As a firm believer in female entrepreneurship and empowerment of the African continent, Yasmin Belo-Osagie saw the gap to create a space for young women to become movers and shakers of Africa.
In 2014, upon her return to Nigeria after completing her studies at Princeton University in the US, Belo-Osagie seized the opportunity to form her own start-up, together with Afua Osei. They called it She Leads Africa.
The business serves as a platform whereby young women across Africa can create and share entrepreneurial ideas. It provides support for their ideas and access to professionals who can assist with advice and funding so as to turn start-ups into major business enterprises.
“This is an opportunity to create a brand as an inspiration for women. Women need to realize that their horizons are unlimited and they can go far beyond their expectations through hard work, grit and perseverance,” says Belo-Osagie.
Another feature of She Leads Africa is an annual pitch competition. The first was held in September 2014. The winner of the competition, Cherae Robinson who created Rare Customs, the world’s only mobile app dedicated to booking and buying experiences in Africa by tourists, was awarded US$10,000 towards growing her business.
However, establishing She Leads Africa has not come without its fair set of challenges. Reflecting on her own experience as an African woman, Belo-Osagie talks about the difficulties women face in being taken seriously because in most cultures “they are seen as vulnerable but many of us are strong, smart, well-traveled, and cosmopolitan”.
In a world where business is dominated by men, cultural constraints prevent women from networking, Belo-Osagie highlights that women should create their own networks and forums where they can meet and support each other. Another issue is getting financial backing for female headed business ventures. She states, “Banks need to become more flexible with their lending, especially when it comes to women.”
By watering the seed of undiscovered young women with bright ideas, Belo-Osagie hopes that She Leads Africa will become a symbol of female strength for women who are not afraid to break through social, cultural and financial constraints.
During an interview, the two founders gave their advice for start-ups:
Done is better than perfect; be 80:20 – The start-up scene moves quickly and relentlessly. Instead of waiting to design the perfect product, entrepreneurs should be 80:20 and strive to create a product that is 80% perfect. Get this product out quickly as you move along. This strategy will get you feedback from the market in no time and features customers demand instead of those you think are nice to have.
Do your homework – Getting the product to market quickly is one thing, jumping in without any prior research is foolish. Entrepreneurs need to learn to how to listen to, rather than guess what the market wants.
Think bold and dream big – When we initially started She Leads Africa we thought it would be a one-off pitch contest, by which we limited our own dreams. After a period of self-reflection, we now think bold and dream big. Our ambition is to become a household name among African female on the continent.
Build a solid team – When building your company, it is critical to build a team that will challenge each other, think creatively, and dig in to get the hard work done.
Learn what matters to investors – When engaging with investors all start-ups need to have a basic understanding of key operation and financial concepts. Such business literacy will make you more appealing to investors.
(Courtesy of Rofhiwa Madzena: http://www.makambaonline.com/jcj-corner/how-two-young-west-african-women-are-creating-africas-next-billionaires.html)