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Afripreneur Profile: Helen A. Njau, Esq. Is The Founder and Creative Director, House of Takura

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Helen Annette Adenike Njau is the Founder and Creative Director at House of Takura (H.O.T.), born in Sierra Leone to Sierra Leonean parents but spent much of her life overseas. She immigrated to the U.S. when she was 10 years old and grew up in Ohio.  She then moved to Kentucky with her parents and did her undergraduate studies at Berea College and then earned her law degree from University of Kentucky College of Law (go Wildcats!).  She practiced law in Kentucky and later moved to Houston, Texas.

It’s here she took the leap and started the fashion brand House of Takura which designs travel bags inspired by and made in Africa.  The notion of fusion is deeply-rooted in her life and shows in the brand as her hybrid upbringing details.  The essence of her being is an intermixture of African traditions and Western norms and influence.  In her lies both the Motherland and the West. Out of it comes a narrative of how two cultures blend into a beautiful explosion of life and art.

Takura in the Shona language, largely spoken in Zimbabwe, is derived from the verb “to grow up” or “mature”.  There is a lot in the name, but in a nutshell, it personifies ambition, high ideals and creative ability.  It embodies the desire to accomplish something outstanding in life and do great things for humanity.

As a product of Sierra Leone yet raised in the United States, she experienced a lot of the conundrum that is identity associated with “Africaness” and “Americaness”.  As a lover of fashion and the creative expression associated with it, H.O.T. was birthed from bridging and in essence celebrating the alluring quandary that is the identity and experiences of so many diasporans.  She has infused this hybrid upbringing in her travel bag collection inspired by and made in Africa.

All of HOT’s travel bags are handmade by local artisans in Kenya presently, and hopefully in Sierra Leone and Nigeria in the near future as the Company is committed to sustainable economic development in Africa. The Company has recently partnered with an organization in Sierra Leone called Change Development which aims to find solutions for the youth unemployment which currently plagues the nation and hope to effect change through this organization by providing learning videos on how to build a business and scholarships to up and coming entrepreneurs in the country.

House of Takura (H.O.T.) is a lifestyle brand focused on high-end and uniquely-stylish travel bags inspired by and made in Africa.  H.O.T fuses African textiles with western fabric and/or modern styles. The fusion is representative of the hybrid nature of the founder’s upbringing.

  

 

Stay Stylish,

the H.O.T Team

Facebook: facebook.com/houseoftakura

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/house-of-takura

Website: www.houseoftakura.com

Afripreneur

Interview with Badejo Stephen, CEO and Founder of The Removalist Logistics

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Badejo Stephen, CEO and Founder of The Removalist Logistics.

The Removalist Logistics is a Lagos-based global logistics power house that began operations few years back and have grown due to excellent relationships with our clients and satisfactory services. Providing bespoke and professional moving and relocation services and other logistics solutions. In this interview,  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa Online spoke with Badejo Stephen, CEO and Founder of The Removalist Logistics, to know more about the brand good start, his entrepreneurship journey in Nigeria and his vision to be a force to reckon with having global impact in the logistics world. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Tell us Removalist Logistics, mission, vision, services and the gap it’s filling.

Stephen: The Removalist logistics is Nigeria’s one time and all round logistics company, where we bridge the gap between clients and their successful last mile delivery to their clients, in short words we are the enablers.

Our mission: Our mission is to provide affordable, reliable last and all round logistics solution to our clients

Vision: We will be a foremost brand to be reckoned with having global impact, with reputable value in the logistics and supply chain world.

 

Alaba: What’s your startup capital and how were you able to raise it? Do you have any advice for the logistics startups on fundraising strategies?

Stephen: Well, for me when I started, I started with just zero Naira and I mean without nothing. All I had was the inspirational idea which came just after I finished my first degree while ruminating on what to do next. By the way I studied human physiology, my plan was to proceed in medicine in UK, Canada, Australia or USA which I had already started the processing, but I left all those vision for this idea.

As for me I will say entrepreneurship mostly is about convictions as most time we will leave the seemingly glorious profession, for something that is unsure to others but only you.

Starting from zero wasn’t easy but I thank God for wisdom, following specific instructions per time and the advice of my fathers and mentors, which can never be overemphasized.

After 4 years, we have been able to buy few fleets including dispatch bikes, and made some money that is still keeping us running. They say every startup dies at 5th year, but this is our 4th and I cannot wait for the greatness that the 5th will bring, the future is bright.

My advice for any Logistics startup is to leverage on other Logistics company and work towards a goal, there are so many illiterate in this business that are in the black market. When you leverage with them with your educational advantage that will set you apart.

