A Businesswoman's Best Friend: An Online Network Supports African Entrepreneurs
The African Women Power Network is literally a product of the digital age: It was born from a tweet and now is housed at a Wordpress blog. Today, the network is dedicated to providing budding African businesswomen support in the form of an online space to share entrepreneurial stories and business challenges.
"I’m fascinated by young women entrepreneurs who are different and working in science, technology, and manufacturing," says AWP founder Mary Olushoga, who recently won the International Women’s Day challenge sponsored by GOOD Maker and Oxfam America. In Nigeria, women are normally married even if they’re in their 20s, and are also starting their own businesses. I’m interested in how they balance their time, being a mother, wife, mentor to staff, entrepreneur—the burden of being a woman.”
For Olushoga, the prospect of helping entrepreneurs was a no-brainer. After watching her father struggle with his own startup in Nigeria and working in small business services after graduating from college, she noticed a gaping void in support for immigrant entrepreneurs. Unlike in the United States, where financial support for entrepreneurship abounds (GOOD Maker, Kickstarter, and Betaspring are just a few outlets dedicated to helping the underdog succeed), Nigeria has few opportunities for help. To help bridge the gap she launched AWP, which helps prepare aspiring business owners to qualify for the wealth of financial opportunities to bring their dreams to fruition.
The network is currently focusing on small business owners in New York and Nigeria, but Olushoga plans to expand widely. Future goals include producing online webinars and building a database of mentors to pass on knowledge they acquired through their own small businesses.
Building sisterhood is also key. "Women also hire other young women and employees and it becomes a circle of life, a chain reaction," Olushoga says. "As we have more women employers, more jobs are often created for young women.”
Olushoga’s efforts have not gone unnoticed: She’s spoken about Nigeria, politics, and gender on the BBC World News and at Columbia University. "Normally stories of African women are of victims,” Olushoga says. “Let’s talk about African women in a different light and talk about them as employers and how they have a key role to play in Africa’s transformation. I want to tell their stories.”
Photos courtesy of Mary Olushoga