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Interview With The co-founders Of Vuuqa, Horesia Nyawade and Tshiwela Ncube

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Tshiwela Ncube and Horesia Nyawade co-founded Vuuqa, an online African emporium store that sells African brands with the goal of connecting African creators to customers. They met at the Wits Business School, Johannesburg, South Africa. It was during their frequent interactive and ethnically diverse networking sessions that they realized the demand of, and difficulty of access to African products made by Africans. In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa OnlineHoresia and Tshiwela shared their passion for African brands, why they launched Vuuqa, the development of Africa eCommerce ecosystem amongst others. Excerpt.

 

Alaba: Kindly tell us about VUUQA and the gap it’s filling.

Tshiwela & Horesia: Vuuqa is an online marketplace that sells African brands. We are a 100% African woman owned company. We identify and position ourselves as a Pan African brand name. Our aim is to digitally connect African creators to the world by facilitating them with the best online shopping experience. Our renowned products are those made in Africa by Africans to be sold globally.

Africans are becoming more creative and innovative, introducing new brands into the market. Vuuqa provides access to market through the online marketplace that is purely dedicated to these brands. Selling your products on Vuuqa gives you your own website at an affordable rate and capitalizes on the power of numbers ensuring sales.

 

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

Tshiwela & Horesia: Our startup capital was R40 000, which was bootstrapped from friends, family and savings.

 

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

Tshiwela & Horesia: When we first launched Vuuqa, we based our business on the drop-shipping model, commonly used with platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba. We believed that it would be a better sell to the brands if we allowed them to keep their stock and only sold the products once they were ordered by the customer. We quickly found out that Africa’s infrastructure, in terms of affordable data connectivity and transport/logistics, wasn’t optimum for this model. Another challenge we encountered was discovering that most brands would easily breach the contract and sell items that were on the platform without updating Vuuqa.

This caused problems in terms of the promised product or time associated with its delivery. These incidents made us switch our model to instead start accepting consignment from the different brands. We also continue to define Afri-commerce, which is e-commerce that considers the culture, infrastructure and financial conditions of the different countries within the continent.

 

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

Tshiwela & Horesia: You cannot copy and paste models that have worked in other continents in Africa. It is important to do thorough market research, as much as we can learn from other countries, it is important to remember to adjust those models to fit the African market.

 

Alaba: What’s the future for your business and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Tshiwela & Horesia: We see ourselves as the future of retail buying not only to Africans but to anyone who loves and supports Africa. To achieve this, we started early by setting out our strategy, processes and action plans. We are ensuring that we stay funder ready, stay professional and provide quality service to our customers. We believe in research and believe that it will keep us ahead of the game.

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

Tshiwela & Horesia: At Vuuqa, we are building an ecosystem and pushing the narrative of grow Africa, buy Africa, by Africans. Encouraging the creation and purchase of locally produced brands, with local resources, by locals ensures that the money generated in made in and remains in the economy – thus fueling the development of our continent.

 

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

Tshiwela & Horesia: We believe we still have a lot of work to do, however more companies with an ethos like Vuuqa coming up, shows progress. Some of the challenges faced include includes finding the right payment methods as a majority of Africans are unbanked. Another big challenge is logistics due to infrastructural issues in Africa, however this goes to show that there is room for innovation and those innovations will certainly be developed in Africa.

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Tshiwela & Horesia: I feel that it is truly Africa’s time, I mean its always been Africa’s time, but I feel we are ready for it now. I feel great, confident and ready to take all the opportunities that Africa has to give.

 

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

Tshiwela & Horesia: We love going out to eat and socialising and going on getaways away from the city. We also love watching documentaries.

We read a lot of African authors and most times prefer to read non-fiction story books to relax. We challenge each other at least read one book a month.

Also Read Interview With Street Global Venture Capital Partners, Alysia Silberg And Christian Meyers

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favorite local dish?

Tshiwela & Horesia: Language Tshivenda: Zwiliwa – Food and my Favourite local dish is Samp and chicken stew

 

Alaba: What’s your favorite holiday spot in your country? Why?

