Female Entrepreneurs: 100 Female Entrepreneurs in Africa, from Nigeria meet Ebere Okonkwo

Creative industry: Promote young contemporary African talent
November 22, 2021
Female Entrepreneurs: 100 Female Entrepreneurs in Africa, from South Africa meet Zanele Diniso
November 26, 2021

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Story Time

NB: Every Wednesday and Friday please be on the lookout for female Entrepreneurs!

The coming months, content that will be explored are stories of female entrepreneurs in Africa. 100 Female entrepreneur’s stories will be published from Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, Botswana,  Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Angola.

Meet Ebere Okonkwo from Nigeria.

Who is Ebere and where are you from?

Ebere Okonkwo is a driven entrepreneur,  mental health enthusiast and Teen’s coach. She hails from Awgu local government of Enugu state in Africa’s Nigeria.

She has about two years of experience as an entrepreneur having worked on her start-up for close to two years now.

She is currently the CEO of Mycarebuddy Limited. An organization that provides an easily accessible platform for mental health care and consultation to individuals by connecting them with psychological experts and counsellors on their web application at www.mycarebuddy.org . She is dedicated to bringing accessible mental health care to people who need it the most and cancelling out the stigmatizing voice previously attributed with it. She also volunteers as a teen coach, one who mentors young adults, especially young girls along their line of career and early entrepreneurship.

Ebere holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

She is a vibrant, highly innovative and self-motivated individual who wishes to apply her skills in furthering relevant Sustainable Development Goals especially in the mental health sector.

In her journey to entrepreneurship, Ebere had obtained requisite business skills in different accelerator programs from high standing organizations like Africahacks, Bizskills Academy, Dunin-Deshpande Queens Innovation Center. She is currently running  in an entrepreneurial program, Standard Chartered Bank WITI by Enterprise Development Center in partnership with Pan African University.

In 2019, Ebere won the Bizskills Academy-sponsored prize of best pitch at the Naijahacks Hackathon.

For her brilliant innovation of creating a solution for mental health during the Summer Innovation Program by Dunin-Deshpande Queens Innovation Center, Ebere obtained a Certificate of Recognition from Queens University Canada in 2021. She was the only Nigerian at the program and came out as one of the top 5 at the final pitch competition which accommodated over 60 teams from different countries.

Also certified by Google Skills, Africa in Fundamentals of Digital Marketing.

Besides entrepreneurship and building her business that aims to provide the best mental health services to individuals and organizations. Ebere spends her spare time writing, singing off key and performing spoken word poetry.

Please share with us the inspiration behind Mycarebuddy?

Mycarebuddy is the product of an unparalleled desire to provide mental health care to individuals who are going through different phases of mental health challenges, especially the unreached not-too-privileged in the society.

The reasons for my undivided passion and interest in the above is easily relatable. Statistics of death by suicide in the world are on the rise daily. The society is laden with men and women, young and old including students who are not living up to their best potential because of some underlying mental health challenges. Productivity level at the workplace keeps going down the drain daily and most employers are ignorant to the role mental health plays in ensuring peak performance of their staff.

These, among others are the reasons why I am heavily invested in providing mental health awareness, advocacy and solutions to the best of my capacity.

How has the journey been like establishing the Mycarebuddy (highs and lows)?

It’s been a ride. It’s been an experience. It’s been processes. It’s been sacrifices. It’s been satisfaction and the little impact here and there in the lives of the people we’re serving. It’s been tears, hot and silent in my secret place where no one but God sees. Above all, it’s been fulfilling. Seeing my passion to make available and easily accessible mental health care to any and everyone who needs it. It is all the push I need to keep going despite the ruggedness of the journey.

Please share with us that one turning point in your business, career or personal life?

Feedback from client users. That moment, or those moments when a client comes back to say “oh, I felt much better having a session with one of your psychologists”. That would always be a turning point for me.

That would always be the validation of my WHY.

Lack of self-confidence and confidence in business is a reality? How did you manage to overcome the lack of confidence in business?

Hmm, this is a very present reality. One that tends to hold us back from attaining our highest potential.

