Darlyn Okojie on entrepreneurship and building Memo Africa
Darlyn Okojie is a serial entrepreneur and business expansion expert. As the Co-Founder & COO of Memo Africa, Darlyn is responsible for the day to day operation process while building a team to create a Tech solution to People Management. She founded Memo Africa with Ademola Koledoye to create memorable moments across the world. Darlyn Okojie has a past experience of building a business spanning three countries, raising capital and ensuring that the word about the service reaches the right audience. Her First Business, Rugs and Floors Africa, currently operates in three countries, Nigeria, Ghana and Rwanda. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Darlyn speaks on her entrepreneurship journey and vision is to make Memo Africa the go-to automated system for People Manager: “Future of Memo Africa”. Excerpts.
Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us about your background?
Darlyn: I spent the early part of my childhood up till my youth in Benin City. I attended all levels of education down to university where I studied Accounting at the University of Benin. My upbringing has made me extremely loyal to my city. After I completed my higher education in 2014, I got my first ever job at Lamudi (Popularly Known as Jumia House) in 2015. While at Lamudi, I worked as a key account manager in an online marketplace firm. A year later, I moved to Cars45 to spearhead the company’s efforts in building and maintaining relationships with strategic partners. Throughout my career, I have been involved in various aspects of people management, even through running Rugs and Floors from January 2020. At the moment, I’m focused on building Memo Africa.
Alaba: What inspired you to go into entrepreneurship and the problems you plan to solve?
Darlyn: An impactful model to me is my father. I didn’t realise he had that effect on my entrepreneurship life until I looked back on how much I have been able to achieve career-wise. He showed me the only way to gain success is through hard work and dedication. His tenacity and energy in delivering is extraordinary. There have been countless times where I’ve found myself wondering how he gets the energy to go even through obstacles. A quote from a book by Shakespeare, Macbeth, pops into my head whenever I think about my dad. “I am tied to a stake I cannot fly, but bear-like I must fight the cause.”
The life of an entrepreneur is quite fast-paced, there’s no time for breaks and no option to quit, you just have to keep going. It reminds me of something my mum always says, “Person, nor dey Live life go back”. Good or bad we need to keep moving forward in life or in business. I believe my motivation stems from the ability to keep going and building.
Alaba: Memo Africa is one of the startups you co-founded, what sparked the interest? How does the platform work and who are your target audience?
Darlyn: Memo Africa was birthed by various challenges both my co-founder and I faced throughout our work life. From my first job to my current ventures, I have seen how people managers handle welfare related issues in organizations and it inspired me to create a solution that makes their work seamless. We notice that people struggle to remember important dates when it comes to the lives of their employees and it is key because it makes the employees feel valued and appreciated. But dates like birthdays, onboarding and orientation processes, sendforths, and many others dates are lost in transition.
Memo Africa is a simple solution that people managers can use to automate welfare packages to be delivered to both remote and on-site teams across the world. We believe this technology solution will boost business productivity as the team members feel motivated and cared for while saving people managers time to focus on more critical issues.
Alaba: Since you launched, what are the challenges and successes?
Darlyn: It would be best if we start with the positive aspect of the business, the success. At the moment, we have acquired clients both from Nigeria and Ghana, and signed three companies into our system. We have achieved these while facing various economical challenges like Inflation, exchange rate and cross-border payments issues.
I also noticed that small business owners and other entrepreneurs face these challenges which is why I recently started recording my journey on my Medium account.
Alaba: What’s the future of people management? Do you see Memo Africa as part of the future?
Darlyn: The future is Tech! The world is evolving to become digital and automated. It is important to ensure that regardless of where people work from, they are treated with the same respect and dignity as they would be if they were working from a traditional office space. Memo Africa is the technology solution born to connect the people in an organization through our automated management system of celebrating them. Staying connected to and creating memorable moments for your team is the best way to keep them motivated while working.
Alaba: Where do you see Memo Africa in the next 5 years in terms of market and expansion?
