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Interview With The Founder And Textile Designer At The Adirelounge, Cynthia Asije

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Cynthia Asije is the founder and textile designer at The Adirelounge, a Nigeria based textile company with a premium textile brand that creates unique designs using the “Adire” skill that has been passed from generations to generations. At AdireLounge they have modernized the technical grain textile by integrating technology, design, and empowerment to strengthen financial inclusion in rural Nigeria. In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa OnlineCynthia talked about her entrepreneurship journey, how Adirelounge is creating prosperity for African women, youths and their families and her plans to make her brand the number one Textile Hub with different experience outlets in major cities in Nigeria and Africa. Excerpt.

Alaba: Kindly tell us about Adirelounge and the inspiration behind it?

Cynthia: The Adirelounge is a hand dyed Textile Company that creates unique designs on non-conventional fabrics like chiffon, t-shirts,scarves and silk. We also train rural women, widows, vulnerable and out of school youth in this Adire skill. Thereby preserving culture and traditions, rich heritage and the textile making skills of Nigeria. And also curbing unemployment and creating job opportunities for these women and youth. After school I went for the mandatory National Youth Service Corps in Ogun State and I was posted to Abeokuta. After service I bought some adire fabrics to sell when I get back to Benin. I sold out but my customers had complains like, why are the colors dull? Why is it strong? The colors run, why? etc. so I knew there was a problem. I had to learn how to dye this fabric and make it well. I went back to Abeokuta stayed for some time and learnt Adire making properly. I even tried dying several fabrics like Chiffon, Cotton, Jersey, Silk, Linen, Lace, Denim, T-shirts and Scarves and it came out well and was able to tackle all the questions my clients were asking.

 

Alaba: What was your startup capital and how did you raise it?

Cynthia: My start up capital was N20,000 gotten from my savings.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?

Cynthia: Our top three Challenges are;

  • Design Theft: Most of our marketing is done online so our designs are available, people take them and use them as theirs, and we had to watermark our images before it goes online.
  • Finance to expand: There are no readily available finance option for small business owners with a single digit to grow their business, so at Adirelounge we overcame that by bootstrapping. But now we are open to investment options.
  • Regulation: We overcame this by understanding the meaning of regulation in our industry and its implications for my business and to develop the skills necessary to deal with it.
  • Finding the right Staff: we had to get our recruitment right and train them to the company’s standards, and carry out training where it is necessary following identification of staff strength.

 

Alaba: How is your brand unique and different from other Adire brands?

Cynthia: The Adirelounge brand is a premium brand that creates unique patterns on different fabric mediums like Silk, Chiffon, Tshirts, an ecommerce platform where customers can shop at their own convenience. We also train and empower rural women and youths in the adire skill.

Alaba: How are you promoting the Adire brand beyond the shores of Africa?

Cynthia: We are promoting the Adire brand beyond the shores of Africa via our partnerships with international ecommerce sites, partnering with fashion brands outside Africa has helped with promoting the Adire brand.

Alaba: How can African government support Startups and SMEs?

Cynthia: African government can support entrepreneurs by creating state loans or grants for entrepreneurs, reduce small business tax and hiring requirements, Create a policy framework that is pro-business and pro-employment, Co-ordinate with industry associations and business entities to advance innovation, ensure compliance, balance profits with employee focused social benefits, and encourage competition by effectively checking monopolies.

Also Read 5 important features to make your contract legal and valid | Tosin Omotosho

Alaba: What’s the future of your brand and what steps are you taking towards achieving them?

Cynthia: To be the number one Textile Hub in Nigeria with different experience outlets in major cities in the country. Exporting our fabrics to major stores in Europe, USA and other African countries. Establish our textile art institute in major communities in the country to teach women, youths the art of adire making so they can create sustainable income for themselves.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Cynthia: I feel so elated to be an African entrepreneur in these times. The world is watching, we have great talents and brands emerging from Africa. There is no better time to be an African entrepreneur.

 

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Cynthia: I used to be a hermit, but part of my 2019 personal development goal is to go out more often, visit friends, attend networking meetings, and I read a lot of business and self-care books and blogs.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language? What’s your favourite local dish?

Cynthia: I’m from ‘Ora’ in Edo State, Nigeria. My best local dish is ‘Black soup and starch’and ‘Oboshan’ which means ‘Welcome’.

