Mavis Nduchwa: Empowering Communities with Agriculture

A real estate and hospitality graduate turned TV presenter and now farmer, Mavis Nduchwa has done it all. Mavis’ journey to entrepreneurship goes as far back as when she was in boarding school, where she ordered and sold sweets to fellow students, and helped some students write their essays and letters for a small fee. So, it was no surprise that all through her career changes, Mavis always knew that she would someday be her own boss.

Mavis is passionate about the environment and nature. She is currently a manager at Safari Lodge, something she has been doing for the past ten years. In May 2011, she co-founded Chabana Farms with Brighton Chabana and was recently one of three selected winners of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) from Botswana. Mavis enjoys gardening and travelling and hopes to empower her community with agriculture.

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Tell us about Chabana Farms and what you do
At Chabana Farms, we are all about integrated farming — cattle, goats, donkeys, poultry, piggery, vegetables and horticulture. Farming is our pride. We believe that no child should go to bed hungry, so we make sure that starting from our small community, every person is fed. We also empower women and girls in our community through farming.

We started Chabana Farms in 2011 after we saw the problems our community was facing — lack of jobs for women and youth, shortage of food such as vegetables and meat products, people having to travel far to get basic commodities. We wanted to change this. We believe that by empowering the locals, we’ll have taken the first step to turning Africa into one big economic giant.

The vision for Chabana Farms is not only to provide food for the nation but to empower individuals in the community. We want to turn Chabana farms into a well known brand, both locally and internationally.

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?
When I got the news that I made the TEEP list, I was so excited that someone out there believed in me. The most difficult part about applying was getting internet access. The internet is not readily available in my community, so that was a challenge.

What is your biggest business challenge right now and how do you think TEEP will help address it?
My biggest challenge has always been getting capital to operate and market Chabana Farms. It is important that the company sustains itself so we can in turn empower others in our community. With TEEP, I am hoping to gain more experience in marketing and get some of the funding needed to make us sustainable.

Any words of encouragement to other entrepreneurs out there?
My words of encouragement are that they should not give up. No matter how long the road might seem, if you just persevere, it will all work out.

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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.

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Tania Attiba: Producing Natural Fruit Juices for a Healthy Lifestyle

Tania Attiba is the founder of Connex’ences and a volunteer at Francophonie. Trained as a personal assistant, she spent the early part of her career helping executives organize their lives. While working as a personal assistant in a TV show production company, Tania had an introspective moment where she realized she was far from her dream to become an entrepreneur. So, she chose to learn how to become a manager to give her the experience she might need to start her own food and beverage business some day.

At this time, the Francophone Institute of Entrepreneurship in Mauritius launched an entry examination based on business ideas. Tania applied with her business idea and got in for a masters programme in entrepreneurship from 2006 to 2008. At the end of the training, she started her business but soon realised that to run and manage her own company, she would need more on-the-job experience than she had. She decided to get a job so she could save money and also acquire experience that would help to develop her business idea. Tania got a job as a Program Manager at the First Entrepreneurship College in Benin after which she went back to setting up her company.

Tania loves travel, arts and craft, and getting involved in any programme that promotes women owned small businesses.

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What does your company, Connex’ences, do?
My company produces natural fruit juices to help people be in good health. We help households in cities in Benin (Cotonou, Ouidah, Porto Novo, Calavi, Dassa, Grand Popo and Parakou), major cities in neighboring countries and France satisfy their need to stay healthy by providing natural fruit juices. We also help young people to be financially independent by training them to set up their own fruit juice business.

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?
I was very excited when I saw my name. I phoned my husband and my aunt to share my joy with them. I was a little sad because I would have loved my mother (RIP) to be there to share the joy with me.

My only difficulty was to fill the application in English. I was worried about my language level because my first language is French.

What is your biggest business challenge and how do you think TEEP will help address it?
My first challenge is capital. I need enough money to set up my company the way I desire. I think that TEEP will help me increase my capital to be more creative.

Was there any time you felt like giving up? Tell us about it and how you overcame that feeling
Five years ago, my mother who was my motivation died. It was very difficult for me because she was my business partner and she inspired me to achieve my goals. I wish I was able to thank her for all she did for me. When this happened, I felt like giving up. So, I decided to stop everything I’d done with my business and got another job.

