SFA: Briefly explain to everyone who you are and what Do It Now Now and Startups for Africa is?
BA: I am the individual that runs both Do it Now Now (DiNN) and Startups for Africa (SfA). I honestly don’t think that right now there is a better explanation of myself than that. Do it Now Now is a crowdfunding platform that helps Africa and diaspora focused entrepreneurs raise the funding they need to take their business to the next level. Startups for Africa was a reaction to the market research we did when speaking to our “ideal clients” for the crowdfunding platform. We found out that the types of businesses that we wanted to help were not ready to receive the help we were offering. They didn’t know much about marketing, branding, web design, packaging, growing a network, social impact and more. We realised that we needed to invest in the community we care about first. Through SfA, we run a number of resourcing and up-skilling events that are intended to help people in our community gain the tools they need to build healthy, scalable and sustainable businesses.
SFA: What led you down the career path you have taken?
BA: I am an international development researcher “by day.” I wanted to know what could be done, what gaps were not being addressed fully that could positively contribute to the development of African and diaspora communities. After a year of research around the topic, I found that the entry point that showed the least amount of resistance for me, based on my skills, knowledge and experience, was starting a business that helped entrepreneurs who are interested in creating a positive social impact on the continent. Hence, Do it Now Now and Startups for Africa.
"I could see that my work mattered in the UK. I wanted to do something the mattered on the continent."
SFA: Why the focus on the African continent?
BA: We focus on Africa because we are African. We are people of African descent. Although I moved to the UK when I was 10, I never lost track of the fact that I am a Nigerian person, living outside of my country. In my professional career, I was working on projects that were positively contributing to the development of health policies and impacting government decisions on a day to day basis. I could see that my work mattered in the UK. I wanted to do something the mattered on the continent.
SFA: What do you do to overcome challenges and keep connected to your community?
BA: I like to say that I often learn by osmosis. I am an avid learner and I am constantly looking for new opportunities to discover something interesting. I take the same approach when it comes to Africa. It is such a large continent with so many different cultures, languages, and expression of self, that it is hardly difficult to find a new way to get drawn into the community whether on the continent or in the diaspora. I am in awe of the incredible things that members of the diaspora are achieving every single day. It is hardly a challenge to keep connected. I guess you could say I am an Africa “fan girl.”
"My goal is to keep running this race until it is finished. I can’t do that if I stress myself into hating what I do."
SFA: What is a day in the life of Bayo Adelaja? How do you juggle everything?
BA: I love my life. I love everything I get to do. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a challenge sometimes, it just means that I try to focus on the fact that I am in love with my opportunities. I try not to get too stressed when I inevitably drop one of the many spinning plates I am holding. As most entrepreneurs will say, no two days are the same. The only staple is my attitude. I take breaks often. I make sure work is fun. If the particular task is not fun, I inject some music, singing and dancing into it. My goal is to keep running this race until it is finished. I can’t do that if I stress myself into hating what I do.
SFA: What current trends do you think will influence the future of the African continent and the diaspora and that we need to seize?
BA: I may be biased, but I think we need to create more spaces for individuals to develop. I would love to see more industry specific associations and hubs growing all around the continent so that individuals can get the support they need to grow businesses that will positively contribute to the development of Africa. I have always said that my strongest belief, in relation to the continent, is that social entrepreneurship is the answer we have all be looking for. The missing link between development and communities. Encouraging people to develop social enterprises that are actually impactful, rather than just sounding so, is something that I think we should definitely support.
"We are doing our best to create a safe space in which every person of African descent, or people who care about the development of Africa, can come together and support each other in the development of startups and initiative that will positively contribute to the development of Africa."
SFA: What key areas are you keen to focus on or are you keeping things broad to allow for all contributions
BA: Technically, we have 3 focus points - tech, retail and development. However, when you start thinking about those three things, you will be hard pressed to find an entrepreneur that does not fit into at least one of them. We are doing our best to create a safe space in which every person of African descent, or people who care about the development of Africa, can come together and support each other in the development of startups and initiative that will positively contribute to the development of Africa. We have our cycles. We focus on retail for a while, and then move on to something else, but in the midst of all the big events, there are always smaller, in-depth classes. They are sort of a universal key to running a business, any business well. I would never want anyone to feel they were unwelcome in our community. That’s actually why I started running Developing Your Ideas workshops. They allow people who are at the very beginning stages of developing their startup to get together on a regular basis with others who are just like them and tackle all universal steps before launching. I learn so much form speaking to members of our community and they are so responsive too which is great!
SFA: You set yourself a target to reach Ghana by 2017. How successful has that been so far and what are your plans over the next 5 years?
BA: It has been pretty intense trying to break new ground. We have the connections, but the timing is the real question. I was hoping we would be ready by March 2017 to launch in Ghana, but a couple of things have happened in the business that have forced us to scale back our expansion. Not bad things, just clarifying things. I would rather we have deep roots than tall branches. So we are going to keep growing our roots and we will be launching in Ghana towards the end of the year. In 5 years, we plan on having a Startups for Africa hubs in London, Ghana, Malawi and Kenya – a physical space where we can run our events and build a community of thoughtful individuals who care about their communities and want to see it develop.
SFA: If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?
BA: It's actually shocking how little I have to think about this - Pacing the Cage by Bruce Cockburn. I am not entirely sure what it says about me, but I guess I could leave that up to you to figure out.
SFA: Which three celebrities would you like to join for a night out?
BA: John Travolta, Erykah Baydu and Zadie Smith. I think it would be a really fun mix.
Well that's it until our next spotlight! Thank you for taking the time to be with us Bayo! *starts humming Pacing the Cage*