All Articles Tagged "african business"
With his new website EatAfrika.com, Elo Obimdike is serving up food from the motherland.
This past March, Obimdike, owner of African Food Services, launched EatAfrika.com, an online ordering platform that partners with local restaurants to bring New Yorkers their choice of African, Afro-centric and American cuisine.
The website, which lists its chefs and their specialties, as well as their own personal catering company’s and private restaurants, allows customers from any borough in New York to cruise the site and choose a chef and a meal, which will then be delivered to their home.
Obimdike, a Nigerian born New Jersey resident, explained that once a customer sends a request through the website, chefs are sent an email, and a text message with the details of the order and they in turn send the food on its way once it’s ready. With the bulk of the customer’s fee going to the chefs, Obimdike says it hasn’t been hard to recruit chefs from all over the city to participate and he is excited that access to African food is “now a reality” for the entire New York City community.
“We aim to serve food that originates from all parts of Africa, as well as food fusions that many of the chefs are well versed in. We’ve really tried to incorporate a diversity of people to team up with and we hope our customers will have a lot to discover once they visit the website,” Obimdike says. “Those that come and take a look will find choices like pap envleis or shisanyama , bunny chow, cape breyani and potjiekos and stew from South Africa. We also have kapenta with sadza from Zimbabwe, Jollof rice and egusi soup from Nigeria, periperi chicken from Mozambique, Koshari from Egypt.”
Obimdike, who originally founded African Food Services to celebrate and raise awareness for African culture, has been partnering with nonprofit organizations to host and publicize events throughout New York City. He says the premise for EatAfrika.com came after hiring different restaurants and businesses to cater these events and he realized he wanted everyone to experience a “taste of Africa.”
One thing Obimdike realized once he began this business endeavor was that the African delivery market was lacking. He says the majority of African restaurants, located largely in Brooklyn and the Bronx, didn’t deliver and he says his ability to offer that service has allowed EatAfrika.com’s popularity to soar.
“When I look around the city there are African restaurants but 95 percent of them don’t deliver and that can be a huge inconvenience especially during the winter months. People don’t want to venture out as much and delivery is a huge asset to those that offer it throughout the year,” Obimdike says. “By carving out this niche we have been able to reach a broader audience and so far we are getting a lot of positive feedback from our customers.”
Another reason for the website’s success is the fact that restaurant owners in Manhattan are paying upwards of $42,000 per month for 2,500 square feet of space, according to a variety of real estate listings that can be found on Blackwood Hospitality, a restaurant and management consultant’s website. Obimdike explains that many of the chefs featured on his website have forgone actual locations, using commercial kitchens instead.
“It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to open up a store front or a restaurant and many of the chefs actually cook from home or from a commercial kitchen and they save a lot of money that way,” Obimdike says. “This platform enables these chefs to avoid paying fees associated with costs of operation, and they can still serve their food to people all over the city. Restaurants are closing left and right due to ridiculous rents and this is a great alternative.”
Barbara Naadjie, a chef who is originally from Ghana, currently runs her catering company Barbara Food Creations in the Bronx. She joined EatAfrika.com after being contacted by Obimdike who had admired her food from afar. She says being involved with the site has not only helped get the word out about her own company, but also brings “amazing food to the mainstream.”
“Many chefs have thought about doing what Elo is doing for quite a long time but haven’t had the time to bring the concept together. It’s truly a great idea and I think it’s going to really change the way African food can be offered in this country,” Naadjie says. “Another great aspect of the site is that people can find out about the kind of food I cook. I don’t just make African food. I create a continental fusion with Asian, Indian, Spanish and East African influences. I am able to show the dishes I specialize in and basically people are able to customize their food. It’s an amazing opportunity for me to get my food out there and for people to try something new for lunch or dinner.”
Naadjie, who learned to cook in her home country from her grandmother and other family members, runs her catering business year round and says the site gives her the ability to concentrate on her business, but also generate extra income.
“It’s definitely going to take some time to really get going but I have already gotten some orders and I expect to get many more. The other thing that is great about the site is that we have flexibility because customers understand that they must order a few hours in advance, which gives me time to prepare and it works out really well for me,” Naadjie says. “For my catering company I am working mostly on the weekends and for special events. So even if someone puts in a big order through the site I still can manage the time and arrange a delivery by noon which leaves my entire afternoon free for my own business.”