Tshiwela & Horesia: Cape Town, its one of the best places to visit in the world, the views are to die for.

 

Horesia & Tshiwela Profile:

Horesia Nyawade is the co-founder and Chief Innovator at Vuuqa, an online marketplace for African brands. Born in Kenya and raised in five different countries. She is passionate about the continent and identifies as a Pan African. The inception of an online emporium manifested from her investigation of the lost textile industry in Africa. Vuuqa is the first step towards her vision to unite and empower small businesses in Africa. Horesia is an industry leader in African brands. She assists creatives within Africa to reach a larger customer base by providing access to market through digital platforms.
Horesia’s past experience includes working for Deloitte East Africa where she primarily served as a business analyst under the risk advisory department. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the Wits Business School.

Tshiwela Ncube is the cofounder and Chief Operations Officer at Vuuqa an online marketplace that sells African brands. With experience that spans over 10 years across the Information Technology, Financial Services, telecommunications and eRetail industry. Her interests and passions are in innovative ideas and solutions that can solve African problems. A contributor to various African business based publications on the topic of Afri-Commerce, she also holds an MBA from the Wits Business School.

 

Start shopping! Visit Vuuqa

 

 

Afripreneur

Cycles, Nigeria’s No.1 Bike-Sharing Platform Achieving The United Nations SDG Goal 11 – Damilola Soladoye

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The private bike-sharing ecosystem is beginning to gain momentum in Africa, most especially in Nigeria. Although not new to the dense Asian cities and some parts of Europe. Some Nigerian startups are now exploring this new business model. Such startup testing the waters is Cycles, as it’s redefining the way people commute within tertiary institutions, communities and cities. Using an efficient, fun and healthy means of transport, building better people, communities and a greener earth. In this interview,  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa Online spoke with Damilola Soladoye, the co-founder and CEO of Cycles, to know more about the brand good start and insights into the bike-sharing business in Nigeria. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Tell us about Cycles and the gap it’s filling.

Damilola: Cycles is a mobility startup solving last mile transportation inefficiencies in Nigerian and African Universities, Estates and communities with our smart and efficient bicycle sharing system.

We are filling the gap of last mile transportation in communities where multiple transportation options do not exist or are not sufficient.

 

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

Damilola: Currently, we have raised over $5000 dollars in equity free grants majorly from the Fbstart accelerator from Facebook in partnership with Co-creation Hub. Asides this most of our capital has been bootstrapped till date with personal funds from team members.

 

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

Damilola: Our major challenge is the pace of adoption by our target community. Most University and estate management have been slow to adopt our solution. This is purely bureaucratic as some tend to see our solution as a direct competition with the already existing means of transportation which they currently have on the ground.

It has been daunting, but we are gradually overcoming these challenges by presenting our solution as a complement to the already existing transport options and also offering our bicycle sharing system at no cost to the community. Instead, the community generates revenue off our system through a revenue share model.

 

Alaba: How’s your brand making mobility and logistics safe, accessible and affordable?

Damilola: Globally, bicycle sharing is widely adopted in many major cities, communities and Universities all over the world. This is no surprise because cycling is a green, healthy and sustainable means of mobility. It is so because it removes the human factor of having a driver and burning fuel to make it more affordable for the end user.

It is also an accessible system as it is available 24/7 in any community deployed in. To boost safety on our system we are working closely with officials from Institute of Transport Development Policy (ITDP) and Lagos State Metropolitan Area Transport Authority (LAMATA) to ensure compliance with global safety and stand practices

Also Read Startups: The Ideal Partnership Agreement

Alaba: How’s your brand different and unique to other brands in the bike-sharing business?

Damilola: At cycles, what makes us unique is our passion for building green and sustainable mobility solutions coupled with a particular focus for providing great user experiences with our technology.

Alaba: What’s the future for Cycles and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Damilola: The future for Cycles is to place Africa on the global mico-mobility map by flooding African communities with sustainable mobility systems. We are taking steps to achieve this daily through partnerships with both local and international organisations to augment our growth.

 

Alaba: How’s the government supporting startups and SME in your Nigeria?