One day, I saw a biography on TV about a top model that had suffered a lot and lost her mother. She used to pain and suffering to fuel her work and build something in respect of her mother’s memory. This gave me the strength to go on and I decided to respect my mother’s memory by doing the same. I know that my mother is seeing what I’m doing and is proud of me.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like yourself?
I want to tell women that they have to believe in themselves,  yes they can and they will do it as soon as they are in good health. Yes it is possible, young girl to be yourselves, to change also the world.  We are the promise of tomorrow.

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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.

Eileen Ambasa: Developing Solutions to Combat Cyber Crime

Three years after graduation and with a one year old baby in tow, Eileen Ambasa got interested in Information Technology (IT). Seeing the opportunities it could open up in her career, Eileen decided to learn IT basics. So, she enrolled in ACWICT, a college that teaches IT essentials to young girls in partnership with Samsung, where she learnt CISCO, customer care and business process outsourcing, among other things.

Not long after she completed that programme, she was employed at Techno Brain Kenya as a Computer Networking Instructor and rose through the ranks to become the Training and Operations Manager. In April 2013 she decided to exit and become a consultant. There, her  journey as an entrepreneur began.

A graduate of Arts Economics and French from Kenyatta University in Kenya with a diploma in German language from Goethe Institute, Eileen Ambasa has a wealth of varied experience and skills — from being a language tutor, to serving as the Internal Auditor at Students’ in Free Enterprise (SIFE), helping young teenage girls initiate and develop small businesses of their own, and now starting her own company, Icons Cyber Solutions.

Eileen is passionate about learning new things, being a good mom to her six year old daughter, and helping others learn so they can develop themselves. She reads self-development books, researches on information security matters, loves cooking, and enjoys insightful discussions especially with her family.

There was a time I could not even hold a mouse and I merely survived a retake in my computer course in my first year at campus. But I improved greatly. ~ Eileen Ambasa

Tell us about Icons Cyber Solutions and how it would change the world.
Icons Cyber Solutions is an information security and computer forensics company. We help businesses and individuals tackle the dynamic technological and information challenges to securely integrate IT into their businesses and lives.

We seek to combat cyber crime and fraud incidents that affect confidence in our economies and in businesses. We also aim to tackle the shortage of field experts by empowering and equipping youth in society, especially in Africa, with the necessary skills that will enhance this industry’s growth.

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Why did you decide to start Icons Cyber Solutions?
I wanted to start something sustainable that would make money for myself and future generations, and also create employment for others. Having worked as a consultant for a while, I wanted something other than earning money in percentages that would make use of my expertise. I was offered a chance to start a branch of a Ugandan company in Kenya; that did not go so well and in the process, I got contacts that required a registered business. That’s how Icons Cyber Solutions started. The name of my company has evolved three times; at one point it was Infoseek.

How did you get interested in technology?
I got interested in technology after my daughter turned one. I was still jobless so I decided to try it out, especially when I realized that some of my former classmates who had changed courses from Economics to Computer Science were doing so well. There was a time I could not even hold a mouse and I merely survived a retake in my computer course in my first year at campus. But I improved greatly. Once I was top of my class for IT essentials, I began to see that with interest I could advance. Since then, I have not looked back.

What do you think women in technology need?
Mostly focus and to lose the dependency syndrome on our male counterparts. We need to put ourselves out there in this industry, have the drive and a goal (whether clear or unclear), learn, go the extra mile in putting our technical ideas into businesses and run them as the good managers that we naturally are.

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What is your advice to a woman thinking of going into technology?
Go for it. Absolutely. It is nice and fun. Be passionate about it. Get into the field not  just as a career but as something you love. Have a learning attitude and be able to multitask. Technology changes; put in time for research and continuous learning so you do not become stagnant. It is not easy, but it can be done.

Do not look at yourself as a woman, or even as a man, but as a human being. This way, one realizes that we are neither in competition for anything, nor is one person more privileged than the other. There are enough resources and opportunities for everyone and each of us has been created with a drive to get their own share. GO FOR IT! Only you can dream your dream so only you, through God’s help, can make that dream come true.

What was the most difficult part about applying for the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP) and how did you feel when you heard you made the list?
Filling the form was so challenging since it had several sections and requirements. Other fields also took a lot of time and attention, which was pressurizing. I just kept encouraging myself since nothing good comes easy. I think it was all worth the effort and time.