 

Her Short Bio:

Cynthia Asije is a multi-award winning textile designer at The Adirelounge, a hand dyed Textile Company that trains women in rural communities and create job opportunities for them.She has a Certificate in Entrepreneurship from EDC Lagos, and a Non Profit Leadership certificate from Lagos Business School.She was on the Ynaija Power list 2018 for Fashion and Style and 100 Africa’s Next Start up by IFC-World Bank Group 2018.

 

Kindly click to visit Adirelounge

 

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Afripreneur Profile: Dayo Adedayo, The Man Behind The Lens

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‘dayo Adedayo was born in Nigeria in 1964 and trained as a photographer at the Westminster College and the University of Westminster, both in the United Kingdom.

His major breakthrough came when he worked as a freelance photojournalist with Ovation International, the Number 1 celebrity magazine in Africa. Several of his work adorns the front cover of the magazine for over a 4 year period and the best selling eAfdition, ‘See Dubai and Die’ in 2002 was by him.

He is the author of eleven books; Nigeria 2.0, Nigeria, Enchanting Nigeria, Nigeria The MagicalLagos State- The Centre of Excellence and Ogun State – The Gateway State, Owe Yoruba, Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation – Tourism is Life, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation 37 Years in Pictures, Rivers State – Our Proud Heritage, Tour Nigeria and Lagos State – The Centre of Excellence (A Visual Portrait).

His book, Nigeria, was the first of its kind since the creation of Nigeria since 1914. No wonder it became a sort after book by Nigerians and lovers of Nigeria.It was given out to the visiting Heads of State when Nigeria turned 50 in 2010, United Nations General Assembly in New York, 2013, Africa Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, 2013 and the West African Heads of State Security Summit in Abuja 2016 .

His work also adorned the pages of the E-Passport of Nigeria, the One Hundred Naira note to mark the centenary of Nigeria, the walls of the International Airports of Lagos, Abuja and several institutions and homes across Nigeria,and a member on the committee of setting up photography as a course in Nigeria Polytechnics.

The centenary edition of ‘MONOPOLY NIGERIA ’ by Bestman Games contains his work, so also were the pictures on display at the Presidential Wing of the Nnamdi International Airport, Abuja.

Also Read Interview: African Energy Chamber Executive Chairman, NJ Ayuk on Transforming Africa’s Energy Sector

Also between 2005 and 2007 he was the official photographer for ‘NIGERIA – THE HEART OF AFRICA’, a project that precipitated a lot of travelling all around the world, exhibiting Nigeria to the world in pictures.

Adedayo hopes that his work will add to the growing canon of contemporary African photography that seeks to challenge perceptions, broaden audiences and show the world the beauty of Nigeria like never before.

Some of his works;

Ojukwu Bunker, Abia State, Nigeria

Kwa Falls, Cross River State, Nigeria

Juju Rock, Kwara State, Nigeria

Owerre – Ezukala Cave, Anambra State, Nigeria

Victoria Island, Lagos State, Nigeria

 

Click to visit Dayo Adedayo

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Prioritizing A Traditionally Underserved Somaliland Population Over Profit – Adan Abbey

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Adan Abbey is the President of Horn of Africa Insurance, an insurance company based in Hargeisa, Somaliland and providing international standard insurance services to a traditionally underserved Somaliland and Somalia market. A region that lacks the presence of insurance services and access to a robust financial services sector. In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola, Adan explains his company’s strategy to take insurance to the grassroot, change the mind of people to be more proactive with their finance. And most importantly, impact his community by creating more jobs for the youth.  Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Tell us about Horn of Africa Insurance and the gap its filling?

Adan: Horn of Africa Insurance is a general insurance company headquartered in Hargeisa, Somaliland. Our main product offerings include Auto, Property, Medical, and Cargo insurance coverage. Our goal is to be an international standard insurer that provides high quality insurance services tailored to our local and regional context. We are achieving this by providing much needed insurance services to a traditionally underserved population. This is a market that in general has not had access to a robust financial services sector, so we are helping to fill that gap.

Whether it’s by insuring a high value asset for an international investor, or by providing medical insurance to someone who maybe has never had it before, our job is to protect you and your assets while at the same time providing you with peace of mind.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

Adan: One of our biggest challenges right now is the lack of understanding about what insurance actually is. In the absence of formal insurance, the majority of the population here participates in a sort of tribal insurance scheme, one that has existed for generations. You can think of it as risk pooling whereby you contribute to a pool of funds and in the event of a major incident (a car accident for example), your tribe will take money from that pool to help cover the cost of injuries and/or death.