Damilola: The Government has been supporting startups and SME’s in Nigeria, though I strongly believe more can be done. The future of Nigeria and Africa lies in part in its entrepreneurs and the more government involvement in this sector, the more accelerated growth is bound to occur in the country.

 

Alaba: What’s your view on the development of Africa logistics and mobility ecosystem?

Damilola: The logistics and mobility ecosystem is accelerating at a mammoth pace. Safe to say that with the recent rounds of investments in logistics/mobility-related startups, I believe massive disruption is said to happen in the coming years and more investment is said to be attracted to this sector.

Though a major set back in my opinion would be infrastructure. This has and will always be a major roadblock for any logistics/mobility-related business and Government should begin to intervene appropriately.

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Damilola: Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but in general, I derive joy from knowing that I am a change agent on a mission to develop and change my continent even in the little way I can.

 

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

Damilola: My advice to potential entrepreneurs or investors interested in the African space would be to see Africa as a very daunting and challenging market to penetrate. This might sound cliche, but in comparison to other markets of the world, Africa’s market poses so many challenges from infrastructure, the ecosystem to customers in total.

It takes courage, time and grit to build a business in Africa and every stakeholder involved in this such be aware as this would drive their expectations, timelines and overall outlook of the market in the end.

 

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

Damilola: I relax mostly by watching movies and I read motivational books.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favourite local dish?

Damilola: “Siṣẹ”, this means work! My favourite dish is pounded yam and egusi soup.

 

Alaba: What’s your favourite holiday spot on the continent?

Damilola: My favourite holiday spot on the continent would be the pyramids of Egypt.

 

Damilola Soladoye and his team.

 

Short Bio:

Damilola Soladoye is a passionate and self-motivated individual interested in technology, mobility and solving societal problems. A first class graduate of Covenant University and alumni of the premier cohort of the Fbstart accelerator program from Facebook in collaboration with Co-creation Hub, Nigeria.

 

Visit Cycles today

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Afripreneur

6 Reasons Why Culture Is Important For Startup Growth (Case Study: SmartCodes)

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When I was in Harvard Business School, I learnt a lot regarding how to operate profitable businesses by not only making just a business grow and expand in different markets but also to make an impact to your clients and customers. Being in the US as Harvard student for couple of weeks was major shift on my perception about what growth is, and how we Africans are not taking advantage of what we have.

Hence fast forward, I would like to share with the startup community on why culture should be most important part for the growth of your business and why it’s important to let everyone involve on the process.

 

1. Conduct a proper SWOT analysis within your Industry

I am not a huge fan of questions like “who are your competitors” as I believe everyone has a purpose. If you know whereyou’re going and take an important challenge to venture in new opportunities, you will find yourself focusing more on delivering solutions to your customers and less looking on what others are doing. For us, we have different competitors in different category as our company structured to implement solutions for tech, advertising, products and venture in helping startups and collaborate with other corporate, hence SWOT is important as it will make you see all sort of weakness and threats and use your strength as a checklist to combat them and grow faster.

 

2. Use your SWOT results to review your company vision

After sitting with your team and review all the SWOT results, it’s very important now to strategically review your vision, mission and purpose that will inspire everyone to deliver and know why they should workup in the morning and execute their task. This was one of the great exercises we did at Smart Codes and we involved everyone from our top managers to the supporting teams’ even drivers to security team, and collectively we awesomely re-define our purpose. The major key question to everyone was on defining our WHY which was the light to our PURPOSE. As a result, we find our main purpose was to make a mark in their project we touch and help our client’s grow.

 

3. Train your dragons

During the SWOT process, you must measure the culture from strength to weakness and immediately invest more on your weak holes so as to train the team to be better than themselves. There is no better investment than training and empowering your existing team vs trying to hire the new one which they won’t really understand your purpose at one place unless your growth need new wings and hence add one to grow faster.

