Chidi Ezeigbo Koldsweat, Founder, Donors for Africa and a Development Expert. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, she speaks on how her social enterprise, Donor for Africa is passionately empowering individuals and non-profits working hard to achieve the SDGs with the right tools to access funds and the right skills to implement their programs. Excerpts.
Tell us about yourself and your business.
Chidi Ezeigbo Koldsweat, has over ten years’ experience in the non-profit sector, and earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration and International Affairs from the University of Lagos, Nigeria. She is the founder Donors for Africa where she works to strengthen the capacity of non-profits and social enterprises to access funds and achieve their vision towards the Sustainable Development Goals. We achieve our goal through grant writing, training and capacity building programs that utilizes technology. With online training platforms and resource tools; we empower individuals and non-profits working hard to achieve the SDGs with the right skills to implement their programs. Many of the social innovators we have trained have accessed funding through grants writing and we hope to partner and continue to replicate our solutions across Africa.
My experience in development spans across different sectors some of which includes HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Women in Leadership and Public Service, Empowerment for the Girl Child, Breast Cancer, Autism and Depression.
Over the years, she has received several awards and recognition some of which includes;
Finalist – Africa’s Most Influential Woman in Business & Government for Civil Society Organization (2014), Selected as a 2013 Vital Voices Inaugural Lead Fellow, Awarded a Moremi Fellowship for Women’s Leadership and Empowerment Development in Africa (Ghana.) as an emerging African leader; Nominated in the One World Blog Action among the “100 Unseen Women changing her World”(2011); led a social initiative “Impact for Change” where we provide leadership and financial assistance to young teenage girls from very impoverished backgrounds who desire to further their education.
What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it ?
Money is most times not the first thing you need to start a business. What you need is an idea strong enough for you to believe in. You have to believe in it enough to sell. My business started with an idea and that idea kept growing and created opportunities for me to provide a solution. Then I used the rewards received from the solutions created to generate income to run the business.
I strongly believe that your ability to communicate your idea, business or vision in a very convincing way can significantly increase your chances of raising funding either through sales or investment.
For businesses, it is also very important to ask what kind of funding are you looking for. Equity, debt or free capital (like grants, prize awards or informal funding)? For this kind of debt free funding which is the easiest to secure; businesses must begin to ask themselves HOW do they secure these funds? What do they need to do to become grant worthy? This is where we come in- at Donors For Africa, we help social innovators ,non-profits and social enterprises with the tools they need to secure debt free capital. We also advice and strengthen their capacity to achieve the SDG’s through grant writing trainings and capacity building programs.
Businesses must be deliberate about where they source for funds and who is funding the kind of work they do. Rather than randomly sending out proposals and business plans to anyone and everyone, they need to clarify what options are available for the kind of capital they are looking for? Do you know their requirements, criteria for investing in or financing a business like yours? Get to work by asking the right questions.
What are some of the challenges you face in your business and how do you overcome those challenges?
Running a one man show: When you start, this may be absolutely necessary as you are the sales rep, strategist, program manager etc. however, if you intend to grow, you must delegate, hire virtual assistants, volunteers or interns that are willing to take up the role. Delegating or re-assigning some part of your work will give you an opportunity to focus on the important strategies you must implement to get to the next level of your business. It would create an opportunity to network, grow and evolve.
Prioritizing: The role of time management is very important when starting out. Focusing on what is important can play a pivotal role in the success of your business. For a while I struggled with this however I learnt the act of planning my activities and my weeks ahead of time. I also practiced a time saving technique called batching, where you segment similar activities together within a specified time frame avoiding all kinds of distractions during this time. Also looking at your business plan consistently will provide clarity as to what you need to focus on per time and this can make a lot of difference as you can easily identify if you are focusing on your long or short term goals per time.
Where do you see your business in 5 years from now and what steps are you taking today to reach that objective?
In 5 years Donors for Africa will be your go to organization when looking for social innovators or non profits to fund in Africa and around the world. We will have a pool of trained social innovators and non-profits who have the expertise to access funding through grant writing, developing fundraising strategies and engaging with donor organizations and building a sustainability plan.
We continue to extensively engage our donors, build relationships with funding organizations, philanthropy organizations and government agencies to make these funding available to trusted institutions and individuals who are accountable.
What advice would you give other entrepreneurs looking to start a business or invest in Africa?
I would say it is a fantastic idea.
According to The World Bank Group; business growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to have rebounded to 2.4 percent in 2017 so some key factors to consider before starting a business or investing in Africa are;
Provide tailor made solutions. The African continent is home to 54 countries. Each country has its unique business and market trends. The typical African in these different countries havedifferent needs and wants. If you want to run a sustainable business, identify their unique needs and provide the solutions. Don’t assume that the different countries are plagued with the same issues.
Millions of entrepreneurs have solved diverse problems simply by providing solutions in technology, health, education etc. The easiest way to build a sustainable brand is to find a problem on the continent, solve them,achieve impressive profit margins and hopefully receive lots of grants. However, as you are excited about the problem, also think about the challenges you may face such as electricity, manpower, in-depth knowledge of the law and applicable policies; that way, it would be easier to understand the reality of the challenges awaiting you and hopefully come up with a solution.
