Epic Conversation with Female Founders on The Spark Twitter Spaces
Our March 2022 Twitter Spaces was dedicated to female founders in honor of the International Women’s Day 2022, which had the theme - Break The Bias.
It was an epic conversation with four female founders - Ruth Olojede, Oluseye Ashiru, Adeola Ayoola, and Blessing Abeng.
In this conversation, the female founders shared what they were building and how they were growing their startups.
It was memorable, value-packed, super interesting and something you shouldn’t have missed.
This is why we have done a recap for you.
Let’s dive in!
The Female Founders and Their Story
About Blessing Abeng of Ingressive for Good
Blessing Abeng is the co-founder and director of communications at Ingressive for Good.
Ingressive for Good is a tech company that helps train African youth with tech skills so that they can be empowered to increase their earning power.
They have trained about 100,000 Individuals and now have a community of 80,000 people.
Blessing and her team just launched a couple of scholarships that lots of people have been benefiting from.
In this conversation, Blessing was our fantastic host who guided the conversation around stories and experiences about building and scaling their startups.
About Adeola Ayoola of Famasi
Adeola Ayoola is a Pharmacist. She is the CEO and co-founder of Famasi Africa.
Famasi takes care of medication delivery and management for people who have recurrent drug needs, chronic illnesses, and people who just want to remain healthy.
On blowing their horn, they have recently gotten to the final stage of the new venture competition at Harvard Business School out of 300 who pitched.
According to her, she was excited to be a part of the conversation.
The Famasi Story
Adeola stated that she had been a pharmacist all her life, so it was almost natural for Famasi to happen.
She had worked in the hospital and the retail pharmacy space, so she had literally done all the different facets of pharmacy.
In the process, she noticed a problem. Even though she didn't know what the solution was at that time, she was aware of the problem. It was a recurring one.
In the hospital, it was a regular thing for people to come, queue, and spend a lot of time just to get their medications from the retail pharmacy.
People spent a lot of time trying to get medications that were sometimes not available. So they’d need time to source for it and then tell the patients to come back in about two business days.
It was not just about not giving them their drugs at that moment. It was also the resultant effect of all of this on their health when they don't take their medications.
She observed this problem and had in mind that she should be able to fix it somewhere along the line.
Although many people were doing wonderful things in the health tech space, there wasn't so much focus on the patients.
She considered all of this, conversed with her co-founder, and they both wondered if tech could fix this.
They started to research, and then they launched Famasi.
Initially, the focus was on only those with chronic illnesses because they were the ones who needed to take medications all their lives.
They started to receive feedback, and this included feedback from people who do not have chronic illnesses but still need to take medications.
People needed something to remind them to take medications like their vitamins. They needed health care support.
Famasi has continued to manage people with different health care needs based on the problems they want them to solve.
Adeola said she had gained so much experience doing this with her team for more than a year.
About Oluseye Ashiru of Mom Youniversity
Oluseye Ashiru is the founder and CEO of Mom Youniversity.
Mom Youniversity is a global foremost online university for mothers with a specific focus on helping moms and supporting them to thrive.
Oluseye Ashiru and her team provide courses, coaching, community, and resources for moms to live out their best lives.
For them, it's not just about how to be a good mom, but it's mostly about how to ensure that even though you are a good mom, you accomplish your dreams and all the things you have in your heart to do.
What's on their mind is how they can actually support you to truly bring your ideas from concept to reality.
Mom Youniversity provides these kinds of support for moms in terms of being pleasant yet winning at home and at work.
Also, they recently just launched what they call 'University HQ,' providing tech support for small businesses, especially with a focus on women entrepreneurs.
The Mom Youniversity Story
Over the years, people used to come to Oluseye to ask her how she seamlessly managed her home, raised her children, and did every other thing she did. She didn't seem ruffled by it all in any way.
One day she was at work, during lunch; a friend called and said, “I am struggling really bad. Can you write me a bible about how you do the things you do?”