Even at SC, after strategically knowing our focus was to expand in other African markets, we immediately started collaborating with top talented experts in different African markets. We inspired our teamthat, with this digital age of transformation, you can do anything it’s just you need to plan and have courage to execute it. I remember we once invited Stanbic’s CIO, Mussa Ally to come and we did amazing workshop with our team on how they can grow their career. This was not just for Smart Codes but most importantly was for their own career growth. This was done to train them to think BIG by eating an elephant in bit by bit instead of thinking or eating chips-mayai which no-one will get a wow factor from you as a person.

We have also worked closely with great minds like Max Ngari – one of the top creative people in Africa who won many awards such as the Cannes Lions awards.

 

4. Break your Vision into objective goals

The major learning here is, knowing how to eat an Elephant. You need to break down this elephant goal into small tasks and assign each team member to deal with a few tasks. For example, at Smart Codes we don’t have KPIs but we have objective goals plan at which each team members knows what part are they executing, hence it has helped to have smooth execution and objectives which define timelines. That has been a success for us, as it works better that, just calling them KPIs.

 

5. Show your client and partners your vision and purpose

Showing it’s not an easy task, but I remember one of my Professors who was teaching us about the implementation of “Diffusion of innovations”. This shows the baby steps of implementing anything new, you would 1st need to know your “Innovators” – People who will be willing to listen and then “Early Adopters” – which are more of opinion leaders, which are those around your Industry ecosystem. Surprisingly when we implemented our new VISION at Smart Codes, everyone got it and mostly we have seen people starting to add our key purpose “Making a Mark” in their hashtags, and “UNTIL ITS DONE” which is our infinity journey.

Also Read: Startups: The Ideal Partnership Agreement

6. Share your small wins with everyone

The major thing most people have is selfishness, most of people are fearing to share their ideas and success because of competitors will know theirs moves, rather than looking at the mirror of sharing skills and opinions to help other grow the same way they did. Sharing most of the things we do at Smart Codes have been a major key growth from our team, as we know, only by sharing and open doors for outsiders to comment it’s a two way learning, and it has been an incredible growth within our team and we have even seen it via our Innovation wing at SmartLab.

I remember one of or my classmate was inspiring using a phone brand called “ONE-PLUS” and when we asked, She says that brand helped to push her dreams because all the time she switch the phone-on its pop a message says “NEVER SETTLE” then I get that this A1 culture have been a major shift of growth at OnePlus’ fanbase. Let’s share our success and failures so others can learn and also collect opinions from outsiders that will only impacting our growth.

I never thought culture was a very big thing, but as Strive Masiyiwa says “believe you me” until you practice it,its when you will see the results. And it’s important to impact your life with adding more books in your reading list and try to implement those learnings in your real life to measure growth results.Lastly, reading is the only way you can get a chance to learn new skills, as we all know “you can only give the output of what you know” and knowledge is collectively inputs and output of your interest.

I am looking forward to share more and please also share your growth list via the comment section below, so we can all learn from you as well and collectively we can MAKE A MARK across our African ecosystem.

 

Author

Edwin Bruno is the Founder and CEO at SmartCodes

 

 

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Afripreneur

Coverdor: An insurtech providing digital insurance experience targeted at millennial and emerging generation

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Seun Ayegbusi is the Founder and CEO at Coverdor, a Lagos based and Nigeria’s first fully digital insurance platform, providing insurance when you need it the most, entirely online. Seun and his team believe insurance is not just a fancy product, but A FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN RIGHT everyone deserves, especially in Nigeria and Africa where the level of risks and uncertainties we face is really high.  In this interview with  Alaba Ayinuola  of Business Africa Online, Seun shed more light on his brand tend to simplify the insurance experience and create easy accessibility to social benefiting insurance products in every emerging market they serve. Excerpt.

 

 

Alaba: Kindly tell us about Coverdor and the gap it’s filling.

Seun: Coverdor is an AI-powered digital insurance distribution platform focused on insurance coverage for everyday items like smartphone, laptops etc against mechanical, liquid, accidental damages and theft. Coverdor also enables service providers (retail stores and ecommerce websites) cross-sell add-on gadget insurance on every consumer gadgets sold at their online or offline point of sale.

