Seipati Mokhuoa – CEO Southern African Women In Leadership (SAWIL), Gender Equality Advocate and Strategist. She believes Self-leadership is the foundation of excellence. Her organisation supports and enables seasoned female professionals to realise their true potential irrespective of age, race, religion, background, etc. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Seipati talks about her entrepreneurship journey and how she’s leading the transformation and gender equality initiatives across Southern Africa with SAWIL. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you tell us about South African Women in Leadership (SAWIL) and the gap its filling?
Seipati: SAWIL is an organisation established in 2014 for women in leadership as well as aspirant leaders. The membership composition is made up of supervisory, management, senior leadership and executive roles within the Southern African Leadership framework. We’ve spent the past 5 years doing research and understanding some of the underlying influences, legacy issues and overall lack of appetite to address the vast and incessant gap which exists in terms of skills retention, leadership development, executive coaching, gender parity and equality in the workplace. A global phenomenon we feel we are more than equipped to address through our campaign #SAWILVision2030.
We support and enable seasoned professionals (women) to realise their true potential irrespective of age, race, religion, background – each woman’s contribution still remains critical to the relevance of our ‘present-day’ society and the advancement of the African economy.We also have golf days, where the social (and therapeutic) aspects of golf is discovered. This pastime is a wonderful tool to encourage networking and opens the pathways to endless opportunities.
Alaba: Have you always been entrepreneurial? What sparked your interest into founding SAWIL?
Seipati: Yes, definitely! My late dad was an entrepreneur. I remember back in High school I used to negotiate with him to take some of the stock from his businesses to sell at school and he profusely repudiated no matter how many times I tried. His argument was that it would distract me from my school work. However, in Grade 10 – two of my favorite teachers (Business Management and Biblical Studies) put money together and bought boxes of “champions” sweets and sent me on my entrepreneurial journey. The agreement was that it would be our little secret because they saw and understood the entrepreneurial hunger in me. We did this until Grade 12 (Final Year of High School) – and oh, I passed both subjects with distinctions.
The birth of SAWIL was a mere response to the challenges I faced as a young Woman in Leadership in one of the most untransformed regions of our country post-Apartheid. My first leadership role was at the age of twenty four, 10 years ago. I think it’s safe to say I was one of the Guinea pigs of Leadership transformation in the organization, more specifically in our division. The top performers, even to this date – are white males. Seeing the lack of women in boardrooms as I climbed the corporate ladder opened my eyes to a sad reality with reference to gender parity and equality in the workplace. So, I began my research. As a result, the solutions we offer at SAWIL are both research based and lived experiences.
Alaba: Recently SAWIL Golf was confirmed as the official host of the international women’s golf day representing Africa. How do you feel and can you share more on this?
Seipati: I am obviously ecstatic about this amazing opportunity to showcase and represent our beautiful continent but due to the unfortunate Coronavirus outbreak, we might have to postpone to a later date. The #WomensGolfDay is a global event where women from all walks of life come together to play golf on the same date at over 900 locations worldwide. SAWIL Golf applied to be the Africa host and as God would have it, we were approved.
What makes it even more significant is that the event is usually hosted by Golf clubs. We don’t own a golf course, however, we are the fasted growing women’s social golf club in SA and that makes us stand out. So if there are any investors out there keen on funding Africa’s first female owned golf course – call me?! I have the perfect spot! (Giggles)
Alaba: If any, what challenges have you experienced as a woman in business?
Seipati: To be honest, I haven’t really had it as tough as most African entrepreneurs do. I only left my job in late 2018 and was smart enough to make some good investments which basically take care of my month to month needs. I do however fully understand some of the biggest challenges most entrepreneurs in the continent face such as access to funding and markets hence, we as SAWIL, are in the process of launching a fund to assist women entrepreneurs in the continent to take advantage of the level playing field that is 4IR.
Alaba: What are some of your biggest achievements since you launched SAWIL?
Seipati: Our decision to expand to South African Development Community (SADC) and the warm reception thus far. SAWIL Golf was launched in 2018 but has become a great pillar of the organization. The launch of our research based solution under #SAWILVision2030 and the inaugural launch of Southern African Women In Leadership Top 30 rising stars.
