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Building A Digital Marketplace For ‘Made In Nigeria’: Interview With Ukaegbu Great Jr, CEO, Keanyi

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Ukaegbu Great Jr, is the Founder and CEO of Keanyi an eCommerce consumer goods retail platform that connects exclusively local manufacturing sellers with consumers. He is responsible for the performance and long-term strategic development of this new startup. In this exclusive interview with Uchechukwu Ajuzieogu of Business Africa Online, Ukaegbu speaks on the Keanyi’s experience in the all ready existing Nigerian market, current state of the eCommerce sector, the biggest potentials for growth in Nigeria and outlined his company’s future plans.

Uchechukwu: Kindly share your set goals when assuming as the CEO, and how much progress has been made?

Ukaegbu: The role of the CEO has sent me back to Libraries and web directories , Every Single day, I read books and articles of becoming a better manager and understanding the market, above all I have adopted the culture of learning, unlearning and relearning. My goals as the CEO is to primarily see Keanyi reached our vision and goals as a company, creating thousands of Jobs and empowering Nigeria and African SMEs. Yes, I’m the CEO of Keanyi but sometimes I get scared to address myself as CEO because that’s not just a title, its work more than a war to conquer.

Uchechukwu: Can you provide some insights into Keanyi’s presence in Nigeria?

Ukaegbu: Keanyi was an idea that was conceived early 2016, then called Ariaria Online because we thought it to be more of an Aba thing, after much consultations, experts advised us to change the name because it will box our content and scope of reach. By early 2017 , we had re-branded to Keanyi adapted from an Igbo word ‘Nkeanyi’ which means our own. Keanyi was launched on the 3rd of October 2019 on the web space.

Our Goal is to put up made in Nigeria Products back to the map, and we will achieve it. After the launch we have seen lots of challenges and we are set to conquer them, Our primary interest was to boost to Aba market but we got negative signs on our radar with much rejections coming from the Aba manufacturers.

One of the interesting Facts about Keanyi’s presence is that 99.5% of vendors on Keanyi are from Lagos, and this is a good sign seeing Lagos as the hub of business, we might be concentrating more on Lagos, alongside Kano and probably Aba for vendors while targeting major cities in Nigeria.

Uchechukwu: What has been Keanyi’s experience in the market in terms of its challenges, competition and successes?

Ukaegbu: Keanyi’s experience in Nigeria has been that of Stable growth, our vendors keep increasing every Single day, One of the major challenges I have seen is acceptability. Keanyi is new and we are just One Month old and being an idea that seems to be swimming against a heavy wave of a growing economy, we are doing all to calm the tide. Challenges are there but we will bring bring them to justice. 

About Competitors, they will be there and I believe strategies makes the difference. Success is never a war won completely,it’s a continuous war and the only way to stay alive in the war is to keep winning every Single day.We are growing and waxing strong in the market.

Uchechukwu: In terms of reputation and performance, where would you like to see Keanyi and NIGERIA in 3–5 yrs?

Ukaegbu: Keanyi is a child in the industry. Let me make reference to a book of by my friend Obinna Uzoije: “Nigeria has never witnessed an industrial revolution and i believe the time is now.” Why is China dominating; Industrial dominance and control, just like the metamorphoses of the butterfly, I’m seeing Nigeria SMEs rise above SMEs to big business through Keanyi because our goal is to put Nigeria Products to the map. In the next 3 years, we will be setting the pace to connect African SMEs and businesses which we call the Shift 2023.

Uchechukwu: How would you evaluate the current state of the Local Manufacturing sector in Nigeria?

Ukaegbu: Manufacturing in Nigeria is indeed one the biggest challenges we are facing and ready to see it change. 78% of the SMEs producing, produces at request which I can tally to subsistence agriculture, their output most times is not much probably because of their mode of production/manufacturing. 

With Keanyi’s presence to boost the market, we hope to see most of the manufacturing SMEs switch to the industrial/enterprise stage. We also aim to invest heavily to boost their production.

Uchechukwu: Where are the biggest potentials for growth in Nigeria now and beyond?

Ukaegbu: Our biggest Potential no doubt is our population, we have a higher percentage to sell to but the level of poverty keeps stalling these potentials making us have zero percentage to sell to most times. Our Potentials is nested to our population and government Policies in the now and beyond ,the government must have good policies, sometimes I feel that Nigeria is a socialist state because of the effects of Government on the economy.