Do your research , don’t believe that some of the solutions outside the continent are applicable to Africans for example while we love to own new technology, most Africans are not really driven by them; we would still find ways to extend the live span of our technology products so rather than purchase new laptops with every new release, we are thinking how do we repair and continue using the existing material so we can extend its use?. Find out all you need to about the intended business. Do not be excited about an idea and start implementing, identify what problem you are solving, who your beneficiaries are , what solutions you need and how you intend to solve the problem. Identify trusted local partners; you need a strong eye who understand the market terrain.
How is your business participating to the development of Africa?
Donors for Africa works to strengthen the capacity of social innovators, non-profits and social enterprises to access funds and achieve their vision towards the Sustainable Development Goals. We work closely with every development partner in every sector. We operate under 3 pillars; Strategic Planning, Institutional Strengthening and Grant Writing Training and Fundraising Strategy where we conduct grant writing , fundraising strategies and sometimes highly discounted online and in person trainings for non-profits, social enterprises and businesses who are working towards the achievement of the SDGs
Our support to development in Africa is technical as our vision is to build a strong network of non-profits and social enterprises that donor organizations can TRUST to fund and be assured of their capacity to deliver.
Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care is bringing petcare to your home
Vetwork Inc Founders, Abdelreheem Hussein and Fady Azzouny (Source: Vetwork)
Pets today are considered family members, best friends, confidants, and so much more. Taking care of them requires more than just love and dedication, but also the right knowledge to recognize when something is not right. Vetwork Inc, MENA’s leading startup for animal care industry one country at a time and its mission is to make pets healthier, pet owners happier. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Fady Azzouny Founder and CEO of Vetwork Inc talked about his entrepreneurship journey, his vision for petcare with Vetwork and the future plan. Excerpts.
Alaba: Why did you start and what’s the passion behind it?
Fady: Petcare should be easy, as it stands its full of inefficiencies for both pet parents and vets. Instead of a crowded clinic with a waiting time of 30-45 minutes, vets come to you at home at the time you choose. Rather than try to muster up a massive amount of money to fund a clinic, vets can practice their services without any initial cost and make extra money to live a better life.
The vision of regulating the petcare industry involves a lot of innovation, our dream is to use the available technologies to make everyone’s lives easier and right now we’re on the right track.
Alaba: What is your background?
Fady: I graduated as a veterinarian, but I consider myself an entrepreneur. I saw some problems in the veterinary market while I was still studying and started a bunch of projects, with a few of them turning into medium sized companies. My initial problem was the absence of technology in my solutions, with Vetwork I think we can really achieve my vision of making petcare easier.
Alaba: What are the problems you are solving and what is your value proposition?
Fady: Its simple, we are solving the problem of finding a good vet by selecting our vets from a pool of more than 1000 annual applications. And the problem of waiting in the clinic through Home visits available 24/7. Also, we are addressing Vets problems of low wages and salaries by offering them easy access to extra income.
Vetwork is reliable, affordable and available petcare.
Alaba: Tell us more about the process, users, business model!
Fady: As we stand the process is the same across Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirate (UAE). We onboarded more than 300 vets across these three countries. These vets help us cater to our customer’s needs. A pet parent can log into our website or app and request a service at the time of their choosing. A vet will be assigned and introduced to the client.
The vet will then arrive, conduct the visit and deliver a detailed orientation on the tips and tricks of petcare. Our medical records also allow us to follow-up with our pet parents to make sure that everything is going according to plan and their pet is getting better.
Alaba: What are your main challenge?
Fady: Since we promise to deliver all your pets needs to you, finding the right groomers, trainers, vets and boarding facilities is always a challenge due to our strict onboarding guidelines.
Alaba: What is your achievements and coming plan?
Fady: After launching in three countries our plan is to start expanding further into the MENA region and build our presence in the countries that need us the most. Our tech infrastructure allows us to launch in any country in a matter of days and we plan to take advantage of this to test markets and become your pets partner anywhere in the Middle East.
Alaba: Do you think the ecosystem support you?
Fady: Ideas and mentorship, we’re always happy to learn and listen to other people’s ideas on how we can make petcare an easier process. We try our best to promote pet adoption since a lot of shelters are full of pets that need a home. Access to people with a wider audience can surely help us deliver our message to the people that need us the most.
Zoe Adjonyoh, the Ghanaian Irish Chef, Writer and Activist revolutionizing African Cuisine
Zoe Adjonyoh, Founder at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen (Source: Zoe Adjonyoh)
Zoe Adjonyoh is on a mission to bring African food to the masses. Born to a Ghanaian father and Irish mother, the writer and chef from South-East London deepened her understanding of West African cuisine after a trip to visit her extended family in Ghana. Described by the Observer as “the standard bearer for West African food” and named by Nigel Slater as ‘one to watch’ bringing immigrant food to Britain. She was named one of “London’s hottest chefs” by Time Out and most recently has been included as one of ‘The 44 Best Female Chefs in the World’ by Hachette Cuisine France. She became a judge at “The Great Taste Awards” in 2016, which is known as the “Oscars” of the food industry, and in 2018, she won the Iconoclast award at The James Beard Foundation.
