Deborah Ogwuche is a published author, food blogger, healthy food advocate and the Founder of Food Channel Africa. She is interested in bringing awareness to healthy traditional diets that have been time- proven and tested to benefit humans. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Deborah shares insights on what inspired her to launch Food Channel Africa, her entrepreneurship journey and how she is promoting African cuisine. Excerpt.
Alaba: Kindly tell us about Food Channel Africa and the gap it’s filling?
Deborah: Africa is blessed with so many natural resources with a diverse and vibrant young population. As its population is dynamic so also is it’s varied nutritious traditional cuisines which is part of our heritage. Food channel Africa TV is a 24-hour food television channel that will showcase traditional cuisines from all over Nigeria and Africa.
Alaba: What was your start-up capital and how were you able to raise it?
Deborah: Up till this point, we have self-funded the venture. It’s quite challenging because when you have a project this big especially being the first of its kind, there is the usual reluctance but we are dogged in our vision to promote our rich nutrition culture and food to the world. Therefore, we believe that adequate funding to actualise the vision is only a matter of time.
Alaba: What are the challenges, competition and how are you overcoming them?
Deborah: The business landscape in Nigeria has experienced growth in the last few years but is still developing and asa woman, a wife and a mum, it’s certainly challenging trying to balance the roles. It is not easy but it is possible!
Growing up I have always done what people said I couldn’t do or shouldn’t do. For instance, my baby was just 7 months old when I founded Food Channel Africa. I faced a lot of doubt and guilt about caring for my baby and trying to build this vison but thankfully I had a solid support system from my family.
Also, as a published author and a food blogger, I know that when you start something big like building the first 24-hour television dedicated to food, tourism and culture there are bound to be bottle- necks. What I did first is build capacity in my area of endeavour, put together a dynamic team who understand the vision and get to work. Therefore, my team and I do not see problems as obstacles but as opportunity for learning. And lastly, I never ever give up.
Alaba: Can you tell us more about your entrepreneurship journey and the learning curves?
Deborah: To be honest I thought writing would be my profession which it was for 4 years as a copywriter and published author. But what I also loved being an entrepreneur. While growing up, my parents and people around me were career professionals so I had no one to model after in terms entrepreneurship.
In spite of that, my entrepreneurial journey started at 17 years old when a friend and I bought a popcorn machine and sold popcorn to people on the streets. That was a learning curve for me because as a young girl, I could see how for instance power supply could help businesses thrive. We roasted the popcorns on generators but every profit we made went into fueling the popcorn machine.
Later in the year I got admission into the university and had to pack up the business but the lessons from that time stayed with me.And the lesson was, without proper infrastructure, businesses will continue to struggle. I have since embarked on more than 5 different businesses up till date.
Alaba: What’s the inspiration behind Food Channel Africa and how are you funding it?
Deborah: Food channel Africa came to be out of a mixture of frustration and passion. Frustration and passion because, we were losing our traditional diet history with our diet becoming increasingly unhealthy. No one was paying attention to the fact that Africa wasn’t just rich in its vast natural resources but also in its delicious, healthy and diverse cuisines. I read extensively about the French diet and so many diets from different regions of the world.
My recent travel to France only cemented the fact that African cuisine is one of the world’s healthiest cuisine and needs to be well- represented on the world’s stage. That’s our mission at Food Channel Africa.This is why we are actively seeking for investment to actualise this great vision.
Alaba: How are you promoting our African foods and culture?
Deborah: Food channel Africa is a 24-hour food television channel solely dedicated to promoting African cuisine, culture and tourism. We are developing programs that will not only showcase different traditional meals and how they prepared but also show the deep and rich culture of different African locality, the history behind some of the popular cuisines and the people’s cultural heritage. Food Channel Africa will be informative, educative and entertaining.
It will also boost the food industry in Africa and encourage the youth to pursue culinary education as a career. We would make Michelin stars out of cooks and chefs, people who will in turn take Africa to the world.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Deborah: I feel blessed being an African entrepreneur in this time because of a lot of opportunities opened up to entrepreneurs in the continent. The government and other organization’s drive to open up opportunities to African entrepreneurs especially women in terms of investment is commendable. However, I feel foreign investment shouldn’t be too restrictive to only fin-tech and online ventures.