 

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

Stephen: The challenges are much, really, there are big, bigger and biggest players in the field, the competition is very fierce and challenging I must confess, but we are scaling through gradually. We have our strategies as I am not willing to share now because it is our trade secrets, maybe after we have built a great institution, my successor (s) can share them. But we have a policy of what we need to do, what we must do and how we must do it. We do not follow the crowd, as much as the competition is there we focus majorly on inward growth which will basically lead to outward manifestation. My dream is to build something that will outlive me not wishy washy.

Also Read Cycles, Nigeria’s No.1 Bike-Sharing Platform Achieving The United Nations SDG Goal 11 – Damilola Soladoye

Alaba: How’s digitisation helping to solve challenges in the logistics industry?

Stephen: Well I must say that digitization has made a lot of people and will make a lot of people go out of business. The question I ask myself daily is “hey guy, how do you remain relevant in this field”, I challenge myself every morning after my devotion, hungry for more and what next.

Because with digitization of logistics systems and model it makes the processes easier, cheaper and faster, as to this myself and my team are working on something which we call the “LogiTech” vision, all hands are on deck and we will soon roll out a branded phase of The Removalist Logistics, the switch is about to be on, as such one major reasons why we haven’t released that platform yet is capital intensive, so we are taking our time to get the right funding.

Perhaps you are an investor, after reading this interview and you will love to hear from us and support our platform kindly reach out.

 

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

Stephen: The future for my startup is bright. I will not love to say more than that, and we are working daily in attaining our goals, one step at a time.

 

Alaba: How’s your business contributing to development of Africa?

Stephen: Well, I will say my brand is contributing enormously to the economy and development of Nigeria and Africa in so many ways, bridging the gap between good owners and customers, solving relocation issues, last mile delivery solution and lots. I do tell my team that Africa is growing, in few years there will be virtual market, and there will need to be a brand that will relay virtual reality to doorsteps and that will be the logistics and last mile delivery companies, so we have started with what we have now having in mind where we will need to be.

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Stephen: As an African entrepreneur, I feel blessed, because I know this is the right time to build my continent, we are facing so many challenges that we know, if we know them should we still keep complaining? No! Intentionality is the way forward, we need to look beyond our shortcomings and take actions ourselves no matter how little.

I am elated to be around at this time, if men could build America, same men but of African race will build Nigeria and thus Africa, enough of complaints, it is time to be intentionally intentional and be action oriented.

 

Alaba: What’s your advice or prospecting entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?

Stephen: My advice for intending entrepreneurs is that they should learn to collaborate with each others, think about social problems and build solutions around them. I bet it if you are steady and consistent you will make it.

However, they should not have the mindset of blowing! That is the phrase around these days, I one blow. No! There is dignity in labour has long as you remain focus and consistent you’ll hit it. As African entrepreneurs it is important to be a person of focus, have something that is worth dying for and die for it, stay focus to a cause. I see a lot of youths not organized, they go here and there, see them in different seminars yet they are not productive. It is not about attending all events it is about attending the ones that suit your line of purpose or passion, try this in a year and see what you will achieve.

 

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

Stephen: I relax by listening to music, going to the cinemas with my partner, and of course primary is reading. I read anything readable and I meditate. Also most times, I am a student of the bible in all my reading I balance it with my bible. Most times when I have issues or problem to tackle the best book I read that gives me wisdom to handle is the bible. And I love books on History, Leadership, lifestyle, business and documentaries, I prefer documentaries to movies most times.

I love taking pictures too and I love playing scrabbles, but at times my social life can be boring, because my mindset is always, how much have I made that I want to socialize. Most importantly I am a person of study.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favourite local dish?

Stephen: One word: HMMMMM! “Obe to dun owo lo pa”, meaning soup that is sweet it is money that killed it, I have this mentality that whatever I want to get in life I have to work and make money to get it and afford the life I want to live, don’t get me wrong, to live a luxurious lifestyle is different from living affordable life style. People can live luxuriously and fake it but if you live affordably you get whatever you want to get at whatever time, that is my mindset.

My favourite Africa meal is Beans and Garri(I love soaking garri with beans, maybe because I’m an Ijebu man, smiles).

 

Visit The Removalist logistics

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Afripreneur

Cycles, Nigeria’s No.1 Bike-Sharing Platform Achieving The United Nations SDG Goal 11 – Damilola Soladoye

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The private bike-sharing ecosystem is beginning to gain momentum in Africa, most especially in Nigeria. Although not new to the dense Asian cities and some parts of Europe. Some Nigerian startups are now exploring this new business model. Such startup testing the waters is Cycles, as it’s redefining the way people commute within tertiary institutions, communities and cities. Using an efficient, fun and healthy means of transport, building better people, communities and a greener earth. In this interview,  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa Online spoke with Damilola Soladoye, the co-founder and CEO of Cycles, to know more about the brand good start and insights into the bike-sharing business in Nigeria. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Tell us about Cycles and the gap it’s filling.

