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In the first weeks of 2020, I met both Afua Hirsch and Fuse ODG. I bumped into Cephas of 56 Black Men and met 15 African female founders in London on a British government-sponsored trip, in collaboration with our friends at OneTech. Including one founder I mentored who is now part of our AfriTech XYZ cohort.
On the topic of AfriTech XYZ, our startups have begun to take part in their 1-2-1 virtual mentoring sessions with the experts in our network. They have worked with the fantastic Rashida Abdulahi, and have already received warm introductions to the teams at Google Launchpad Africa, Baobab Network and Founders Factory Africa, all of whom we’re extremely glad to have the support of as we roll out our program.
Things haven’t slowed down on the UK front either. We re-launched our My Moon Landing initiative with support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. We re-vamped our Black and Good initiative, and we’re about to run our first private event with PwC’s Design Thinking team in a few days. This is an exciting year for us as an organisation as we build on the wins and lessons of last year so that we can continue to improve the level and impact of support we offer our beneficiaries.
As for clients, we’re still working with our major ones like the British Council, for whom we’re currently running a virtual mentoring programme as part of a larger piece of work we began last year. You can read up on the project here.
We’re also working on a few projects that I hope we’ll be able to announce next month. Until then, here is a blog post I wrote about my thoughts on Meghan and Harry’s decision to “step back” from their roles as senior royals.
Our Favourite Articles This Month
What We're Reading This Month:
We're Hiring a Digital Assistant:
As we continue to grow in capacity as an organisation, we are in need of people that are passionate about the work we do to join us on the journey. Our fifth hire this year will be a Digital Assistant.
Where we'll be in February:
Thanks for reading!
Bayo Adelaja | Chief Do-er at Do it Now Now | This is how I got here
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Join Do it Now Now’s Team
About Do it Now Now
We are creating a world in which every person of Afro-Caribbean descent can gain the skills, tools and resources they need to build a business that improves lives and makes a profit.
We do this through a number of initiatives that seek to identify, engage and significantly support individuals as they seek to solve problems they have experienced in their own communities. Our belief is that by supporting underserved individuals we are championing the needs of underserved communities, bring more equity to the systems that exist.
Geographically we are present in 7 African countries and in the UK. In Africa, we support individuals through entrepreneurship training programs that focus on their adoption of technology and creativity. Through our on the ground programs and virtual mentorship scheme, we are building up our ability to support African entrepreneurs at scale through an easily accessible platform. In the UK we support entrepreneurs through a mixture of online and offline activities, giving black entrepreneurs access to experts, tools and resources they would find difficult to access elsewhere. Through our activities, we are repurposing existing government, charity and corporation resources for the benefit of underserved communities in the UK and in Africa.
Do it Now Now in 2020
We are seeking to ramp up the scalability of our activities. In 2019 we tested a number of methods and have settled on a few that we are going to focus on in 2020.
- Black and Good: Online training community for Afro-Caribbean UK entrepreneurs through which we provide a series of online events and activities to support entrepreneurial development
- Moon Landing: Outreach to black women in underserved communities to help them ideate and build community-focused social enterprises
- AfriTech XYZ: Virtual UK-Africa mentorship platform aiming to support ease of knowledge transfer between tech and non-tech professionals in the UK and startups teams across Africa.
- Common Call: Setting up a social investment fund for African entrepreneurs and UK based social enterprises run by members of our community
Proposed Role: Digital Assistant
We’re looking for someone who
...is passionate about our core values and wishes to pursue work in this space.
...has a desire to understand social media strategy and social media growth.
...has an analytical mind.
…can create graphics on Canva
…is familiar with databases like unsplash
...has an understanding of Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook for business/brand identity.
...wants to learn how to strategise and create powerful content for social media.
8 hours a week
Current university student or recent graduate
3x Instagram posts
3x FB posts
3x Linkedin posts
Growth across all platforms [liking, RTing, commenting on relevant posts]
Round-up report on our interactions on social media
You will be working closely with Ana Bradley, Executive Director of Sentient Media and content strategy specialist. In this role, you will get the chance to learn how to create effective content, how to speak to different audiences and the value of strategy and analytics.
To apply for the role, please register your interest by emailing email@example.com. You will receive an email stating the next steps after that.
Deadline: applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis.
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The British Council’s West Africa Creative Enterprise Support Programme has an invaluable purpose of energising the growing partnerships between the UK and Nigerian economic hubs and creative sector. With the creative industries in Nigeria growing at an ever fast pace, enabling key organisations to deliver training, mentoring and business development services to young, emerging entrepreneurs in Abuja can be life-changing.
