27 Sep Success Meets Hardwork: Ajara Marie Bomah of Women Mean Business
Ajara Marie Bomah is a Social Entrepreneur, Marketing Executive, Diaspora Engagement Guru and a Girls Rights Humanitarian with a Masters in Social work and a plethora of career experience in social service delivery, academic and program development. Ajara relocated from the United States to Sierra Leone with the passion to grow and rebuild her motherland. With this as her mission, she launched her community platform for bringing women businesses together Women Mean Business in 2013, which has gathered over 350+ women business owners to date and provided them with networking opportunities and resources to date. She also serves as a volunteer project manager for GESSL a social impact organization that supports the leadership development of Sierra Leonean girls.
As a rising business mogul and a marketing executive, Ajara Marie is young, vibrant, enthusiastic and ready to take on the world. She is constantly cultivating relationships with business professionals in various sectors ranging from the public, private, governmental in Sierra Leone and in the United States Diaspora.
Ajara has appeared in various media outlets including, Guardian Nigeria, Afroelle Magazine, Ayiba Magazine, Bella Naija, Women Change Africa and was a co-star in the film “I Am the Film” a film that looks at the criticality of identity of returnees and diaspora American’s.
Please tell us about your business.
Women Mean Business cultivates, inspires, and empowers African female entrepreneurs who want to start or scale up their businesses and brands. We offer solutions for business growth, leadership and capacity building as well as digital media solutions for women in business.
We have a range of services that will give female entrepreneurs the opportunity to increase their visibility, productivity, sales and to collaborate and expand their networks as they develop businesses that will become economically and independently stable.
Women Mean Business serves as a vehicle for collaboration, networking, and development that will give female entrepreneurs and young leaders the support needed for them to follow their dreams and turn their passion into profit.
Phone: +232-79-555-485 |+232-99-605-755|+1202-763-2324
Facebook: Women Mean Business Honors
What made you decide to embark on rendering these services?
It was around the time to celebrate International Women’s day 2013 and I had started my first business but was just muddling through trying to do it on my own. I was so hard to find local female entrepreneurs or business women to glean from and receive mentoring from. So as someone who lives her life following the motto be the change you want to see happen, I decided to be that change and paired up with a friend and we decided to plan an event that will bring women in business together.
We wanted the platform that celebrated African Women Entrepreneurs, connect emerging entrepreneurs and those in business for networking and provide an educational platform that will focus on engaging business women in Africa from all business fields for an impactful and immersive skills building and networking session. With that the first annual WMB Honors event was created.
Over the years we realize that there are still gaps in the area of empowering African women entrepreneurs and have expanded from our annual event to a service business. I had expertise in the areas of PR and Communications as well as great networking and interpersonal skills and was already running a consultancy working on business development and project management, I decided it was best to merge together and provide some services for females to start and grow their business.
What influenced your decision to become an entrepreneur?
I have always had a passion for working in the areas of youth development and gender affairs especially young girls and women. Over my years in Sierra Leone I worked with organizations teaching young people and women how to find their voices to become change agents in their communities and empower them to engage in the economic sustainability of the country. Knowing the role that women have always played in providing for their families with monies they made from their petty trading or market jobs, I noticed that there were very little Sierra Leone business women who had sustainable businesses and mentors and networks for business development. It got my thinking about how women can contribute to the economy if they are not financially independent or economically stable and what can be done to change that.
To what do you attribute your success?
Growing up I had a strong community of positive female role models, mentors and leaders that instilled in me ideals such as stepping out of my comfort zone to achieve my goals, living life to the fullest, telling me to don’t just shoot for the sky but go beyond the stars and if you dream it you can be it. Having these support systems played a great part of my upbringing and success. So on my road to business success, my ambition and passion is to see Africa and more specifically females in Africa take their rightful seat at the table with global business leaders and solve Africa’s problems through entrepreneurship and Media Communications. I feel that we have so much value to bring to the table and if given the opportunity we can do just that. I can only be successful when there is a tribe of other women following my footsteps and leading the pathway to business success and economic stability. Sharing my story as vehicle of inspiration for other women who may want to go into business will also breed success. This will help to change the narrative of Africa and establish a standard of living for women and girls to believe that they too can become financial stable through business development and media communications. By tapping into our own resources and telling our own stories we can reshape the lives of women in Africa as they aspire to build success through businesses.
Lack of capital is often cited as one of the most challenging parts of being an African entrepreneur. How were you able to fund your business?
I am funding my venture by bootstrapping, funds from events and activities that I curate, personal finance and I’m currently applying for grants. I also had some friends who were able to support with in-kind donations to get me started.
What piece of advice would you give to other Africans just starting out?
You have to just do it and don’t quit. If you have a passion to be an entrepreneur, you have to realise it’s not going to be easy and you are going to have to work harder than those with a nine to five. But use that passion as your superpower. Be intentional in doing something every day that will add value to your business venture. Find a support system of other entrepreneurs. Networking and collaboration is one of the best ways to grow. Most importantly invest in marketing and building your brand identity and using digital media to share your brand story.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve made? How did you recover?
Wow where do I start. I’ve made quite a few mistakes especially with my first business. So, going into Women Mean Business I decided to make sure that I don’t make those same mistakes. Three key mistakes that I intentionally knew I was going to change in this new venture are:
Not asking for help and thinking I can do it all by myself: As business people we have all been burnt and hurt by people stealing your idea or claiming that they want to help you but have their own intentions. After dealing with this a few times I learned that nothing is original and all businesses are built from something that came before it. So, it was up to me to add my own spices to make my business stand apart from the others and sometimes you need other spices to make the soup sweet. The reality is two is better than one. No successful person can it alone, you have to find people who are like minded and going in the same direction as you and partner with them to see success. You just need to pray and make sure you put certain boundaries in place before letting them into your business circle.
Being Intentional in relationship building: I’m a connector and meet with so many different people all the time. I often times would get great leads and either forget to reconnect or cultivate relationships with people that I meet. Life is about building relationships no man is an island. Networking is also a give and take and not just an opportunity for one to take. When I became intentional about building business relationships and sharing opportunities with others and collaborating with others I started to get more work and opportunities for my own business and also getting referrals and repeat work. So, your success can be built upon the relationships you have with others.
Put God first, yes even in your business: Faith is an important element when starting a business. I often take risk and step out in “faith” to do what I think is the right thing to do at a particular time. But sometimes with excitement I don’t listen to the voice that is saying NOT NOW. In business, you need to make sure that your passion is connected to your purpose and that it’s aligned with God’s plan for your life and your business. Faith is what will differentiate you from becoming a successful entrepreneur and that of a mediocre one. When you align yourself with God, he will produce miracles. God really knows the plans he has in store for you and when you walk in faith and put God first in your business you will go farther than you can see and further than you could imagine. So, our motto for Women Mean Business is “turning your passion into profit for a purpose”.