Monday, December 17, 2018
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How This Entrepreneur Bounced Back After Losing a Partnership, Laying Off Her Team and Dealing with $100 Million at Stake

Kate Stillwell, founder and CEO of Jumpstart, a natural disaster insurance startup, built her company back up after a devastating blow.

Jumpstart, which launched on Oct. 2, 2018, is a new type of natural disaster insurance that helps families and individuals bounce back from earthquakes through an immediate payout initiated via text message. Jumpstart connects the insured person to the insurer.

Founder and CEO Kate Stillwell said she believes her company is, at its core, about resilience — ensuring more money comes into the system after natural disasters and creating an upward spiral of recovery. But when natural disasters occur, everyone experiences losses at the same time, so insurers themselves need insurance (“reinsurance”). She tells us about her worst moment, when Jumpstart unexpectedly lost a partnership and up to $100 million was at stake.

What follows is a firsthand account of this person’s experience. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

My worst moment was eight days before Jumpstart’s initial planned launch, about a year ago. We had built up a team of eight people. For 16 months we had worked shoulder-to-shoulder with our reinsurance partner, in preparation to sign the agreement that would authorize us to start selling policies on their behalf (and fund us with six months of runway).

But someone got cold feet, and up to $100 million — the entire pot of money we had in capital reserves to pay out our customers — was at stake.

I was in our office in a coworking space in Oakland, meeting with my team as part of our weekly “sprint.” My phone rang, and since I recognized the number calling was our partner’s account manager, I excused myself and walked into the common space.

The account manager had been my primary point of contact for the past 16 months, and I could hear that he was close to tears. I remember him saying that he wished he wasn’t the one who had to give me the news but that it had been decided that our two companies were no longer going to be working together. They had called off the partnership.

There was silence for about 10 seconds.

I asked if he could tell me why, and I remember hearing that it was a combination of the high risks and the fact that we were a startup. Eventually, we hung up.

Since Jumpstart pays out in earthquakes, where everyone needs money at once, we need access to a large pool of capital. But a startup doesn’t have millions of dollars in reserve, so we partner with one or more established companies who have deep pockets to make the payouts. There’s a David and a Goliath dynamic; we’re mutually dependent. The product can only be sold if we cooperate. The difference is, for “David” (us), this is the only product: cooperation is life or death. For the “Goliath” (the partner), this is one of many products — they have other income streams.

In my previous startup, we had a great partnership with this particular Goliath, so against the number-one piece of advice from almost everyone in the industry, I had agreed to be exclusive. That was my first mistake — let’s call it an error of optimism. Another of my mistakes? I took at face value a claim that the partner would make us an investment worth several months of runway. I should have raised funds sooner from other sources.

I felt blindsided, but that’s only because I was wearing rose-colored blinders. I should have seen the signs — months of delays, creating new hurdles each time we cleared the last one, the right hand not talking to the left hand, reasons that didn’t quite add up.

I returned to the team and pretended like nothing had happened because they were still in the middle of the meeting. That day it was my turn to drive the carpool of kids home from school, so I picked them up and then texted my mother about what had happened. I was very withdrawn. I remember that my mother gave me what I wanted to hear — “You don’t deserve that!” — while my husband had a different mindset: “Well, you knew this could happen.”

Without the authority to sell, we couldn’t launch — and we were at negative runway. The day after I got the call, I had to break the news to eight different people on the team individually.

One of my teammates was leaving the next day to settle her late mother’s estate. I asked if I could drive her to the airport in the morning. She knew something was up. On the way, I remember telling her how sorry I was but that we’d have to let her go. We’d both known going into it that working for a startup is risky, but it was hard because we’d just hired her about six weeks before, and it was her first job after a career change.

I went back to the office and met with our main developer, who was a contractor, and told him the bad news. I remember saying, “We have no more money. The launch is now many months, if not years, away. We don’t know what the future of the company is, and I’m going to be laying off everybody else.” He spent the next two to four hours buttoning things up and left. After that, I told another co-worker what happened — and that I didn’t have to lay him off that day, but we were at risk, and I didn’t know exactly what would happen over the next two weeks. I told him it would be a good idea to start looking for other jobs. And that night, I had dinner with another teammate and told her the same thing.