While that has worked to a certain extent, there are many challenges associated with it, so we spend a lot of time educating people on the benefits of formal insurance. We’re out in the field having one on one interactions with people, understanding their needs, and explaining how insurance can be a solution. We can also point to many examples where businesses lost massive sums of money because their goods were uninsured.

Another challenge we face is the lack of insurance specific laws and regulations, which are important to the development of the overall industry and also help spur economic development. We expect that this will change in the not too distant future, so our focus has been on building a strong brand and customer base.

 

Alaba: Why is your brand different from other insurance brands in terms of your unique selling point?

Adan: As a management team we have over 10 years of direct insurance experience at global insurance companies and even more years in the broader financial services industry. It’s not only the experience that we are bringing to the market, but also a level of quality and service. When you insure with Horn of Africa Insurance you know you’re getting great coverage and a company that will go the extra mile for you. For example if one of our customers is involved in a car accident we try to send the nearest representative to the scene.

An accident can be very stressful so we try to be there whenever we can to help, whether it’s helping with the paperwork, towing, etc. It’s an example of how we try to go above and beyond for our customers. We also work with top international reinsurers, and this allows us to service almost any client need, while providing an extra layer of protection.

 

Alaba: How is your brand contributing to the development of the insurance industry?

Adan: We are essentially developing a market from the ground up. We are spending time and money to educate people at all levels about the benefits of insurance. We are trying to shift the mindsets of people to think more proactively about their finances rather than reactively. Oftentimes people only understand the benefit of insurance when the experience a significant loss. They have to deal with the financial burdens either alone or if they are lucky with help from their family or community.

Our message to people is that insurance is there to help you in those times of need. To me insurance is deeper than just asset protection, it contributes to wealth creation, and it helps to drive economies. By mitigating your financial risks you allow yourself the opportunity to continue to save and invest in building wealth. And on a national level most investors wouldn’t consider making large investments in a country without insurance.

Insurers also create jobs and are some of the largest institutional investors. So we believe that we are making a significant contribution in the work that we are doing.

 

Alaba: What markets are you operating in, currently? Any plans for expansion?

Adan: We are currently only operating in Somaliland. Our current focus is to continue our expansion within the country first, as we believe there is great potential to make a positive impact here.

 

Alaba: What’s the future for your brand and what steps are you taking towards achieving them?

Adan: We believe the future of our brand is to be synonymous with quality insurance at a great price throughout the Horn of Africa region and beyond. Our goal is to be a Pan African insurer and No. 1 in the Horn of Africa region. We are taking it one customer at a time, as success is the result of consistent hard work and execution of a strong vision.

 

Alaba: What’s your view on the evolution of the insurance ecosystem in Africa?

Adan: Insurance penetration in Africa is roughly 2.8%, which is low but it is not only an African phenomenon. Global insurance penetration is roughly 6%. I do however think that Africa has the chance to be a global leader in this market. This is a continent that is just beginning its journey towards accelerated growth. We have some of the fastest growing economies on earth.

Imagine what the continent can transform into once we see things like stronger infrastructure, increased trade between African countries, and a growing middle class. The beauty of insurance is that the industry plays a part in all of that. We insure construction projects, cargo, and the assets of individuals. We can also become a global leader through innovation. Look at what has been done with mobile money in Africa.

Here in Somaliland for example, I do not carry a wallet. Virtually every transaction I make is on my mobile phone. So it just shows you that innovation can come from Africa and that the continent can be a model of success if we put in place measures that encourage entrepreneurship, innovation, and good governance.

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Adan: It feels exciting and rewarding. I’m proud that we have been able to create employment, particularly for young people who have graduated without access to quality jobs. It may sound cliché to say, but I really do believe that Africa’s time is now. We all have something to contribute, an area of expertise, a passion. I believe we owe it to ourselves to build this continent into something incredible. When the movie Black Panther came out, it created a lot of emotion in people because here was Africa essentially being portrayed as the most advanced place in the world by far, and it made people proud. There’s no reason why that cannot become a reality.

Africans are excelling in every single field imaginable and at the highest levels. Not to mention the brilliance of youth that who if given an opportunity could reach unimaginable heights. I’d encourage people to consider entrepreneurship, particularly if you feel that you are only operating at a fraction of your true potential.

Alaba: What is your advice for African entrepreneurs and investors?

