It’s Black History Months (BHM) and awards season, so I caught up with Black British Business Award finalist Wanita Bardouille, Creative Services (CS) Director at Ralph Lauren (RL). Nominated in the Leader Category, I wanted to know how she feels about it all!
How does it feel to be nominated for a BBB Award? Really nice, but I’m quite reserved and don’t like the spotlight too much so it was a bit hard to accept.
Do you think it’s necessary to have the BBB Awards? Of course, when I was nominated one of the founders said, black professionals in prominent positions have a responsibility to allow others to see them and hopefully feel inspired.
What does it mean to be a leader? I’m part of the Diversity and Inclusion Team at work and give talks in schools. It’s important to give back and encourage others to be authentic to themselves. Once a headteacher said to me, “I don’t know why you want to talk to these girls; they all just want to be hairdressers and nail technicians”. I reminded him that Vidal Sassoon was a hairdresser! For me, it’s not what you dream but how big you dream it; I encourage young people to believe in their own value.
This post was first published on ‘Africa on the Blog’ website in honour of Ghana’s 60th year of independence. In celebration of International Women’s Day, I’m re-posting here. Enjoy!
It’s not business as usual in Ghana. The rise of social enterprises is becoming a major player in Ghana’s economic environment, and Ghanaian women are boldly navigating their own routes, through this landscape.
Gone are the days when being an entrepreneur was only about making profit. Over many years, the ‘social entrepreneur’ has shifted the prism, through which we interpret business success. Using business acumen to drive social and environmental change, the social entrepreneur empowers communities exponentially while re-investing the majority of profits back into the business.
In October 2016, the British Council published the results of an Overseas Development Institute (ODI) survey on the impact and growth of social enterprises in Ghana. Particularly, the study found how the rise of social enterprises is empowering women across the country. Of the thousands of social enterprises believed to exist in Ghana 98 were surveyed. However, the results were still interesting, mirroring what’s been shown in mainstream media.
The tubular grass plant, Bamboo is said to be one of the fastest growing plants in the world and does so abundantly in Ghana. While the idea of making bikes out of bamboo has been around for over 100 years, the socio-ecological enterprise, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative (GBBI) has been riding the wave of international acclaim since its conception in 2009.
Founder, Bernice Dapaah was invited to join the World Economic Forum’s community of Young Global Leaders in 2014, after winning the International Women Alliance World of Difference Award the previous year.
Photo credit: Ghanabamboobikes.org
Already securing United Nations (UN) funding, GBBI aims to address some of the problems with climate change, poverty, rural-urban migration and high unemployment amongst young people in Ghana. Locals, many without previous training in the manufacturing of bamboo bikes are taught specialist skills; with the workforce being majority women. GBBI provides employment opportunities for (un)skilled workers, while having a direct impact on reducing poverty in rural areas.
Photo credit: Ghanabamboobikes.org
The ODI study, also found that around 40% of social enterprise leaders in Ghana are women. Many have ambitious growth plans, but admit securing funding is one of their biggest barriers. Educational social enterprises are most prevalent and clustered in the capital, Accra. Followed closely by agricultural social enterprises, which tend to be in northern Ghana. However, there are enterprises operating in the manufacturing and service industries. Social enterprises are becoming a staple component of Ghana’s business sector.
Photo credit: ghanacodeclub.org
There’s no doubt we live in a digital world, whether you like technology or not, it’s part of our daily lives. Founded by Ernestina Appiah (pictured below), the Ghana Code Club (GCC), an after-school computing club, runs in 13 schools across the country. It aims to empower children to embrace and thrive in this digital age. The Phoenix Project was set up in collaboration with iSpace Foundation Ghana, in summer 2016 to encourage children (especially girls) to use technology as a form of fun self-expression.
Photo credit: ghanacodeclub.org
Technology plays a crucial role in the development of any country but it needs to be understood, before it can be implemented and used to provide families with any financial security. While leaning basic computer skills, children attending GCC also learn how to create their own websites, games and animations. These transferable skills will be invaluable to them and their communities, as they become future entrepreneurs, analysts, problem-solvers, engineers or scientists. A few days ago, GCC hosted a hackathon competition, which saw more than twenty schools compete against each other. The wining program was a piano application designed using Scratch programming software. The NPP manifesto acknowledged the importance of computer technology education. The party pledged to provide free WiFi in some educational intuitions and support computer programs for students who want to pursue a career in the sector.
