Yasmin and Afua: Empowering young women in Africa
Afua Osei and Yasmin Belo-Osagie are the co-founders of She Leads Africa, a social enterprise with focus on women empowerment and entrepreneurship development. They are working to break the barriers while empowering young women all over Africa through their organisation. They both share with Guardian woman their experiences and why empowering other young women is a step in the right direction.
Who are Yasmin Belo-Osagie and Afua Osei?
Yasmin: My name is Yasmin and I’m a co-founder of She Leads Africa where I leads the events and offline programming team. Prior to starting SLA, I worked as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company where I focused on developing multi-year growth strategies for large organizations. I graduated from Princeton University (majoring in history) and now I’m mid-way through a JD/MBA at Harvard Law School and Stanford Business School. Afua: My name is Afua and I’m a co-founder of She Leads Africa where I lead the digital content and community team. Before starting SLA, I was a management consultant at McKinsey & Company, Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia, and communications staffer in the White House for First Lady Michelle Obama. I graduated from Allegheny College with a bachelor’s in political science and the University of Chicago where I completed a joint MBA and MPP.
Let’s talk about She Leads Africa, your social enterprise, what’s it about and what does it focus on?
She Leads Africa believes in the power of young African women to build amazing careers and businesses, serve as community leaders and influencers, and eventually take over the world. We produce events and online content to give young African women the skills and resources they need to achieve their professional goals. She Leads Africa is a social enterprise, not a not-for-profit. We think the distinction is important. We’re delivering value to our community and that value should be monetized just like any other product or service.
What gave birth to She Leads Africa?
The vision began over drinks at the Intercontinental Hotel! We both noticed that most of the organisations that focused on African women tended to focus on women at the base of the pyramid. There was a lot of discussion about micro business, micro-entrepreneurship, and microloans. We saw that there was a gap in the market for organisations that focused on women who were highly aspirational – women who wanted to be CEOs and build million dollar companies. We also saw a gap in the market for organisations that focused on young women – that spoke their language that understood their needs and that catered to their desires.
Since we came from the same company we have a similar working style which makes being partners very easy. It’s great having someone to collaborate and brainstorm with on new challenges.
What defines a typical She Leads Africa community woman?
Our community members, or Motherland Moguls, as we call them come from all walks of life. Most are between the ages of 18-35 but many fall outside that age range. Some of them are entrepreneurs, others are professionals and others are students. But what defines them is a hunger and passion to be professionally successful.
In what ways has SLA supported young women entrepreneurs?
We have a number of products and services to support female professionals and entrepreneur. Our services are varied and suit every price point.
Our Website: SheLeadsAfrica.org offers a number of informational and inspiration articles and downloadable guides for young women who want to develop their business or career skills.
Our Digital Trainings: Each week, we host online training sessions to provide access to experts regardless of wherever you are in the world. These digital trainings are free and cover topics such as Negotiating For What You’re Worth on March 10, Getting Into The Graduate School of Your Dreams on March 14 and Setting Up A Grown Up Budget on March 25.
Our Events: Our flagship event is called the She Hive – a 4-day boot camp that helps young women develop the skills they need to build successful careers. The She Hive will be visiting 7 different cities in 2016 alone. Right now we’re preparing for She Hive Abuja which is only 2 weeks away! We have a great line-up of speakers including the Hon. Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun, CEO of the Dangote Foundation Zouerra Yosouffou and the head of international Banking for First Bank Eyitope St. Matthew Daniels.
How can a woman who is interested become a part of She Leads Africa?
It’s very easy. You just need to head on over to our website SheLeadsAfrica.org and sign up to join our online community. Once you’re a member, you’ll get free business and career tips delivered straight to your inbox. You can also join our social media community by following us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.
In the course of your work interactions, have you come across women who can’t be friends with other women or help them take that step forward, what do you do in such a situation? We’ve never come upon this situation so thankfully this is not something that we’ve had to deal with. There are plenty of people, both men and women, who aren’t very good with collaborate and teamwork. That cannot be a reflection on an entire group of people, just that individuals decision on how they want to live their life.
There is a stereotype out there that women may not want to work with each other but we’ve seen the exact opposite of that with She Leads Africa. Our entire organization is based on the premise that if you bring together smart and ambitious young African women that they will work together and do great things.
How many female-led start-ups have you worked with and how can an aspiring female entrepreneur benefit from SLA?
Everyone who joins the She Leads Africa community gets access to our advice articles, expert events and digital trainings. We’ve had more than 30,000 women connect with our community but we know there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of other young women out there who could benefit.
You have been able to draw big names to your events, how easy or difficult has that been for you?
It is very difficult. For every big name that you see, we have 3 others that rejected us! But for the people who have decided to support us, they do it for a couple of reasons. We present a compelling value proposition for why they should care about the work that we do. We always act professionally. We show them our results and often times they’re very impressed by what we’ve been able to do
We’re persistent. For some people, we have to chase them for weeks before they say yes. But we remain persistent and respectful and hope that eventually they’ll change their minds.
Where do you see SLA in the next five years?
Our vision is to turn She Leads Africa into the #1 digital destination for smart and ambitious young African women. Whenever a young woman is looking to start a new business, launch her career, grow her business or improve her skills we want her to think first of She Leads Africa as the best place for her to do that. We’d love to grow our community to a million members and be able to host events wherever there are young African women leading their communities.