She started to speak to her friend on that call, telling her not to be overwhelmed, put structure in her life, and she gave her a few pointers.
And then she thought to herself, “How much can I possibly tell her?”
There was so much to say that she wouldn’t be able to say it all on a call. How many people would she be able to reach if she was speaking to each individual one-on-one?
So she started a blog for Moms. She was basically providing support for moms and teaching them about how they can pursue their dreams without compromising their families or getting overwhelmed.
She wrote a blog every day for one year, and people started asking more questions.
Questions like - “I feel like I've lost myself as a mom. How can I get my identity back? It looks like my children are in charge right now, and I can't really pursue my dreams. What should I do?
She saw that what was needed to solve these issues was more than a blog, so she started a community that grew to about 6000 women.
Then she started to think about what else she could do to support these moms.
She went for a certification course, and while doing that, she started to provide more structured support through coaching.
After she became John Michaels certified. She moved to Canada and started Mom Youniversity.
Her relocation to Canada made her realize that Moms' problems aren't just peculiar to Nigeria. It was universal.
Since she started Mom Youniversity in Canada, it’s been mind-blowing, and in her words, God has been helping her and her team as they have been breaking boundaries.
About Ruth Olojede of Flick and Dthriz
Ruth Olojede is the co-founder and CEO of Dthriz and Flick.
Dthriz is the first company she co-founded, an educational technology firm that provides services to several universities and tertiary institutions across Nigeria.
Ruth and her team connect the ecosystem between the staff and the students. Several universities have adopted their service with over 150,000 students in Nigeria.
Flick, her most recent startup, is a financial technology company that is a scan-to-pay solution for contact experiments across Africa.
Flick was launched a couple of weeks ago, and they have been having several partnerships and doing their best to scale across the market.
The Dthriz Story
Dthriz started off about 5-6 years ago as a web design/data entry contract company.
Unlike most other startups, Ruth and her team didn’t have that much foresight as to what they wanted to do at first.
However, they knew that most universities were lacking data.
They lacked cloud storage to put all their resources and data in one place and for them to dish it out to both staff and students.
Ruth and her co-founder started by doing data entry contracts and website designs for a university - Ruth's alma mater.
In about one year or two years down the line, they saw the need to expand because they were getting more referrals.
They had gotten on another website design project for a different school that wanted all their resources online.
It dawned on them that this was a problem a lot of schools wanted to solve. Schools wanted students to be able to register online, see their results online, and store important data in the cloud.
Two years down the line, they registered the company and were able to kickstart contracts with more schools.
It's about five years now, and they have been able to help lots of schools digitize their processes.
The Flick Story
Flick started as a result of discovering a problem occurring during COVID-19 and after the COVID-19.
There were a lot of in-person payments going on with cards and cash, and a lot of people were juggling between different cards.
People had to move money from the Stanbic to the GTBank or to different bank accounts to make purchases or carry out transactions.
Ruth and her team felt the need to synchronize all these accounts so people could have all their bank accounts in one place and just simply scan to pay.
It was in such a way that they could pick what account they wanted to pay from on the app and then scan to pay.
They discovered a space for that in the market and were able to drive out doing it.
The Conversation Highlights
Here are some of the things that stood out from the conversation.
To ensure customer satisfaction, It’s essential to approach every client as a separate entity instead of providing a one-size-fits-all service.
People appreciate it when they feel that your service to them is personalized.
When we started, we felt every single school wanted the same thing. We eventually discovered that most of these clients wanted different things, and we had to make the best solutions for each of them separately - Ruth Olojede
Instead of showing up to tell prospective clients what you have to offer, ask them questions that focus on what they need.
Questions like - What do you want? What problems are you trying to solve?
Take note of everything that they want and then build a customized solution to meet their needs.
The business is not about you and what you have to offer; it's more about your customers, what they want, and how you can meet them at the point of their needs.
