Oumnia Boualam is helping African and Arab Women “do business better”
Moroccan Oumnia Boualam is an experienced Business Growth Expert and the Managing Director at Brussels Global Review (BGR). She helps Arab and African female entrepreneurs and coaches get clarity, build a personal brand and grow a successful business online. Currently, Oumnia oversees several advisory reports on key economic trends in the Middle East and Africa, helping businesses and investors get key information for their decision making process. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Oumnia Boualam talks about her corporate experience and her passion for Arab and African female entrepreneurs. Excerpt.
Alaba: To begin, could you briefly tell us about yourself and Brussels Global Review?
Oumnia: Growing up I was very shy and introverted. I never felt comfortable socialising and even dreaded going to school in Morocco (which is where I am from). That completely changed once I moved abroad at 18 to study then work in international sales and marketing. I used to work for a very demanding company selling High Ticket advertising in Emerging Countries. This meant I had to live in various countries (9 in total) and conduct on average 300 meetings per year. While this was an exhausting job, It allowed me to learn how to become adaptable and sociable in the business environment. When the pandemic started I decided to move away from this environment and start building my own business focusing on Sustainable Development and helping Africans and Arabs “do business better”.
I moved to Brussels and co-founded Brussels Global Review. We produce Sustainability reports on the MEA region for an audience of EU decision makers (here in Brussels). In parallel we have 2 signature online programs designed to help African and Arab professionals develop their digital skills, communication and confidence.
Alaba: Could you briefly share some of your experience as a corporate leader, your highs and lows?
Oumnia: Highs: Being able to see how many people I help through my social media content. Lows: Having to deal with toxic corporate culture, lack of support and judgments as a young African, woman entrepreneur.
Alaba: What is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?
Oumnia: I am most proud of the program I have created: The Digital Boss Academy. It’s going to help so many young professionals in Africa and the Middle East to leverage the digital economy to earn more.
Alaba: What are some of the strategies that you believe have helped you grow as a person?
Oumnia: I wouldn’t call it a strategy but more of a personality trait: Curiosity. Being curious and not always following outdated methods and strategies just because that’s what is being said or that’s the way it’s being done. I also strongly believe in learning from life experience rather than having prestigious degrees and that is a crucial skill in Business.
Alaba: Can you share your thoughts on Gender Inclusion in Africa and the Arab entrepreneurship ecosystem?
Oumnia: Not enough is being done to change the mindsets. There can be new regulations, new programs and so on. But if the mindsets of both men and women don’t change in terms of really considering equal opportunities for both genders then we will make very slow progress. Women are still expected to have kids and get married before having a career in our society. Some women founders are being asked what will happen to their business once they start a family. We also don’t have enough success stories to inspire and empower women to follow their dreams.
Alaba: Kindly walk us through a typical day as an entrepreneur and how do you relax?
Oumnia: Every day is different for me because I tend to get bored with routine activities. But one thing remains the same every single day from 06.00am to 09.00am I write and create content. This is the time of the day my brain is most active and also as a natural introvert I feel much more comfortable when things are quiet so I can be deeply focused.
Alaba: What advice would you give to any woman who wants to launch into entrepreneurship?
Oumnia: Starting a business is not as hard as you think if you’re willing to learn. The hard part is to overcome your fear and mindset blocks. That requires a lot of personal development work and it’s not comfortable to go through it.
Senegalese Agripreneur says digital marketing key to luxury tea startup success
Senegalese businesswoman Adja Sembene Fall said she had no choice but to launch her start-up business online because her new Contanna fair-trade tea company only had $200 to its name.
“Due to lack of finance, it was not possible to get a physical shop. We started out in the backyard of my brother’s house. We sold our teas via social media for three years,” said Fall. She says her line of luxury brand tea products is about more than taste. Fall says Contanna teas sell a “Senegalese experience” that promotes a women-owned, 100% locally sourced and processed product based on recipes infusing family and cultural traditions.
“Digitizing our buying process was really important. We were also able to present and adjust packaging of our product online, [to emphasize] it was premium and different from what was available in Senegal,” the 29-year-old added.
Contanna says its first year of operations, a focus on Instagram and its website drew $5,000 in online sales. As the online business grew, Fall said, Contanna hit $12,000 in sales and established a community of around 2,000 clients.
Contanna recently opened a pop-up stall at Dakar’s Sea Plaza shopping mall. In January, it was named a winner of the African Development Bank’s AgriPitch Competition, which supports African youth agripreneurs by improving their business bankability and ensuring that they are “pitch ready” for potential investors.