Additionally, the economic potential in sectors such as fashion and film is increasingly being recognised as both viable and sustainable means of livelihoods for young people across Africa. Yet, with sometimes insurmountable hurdles such as weak policy support, a somewhat weak skills base and limited opportunities for networking, collaborations and skills-sharing, this rich potential is often unrealised. This is something we keenly recognise at Do it Now Now and so we were excited when given the opportunity to be involved.
How we’re supporting emerging creative talent with the British Council
The West Africa Creative Enterprise Support Programme began with a two-week intensive training for 60 selected fashion-tech entrepreneurs comprising artistic, technical and enterprise training that is tailored to the needs of each individual entrepreneur. With so much of our program design methodology built around stakeholder engagement, co-creating and co-designing, we enjoyed working with in-country partners and our clients, the British Council to develop something that met their key outcome specifications.
30 of the initial cohort of fashion-tech entrepreneurs were then chosen to participate in a 6-month incubation programme that has allowed their talent to really shine through. This element of the program provides much-needed access to workspace, equipment within the workspace (e.g. for producing new work, filming, editing etc.), training, business support and mentoring.
Once the incubation period ends in May, we’ll be back in Nigeria to support our in-country partners to choose the strongest 5 fashion-tech entrepreneurs who will be awarded grants to help them develop a business plan and help with starting or scaling up their existing businesses.
In the following video, Bayo Adelaja, Chief Do-er, speaks with one of the entrepreneurs, Sule Anthony, who asks why she does what she does at Do it Now Now. Take a look:
How we helped strengthen the economic capacity of some of Nigeria’s talented fashion entrepreneurs - Bayo takes us through the experience:
“We run one of the strongest black entrepreneurship communities in the UK with over 5000 individuals taking part in our activities each year. Of those members are fashion and creative entrepreneurs. That is one of the reasons why we were chosen by the British Council to partner with Assembly Hub, a Nigerian creative community in the design and delivery of a Fashion Incubation program. We engaged fashion entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and fashion academics from our UK ecosystem to take part in the program we designed based on the expressed needs of the entrepreneurs taking part.
“To engage in this work effectively we researched the creative and fashion entrepreneurship ecosystem in Nigeria extensively, creating references and materials that would resonate clearly and effectively with the 60 entrepreneurs we were supporting. We enjoyed juxtaposing the experience of being a fashion entrepreneur (increasingly a very technology-led experience) in the UK to that in Nigeria (a manual and bespoke focused service) and encouraged our team and trainers to treat their time with the entrepreneurs in Nigeria as a learning experience.
“The 6-month incubation program, which entailed online and in-person mentoring, intensive workshops and peer-support, allowed us to evolve other work we have designed for charities and corporations in the UK and abroad. Crucially, this work specifically shows how important it is to empower people who don’t have access to the necessary resources they need to innovate their way out of some the problems they face. Ultimately, the economic empowerment projects like this can bring to low-middle income economies can essentially benefit not just the local entrepreneurs but, eventually, the whole world.”
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“Is it because I’m black, is it because I’m a woman or is it because I’m both?” There have been a few experiences in my life during which I found myself asking a question no one wants to find themselves asking. It is the sort of question that takes away all the power you have mustered and forces you to recognise that despite your hard work, competence and pleasant demeanour in any and all circumstances, you are still capable of being reduced to stereotypes, prejudices and misrepresentation of your character based on two things that you did not choose and cannot unlearn.
I am a black woman and have grown to be extremely proud of that fact. As an immigrant in the UK, I was challenged in my teenage years by the juxtaposition of my experiences as a member of the racial majority in Nigeria to becoming a representative of a dire minority in the suburbs of Kent. Growing up, I had to teach myself which kind of racism mattered and which kind of racism didn’t. I had to make the distinction between my A-Level History teacher’s treatment of my “forcefulness” which other teachers deemed signs of leadership abilities and the treatment I got from strangers every few months who would yell slurs at me in the street for merely existing. Both are bad, but only one was going to affect my future opportunities.
To be clear, I built a social paradigm that gave me what everyone around me told me I should strive for - the ability to “keep calm and carry on”. In my paradigm, I defined “racism that matters” as “the negative demonstration of unearned or positional power, typically exemplified by socio-economic standing and societal influence, by a person of one race, over a person of another race who is incapable of matching that power, unable to earn that power and therefore cannot counteract the effects of the negative demonstration on their life or livelihood.” Everything else was explained away as, “racial insensitivity”; the result of ignorance, bad parenting, likely hardship that person must have been facing in their own probably terrible lives and so on. It worked for a while. I lived happily in the bubble I created, knit together by sociological theories and paradigms that kept me calm and unproblematic, declawed and unable to fight for my space, my time, or my mental health.