Becoming One With Your Brand
While you are trying to build a business, it's possible that your personality conflicts with the personality that the brand is supposed to have.
That's not strange or weird.
It could be tempting to stay aloof. However, it's important to become one with your brand.
Know your personality as a person and accept it, but do not let it limit you from doing the things you are supposed to do.
I'm an introvert. That hasn't changed. I love my space. But I think that one of the things that have helped me the most is to see that my personality doesn't have to limit me. I have a choice to work around what I believe my personality is and still thrive despite it. - Oluseye Ashiru
Also, You have to ensure that you do not lose your authenticity in the process of putting yourself out there. Instead, play to your strengths and get other people to help in your area of weaknesses.
What is most important is to ensure that what you want to share with the world is heard.
I would rather be uncomfortable and stretch than keep my voice silent. The things we want to share are more important than how I feel. So I always overcome by saying, well, no matter how you feel right now, you have to get out there. - Oluseye Ashiru
Communicating your Vision and Experimenting
Having a co-founder and other individuals on your team means that you need to know how to communicate your vision well.
You need them to be on the same page as you to be able to tackle problems efficiently.
However, you also need to understand that individuals solve problems using different approaches based on their experiences and background.
My co-founder and I have very different ways of thinking about the solution, but we sync at the end of the day. The most important thing that we try to achieve is that the goal is not lost in any way. we're always very much open to experimenting and trying out different ways to solve the problem - Adeola Ayoola
So you have to be open to their perspectives and be willing to test different approaches.
The results from these experiments do not always have to be successful.
When it comes to experiments, every result is a positive result because you get to know what works and what does not work.
If more people would see life as experiments, maybe we would have more people trying stuff instead of being gutted by the fear of failure. - Blessing Abeng
Creating a Support System for Female Founders
It's necessary to share one's story so that other female founders will know that they are not alone.
Being honest about your challenges, struggles, journey, or story. It could be what another woman needs to push forward instead of giving up.
We need to stop acting like we have it all together when we don’t and instead create an atmosphere where other females can ask honest questions without being judged.
Be that person who is a safe space. Also, let other people see your journey, don't hide. Let them know that it doesn't always have to lead to a big win. Sometimes you fail, but we learn from our failures - Oluseye Ashiru.
It's vital that we have conversations about what is going on with female founders to see where we need help and how we can provide the needed support.
We have to genuinely be willing to share both successes and failures.
Handling Stress as a Founder
Growing a startup comes with a lot of work. There is almost no break.
You have projects upon projects. Something to improve, something to change, research to make, risks to take, it keeps going on and on.
It’s quite easy to feel overwhelmed, burnt out, and stressed.
To be able to keep going without having sudden meltdowns, it is important that you build a culture of fun and rest around your work.
We have this usual flow of joking at work, laughing while working, because I mean the work is a lot and there's not much time to go back and really calm down all this stress and get relief of all the stress. So what we do a lot of times at work is laugh, we joke a lot. - Ruth Olojede
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to find a way to be happy while working.
Another thing is to have scheduled breaks where you just get to rest. This doesn't necessarily mean ‘sleep’ but doing anything that makes you feel relaxed and refreshed.
It could be meditation, reading a book, getting a massage, or whatever rest means to you.
So what I've done is that I have made it a lifestyle. It's not about waiting until I break down before I rest. I’ve made it a culture. Now there's always rest and renewal in my daily schedule. - Oluseye Ashiru
Dealing with Negotiation and Raising Money
When it comes to handling negotiation as a female founder, it's important that you know what you want to get out of every conversation.
This might involve putting your sentiments aside and going heads on for what you came for.
It is a lesson that I've learned as a very sentimental person. I've learned to let sentiments lie low, get what I came for, and forget about the rest of the things. - Oluseye Ashiru
Because people don't expect much from females and they are not used to the idea of seeing a female lead, their bias is so obvious and could be distracting.