The food industry and media industry are at a pivotal point as regards development in Nigeria and investors should be encouraged to invest in these areas because of the abounding opportunities and growth in that sector. The media industry is also seeing a lot of development because recently Nigeria converted from the analogue model to digital freeing up a lot of white space for content producers like Food Channel Africa.
Alaba: How can government best support entrepreneurs in Africa?
Deborah: The government’s economic initiatives aimed at empowering entrepreneurs is commendable but more work needs to be done. Incentives and legislation that encourages foreign investments and improve access to credit and loan facilities should be enacted. The government should provide infrastructure and economic enablers like tax incentives for small and medium scale enterprises. A safe and working society is also vital in ensuring business growth and development.
Alaba: What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and investors in Africa?
Deborah: My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in Africa is invest in yourself by building capacity in your chosen endeavour. Don’t use short-cuts or fall into the trap of making money quickly. Do your due diligence and don’t lose focus. If you bring a product in to the market for example, stick to the standard or improve don’t cut corner because you want more turn-overs. Integrity in business is priceless and rewarding so have integrity. Don’t settle for less and keep innovating!
My advice to investors is the best time to invest in African businesses is now. Don’t be left out!
Alaba: What inspires you and keeps you going?
Deborah: I believe true success is not how many material wealth you acquire but the number of people you impacted. What keeps me going is knowing that I am directly impacting so many lives and building a legacy that is bigger than me and would outlive me.
Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?
Deborah: I relax by reading. I love reading about history and biographies of great men and women. Give me a nice chilled (natural) drink, a snack and a good book and I’m as good as new. Cooking also helps me relax and is therapeutic for me.
B I O G R A P H Y
Deborah Ogwuche is the creative director and founder of Food Channel Africa, a 24-hour television channel dedicated to showcasing African cuisines. She is a published author, a food blogger and a healthy food advocate.
Shaun Duvet on The Unit Group and the Impact of COVID-19
Shaun Duvet, Founder and CEO at The Unit Group (Source: Unit Group website)
The impact of Covid-19 is changing the way organisations operate and do business about the world. The entertainment industry is not exempted as it’s adjudged the second affected industry after the aviation, travel and hospitality industry. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Shaun Duvet the Founder and CEO of The Unit Group shares his brand story and the Impact of Covid-19. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you tell us about the Unit Group and the gap it’s filling since you launched?
Shaun: The Unit Group was established in 2017 as the holding company for my various business interests which include: COCO, GoldBar and Souk (my venues), Ultra South Africa, Corona Sunsets Festivals, Anything Goes, AG Virtual, Bella Bookings, Salute, Jet Black & Paradise Springs. These businesses cover all functions of entertainment marketing, management, hospitality, sponsorship and eventing from design, to staffing and artist booking, to production and everything in between.
The gap we launched The Unit Group to fill was that of a true understanding of marketing in the entertainment space. So many brands want to play in this space because the audiences are so receptive and the engagement so high, yet so few of them truly understand it. We felt that we had the marketing know-how, and a deep love and knowledge of not only this space, but the global players within it.
Alaba: What services does your company offer?
Shaun: The services offered range from throwing small corporate events to festivals for 50, 000 pax; to sponsorship strategies, virtual events; to full spectrum design, photography, videography; artist, model and staff bookings; marketing, and PR strategies and much, much more.
Alaba: How has the market responded to your offerings?
Shaun: We have seen a huge uptake in clients that previously came to us just to make the party happen, now asking for marketing, creative and strategic advice. AG Virtual, which launched this year, has also seen the likes of AFI (African Fashion Week) approach us to do their full virtual production.
Alaba: The steady rise of South Africa’s entertainment industry has increased competition in the country. What’s your company’s advantage?
Shaun: My 20+ years of experience and my years behind the decks. I live and breathe music and entertainment which enables me to understand what the market wants and keep abreast of global trends. I also have incredible teams in place that keep our work fresh and relevant, and the machine in constant motion.