In 2016, when I started my social enterprise Do it Now Now, I recognised only one key problem in my life. It was that despite my qualifications, work history, educational background, articulation and pleasant demeanour in any and all circumstances, there were still many opportunities that I was incapable of accessing despite my racial counterparts enjoying the benefits of those tools and resources. As I tackled one problem, I recognised another. In the many conversations I had with our black female beneficiaries, I heard echoes of the paradigms that were helping me get by. The “racial insensitivity” we had each experienced over years as minorities in a “keep calm and carry on” culture had planted seeds in us and planted common mental health disorders like depression and anxiety. The trend amongst our black female beneficiaries was undeniable so I decided to do a little research and found that, according to the UK’s Office of National Statistics, the most likely racial demographic to experience common mental health disorders in the UK are indeed black women. We addressed this phenomenon by re-vamping our support methodology for black female business owners; for example, support groups and social activities as well as female-only events and programs during which we talked about personal development, building resilience, mental health AND how to build a successful business.
We weren’t taught to value ourselves in this way growing up. We now have language around things like “toxic behaviour”, “microaggressions”, “gaslighting” and the like that more and more black women are adopting and utilising to unlearn their old paradigms and create new ones that put a value on our lives, livelihoods and mental health. Despite this being a full-blown and very active movement in the US, it is still in its very early stages in the black community in the UK. We are still learning that our lives matter, our health matters, our hopes and dreams matter and that our voices matter.
Over the past few days, like many other black women in my sphere of influence, I have found myself incredibly interested in all commotion concerning the announcement made by Prince Harry and Meghan Markel about their decision to “step back” from their role as Senior Royals. Those two words have galvanised a much-needed movement in the black female community; one that encourages black women to value themselves and their personal happiness over the fear of playing into and confirming the stereotype of the “angry black woman” so many expect us to perform.
Step Back is about recognising that ALL racism matters and we each have to decide to defend our lives, livelihoods and mental health from big and small attacks that have previously been explained away as the actions of the ignorant. So to black women, whether you decide to #StepBack by leaving a job that forces you to engage with co-workers that de-value your personhood or you decide to tell your aggressors to #StepBack so you can reclaim your space, as long as you’re doing what you think is right for your life, livelihood and mental health, its the right decision.
In 2020, we are taking our commitment to black women to the next level and including groups that are not noticed in specificity by the data currently made public by the Office of National Statistics in the UK, but certainly in need of similar support. We are glad to have received a pot of funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to create a year-long program that identified 375 black women, black non-binary people and black LGBTQ+ people who have an idea that is going to contribute to the social mobility, resiliency, safety and economic empowerment of people of colour and people living at risk of poverty or in poverty in London. You can find out more here - www.mymoonlanding.com
We’re excited to spend the year identifying, supporting and enriching the lives of people that are typically underserved, unsupported and unrecognised in their work to make London a better place for everyone.
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My name is Bayo, I’m Nigerian and I’ve lived in the UK for the past 19 years. For ten of those years, I have been a business person. That means I’ve seen the world that surrounds me through the following lens, “will it make money?” If you were talking about your favourite film, I was asking how much it grossed in the box office. If you were talking about fantasy football, I was asking what the subscription fee is for the app and how often you make in-app purchases.
I grew up nervous and anxious. I’d seen my African immigrant parents build and lose a business, but on the flip side, I grew up in the come-up of Facebook when a group of guys in a dorm room at Harvard University showed the rest of us that anything is possible. My mistake was assuming that everyone was on the same playing field.
I’m a big fan of Van Jones, not because I’ve watched everything he’s produced, but because I watched one specific thing and it summed up something I had been struggling to put into clear terms for a very long time. Van once told a story of his time at Harvard University saying,
“I didn’t know until I got out of Law School that people were being invited into Professors’ homes. I didn’t know that. I thought I was doing my work, raising my hand, turning things in on time. There’s a whole world that was going on where Professors were picking students and developing them to become Supreme Court clerks, and I was some black kid from a [state] school and I didn’t even know that was possible.”
