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.
Harris M: Keeping the craftsmanship alive through African fabrics
Harris M was created by Congolese entrepreneur Harris Mayoukou, Harris M. is a young fashion and accessories brand inspired by the bustling streets of Château Rouge, a colourful district of Paris. This project is above all a family story that begins with a sewing machine belonging to the great uncles of the designer in Congo. A machine that was offered to his father in the 70s and that the latter offered him in turn at the launch of the brand. Moreover, she still uses it today in the production of pieces in her Parisian workshop.
Coming from a family of artists and talented couturiers, Harris was keen to carry on this family legacy through his brand Harris M. She makes it a point of honor to take only fabrics produced in Africa in order to support the crafts and printing works still present. The brand offers accessories and casual wear mixed clothing, comfortable and quality. The founder defines the brand in 3 words: KANDA which means family in lari. Because she wanted to perpetuate one of her father’s first jobs.
Harris took her first classes in a very small workshop in Montreuil in order to keep this practice in the family and keep this precious link. Then PASSION because all the pieces are made according to the desires and the favorites. Finally ETHICAL, because it tries to ensure that small craftsmen, whether they are in France or in Africa, continue to be paid at the right price
APINAPI is reducing waste and supporting the autonomy of women
APINAPI is a social business focused on zero waste and symbolizes the meeting between France and Senegal. It all began in 2010, when Marina Gning and Jeanne-Aurélie Delaunay founded the company APINAPI in Paris, with the aim of democratizing washable diapers and natural baby products. After 10 years working in the cinema industry, they wanted to raise awareness about washable nappies and natural care products for babies.
During her travels in Senegal with her husband, Marina finds that the products she offers in France are perfectly suited for Senegal. Indeed, she sees how plastic waste litters the streets of the country, especially disposable diapers. These, which were a few years ago a “luxury product”, have become very accessible with the arrival of low-end brands.
These layers, of poor quality, give irritation and are not reliable. The family budget is reduced and women with low incomes use a single diaper for their baby all day! By offering washable diapers to her sister-in-law in Dakar, Marina sees how much easier her life is: less redness, less expense, less waste. In addition, the diapers were a great success with the friends of the young mother.
The trigger is born from there. What if these washable diapers were the solution? In 2015, she got fully into the project with her partner, her husband and Marianne Varale. The team was born, and in 2016 Marina and her husband decided to sell their apartment in France to settle in Senegal and launch ApiAfrique.
Today, ApiAfrique is a Senegalese social enterprise, which offers innovative, local and environmentally friendly solutions for the hygiene of women and babies. Its vision is to promote sustainable solutions that contribute to women’s empowerment, waste reduction, the fight against exclusion and job creation.
Meet French-Senegalese mothers after black babies
Douce mélanine Founders
N’dioba DIONGUE and Astou diongue, two French-Senegalese mothers have both had bad experiences with baby cosmetics products that contain potentially dangerous or allergenic substances. Looking for a solution, they found out that products adapted to black and mixed-race children can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
Following these bad personal experiences, they decide to react and remedy them by offering healthy products, especially for babies. This is because they are fragile. The beginnings were not simple: market research, business plan, search for formulators, etc. It took several months before they could find a lab to work with. Not being in the trade, they also had to train in formulation.
Douce mélanine was born in 2018, with the aim of offering a range of care products with 98% natural ingredients, traditionally used in Africa for baby care. The goal is to transmit care rituals with products from the African pharmacopoeia. For example, we can find touloucouna oil, with unsuspected virtues which is relaxing and is used in Africa for infant massage. A necessary return to the roots, to allow babies to enjoy all the benefits of this treatment with ancestral oils.
Then in 2020, as for many entrepreneurs, the coronavirus came knocking on the doorbell. After several questioning and restructuring, they decided to stay the course. New tests are carried out, formulas are retouched, and the adventure resumes in 2021 to never stop. Today, Douce Mélanine has made her way and has found her place in many bathrooms all over the world.
DOUCE MÉLANINE fights every day to offer mothers products with healthy compositions. Its products are formulated and manufactured by a French laboratory certified Ecocert and COSMOS. Without perfumes, tested under dermatological control and composed of ingredients from the African pharmacopoeia, babies will appreciate its care which will bring softness, hydration and relaxation.