Damilola: Cycles is a mobility startup solving last mile transportation inefficiencies in Nigerian and African Universities, Estates and communities with our smart and efficient bicycle sharing system.

We are filling the gap of last mile transportation in communities where multiple transportation options do not exist or are not sufficient.

 

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

Damilola: Currently, we have raised over $5000 dollars in equity free grants majorly from the Fbstart accelerator from Facebook in partnership with Co-creation Hub. Asides this most of our capital has been bootstrapped till date with personal funds from team members.

 

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

Damilola: Our major challenge is the pace of adoption by our target community. Most University and estate management have been slow to adopt our solution. This is purely bureaucratic as some tend to see our solution as a direct competition with the already existing means of transportation which they currently have on the ground.

It has been daunting, but we are gradually overcoming these challenges by presenting our solution as a complement to the already existing transport options and also offering our bicycle sharing system at no cost to the community. Instead, the community generates revenue off our system through a revenue share model.

 

Alaba: How’s your brand making mobility and logistics safe, accessible and affordable?

Damilola: Globally, bicycle sharing is widely adopted in many major cities, communities and Universities all over the world. This is no surprise because cycling is a green, healthy and sustainable means of mobility. It is so because it removes the human factor of having a driver and burning fuel to make it more affordable for the end user.

It is also an accessible system as it is available 24/7 in any community deployed in. To boost safety on our system we are working closely with officials from Institute of Transport Development Policy (ITDP) and Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) to ensure compliance with global safety and stand practices

Also Read Startups: The Ideal Partnership Agreement

Alaba: How’s your brand different and unique to other brands in the bike-sharing business?

Damilola: At cycles, what makes us unique is our passion for building green and sustainable mobility solutions coupled with a particular focus for providing great user experiences with our technology.

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

Damilola: The future for Cycles is to place Africa on the global mico-mobility map by flooding African communities with sustainable mobility systems. We are taking steps to achieve this daily through partnerships with both local and international organisations to augment our growth.

 

Alaba: How’s the government supporting startups and SME in your Nigeria?

Damilola: The Government has been supporting startups and SME’s in Nigeria, though I strongly believe more can be done. The future of Nigeria and Africa lies in part in its entrepreneurs and the more government involvement in this sector, the more accelerated growth is bound to occur in the country.

 

Alaba: What’s your view on the development of Africa logistics and mobility ecosystem?

Damilola: The logistics and mobility ecosystem is accelerating at a mammoth pace. Safe to say that with the recent rounds of investments in logistics/mobility-related startups, I believe massive disruption is said to happen in the coming years and more investment is said to be attracted to this sector.

Though a major set back in my opinion would be infrastructure. This has and will always be a major roadblock for any logistics/mobility-related business and Government should begin to intervene appropriately.

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Damilola: Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but in general, I derive joy from knowing that I am a change agent on a mission to develop and change my continent even in the little way I can.

 

Alaba: What advice would you give potential entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?

Damilola: My advice to potential entrepreneurs or investors interested in the African space would be to see Africa as a very daunting and challenging market to penetrate. This might sound cliche, but in comparison to other markets of the world, Africa’s market poses so many challenges from infrastructure, the ecosystem to customers in total.

It takes courage, time and grit to build a business in Africa and every stakeholder involved in this such be aware as this would drive their expectations, timelines and overall outlook of the market in the end.

 

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

Damilola: I relax mostly by watching movies and I read motivational books.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favourite local dish?

Damilola: “Siṣẹ”, this means work! My favourite dish is pounded yam and egusi soup.

 

Alaba: What’s your favourite holiday spot on the continent?

Damilola: My favourite holiday spot on the continent would be the pyramids of Egypt.

 

Damilola Soladoye and his team.

 

Short Bio:

Damilola Soladoye is a passionate and self-motivated individual interested in technology, mobility and solving societal problems. A first class graduate of Covenant University and alumni of the premier cohort of the Fbstart accelerator program from Facebook in collaboration with Co-creation Hub, Nigeria.

 

Visit Cycles today

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Afripreneur

6 Reasons Why Culture Is Important For Startup Growth (Case Study: SmartCodes)

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When I was in Harvard Business School, I learnt a lot regarding how to operate profitable businesses by not only making just a business grow and expand in different markets but also to make an impact to your clients and customers. Being in the US as Harvard student for couple of weeks was major shift on my perception about what growth is, and how we Africans are not taking advantage of what we have.