The 2022 AgriPitch competition, which started last October, received nearly 750 complete entries from entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector – or “agripreneurs” – from 38 African countries. The judging panel comprised women- led enterprise support advisory firm, Private Equity Support; the Private Financing Advisory Network, a global network of climate and clean energy financing experts; and EldoHub, an education, innovation, and technology organization targeting youth and women.
The competition, which this year awarded $140,000 in prizes, is a key activity of the Bank’s ENABLE Youth Program.
“African youth have great ideas. It was exciting to see the high level of innovation and passion from these young agripreneurs, particularly the large number of women-owned enterprises like Contanna,” said Edson Mpyisi, the Bank’s Chief Financial Economist and ENABLE Youth Coordinator.
AgriPitch organizers selected 25 semi-finalists, 68% of them women-owned or led businesses, to attend a two-week business development virtual boot camp. The boot camp culminated in a pitch session to judges, who chose 9 agripreneurs to advance to the finals.
“I was pitching in front of my shop – where customers were passing by. They were so encouraging when they discovered that [my business] is a 100% Senegalese company and especially that the founder was a woman,” said Fall. She received $25,000 as the winner in the AgriPitch competition women-owned business category.
Fall says she’ll use part of the prize money to upgrade a digital payment system and for computers and digital skills training for Contanna employees, all women.
“We don’t eschew hiring men. The women were first to apply and were qualified. They currently log their work production and stock building in paper books. We are training them to build capacity to use Google Sheets [and other digital software],” Fall said.
Contanna and the two-dozen other competition finalists will retain access to the AgriPitch “deal room” to avail of post-competition digital expertise, business development, and investor engagement.
“We look forward to working closely with the entrepreneurs in the coming months through individual business advisory support and investor engagement in the deal room,” said Diana Gichaga, Managing Partner at Private Equity Support.
Helping a friend to acquire her first home ignited my interest in real estate – Ayodeji Kehinde
Ayodeji Kehinde is a real estate entrepreneur and founder of KFAO Corporates Services, one of Nigeria’s leading real estate and brokerage firm. She prides herself in her passion and heartfelt drive to serve her clients’ best interest. Ayodeji is dedicated, knowledgeable, and committed to finding the perfect fit, whether space for residential or office/commercial, for her clientele. Naturally, she loves the subject of architecture, designs, property and environment. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Ayodeji shares her entrepreneurship journey into the real estate industry and how she is helping her clients acquire their dream properties. Excerpt.
Alaba: What makes KFAO Coroporates and Formidables standout?
Ayodeji: Integrity is key in whatever one does and that is our core value! Buying Real Estate is not like every other goods you see on the shelves you point at and you make payment. Real Estate involves Due Diligence. When you allow lack of integrity and accountability take over you as a Real Estate Service provider, then you are close to doom.
At KFAO and Formidable Corporate Partners, we are dedicated to providing world-class service and market-leading expertise to our clients. We are passionate about providing the extra value that others simply will not when it comes to due diligence with integrity and accountability.
When you approach us with your products as a developer, we do not rely on the documents cited, we go extra miles to verify and do searches on the property and where we found that the properties are in the handcuffs of government or any other encumbrance, be as it may, we back-out even when money has exchanged hands, we refund.
A whole lot of properties are out there being sold by some other brokerage firms without due diligence. Some would after finding out the property isn’t good to sell, still go ahead thereby putting investors’ funds to waste. We are not keen about what money we want to make but the security of our investors’ funds is our concern.
Alaba: What are the 3 things that excites you about the real estate industry?
Ayodeji: In simple terms; Money, Meeting people and Solving people’s housing need.
Alaba: If you had the ability to implement 3 ways to improve the industry, what would you suggest?
Ayodeji: In Nigeria, the most important document to property buyers and landowners which is the Certificate Of Occupancy , C of O as it’s called has become very difficult to get. The document is issued by the state governments in Nigeria and verifies that you own the land or property in question. Property purchased without a Certificate of Occupancy is the equivalent of purchasing a vehicle without a logbook.
As a Nigerian landowner or property owner, this is not the kind of situation you find yourself. The administration is faulted. Understanding the top skills for those that want a career in Real Estate can be helpful hence the need to get a handful of skilled labour.
If I had the opportunity to reform the Nigerian Real Estate Sector, the above are what I would face squarely and make sure I achieve them.
Alaba: Why should property buyers engage a professional realtor?
Ayodeji: You might be far out of your element when it comes to reviewing and understanding the multiple documents involved in a real estate deal. You should have a thorough understanding of what you’re getting into regardless of whether you’re buying or selling. Purchase agreements alone can top 10 pages.
A realtor will be far more familiar with all this paperwork than you are. Consider this if you’re still thinking about saving money: Some mistakes or omissions in these documents can cost you as much as that commission you were trying to avoid paying or even far more.