Alaba: Kindly share some of the challenges faced, especially in this dire time and how you overcoming them?
Shaun: The challenge of this year is obvious – no events, no DJ’s, no dancing! That’s our life blood. We have managed though to stay busy by diversifying what we offer and working more strategically. Helping brands activate within the highly connected urban youth market in an authentic and resonant manner. Some of our venues are also still operational, and the festivals and events teams are taking some much-needed down time before the parties start again, which we know they will do with a renewed energy when we’re out of the current COVID crisis.
Alaba: Technology is disrupting the entertainment industry across the globe. How’s your company adapting to the use of technology?
Shaun: As mentioned, we have launched AG Virtual which is doing well. But we have always been at the forefront of event and entertainment technology in our work. Our audience demands it.
Alaba: How does your company contribute and set new standards in the South African entertainment industry?
Shaun: I regularly write and speak on industry channels and give back to the industry that way. We also ensure that we are constantly raising the bar with the work that we do, meaning that more people around the world sit up and take notice which will ultimately benefit the whole industry.
Alaba: What’s the future for the Unit Group and are you post COVID-19 ready?
Shaun: We cannot wait for life to return to “normal”. Down time was nice, but we’re rested now and it’s time to work!
Alaba: How do you relax and what keeps you going?
Shaun: I have 3 young kids so relaxation is scarce, but they certainly keep me going
Alaba: What advice would you give to entrepreneurs and investors coming to South Africa?
Shaun: Come! Don’t be afraid. There is risk, yes, but the rewards are also so great. We live in such a special place and I really believe in the future of this country.
B I O G R A P H Y
Shaun Duvet, CEO and Founder of The Unit, South Africa’s leading entertainment-based holding company, a combination of enterprises, individually built to make brands better. Shaun is also the CEO and Founder of Anything Goes, the branded entertainment agency, aligning campaigns, properties and music tours with international brands and artists across the continent.
He is the co-Founder and Director of ULTRA South Africa, which brings 50,000 dance-music revellers together every year to see some biggest names in eEectronic Music. He is the partner and producer for Corona Sunsets Festival South Africa, which over the last 5 years has seen over 40,000 fans join together across three cities to celebrate the sunset.
He is a co-owner and operator for COCO, one of SA’s premiere nightclubs, think celebrities, Ibiza-style go-go dancers, Hip Hop MCs, and a parade of sparkler-topped bottles, this alongside it’s sister GoldBar, an elegant bar annex to COCO.
Shaun Duvet is a board member and proud supporter of Bridges For Music, a non-profit organization that utilises the power of music to uplift communities through creative education. Recently, partnering with Defected Records on a new imprint Sondela Records all of whose profits will channel back directly into the charity.
Viola Labi: The multi-hyphenate creative strategist building an eco-luxury fashion brand in Africa
Viola Labi is a multi-hyphenate creative, premium retail Strategist and Founder of WOVEN, a design-led fashion enterprise.
With over a decade of experience and a proven track record in the global luxury retail space, Viola has worked with renowned international brands such as Burberry, ZARA, Loewe, CELINE and Valentino and has caught the attention of media powerhouses such as Vogue Business, Essence, Forbes, BBC and CNN International, as one to watch.
Born in Canada with Ghanaian parentage, Viola is culturally plural and holds reverence to fashion’s interaction with humanity; asserting that it permits people, irrespective of their cultural and social affiliations to unite. It is this fundamental belief and her relocation to Ghana that inspired WOVEN, a ground breaking brand which seeks to herald a new direction for eco-luxury retail on the African continent.
Viola said, WOVEN was birthed from a personal journey to Northern Ghana. “I witnessed my own reunification to elements of rich Ghanaian culture through textile creation at the diligent hand skilled Artisans. Despite language barriers and unfamiliar grounds, I felt at home. I spent more time with women creating textiles and found myself being stitched together in areas I didn’t know needed mending, areas like self-identity and purpose.”
“Looking back, I guess you can say we weaved symbolic exchanges of knowledge and cultural practices and this inspired me to creative WOVEN. Although the entire assortment of products are literally woven, the company name speaks to a higher purpose of coming together as Humanity.” She said.