Of course, children are the future, but all sections of Ghana’s society need to play a role in the country’s development. Ghana’s ‘women who code’ network provides women with tech skills to become economically independent. On 6th March 2017, Ghana celebrates 60 years of independence. While the new president stated that Ghana is “open for business” from international investors, Ghanaians are collaborating with each other, carving out their own future.
In his first state of the nation address on February 21st 2017, the newly elected Nana Akufo-Addo, stated that Ghana’s economy has serious problems. Targets of loan repayments to the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) urgent fiscal intervention in 2014 have not been met and high youth unemployment plagues the country. Continuing in his address to parliament, Akufo-Addo stated, “if I were to ask you to tell me what the number one problem was in your constituency, I suspect there would be a uniform answer: JOBS.” Promises were also made to “unleash the suppressed potential” of the Ghanaian economy, so that Ghanaian entrepreneurship can flourish. It’s unfortunate the words of Ghana’s first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah who (along with others) fought for independence from British rule, are still pertinent to Ghana’s development today. Despite some positive gains, there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Countrymen, the task ahead is great indeed, and heavy is the responsibility; and yet it is a noble and glorious challenge – a challenge which calls for the courage to dream, the courage to believe, the courage to dare, the courage to do, the courage to envision, the courage to fight, the courage to work, the courage to achieve”.
Ghana’s prosperity lies not in the hands of the government alone but in the hands of her own people too. It looks like Ghanaian women are courageously taking on the responsibility in a sustainable way and ready for the challenge ahead.
I love Twitter! Along with funny memes, it’s become a platform where I consume a lot of my news and find out about cool events. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across the Launch of UK Black Tech, hosted at the very impressive BloombergLondon offices.
The occasion was fitting of the venue.
I didn’t know what to expect, but listened attentively to the UK Black Tech team as they laid out their 100 Year Plan –building an inclusive tech economy and unlocking cultural diversity. The aim is to have a burgeoningonline space, where tech individuals and digital business are given tools they need to thrive, in one of the most dynamic industries in the world.
For most of us, seeing someone we can relate to can be a catalyst for igniting a passion within, that could otherwise stay dormant. The UK Black Teach team, have carved out their own careers within the tech industry and are keen to lend a helping hand to others.
An extension of this ethos is the #FacesLikeMecampaign, encouraging black tech professionals to use the hashtag stating their tech occupation. This increased visibility along with the support UK Black Tech offers to digital entrepreneurs and tech professionals, aims to diversify the UK tech industry socially and economically.
It was an inspiring evening where young (8–16 year-olds) entrepreneurs gave the audience insight into their startups. We heard how Chocoria is taking her chocolate spread to South Africa, FinTech platforms helping teenagers manage money and improve their financial literacy and Roadman Central, a sportswear price comparison site.
Technology is all about interactivity and UK Black Tech is no different! To understand the needs of those they aim to help, they’ve launched a survey. I’ve already filled it out and you can too, right here. There are also opportunities to get involved and offer your own skills; find out how.
I was frustrated with the lack of quality products for natural hair and the poor customer service experienced when buying products. So I took things in to my own hands and started TreasureTress UK in November 2015, says Jamelia Donaldson, Founder.
I met Jamelia at an African Technology Business Network (ATBN) event focussed on up and coming online businesses. Jamelia was on the panel and I thought the concept of her business was perfect for my blog, so I asked for an interview to find out more! It wasn’t easy to match up our schedules so we settled for a telephone interview. On a cold January night in London this was the best (and warmest) option. Despite her car being broken into (but not stolen), Jamelia still showed up for the call, so we jumped straight in…
Women are at the forefront of this latest natural movement; but children seem to be at the heart of TreasureTress?
Initially TreasureTress was supposed to be for young girls because I wanted my niece to grow up knowing how to take care of her natural hair. I only learnt how to take care of my natural hair at university and didn’t want her to wait that long before feeling comfortable with her hair texture.
