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Interview With The Founder and CEO BINTI AFRIQUE, Risper Opiyo

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Risper A. Opiyo is the Founder and CEO of BINTI AFRIQUE, a beauty and cosmetics company. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, she is a budding entrepreneur currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business Administration at the United States International University Africa. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Risper shares her passion for fashion, entrepreneurship and how her brand is impacting her community and her plans to penetrate the East African market with her products. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Kindly tell us about your business and the role you play.

Risper: I had great passion for fashion and started BINTI AFRIQUE. I did most first runway show in MARCH 2015 and that’s how my entrepreneurial journey started. I have been on and off the runway and in 2018 I opened up a beauty and cosmetic shop  with little savings that I got which was hardly enough and I had to raise the funds on my own. I had run out of options I tried borrowing from friends and family only to end up being ignored. I felt deeply hurt but I didn’t give up.

My role as a CEO is to allocate capital for the business operations and this is one hectic affair. Most banks are afraid of putting their money into startups and the whole process is like climbing Mount Everest. Apart from raising capital, my job is to make sure the products are 100% natural and do what they are meant to do. I also have to set strategy and direction for the company and model the company’s structure.

 

Alaba: What was your startup capital and how were you able to raise it?

Risper: I invested $375, funds that I got from my mum and uncle in the name of school project. This were funds for the fashion label and in 2018 when I opened the Beauty and cosmetics shop, All attempt to borrow money failed and I kept asking myself what shall I do? A few days later as I was heading home, I came up with a great idea on how I was going to raise funds in order to purchase stocks for the beauty shop, I started a self˗help savings group for small business within my neighborhood. I approached 20 small business men and women who were just shopkeepers, cyber café owners, boutique owners and other ran small restaurants. I sold them the idea of us putting our money together that $2 per day and within 7 days we give it to one member until the whole rotation was complete.

Luckily for me 15 agreed and the total amount I got within that week was $210. With this sum, I was ready to take over the world. The business started picking up slowly then all of a sudden the government banned the use of some cosmetics body creams, soaps and lotions which were proved to contain traces of mercury and hydroquinone which may lead to skin cancer in the long run. I and other beauty business had no other choice but to dispatch those creams as fast as we could or else we could face a long jail term or even risked paying a huge fine. Day after day customers came streaming in and were asking for better substitutes for the harmful creams they were using and I had to do a research .

This was where I saw a great opportunity right before my eyes and grabbed it with my own hands and ran with it. My idea was to make the best alternative body cosmeceutical creams using organic ingredients. And there LUXE INDULGENCE BY BINTI AFRIQUE was born. Our first generation products have been luxurious Face masks, Beauty soaps, whipped body butter and chebe hair products. Our products helps in solving beauty problems like pimples, acne, rashes, uneven skin tone, dark spots and age spots. Also we offer solutions for hair loss, thin hair and hairline problems which millions and millions of African women are seeking solutions for.

 

Alaba: What are the challenges and how are you overcoming them?

Risper: This challenges started while I was growing up.  I was raised by a single mother after the death of my dad in 2002. It was a struggle seeing us through school but I was determined to leave a legacy behind. This kept pushing me forward to being a better version of myself.

The company has faced so many challenges just like any other. Lack of enough capital is a great pain in the neck as it always slows down the business. Sometimes compensating my team is a problem and at one time this shook the stability of the company. I had to think outside the box and wrote an agreement that the team will be paid 30% commission on every sale they make as the company cannot still forfeit salary yet.

Another challenge is that the market is super saturated with well-established and upcoming competitors who slightly under price the products and this gets so frustrating. However, we are doing research and developing our “hero” product something that the market would love. Another notable challenge is limited working space and warehouse. We operate our business at my mum’s small backyard as it is rent free but comes with lots of limitations in the production process.

 

Alaba: How is your business contributing to the development of Africa?