When I heard I made the list, I was excited of course! I had no clear idea what it entailed, but the fact that there were over 20,000 applicants and only 1,000 were selected in Africa (not just Kenya) and I was among them! That is just mind blowing. I was jumping up and down in the living room with my younger sister, our eyes filled with tears of joy and we couldn’t stop thanking God for this great opportunity. It was an emotional moment for me, a good one.

What is your number one business challenge and how do you think the programme will help address it?
A more organized and business oriented approach in our company. I must admit that most techies are not so good in business, despite having great talents and skills.

TEEP has already got me thinking of how to handle these challenges. I’m now paying a lot of attention to detail and I believe that by the end of the programme, I will be able to apply the knowledge acquired and have strong structures in place. I believe the business will grow to greater heights and be sustainable, plus with the network already formed with fellow participants, there is great potential for further growth, greater impact to society’s businesses and awareness creation to communities that will be of great value to me.

Any words of encouragement or advice to entrepreneurs like you?
Sure. Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Do not be afraid to fail or make mistakes; as long as there is action, they are bound to happen. The most important thing is to get back up, and to come out wiser and stronger than you were the previous time. It doesn’t matter how many times you get up and fall, just keep going. It is a great learning experience.

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*To learn more and stay up to date, follow Eileen on Twitter and Icons Cyber Solutions on Twitter and Facebook

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.

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.

Caroline Mtongolo: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle With Mushrooms

A Chemistry graduate from the University of Nairobi, Caroline Mtongolo is the co-founder of Zoi Investment Limited, a company focused on investing in the agribusiness industry in Kenya. With her cofoundher, Waithera Macharia, their aim is to make Zoi Investment a leader in the agribusiness industry in Kenya by providing profitability, quality and alternative products that will contribute towards enhancing living standards in communities.

Although Zoi Investment Limited is mainly involved in mushroom farming, they farm and grow cash crops such as onions, chilies, tomatoes and water melons. They also act as a distributor of agricultural produce by buying from farmers and reselling to both local and international markets.

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Caroline is inspired by ‘Never having to do the same thing twice’  and she finds her balance by being deliberate, planning every move and scheduling tasks to make sure work is done on time; skills that come in handy for the Business Development Director of Zoi Investment. With all the hours she saves by working smart, she spends time exploring the culture of Nairobi, visiting new cafes, experiencing dining and attending events.

Tell us more about Zoi Investment and why you decided to go into mushroom farming.
Our company, Zoi Investment Limited, located in Nairobi, Kenya, deals with mushrooms production. We are currently producing oyster mushrooms and plan to start producing reishi mushrooms soon. We decided to delve into mushroom farming to address two needs that a modern person has: maintaining healthy weight and preventing lifestyle diseases such as obesity.

In fast paced modern environments, it is a great challenge for people, especially women, to access healthy foods hence the upsurge in lifestyle diseases. Zoi Investment prides itself with helping address this critical issue in our generation through our mushroom farm — mushrooms are a very nutritious crop and they have medicinal value.

Also, did you know that currently Kenya imports 150 tons of mushroom annually? This figure is expected to grow with the rise of the middle class in Kenya. There is a clear deficit for mushrooms not only in Kenya, but in international markets like the United Arab Emirates and Asia. Zoi Investment plans to be an instrumental part in providing mushrooms in Kenya to curb importation of mushrooms that denies the local people of Kenya access to employment opportunities.

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 watched my acceptance video in disbelief. It was surreal. I almost thought someone was playing a prank on me. Making it, out of 20,000 other African entrepreneurs, was a great honor and I could not stop thanking the Almighty God. I immediately called a few people who are close to my heart and shared the good news. I knew this was the first step of a victorious journey.

The most difficult part for me was coming up with a budget and cost estimates for Zoi Investment. With no prior experience in business planning, I depended a lot on my co-founder, Waithera Macharia, and the internet for help.

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What is your major business challenge and how do you intend to address it?
One of the major challenges for Zoi Investment has been getting capital to acquire good substrate and grow quality mushrooms at a large scale. The capital offered by the Tony Elumelu Foundation will catapult Zoi Investment’s operations and put us on the right track.

What do you hope your business will achieve in the next few months?
I hope to acquire the skills and expertise to kick start Zoi Investment and generate revenues, develop business and social leadership skills, proper branding and business development skills and finally to expand my networks locally and even internationally.

