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.

111_KofoOyeleye_AfricanFemaleEntrepreneur

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.

_________________________
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.

Advertisements

Madonna Kendona-Sowah: Creating High Quality Clothing with Ghanaian Textiles

Madonna Kendona-Sowah is the founder and Creative Director of Raffia, a line of high-quality clothing made from cotton fabrics, handwoven in the poorest parts of Ghana. The label showcases beautiful textiles with elegant designs and promotes employment and education in the Northern and Upper East regions of Ghana.

An avid consumer of all things fashion, Madonna realised that northern Ghanaian textiles, also known as Gonja cloth or batakari didn’t feature in mainstream designs. Taking the opportunity to combine her love for fashion and her training in Economic Development, she founded Raffia to address this need.

When I founded the company, I saw an opportunity to change some of the negative perceptions people have of Northern Ghana, being a child of the North myself. I compared where I was from to the Raffia palm, which is rough and dry in its raw state but can be used to make beautiful things. Northern Ghana is a beautiful place with fascinating customs, delicious food, stunning fabrics and gorgeous people and I felt the name Raffia captured that. ~ Madonna Kendoa-Sowah

Share with us, what is Raffia about?
Raffia produces high quality clothing and accessories made from traditionally handwoven cotton textiles from Northern Ghana.

We are using traditional textiles handwoven by indigenous artisans in the three northern regions of Ghana – the poorest part of the country. Working with us gives our weavers the chance to earn an income, be financially independent and take care of themselves and their families while preserving an age-old craft. Raffia aims to change lives, revitalize the economy in Northern Ghana and showcase the beautiful textiles and products found there.

112_MadonnaKendonaSowah_AfricanFemaleEntrepreneur

How did you feel when you heard you made the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) and what was the most difficult part about applying?
I was absolutely thrilled. I couldn’t quite believe it, to be honest. It wasn’t until I started getting congratulatory messages that it sunk in. To have Raffia validated like that was wonderful.

For me, the hardest part was definitely articulating my vision for Raffia in a way that the selection committee could clearly understand and appreciate. As an entrepreneur, you tend to have these long conversations with yourself about what you want for your business but it’s almost as important for other people to understand what you’re about. The application process was very thorough and asked some hard questions but I feel I’m better for having figured out how to get my vision across.

What has been your number one business challenge and how do you think the programme will help address it?
As a bootstrapping entrepreneur, my main challenge has been funding. Most of us new entrepreneurs are curious and scrappy and there are many things about running a business one can learn to do – like building a website, bookkeeping, social media marketing, etc. It’s okay to be all things to your business in the beginning but growing means getting help, improving your product, increasing inventory and in general, stepping up your overall game. That requires funding.

I expect Raffia to achieve greater exposure, reach more customers internationally and hopefully form interesting partnerships, starting with the 999 other members of TEEP. Through all this, I see Raffia growing, improving, continuing to create beautiful clothes while creating a marked social and economic transformation in Northern Ghana.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
There is no better teacher than experience, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. So, test your theories, try new things and find out once and for all what works and what doesn’t. Also, read, ask questions, never stop learning and improving. Keep it moving.

_________________________
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.

Eleojo Peters: On a Mission to Feed the World

An accountant by training, Mrs. Eleojo Rosemary Peters’ career started in the banking industry when she worked at the then Peak Merchant Bank in Lagos. Her role handling operations and exports of agricultural produce on the exports desk helped fuel Eleojo’s passion, and eventually lead to her starting a farm project.

Over the years, this farm project became increasingly more attractive than paid employment, and Eleojo noticed she was spending more time and resources on the project. With her banking career becoming more demanding, it became difficult to balance the farming project and her full time job. So, in January 2012, Eleojo decided to dedicate her entire time to her farm project. By April 2012, what was just a project became a registered company now known as Eleojo Foods Nigeria Limited.

Eleojo Foods is a company that positions itself within the agricultural value chain process and is engaged in farming of rice, yam and cassava as well as Bee Honey, while processing same for local consumption with a view to exploiting opportunities in the export market. Starting this company has helped Eleojo pursue her desire and passion for meeting a need, creating opportunities for self realization and generating jobs through investment in agricultural.

Eleojo Logo Document

What is the idea behind Eleojo Foods?
Eleojo Farms is a company that wants to make the world a healthier place through food production, to create employment opportunities and empower our young people. We are working to build a world where hunger will become a thing of the past.

My company was set up to go into the agricultural value chain, farming, processing packaging and distribution of healthy foods beginning with rice which is the most popular staple food in the world. We reflect our innovation in the marketplace as Adjele unpolished rice.This rice is rich in fiber, minerals and vitamins in its natural form which makes it the healthiest among rice with great taste. We are poised to change the feeding habits of the world’s populace by making our natural products available at an affordable price.