“We focus on young girls as a starting point for everything we do. There is already lots of natural hair information for women. Young girls are growing up in an era where they are susceptible to social media; which also represents an opportunity to engage them to celebrate natural hair.”
Who else does TreasureTress cater for?
There’s a monthly ‘Mini-Me’ subscription box for young girls, aged 2-9 years. After so much positive response from older women we expanded the range, creating two additional boxes for ‘Tweens’ aged 10-18 years and for the ‘Qweens’ aged 19 years and older.
How does TreasureTress work?
You can subscribe throughout the year. If you order your box before the third of any month, you’ll receive it within that month, otherwise it will come the following month. It’s a rolling subscription, renewing every month but you’re notified about this via email. You can cancel or pause your subscription at any time, so if you’re on holiday or don’t need products each month you can pause and continue later. We also educate, by sending weekly newsletters and information cards.
“The relationship with our subscribers is quite intimate; there’s a constant dialogue”.
What products are in the TreasureTress boxes?
I have regular conversations with our subscribers about what they think of the service and useful products. Based on the feedback, I decide which products go into the box each month which usually comprises, a shampoo, conditioner, two styling products such as a gel and oil/serum.
Beyond the subscription boxes, how do you engage with your customers?
Last year we launched the Mini-Me VIP Tea Party, for ages 2-11 years. We invite mothers and their daughters to central London for Afternoon Tea. It’s so nice for young black / mixed-race girls to experience having Afternoon Tea with their mothers – something they may not do regularly. We also discuss hair and do product demonstrations.
Our Mini-Me VIP Tea Parties, sell out all the time. Mothers have said how positive it’s for their daughters to be in an environment with other little girls who look like them, celebrating their hair.
Why the name ‘TreasureTress’?
It’s a play on words [‘treasure chest’]. I want women and girls to treasure their tresses / hair. Getting to know your natural hair and discovering new products is an adventure. When you think of treasure: luxury, gems, gold and diamonds come to mind and I want our subscribers to value their hair in the same way.
What’s the TreasureTress ethos?
Our tag line is ‘the hunt is over’, we’re helping women find products that work for them, through a luxurious customer experience. A lot of thought goes into the box presentation.
“Growing up, I was always obsessed with hair but didn’t have access to the products and YouTube wasn’t around back then”.
Do you operate only in the UK?
That was the idea, but we now have subscribers in the Middle East, America and the rest of Europe, especially France.
Do you work with British haircare brands?
We work with British and American, established and new brands. I use brands that I’m familiar with and tried myself. I’m always on the hunt for new brands and ask for samples to try before recommending.
“I had a few years of being a product junkie, which set me up perfectly for this business!”
The main highlight of running TreasureTress?
There are so many, but is has to be the Mini-Me VIP Tea Parties.
The biggest lesson you’ve learnt?
Trusting my instincts. I worked in finance and tried to build TreasureTress at the same time, but I knew finance wasn’t my purpose. I was saving money and set a deadline of when I’d be working for myself and be in charge of my own time. I stuck to that deadline!
What’s in store for 2017?
Hopefully more collaborations and there will be more Mini-Me VIP Tea Parties.
We’ll be launching our first event for teenagers (Tweens) in April this year, it won’t be a tea party but we’re still working on the format. We’re not hosting hair events just for the sake of it, there’s always a deeper message behind what we do.
Yes, we are still talking about this issue, why? Because it’s still an issue! There has been an effort by big brands to make foundations for darker skin tones. In 2014, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o became the first black ambassador for Lancôme. In 2016 L’Oréal UK launched #YoursTruly campaign, where they expanded their foundation range covering 23 shades.
Iman face powder has been my staple for years, I love it! Before using it I didn’t wear face powder as I never found a shade I was completely happy with. Even when I had acne, I didn’t wear makeup partly because I didn’t have confidence I’d find my shade but also because I didn’t want to add anything else to my already troubled skin.
It’s good that big brands are expanding their ranges, but I don’t think we should just give our money to them on a plate. There are other brands which have included products for darker skin tones a part of their core ethos and we should be supporting them too!
