Pamela Anyoti Peronaci: Letting the Sun Shine on the Farmers of Uganda

Pamela APamela Anyoti Peronaci was born and raised in Uganda during one of the most difficult periods in the country’s history.  Under the reign of the dictator Idi Amin, for years Anyoti Peronaci’s parents struggled to provide basic things for their children.  “I didn’t have shoes for ten years of my life,” says Anyoti Peronaci. “In order to work, you need peace.”

And there was no peace in Uganda. After Amin, the region was devastated again by a civil war caused by Joseph Kony’s rebel group that lasted almost 20 years. “There was a lot of misery and a lot of people disappearing.”

But Anyoti’s family managed somehow, and her father pulled enough money together to send the children to school. “In Uganda, nature is on our side, and so we got by with what the land could provide.” (more…)

Sonnika Coetzee: The Sweet Smell of Success

IMGP1309 (2)There is no such word in the dictionary, but Sonnika Coetzee calls herself an “Aromateur”. She knows, for example, that it takes about 9,000 pounds (4,000 kilos) of rose petals to make just 35 ounces of pure rose essential oil. It has taken Coetzee 16 years to turn her childhood love of fragrances and interest in science into a viable business, but today she is the owner of a successful aromachology enterprise.

“If I look back at the growing years I can see hours, days and months ticking away, developing products that never really brought in the money I expected. A lot of time was sacrificed that could have been spent with family or friends and spare cash that could have used to pay off car or home loans. But I’m a strong believer in not looking back at the business failures of yesterday lest you stumble over your successes of today. Keep moving forward.” (more…)

Tina James: Championing Women on and off the Dance Floor

Tina James_ballroom compressedTina James’ heart and passion lie with women’s empowerment and, in case you doubt her credentials, she’s got two businesses to prove it. FemTECH, a support program for women-owned tech-enabled start-ups, helps African women take charge of their destinies by creating growing businesses. On a lighter note, Dancing Divas, a non-traditional dancing school targeting more “mature” ladies, builds confidence on the dance floor that translates into clients’ daily lives.

“I am so fortunate to be involved in two businesses that I am absolutely passionate about. The dancing caters to my creative side and through femTECH I can offer support services to women that inspire them to make their visions a reality. Out of what was not a very nice situation seven years ago, so many wonderful things have happened.” (more…)

Mary Shikukutu: Let Failure Be the Start of Your Success

Mary SDowntrodden and out of job with four children to support, Mary Shikukutu didn’t find much support among family and friends when she proposed the idea of starting an urban milling business for a traditional African grain.

“‘Are you crazy?’ was all I heard. `Who’ll support your business? You need to think of something else because there’s no market for that in the city.’ Yes, sometimes it’s good to listen to other people’s opinion, but if you give too much weight to what others think, you’ll never know what you are capable of or discover what life has in store for you. So despite all the no, no, no’s, I went ahead anyway.”

The fourth of six children, Shikukutu was born in Ondobe village in the Ohangwena region in the northern part of Namibia. According to Oshiwambo custom, which dictates children be split up and raised by family members when one or both parents dies, a five-year-old Shikukutu was sent to live with her aunty in the nation’s capital following her father’s death. Her oldest brother joined SWAPO, Namibia’s former national liberation movement, in exile where it was fighting for independence from South Africa in the 70s. (more…)

Babou Olengha Aaby: Building a Crowdfunding Business around her Authentic Self

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Babou Olengha-Aaby at Crowdsourcing Week Europe 2014. Courtesy of Sebastiaan ter Bur

Babou Olengha Aaby is convinced the biggest market opportunity lies not with India, China, or Brazil but rather women. But she wants to be clear on one thing: female entrepreneurship is not a gender issue, it’s an economic one. Women-owned businesses make for good business sense and smart economics: they start small, grow slowly, and fail less. And yet they attract only 1/3 of all venture capital. The Norwegian-based Olengha Aaby wants to change all that with her new crowdfunding platform specifically aimed at what she calls “mumpreneurs”.

