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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.

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Shaun Duvet on The Unit Group and the Impact of COVID-19

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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.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

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.

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Viola Labi: The multi-hyphenate creative strategist building an eco-luxury fashion brand in Africa

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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.”

Cowry Basket (Image Source: WOVEN)

“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.

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

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. 

Cowry Basket (Image Source: WOVEN)

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.

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Emalohi Iruobe, An Attorney and Founder of Tribe XX Lab Empowering Female-led Startups

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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.​

Also Read Closing The Gender Gap: An Interview with Dream Girl Global (DGG) Founder, Precious Oladokun

Starting from the 25​th​ of October to the 31​st​ 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.

Visit: Tribe XX Lab & I GO TALK

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