How did you feel when you heard you made the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) list and what was the  most difficult part about applying?
It felt great. I felt like nothing is impossible. My slogan for my business is feeding the world, and no one really believe how I could achieve that. When I saw my name, immediately I knew my dream of feeding the world will become a reality some day.

The most difficult part was getting my figures. I got the information very late, a few hours to closing, so I had to sit down all through the night to work on plan. The internet was so epileptic but I was determined. I worked on my figures, went through documents, statements and as much as I could lay my hands on that night. Thankfully, I was able to submit.

108_EleojoPeters_AfricanFemaleEntrepreneur

What is your number one business challenge and how do you think TEEP will help address it?
My number one business challenge is lack of certain equipment to work with. Remember I have set out to feed the world. That means I need modern equipment to work with. TEEP to some extent will address this for me through the grant. I should be able to acquire some equipment to work with.

With the TEEP benefits, my business is being restructured to achieving our vision and mission. The syllabus is so enriching and is touching every aspect of my business. My business is poised to become world class institution that will outlived me.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
To entrepreneurs like myself, my advice is keep at your dream. Do not let any small mind tell you your dream is too big. Once you can dream it, you can achieve it. In this entrepreneurship journey, you don’t fail; you get an opportunity to learn again and again.

_______________________
*To learn more and stay up to date, visit the www.eleojofoodsng.com

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.

Tosin Lawson: Promoting African Designs in Everyday Lifestyle

Tosin Lawson has always had a passion for coming up with new designs, whether it’s a new logo or a new product. A graduate of Product Design and Manufacture from the University of Nottingham Tosin says:

Every time I am out with friends or family, I am constantly observing my surroundings and getting new inspiration for new designs. With my background in product design I am able to be more creative and find new ways to improve current designs.

Tosin’s aim is to produce creative designs and solutions that empower Africans and contribute to make the world an easier and more enjoyable place. So, in 2013, she started African Things, a company that designs and produces African inspired products focusing on fashion accessories and functional utility products using African fabric and materials. African Things currently supplies wholesale to large retail stores and to tourist shops in Nigeria.
10461384_10152583434358727_5630850902065467912_n

What does your company, African Things, do?
African Things makes contemporary African inspired lifestyle products that are functional, with innovative designs in a manner that empowers Africans. We aim to change the negative image associated with African manufacture and be a symbol for high quality products while empowering Africans.

In your opinion, what negative image do African manufactures have and how do you think we can change the perception?
Quality control is one of the big challenges for African manufacturers. We plan to solve this by ensuring we have the right staff and procedures in place so that all our products meet international standards. We also plan to partner with international companies that they can train our staff to know the right international practices.

Why did you decide to start your own business?
The reason I started African Things was to promote African designs and culture in everyday lifestyle. After schooling abroad and seeing how foreigners saw Africans, as poor and backward, I was very inspired when I returned home and saw that Nigerian fashion design, especially in the area of accessories, was beginning to boom. But I felt I could push the business further to international standards and include lifestyle items such as plates, household furniture and home accessories.

Our African culture is rich in tradition, colour and excitement, but due to westernization young people are rapidly losing touch with Africa, especially in their lifestyles. With African Things, customers can feel the connection with their roots by using our products such as backpacks, jewellery and more in their everyday lives without feeling embarrassed to say it’s African.

african things-(logo)

How did you feel when you heard you made the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Program (TEEP) list?
I was so excited. I had half forgotten I even applied for it but when I got the email I was at first in disbelief. I remember calling my mother that I had gotten in and she too was in total shock. They had sent a link in an email to a YouTube video of Tony Elumelu himself congratulating successful applicants that they had been selected. I watched that video almost 5 times just to make sure I was seeing what I was really seeing.

What was the most difficult part about applying for TEEP?
There was a lot to write about and I am not really someone who enjoys writing, but thank God. I have been applying for other business programs such as this one so I had a few write ups done already so it was not too bad.

What are some of your business challenges and how do you think TEEP will help address it?
My major business challenges have been both funding and knowing what to do next. African Things is about the customers and what the customers wants, and they want a lot of things. Knowing which product to do first or what aspect of the business to focus on has been my challenge.

With the help of the programme and with my mentor’s help, I’m sure I will be able to get a good understanding of what to do next and how to do it.  I think TEEP will help us get better structure and good business practices. Also, the funds and great contacts we will be getting will go a long way in helping my business further than I imaging.

107_TosinLawson_AfricanFemaleEntrepreneur

Where do you see African Things in three years?
In three years, I see African Things selling wholesale to a number of large outlets around the world including Marks and Spencer’s and Walmart. We plan to set up a franchise where people buy wholesale from us and resell.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
Believe in yourself and follow your passion. Never make excuses without having a solution for them. Most importantly trust God above all.

_______________________
*To learn more and stay up to date, visit the African Things website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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.