For those looking out to get a realtor, I’ll advise they don’t get weary of what’s going to cost them but look out for the expertise like we have in KFAO and Formidables which is a sure security for their investment.
Alaba: What are some common myths about working in your industry?
Ayodeji: “You don’t need them to get a property”. Yes you can sell your home without an agent? In fact, you can even buy a home without them. Many underestimate the value an experienced Realtor / Broker like KFAO and Formidables can bring to them.
The truth is, Realtors/Brokers have a duty to put your best interests in the transaction at the forefront. They can provide you with knowledge about the current market conditions and use their expertise to negotiate the best deal for you. You can trust us in that aspect. We ensure that you have all your ducks in a row regarding paperwork and walk you through the process.
Another myth is “If Your Home Isn’t in Great Condition, No One Will Buy It”. It’s true that some remodeling projects can increase your home’s value. But if your home is outdated or needs major repairs, it doesn’t necessarily mean no one will want to buy it. The Truth is that there are people that only buy homes that are in poor condition and require updating or major repairs. These are typically local real estate investors and professional home buyers who update and renovate properties as a business. If your current home needs some work, consider selling the property to a professional home buyer.
A common seller myth is that offering a lower commission will net more money. What this will do is cause agents with the most qualified buyers to go to the higher listed commission properties first and show the lower commission properties with less enthusiasm. The result is that fewer interested buyers will see your property and fewer cooperating brokers will show it, and the longer your property stays in the market, the more frustrated you become and you might end up selling on distress.
Alaba: How are you thriving as a real estate entrepreneur and a mum?
Ayodeji: Let’s face it, women must play many different roles at the same time. Being a mom, partner, friend, sister, daughter not to mention employee or business owner or household manager requires multitasking and prioritization skills or else you won’t be able to do it all. As a Real Estate Entrepreneur and a mother, the ability to manage my time effectively has always been my saving grace.
Alaba: What skill do you think all women should learn and why?
Ayodeji: Women today are blessed with many opportunities to explore their passions and make their mark. You can be a homemaker, lawyer, programmer, or whatever you so desire. You can get married if and when you choose, to whom you want, and have a family that takes many forms. The options abound. At the same time, though, as a woman, you can face unique challenges and barriers to getting what you want.
Financial skills to me are the most paramount I’ll want all women to have. Learning the basics of simple addition, subtraction and multiplication is essential and the reason being that this will help you with all the financial skills you need to create a household budget and live within your means, manage all resources at your disposal. Master the art and science behind investing and building your wealth. You’ll be set to live comfortably now and save for retirement.
Goal setting skills are mandatory in the business world and life. You can’t get what you want unless you envision it. Give yourself the space to dream and imagine what you want. Then, be able to identify priorities and tactical plans to make things happen.
Alaba: Do you have a specific advice for women wanting to get into real estate?
Ayodeji: What has really helped me this far as a Real Estate Entrepreneur is the fact that I had always wanted to be in a position where I could really own my time and space and drive my own business. You’re only going to be successful in real estate if you want to have the sales skills and entrepreneurial drive to build your own brand and always be available to book businesses. For every woman that wants to be a Real Estate Entrepreneur, my best advice is that they must have an inexhaustible desire to see success irrespective of the challenges encountered.
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Exclusive: Damilola Felicia Badmus, Author, “How LinkedIn Works”
Damilola Felicia Badmus is a multi-talented individual with several areas of expertise, including personal brand photography, consulting, writing, and speaking. She is also recognized as a LinkedIn Influencer.
Her main area of interest is helping people build their personal brand on LinkedIn through the effective use of images and content strategy. Damilola understands the power of visual storytelling and how it can be leveraged to create a strong and impactful presence on LinkedIn. And she strives to share this knowledge with others through her work as a photographer and consultant.
In addition, Damilola is a Nigerian based in the United Kingdom and she aim to help people effectively use LinkedIn to build their brand and reach their goals, which is evident through her book “How LinkedIn Works.”
Alaba: You recently launched your first book, “How LinkedIn Works”. What inspired this?
Damilola: The inspiration behind my book came from my desire to provide comprehensive and in-depth information to people who are seeking to understand and effectively utilize LinkedIn.
I recognized that teaching people in a one-on-one setting through masterclasses may not fully address all of their questions and concerns, so writing a book was a way for me to reach a wider audience and provide them with a comprehensive resource that they can refer to. This desire to help others understand and succeed on LinkedIn is what motivated me to write the book.
Alaba: For brands new to LinkedIn, what is the platform all about and why is it so important?
Damilola: LinkedIn is a social network platform that caters to professionals and enables them to connect, network, and showcase their work experience, education, skills, and accomplishments.