Nigerian-born chef and graduate of International Culinary Institute Segun Odofa is also featured on EatAfrika.com and specializes in American and African food. He says the exposure from the site brings a huge amount of traffic to his own business Delicious African Orchards, which is located in Brooklyn.
“I have owned my own catering company for years now and I have a great staff that helps me out at the many events that we cater around New York and while I mostly cook from a commercial kitchen in Brooklyn, I also cook from home when orders come in from Elo’s website,” Odofa says. “People are able to see that I can cook Chinese, Italian, African and American food and that brings traffic and business to my catering company and it’s really a win-win for me and for Elo.”
For Obimdike, this food adventure furthers his original message of raising awareness about the diversity of African culture. He says it’s always been his dream to bring the traditions of home to American and he hopes to expand beyond New York in the near future.
“The African continent is like a deep ocean with quiet a lot to discover and I am proud that I have been able to share that with so many by just gathering so many beautiful people together through the love of food,” he says. “Our customers are also helping make the website better by offering opinions and feedback and we want to encourage that because it makes what we do that much better. In the future I want to continue what we are doing in other parts of the country and partner with more businesses and organizations to spread the knowledge of our cultures which are so dear to us.”
Up until 2014, Liberian born Chid Liberty, owner of Liberty & Justice, a fair trade certified apparel manufacturer located in Monrovia, and headquartered in New York City, manufactured product for third-party vendors. After being blindsided by the Ebola outbreak, Liberty was forced to shut down. While the crisis didn’t affect the health of any of his factory workers, every single third-party vendor and investor of the company pulled out, effectively leaving Liberty out of business. But instead of packing up and shutting down, Liberty, who has always been involved with the Liberian women’s movement, decided to take his company to the grassroots level and formulate UNIFORM to ignite social change in Liberia.
“We had built the company up to a 500,000 orders per month and in a flash we were out of business. The Ebola epidemic left us and the hundreds of workers and families that were depending on us stranded without income. We began to think what we could do to continue to provide jobs in Liberia and we came up with the idea to start our own brand, called UNIFORM,” Liberty says. “That idea was to make affordable school uniforms for kids in Liberia, which could both put our employees to work and make sure kids were going to school. But we soon realized that because of the Ebola outbreak, parents had no way to pay for these uniforms. That’s when the idea to initiate a Kickstarter campaign began to form in my mind.”
Through Liberty’s ties to the Liberian women’s movement, he found that Liberia has one of the lowest primary education enrollment rates in Africa with six out of 10 children of primary school-age out of school. The reason for their absence, largely had to do with a lack of school uniforms, which has become a huge obstacle for Liberian families, especially since 50 percent of working adults lost their jobs during the Ebola crisis.
Through a study done by the the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, Liberty also found that donating and providing children with school uniforms improved school attendance by 62 percent and dramatically increased test scores 0.25 standard deviations. Further, free uniforms have also had a direct impact on young girls, decreasing their school dropout rate by a third and for every three girls who stayed in school because of the three donated school uniforms, two delayed their pregnancy.
That information was enough for Liberty, and he set off to tackle the problem by initiating a Kickstarter campaign, which encouraged people to not only back UNIFORM as Liberty & Justice’s new clothing line, but to also be introduced to its first product: “the world’s softest Tee.” For every shirt, which costs $48 and is made from a tri-blend of lyocell, nylon and silk, a uniform is donated to a child who would otherwise go without an education.
To Liberty’s surprise, after launching the campaign, UNIFORM raised $50,000 in its first five hours, which less than two percent of Kickstarter campaigns have ever achieved, according to Liberty.
“We have now accumulated 858 backers, and we have reached $174,760, enabling almost 7,000 children to attain uniforms, and go to school. It’s only with the generosity of these backers and supporters that UNIFORM now has the ability to lead the way to sustainable development and the resources required for Liberian students to succeed,” Liberty said. (The campaign has since gone up in contributions.) “This Kickstarter campaign is seeing support from all over the world including America, Germany, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. We are seeing a global effort, which is making an enormous impact on Liberia’s economy, access to education, as well as its health, and emotional well being.”