Adan: What I’m learning is that to be successful, no matter what your definition is of success, you have to win the battle against your own mind. You will experience rejection, people will tell you that what you’re doing will never work; they may even try to bring you down. These will be the same people who will chase after you during the good times. So your vision has to be strong in your mind, you have to see exactly where you will be and believe it.

That is what will help you get through the daily roller coaster ride that is entrepreneurship. You also have to be willing to take calculated risks and be patient enough to see things through.

Also Read Lillian Barnard: Tech Enthusiast And First Female Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Adan: I exercise at least 5 days a week, I find it energizing but also a time where I can decompress. I also practice visualization; I often have my vision board next to me on my desk. I try to read one book a month, typically a different genre each time. I’m currently reading “Connectivity” by Parag Khanna which explores how political borders become less relevant as the world is becoming more connected.

 

Alaba: Teach us one word in your local language. What is your favourite local dish and holiday spot within Africa?

Adan: The word for “car” in Somali is “gaari”. It comes from the Hindi language, and it’s actually the same word in Swahili. It’s an illustration as to how the historical Red Sea and Indian Ocean trading routes had an influence on language and culture.

My favorite local dish is “sabaayad”, similar to chapatti, golden brown, flaky, and typically served with a goat stew or can be eaten alone with some honey and tea. Not the best for the waistline, but great for the soul.

I enjoy visiting Malindi, a beach town along the Kenyan coast. A destination that I have not yet visited but would love to is Mauritius.

 

B I O G R A P H Y

Adan Abbey is Co-Founder and President of Horn of Africa Insurance headquartered in Hargeisa, Somaliland. The company offers Auto, Property, Medical, and Marine Cargo coverage in Somaliland & Somalia. Adanbegan his career at Liberty Mutual Insurance in Boston, where he served as a Senior Financial Analyst in the Personal Markets Division as well as with Liberty International Underwriters (LIU), Liberty’s multi-billion dollar specialty lines division reporting directly to the Chief Financial Officer. His experience includes managing large insurance portfolios, accounting, developing risk mitigation measures, and corporate strategy.

Mr. Abbey also has experience in the Pharmaceutical & Nutrition industries. At Abbott Laboratories, he served as an Associate Brand Manager, responsible for the $100MM+ Glucerna brand in the United States. This included managing multi-million dollar marketing budgets and executing strategies that increased revenue and brand equity.

Adan holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance from the University of Connecticut and MBA in Marketing & Management from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

Click to visit Horn of Africa Insurance 

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Meet Sivi Malukisa, The Congolese Entrepreneur Whose Food Startup Is Promoting DRC Cuisine

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MANITECH CONGO is n agribusiness company producing natural fresh jams, jellies, peanut butter, sauces and flour. A 100% Congolese products, sourced from Congolese farmers and transformed by Congolese workers. Inspired and headed by Sivi Malukisa Diawete, born and raised in the small city of Kisangani, north of Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). After completing high school, she was accepted to UNIKIN (University of Kinshasa) where she obtained her Bachelors degree in Biotechnology.

In 2016, Sivi made the decision to leave the corporate world with experience in Human Resources and rose to the top of the ladder in her career as HR Director with top multinationals in DRC like DHL, Vodacom and MIH so she could follow her passion to empower the local economy by founding MANITECH. In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola, Sivi shared her views on entrepreneurship, the role of government, how her company is promoting and modernizing DRC traditional cuisine.  Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Tell us about your brand, MANITECH Congo and the gap its filling?

Sivi: MANITECH is the products line powered by MANITECH CONGO, our company. We are in the food industry and produce 100% Congolese products, sourced from Congolese farmers and transformed by Congolese workers. We want to be a 100% Congolese food processing company. Our products lines are jam with tropical and local fruits, traditional peanuts butters and Congolese cuisine’s sauces.

In DRC, our local food is not yet transformed in modern way. We want to offer traditional food modernized.

 

Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?

Sivi: I didn’t have a chance to raise any capital. I worked on my own from scratch. I had only 300 USD in hands when I started and slowly I built my company brick after brick.

 

Alaba: How are you different from other brands in terms of your unique selling point?

Sivi: Our uniqueness is the fact that we offer traditional food in modern manner. For local market, the innovation is in term of  the packaging that we offer. For external market, it is the content which is the innovation. At the end of the day, our customers are happy both with the content and the packaging.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?

Sivi: The biggest challenge is environmental; the business climate is very tough here in DRC, and for small business, it is even worse. Aside the environmental issues, we also face infrastructural, electricity and water challenges. Add on to that is importation; people are used to imported products and it is not easy to convince them that local is also good and even much better. This is because buying local reinforce local economy.