Any words of encouragement to entrepreneurs like yourself?
As long as you have a vision, it will come to pass. Write it down, even though it tarries, it will surely come to pass. Commit it to God, prepare yourself and work hard, a window of opportunity will open up before you know it.

 

*To learn more and stay up to date, follow Zoi Investmet Limited on Twitter and Facebook; and Caroline on Twitter.
**special shout out to Averi Thomas-Moore for contributing immensely to the making of this interview

cofoundHER facts
Full name: Caroline Mtongolo
Country: Kenya
Education: BSc Chemistry, University of Nairobi
Sector: Food and agriculture
Business in one sentence: We help people, especially the modern woman, maintain a healthy weight and prevent lifestyle disease such as obesity by providing them with easy access to mushrooms.

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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.

 

Lorna Okeng: Digitially Preserving African Heritage

Lorna Okeng is an adventure seeking, nature loving tech enthusiast who is passionate about using technology to address real world challenges. A former Google student ambassador and a girl child evangelist, Lorna Okeng is no stranger to winning — in 2014 she was one of the winners in the ITU Telecoms’ Young Innovators Competition.

She gets excited about finding new ways of exploiting existing technologies to maximize information accessibility and availability. We got to speak with her about her startup, TeleMuseum, and how it would change African culture and history by digitally preserving our heritage.

What would happen if we could virtually teleport 500 years back in time and see how the stories unfolded then and how things evolved? TeleMuseum will take you there. ~ Lorna Okeng

What does your company do and how would it change the world?
Imagine a virtual screening room, with infinite capacity, holding millions of unique cultural and historical content from our collective past, connecting us to our heritage and legend stories narrated from our very own elders.

That’s what TeleMuseum is. We help cultural heritage institutions re-imagine and preserve culture and history by digitizing very unique local content so that they can become significant digital tourism contributors to the region.

We are increasingly communicating and connecting virtually, yet our heritage institutions are physical. So, our fundamental mission as TeleMuseum is to digitally enhance the exchange of information and objects, especially relating to African culture and history.

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?
It was definitely exciting for us because making the list brings us closer to accomplishing our goals. Some of the questions were a bit intimidating, I must admit, but we put in our best, emphasizing our goals and specifically highlighting why the world, and more still Africa, needs TeleMuseum.

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What is your major business challenge and how do you intend to address it?
The business challenge we keep meeting is how we will commercialize the product. Through mentoring and interacting with more and more people, we will narrow down to strategies that can sustain us.

With the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, we will have enough support to accomplish most of the goals we have in place including launching the platform and attracting pioneer users.

Any words of encouragement to someone who is thinking of starting a business?
First things first, Believe 101% in your idea/startup, give it your best and trust that it will work. Then find one or two people who believe in what you are doing, work with them and somehow, everything else will fall in line.

cofoundHER Facts
Full name: Lorna Okeng Atim
Startup: TeleMuseum
Nationality: Ugandan
Sector: Virtual Tourism/Digital content creation
Solution in one sentence: We help cultural heritage institutions re-imagine and preserve culture and history by digitizing very unique local content so that they can become significant digital tourism contributors to the region.

Looking forward to exploring TeleMuseum when it launches. To find out more, follow Lorna Okeng on Twitter @LittleAtim

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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.

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.

Precious Odimegwu: Inspiring the Best in Children

A legal practitioner, hobbyist blogger, and mother who is passionate about early developmental education of children, Precious Odimegwu nursed the dream of catering to the educational needs of preschoolers. For years, she planned to start her own Creche and Nursery Institution, writing down what it would look like and how it would be structured. But she had two major problems: where would she get funding to start out and what would her competitive advantage be.

Not one to be deterred, Precious followed her mantra of being prepared and kept a business plan in her diary, updating it over time. So, when opportunity struck by way of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme, she was ready.

Her goals are to help parents with busy schedules by providing quality child care to their preschool children, and also to contribute her quota in reducing unemployment in her community.

Tell us about your idea and how it would change the world:

My business idea is a Creche and Nursery institution. We want to inspire the best in our little children, especially the pre-schoolers, to give them the solid educational, moral, and social background they need at an early age.