That’s how the team went from eight to six in one day. There we were: no launch, team gone, out of money, no basis of raising money. I was angry, humiliated and just plain sad. But I was still optimistic: We had fallen off the proverbial cliff, but we didn’t die.

The core value proposition of our product — what we’re fundamentally selling — is personal resilience. It’s resources to tap into the inner strength that’s already there and adapt to the new normal after a shock. So, as a company, I thought, we’d better be able to walk that talk.

Five weeks after that initial call, me and two of my remaining teammates — people who knew their jobs would likely be gone soon — took a huge risk. We decided to spend the company’s remaining funds on a flashy publicity stunt at an insurance conference in Las Vegas. We brought a “shake trailer” — which simulates an earthquake — and 400 conference attendees took a ride in it. One of them called it “brilliant marketing” and the “most fun thing” at the conference. About eight months later, his company would end up being our next partner.

But that was months away. On the afternoon of the conference’s second day, I had to sit down with both team members who had accompanied me. I remember telling them, “I can’t pay you after today. I have to lay you both off.” One of them burst into tears.

It took us over a year to make a comeback, but we survived by the grace of a few industry insiders who provided enough funding to tide us over. I remember them saying, “We know what happened to you, and it sucks. No one should have to go through that. We want to make sure you come out alive.”

From this experience, I learned that there’s no other choice than to be optimistic. Entrepreneurs are creating the future — not just for ourselves but for our communities and our collective children. That’s a huge responsibility and a huge opportunity. Having the courage to be optimistic — in the face of setbacks, in spite of shock — is the test of being a true entrepreneur.

To others going through something similar, my advice is to stay optimistic and make decisions assuming the best. I relied solely on optimism and didn’t have enough of a safety net or plan B, so along with optimism, make a freaking backup plan!

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Why ‘Sales Operations’ Could Be the Key to Scaling Your Company

Salespeople are great at selling. They’re less great at all the things that surround the sales process — things like filling out spreadsheets, hunting down pricing and contract information, and figuring out how to use complex tools. Even the sellers who are great at these tasks are more useful to their organizations in the field or on the phone.

Sales operations teams handle the busywork of selling and free their salespeople to do what they do best. If the sales team is the boat, the sales ops team is the sail that guides the boat toward its destination.

For companies with long sales cycles, such as B2B and SaaS businesses, sales ops is an essential part of any long-term growth strategy. HubSpot’s research consistently shows that salespeople struggle to find prospects and qualify leads. The more time salespeople spend fumbling around, the less time they have to bring in revenue.

Rather than waste salespeople’s time, consider the following ways a sales operations team can help:

  1. Consistent experiences

In an age where people can learn anything they need to know on their mobile phones, experience is everything. Walker found that customer experience will overtake price as the biggest competitive differentiator by 2020. People know they can get things cheaper elsewhere, but they don’t want cheap — they want better.

When every company interaction is consistent, customers are more likely to contribute to word-of-mouth marketing and more likely to listen to future upsells. For example, Gong.io, which uses AI to help B2B sales teams analyze and improve their communication, needed a customer engagement and workflow automation tool to align sales and customer success. Gong went with MixMax to streamline its account management, and found that among the enhancements to email tracking, calendar tools, and to-do lists came other improvements. “Since implementing Mixmax, our open rates are 86%, our reply rates are 52%, and our RSVP rates are 41%,” said Jameson Yung, VP of Sales at Gong.

  1. Improved onboarding

Great salespeople know how to follow up after closing to keep customers happy. As companies scale, however, those personal relationships become harder to manage. With sales operations, companies can create processes that ensure no client ever feels neglected after the sale.

After the salesperson closes the deal, the sales ops team steps in to ensure that details like contracts, delivery dates, and other important factors don’t fall through the cracks. Salespeople get to maintain relationships with prospects, while sales operations teams ensure that clients have fewer complaints.

