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Nkechi Alade: Redefining Consulting for African Startups

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Nkechi Alade, Principal Business Consultant at Elvaridah, is passionate about driving business development and consultancy to empower potential and existing businesses across all levels. Her entrepreneurial spirit and belief in Africa’s transformative power inspire her to help individuals discover their true talents and monetize their passions. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online (BAO), Nkechi speaks on how she is working closely with entrepreneurs launch and scale their businesses. She also shared more light on the upcoming Elvaridah Business Hangout. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about Elvaridah and the solutions you offer?

Nkechi: Elvaridah is a business consulting firm with a primary focus of building businesses by working closely with individuals and business owners to help them start, grow and launch business to achieve set goals and objectives. Our team is made up of smart, dedicated, and driven people who are committed to delivering great results for our clients. Our Consulting Services focus on key areas such as business growth, strategy, planning, marketing, structure, and people management. We help companies align their costs with their strategic goals and optimize all aspects of their business. 

Alaba: Can you throw more light on how Elvaridah is providing these solutions to businesses of various sizes?

Nkechi: We work closely with small to medium businesses to develop customized strategies for business expansion. This includes analyzing their current market position, identifying growth opportunities, and implementing effective business strategies. We also help with people management to build high-performing teams that can support their growth trajectory. We adapt our services to ensure maximum value and impact for each client. 

Alaba: On the 29th of June, Elvaridah will be hosting the Elvaridah Business Hangout for business owners. Tell us more about this event and the inspiration behind the theme: “Winning in Today’s Economy”.

Nkechi: The Elvaridah Business Hangout was specifically organized for entrepreneurs, recognizing the dynamic nature of the current economy. In these ever-changing times, it is crucial to discuss and explore strategies for success. We chose the theme “Winning in Today’s Economy” to highlight the need for adaptability and resilience.

The Hangout will provide entrepreneurs with actionable insights, practical knowledge, and an opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals. By focusing on the “how” and the “who,” we aim to empower business owners to navigate the current economic landscape and succeed in their ventures.

Alaba: What do you intend to achieve with this event and would you like to share your speakers lineup?

Nkechi: The Elvaridah Business Hangout is more than just a one-time event – it’s about creating a community of businesses that goes beyond June 29th. Our goal is to establish a network where businesses can connect, collaborate, and support each other. Imagine having access to a pool of businesses that can provide advice, strategies, and insights whenever you need them. 

We’re excited to feature some amazing speakers at the event. Yemi Faseun, Chief Talent Officer at YF Talent Partners, is an HR expert with extensive knowledge in talent management and leadership transformation. Funto Ibuoye, Managing Director of Five28, is known for her innovative strategies that have led to remarkable success. Lastly, Ireayo Oladunjoye, MD & CEO of Endeavor Nigeria, has a proven track record of driving growth and fostering innovation. Attendees can expect to gain practical advice, actionable strategies, and valuable connections from these industry leaders. 

It’s an excellent opportunity to learn from their success stories and become inspired.

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Alaba: What are your thoughts on gender inclusion in Africa’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem? How much progress have we made?

Nkechi: While progress has been made, there is still work to be done to achieve full gender equality.

It’s great to see more organizations pushing for women’s involvement in entrepreneurship. More women entrepreneurs, leaders, and innovators are emerging and making significant contributions to various industries across Africa. However, there are still challenges that hinder gender inclusion, such as societal norms, limited resources, funding gaps, and cultural biases. These barriers restrict their access to networks, mentorship, capital, and growth opportunities. To measure progress, we must evaluate women’s representation in leadership roles, decision-making processes, and access to investment and support networks.

To further advance gender inclusion, we must create an enabling environment that provides equal opportunities, promotes mentorship and skills development, and addresses systemic biases. Collaboration among governments, private sector entities, academia, and civil society is crucial in creating policies, programs, and initiatives that support and empower women entrepreneurs. Celebrating and supporting the achievements of women entrepreneurs, breaking down barriers, and providing equal opportunities can foster an inclusive ecosystem that benefits society as a whole.

Alaba: Aside from the new Startup Act, what else can the government do to make the environment more friendly for businesses and startups?

Nkechi: There are many ways that governments can help create a better environment for businesses and startups to succeed, in addition to implementing the new Startup Act. One important step is to simplify regulations and reduce administrative burdens, which can make it easier for entrepreneurs to get their businesses up and running.

Governments can also help by establishing venture capital funds and other financing options that are friendly to startups. It’s also important to invest in education and training programs that focus on entrepreneurship, as well as to develop infrastructure and build strong partnerships with private sector organizations and other stakeholders. Protecting intellectual property and promoting international trade can also be helpful in supporting the growth of startups.

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

Nkechi: Looking ahead to the next five years, the startup ecosystem is poised for tremendous growth and influence. While it’s difficult to predict exactly how things will unfold, there are several factors that will shape the landscape. With ongoing economic prosperity and advancements in technology, there are plenty of opportunities to take intentional and strategic steps toward driving development and making a global impact. 

By promoting innovation, supporting entrepreneurship education, and creating an environment that’s conducive to startups, we can expect to see more collaboration, the emergence of game-changing technologies, and the scaling of innovative ventures. The startup ecosystem has the potential to fuel economic growth, create jobs, and tackle some of society’s biggest challenges, making it a crucial player in shaping the future of industries and economies.

Alaba: How would you describe your leadership style, and what books do you read?

