Each week, Female CoFounder features a female founder in the community. Follow along each week and learn from different founders and their journeys.
For this week's founder spotlight, we'd like to introduce you to Stephanie Hiewobea-Nyarko! She's the Co-Founder of Afroish.
FcF: Tell us about yourself.
Stephanie: Growing up I found myself tinkering with any electronic device I could lay my hands on. At that point, I knew I wanted to be an engineer, so I went to University and studied computer engineering.
While at University I discovered my second passion which is Entrepreneurship so after University, I started my first e-commerce business, which involved selling electronic components such as microcontrollers and sensors to university students in Ghana.
I also worked at Google in Ghana and then moved on to work at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the United Kingdom.
After a few years, I moved to Canada to pursue a master's in Entrepreneurship, business, and technology at the University of Waterloo.
It's indeed a challenge to juggle a full-time employee, a wife, and an entrepreneur but it's these challenges that inspire me. I find my entrepreneurship journey to be a very rewarding one knowing that my efforts are making an impact.
FcF: What is Afroish?
Stephanie: 'Afroish' is an amalgamation of the word 'Afro' - a term relating to African or black traditions and 'Ish' a term meaning belonging to. As Africans who have traveled and lived in different continents outside Africa, we always face the same challenge: how to stay connected to our routes. It is either finding the kind of fashion we are used to, African style home decor, fashionable accessories, traditional fabrics such as Kente, etc.
It is our hope that by creating a marketplace that lists Afro inspired products from suppliers in Africa and around the world and through storytelling using blog posts and newsletters we will be able to guide African's living in the diaspora stay connected to their routes.
FcF: How did you come up with Afroish?
Stephanie: When I moved to Canada I experienced the challenge of connecting with my cultural routes, that is, finding afro inspired products to use. After speaking to multiple friends It was evident that most Africans living in the diaspora experience this issue. On the other hand, I knew there was a huge supply of vendors back home who were looking for platforms to expand their businesses. In view of this, I decided to create a one-stop platform for all African inspired products featuring vendors from Africa and around the world.
FcF: How did you meet your CoFounder? What do you look for in finding your CoFounders?
Stephanie: I currently run this with my husband. I chose to do this because we had worked together for years and was very confident in his abilities. I generally look for people who are passionate about the problem I'm trying to solve and are committed to the goals we set.
FcF: What were the first 3 steps you took after you knew you wanted to pursue this idea?
Stephanie: I did a lot of market research by speaking to friends, family and other Africans living in the diaspora to assess how big the problem was, and to evaluate my hypothesis. During my research, the common theme was that other competitors were focused on fashion alone. In view of this, my value proposition was to provide a variety of unique Afro inspired products alongside a platform for storytelling to my target market.
To test the viability of the business idea and drawing from the responses received during my research I created an online marketplace that featured my own handmade items as well as already made items from different suppliers. I subsequently launched this within a focused group of people mostly comprising my family and friends.
Eventually, I leveraged on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to expand my reach and drive more traffic to Afroish.
FcF: What advice do you have for other women who have a start-up idea or side project idea?
Stephanie: It's great to have an idea, and it does take a lot of effort to get your start up running. But it's more rewarding to see that your efforts and ideas are actually solving a problem for someone and is making an impact in the world.
FcF: Is there anything you would like the Female CoFounder community to help you with?
Stephanie: We launched our online store in August, 2019 and have seen a tremendous number of visitors on our platform and some sales, we hope to expand our reach to other parts of North America. In order to meet our projections we require relevant traffic to the Afroish site. The female co-founder community can assist with brand visibility by publicizing the work we do at Afroish on other platforms and connecting us to other players in the Afro-Carribean community.
FcF: How can people connect with you?
Stephanie: We can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Social media handles below:
Check out more of Afroish!
Purchase your afro inspired products on our online marketplace at Afroish and enjoy free shipping on 80% of our products within Canada and the United States of America.
Also, read our blog posts here.