L’Oréal was established in 1909, and in 2016 they expanded their range. Hmmm…ok, I guess as the saying goes “better late than never”, can be applied here?
According to the UK Greeting Card Association, in 2015 we spent around £1.7 billion on greeting cards. We sent £564 million worth of birthday cards to each other, with Christmas Single Cards accounting for more than 10% of total retail value for all cards.
Cards are definitely popular in the UK; they’re a personal way to communicate a message. But is it always easy to find the right greeting card?
It was my sister’s birthday and I was looking for a card with a young black female on it. After trawling most of the big high street card shops, I couldn’t find one, Says Nicola Lespeare of www.nicolalespeare.com. There are cards out there for black people, but they’re not always easy to find and can sometimes look a little old fashioned. So, I decided to create a solution to my own problem!
Tell us about your latest business venture
Nicola Lespeare is a new greetings card brand, showcasing illustrations designed by me, of mainly black women. However, my Christmas collection, launching on 14th November, does include a black Santa and kids…Santa’s little helpers!
I’ve already had people ask, “What about the black guys?!” I’m open to designing male illustrations and other family members but as I’m at the experimental stage with designs, I’m paying attention to what customers like before creating new designs.
When did you start your business?
From inception of the idea in July this year, I officially launched on 4th September 2016, it was a crazy 6 weeks!
You’re originally from Nottingham why did you move to London?
After the recession, job opportunities were few and far between in the property industry. I came to London 5 years ago for new opportunities.
How did you start your business?
Although I have a background in fashion illustration, I was a little daunted. I’ve never run a business before. I designed my first collection of cards, emailed my friends to spread the word, and received fantastic feedback!
What is fashion illustration?
Sketching garments on models, using personal drawing techniques to make the outfit look stylish. I can also pattern cut and make garments too, but I’ve been there, done that and ready to try something new.
How did you get started as an illustrator?
After graduating in Fashion Design a while back, I freelanced for a few years before working full time in a variety of office based roles to support myself. I’ve been in Operations Management for a few years but now want to return to my creative roots. I have no intention of going back to fashion design, but started drawing again. I didn’t foresee designing cards so it’s been a brilliant discovery for me.
I read a book called, ‘Be a Free Range Human’, which talks about remembering the passions of your younger self. Mine was drawing, so I went to a stationary shop got some pens and started drawing again.
The most challenging thing about running your business?
Setting up a website! I didn’t know anything about buying a domain name, finding a host etc. When first designing the cards, I realised that water colours didn’t photograph or print well. I had to work out how to make the illustrations pop and look great, which involved a lot of trial and error. Working full time while setting up a business is never easy, but I’m determined to make the business a success.
I went on a steep learning curve; I wasn’t even on social media at the time!
The main highlight of running your business?
Selling my first card! I was so excited when I got my first order via social media. Overall, the whole journey has been a highlight, especially as I set it up in a short space of time and the response has been amazing reaching all the way to NYC!
What’s the nicolalespeare.com ethos?
To design memorable celebration cards reflecting aspects of black culture, characteristics and trends. My vision is to become a brand synonymous with high quality black celebration cards, where people of African/Caribbean heritage can choose from a diverse collection of cards & gifts for every occasion.
Do you do bespoke cards?
Not yet, but I’m considering doing personalised cards in the future.
Any exciting developments?
There’s a wedding and Valentine’s Day collection coming in the New Year, which I can’t wait to start working on.
Where can we get your cards?
On my website nicolalespeare.com. Cards are posted within 24hrs all over the world; prices start at £2.49.
Any other card illustrators that inspire you?
I try not to look at what other card designers are doing, I want to maintain my own creative style. I’m inspired by anything around me…a piece of fabric, a person’s hairstyle that I’ll see on the bus, hot air balloons – which helped inspire the first collection.
Do you have any tips on starting a business?
Your social media game needs to be on point! It’s easy to become insular and paranoid that someone will steal your idea if you put it out there, but share it with friends and family because you need feedback. Most ideas are alterations of what’s been done in the past, but only you can put your own unique spin on it. What’s most important is that you act and keep progressing to reach your goals.