in the first place.

What has been your number one business challenge and how do you think TEEP will help address it?
My number one business challenge has been finding an experienced media partner to help me produce a pilot. It’s an innovative, interactive media concept that is unlike the average TV show. TEEP not only gives me exposure that helps to attract the right partners, but the process itself forces you to focus and to recommit everyday to making your dream come true. It provides a virtual incubator and networks that include other entrepreneurs that are going through the same changes. So, in addition to everything else it provides, it helps to reduce the loneliness factor that plagues visionaries. You feel that TEEP fellows really do understand you. It’s great!

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What do you expect your business will achieve with the TEEP benefits?
Big Ideas.Africa will win an Emmy Award and will become a global concept that supports young innovators from around the world to launch the big social impact ideas.

What is your vision for WEDI and Common Grounds Production?
Whether it’s WEDI, teaching project finance, BigIdeas.Africa or advising on sustainable city projects, everything I do is about making life better. I use my formidable gifts to serve others in ways that are fun for me, commercially viable and that have maximum positive social impact. With hope, I’m contributing to creating a better world by investing in high impact visionaries.

How do you balance your multiple responsibilities as the founder of two companies and teaching in a university? How do you stay organised?
Balance is an illusion. No matter how much I seek it, it’s always just over the horizon. I cope by eating right, praying (A LOT), meditating regularly and exercising six days per week. My priority in the morning is take care of myself. THEN, I look at who and what else requires my attention. That way, I make sure there’s always a healthy dose of me to go around. I stay organised by sticking to what is important to my primary goals in life and I’ve learned to cut out a lot of the distractions. Saying “No” to invitations to get involved with ventures that take you off track is an acquired skill. I’ve learned it. Focus, focus, focus and PERSIST.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
My recipe for success if based on a version of “P Soup” that I read many years ago in book called Acts of Faith by Iyanla Vanzant. The recipe is: Pray, Plan, Proceed, Pursue AND PERSIST! Starting with prayer is key. Clarity in vision and purpose is a necessary component of resilience. I get clear as to why I’m doing what I’m doing. I trust my Creator for provision that matches the vision. And then I just keep doing what I’m led to do until God delivers on His promises. Faith is really the key to my success. You simply cannot fail using this recipe for success!

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We are sharing the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. and whose ideas can change the world. Follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.

Tracy Owamagbe and Omowunmi Akande: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle, One Smoothie at a Time

Tracy Owamagbe and Omowunmi Akande met at Bells University in Ota, Nigeria, and, even after their graduation in 2010, have been best friends ever since. Last year, the two travel buddies had planned to take a trip together, but postponed their plans when they decided to use their savings to start Smoothie Express instead.

Born and raised in Benin City, Tracy has always had a keen interest in entrepreneurship and even though she has worked with corporate firms like Hewlett Packard and Ericsson, she never gave up on her entrepreneurial dream. Her mantra is: find a solution to a problem and make a business out of it, and two women she looks up to are Hajia Bola Shagaya and Folorunsho Alakija.

I loved that women were breaking barriers in our society and I too wanted to be one of them. I started a company before Smoothie Express but it didn’t work. Despite that, I did not give up on my dream to become an entrepreneur. ~ Tracy Owamagbe

When Omowunmi was much younger, she wanted to be a doctor. That changed sometime in the middle of her university education when she realized her passion wasn’t really in medicine. After graduation, she worked in OANDO Plc and Cambridge Manufacturing Company, but she knew she wanted to be her own boss some day.

I have a passion for philanthropy. It gives me so much joy and satisfaction in my heart when I am able to help or make someone happy. I have big dreams and aspirations and I can’t wait for them to finally become a reality. ~ Omowunmi Akande

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What does Smoothie Express do?
Tracy: We deliver richly blended fruit smoothies to our customers’ homes, offices, schools, and so on. One smoothie at a time, our goal is to become a daily part of our customers’ lifestyle, helping achieve their health goals by bringing our smoothies to their door steps.

Omowunmi: Smoothie Express strives to assist people to live a healthy and active lifestyle and our vision happens one smoothie at a time. Our smoothies are thoughtfully divided into four core categories: Regular blend that cater to everyone, from children to the elderly; Weight loss blend specially designed for people looking to lose or maintain their weight, Fitness blend focused more on the gym freaks and body builders; and Kiddies blend for the younger generation.

How did you come up with the idea for Smoothie Express?
Omowunmi: The idea actually originated from Tracy. We had planned to travel for summer together last year (2014) and had been saving up. Then one day, sometime in August, Tracy calls me up and goes, “Mowunmi what do you think about starting a business, I have been thinking about this business idea and I can’t think of doing it with anybody else but you.”

We talked and talked about it and I was sold immediately and because we had been saving up, we had a bit of capital to start up. This was how Smoothie Express came into existence.

Tracy: I was trying to do a smoothie detox, and I noticed my major problem was time! Then the idea popped up one morning on my drive to work: what if I delivered smoothies at work? How easy and convenient will it be?