  1. Smarter forecasting

Frontline reps are not the only ones who benefit from the presence of sales ops. Department leaders and executives can lean on sales ops to help forecast future sales and spot opportunities for easy wins.

RAIN Group, a sales training company, points out that elite sales companies are much better at forecasting than their average peers. The further into the future the company sees, the better able it becomes to adjust on the fly.

  1. Improved training

Within the company, sales ops teams also help onboard new sales hires to get them up to speed. Glassdoor reports that new hires take around eight months on average to reach average productivity. For salespeople, who are responsible for big chunks of revenue, that’s a long time to wait.

New hires can lean on sales ops for training on products, strategies, territories, and everything else they need to hit the ground running. Sales ops teams can also teach fresh faces how to get the most from their CRMs, so they can spend more time honing their people skills and less time struggling in front of computers.

  1. More relevant incentives

Nothing motivates salespeople like fatter paychecks. Sales operations teams help executives implement smarter compensation structures that keep salespeople pushing hard — without burning them out in the process.

All the information companies need to create better sales strategies exists within data they already have. Sales operations teams interpret that data into actionable insights, empowering businesses to create incentive structures that reward superstars and keep teams focused.

Sales operations is a hot topic right now for a reason. The companies that invest in sales ops today will be better prepared for the needs of tomorrow’s employees and customers. Rather than wait for competitors to make the first move, business owners and sales leaders should implement sales operations as soon as possible to spur faster, more sustainable growth.

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Black Entrepreneur Sells His 5-Year Old Startup to P&G For an Estimated $100 Million

Tristan Walker, the founder of Walker & Company

Tristan Walker, the founder of Walker & Company, a health and beauty care brand made especially for people of color, launched his business five years ago as a small startup due to his frustrations of not having the products he particularly needs. But just recently, consumer giant Procter & Gamble acquired his brand through a lucrative deal for an estimated $100 million — But he will continue working as CEO for the firm!
Procter & Gamble has been recently building a new strategy to reach African-American consumers and better serve their needs in health and beauty care. In their latest efforts, P&G announced the acquisition of Walker & Company, a Black-owned startup business, for an undisclosed amount.

Overcoming disappointments

Walker & Company, which was founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Tristan Walker, who previously led the business development for Foursquare and became an entrepreneur-in-residence at a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.

The company creates various personal care products that would especially suit people of color with coarse or curly hair. It has started out with its Bevel shaving products for men and eventually launched Form, a collection of hair products for women.

Walker, himself, had been disappointed whenever he can’t find the perfect razor for him to use conveniently. His frustrations led him to start his own company.

“That second-class citizen experience of having to shop in an ‘ethnic’ beauty aisle, which is really the small shelf that’s right next to the official beauty aisle, was just an incredibly frustrating experience,” he told CNN Business.

Closing the deal

Most recently, Walker & Company has caught the attention of Procter & Gamble. The company — which owns big brands like Gillette, Venus, Head & Shoulders, Pantene, among others — has already been making efforts in making products inclined to the unique needs of people of color. This new partnership with Walker & Company aims to further expand that market.

“The combination of Walker & Company’s deep consumer understanding, authentic connection to its community and unique, highly customized products and P&G’s highly-skilled and experienced people, resources, technical capabilities and global scale will allow us to further improve the lives of the world’s multicultural consumers,” Alex Keith, CEO of P&G Beauty, said in a statement.

Walker & Company will now operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the consumer giant, Procter & Gamble. Walker is glad for the opportunity and he hopes it would fulfill his goals for the company.

“When I started Walker & Company Brands, I set out to build a company that would meet the health and beauty needs of people of color on a global scale,” Walker said in the announcement. “Having access to P&G’s outstanding technology, capabilities and expertise helps us to further realize that vision, giving us the power to scale and bring new products to people of color, while staying true to our mission and continuing to nurture the loyal community we’ve worked hard to build.”

As part of the deal, Walker will be able to continue to run Walker & Company as the CEO. Their products will still be sold directly online, through retailers like Amazon and Target, and in several beauty and barber shops. However, he said that he is not at all worried that his small startup would clash with the global giant in this setup.