The Brand’s mission is to actively work towards uniting the fashion value chain into a cohesive whole by showcasing the creative talent that pervades throughout the African continent; while emanating the diversity of culture, history and skill, much like yarn being formed into a unique tapestry.
WOVEN has the honour of partnering with 150 esteemed Artisan weavers in Ghana to create sustainable, functional, home furnishing products. It’s design principles and execution promote inclusion and seek to disrupt fear-based stereotypes by creating products, made in Africa, that are par with those of global standards.
Emalohi Iruobe, An Attorney and Founder of Tribe XX Lab Empowering Female-led Startups
Emalohi L. Iruobe Esq. is an attorney, adjunct professor and social entrepreneur. She is the founder of Tribe XX Lab, the first and only co-working, wellness and incubator space exclusively for female entrepreneurs and female led startups and companies in Lagos. Tribe XX Lab offers an open-plan office, private offices, events, networking, yoga, a nap room, conference room, reference library, pop up restaurants and wellness retail.
The fundamental idea is to create a place where women are able to present a professional front for their business as well as network, get training, access to funding opportunities and help each other. With a general focus on self-care and balance, the space also partners with brands that retail wellness and selfcare products in order to meet the other often overlooked core need of women in business-wholeness.
Prior to founding Tribe XX Lab, Emalohi was an adjunct professor of Business Law, Business Research Methods and Legal Analysis and Writing at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, USA for several years before moving to teach Business Law and Data Management at LIM College in Manhattan, New York. Afterwards she taught Expository Writing at Rutgers University in New Jersey, USA before founding Aimanosi Lingerie; a dynamic brand focused on promoting body positivity and selflove in African women. She has a Bsc. in Finance and Banking from Lincoln University, PA and a Juris Doctor from Villanova University.
Before delving into full time entrepreneurship, she practiced law in Pennsylvania and New
Jersey working in Commercial litigation, as well as working as the Manager of Project Implementation in the Kwara State Public Private Partnership office in 2013. She comes with over a decade experience in entrepreneurship, law, education and business.
About Tribe XX Lab
Tribe XX Lab is a civic space for complex conversations, critical contemplation, learning and action to prevent all forms of violence and oppression against women and girls. The goal of their work is to change the perceptions of women and their role in society as well as lead conversations and interventions that PREVENT violence against women and girls in the first place. They do this through the use of digital and social media, conversations, XX-CEED Virtual festival, game theory and art.
Through their work, they are particularly looking to provide support to survivors of Gender-based violence, promote greater public engagement in preventing violence against women, increase public awareness of the intersectionality of oppression women face, create social projects that encourage the extermination of rape culture.
Since inception, they have successfully carried out several survival supports programs, prevention panels and have received a grant to prevent gender-based violence against women and girls in universities in Nigeria as well as provide psychological support to victims of GBV in institutions of higher education from Oxfam/Voice.
Emalohi also launched ‘I GO TALK’ a Nigerian Pidgin phrase which simply means I will not be silent, I will tell on you. It came in as a crucial response to the sexual violence that female students in Nigerian Universities face. This is a clarion call from victims, survivors, and women in general to the perpetrators of sexual abuse and to the general public, that they’re here to XXterminate, silence and provide support to victims. This is a motivation for victims of sexual abuse and harassment amongst University students to speak up and also a mode to create awareness for students on their rights in line with the recently signedd Sexual Harassment bill.
After the BBC Documentary, Sex for Grades rocked the whole of Nigeria in October 2019, the long cloaked truth about the oppression that young women face in the hands of university lecturers started to come to light. For the longest time, young women seeking higher education have been preyed upon by several academicians high in power and have been oppressed, victimized, and helpless.
Starting from the 25th of October to the 31st of October, they are kicking off the first edition of I GO TALK Youth Summit, the largest gathering of university students across the country to build collective power and voice in the fight to end Sex4grades and sexual harassment in Nigerian Universities.
Tribe XX Lab is laser focused on promoting gender equality, deliberate living, transformative leadership and community development through the design and delivery of trainings, workshops, seminars, collaborative partnerships and data gathering.
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