Risper: BINTI AFRIQUE is slowly and surely contributing to the development of Africa in the following ways:

Creating jobs for the youth. Unemployment is a crisis in Africa and we have more jobless graduates coming into the job market every year. In Kenya alone we have 4.3 million unemployed graduates between the age of 21 to 35, this is according to Kenya integrated household budget survey. We have employed 3 hardworking youth who are part time students. Africa needs more job creators than job seekers and if we could push and squeeze the Entrepreneurship narrative into the Education system right from elementary school, then unemployment rate could soon trickle down.

 

Alaba: What’s your view on the development of Africa business ecosystem?

Risper: My view on the development of AFRICA BUSINESS ECOSYSTEM is that for business to thrive and Africa to thrive, we need to squash all the trade barriers within the region and to implement the use of a single homogenous currency within the continent. With this currency Africa will stop relying on foreign currency for development and trade. Imagine Africa with free movement of persons, capital, foods and services.

At the AFRICA E˗COMMERCE WEEK 2018, organized by UNCATD, where I was a delegate, a lot has to be done for Africa to realize its development growth in line with Agenda 2063ː The Africa we want. First of all, in order for us to trade we need to produce. We have to improve our productive capacity, physical infrastructure as well as interconnectivity before we can expand digital trade. If we do not do these, we will still be open and aggressively relying on more imports from outside our continent .this in turn destroys jobs, decimate MSMEs and distort development.

Alaba: Where do you see your business in 5 years and what steps are you taking to achieve them?

Risper: In 5 years’ time I see BINTI AFRIQUE making its foot print in East Africa, supplying our products to Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda etc. as the East Africa Community will be one single trade block which will ease trade among its country members. We will also launch our organic cosmetic line consisting of natural lip balm, lipsticks, pressed powder and face foundations. The steps that we are taking to achieve these are, looking for an investor who will be willing to come in and share his/her expertise, network and of course the funds that will stir the company in the right direction and achieve its full potential.

We are working on online campaigns that create awareness on the dangers of using cosmetics products which are made from chemicals and to telling the consumer on the best alternative which are cruelty free. We want to constantly innovate and embrace Artificial Intelligence in every aspect of our business.

Also Read Interview With Mall for Africa Founder and CEO, Chris Folayan

Alaba: What advice will you give prospecting entrepreneurs who intend to start a business or invest in Africa?

Risper: The advice I would give to potential entrepreneurs is entrepreneurship is not a get rich quick scheme. You do not plant a seed and expect to eat the fruits that same day…you have to exercise patience, persistence, constantly innovate and adapt to the shifts in consumer attention.

 

Alaba: What inspires you and keeps you going?

Risper: My inspiration comes from our continent AFRICA, we got a great potential that most of us do not see. By 2050 our population is projected to grow from 1.2 billion to 2.2 billion. Africa is a young ‘nation’ with untapped resources and potential, if only we could get the kind of leaders who are passionate enough to drive the continent into being a powerful global economy we would be talking of different story right now.. if we didn’t have the potential, global companies like google, Facebook etc would not establish their base here  and china as an investor would not have spent a dime on this continent.

 

Alaba: How do you relax and what books do you read?

Risper: I take a day off my week just to go for nature walks in the park and visualize my week ahead and meditate on my present and future. I also love reading motivational and inspirational books written my renowned business men. On top of my list is Rich dad, poor dad series books by Robert Kiyosaki, I am a fan of Donald trump and have read his books too. Currently I am reading Girl wash your face by Rachel Hollis and looking forward to reading Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Her Short Biography:

My name is RISPER ACHEING OPIYO, born and raised in NAIROBI, KENYA. I am 26 years old and pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in international Business Administration at the United States International University Africa. I am a budding entrepreneur and a passionate youth leader.  I have always been a book fan and that is why my educational journey has not been that tough.

