Meet Two African Women Who Are Transforming the Tech Industry

Fredrick Ngugi August 08, 2016
Ijeoma Oguegbu (L) and Barbara Okoto (R), the co-founders of Beavly.com. True Africa

For Ijeoma Oguegbu of Nigeria and Barbara Okoto of Ghana, it was the desire to create employment opportunities in Africa that motivated them to venture into what now has become one of the largest online learning platforms in Africa and beyond.

Beavly is an online marketplace connecting people looking to learn informal skills like cooking, fashion design, beauty therapy, and more with business professionals who offer workplace or side -by-side training.

The portal is one of the only two African startups that were accepted into the elite S Factory last November. S Factory is an entrepreneurship pre-accelerator in Chile that gives grants of $15,000 to female entrepreneurs with good ideas.

“We promote informal learning to get graduates and unemployed adults out of the house and towards career success. We focus on courses like makeup, gele-tying, fashion, and designing,” the duo told True Africa in a recent interview.

Remembering how it all started, Oguegbu, Beavly’s CEO, says the idea struck her after she bought horrible pastries from a restaurant that had just opened in her neighborhood.

She wondered how she could help the restaurant owner learn to make better pastries, and that’s when she decided to start a platform to connect learners with trainers. She then teamed up with Okoto, her roommate at the time, to execute the idea, which they later presented to The S Factory for funding.

Luckily, they got the grant, which they used to start the business. Then in May of this year, the pair was accepted into Startup Chile, another program that offers grants to startups that are striving to create their niche in the market. With this program, Beavly is set to receive $30,000.

Not All Rosy

Just like in any other partnership, the two admit there are times when they disagree with each other. With the help of their friends, however, they don’t have trouble finding a middle ground.

“Initially, we used to fight frequently, but now, there are certain fights that we don’t bother to have, and when we do fight, we don’t react as much as we used to. Now it’s more like, ‘eh whatever’,” Oguegbu said.

As women in the male-dominated technology industry, the two have had a rough time proving that they can do better than most men. They also have had to deal with the pressure of philandering men who often try to hit on them.

“As a woman, people take you less seriously. We don’t let our clients and customers know we’re women if it isn’t necessary because when guys find out you are female, they want to hit on you,” Okoto added.

Ijeoma Oguegbu is a graduate of Wisconsin International University College and Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, while Barbara Okoto is a graduate of Radford University College with a BS in Information Communication Technology.

The duo’s biggest desire at the moment is to build an honest and transparent team that identifies with their business.

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