Darlyn: We have a large vision set for Memo Africa and are ready to take the action to grow and scale up the Tech StartUp. Currently, our most viable product which is our website is up and running. We are planning on developing the Mobile App version to increase the accessibility and personalisation of the system. We expect to become the go-to platform for all people’s welfare across Africa and in the world. Our tentacles are set to expand into many African countries. We are open to acquiring more clients, partners and Investors.
Alaba: What fuels your passion and how do you relax?
Darlyn: Aside from the rush of the non-stop cycle of developing businesses, I find myself passionate about finding and implementing solutions to create value in people’s lives. You can find me locked on Netflix to unwind after a busy day or exploring the different countries in the world.
Alaba: Lastly, your advice to young women who want to launch into entrepreneurship?
Darlyn: My number one advice to young women who are launching or building their business is that your key to success lies within you. Everything you need to succeed is in you, your thoughts and action shapes your future. As long as you can think it, you can absolutely do it. You need to study and understand your potential, strength, weaknesses and limits. I believe self awareness is the most powerful tool to achieve anything in the world.
I would also say you shouldn’t believe you can only grow & scale up alone, it’s okay to have mentors and role models. These people have walked the mile. All you need to do is find someone who has successfully crossed the path you are hoping to pass. You would be surprised by the number of people ready to guide you or refer you to the next life challenger.
Senegalese Agripreneur says digital marketing key to luxury tea startup success
Senegalese businesswoman Adja Sembene Fall said she had no choice but to launch her start-up business online because her new Contanna fair-trade tea company only had $200 to its name.
“Due to lack of finance, it was not possible to get a physical shop. We started out in the backyard of my brother’s house. We sold our teas via social media for three years,” said Fall. She says her line of luxury brand tea products is about more than taste. Fall says Contanna teas sell a “Senegalese experience” that promotes a women-owned, 100% locally sourced and processed product based on recipes infusing family and cultural traditions.
“Digitizing our buying process was really important. We were also able to present and adjust packaging of our product online, [to emphasize] it was premium and different from what was available in Senegal,” the 29-year-old added.
Contanna says its first year of operations, a focus on Instagram and its website drew $5,000 in online sales. As the online business grew, Fall said, Contanna hit $12,000 in sales and established a community of around 2,000 clients.
Contanna recently opened a pop-up stall at Dakar’s Sea Plaza shopping mall. In January, it was named a winner of the African Development Bank’s AgriPitch Competition, which supports African youth agripreneurs by improving their business bankability and ensuring that they are “pitch ready” for potential investors.
The 2022 AgriPitch competition, which started last October, received nearly 750 complete entries from entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector – or “agripreneurs” – from 38 African countries. The judging panel comprised women- led enterprise support advisory firm, Private Equity Support; the Private Financing Advisory Network, a global network of climate and clean energy financing experts; and EldoHub, an education, innovation, and technology organization targeting youth and women.
The competition, which this year awarded $140,000 in prizes, is a key activity of the Bank’s ENABLE Youth Program.
“African youth have great ideas. It was exciting to see the high level of innovation and passion from these young agripreneurs, particularly the large number of women-owned enterprises like Contanna,” said Edson Mpyisi, the Bank’s Chief Financial Economist and ENABLE Youth Coordinator.
AgriPitch organizers selected 25 semi-finalists, 68% of them women-owned or led businesses, to attend a two-week business development virtual boot camp. The boot camp culminated in a pitch session to judges, who chose 9 agripreneurs to advance to the finals.
“I was pitching in front of my shop – where customers were passing by. They were so encouraging when they discovered that [my business] is a 100% Senegalese company and especially that the founder was a woman,” said Fall. She received $25,000 as the winner in the AgriPitch competition women-owned business category.
Fall says she’ll use part of the prize money to upgrade a digital payment system and for computers and digital skills training for Contanna employees, all women.
“We don’t eschew hiring men. The women were first to apply and were qualified. They currently log their work production and stock building in paper books. We are training them to build capacity to use Google Sheets [and other digital software],” Fall said.
Contanna and the two-dozen other competition finalists will retain access to the AgriPitch “deal room” to avail of post-competition digital expertise, business development, and investor engagement.