I called up Omowunmi, who I had been planning a holiday with for a while. She worked with Cambridge Weight Loss Company, and she was the perfect person to actualize this dream with. So, we postponed our holiday (which we are still yet to take, lol) and decided to start up Smoothie Express. It’s not been easy, but i’m glad we took this step.

We started up with just one dispatch bike. At first we were meeting all our orders, then it became impossible to keep up as the orders increased. Eventually we got another bike and it was okay for a while till it wasn’t again. Eventually we had to liaise with a logistics company. We plan to increase our fleet by the end of the month.

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How will Smoothie Express change the world?
Tracy: We aim to promote healthy living in every neighbourhood. Having well prepared smoothies delivered to one’s doorstep is a huge convenience. We want to make the healthier option more available to people around the world.

How did you feel when you heard you made the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program list and what was the hardest part about applying?
Tracy: We were super excited. We realised we had found a platform to build this company and actualize our dreams and visions for it.

The most difficult part was the number of questions. There were a lot of questions and it seemed the application was never going to end, lol.

What is your number one business challenge?
Tracy: Our number one challenge has been logistics. We hope to expand our delivery fleet with the grant from the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

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What do you expect your business will achieve with the programme benefits?
Tracy: Professionalism.

Omowunmi: Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme has been designed to grow startups and help entrepreneurs with ideas that have the potential to succeed. We are given access to a framework that includes mentorship, online and live learning as well as access to information, networking and seed capital and I am so grateful for this opportunity that would not only help build our brand but groom us to achieve professionalism.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Tracy: It’s difficult building an empire, when obstacles come (they will always come), look for the smartest, simplest way to solve them and move on. Never give up.

Omowunmi: Do NOT be afraid to dream big! Don’t put limitations to your dreams, remember you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to.

God has given us this wonderful gift called instincts, follow them because 90% of the time they’re always right, regardless of what people think. Pray! Pray! Pray! Pray like your life depends on it. Hard work will get you far but prayer AND hard work will get you farther.

And lastly never give up. Don’t even let it cross your mind, have a positive spirit all times and let your optimism come true.

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*To order your own smoothie and learn more about the ladies behind Smoothie Express, visit their website or follow Tracy and Omowunmi.
**We are sharing the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme. and whose ideas can change the world. Follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.

Ehizele Ijeoma Joseph-Ebare: Making Healthcare Accessible for All

When it comes to effectively managing multiple responsibilities, Ehizele Ijeoma Joseph-Ebare is one person we admire. Currently studying medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Ehizele started her first venture at 21 because of her love for people and a passion to change their lives. Now, she is about to start a for-profit company that leverages technology to provide accessible healthcare.

I am studying medicine in the first place because of the opportunity to change and possibly save someone’s life. I then considered, what if an idea I have can change millions of lives not just the ones I see on a day to day basis. This led me down the entrepreneurial path.

 When she isn’t working to make healthcare more accessible to all, she loves dancing, listening to music (especially anything by Flavour) and reading.

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What is your company, The Sustainable Medical Initiative, about?
To keep it short, The Sustainable Medical Initiative (The SMI) focuses on introducing telemedicine to Africa in a new and unique way using technology. I want to deliver health in a new way to the African Continent and perhaps beyond.

The SMI, through various products, will target people from all walks of life who are in need of medical attention. Being sick is hard enough, accessing health should be easy. We bring healthcare to you, eliminating barriers and the need for the ill patient to actively seek it.

I know I am being rather cryptic but watch this space! I hope to roll it out this year and expand fast.

How will The Sustainable Medical Initiative change the world?
The healthcare industry is so vital because every human being is susceptible to falling ill. As a student of medicine, I have come to understand that the human body, though so intricately designed, inevitably meets glitches that result in illness. This means that amazing health ideas literally can change the world. My idea aims to break down the barriers to accessing healthcare. This is something people all over the world, particularly in the Global South, experience.

We will make it easy for rich and poor alike to see a doctor, get a diagnosis and get recommendation on treatment. Say goodbye to closing times, long waits, long trips, all these things that are almost unbearable when you are ill.

Why did you decide to start your own company?
Well, I am a young woman who believes that in life the real tragedy is not death, but a life without purpose. I work with the motivation that my vocation is to change people’s lives and that’s exactly what the SMI will do. I am also a charity founder in the UK and have an NGO based in Nigeria. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to not only change lives, but save them.

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Tell us more about the the charity and NGO you founded.
My charity is called the SMI – the Sustainable Medical Initiative, the NGO the same. I set them up because I know I will want my business to have a strong link to social responsibility not just a page about charity on a website. Also, I feel that charities tend to leave a culture of dependency. I stand for something different and that is long term change. The people I help, I want them to be able to help themselves and even others, not just wait for someone else to come along. The charity is based in London and we have partnered with people who will be happy to donate medical items to Nigeria. The NGO side is in talks with hospitals and the Imo state government (where my mother is from) to partner on helping there, of course when the political scene is settled.

How do you manage being a medical student, having a charity, an NGO and now starting a new business?
It certainly is not easy. It means you waste no time. If most people think about their day, there are moments of hanging around or procrastination. I used to have those too! However, deciding to take this on and start young, means I have no dull moment. It’s about productivity. If I’m not doing business I’m doing med school.