“Procter & Gamble wanted us to be in a position of autonomy, where we could maintain the agility and flexibility that we have always had to reach this consumer,” Walker said. “I care very deeply about this company that we spent blood, sweat and tears on. I feel very comfortable and excited about this partnership. Everybody should get ready for what’s next.”

For more information about Walker and Co., visit www.walkerandcompany.com or follow him on Twitter at @tristanwalker

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6 Impressive Black-Owned, Non-Beauty Subscriptions Boxes

The subscription box business is absolutely booming. It started mainly with beauty-inspired products but has since expanded to include pretty much every kind of interest, including fashion, food, art, and literature. Black-owned, non-beauty subscription boxes are growing in popularity with consumers who care about supporting black entrepreneurs. Sign up for any one of these black-owned, non-beauty subscription boxes to support diversity and have some fun!
Ujamaa Box
This box introduces subscribers to new black brands every month. Their monthly collections feature distinct product samples and promotional offers from black-owned brands. The founder, Ebony Costain, started this subscription box to create a community that caters to black men and women. For $25 a month, you’ll receive products ranging from fashion, art, health and food.

Home Made Luxe
Home Made Luxe founder, Keitha, spent her alone time taking her crafting expertise to the next level. Designed for people who love using their hands to create unique DIY projects, her unique subscription box features Pinterest-style arts and crafts. Crafty men and women who can’t find the time to buy their own supplies can enjoy this service for just $40 a month. Crafters can also order a one-time craft kit or even craft party packs.

Dapper Black Box
Enjoy the finer things in life with Dapper Black Box. This subscription box provides savvy gentlemen with grooming products and fashion accessories from black-owned businesses. Forget about tired ties – this company likes trendy and sophisticated beard balms, dress socks, bracelets, and more.

MyBestBox
This box features new and exciting wellness products that will help you make your health and fitness goals a priority. There are areas throughout the United States that don’t have access to whole foods and other healthy products – MyBestBox seeks to change this.

Just Like Me
It can be hard to find inclusive children’s books to read to your child, which is what prompted Tamara McNeil to found the Just Like Me book box. This subscription box provides its audience with African American children’s literature and educational activities for only $25 a month. Tamara hopes to empower young children of color to feel comfortable in their skin.

My Lit Box
This subscription box celebrates writers of color. There are three subscription options: the original adult-fiction My Lit Box, the “Yay for YA Lit!” box, and the “Black Women Are Lit” box. The website even features a community blog where readers can discuss books and up-and-coming black authors.

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Accra to host republica, Europe’s largest Digital and Internet Conference

re:publica, Europe’s largest conference on digital and social topics, is set to be hosted in Accra, Ghana and for the first time in Africa.

The event which is set to host politicians, entrepreneurs, bloggers, scientists and activists will be held at the “Round Pavilion at the Trade Fair” in Accra on 14 & 15 December 2018 under the theme: NEXT LEVEL.

Notable among speakers to participate at the 2 days event are Prof Nii Quaynor, Farida Bemba Nabourema, Yemisi Adegoke, Wanlov The Kubolor, Kwame A.A Opoku, Jemila Abdulai, Kwame Acheampong, Yaw Adu-Gyamfi, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Steve Song, Douglas Ian Scott, Jorge Appiah and others

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) who is the main partner of the first re:publica on the African continent will also present inspiring sessions which will be used to discuss how digital technologies with innovative solutions can contribute to mastering global challenges.

One of the keynote speakers for the event, Nanjala Nyabola, an author will be speaking about the limits of technology in her talk “What Technology Can’t Fix”.  Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman will be in dialogue with other high-profile participants on a panel about internet access. The architect and anthropologist Sénamé Koffi Ag – bodjinou, initiator of the platform “L’Africaine d’architecture” and founder of WoeLab, is speaking at the re:publica Accra about “Future Cities”.