My achievements so far include, starting INUA FUNDI initiative meant for the Kenya fashion industry which aim was to put funds together and be able to boost individual talents and later on opened our doors to small businesses. I have been a delegate at African summit on Entrepreneurship and Innovation (ASENTI) SINCE 2014. I have also been a delegate to the 1st AFRICAN E˗COMMERCE WEEK by UNCTAD held at the UN Offices in Nairobi which was a remarkable experience. In 2018 I got an award for being a great sponsor to youth empowerment activities. My company sponsored this year’s House of legacy Awards, an event recognizing and celebrating youth talents in fashion, entertainment and entrepreneurship. I am also a member of Ideal Democratic and Economic Party (IDEP) a newly formed political party by youth in Kenya.

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Defendis, a Moroccan startup launches its cyber threat intelligence platform at GITEX Africa

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Defendis Co-Founders (Image: Supplied).

Defendis, a Moroccan cybersecurity startup with an innovative approach to Threat Intelligence, emerges from stealth with the launch of its AI-powered platform, enabling organisations to proactively contain data leaks and neutralise cyberattacks.

Defendis’s approach goes beyond traditional IOCs by providing Banks, Government Agencies, and Businesses the capability to understand what cybercriminals are doing before an attack. The platform taps into AI to identify credentials and payment Cards leaks, asset vulnerabilities, phishing attacks, fraudulent domains, and online brand impersonation attempts.

“Our mission is to provide organisations, especially those with limited resources and capabilities, with advanced cybersecurity solutions to adapt to the ever-changing threat landscape and regulatory requirements,” says Amine Bajeddi, co-founder and CEO of Defendis.

Defendis is founded and led by a team of talented young Moroccan entrepreneurs passionate about cybersecurity:

Amine Bajeddi, Co-founder and CEO: A graduate of Al Akhawayn University in Morocco and the University of Sussex in the UK, Amine Bajeddi has extensive experience in product development and business strategy. He is now dedicated to Defendis to develop cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions.

Charafeddine Nassiri, Co-founder and CTO: Passionate about cybersecurity since the age of 15, Charafeddine Nassiri is a brilliant self-taught individual. Having identified and fixed over 1,114 vulnerabilities through bug bounty programs, he was able to launch his career as a cybersecurity consultant in 2019. Today, as CTO of Defendis, he leads the development of new solutions capable of transforming the cybersecurity landscape.

Marouane Sabri, Co-founder and CMO: A graduate in communication from Al Akhawayn University in Morocco and a master’s degree in digital marketing from the University of Southampton, Marouane Sabri has extensive experience in marketing and business development. He has held key positions at Avito and Garena before joining Defendis to lead marketing and communication efforts.

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RevUp Women Initiative Awards $100,000 In Grants to 10 Female Entrepreneurs

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The RevUp Women Initiative hosted its highly anticipated Business Showcase, themed “Investing in Women, Inspiring Futures.” The event, organized by AfriLabs and Visa Foundation, brought together a diverse array of stakeholders committed to fostering inclusive economic growth through the empowerment of women entrepreneurs.

The Opening Ceremony, guided by Nanko Madu, Director of Programmes at AfriLabs, commenced with a warm welcome address, setting the tone for the day’s proceedings. Attendees were treated to a visual journey through the accomplishments of RevUp Women’s First Cohort, showcased in captivating highlights.

A highlight of the event was the Keynote Address delivered by Mrs. Ifeyinwa Ighodalo, Co-founder at WIMBIZ, who passionately spoke about the importance of investing in women and the transformative impact it can have on communities and economies.

‘It is my distinct honor and privilege to stand before you today as we gather to celebrate the remarkable achievements of women entrepreneurs and to rally behind the RevUp Women Initiative. This initiative not only celebrates the indomitable spirit, resilience, and determination of women in general but also highlights the importance of investing in women and women-owned businesses as a means of building and inspiring a future that is inclusive, diverse, and prosperous for all,’ stated Mrs. Ifeyinwa Ighodalo, Co-founder at WIMBIZ.