Uchechukwu: Tell us about Keanyi Vendor Platform and the gap its filling?

Ukaegbu: The Keanyi Vendor Platform is one of the best modifications we introduced on the platform because our market keeps growing every single day. The Vendor presence made us to launch the ‘Zero Sales Season’, where a Vendor signs up, put up their products and sell without us taking any percentage, the Zero Sales Season started from November 2019 and will span till Feb 2020.

Uchechukwu: Describe your leadership style, and what Keanyi Represents?

Ukaegbu: My Leadership style is goal oriented. I have my eyes on the goal, and I will do all the reach the goals with the Keanyi team. Being a leader means you have unlearn, learn and relearn. I understand that every single member of Keanyi has goals to live for as a person and I will also put myself in their shoes to make their goals come to reality. I remind myself that leadership is about humility every single day.

Uchechukwu: What are your Source of Resilience?

Ukaegbu: My source of Resilience is drawn from two different Sources;
– Jesus: I might sound religious here because in this Keanyi journey, I have always drawn more strength from prayers and directions. A lot of times as a person, I had loved to shut down and look for a soft work or even travel abroad, but He(Jesus) has been faithful. 

  • My second source of Resilience is the power of time and opportunity: I believe Nigeria at a time when the Rise of SMEs is on a higher magnitude, which calls for a marketplace. I am sure that Keanyi will be the next big thing that happened to the Nigerian Economy
  • My Able Team: At this Point i would like to say that my biggest Source of Resilience is my Team, I want to appreciate Keanyi’s Chief Technology Officer — Mr. Uchechukwu Ajuzieogu. This man been doing a lot for Keanyi , I owe him a lot in this life. I also want appreciate our Chief Operating Officer the beautiful intelligent lady and mother, an event shaker, and business maker — Mrs. Flora Mgbeledeogu, thanks for all the time you have been amazing. I owe you more, you guys has helped me grow, lets keep doing this.

Uchechukwu: An average CEO reads 52 books in a month. What’s your reading Pattern?

Ukaegbu: A lot of books has made me see beyond the norm, the stories and setting might be different but the strengths seems similar. I used to think reading was never my thing, but i read on a daily basis now; print and web. It’s been amazing getting more informed everyday. I read at night most times and I’m currently reading a book by Strivye Masiyiwa.  

Also Read: Coverdor Insurtech Startup Launches Brokerly; Africa’s First Digital Insurance Broker Solution-as-a-service

Uchechukwu: What is your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and graduate students?

Ukaegbu: Well entrepreneurship is a journey of 20% Idea, and 70% resilience. Ever Imagine watering an apple tree from nursery and watching it grow. As an entrepreneur get people who are better than you, its helping me already, network,build contacts and allies within your niche, work hard and above all listen to your customers — they are the king. 

Graduate is a title that comes with paper, which can only guarantee you job from a company who likes your paper, but a skill is your job which you offer for people who pays for it. While you read books to pass exams and leave the four walls of college, get skilled to overcome the under-utilization of the graduate paper.

B I O G R A P H Y

Ukaegbu Great Jr, is the Founder and CEO of Keanyi an eCommerce consumer goods e-commerce retail platform that connects exclusively local manufacturing sellers with consumers. Ukaegbu has more than 5 years experience in the Graphics, Branding and eCommerce ecosystem

He is also the founder of ABSUVilla. Prior to this role, he took on various senior roles with various organization — PR and Social Media Manager for Today’s 95.1 FM. He is a Nigerian and fluent in several languages including English, Hausa, and Igbo.

Visit Keanyi 

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Edith Njage: My Letter to fellow Female CEOs

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Edith Njage, Co-Founder and current CEO of Arielle for Africa (Image: Supplied)

Edith Njage is a Social and Serial Entrepreneur based in Africa. She is the Co-Founder and current CEO of Arielle for Africa, which aims to create over 100,000 jobs in Africa through empowering, training, coaching and connecting and funding entrepreneurs. Edith is the Country Representative for Invicta Ventures on a mission to fund social impact ventures with up to $10 billion in developing markets. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Finance and a Bachelor in Business Management with a major in Economics. A Master of Science in International Business with a major in Disruptive Innovation and a Master of Science in Finance, both from HULT International Business School. Excerpts of her letter below;

 

There are realities that come with being a woman in leadership that in most cases remain secret.

Realities faced but not communicated.