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen
Zoe began by selling Ghanaian food outside her front door during the 2010 Hackney Wicked Arts Festival to ‘make a bit of pocket money’ after returning from traveling across The United States. After the popularity of the stall she set up selling peanut stew outside her front door, Zoe went on the host many supper clubs in her home consistently selling out.
Zoe has been making waves in the international food scene ever since. Zoe has taken her fresh interpretation of classic Ghanaian flavours to pop-up venues across London, Berlin, Accra, Russia and New York, and is a leader in the new African cuisine revolution. Along with her world-renowned supper clubs, Zoe launched her first fixed restaurant space in 2015, at shipping container community project Pop Brixton.
In 2017, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen became a roving private dining, street food, wedding and events company, which Zoe ran alongside her chef residencies. The brand is a prominent force in the festival community around the UK, including Camp Bestival as part of The Feast Collective, and came runner-up as ‘Best Street Food Trader’ at the UK Festival Awards 2017.
Revolutionizing West African Food
Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the first modern West African Restaurant in the United Kingdom. Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen was the epitome of social, relaxed and affordable dining – where guests gather to enjoy Ghanaian favourites, notable for their heartiness and spice, alongside Zoe’s contemporary West African creations.
In 2014, Zoe began writing her debut cookbook titled ‘Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen’ and was released in 2017 by
Octopus Books. The first modern West African Cookbook to be published in the United Kingdom. Due to its demand the publishers decided to re-release of the cookbook in November 2020 and is the process of working on her second book.
Visit Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen
Coco Olakunle, the Nigerian Dutch photographer passionate about humanity, inclusion and diversity
Coco Olakunle is a Nigerian Dutch photographer with a background in Human Geography based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her cultures and lived experience are constant sources of inspiration. This produces a photography style that can be seen as a crossover between documentary and fashion, where she always try to highlight the importance of the subject’s identity and background. During her work time, she likes to create a space where the subject feels comfortable and at ease being themselves and letting their personality show. Coco finds that when the subjects in her work feels comfortable, it is felt in the overall process and in the end product.
Her work revolves around people and the personalities they embody: Coco uses her camera as a way to engage with humanity and peacefully open the doors of full spectrum inclusivity and representation. She’s constantly creating spaces for her subjects to express themselves and discover who they are. The subject is always the starting point but what you see in the image is actually a snapshot of her vision: how I want to see us.
“For most of us, 2020 was a tough year. At the beginning of the year, all my jobs were cancelled. Being in lockdown and not being able to work forced me to rethink my skill set. I wasn’t able to practice photography though photoshoots, but I was able to share my experience as a freelance photographer with others. During that time, I got the opportunity to be in front of the classroom multiple times at various art academies, including one I had been previously rejected from as an applicant. To me, this proves that there are different tracks and ways to achieve your goals. Talking to the next generation of visual artists about my work and the philosophy behind it was a new experience for me. It was refreshing to bring other perspectives to the table, especially not coming from an art academy myself. I feel a great responsibility bringing new perspectives into these institutions and guiding students in finding their visual identity and translating it into their creative work.” Coco said.
One of my absolute highlights from 2020 was shooting the cover of ELLE magazine’s September issue. This was super exciting because I got to focus more on the fashion side of photography, and it was such an honor to have my work on the cover of such a big magazine. I look forward to doing more work in the field of fashion, where I can bring my photography style and cultural background to the table. I am constantly inspired by so many great African photographers, some of which are Nigerian, which makes me even more proud. Seeing all the creative work that comes from the continent inspires me from a distance, and even more when I am there.
Coco aim to get back to Lagos, as soon as possible. She said, “Creating in the motherland is very personal for me because it’s a way for me to connect with and learn more about my culture and my people on a deeper level. Being on Nigerian soil gives me a different type of creativity and inspiration from within and I love working with my people when I am there. My camera is like a passport that gives her access to new people and stories which I love bringing back with me and sharing.”
One of her personal projects is a documentary fashion series about her family in Lagos, which she sees as a personal exploration of her Nigerian culture and an exciting challenge. The idea for this project stems from when she was young. “I dream about Nigeria a lot and created my own image of how it would look in my head, and how my family would be. This visualization is my starting point for this series, blending my own vision with what I see when I am there. This project is a way for me to connect with my heritage and discover more about Nigerian culture, and, through that, myself.” Coco said.
In terms of personal development, she hopes to explore different sides of photography she is less familiar with. Coco is excited to master the physics of lighting, because she believes light is how you paint a picture. She loves learning new things in general, making the entire process to be a fun one.
“The past year brought me a lot of new opportunities and new perspectives which I am grateful for, and hope to take with me further into the next years. For the new year, my focus will be on sharing and creating supportive environments where other photographers can connect with and uplift each other.” She said.
A few weeks ago, Coco organized a ‘Creative Catch Up’ for a small group of creatives to reflect on the past year and share ideas for the next year. With good food, music and a table filled with (photography) books this get together turned into a supportive environment where they shared project ideas, thoughts and insecurities. Something she thinks they as freelancers should do more often.
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