However, you still need to cut through the noise of their bias and keep your head high.
It will not be 100% smooth, but eventually, they’ll start to recognize you for what you stand for if you don't back down.
Regardless of your gender. When people see that what you're saying and offering them has a lot of value, they might not pay attention to you immediately when you start to speak, but they’ll eventually listen! - Adeola Ayoola
It’s also important to note that it is not every time you lose an investment or funding opportunity that it’s because of your gender.
There are other factors, and you need to make sure that you have them covered.
One of the things I realized is that - not getting the money is not personal. Sometimes you might just not match their investment or donation requirements. Sometimes they just have other things going on. They might be restructuring it. Sometimes it's not about you - Blessing Abeng.
Ask questions like- You said no to our investment. Is there something we can do better? Is there something we need to improve on? etc
This will give you a perspective into what went wrong instead of you being unnecessarily hard on yourself.
It can get really painful when someone who is doing great on your team has to leave.
This is likely to happen in every business at one point or the other. Employees will leave for different reasons.
How do you deal with this then?
One thing for us is we try to focus on the positives. We try as much as possible to be grateful that we've had such people on the team. We take learnings from that too. I mean, the standard is already raised for having a great person on the team. Then the next person coming in has to be great or greater. - Adeola Ayoola
Be glad that you have had someone really good to work on your team and be genuinely happy about their growth.
We just need to remember that people need to grow and outgrow us sometimes to be able to become great evangelists for us. They need to go to other spaces where they will speak on our behalf and on behalf of the company - Blessing Abeng.
It’s important to keep communication warm and friendly because these people who have to leave could become evangelists of the company or be in a position to make a decision that affects the company in the future.
It’s also a good thing to leave the communications line open so they can know that they are always welcome if they need any kind of support.
Keeping Your Team Motivated
Keeping your team motivated is key to achieving significant goals. You need to successfully sell your vision to your team members to do this.
Make them co-visionaries.
Such that they start to see the organization’s challenges as their own challenges, and it becomes easy for them to take ownership of their responsibilities.
I see them as Co-creators. We're doing this together. I'm not always looking at them as team members. I want to sell the vision of what we're doing collectively with them as if they were an equal owner. Oluseye Ashiru
With this in place, it becomes easy for them to see the value in their work, and they wouldn't need to be prompted to get things done.
There will also be no need for you to micromanage anyone. Each member of your team will be able to come up with creative stuff independently.
I'm a creative person myself, and I don't want people hovering over my shoulders when I'm working. So I try to give my people that kind of flexibility so that that way they see themselves as being the ones creating the solution. Oluseye Ashiru
Also, your team members need to see that it's not always all about you and what they can give. They need to understand that you also care about them, and their vision.
It's not about just what you can give me or what you can do for us. But what can I do for you as well? So I offer my coaching and mentoring for their own vision. - Oluseye Ashiru
Final Words for Female Founders
After having such a thrilling conversation, it was such a nice icing on the cake to have these female founders who have taken their time to speak with us o leave some final words before we ended the conversation.
This was what they said.
Never underestimate the importance of the employees, the staff you work with.
Ensure that every person is motivated enough to carry on that vision, no matter the department.
It’s crucial never to underestimate anybody
Let's keep working on our bounce-back ability. Our resilience - the ability to keep bouncing back no matter what we face.
As an entrepreneur, you'll keep moving from one challenge to another. Ask yourself, How can I still make it work no matter the setbacks that I face?
That's that big deal and I think it should start from you as a person.
Just keep building. Keep doing what you're doing.
On some days, It's bleak to see any impact in whatever you are doing, and on some other days, you get your recognition.
Eventually, down the line, when you keep doing it, regardless of all of the setbacks and distractions, it definitely will start to pay off.
Please prioritize progress over perfection, and don't wait until it's perfect before you do it.
Please show up.
You don’t have to show up at your best every single time; it won't always be your best, but the average will compound and make sense at the end of the day.
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