My journey as a Young, Black and Female CEO has been nothing short of rough, tough and everything in-between. The hardest truth is that the journey has been lonely with no-one to turn to, until I decided to make changes to not only my leadership, but my circles as well. I began my journey as a serial entrepreneur at 18, relatively young in the books of most but when a problem in your continent calls, age is never a factor. I became a CEO at 24 and to date I wish someone explained the realities of being a woman in leadership. Especially a young and black woman in leadership.

I wish I knew the bias that I would face each time I walked into a room and sat on the table when most expected me to just bring the coffee,

I wish I knew that fundraising would be more about my gender and race than the value my companies brought to the table,

I wish I knew that the most powerful weapon a female CEO can wield is a network of other female CEOs,

I wish I didn’t do it all alone.

Dear Female CEOs,

You are powerful. You are graceful, You are beautiful in leadership. I know that the world has taught you to blend in, I know you have been told to use your position or title to protect your vulnerability and I know most days it feels like no-one in the world can understand what it is like to be you. I want you to know the key to our strength is each other. I want you to know that rather than face the bias alone, rather than rise to the top alone, we can band together and not only rise but build a system for the next generation of female CEOs to struggle less than we did.

Where the world has called us bossy, let’s exude grit and relentless pursuit of our dreams,

Where they have called us soft, we can preach emotional intelligence and finally,

Where they have prevented our progress, we can build paths for the progress of other women after us.

This is our time, but we cannot go at it alone. We must band together and begin talking about these realities, not in secret but for the world to see. It is for this reason that I decided about a month ago that enough was enough and that it was important for me to begin sharing the truth behind my journey as a Young, Black and Female CEO. I started a podcast!

Since beginning this journey I am in awe of how many women in leadership, in business, in politics and in corporate have reached out sharing their stories!

The Latest Episode is available below (streamed to Spotify and Apple Podcast). Adding onto that I have decided to be intentional about building a Female CEO Global Board. A space for Female CEOs to share their stories, struggles, plans for growth of their businesses and so much more!

If this is something that interests you and you would like to join us next week or maybe just find a safe space and community of women who understand, book a coffee chat with me here; https://calendly.com/edith-njage-alpha-group/one-on-one

I became intentional about building circles with fellow female CEOs and investing into those circles so that as a tribe we would all rise! Rise in business, rise in our purposes and pursuits and rise in who we are as people in the world.

As always, I hope that unashamedly sharing my truth will help you know that you are never alone.

 

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Interview with a Polyglot: Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo, Founder Empress Linguistics Services

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Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo, Founder Empress Linguistics Services (Image: Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo)

Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo is a polyglot who speaks nine (9) foreign languages. She is the Founder of Empress Linguistics Services (ELS) creating new ways for businesses to interact with consumers across  borders. In this interview, Alaba Ayinuola spoke with Favour about what it means to be a polyglot, her journey in entrepreneurship and much more. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and your journey into entrepreneurship?

Favour: Becoming the Solution! Oh yes, I proffer Solutions. My name is Favour Chisimdi Emerald Nwobodo from Enugu state in Nigeria. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be the Solution to people’s problems. Growing up, I got to witness the high rates of unemployment/poverty in the country, and the urge to put an end to this problem started growing.

At first, I started EMPRESS LINGUISTICS SERVICES (my brand) as a Linguistics brand – just Translations and Language Tutorials. I was the only one handling it but at some point, I did quit. During those bad moments, I was aimlessly searching on google when I saw the current finance situation. I felt bad – Nigeria is slowly losing “NAIRA”. I went on to search for ways to strengthen the economy of the country and I saw “Promotion of international trade” That struck!. But we’ve got machines and interpreters, why is yours different?

But then machines would be machines and sometimes those Interpreters might Interpret wrong stuff and scam people. I left the site and went into proper thinking, I thought about it and came up with ” LINGUISTICS IN FINANCE ”- when Linguistics meets Finance, it doubles it, it revives the currency etc.

I went on to propound the “LINGUISTICS IN BUSINESS SYSTEM”. I tried my hypothesis with a client’s job and it worked- I was convinced! So I came back stronger at Empress Linguistics Services and we’ve been able to help companies, businesses, and all thrive.

So far, we have been able to pull off a lot of deals. And from the comfort of our client’s home they are able to run their Businesses with ease, learn  and attain fluency in foreign languages with ease. Our peer to peer service makes it so easy for Companies that most of them stick to it as their Linguistics needs  (Translations and all) are attended to in 24 hours.