“We look forward to working closely with the entrepreneurs in the coming months through individual business advisory support and investor engagement in the deal room,” said Diana Gichaga, Managing Partner at Private Equity Support.
Helping a friend to acquire her first home ignited my interest in real estate – Ayodeji Kehinde
Ayodeji Kehinde is a real estate entrepreneur and founder of KFAO Corporates Services, one of Nigeria’s leading real estate and brokerage firm. She prides herself in her passion and heartfelt drive to serve her clients’ best interest. Ayodeji is dedicated, knowledgeable, and committed to finding the perfect fit, whether space for residential or office/commercial, for her clientele. Naturally, she loves the subject of architecture, designs, property and environment. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Ayodeji shares her entrepreneurship journey into the real estate industry and how she is helping her clients acquire their dream properties. Excerpt.
Alaba: What makes KFAO Coroporates and Formidables standout?
Ayodeji: Integrity is key in whatever one does and that is our core value! Buying Real Estate is not like every other goods you see on the shelves you point at and you make payment. Real Estate involves Due Diligence. When you allow lack of integrity and accountability take over you as a Real Estate Service provider, then you are close to doom.
At KFAO and Formidable Corporate Partners, we are dedicated to providing world-class service and market-leading expertise to our clients. We are passionate about providing the extra value that others simply will not when it comes to due diligence with integrity and accountability.
When you approach us with your products as a developer, we do not rely on the documents cited, we go extra miles to verify and do searches on the property and where we found that the properties are in the handcuffs of government or any other encumbrance, be as it may, we back-out even when money has exchanged hands, we refund.
A whole lot of properties are out there being sold by some other brokerage firms without due diligence. Some would after finding out the property isn’t good to sell, still go ahead thereby putting investors’ funds to waste. We are not keen about what money we want to make but the security of our investors’ funds is our concern.
Alaba: What are the 3 things that excites you about the real estate industry?
Ayodeji: In simple terms; Money, Meeting people and Solving people’s housing need.
Alaba: If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
Ayodeji: In Nigeria, the most important document to property buyers and landowners which is the Certificate Of Occupancy , C of O as it’s called has become very difficult to get. The document is issued by the state governments in Nigeria and verifies that you own the land or property in question. Property purchased without a Certificate of Occupancy is the equivalent of purchasing a vehicle without a logbook.
As a Nigerian landowner or property owner, this is not the kind of situation you find yourself. The administration is faulted. Understanding the top skills for those that want a career in Real Estate can be helpful hence the need to get a handful of skilled labour.
If I had the opportunity to reform the Nigerian Real Estate Sector, the above are what I would face squarely and make sure I achieve them.
Alaba: Why should property buyers engage a professional realtor?
Ayodeji: You might be far out of your element when it comes to reviewing and understanding the multiple documents involved in a real estate deal. You should have a thorough understanding of what you’re getting into regardless of whether you’re buying or selling. Purchase agreements alone can top 10 pages.
A realtor will be far more familiar with all this paperwork than you are. Consider this if you’re still thinking about saving money: Some mistakes or omissions in these documents can cost you as much as that commission you were trying to avoid paying or even far more.
For those looking out to get a realtor, I’ll advise they don’t get weary of what’s going to cost them but look out for the expertise like we have in KFAO and Formidables which is a sure security for their investment.
Alaba: What are some common myths about working in your industry?
Ayodeji: “You don’t need them to get a property”. Yes you can sell your home without an agent? In fact, you can even buy a home without them. Many underestimate the value an experienced Realtor / Broker like KFAO and Formidables can bring to them.
The truth is, Realtors/Brokers have a duty to put your best interests in the transaction at the forefront. They can provide you with knowledge about the current market conditions and use their expertise to negotiate the best deal for you. You can trust us in that aspect. We ensure that you have all your ducks in a row regarding paperwork and walk you through the process.
Another myth is “If Your Home Isn’t in Great Condition, No One Will Buy It”. It’s true that some remodeling projects can increase your home’s value. But if your home is outdated or needs major repairs, it doesn’t necessarily mean no one will want to buy it. The Truth is that there are people that only buy homes that are in poor condition and require updating or major repairs. These are typically local real estate investors and professional home buyers who update and renovate properties as a business. If your current home needs some work, consider selling the property to a professional home buyer.