Nkechi: As a leader, I believe that it’s important to adjust my leadership style based on the needs of different individuals and teams. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to effective leadership. For my management team, I focus on giving guidance, delegating tasks, and creating an environment of trust and collaboration. With junior staff, I strive to be a leader who listens, supports their growth, and encourages them to unleash their potential. I think having the right people around me is key to bringing out the best in my leadership abilities. 

When it comes to books, I’m a fan of exploring different genres. Right now, I’m really enjoying “Disruptive Thinking” by TD Jakes. It’s a great read that offers valuable insights on perseverance, resilience, and mindset. I haven’t finished it yet, but I’d definitely recommend it to anyone looking for inspiration and practical advice on achieving success. 

Alaba: What’s your advice to every startup CEO, especially in Africa?

Nkechi: Be open to learning, growing, and exploring new ideas. Even if you’re already an expert in your industry and have a solid plan for your startup, there’s always room for improvement and new insights. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, seek out mentors and experts who can guide you along the way, and make use of the many resources available to support your journey. By adopting a mindset of continuous learning and curiosity, you’ll be well on your way to success.

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Harris M: Keeping the craftsmanship alive through African fabrics

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Harris M was created by Congolese entrepreneur Harris Mayoukou, Harris M. is a young fashion and accessories brand inspired by the bustling streets of Château Rouge, a colourful district of Paris. This project is above all a family story that begins with a sewing machine belonging to the great uncles of the designer in Congo. A machine that was offered to his father in the 70s and that the latter offered him in turn at the launch of the brand. Moreover, she still uses it today in the production of pieces in her Parisian workshop. 

Coming from a family of artists and talented couturiers, Harris was keen to carry on this family legacy through his brand Harris M. She makes it a point of honor to take only fabrics produced in Africa in order to support the crafts and printing works still present. The brand offers accessories and casual wear mixed clothing, comfortable and quality. The founder defines the brand in 3 words: KANDA which means family in lari. Because she wanted to perpetuate one of her father’s first jobs. 

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Harris took her first classes in a very small workshop in Montreuil in order to keep this practice in the family and keep this precious link. Then PASSION because all the pieces are made according to the desires and the favorites. Finally ETHICAL, because it tries to ensure that small craftsmen, whether they are in France or in Africa, continue to be paid at the right price

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APINAPI is reducing waste and supporting the autonomy of women

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APINAPI is a social business focused on zero waste and symbolizes the meeting between France and Senegal. It all began in 2010, when Marina Gning and Jeanne-Aurélie Delaunay founded the company APINAPI in Paris, with the aim of democratizing washable diapers and natural baby products. After 10 years working in the cinema industry, they wanted to raise awareness about washable nappies and natural care products for babies.

During her travels in Senegal with her husband, Marina finds that the products she offers in France are perfectly suited for Senegal. Indeed, she sees how plastic waste litters the streets of the country, especially disposable diapers. These, which were a few years ago a “luxury product”, have become very accessible with the arrival of low-end brands.

These layers, of poor quality, give irritation and are not reliable. The family budget is reduced and women with low incomes use a single diaper for their baby all day! By offering washable diapers to her sister-in-law in Dakar, Marina sees how much easier her life is: less redness, less expense, less waste. In addition, the diapers were a great success with the friends of the young mother.

The trigger is born from there. What if these washable diapers were the solution? In 2015, she got fully into the project with her partner, her husband and Marianne Varale. The team was born, and in 2016 Marina and her husband decided to sell their apartment in France to settle in Senegal and launch ApiAfrique.

Today, ApiAfrique is a Senegalese social enterprise, which offers innovative, local and environmentally friendly solutions for the hygiene of women and babies. Its vision is to promote sustainable solutions that contribute to women’s empowerment, waste reduction, the fight against exclusion and job creation.

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Meet French-Senegalese mothers after black babies

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Douce mélanine Founders

N’dioba DIONGUE and Astou diongue, two French-Senegalese mothers have both had bad experiences with baby cosmetics products that contain potentially dangerous or allergenic substances. Looking for a solution, they found out that products adapted to black and mixed-race children can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

Following these bad personal experiences, they decide to react and remedy them by offering healthy products, especially for babies. This is  because they are fragile. The beginnings were not simple: market research, business plan, search for formulators, etc. It took several months before they could find a lab to work with. Not being in the trade, they also had to train in formulation. 

Douce mélanine was born in 2018, with the aim of offering a range of care products with 98% natural ingredients, traditionally used in Africa for baby care. The goal is to transmit care rituals with products from the African pharmacopoeia. For example, we can find touloucouna oil, with unsuspected virtues which is relaxing and is used in Africa for infant massage. A necessary return to the roots, to allow babies to enjoy all the benefits of this treatment with ancestral oils. 

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Then in 2020, as for many entrepreneurs, the coronavirus came knocking on the doorbell. After several questioning and restructuring, they decided to stay the course. New tests are carried out, formulas are retouched, and the adventure resumes in 2021 to never stop. Today, Douce Mélanine has made her way and has found her place in many bathrooms all over the world.

DOUCE MÉLANINE fights every day to offer mothers products with healthy compositions. Its products are formulated and manufactured by a French laboratory certified Ecocert and COSMOS. Without perfumes, tested under dermatological control and composed of ingredients from the African pharmacopoeia, babies will appreciate its care which will bring softness, hydration and relaxation.

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