I, for one overcame and still overcome the above monster through the following means:

•             I consciously acknowledge every milestone, no matter how little. Every little win and victory on my way up the ladder is a confidence booster for me and that keeps accumulating and compounding as I continue to progress.

•             I look at others doing great things, especially women and I know and say to myself, you can do the same and even better, there’s no reason why you cannot!

•             Constant, continuous personal development. This could be through trainings and courses on entrepreneurship, leadership and business dynamics. Also, through facing challenges head on. I, each time, emerge at the other end, stronger and more confident.

•             Lastly, and most importantly, I see myself through God’s eyes. I am an unapologetic Christian. Whenever I begin to doubt myself, I consult with God and His Holy Spirit. My self-perception is once again restored with the daunting belief that I am who God says I am, and that is someone who can do anything she wills herself to do.

Have you ever encountered any gender bias in business? If so, how did you deal with it?

Yes, a lot of times. There’s this unspoken belief that you as a female entrepreneur would always measure short of your male counterpart. Consciously or not.

It is like “you’re a woman, go get yourself a husband and stop with all these ambitions that will take you nowhere”. Or the typical objectifying of the female as simply a work of art and beauty and warmth. Business? Tech Founder? no, that’s pushing it a little too much!

Other times, gender bias exist subtly in the way fellow workers, entrepreneurs, clients, acquaintances perceive you in terms of your business. It’s more like “oh, she’s just a woman, what does she know in the real business world?”

I deal with the above by simply refusing to acknowledge the biases spoken or not and delivering value and excellence in my chosen line.

According to BusinessToday (2019) “80% of women who own small/micro scale business ventures have a hard time getting credit”.

         Please speak to the above in relation to Mycarebuddy?

This boils down to the gender gap that exists in the Business world. The females who against all odds find themselves or chose entrepreneurship still have to battle with getting the credit and acknowledgment of their efforts. This is  because there is still the traditional belief that the woman should belong somewhere else.

Bringing it home to my company, there are sometimes when the mention of a young female founder doing the most in the health tech is enough to attract some degree of appreciation, and if nothing more audience – “what does she have to say?”. Other times, being a female founder attracts scepticism, query, and invalidation.

My job, however, is to find the right balance between the two and still get what needs to be done.

Why is it important for young female entrepreneurs to be empowered?

Despite the rising trend of female entrepreneurs in recent times, there is still a huge gender gap in the entrepreneurship space. Statistics show that men are still nearly twice to become entrepreneurs than women.

Coupled with the societal and environmental constructs and divisive roles, that typically limits the extent to which it is socially acceptable for a woman to spread her entrepreneurship wings instead of focusing on home building and keeping.

Very importantly too, the psychological make-up of the woman makes her to require more assistance, encouragement and empowerment than her male counterpart. A woman is a natural multi-tasker. She juggles different roles almost at the same time and is expected to be always productive.

Because of this factor, there needs to be a conscious effort to support and empower the woman who has chosen to thread the entrepreneurship path. To give her more encouragement and reason to delve further and give enough focus to her business or dream in order to make it a great success indeed.

Family, friends, work and health. How do you meet a balance and still remain sane?

Proper planning and time management.

To be honest, the above is easier said than done!

But assigning time and priority checks to different activities, engagement and tasks helps maintain a tell relative balance and structure across.

Also, when I get too overwhelmed with work, I take a break, binge watch a series, eat for the fun of it, go out or just do anything other than work.

Words of wisdom to young female entrepreneurs in Africa considering entrepreneurship full time.

Please know your WHY. Memorize it. Articulate it clearly. Why do you want to do this? What’s your true passion in this line of endeavour? You’d need it when the challenges, delay and lonely entrepreneurship times set in, and trust me, they will. Also, believe in you. No one else would for you. No one else would root for you the way you would. Be your number one cheer leader.

Lastly, consistency is key. Whatever you’re doing, be consistent at it. Better at it, improve on it, learn new, better ways at doing it, but be consistent. That’s what brings the results.

How can we connect with you? (Social media handles and website)

Personal accounts

Facebook: Ebere Okonkwo

LinkedIn: Ebere Okonkwo

Instagram: @timeswithebere

Twitter: @timeswithebere

Business account  – @mycarebuddy across all social media

Company websitewww.mycarebuddy.org

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