A common seller myth is that offering a lower commission will net more money. What this will do is cause agents with the most qualified buyers to go to the higher listed commission properties first and show the lower commission properties with less enthusiasm. The result is that fewer interested buyers will see your property and fewer cooperating brokers will show it, and the longer your property stays in the market, the more frustrated you become and you might end up selling on distress.
Alaba: How are you thriving as a real estate entrepreneur and a mum?
Ayodeji: Let’s face it, women must play many different roles at the same time. Being a mom, partner, friend, sister, daughter not to mention employee or business owner or household manager requires multitasking and prioritization skills or else you won’t be able to do it all. As a Real Estate Entrepreneur and a mother, the ability to manage my time effectively has always been my saving grace.
Alaba: What skill do you think all women should learn and why?
Ayodeji: Women today are blessed with many opportunities to explore their passions and make their mark. You can be a homemaker, lawyer, programmer, or whatever you so desire. You can get married if and when you choose, to whom you want, and have a family that takes many forms. The options abound. At the same time, though, as a woman, you can face unique challenges and barriers to getting what you want.
Financial skills to me are the most paramount I’ll want all women to have. Learning the basics of simple addition, subtraction and multiplication is essential and the reason being that this will help you with all the financial skills you need to create a household budget and live within your means, manage all resources at your disposal. Master the art and science behind investing and building your wealth. You’ll be set to live comfortably now and save for retirement.
Goal setting skills are mandatory in the business world and life. You can’t get what you want unless you envision it. Give yourself the space to dream and imagine what you want. Then, be able to identify priorities and tactical plans to make things happen.
Alaba: Do you have a specific advice for women wanting to get into real estate?
Ayodeji: What has really helped me this far as a Real Estate Entrepreneur is the fact that I had always wanted to be in a position where I could really own my time and space and drive my own business. You’re only going to be successful in real estate if you want to have the sales skills and entrepreneurial drive to build your own brand and always be available to book businesses. For every woman that wants to be a Real Estate Entrepreneur, my best advice is that they must have an inexhaustible desire to see success irrespective of the challenges encountered.
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Exclusive: Damilola Felicia Badmus, Author, “How LinkedIn Works”
Damilola Felicia Badmus is a multi-talented individual with several areas of expertise, including personal brand photography, consulting, writing, and speaking. She is also recognized as a LinkedIn Influencer.
Her main area of interest is helping people build their personal brand on LinkedIn through the effective use of images and content strategy. Damilola understands the power of visual storytelling and how it can be leveraged to create a strong and impactful presence on LinkedIn. And she strives to share this knowledge with others through her work as a photographer and consultant.
In addition, Damilola is a Nigerian based in the United Kingdom and she aim to help people effectively use LinkedIn to build their brand and reach their goals, which is evident through her book “How LinkedIn Works.”
Alaba: You recently launched your first book, “How LinkedIn Works”. What inspired this?
Damilola: The inspiration behind my book came from my desire to provide comprehensive and in-depth information to people who are seeking to understand and effectively utilize LinkedIn.
I recognized that teaching people in a one-on-one setting through masterclasses may not fully address all of their questions and concerns, so writing a book was a way for me to reach a wider audience and provide them with a comprehensive resource that they can refer to. This desire to help others understand and succeed on LinkedIn is what motivated me to write the book.
Alaba: For brands new to LinkedIn, what is the platform all about and why is it so important?
Damilola: LinkedIn is a social network platform that caters to professionals and enables them to connect, network, and showcase their work experience, education, skills, and accomplishments.
For brands, it provides a platform to reach a highly targeted audience of professionals and decision-makers and establish relationships with them by sharing relevant content and showcasing their products and services.
Additionally, it’s a crucial tool for individuals to build a strong personal brand and establish themselves as a thought leader in their industry, leading to increased visibility, credibility, and career opportunities.
Alaba: What was your process for writing this book, “How LinkedIn Works”?
