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.
Women in Healthcare Innovation: Funmilola Aderemi on Building Pharmarun
Funmilola Aderemi is a product manager with over 9 years of experience in technology. She is currently the co-founder and Chief Product Officer of Pharmarun, a Lagos-based healthtech startup simplifying the parts of pharmacy that are complicated, cumbersome, and time-consuming. In this exclusive interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, Funmilola talks about her entrepreneurship journey and her passion for building technologies and innovating to make businesses scale. Excerpt.
Alaba: Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
Funmilola: My name is Funmilola Aderemi and I am the chief product manager and co-founder of Pharmarun. Before founding Pharmarun in 2021, I worked in Seamfix LTD, a cutting-edge tech company focusing on identity management, Jumia Nigeria in the early to hyper-growth days as well as MAX, the first mobility tech company in Nigeria.
As a product manager, I have worked on various projects, from creating new products for existing customers to launching new products for new markets. I have also worked with clients on everything from brand identity to customer experience and product development.
Having started my career in customer experience at Jumia Nigeria gave me the opportunity to develop myself as an excellent problem solver when it comes to finding ways to improve products or services that can benefit both internal customers and external clients.
I enjoy getting out and about with friends and travelling but my favourite thing to really do is work with other people to find solutions to problems. Yes, even in my leisure time, I like to work. I love what I do because it helps me connect with people and solve problems on a level that no other job can.
Alaba: Tell us about Pharmarun – Where, When and how did it start?
Funmilola: Pharmarun is a platform enabling fast and easy access to medication by providing the largest medication and health supply inventory in Africa and aggregating finance and logistics partners so that customers can get medication, when and where they need it.
Pharmarun is actually the brainchild of my co-founder(CEO) and Bestfriend Teniola Adedeji (B.Pharm). She worked in the retail pharmacy space for over 9 years and noticed a huge gap when it came to how people conveniently accessed medication and generally managed their health.
Teniola started this Solo and I worked on it casually with her as a friend before she asked me to come onboard officially only a few months in. We launched July 2021.
Alaba: What products do you offer and how are you funding your growth?
Funmilola: We offer pharmacies alternative revenue lines when they are onboard with us. A 360 pharmaceutical and first aid service to users by providing
- Easy medication purchase. This could be one time or recurring.
- Health management through recurring deliveries, interaction checkers, Home testing,Virtual consultations with licensed professionals
- We offer a range of health bundles.
Alaba: How did you become an innovator in healthcare?
Funmilola: Generally, I like to solve problems. Particularly complex problems. It just excites me. When my cofounder came to me with this problem she was trying to solve, I wanted to contribute as a friend. We just continued to ideate on the problem and possible solutions. Let’s say I fell in love with the problem and became passionate about doing my part to fix it.
Did you know Nigeria has about 5,000 registered pharmacies with almost 50% just in Lagos and Abuja. Someone has to care about the rest of the nation. It’s always about solving a problem for me, and this one is life threatening.
Alaba: Looking more broadly, what are the biggest opportunities and obstacles you see for innovation in the healthcare environment?
Funmilola: Obstacles are challenges one must overcome to find and enjoy opportunities. At the moment I don’t see obstacles, however, we are in a developing nation and infrastructure is a common hindrance to swift/straightforward achievements. However, if I had to mention few bumps that could potentially slow down innovation, it would be as follows infrastructure, policies, Health literacy and education issue and funding
The opportunities are endless, like I said, Nigeria and its surrounding countries are developing nations so there is so much to be done, and the opportunities to solve problems and make money as well are currently endless.
Alaba: How has COVID-19 affected receptiveness for innovation in healthcare?
Funmilola: Covid 19 was a world leveller. It was a dark period that caused people to see the world in a different light because we had no choice. Healthcare is one of the industries that also revolutionised as a result of the pandemic.People become way more receptive to virtual care, investing more in maintaining good health amongst other behavioural changes. Covid 19 forced a validation in innovation in healthcare.
Alaba: The COVID-19 crisis has raised more awareness on health equity issues. What role (if any) do you think innovators should or could play to address health inequities?
Funmilola: Health inequities can be addressed by innovators by developing and implementing technology and solutions that meet the needs of marginalized communities. It can include developing remote-access mobile health solutions, creating community-based mobile health programs and appropriate health education materials, as well as using data and to identify and address disparities in health. Additionally, innovators should work with community leaders and organizations can also help ensure that solutions are designed with the input and participation of the communities they aim to serve. No point building a product the users can not or will not use.
Alaba: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were starting out as an innovator and entrepreneur?
Funmilola: This is an interesting question. I wish I knew that the reception of collaborators will not be automatic. Apparently, it takes a bit of convincing for people to see reason, or want to change.
Alaba: What’s the future for Pharmarun in terms of new products and market expansion
Funmilola: We are constantly innovating and my team is thinking round the clock how to make life easier for people and you create real value with our innovation. We will continue to share as we release new products. What we are most excited about is however, is that we are able to sort the problem of final consumers. You know me & you. No more going around from pharmacy to pharmacy, no more settling for alternative medicine because you can’t find the one that was prescribed. Our platform essentially allows customers access to infinite options of medication to manage their health. We also provide free pharmaceutical consultations and services.
Alaba: There are not a lot of female tech entrepreneurs in digital healthcare. Do you have specific advice for other women wanting to get started working in innovation?
Funmilola: Develop your skills and knowledge: Gain a strong understanding of the healthcare industry, including the key players and current trends. This will help you identify opportunities and develop a unique perspective.
Network and build relationships.
Be resilient: Starting a business can be challenging, and there may be setbacks along the way. Stay committed to your goals and be prepared to adapt as the market and industry evolve.
Embrace your unique perspective: Women often bring a different perspective to the table, and this can be a valuable asset in the healthcare industry. Use your unique experiences and insights to develop innovative solutions and build a successful business.
Seek out mentorship and support: Surround yourself with people who have experience in the field, who can guide you and offer valuable advice.
It’s also important to mention that in recent years, the healthcare innovation ecosystem has been making an effort to make women visible, especially with funding and grants for early-stage ventures. Try looking into those opportunities as well.