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Following the keynote, a thought-provoking Panel Discussion ensued, moderated by Nanko Madu, focusing on “Fostering Inclusive Growth Through Women’s Economic Participation.” The panel featured esteemed personalities including Ms. Lilian Olubi, Judge at The Next Titan Nigeria; Ms. Hajara Pitan, Wealth Coach & Business Strategist at Audacity to Soar; Sherifah Balogun, Director of Strategy, Funding, and Stakeholder Management at LSETF; and Annabel Angwenyi, Founder at Ziada. Their insights illuminated pathways for enhancing women’s economic empowerment across the continent.

Engagement continued with a lively Question & Answer session, allowing attendees to interact directly with the panelists and delve deeper into key issues surrounding women’s economic participation. The pinnacle of the event was the much-anticipated Award Ceremony, where the top ten finalists of a comprehensive selection process were announced as winners each receiving a grant of 10,000 USD:

  • Baby Grubz (Lagos, Nigeria).
  • Queen Amina Medical Integration (Abuja, Nigeria).
  • Ecokud Limited (Kisumu, Kenya).
  • Ziada, Kele Makgale (Pty) Ltd (Nairobi Kenya).
  • Ndiqala (PTY) Ltd (Johannesburg, South Africa).
  • WaziEats (Douala, Cameroon).
  • V’s VitaLife (Yaounde, Cameroon).
  • Mali Food (Lubumbashi, DRC).
  • P.aktion (Kinshasa, DRC).

The awards celebrated the resilience, innovation, and dedication of these trailblazing entrepreneurs.

“Investing in women isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s a strategic decision with far-reaching economic benefits.  As we strive for inclusive growth, it’s imperative that we recognize and harness the potential of women as drivers of economic development,” emphasized Nanko Madu, Director of Programmes at AfriLabs.

“Despite the challenges women entrepreneurs face, they demonstrate an unparalleled tenacity and determination to succeed,” said Najada Kumbuli, Head of Investments, Visa Foundation. “Supporting the growth of women-owned businesses is crucial for fostering an economy that works for everyone, everywhere.”

The RevUp Women Initiative Business Showcase not only celebrated the achievements of women entrepreneurs but also served as a catalyst for driving meaningful change and fostering a more inclusive and prosperous future for all.

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Link Me: Revolutionising Ride-Sharing for Gen Z In South Africa

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Link Me Founder, Sean Murefu.

In today’s fast-paced world, convenience is key, but consumers are also seeking more value from the services they use. Enter Link Me, a ride-sharing app tailored specifically for Gen Z in South Africa. Founded by 21-year-old entrepreneur Sean Murefu, Link Me is not just another ride-sharing app but a lifestyle brand on a mission to redefine urban mobility and offer an unparalleled experience to its users.

Link Me recognises that we are in an era where people expect more in return for the services they use. With a focus on providing value-added services and fostering a sense of community, Link Me aims to go beyond simply getting users from point A to point B but it’s about delivering an experience.

“At Link Me, we understand that consumers want more than just a ride,” explains Sean Murefu, the driving force behind the app. “They want value, they want convenience, and they want to feel connected. That’s why we’ve designed Link Me to offer more than just transportation. We’re offering an experience.”

One of the key features that sets Link Me apart is its user-friendly interface, making booking a ride quick and easy. With just a few taps on their smartphones, users will soon be able to access a network of reliable drivers and track their journey in real-time. Safety is also a top priority, with thorough background checks for all drivers and in-app safety features ensuring peace of mind for both riders and drivers.

But Link Me doesn’t stop at transportation. As part of its mission to become a lifestyle brand, the app will host public and private events for its users, fostering a sense of community and belonging. Additionally, Link Me will provide its drivers with a bimonthly lottery as a bonus on top of the money they earned, offering them the chance to win exciting prizes and incentives.

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“We want to give our users more than just a ride—we want to give them an unforgettable experience,” says Murefu. As Link Me prepares for its official launch, anticipation is building among prospective users eager to experience its unique blend of convenience, community, and value. With a commitment to providing exceptional service and fostering a sense of belonging, The app is poised to revolutionise urban mobility for Gen Z in South Africa and beyond.

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