While the Kickstarter campaign will continue to run until July 16, UNIFORM has added a new oxford shirt product, which has catapulted the clothing line far past its initial monetary goal. But because Liberty wants to see 50,000 children go back to school by the end of May 2016, he encourages customers to continue to back the campaign and see what it’s all about.
“A lot of people in 2014 thought we were going to be dead in the water and no one knew if we were going to make it. But we have really made a remarkable comeback and we came out swinging,” he says. “It just shows that when you really want to initiate change, people will stand behind you and the support has been pretty remarkable. The product itself is also magnificent and it’s amazing that this piece of clothing is putting mothers and the women of Liberia back to work, putting our kids back in school and that to me is a cause for celebration.”
Senegalese entrepreneur Magatte Wade has moved from marketing drinks, to marketing a different perspective of Africa. Wade started her entrepreneurial efforts with Adina World Beat Beverages in 2004. She wanted to share healthier drink recipes with the world and started selling the traditional Senegalese beverage bissap in the US. According to CNN, the young entrepreneur with one multi-million dollar company under her belt, saw a world ready to see African entrepreneurs succeed. She’s now coming out with a new skin care line and ambition to change Africa’s image.
“My biggest pride was to know that it was possible, that the vision I had was possible and my vision was that the world is hungry for well-executed African brands,” Wade told CNN.
Her new skin care line is called Tiossano; and it’s a high-end skin care line based on traditional Senegalese recipes. Tiossano uses natural ingredients unique to Africa. Her product is currently based in New York.
“We are in the process of making sure that people will buy into it. In our first three weeks of existence we landed a pretty cool account already, so we’re getting there,” she said.
Wade hopes to use her entrepreneurial efforts to also help change the image people have of Africa, which she feels consists of safaris, tribal designs and charity.
She wants her business pursuits to inspire other Africans so that in the next ten years there will be an African company included in the world’s top 100 brands.
“But self-esteem will also come if enough of us today that are in the age of working, if enough of us can really get together and try and build a different brand for Africa, a brand that all of a sudden means ‘contributors to the world,’ rather than a subset of a population that’s always sucking energy out of others,” she said to CNN.
Once Tiossano sees a great enough profit, Wade aspires to move production of her products from the US to Senegal. Even before its big move, the company is making plans to donate 10 percent of its earnings to support Senegal’s next generation of leaders.
(Businessweek) — The mouthful of coffee makes a high-pitched ting as Stephen Vick spits into a metal urn. “Ethiopian coffees are really special,” says Vick, quality control manager for Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea. At the company’s “cupping” lab in Chicago, he samples delicately flavored batches from the birthplace of coffee before deciding what to ship to Intelligentsia’s six cafes and 1,000 retailers. The Ethiopia taste tests occur far less often than before, says Vick. “We don’t want to buy anonymous coffee,” says Geoff Watts, an Intelligentsia vice-president. The no-name beans he is referring to trade on the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange, an effort to improve farm markets that also poses a serious problem for U.S. coffee dealers who seek out coffee the way Manhattan wine merchants track down the best Bordeaux.
(Forbes) — Chris Kirubi is a complex man. One of Africa’s richest and most successful businessmen, he’s that rare blend ofDonald Trump, Jeffrey Sachs,Richard Branson and American music star DJ Khaled, in African skin. In business, he’s got the cunning and clout of Trump, the economic intellect of Sachs, the rebellion of Branson, and the musical inclinations of hip-hop act DJ Khaled. Here’s the reason why: In between running one of Africa’s largest privately held business conglomerates, delivering countless keynote lectures during frequent international economic gatherings, writing a weekly business column for a daily newspaper and mentoring young Kenyan entrepreneurs, Kirubi still finds time to make cameo appearances in Kenyan hip-hop videos, movies, and even hosts a rock show on Capital FM, a Nairobi radio station he owns. He’s the DJ!