Finally, we have difficulties in packaging. For all these issues, we have decided to advocate, showcase, promote values of local companies, etc. And we import packaging, sadly I will say.

Alaba: What’s the future for your business and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Sivi: Our next step is building a 10 times bigger factory. I’m focus on my objectives and embracing opportunities. It is a learning process, a journey from A to C and as one of my mentors says, “I trust the process, I’m going my way.”

 

Alaba: What are the challenges facing entrepreneurs in Congo, today? What crucial role can the government play? 

Sivi: Hmm, this is a difficult one. Let say it this way: if you succeed as entrepreneur in DRC, you can make it in any part of the world. Any challenge you name, we face it here. Get the picture, no fund system to boost start ups, no water, no electricity, very expensive internet and bad network, no proper road, one of the countries with the high cost of clearing imported goods, difficulty to find good employee due to lack of proper education, high taxes, one of the highest rate of corruption, no justice, etc.

I don’t want to give a bad image of my country but unfortunately this is the environment in which we as entrepreneur, are supposed to strive and develop.

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Sivi: Proud. Africa is a giant who is awaking now. We see every where entrepreneurs, innovations, excellence. Africa is better than ever and I’m happy to witness this and to be part of this shift. In few years, AFRICA will be the place to be for any business in the world.

 

Alaba: What’s your advice for entrepreneurs and investors in Congo?

Sivi: Let do it. It is not easy, but we can make it easier. There are opportunities everywhere; the country needs some courageous people ready to take up the challenge. We are the disruptive generation and believe me; future generations will thank us for this. This is the perfect time to change things around and we have everything we need to do it.

 

Alaba: What inspires you and keeps you going?

Sivi: My country, my flag, my people, my children. Our country is one of the biggest in Africa, with so much wealth. Yet, my people are poor because we don’t use our resources properly. To be an active actor of change in my country is the best legacy I can give to my children.

 

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Sivi: I take 30 mins off for meditation and 20 mins to exercise daily, and I play with my kids. Most of the time I read novels or I take courses on finance, leadership, marketing, etc.

 

Alaba: Teach us one word in your local language.

Sivi: FIMBU which means WHIP. A lingala word that Congolese use for victory. We use it in competitions such as football to mean that we are champions. We dance it, and shout it. We gave this word a national meaning and it is associated to the leopard, the DRC’s totem animal.

Also Read Lillian Barnard: Tech Enthusiast And First Female Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa

Alaba: What’s your favourite local dish and holiday spot in Africa?

Sivi: My local dish, definitely is FUMBWA. I don’t know the name in English. But it is a forest leave that we cook with smoked fish and peanut butter and we eat it with FUFU (cassava pap). My grandma use to make the best fumbwa in the world. And this is my inspiration for our MANITECH peanut butter.  My favorite holiday spot is Cape Town, South Africa. I love to sit in front of the sea and just listen to the sound of the wave, some time you see whales or dolphins. It is amazing.

 

B I O G R A P H Y

Sivi Malukisa Diawete grew up in the small city of Kisangani, north of Kinshasa Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).  After completing high school, she was accepted to UNIKIN (University of Kinshasa) where she obtained her Bachelors degree in Biotechnology.

Shortly after graduating Sivi was offered a position as the Head of Human Resources with DHL in DRC and Republic of Congo.  Her work with DHL created opportunities for advancement in the discipline of HR with companies such as Vodacom and MIH where she was promoted to HR Business Partner than HR Director.

In 2016 Sivi made the decision to leave the corporate world so she could follow her passion to empower the local economy by founding MANITECH, an agribusiness company producing natural fresh jams, jellies, peanut butter, sauces and flour.

After 4 years of hard work and dedication, MANITECH started to grow significantly, which allow her to get national and regional recognition. She was nominated Entrepreneur of the year in DRC by the prestigious MAKUTANO Network, she was featured in Forbes Afrique Magasine (septembre-octobre 2018) and was ranked among the 50 most influential under 40 Congolese’s people by the magazine KivuZik, she was also named ambassador for the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Recently,  she extended her investments in new companies such as DRC Paint, a paint factory; DRC Constructs, a construction service company; and some other investments.

As a leader in the community, Sivi founded the MADE IN 243 association to bring together the resources and expertise of the owners and executives of local Congolese industries. She also Co-Founded ACPRH, the largest HR Association in DRC in which she is the vice president.

Visit MANITECH CONGO

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