Hence fast forward, I would like to share with the startup community on why culture should be most important part for the growth of your business and why it’s important to let everyone involve on the process.

 

1. Conduct a proper SWOT analysis within your Industry

I am not a huge fan of questions like “who are your competitors” as I believe everyone has a purpose. If you know whereyou’re going and take an important challenge to venture in new opportunities, you will find yourself focusing more on delivering solutions to your customers and less looking on what others are doing. For us, we have different competitors in different category as our company structured to implement solutions for tech, advertising, products and venture in helping startups and collaborate with other corporate, hence SWOT is important as it will make you see all sort of weakness and threats and use your strength as a checklist to combat them and grow faster.

 

2. Use your SWOT results to review your company vision

After sitting with your team and review all the SWOT results, it’s very important now to strategically review your vision, mission and purpose that will inspire everyone to deliver and know why they should workup in the morning and execute their task. This was one of the great exercises we did at Smart Codes and we involved everyone from our top managers to the supporting teams’ even drivers to security team, and collectively we awesomely re-define our purpose. The major key question to everyone was on defining our WHY which was the light to our PURPOSE. As a result, we find our main purpose was to make a mark in their project we touch and help our client’s grow.

 

3. Train your dragons

During the SWOT process, you must measure the culture from strength to weakness and immediately invest more on your weak holes so as to train the team to be better than themselves. There is no better investment than training and empowering your existing team vs trying to hire the new one which they won’t really understand your purpose at one place unless your growth need new wings and hence add one to grow faster.

Even at SC, after strategically knowing our focus was to expand in other African markets, we immediately started collaborating with top talented experts in different African markets. We inspired our teamthat, with this digital age of transformation, you can do anything it’s just you need to plan and have courage to execute it. I remember we once invited Stanbic’s CIO, Mussa Ally to come and we did amazing workshop with our team on how they can grow their career. This was not just for Smart Codes but most importantly was for their own career growth. This was done to train them to think BIG by eating an elephant in bit by bit instead of thinking or eating chips-mayai which no-one will get a wow factor from you as a person.

We have also worked closely with great minds like Max Ngari – one of the top creative people in Africa who won many awards such as the Cannes Lions awards.

 

4. Break your Vision into objective goals

The major learning here is, knowing how to eat an Elephant. You need to break down this elephant goal into small tasks and assign each team member to deal with a few tasks. For example, at Smart Codes we don’t have KPIs but we have objective goals plan at which each team members knows what part are they executing, hence it has helped to have smooth execution and objectives which define timelines. That has been a success for us, as it works better that, just calling them KPIs.

 

5. Show your client and partners your vision and purpose

Showing it’s not an easy task, but I remember one of my Professors who was teaching us about the implementation of “Diffusion of innovations”. This shows the baby steps of implementing anything new, you would 1st need to know your “Innovators” – People who will be willing to listen and then “Early Adopters” – which are more of opinion leaders, which are those around your Industry ecosystem. Surprisingly when we implemented our new VISION at Smart Codes, everyone got it and mostly we have seen people starting to add our key purpose “Making a Mark” in their hashtags, and “UNTIL ITS DONE” which is our infinity journey.

Also Read: Startups: The Ideal Partnership Agreement

6. Share your small wins with everyone

The major thing most people have is selfishness, most of people are fearing to share their ideas and success because of competitors will know theirs moves, rather than looking at the mirror of sharing skills and opinions to help other grow the same way they did. Sharing most of the things we do at Smart Codes have been a major key growth from our team, as we know, only by sharing and open doors for outsiders to comment it’s a two way learning, and it has been an incredible growth within our team and we have even seen it via our Innovation wing at SmartLab.

I remember one of or my classmate was inspiring using a phone brand called “ONE-PLUS” and when we asked, She says that brand helped to push her dreams because all the time she switch the phone-on its pop a message says “NEVER SETTLE” then I get that this A1 culture have been a major shift of growth at OnePlus’ fanbase. Let’s share our success and failures so others can learn and also collect opinions from outsiders that will only impacting our growth.

I never thought culture was a very big thing, but as Strive Masiyiwa says “believe you me” until you practice it,its when you will see the results. And it’s important to impact your life with adding more books in your reading list and try to implement those learnings in your real life to measure growth results.Lastly, reading is the only way you can get a chance to learn new skills, as we all know “you can only give the output of what you know” and knowledge is collectively inputs and output of your interest.

I am looking forward to share more and please also share your growth list via the comment section below, so we can all learn from you as well and collectively we can MAKE A MARK across our African ecosystem.

 

Author

Edwin Bruno is the Founder and CEO at SmartCodes

 

 

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