We discovered that although insurance was created for the fundamental good of society in indemnifying against risks and uncertainties, however the industry lacks the technology and innovation to connect to the retail market segment (the millennial demographic) who are more risk-prone and expects to interact with insurers and insurance products the exact way they interact with any online business who offers them convenience when shopping online.

Hence, Coverdor is filling the gap of complex, paper-based, delayed and manual processes experienced in the conventional insurance system to deliver a completely digital insurance experience for the average upward-mobile millennial offering innovative insurance products that fit their lifestyle.

 

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

Seun: Our startup capital was in excess of $20,000 and was sourced through savings committed from founders and funds raised from family and friends.

 

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

Seun: Talking about challenges we encountered while innovating within the insurance industry can’t be over stretched, one of which is compliance with NAICOM’s regulation, which I must say is the biggest challenge we have faced however, working closely with our partner insurance company has helped us and is constantly helping us to navigate this issue.

 

Alaba: How is your startup different from other financial startups?

Seun: Coverdor is a lot different from any other fintech startup as the category of financial services sector we operate in differs from the categories other fintech startups operate within, especially within the payment, lending, asset management categories. However, Coverdor on the other hand is an insurance technology startup focused on insurance digitization, direct-to-customer  distribution and cross-selling distribution. We also differ from other insurtech categories that focus on insurance price comparison.

 

Alaba: What’s the future for your startup and what steps are you taking in achieving them?

Seun: The future of Coverdor is to become a full fledged digital insurance company, providing new and innovative insurance products that fits the lifestyle and meet the needs of Nigerian millennials. Also in the next 2-3 years we plan to launch a dedicated technology arm of Coverdor that will focus on core insurance solutions using emerging technologies to redefine core operational areas of insurance business, while advancing the digital transformation of the insurance industry in Nigeria.

 

Alaba: How can governments provide the best support for startups in Africa?

Seun: The government can do a lot in supporting startups in Africa, however, top on the list will be creating enabling policies to foster growth for startup across all sectors of the economy.

 

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

Seun: The insurtech ecosystem in Africa is beginning to gain momentum as we witnessing different startups innovating across different points of the insurance value chain, however, to speed up the development, ecosystem players must become deliberate and intentional about fast-tracking development. Incumbent Insurers should set up digital transformation units that will foster partnerships with insurtechs looking to innovate alongside incumbent insurers. Furthermore, we need insurtech-focused accelerators to bolster insurtech startup growth, when these things are done, then the African Insurtech ecosystem will experience similar growth as seen in the US, Europe and Asia.

 

Also Read SMEs: Legal Tips For Office Space Acquisition | Morenike Okebu

 

Alaba: How do you feel as an African entrepreneur?

Seun: I feel proud to be an African entrepreneur, being part of the people bringing solutions to the many problems Africans are facing in Africa. Also being able to team up with other entrepreneurs to create jobs and contribute to the economy is a great way to live one’s life.

 

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

Seun: I will like to tell them that “nothing moves until you move”. There is never a better time to push yourself and kickstart that idea or pet project of yours, work hard to turn it into a great product or service. Three things I think will pull you through are “passion” for what you do or build, “tenacity” to see it succeed and “hope” that you will succeed as well.

 

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

Seun: All work and no play makes Seun a dull boy, however when I need to relax I hang out with my family, family happy hour does it for me. Then as for books, I read lots of business and personal development books. Top on my list is “My Vision: challenges in the race for excellence” by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

 

Alaba: Please teach us one word in your home language and your favorite local dish?

Seun: Has a Yoruba man, I will like to teach you a Yoruba word that says “elubo” translated in English as yam flour.

My favourite local dish as a proud Ondo man is “iyan and efo elegusi with eja kika” translated as pounded yam with melon and vegetable soup with stock fish.

 

Short Bio:

Seun Ayegbusi is a Nigerian-born tech entrepreneur, business development and digital product development expert, and a serial innovator with extensive knowledge of the African emerging markets. A graduate of Olabisi Onabanjo University, and an alumnus of London Academy Business School. With over six years of experience in the private sector and the tech startup scene and a passion to tackle one of Africa’s most stubborn social development issues birthed the startup – Coverdor.

 

Visit Coverdor today!

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