Meet Mike ZeidlhackMike Zeidlhack, Business Teaching Fellow & Raquel Wilson, Communications Fellow at MEST Africa. During our tour to Ghana, we discussed with these entrepreneurial thought leaders on the issues surrounding branding African startups and the distinction between branding a company or the product.
Mike Zeidlhack is a trainer of entrepreneurs and mentor to pre-seed businesses. Prior to joining MEST, Mike worked in Accenture’s Strategy consulting group building cross-industry experience including retail, tech, sustainability, media, power, and telecom.
Raquel Wilson helps extraordinary thinkers and innovators tell compelling stories, grow strong communities, and build sustainable brands. A “Make it happen” girl, dot connector and habitual overachiever – since preschool.
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In 2009, Fred Deegbe, a trendy banker and shoe enthusiast wondered if some of the shoes he often bought from European and American shoe-makers could be made in his home country – Ghana.
A nearby shoeshine boy, some of his friends and family members said that it was impossible. This did not deter Fred, however, and in two years he quit his job and partnered with a friend, Vijay Manu, to start the HEEL THE WORLD brand. He has not looked back since.
HEEL THE WORLD makes bespoke, high-end shoes and leather accessories. Based in Accra, Ghana, the company is tailored after the founder’s vision which seeks to make the equivalent of the high-end shoes that Africans patronise from European and American stores to “kick Hermes and Louis Vuitton off their perch”. In an interview with CNN, Deegbe said, “They [Africans] want their friends to ask them, ‘Where did you buy that?’ and they say, ‘No, we made it; we made it in a garage, in Accra, with our own hands” inadvertently tapping into a teeming-but-ignored market.
HEEL THE WORLD shoes are handmade and bespoke, which means that finding your size or preferred style will not be an issue. You can simply take the reins and help craft the perfect shoes for yourself – with expert help of course. From handcrafting the shoes with locally sourced materials to importing the unavailable ones, HEEL THE WORLD’S brand ethos is clearly and purposefully reflected in every shoe, combining the tenets of creativity, excellence and dynamism.
Some of the Shoes
HEEL THE WORLD is also a social enterprise. Aside from making shoes that Africans can wear and be proud of, the founders also wanted a humanitarian aspect to the brand. “We want to be a brand that lets people around the world know that there is something incredible happening in Africa”, said Deegbe in an interview with Ayibamagazine. Therefore they decided to encourage and empower young Africans by launching a consultancy angle for smaller start-ups. They also launched a line of “empowerment beads” to show the importance of hard work and its resultant success. The black beads show work or struggle, while the singular gold bead represents the reward.
The Empowerment Beads
Products and Pricing:
HEEL THE WORLD primarily makes male dress shoes: From loafers to Oxfords, to brogues and monk straps, there is something in their catalogue for you. These go for between $100 and $300 depending on your choice. Besides the primary products, they also make leather accessories like belts, slippers, sandals, wallets and purses. The prices of the accessories range from $50 to $150.
To check their catalogue and purchase a pair of shoes you can visit their website at htwshoes.bigcartel.com and order a pair, or visit the physical store, off Oxford street, Osu, Accra, Ghana.
It is frustrating when you are looking for products and you can’t get exactly what you ‘need’. Omo Yemi Stanley-Njoku is a mum and CEO of Tobi Baby Carriers who, being unsatisfied with the baby carriers in the local market, decided to make her own! In this interview, she gives us insight into her brand.
Tell us about yourself and what you do.
I’m Omoyemi Stanley-Njoku; an entrepreneur, a wife and a mother. I’m good at thinking, analysing, planning, organizing and executing. I am creative, with interests in colours, fashion, arts, crafts and writing.
There’s usually a unique story behind every brand. What inspired Tobi Baby Carriers, when did you officially start and what does your brand stand for?
When I had my first baby, I couldn’t find a suitable baby carrier in the local market. All I could see were crutch danglers with flimsy straps and uncomfortable padding. I needed an ergonomic carrier that would allow the baby to sit in an M position, like the wrapper, with strong straps and buckles and good, comfortable padding. Long story short, I decided to make my own. That’s how I started Tobi Baby Carriers. It took about 6 months to develop the product. I launched it unofficially on social media in May 2016, operating under my business name. In January 2017 I got investors and we registered a limited liability company. TOBI stands for Totally Outstanding Baby Ideas. We’re here to make parents fall in love with our products!
Tell us about the primary product of Tobi Baby Carriers and it’s various ranges/categories and what problem your product is solving in the community.
Our primary product is the baby carrier. We have it in the full buckle, the regular tying and the Mei-tai tying version. It’s comfortable for baby and parent, safe and very reliable. Additional features are the head support for infants or sleeping babies, adjustable from newborn to 3 years. With our carriers you have no fear for your baby’s safety. If you’re home and your baby needs to be carried but you need your hands free to work, our carrier is the answer. We also have an edge over the conventional wrapper: easy head support, hands free and discreet breastfeeding and longer hours of carrying with no back pain. Other products are diaper bags, breastfeeding covers, play mats and baby clothes.