“My big fat dream with Mums Mean Business is to provide all entrepreneurial mothers with a triple A service: access to finance, access to mentoring, and access to inspirational role models. Our goal is to provide aspiring mothers with start-up ambitions much-needed guidance in their critical first year of business to help get them to the next level.” (more…)

Monica Lopes: Soaking the Opportunity Up

self-soakkies-fullBeing a seamstress is a trade that has run in Monica Lopes’ family for four generations. Although she never pursued it as a career, it’s ironic that today, at the age of 39, she finds herself running a small but growing business built on the creation of vividly colored, handmade toweling hoodies. Soakuddlies, or “Soakkies” as Lopes likes to call them, are a passion for this creative single mom who has big ambitions but is realizing them one step at a time.

Lopes was born and grew up in Luanda, Angola in Southern Africa. She had always wanted to be a doctor, but when the time came for her to go university, she had to find a new career as there was no medical school in her home country. With an aptitude for languages, Lopes decided to study Portuguese and English with the aim of becoming an English teacher. She graduated from Agostinho Neto University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sciences of Education.

After university, Lopes visited Namibia, which borders Angola to the south, and fell in love with the country and a young man she met there. She decided to stay on in Windhoek, the capital, and began working at the Diplomatic Embassy of Angola as a translator. After four years, her marriage was suffering and work at the embassy was becoming increasingly demanding and stressful. She decided to go out on her own as a freelance translator, specializing in legal, marketing and business documents, to have better control over her hours and projects. (more…)

Hyasintha Ntuyeko: Starting Small But Dreaming Big

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Update: May 2015, Hyasintha was awarded second place in the trailblazer category of the Tanzania Annual Young Professionals Award.

March 2015 Hyasintha has been selected to participate in the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders in 2015.

According to those in the know, there are 22 things creative people do differently. For starters, they get inspired at the least expected moment. When they fail, they try again. They are repeatedly told to get real jobs but more often will follow their heart even when this seems unwise. But probably the biggest giveaway that Hyasintha Ntuyeko, an African small-business owner with big dreams, sports the creative gene is her uncanny knack for creating opportunity where others only see difficulty.

Ntuyeko was born in the Dodoma Region of Tanzania, almost smack in the middle of the East African nation that borders the Indian Ocean. The eldest child of four raised by her mother, Ntuyeko was fortunate to have the financial support of her uncle, a medical doctor, to attend St. Joseph College of Engineering and Technology in Dar-es-salaam, where she received a Bachelor of Engineering in Information Systems and Network Engineering.

Firmly believing in the value of a university degree to secure employment, Ntuyeko’s family was proud when she seemed firmly on that path, pursuing employment as a network engineer with several telecom companies.  And Ntuyeko herself truly believed this is what she was meant to do.

That is until the day her aunt Victoria planted the seed of inspiration. “I had sent off my job applications and money was tight, I was leaving for home the next day. Aunt Vicky had urged me to do something temporary until I got a ‘real’ job and invited me over. ‘I have something I want you to see,’ was all she said,” Ntuyeko recalls. (more…)

Margaret Kilibwa: From Big Pharma to a Clinic in the Tropics

MKprofileRare is the medical research professional who would give up an established 23-year career to start a healthcare clinic in Africa. Fewer still are those who would fund it out of their own pocket, eating through their savings and foregoing retirement benefits. Meet Margaret Kilibwa, clinical nutritionist and social entrepreneur.

“I wasn’t prepared when I made the leap, but I suppose if I knew then exactly what it would take, I might not have jumped into it. Then again, when I’m at the clinic, many women come to tell me ‘you saved my life’ but even if it was one woman it would be enough for the amount of investment I’ve made.”

Kilibwa was born in Sabatia not far from Kisumu, on the banks of Lake Victoria in Western Kenya. Influenced by her American classmates at boarding school, the young graduate crossed the Atlantic to study chemistry at the University of Cincinnati, where she had won a scholarship. From Ohio, she was accepted to the prestigious Cornell University where she did a Masters, followed by a PhD in clinical nutrition. Although she was interested in going to medical school, Kilibwa decided to gain work experience instead, “not in the diet area but rather to understand in more practical terms how nutrition can be used to prevent disease,” she recalls. (more…)