Also , seeing the way non English speakers are marginalized in various countries- they can’t access lots of things (products, companies etc) as they can’t understand English. With this, Empress Linguistics Services is working hard to eliminate Linguistics barriers and give them accessibility to various opportunities with LINGUIS-NESS (LINGUISTICS AND BUSINESS) a news platform in various languages that enables non English speakers access lots of information in  various languages.

 

Alaba: Empress Linguistics is creating new ways for businesses to interact with consumers across  borders. How did it all start?

Favour: My manager “Barr Chijioke Ojukwu” told me about opening a brand, and the brand “Empress Linguistics Services” was founded. At first, I had no vision. I just wanted to tutor languages and that’s all. I wanted it as a side hustle but then, REDIRECTION happened.

During the trying times, I went off and did some research and founded “Linguistics in Business”- How Linguistics helps to make businesses thrive, it was a great module. I also did some case studies with our client’s business and it thrived. It was a sell out, this prompted me to seek for “Linguistics in Finances” to help companies, firms and organizations meet their target companies and stabilize their finance goal by thriving in non english sectors. 

Currently, we’re about entering the TECH and HEALTH sector to create products/services to serve everyone and make life easy. Just like our slogan says, “With ELS, lives are made easier”.

 

Alaba: Can you describe in detail what your company does and the response from your target market?

Favour: Empress Linguistics Services is a Linguistics Service aimed at profering Linguistics solutions to Businesses and the world at large. We’re in to make the world a better place with Linguistics and so far we’ve been good. Reaching the target market hasn’t been as I just entered the niche but I’m damn enjoying my growth. It’s worth it.

EMPRESS LINGUISTICS SERVICES is currently working on the Health sector with another product “DIGITAL HEAVEN”. I am sure you can wait for it. Some of our services are;

  • Translations Services
  • Interpretation services
  • Proofreading Services
  • Language tutorial Services
  • Transcription services
  • Advertisement in various languages
  • Jingles in various languages
  • Website Translations
  • App Translations
  • Movie Subtitlings
  • Lyrics Translations, etc.

 

Alaba: What makes your brand different from the rest of the language translation startups in Africa?

Favour: What makes ELS stand out is ELS would always be ELS. The goal of ELS is to solve the Linguistics needs of Man. We are here to proffer solutions to man’s needs. Also at ELS, we have the peer to peer services that enables companies to get their Linguistics needs in less than 24 hours and from their own comfort.

We’re not a Translation startup, we’re a Linguistics startup as we offer both translations, tutorials and more. We’re in for TECH, HEALTH , EDUCATION and FINANCE and we’re working on making things easier in those sectors.

 

Alaba: You seem to really enjoy learning languages. What would you recommend to people who don’t like language learning but still want to speak in a new language?

Favour: When people say “Languages are hard” I tell them everything is easy once you understand the methodology but unfortunately some school’s methodology are so bad that people struggle to learn foreign languages and that’s why ELS was born to make it easier for MAN. At ELS, we make language learning easy and fun.

 

Alaba: What did you find to be the biggest myth when it comes to language learning?

Favour: Mmmmm, the myth I got to find out is “elimination of FEAR” and knowing the grammar rules. 

Most language speakers don’t try to learn the grammar rules as they feel it’s a waste of time and it makes it hard for them to attain fluency easier and faster. Some of them find it hard to read and speak because of this. 

This is the secret to the faster fluency in our students . Some get to make sentences and speak in their 2nd month. Once the rules are understood, you’re good to go.

 

Alaba: Who are some of the modern polyglots you are impressed with, and why?

Favour: Jaindersingh , my friend on LinkedIn is a Polyglot speaking nine Languages and I’m impressed. They’re good. But for now, I’m yet to see people proffering solutions with Businesses and that’s why I’m in to make all that happen with ELS.

 

Alaba: Where do you see ELS in the next 5 years?

Favour: In the next 5 years, I see ELS as the No1 Linguistics company in the world creating solutions in various sectors of the world.

 

Alaba: As a student-preneur, what is your advice to students who are aspiring to make an impact through entrepreneurship?

Favour: My advice is that they shouldn’t give up as nothing good comes easy, it might take time but it’s gonna be worth it. They were days when I was laughed at for learning foreign languages,  days when I was looked down on.

