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There are times when being different can seem like a huge disadvantage. I faced the same challenge when I moved to the UK two and a half years ago, writes Eunice Baguma Ball.
I didn’t feel like I belonged, particularly in the London tech startups space which I hoped to get into. I didn’t look or sound like many of the people I met at startup events. I thought people wouldn’t take me seriously and this greatly affected my confidence to pursue my startup idea.
My turning point came when someone told me to look at my differences as a competitive advantage. Being different meant I had a unique perspective on things and saw opportunities where others might not.
This is the case for many African diaspora. We have a unique blend of experiences and cultural influences that means we can see untapped opportunities that others might not see. I call that the ‘Diaspora Advantage’.
Below, I’ve highlighted five UK entrepreneurs who have leveraged their Diaspora Advantage to launch successful businesses.
Emeka Federick: Co-Founder, Chuku’s Lounge
Emeka and his sister Ifeyinwa are the co-founders of Chuku’s lounge, the world’s first Nigerian tapas lounge.
The idea for Chuku’s came about when the two noticed there was a lack of Nigerian cuisine on the UK food scene and saw this as an opportunity.
Drawing on both their experiences living in Spain and the Caribbean they added a unique twist to their idea, which was to serve Nigerian food in a Tapas style and relaxed atmosphere.
With their #ChopChatChill mantra, Chuku’s lounge is now a popular spot where people go to not only enjoy Nigerian food and culture but also escape the hustle and bustle of London.
At the upcoming Diaspora in Tech Week, Emeka will share his startup journey and experience of moving from full time employment to running Chuku’s full-time.
Barbara Njau: Co-Founder, Bahati Books
Bahati Books is an online marketplace for African literature. Their goal is to promote the narratives of Africans by Africans – both on the continent and in the diaspora.
Barbara and her co-founder Kudakwashe, both avid readers, found it was a challenge to get their hands on new, exciting and varied stories by talented African writers. A quick Google search showed either a limited list of the well-known African writers or the usual stereotypical stories.
They therefore decided to change this by setting up an e-book publishing company that finds, promotes and publishes unique and inspiring African stories.
Jamelia Donaldson: Founder, TreasureTress
TreasureTress is the UK’s first monthly subscription box for women and girls with kinky, curly, coily or frizzy hair.
Jamelia, a passionate advocate for natural hair, always had family and friends coming to her for advice on what products to use to take care of their hair. Realising that the challenge for many of them was finding the right products among the sea of options available, she decided to capitalise on the opportunity.
She went on to launch TreasureTress to help women and girls discover good, quality natural hair products that suit their hair type.
Bolu Akindoyin: Founder, Love Chin Chin
Love Chin Chin is the company responsible for introducing ‘Chin Chin’, a sweet snack popular in West Africa, into the UK market.
Cherishing childhood memories of his mother’s delicious Chin Chin, Bolu founded Love Chin Chin with the goal of getting Chin Chin the fame he felt it deserved.
Now stocked in major stores including Tesco and Asda, it’s safe to say that he has definitely succeeded in doing that.
At Diaspora in Tech Week Bolu will be sharing his experience in building an African-inspired food brand from scratch, to getting stocked in major super market chains.
Kay Akinwunmi: Founder, AfroExpress
AfroExpress is a service that provides door to door delivery of hard-to-find Afro-Caribbean food and produce.
The UK food box delivery UK market is a crowded and very competitive one with players such as Hello Fresh, Gousto and Marley Spoon battling it out for dominance. However, Kay noticed there was a gap in the market as none of them catered specifically to the unique needs of African diaspora and students many of whom often crave a real taste of home.
He therefore went on to launch AfroExpress to give Africans living away from home an authentic taste of home as well as save them money and time searching for the right produce to create it.
Diaspora in Tech Week will take place 17-21 October 2016. Its aim is to inspire and support diaspora to leverage technology and entrepreneurship to create a positive impact on the African continent. Participants can hear from inspiring diaspora founders to gain tips for launching their business, learn how to go about raising funding for their startup as well as tips for succeeding in the tech sector. Visit Diasporaintechweek.eventbrite.com