(Wall Street Journal) — From her Gorgeous Look embroidery shop, Monica Adeola has a front-row seat on a new Nigerian consumer ready to dress up. Her customers—stay-at-home moms, young professionals and laborers with newfound spending money—barter over the latest embroidered dresses, blouses and shirts, which are known here as “lace.” No longer reserved for the rich, lace today is on the backs of motorcycle-taxi passengers and nightclub goers, part of Africa’s growing middle class. The African Development Bank estimates that the continent has around 300 million people with incomes in excess of their basic needs, up more than 60% from a decade ago. “We’re trying to rebrand lace,” says Folake Folarin-Coker, a Nigerian fashion designer who helped stage a lace-themed fashion show here last month. “There is a huge middle-income market in Nigeria.” The Nigerian lace industry also opens a window on broader change in Africa as a whole: As the consumer class expands, so, too, has the underground, informal economy.
To be a successful entrepreneur in Africa, you must have raw courage, and blind perseverance to overcome mind-boggling bureaucracy and limited access to credit. In spite of these challenges many Africans have tapped into their entrepreneurial spirit and have been rewarded with success beyond their wildest dreams. Spanning every region of the continent, The Atlanta Post has compiled a diverse list of African visionaries who deserve to be profiled not only because of the size of their wallet, but also because of the phenomenal impact of their initiatives. Here are seven men and women whose stories will inspire you not to give up.
The Golden Boy
Even when he was a school boy, Aliko Dangote was eyeing the profit margin from the carton of sweets he was selling to his mates. By the time he was 21 he had secured a loan from his uncle to start a company which trades in cement. With strategic alliances and a sharp business acumen, he turned his company, the Dangote Group, into a commodities conglomerate operating in several African countries. According to Forbes’ 2011 rich list, at age 53 Dangote is worth 13 billion dollars, making him the richest man in Nigeria, and the 51st richest man in the world. dangote-group.com
(Christian Science Monitor) — Trade officials from across Africa met in Johannesburg this week to announce the formal start of negotiations toward a free trade zone that would stretch the length of the continent, incorporating more than 500 million people, 26 countries, and nearly a trillion dollars of economic output. The proposed deal, which would eliminate many trade barriers between participating countries, would merge three existing trade blocs in eastern, central, and southern Africa. It would include Africa’s two biggest economies (South Africa and Egypt) and its fastest growing (the Democratic Republic of Congo,Zimbabwe, and Botswana). The project, which has been dubbed the “African Grand Free Trade Area,” is a bold idea, but not a new one. African leaders first made their plans for a 26-country trading bloc public at a summit in Uganda in October 2008. Since then, they have made little progress toward that goal.
(TheLoop21) — Amsale Aberra has designed bridal gowns for some of America’s most well known celebrities. Her client list includes Halle Berry, Selma Hayek and Julia Roberts, just to name a few. Still, her first client nearly 25 years ago was a person she knows very well, herself. Aberra started designing bridal gowns when she couldn’t find a dress to walk down the aisle. So, she designed her own wedding dress that focused on simplicity, clean lines, with a touch of glamour. Aberra’s bridal aesthetic quickly caught on, making her a go-to designer in bridal showrooms across the U.S. A native of Ethiopia, Aberra came to the U.S. to study commercial art. When she took the 18-hour flight to New England, she had no idea she wouldn’t be able to return home. A revolution broke out, leaving her to support herself. Having no money to buy clothes, Aberra made her own and discovered she had a gift of design; an occupation she didn’t even know existed in Ethiopia.
(Wall Street Journal) — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday warned that China didn’t always have Africa’s interests at heart as it invested and offered assistance on the continent, highlighting frictions between the countries as economic stakes on the continent rise. In remarks to reporters after the close of a business conference in the Zambian capital of Lusaka, Mrs. Clinton said China “has not always utilized the talents of the African people in pursuing its business interests.” She added, however, that the U.S. also wanted to work more closely with China, and had instructed embassies to seek “areas of cooperation” with Chinese counterparts in Africa. She told the conference the U.S. was embarking on “a new way of doing business” that seeks to foster grass-roots commercial activity rather than aid. “Our approach is based on partnership, not patronage. It is focused not on handouts but on the kind of economic growth that underlies long-term progress,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Ultimately, it is aimed at helping developing countries chart their own futures and, frankly, end the need for aid at all.”