As part of our ongoing Tech Female Spotlight, we are featuring and celebrating dynamic tech female entrepreneurs who are using unique opportunities to create meaningful innovations and community engagements that affect humans globally. For this edition, we are presenting Mary Olushoga, the Founder of AWP Network; a network that powers small business success for African entrepreneurs through training and support.. Read this interview with her and get inspired!
Mary Olushoga is a committed leader, women and small business advocate. She is founder of awpnetwork.com, a platform powering small business success for African entrepreneurs. Olushoga received a bachelor’s degree from Union College in Schenectady, New York and a Master of Science degree from Baruch College. She has served as a Public Policy Fellow at the University at Albany, Center for Women in Government and Civil Society and participated in the Sub-Saharan African Women In Public Service Fall Institute. She is a 2015 Vital Voices Global Leadership Fellow, an IndiAfrica Young Visionary Fellow (2014), a Women4Africa International Media Woman of the Year (2014), a Crans Montana ‘New Leader’ (2014), the first-ever GOOD Maker/Oxfam America International Women’s Day Challenge Winner, a Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) Associate, and an Oxfam America Sisters on the Planet Ambassador.
Mary has featured on BBC World News, Arise TV, Black Enterprise, iwantherjob.com, AFK Insider, Applause Africa, BET Networks, and has presented her work on women entrepreneurs at the Columbia University Africa Economic Forum, the United States Department of Labor Strategy Meeting on Inclusion, Entrepreneurship, and Disability, W!se Institute, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the United Nations ECOSOC Youth Employment Forum, and the Rockefeller Foundation Tech Salon. She also writes for GE Ideas Lab and the Huffington Post.
Describe your personal brand in three words?
Media, Women and Academia.
What is your role as Founder of AWP Network?
I launched the AWP Network as a solution to the unemployment issue facing Africa especially in Nigeria as the most populous country on the continent. The idea is that if we are able to provide a supportive community to African entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, they will be sustainable and in turn create jobs and hire, thereby reducing unemployment. At the AWP Network, we see entrepreneurship as a solution.
The AWP Network is recognized by the World Summit Youth Awards (WSYA) as a leading internet and mobile innovative tool set to put the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into action. The AWP Network is also listed as an Apps4Africa Innovation and recognized as one of the leading organizations supporting African Women in Technology. If I had to break down my responsibilities, it would include the following:
- Identify best features and stories of women.
- Develop innovative programs and ensure that some of our pilot projects(Farming and ICT) are successful.
- Network, network, network. It’s very important that I continue to build valuable relationships.
- Set up and conduct phone and email interviews with entrepreneurs based in Africa.
- Oversee and manage all social media platforms and AWP website.
- Produce monthly webinars on small business related topics.
- Work with staff and partners to ensure that we achieve our goals.
What challenge does AWP Network solve?
Our goal is to empower African women and girl entrepreneurs using marketing and PR tools, technology, community engagement and support, business resources, and entrepreneurial training programs.Ultimately, we focus on the development, growth, and sustainability of African owned small businesses.
This idea came after a number of years working in the economic development space. I saw firsthand how the resources provided, helped entrepreneurs become more successful in their endeavors. I saw how access to resources, education, and financing helped to transform the lives of women entrepreneurs. I launched AWP shortly after a BBC interview in 2012.
Tell us more about your 3 passions and how it originated?
Aside from my work with AWP, I enjoy singing, dancing, and writing on issues affecting women.
What is your typical work day like?
I am not a 9-5 person. I consider myself a creative person and creative people are random and very eccentric. I start my day at about 4am. I pray and read my bible, then I write down everything that I need to accomplish for the day, then I log onto Twitter/Facebook/Instagram to interact with the social media audience, check emails and respond. Then I attend meetings with partners and receive updates from AWP Network staff. It’s pretty simple as I truly enjoy what I do. I have goals set for each day and it keeps me purpose driven.
How have you built your skills? Was it through formal education or your interest?
I have built my skills through both formal education and aggressively pursuing my passion. I define “passion” as things that I am interested in. Formal education allows you to be logical while passion enables you to pursue your dreams and when both align, magic happens. A lot of my experience is in small business development, media, writing and research.
I believe in having mentors either direct or indirect mentors. Mentorship allows one an opportunity to learn from someone.
I also read a lot and do stuff out of the box like traveling and visiting museums. There has to be a willingness to learn and it doesn’t really have to be anything academic.
How have you stayed focused and developed your brand?
There are three things that drive me, that’s having a mission. I wrote my life mission in 2013 – I want to be known and present, everywhere and anywhere, African women need a champion. A mission be it personal, professional helps one stay focused. And branding has to do with consistency.
Tell us about your experience as a Vital Voices Global Leadership Fellow?
It’s an amazing fellowship for women most especially those in emerging markets to develop their organizations. It helps one transition from idea stage to building an organization, thinking of structures, funding, recruiting employees amongst others. One thing I really liked about it was the amazing network of women, however, it is time consuming.
What can we expect from AWP Network in the future?
We have had a tremendous growth from 2012; the year we started and we hope to be consistent with our programs and provide excellence in the execution of our projects.
Thank you Mary for sharing your story with us!
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