Why don’t you have a cofounder? Who helps out with your business?
I do have people who will work on my project with me but I wouldn’t say they are cofounders. This is not for any particular reason. I have a lot of support and people who believe in my idea and have seen my vision. The business is currently transitioning from idea to set up stage, and we aim to launch later in the year.

How did you feel when you heard you made the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme list?
I was very excited. It took a while to register. I had just finished an exam and also just received an offer to study a Bsc in Global Health that I applied for. It was such an intense day. My automatic reaction was to call my brother who always makes me feel good about whatever I achieve. I then called my parents who were very proud of me; their approval is something I have always sought. However, I must say, the happiness of winning was swiftly followed by the realisation that this journey has only just begun. An idea in itself is great but its execution determines its success.

The most difficult part about applying was the wait! The application process in my opinion was straight forward.

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What do you expect your business will achieve with the programme benefits?
Well starting with the obvious, I will be able to start up with the funding provided. In addition, my business will gain some weight to approach other investors; being a TEEP winner is an achievement I would say. Fundamentally, my business will now have a CEO/founder (myself) who is much more equipped to manage this company after the duration of this programme, which has already shown to be educational and thought-provoking.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
As a business woman there are three ‘categories’ I fall under: An entrepreneur, a woman, and a young one at that.

As I have said to many entrepreneurs already, focus on your motivation for business. Why do you do what you are doing? Whose life do you want to touch? What about our continent do you want to change? This is what will wake you at night. This will push you when things do not seem to be going your way.

To women as myself, it is crucial to remember your dignity has no price. In the world we live in many will try and exploit you based on the fact that you are a woman. This is not an excuse to succumb. Have confidence in your ideas and keep pushing regardless of the obstacles along the way.

Finally to those who are young. I started setting this up since I was 21. It is never too early. Do not doubt yourself based on your age. If you have a good idea, run with it. A battle is won with advisors. Do not fail to seek advice and guidance, but never be discouraged by your age. All the more time to make mistakes, learn from them and finally, to succeed.

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*To learn more and stay up to date, follow Ehizele on Twitter
**Follow the TEEPcofoundHER series HERE.

Abisoye Habib: Unearthing Nigeria’s Agribusiness Potential

Everyone knows that food business is good business, yet, only a few entrepreneurs that we have met think of starting a company to address food related opportunities like production, packaging and food security. For some, changing the world means tackling more complex high tech problems, but what better way to transform a country than by disrupting something we do everyday…eat.

A view that is still prevalent in Nigeria is that agriculture is just a means of survival; it is not seen as a true business that can transform an entire country. ~ Abisoye Habib

Today, we interview one lady who plans to take on the food and agriculture industry in Nigeria by making packaged fruits and vegetables readily available for all.

What does your company do and how would it change the world?

We grow, process and package fresh fruits and vegetables for consumption within Nigeria and worldwide.

A view that is still prevalent in Nigeria is that agriculture is just a means of survival; it is not seen as a true business that can transform an entire country. So, our mission is to be a catalyst for food security, job creation and youth empowerment in Nigeria, and all over Africa.

We want to play a pivotal part in transforming what agribusiness should really be, by increasing food production, limiting our dependence on foreign imports, spurring job creation, and creating a new reality in our society of what positive changes agribusiness can bring about.

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How did you feel when you heard you were one of the selected Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurs and what was the most difficult part about applying?

I wanted to jump out the window. lol 🙂 I was so excited, I was shaking! It felt great to see that this idea I’ve had in my head for so long is being validated by other people and it definitely gave me the extra boost of confidence to keep pressing forward.

The most difficult part about applying was trying to put all my thoughts down into a coherent plan that can be executed within my business environment. When you have a business idea in your head, you have so many thoughts swirling. Putting all those thoughts down into a format that someone else can clearly see the benefits of what you are trying to achieve can be very challenging.

What is your major business challenge and how do you intend to address it?

The number one business challenge we are facing right now is navigating the terrain. How can we locate resources and sift through all the noise and distraction that comes with running a business in Africa.

Thankfully, being part of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, we get assigned a mentor who is seasoned in the African business climate and brings a wealth of knowledge that will help me avoid pitfalls. With their help, in the coming year, I expect aggressive growth for my business.

Any words of encouragement to someone who is thinking of starting a business?

Don’t be afraid to take that first step, no matter how little. Once you make that initial move, the fear melts away and is replaced by an adrenaline rush like no other. You can do this. And you will succeed.

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We’ll be on the look out for packaged fruits and vegetables from Abisoye Habib’s company. To find out more about her, follow Abisoye on Twitter.

Every day for the next few days, we will share the stories of 30+ African women entrepreneurs whose ideas can change the world. These women are idea and early stage entrepreneurs, with businesses less than three years old, who are beneficiaries of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme.

We are sharing their experiences in hopes that their stories will inspire someone out there to take the leap and go after their dreams. Hope you enjoy their stories as much as we enjoyed putting them together. Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER or visit cofoundHER (www.cofoundher.com) for updates.