Alaba: Why do you think it’s important that we make equality a priority and what would women bring to the table that you think the world needs now?
Seipati: Research suggests that women in executive positions and on corporate boards can have a positive impact on a company’s performance, that diverse C-suites tend to yield higher margins, bigger profits, and better total return to shareholders.
At SAWIL, we are cognizant of the new wave of leadership that is illuminating the world: they are young, bold, smart, fluid, disruptive, global citizens who have mastered the art of collaboration. As part of the #SAWILVision2030 campaign, rather than using traditional models, we invite women to be part of a new, more collaborative approach to leadership. Rakhi Voria once said “While we may be individually strong, we are collectively powerful.”
In this age of disruption, we cannot continue to sit on the side-lines and wait for someone to invite us to the table. I want to encourage women today to take their power back and start putting their money where their mouth is. There’s a generation of young women rising. They are fearless, intelligent, bold, entrepreneurial and overall global trendsetters. But even these women do not yet fully own their power.
Women continue to be discriminated against and their contributions undervalued, they work more, earn less and have fewer choices about their bodies, livelihood and future than men. But what if we realised our power and influence and used it accordingly and where it matters most?
#SAWILVision2030 is a decade long campaign calling on all women to be at the forefront of creating women empowered workplaces, where equality, diversity and inclusion are not mere conversations in boardrooms full of white males, a few men of colour and a woman here and there. We need to put our money where our mouth is. Be intentional about where you bank, buy your car, house, which medical aid you use, which insurance company you’re with, where you buy your phone(gadgets), clothes, food, which service provider you are with, schools etc.
This is a call for all women to take action. What most companies have done very well is to appoint just enough women into entry level jobs, mid management and somewhat senior management but decision making roles are locked and the glass ceiling only has a few cracks here and there. Ours is to shutter it!!! The time for women to stand together is now.
Alaba: As we celebrate the International Women’s Day 2020, what are your expectations?
Seipati: My expectations are the same as the past decade or longer. We need more women in decision making roles. Corporate or business must step up and make gender parity or equality, diversity and inclusion part of their strategy. Our economies depend on it!
Alaba: What’s the future for SAWIL and what steps are you taking towards achieving it?
Seipati: To be at the forefront of leadership transformation and gender equality initiatives across Southern Africa. We have the strategy and are ready to serve. What we need is for the private sector to open its doors. We will not stop knocking until we see change.
Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?
Seipati: I am very excited at the prospects of the future. There is an uprising happening. Young, woke African entrepreneurs are emerging everywhere and they are ready to maximize on the opportunities the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) presents. We are no longer just beneficiaries. We are innovators, disrupters and pioneers!
Alaba: Kindly give a piece of advice for aspiring female leaders reading this.
Seipati: Self-leadership is the foundation of excellence. Take time to invest in yourself. Growth and change are constants on this journey, so practice patience and compassion at all times. Remember, no one is going to hand you anything – get up, grind and get what’s yours. We don’t get what we deserve; we get what we ask for. If there is no seat at the table, create your own table.
B I O G R A P H Y
Seipati Mokhuoa is a seasoned professional with over 10 years’ experience in the Financial Services industry. She built her way up in the banking sector as a teller, multiskilled consultant and builds her way up. And later transitioned to the Insurance sector where the vast majority of her responsibilities involved providing leadership and strategy in terms of the execution of the larger organization’s strategy, sales and productivity, budget control, people management, stakeholder relations (internal and external), operational support, innovation, infrastructure, HR and IT.
In 2018, she took a bold step to change careers and began to position herself to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by 4IR. A passionate strategist and innovator by nature, the digital marketing space appealed to her and presented various opportunities she believes will shape and change the face of marketing in the African continent.
Seipati is a serial and passionate social entrepreneur who believes that the “future of work” is going to unlock greater opportunities for young African entrepreneurs and innovators. Currently pursuing a Masters/Msc in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, she aims to encourage and empower more young people to take entrepreneurship seriously and take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.
Edith Njage: My Letter to fellow Female CEOs
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.
Interview with a Polyglot: Favour Chisimdi Nwobodo, Founder Empress Linguistics Services
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.
Eficaz Movers CEO, Ben Imara on his journey into entrepreneurship and the untapped moving industry
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
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.
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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