What is the vision of Tobi Baby Carriers? To be the preferred and trusted choice for millions of parents the world over!
Where are the raw materials and man power for Tobi Baby Carriers sourced?
All are sourced locally. We make the carriers here in Nigeria. The only item we import are our labels.
There’s a saying that goes “A tree does not make a forest”. Please tell us about your team and where they work from.
We have our factory in Lagos where we produce. I’m blessed with dedicated staff and partners who help to make the vision work.
In as much as we’d love to cater for everybody in business, we really can’t. This brings me to the question: Who is your target audience, and how do you reach out to them?
Urban dwelling parents of babies and toddlers who are image-conscious and want the best for their children. They’re active on social media, have a smart phone, run businesses or work in corporations. Our major medium for reaching them is social media and the internet.
No matter how ‘small scale’ a brand is, a lot goes into planning and production of its products. What is the concept behind the choice of packaging for your products? What does it take to produce and maintain this packaging?
Actually, our packaging is a work in progress. Our current packaging is based on market survey and feedback from customers. Soon we’re taking it a step further; details will be revealed when we’re done!
I saw some of your products and I must say I’m quite impressed an African, as a matter of fact a Nigerian, is treading the uncommon path. However, there are always challenges on our paths. What are yours and how have you been able to overcome or manage them?
They are challenges that are common to businesses in Nigeria; high cost of production due to power issues, availability of modern equipment, access to funding, sourcing materials, distribution, exchange rate etc. We do the best we can with the available resources.
When people see Tobi Baby Carriers, what reactions do you hope they will have?
We expect customers to love what they see and be compelled to get it for their babies.
What is the price range of your product?
Our baby carriers are priced from N7,500 to N15,000. On top of that we have accessories like the breastfeeding cover and diaper changing mat that go for as little as N1,500.
Is your product readily available or is it made based on request?
It’s readily available though we’re yet to hit our distribution objectives. We have a few higher priced designs that we make on orders.
Does the current exchange rate have an effect on your pricing?
Oh, it does. Although we source our materials locally, the exchange rate affects their prices too, probably because they import some of their own raw materials. Their end products are our raw materials! Also some of the accessories we use, like the buckles, are imported by the local traders.
Do you plan any promotions for your product? If so, how is the promotion of Tobi Baby Carriers done?
We do giveaways, discount sales and freebies. Mostly for special occasions like World Breastfeeding Week, Children’s Day etc. Aside from that we run adverts.
What are your future plans and how will it impact the society you live in?
We want to create jobs, especially for women in the local areas, foster healthy family relationships and reduce infant mortality.
Eight years ago, Tayo Oviosu founded Paga, which has grown to be Nigeria’s leading mobile payment. It all started from the frustration of carrying cash around and seeking for an easier way to spend without going about with cash or compelled to use ATM cards even when it wasn’t convenient.
Paga seeks two things:
To create an easier option to help people pay and get paid, as an individual or a business; banked or unbanked
To deliver financial services to the mass market
Since its inception in 2009, Paga boasts to still carry out its vision to transform lives by delivering innovative and universal access to financial services.
About the Founder
With a Bachelors of Science degree in Electrical Electronics, cum laude, from the University of Southern California, and a Masters in Business Administration from the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Tayo Oviosu is gradually playing his part in making Nigeria the giant of Africa.
In an interview with Techpoint.ng, Tayo narrates how he got fired from the first job he got barely three months after college. This was after he had worked and paid his way through college to bag his bachelor’s degree. Despite the disappointment from getting fired, Tayo never relented and continued to strive to become better while he picked lessons from the experience. With over 12 years work experience, He was able to push creativity with passion and birth Paga.
How Paga Works
Paga is simply a money transfer service that allows users use their mobile phones to make payment and be paid anytime and anywhere in Nigeria. You can pay bills, buy airtime or deposit into the bank with this service.
Simply log on to www.mypaga.com to create a paga account and get started
Send as little as N500 to 1 million, to anyone, using their phone number, which will then be collected at any paga Agent or ATM without the need for a card
You can search for agents around you by using the “find an agent” directory
You can access Paga via *242# on your mobile. Just dial and follow the instructions
For easy access, the mobile app for Android is available. You can get it via this link
How to Receive Money via Paga Outside Nigeria
Yes, Paga isn’t limited to just Nigeria. If you are abroad and will like to receive money from Nigeria, simply follow these steps:
Provide your sender with your valid mobile number or bank details
Request that your sender goes to any of Paga’s International Remittance Partner’s outlet or website and selects Paga to send the funds
Receive funds instantly in your Paga account or directly in your bank account
Remittance partners include Western Union, Money Trans, Terra, Money Globe, MFS Africa, FGC and USA Concierge. The service is currently available in USA, UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and Senegal, with more countries coming soon.
What is the Paga Agent Network all about?
