Research, networking, and funding: Three female entrepreneurs on the journey to their first 100 customers

Africa Soft Power (ASP) partner organization, African Women on Board (AWB), has launched a new Instagram Live series, sharing key information and insights that African female entrepreneurs can leverage on their own journey towards business success. The first session, held on Thursday 30th March, provided an exciting opening, as three female founders shared some of the key pathways and practices that they have put in place to help reach their first 100 customers.

The panel

Moderated by AWB’s own Community & Engagement Associate, Gift Arku, the panel included three African female entrepreneurs, who currently own or co-own their own businesses:  

👤 Jade Oyateru – co-Founder, Uncover Skincare: a VC backed community-built brand on a mission to transform women’s skin-care habits.
👤 Chinma Nwaozuzu – Founder, Girly Essentials, an innovative Lagos-based E-commerce store.
👤 Aishat Mustapha – Founder & Creative Director, Mairachamp Nigeria: a lifestyle brand specializing in beaded and non-beaded bags.

Over the course of an informative hour (which you can watch in full here) the three shared key learnings across research, networking, and funding – as well as additional considerations – and you can read some key insights from the event below. 


Jade Oyateru, on market information and research:

“It is not easy. It is tough. With every market, there are new complexities. I think for us, we’ve identified the right market for our brand. Carry out thorough consumer research. Do you understand your consumers? Ask the right questions. You need to be on-ground not virtually. You need to have a clear go-to market strategy. What is my product positioning for this market? How do I think about partnerships? What are the regulatory and labor laws? Who are the competitors? Partnerships are also key (for example you can partner with a distributor who understands the market landscape). How do you outsource? How do you tap into partnerships with respect to inventories?”

Chinma Nwaozuzu, on funding and female education:

“I know when I first started, I bootstrapped the business and raised money from family and friends. I knew there were loans and PE firms. But I think there’s an issue with loans: there is a perception that the interest rate is too high, and you don’t want to get stuck. The idea that women will shy away from investors because sometimes it can be a bit daunting. I know there are some banks in Nigeria that have loans targeted at women, but I find that there is an awareness issue. I think education, awareness, and financial literacy are all really important. Educate yourself, be financially literate and you’ll be able to make the right choices for your business.” 

Aishat Mustapha, on the importance of networking and how to get better at it:

“Expanding our network is key. For you to be a businesswoman, you need to expand your network. I can count the number of people I speak to in my industry. I’m still struggling with it. I’ve been opportune to meet some founders, and attend for example female pop up events. I walk up to people and introduce myself. Work on your relationship skills. When you’re starting it may not make sense to others but keep on pushing. Build a community.” 

Progress Over Perfection

In addition to the success that more tangible activities like research, networking, and funding-drives can bring, each member of the panel emphasized the importance of a more personal commodity in achieving business success: Tenacity.

There will be days in the evolution of any business – new or old – when times get tough and it doesn’t always feel like progress is being made. But one of the most important components in any successful project is staying power: if you keep going, stay focused, and continue to push yourself to produce results, then successful outcomes are considerably more likely to follow.

Jade: “Progress over perfection is so important. If you have an idea, just start. If you’re able to do so, leverage networks, and co-Founder opportunities. Think about structures because it goes a long way. You’ll be surprised how many people are looking for women like you. This is the time for women in Africa, there’s so much focus on female entrepreneurs in Africa, take advantage of it.”

Chinma: “You have to be determined and have tenacity. Keep on showing up and keep on believing. Be consistent and patient, have self-belief, be dedicated, and have a community that encourages and supports you.”

Aisha: “There can be a fear of failure because women are not the best risk-takers. We need to overcome that. As I alluded to with my networking, that’s a side of things I’m still struggling with. But keep on pushing and take more risks.”

We’ll be releasing details of further Instagram Live events in due course, and in the meantime for specific questions and information requests on the series, you can get in contact with the AWB team directly at: awb@africanwomenonboard.org