My idea will change the world, starting with my immediate community, by providing early developmental education to our young ones. We want to support parents with busy careers by providing quality child care, while also reducing the number of the unemployed individuals in my community by providing employment opportunities to both graduates and non-graduates.

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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?

It felt heavenly! This idea is something I have always wanted to do and finally I am getting the opportunity to bring my dreams and aspirations to life. I am most grateful to God and to Tony Elumelu for such a wonderful opportunity and I vow to make the best of it.

The application process wasn’t difficult at all. The words just kept flowing because I have always known that this idea is something I want to do, so I was prepared for the questions. I already had a business plan written in my diary long ago so it was easy. It’s good to always be prepared; you never know when opportunity would come knocking.

What stopped you from starting your business when you first got the idea?

My major challenges were financing and how to handle competition in this field. With this programme, I’ll be able to address both challenges especially with the mentor sessions and bootcamp that come with the funding. Now, I have the pedestal I need, I can give life to my business and take it from just an idea to reality.

What is your advice to someone who has an idea and wants to start their own business?

My advice to other entrepreneurs or those who aspire to be entrepreneurs is: Never give up on your dreams. With God all things are possible.


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We wish Precious all the best with her Creche and we hope to follow on her business progress over time. To learn more about her and to find out when her business launches, follow her 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. Read our introductory post and follow our daily stories on social media using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER.

Women of the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur Programme

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

After the winners’ announcement on the 23rd of March 2015, and thanks to this official list, we were able to comb the internet (gotta love Google and social media), track down a few of the female finalists, and reach out to them for interviews.

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.  We’ll update this list below with all the interviews as they go live:

  1. Adiya Atuluku: How Muse Origins is Taking African Creativity to the World
  2. Precious Odimegwu: Inspiring the Best in Children
  3. Abisoye Habib: Unearthing Nigeria’s Agribusiness Potential
  4. Lorna Okeng: Digitally Preserving African Heritage
  5. Lerato Motshwarakgole: Impacting Communities with Performance Art
  6. Byenda Nkwanda: Creating World Class African Fashion
  7. Caroline Mtongolo: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle With Mushrooms
  8. Kossiwa Anifrani: Catering to the Lifestyle Needs of Pregnant Women
  9. Ehizele Ijeoma Joseph-Ebare: Making Healthcare Accessible for All
  10. Tracy Owamagbe and Omowunmi Akande: Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle, One Smoothie at a Time
  11. Janine Roberts: Using Packaging Technology to Empower People
  12. Sharron McPherson: Saving the World, One Social Enterprise at a Time
  13. Farida Musa Halliru: Taking African Fashion Worldwide
  14. Eileen Ambasa: Developing Solutions to Combat Cyber Crime
  15. Oduwa Agboneni: Bringing Professionalism to Nigeria’s Auto Care Industry
  16. Tosin Lawson: Promoting African Designs in Everyday Lifestyle
  17. Eleojo Peters: On a Mission to Feed the World
  18. Tania Attiba: Producing Natural Fruit Juices for a Healthy Lifestyle
  19. Mavis Nduchwa: Empowering Communities with Agriculture
  20. Madonna Kendona-Sowah: Creating High quality clothing with Ghanaian Textiles
  21. Kofoworola Oyeleye: Teaching Children Native Nigerian Culture

Follow our daily stories using the hashtag #TEEPcofoundHER. Know any other women who made the list? Please send their details via email to cofoundher@gmail.com.

**This series is an independent project by cofoundHER. We were not commissioned or influenced by any organisation to do this.

About The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP)

In December 2014, the Tony Elumelu Foundation announced an initiative, the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), with the ambitious goal is to create 10,000 businesses that can generate one million new jobs and contribute at least $10 billion in annual revenues to the Africa economy. Applications for the first batch of 1,000 beneficiaries ran from the 1st of January 2015 till the 1st of March and when applications closed, it was reported that over 20,000 entrepreneurs from 52 countries applied!

On the 23rd of March, after deliberations from a carefully chosen selection committee (consisting of seasoned entrepreneurs such as ) the winning 1,000 were announced. The programme has designed 7 pillars to address the essential needs to ensure success for an African entrepreneur: Mentoring, Startup Enterprise Toolkit, Resources, Bootcamp, Elumelu Entrepreneurship Forum, Seed Capital Funding and Alumni Network. 

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