But look at it now? That’s life!! Just keep doing what you’re doing. and like I’ve always said it’s “Quality consistency” or nothing.

 

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Eficaz Movers CEO, Ben Imara on his journey into entrepreneurship and the untapped moving industry

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Eficaz Movers CEO, Ben Imara (Image: Supplied)

Imara Benedict Oghenero, is an IT expert, entrepreneur and Eficaz Movers CEO, a logistics company focused on household, office and warehouse moves. In his Interview with Alaba Ayinuola, he shares his journey into entrepreneurship, the bottlenecks from government regulations, he also pointed out that the movers industry remains untapped. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself and your entrepreneurship journey?

Ben: My name is Imara Benedict Oghenero, I was born in Ughelli, Delta State and grew up in Lagos. I am the 4th child in a family of five. I attended Houdegbe North American University where I obtained a Bachelor of Science (BSC) in computer science. I started working in the IT department for QX solutions, a company that deals on car tracking devices. My entrepreneurship journey started in 2019, when I founded Eficaz Movers Limited.

Alaba: What inspired you to launch Eficaz Movers and how do you operate?

Ben: In July 2019, I was about to move to a new house, so I decided to search for moving companies and I found a particular company that carried out the move for me but when they finished moving my stuffs, I found out most of my properties were damaged. So that evening it flashed in my head, why not start up a moving company of my own, so I started my research immediately and that was how Eficaz Movers Ltd came about and decided people deserve extremely good standard in moving services.

Moving can be a stressful task, so Eficaz Movers Limited can make the experience fun and seamless, we do Apartment, Office and Household moves (whether you need to move your office, industry facility or warehouse) Eficaz Movers Ltd is your one stop.

Alaba: Kindly share some of the challenges and successes since you launched?

Ben: Like every business, there are always challenges when setting up/running a business. We have had some challenges in the past that set us back a little when I started the business, however to mention a few, Driver Shortage, Government Regulations, Complexity of deliveries are some of the challenges faced in the business.
I think our major success happened in the year 2020. We were able to carry out a total of 45 household moves, 7 office relocation and 23 store deliveries for the year ended December 2020, which generated some loyal customers of our’s till date.

Alaba: What is the current state of Eficaz Movers and the steps you took to grow the business to where it
is today?

Ben: We are currently among the top 5 moving companies on the Lagos island environs (Lekki, Ajah, Ikoyi, Victoria Island), with a staff strength of about 15 people, However we are looking forward to growing the business to become one of the top 5 moving companies in Nigeria.

Some of the steps I took included; recurrently training our staffs to become specialized professionals in their fields, increased our social media presence as that has proven to be a major catalyst in influencing consumer decision making and I must say the evolving/increase in technology has also contributed to the growth of the business.

We also improved our customer care/relationship with our clients as well as improved working environment for the staffs.

Alaba: A number of African “Uber-for-trucks” platforms have emerged in recent years. How competitive is this industry?

Ben: That hasn’t really affected our business a lot. It’s quite competitive but the modus and standards in which we carry out our job is outstanding and it set’s us aside from others.

Imara Benedict Oghenero, CEO of Eficaz Movers with Team

Alaba: What are your expansion plans and future for Eficaz Movers?

Ben: I’m looking forward to a more bigger work space and storage facility, opening few other offices in area’s where we are mostly demanded. Expand with more staff strength as well as trucks and other equipment to increase efficiency. The future of Eficaz Movers is to become a household name when it comes to relocation services in Nigeria. We want to become your go to place when you think relocation.

Alaba: Describe the toughest situation you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.

Ben: The toughest situation I have found myself in will be one time when we were just training some new employees in the parking/loading department in the year 2019, a customer’s valuable was damaged, it was a tough period for me as the business was still new and barely generating profit, so I had to ensure the customer’s valuable was replaced in due time.

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Ben: I must say it’s not easy being an African entrepreneur because there are a lot of barriers, government regulations that act as constraints to your business but there’s also a lot of potential in the Africa market that is yet to be exploited.

Alaba: If you had the chance to start this business again, what would you do differently?

Ben: I would probably increase the marketing budget higher than I predicted when I started the business, infuse more social media awareness/marketing, I will also improve the level of training offered to our then new staffs.

Alaba: What is your advice to young budding entrepreneurs in Africa?

Ben: Starting small appears difficult but it’s a step ahead of those who don’t dare to try, keep putting effort in what you do and stay consistent.

 

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