For brands, it provides a platform to reach a highly targeted audience of professionals and decision-makers and establish relationships with them by sharing relevant content and showcasing their products and services.
Additionally, it’s a crucial tool for individuals to build a strong personal brand and establish themselves as a thought leader in their industry, leading to increased visibility, credibility, and career opportunities.
Alaba: What was your process for writing this book, “How LinkedIn Works”?
Damilola: The idea to write ‘How LinkedIn Works’ came to me through the Holy Spirit, and I was encouraged by some of my friends to write it. I then took a structured approach to write the book, starting by outlining the chapters and adding subtitles to them. This allowed me to have a clear vision for what I wanted to achieve with the book and helped me to bring that vision to life in an organized and manageable way.
Alaba: What’s the most interesting reaction/feedback you’ve had about your new book?
Damilola: The most interesting feedback I’ve received about my book is that it is highly informative and easy to understand. People have appreciated the fact that they were able to learn new things about LinkedIn and that the book provides clear and self-explanatory information.
I’d also say the feedback suggests that my book is serving its purpose as a comprehensive resource for people looking to effectively use LinkedIn. It is always rewarding to hear that your hard work and efforts have had a positive impact on others.
Alaba: Which part/chapter of How LinkedIn Works was the easiest or trickiest to write?
Damilola: Chapter 3 “Create content like a pro” was the easiest and trickiest to write. This is because creating content is one of my areas of expertise therefore it was easy. However, the ability to share my knowledge and experience on this topic needed to be put in an effective and clear manner.
In this chapter, I shared my insights on how to use content pillars to create compelling content on LinkedIn and generate ideas for posts that will engage your target audience. By breaking down this often-challenging aspect of using LinkedIn into manageable steps, I made it easier for readers to understand and implement the advice I was providing.
Alaba: What do you hope to achieve with this book?
Damilola: My goal for this book is to help individuals and brands effectively use LinkedIn to build their personal brand, establish their presence and authority in their industry, and reach their professional goals. By providing comprehensive and actionable advice on how to navigate LinkedIn, I hope to empower others to succeed on the platform.
Alaba: Do you have a favourite social media platform? What and why?
Damilola: My favourite social media platform is LinkedIn, and the reason for this is its opportunities for self-expression through writing and its positive and inspiring community. One of the key ways I have leveraged this community is by organizing three successful networking events in Nigeria.
Through these events, I have had the chance to meet with over 100 individuals and connect with like-minded individuals who share my interests and values. I find LinkedIn to be a powerful tool in supporting my professional goals and helping me build my personal brand and establish myself as a thought leader in my field.
Alaba: As a LinkedIn Influencer yourself, how has the platform added value to your growth?
Damilola: As a LinkedIn Influencer, the platform has played a significant role in my growth by providing me with a platform to share my expertise and knowledge with a wide audience. By leveraging the power of LinkedIn, I have been able to build my personal brand, establish myself as a thought leader in my field, connect with individuals who share my interests and values and help brands bring their products/services to the face of my audience.
Through writing and sharing content on LinkedIn, I have been able to demonstrate my expertise and knowledge, and engage with a growing community of followers and supporters. This has helped me to establish credibility and authority in my field and has opened up new opportunities for me to connect and collaborate with others.
Additionally, LinkedIn has provided me with valuable insights and data on my audience and the impact of my content, which has helped me to refine my approach and improve my results over time. The platform’s emphasis on professional networking and connection has also been invaluable, allowing me to build meaningful relationships with individuals and organizations in my field.
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Alaba: Lastly, your advice to new entrants to the platform or those still navigating their way?
Damilola: For new entrants to LinkedIn or those still navigating their way, my advice is to focus on building a strong personal brand. Start by crafting a compelling and accurate profile that showcases your skills, experience, and values, and be sure to include a professional headshot and background image.
Next, start connecting with individuals and organizations in your field and find people with hashtags. Consistently share valuable and relevant content, whether it be your own original content or content from others that you have curated and added your own thoughts too. This will help you establish yourself as a thought leader and build your authority in your field.
Another key aspect to success on LinkedIn is to network, network, network! Reach out to people you admire and want to learn from, and actively engage with others by commenting and liking their posts. Collaborating with others on LinkedIn can lead to new opportunities, mutually beneficial relationships, and even new business ventures.
Finally, be patient and persistent. Building a strong personal brand and establishing yourself as An influencer on LinkedIn takes time and effort, but the rewards are well worth it. Stay focused on your goals, be consistent in your efforts, and never stop learning and growing. The possibilities on LinkedIn are endless, and with the right approach, you can achieve great success on the platform.