That is exactly the point. While I was at Durham University, dreaming of being the next big tech startup founder to build something that took over the world, I did it based on what I thought was possible. I entered a Dragon's Den competition at my university and I came second, that got me a little bit of money, but to run a tech company, you need a lot more than £300 and a gift certificate to the school cafeteria. So, my next options were, find an angel investor like the ones on Dragon’s Den. I tried that; who knew high-net-worth individuals were so difficult to come by? My next option was to get a loan and that wasn’t an option. I was 20 with no collateral and no one that would be my amigo; no one could be my loan guarantor because no one I knew owned anything worth guaranteeing with. People say you start with family and friends, but what happens when your family and friends are just as broke as you are?
I had my own Van Jones moment when one day my white middle-class university housemate told me that her parents were giving her a large chunk of money to run her fledgeling business; just like that. In the days that followed her announcement, I felt like I was in the Matrix and I had seen the source code. After a couple of years of fighting it, I finally came to the realisation that the world I wanted to live in, one built entirely on meritocracy, didn't exist. So, one day with my company strong and present in 12 universities, with over 75 volunteer staff and over 1200 weekly users, I decided to quit. I didn’t make the decision lightly, but I did make it eventually.
I recently found out that another white middle-class undergraduate colleague that I met during that fateful Dragon’s Den competition went on to join Techstars soon after graduation - I didn’t even know things like accelerators existed then. He is now retired and enjoying the life his access to networks of knowledge and resource have been able to afford him. He had networks in tech, in the UK’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and the VC pool, and I had the Google search engines. Most people think that search engines have democratised access information, but if you don’t know which questions to ask, Google is just a reflection of your immediate circle. It's like Instagram’s algorithm; you think you’re seeing everything, but really you’re seeing about a fifth of the posts from the people you decided to follow.
Helpless to change the infrastructure in which I had to exist, I found a new dream; I would get a job, get paid and would do my best to not fly too close to the sun. A few years later, 2 Masters done, a few accolades to my name and a few new scars, I realised that the problems I had experienced in the business world were the same ones I experienced in the working world. Again, I found myself in need of help but unsure of whom to turn to; unsure whom to ask or what to ask. I felt entirely caged in. Sure that I couldn’t be the only person dealing with these issues in business or work, I began having conversations and found allies; people that wanted to access networks and opportunities that they would ordinarily not be able to reach into. I decided to turn my attention to solving that problem.
I built a community of like-minded individuals and began running events in the offices of companies like Facebook and, wouldn't you know it, Google. I was building a network of my own so that I could open that network up to other people. Despite the wealth of good intentions, the question quickly arose, “will it make money?” I got my answer when I began getting requests from three groups, startup founders in need of opportunities, corporations seeking to give more opportunities to a wider range of people and, almost out of the blue, I found that charities were also interested in addressing the diversity issue they had been seeing through their external and internal operations. There you have it.
Hence, here at Do it Now Now, we work to champion ethnic diversity in entrepreneurship, creativity and philanthropy. We develop and deliver programs and campaigns that empower and edify communities we fight for (people of Afro-Caribbean descent living in under-served communities around the world) Thankfully, it’s working out.
Do it Now Now has helped thousands of people expand their networks, form collaborations, build better businesses, form friendships and more. We’re all about opening doors, creating more seats at the table for the people that need them, and giving those people the tools to open doors and pull up chairs for others as well.
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Thanks to research carried out by key players of the African tech ecosystem, GSMA, VC4A, Orange Digital Ventures, Techcabal and Briter Bridges over the past year, we have finally been able to put numbers to anecdotal evidence we've been collecting for years. Some of the key finding of the year have been:
Of the Africa-based, VC-backed startup founders that have raised over $100K:
With this information in mind, we sought to discover the difference between these funded founders and the African born, raised and educated founders not yet in receipt of funding.
We carried out our own research and found that the overarching barrier is access.
With this in mind, we created AfriTech XYZ; a program that supports high potential, early-stage startups across 6 African countries through an individualised mentorship program supported by skilled volunteers around the world. Here's a quick snapshot of our volunteer community:
Much more news to come on the progress of this program in 2020, but we believe we’ve stumbled on something that could significantly impact the African tech ecosystem and allow for a stronger, more effectively supported pipeline of startups to grow out of the continent.
In Africa, we support the democratisation of access to key opportunities and information that will catalyse the growth of startups and their ability to get funded. We’re working to ensure that we can bridge as many of those gaps as possible through the AfriTech XYZ program.
Subscribe to the AfriTech XYZ newsletter for more information on the work we're doing with tech entrepreneurs across Africa - www.afritech.xyz