Damilola: The idea to write ‘How LinkedIn Works’ came to me through the Holy Spirit, and I was encouraged by some of my friends to write it. I then took a structured approach to write the book, starting by outlining the chapters and adding subtitles to them. This allowed me to have a clear vision for what I wanted to achieve with the book and helped me to bring that vision to life in an organized and manageable way.
Alaba: What’s the most interesting reaction/feedback you’ve had about your new book?
Damilola: The most interesting feedback I’ve received about my book is that it is highly informative and easy to understand. People have appreciated the fact that they were able to learn new things about LinkedIn and that the book provides clear and self-explanatory information.
I’d also say the feedback suggests that my book is serving its purpose as a comprehensive resource for people looking to effectively use LinkedIn. It is always rewarding to hear that your hard work and efforts have had a positive impact on others.
Alaba: Which part/chapter of How LinkedIn Works was the easiest or trickiest to write?
Damilola: Chapter 3 “Create content like a pro” was the easiest and trickiest to write. This is because creating content is one of my areas of expertise therefore it was easy. However, the ability to share my knowledge and experience on this topic needed to be put in an effective and clear manner.
In this chapter, I shared my insights on how to use content pillars to create compelling content on LinkedIn and generate ideas for posts that will engage your target audience. By breaking down this often-challenging aspect of using LinkedIn into manageable steps, I made it easier for readers to understand and implement the advice I was providing.
Alaba: What do you hope to achieve with this book?
Damilola: My goal for this book is to help individuals and brands effectively use LinkedIn to build their personal brand, establish their presence and authority in their industry, and reach their professional goals. By providing comprehensive and actionable advice on how to navigate LinkedIn, I hope to empower others to succeed on the platform.
Alaba: Do you have a favourite social media platform? What and why?
Damilola: My favourite social media platform is LinkedIn, and the reason for this is its opportunities for self-expression through writing and its positive and inspiring community. One of the key ways I have leveraged this community is by organizing three successful networking events in Nigeria.
Through these events, I have had the chance to meet with over 100 individuals and connect with like-minded individuals who share my interests and values. I find LinkedIn to be a powerful tool in supporting my professional goals and helping me build my personal brand and establish myself as a thought leader in my field.
Alaba: As a LinkedIn Influencer yourself, how has the platform added value to your growth?
Damilola: As a LinkedIn Influencer, the platform has played a significant role in my growth by providing me with a platform to share my expertise and knowledge with a wide audience. By leveraging the power of LinkedIn, I have been able to build my personal brand, establish myself as a thought leader in my field, connect with individuals who share my interests and values and help brands bring their products/services to the face of my audience.
Through writing and sharing content on LinkedIn, I have been able to demonstrate my expertise and knowledge, and engage with a growing community of followers and supporters. This has helped me to establish credibility and authority in my field and has opened up new opportunities for me to connect and collaborate with others.
Additionally, LinkedIn has provided me with valuable insights and data on my audience and the impact of my content, which has helped me to refine my approach and improve my results over time. The platform’s emphasis on professional networking and connection has also been invaluable, allowing me to build meaningful relationships with individuals and organizations in my field.
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Alaba: Lastly, your advice to new entrants to the platform or those still navigating their way?
Damilola: For new entrants to LinkedIn or those still navigating their way, my advice is to focus on building a strong personal brand. Start by crafting a compelling and accurate profile that showcases your skills, experience, and values, and be sure to include a professional headshot and background image.
Next, start connecting with individuals and organizations in your field and find people with hashtags. Consistently share valuable and relevant content, whether it be your own original content or content from others that you have curated and added your own thoughts too. This will help you establish yourself as a thought leader and build your authority in your field.
Another key aspect to success on LinkedIn is to network, network, network! Reach out to people you admire and want to learn from, and actively engage with others by commenting and liking their posts. Collaborating with others on LinkedIn can lead to new opportunities, mutually beneficial relationships, and even new business ventures.
Finally, be patient and persistent. Building a strong personal brand and establishing yourself as An influencer on LinkedIn takes time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it. Stay focused on your goals, be consistent in your efforts, and never stop learning and growing. The possibilities on LinkedIn are endless, and with the right approach, you can achieve great success on the platform.