The Paga Agent Network was built to help retail entrepreneurs and SMEs grow their businesses and also earn commissions alongside. High transacting agents have the tendency to earn above N300,000 monthly.
This network periodically rewards the best transacting agents with life-changing offers, and agents also get access to loyalty benefits, affordable branding, a dedicated customer service channel and easy technology enabled platforms for quick transactions. Paga boasts of this network being the strongest and trusted financial agent network in Nigeria.
You can also be one of their agents, by simply registering to be a part.
Highlights of Paga
In less than a year after launching the service to the public, it accumulated over 32,000 active users
In November 2011, Paga received its full operating license from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Paga’s website currently records over 8.4 million users, 15,400+ agents and over 6000 businesses across the nation.
Paga is now in 35 states in Nigeria, which is literally the whole nation
How Paga is Playing its Role in Making Africa Great
Paga is undoubtedly contributing to the Nigerian economy and despite the current economic situation that also affected them, they’ve been able to still strive in business. The Agent Network also encourages Nigerians in SME and retail businesses, a sector that doesn’t get enough recognition and strives to succeed.
In addition to this, Paga is gradually doing what many banks have been unable to. Paga brought a solution to a problem no one really considered important. Now, even Nigerians without a bank account can move around cashless and those with bank accounts can worry less about dysfunctional or unavailable ATMs.
Paga seems ready to give all Fintech Companies in Nigeria a run, and we are here for it!
Eyo Bassey is the Founder of Nigeria’s foremost e-commerce company- Payporte, arguably “your preferred online store”. PAYPORTE seeks to deliver quality and affordable products, including fashion and accessories, fabrics, furniture, home appliances and tech gadgets. It is also known to cater for youths and young urban professionals who need the online service the most.
A graduate of Pure and Applied Physics from Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), venturing into IT for Eyo was birthed from his passion for IT that he had acquired in bits for years, which is helping him today. In addition to being a graduate of Pure and Applied Physics, Eyo refers to himself as a software developer and a tech entrepreneur.
Eyo often talks about how the challenges faced in his family helped him become the successful entrepreneur that he is today. This includes the painful death of his father at a very tender age, leaving him to his four younger siblings and his mother who tried so hard to make ends meet.
PAYPORTE is what it is today because a determined man like Eyo Bassey refused to give up. He often gives this credit to God and to his mum who helped him secure a loan to start his business.
How Payporte Works
You can access Payporte’s services through its website and/or downloadable apps for Android and iPhone. Here’s a quick step-by-step process to shop on PAYPORTE:
➢ Log on to www.payporte.com
➢ Search for your desired product or navigate the various categories
➢ Add desired product to cart
Delivery is completely free, regardless of where you are in the Nigeria, and delivery time is based on your choice while checking out, but on an average, it is within 48 hours. To become a seller on PAYPORTE, simply create an account to get started.
The 1K Store
The 1K store is an initiative introduced on the 21st of September 2015 and has since served Nigerians with quality products at a really subsidized price. The idea is to sell products within the price range of N100 to N1,499 and it opens on Mondays, from 12am to 12pm. Nigerians have since embraced its existence by patronizing it fully and it doesn’t look like the store would be dismissed anytime soon.
How Payporte is Promoting Africa.
PAYPORTE is committed to raising the Nigerian Flag high and has not relented on that from its first day of inception. This can be seen from its constant drive to ensure that eCommerce is fully embraced in Nigeria and the hope that Africa would someday erase the common misconceptions about internet shopping. They constantly drive this, even if it involved cancelling the Payment on Delivery plan and encouraging everyone to use their trusted online payment service, since payment on delivery was beginning to be a pain in the neck anyway.
PAYPORTE is the assurance that the internet can provide you with quality products at a reasonable price. It is also a story of hope, as Eyo Bassey constantly looks forward to supporting other stories that has a beginning like his. This can be seen from how Payporte signed in Olajumoke Orisaguna as an ambassador and also volunteered to sponsor her education, on the note that she has a similar story as Payporte’s.
PAYPORTE has over the years helped local businesses grow by promoting their products on a wider platform, helping them gain more customers and users. There’s also an affiliate program to help youths gain attractive rewards for generating traffic and sales for PAYPORTE.
Youths with an active social media presence can make use of this opportunity as it will help them drive a lot of traffic to the website and in return, earn more. With the pace at which PAYPORTE is moving, we are certain of the sustainability of e-commerce in Nigeria and in Africa at large. It keeps getting better.
Payporte has its headquarters in Lagos, Nigeria, with operational offices across the United States of America, the United Kingdom and in China. You can connect with them on all social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Lucien Kancel is a Business Development Professional at ARBICO Plc, a full service building and civil engineering construction company with a franchise in NIGERIA. He’s been working in the construction industry in NIGERIA for 6 years and has developed several projects for various reputable companies. Lucien explains the Business Development market and how it influences building better companies that can sustain through time, political changes and generational habits. He also talks about the Construction industry and how one can succeed in Africa’s real estate business.
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