A multifaceted evening programme will also be held to connect artistic perspectives with digital topics and across continents. Presentations will include the internationally renowned artist Kudzanai Chiu-rai from Zimbabwe and a screening of We Live in Silence with a live soundtrack by the award-winning musician M.anifest, who’s been described by The Guardian (UK) amongst others as “the foremost rapper on the continent”.

Andreas Gebhard, co-founder and CEO of re:publica GmbH, says, “The re:publica is an event for digital society. It’s global and thus international! But I say that without wishing to ignore regional differences. How can we work together to shape and design the digital society when regional differences create very different frame-work conditions for it? Whether in Berlin, Los Angeles or Accra, re:publica creates space for dialogue and ex-change between equals. I’m very pleased that we can now create these spaces on three continents.”

Tickets for the re:publica Accra are available for less than 6.50 US-Dollars/33 Ghana Cedi for both days of the conference with our partner eGotickets.

Key partners for republica in Accra include: Impact Hub Accra, Accra Metropolitan Assembly, MESTI, GOETHE Institute, DW TV, Mozilla Foundation, Avance Media, Tech Nova, Citi TV.

2018 Africa Youth Awards Nominees Announced

Africa Youth Awards, the continent’s most coveted award for young people has announced nominees for the 5th edition of the award.

The nominees which features 60 young people across 5 categories were selected from 23 African countries for their outstanding works in diverse fields.

Out of the 23 countries nominated, Kenya leads with 7 nominees whiles Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa also follow with 6 nominees each.

Speaking about this year’s edition, Prince Akpah, President & co-founder of Africa Youth Awards, noted that in commemoration of the 5 years anniversary of the awards, co-founders of the award decided to only release 5 categories to be contested for across the continent.

Also speaking about the next phase of the awards, Prince Akpah noted that, the awards from next year would be modelled to promote the African Union’s Agenda 2063 as it takes turn to award young individuals working on promoting the African Union’s agenda.

Africa Youth Awards has over the years recognized the works of young Africans and continues to expose their works to the world. Previous recipient of the award include: Dr. Ahmed Musa, Sara Nana Yeboah, Ashish Thakkar, Aya Chebbi, etc.

Africa Youth Awards is also noted for its prestigious ranking of the 100 Most Influential Young Africans which has received publication on various international media platforms across the world.

Public voting for the awards is opened via www.africayouthawards.org/vote and will end on December 26th ahead of the winners announcement on January 1st 2019.

Below are the nominees

AFRICA YOUTH OF THE YEAR FEMALE

  1. Amina Abdi Wako (Kenya)
  2. Atangche Zita Ngeche (Cameroon)
  3. Brownie Ebal (Uganda)
  4. Buumba Malambo (Zambia)
  5. Dr. Yakama Manty Jones (Sierra Leone)
  6. Juana A. Boateng (Ghana)
  7. Liina Mutilifa (Namibia)
  8. Micah Dandaula (Malawi)
  9. Monbolade Urchelle Pamela Akplogan (Benin)
  10. Nerima Wako Ojiwa (Kenya)
  11. Nthabeleng Likotsi (South Africa)
  12. Wadi Ben-Hirki (Nigeria)

AFRICA YOUTH OF THE YEAR MALE

  1. Arnold Nyendwa (Zambia)
  2. Ato Ulzen-Appiah (Ghana)
  3. Badru Juma Rajabu (Tanzania)
  4. Bhongolwethu Sonti (South Africa)
  5. David Momanyi (Kenya)
  6. Emmanuel Leslie Addae (Ghana)
  7. Jovita Efehi Obadolagbonyi (Nigeria)
  8. Lamin Saidykhan Gambia)
  9. Letsatsi Lekhooa (Lesotho)
  10. Mohamed Roshdy (Egypt)
  11. Othman Mezouar (Morocco)
  12. Twin Mawela Mosia (South Africa)

ADVOCATE OF THE YEAR

  1. Ghislain Muhiwa (DR Congo)
  2. Hope Mwanyuma (Kenya)
  3. Isaac Success Omoyele (Nigeria)
  4. Kelebogile Simula (Botswana)
  5. Lamin Saidykhan (Gambia)
  6. Prince Tam Yai (Cameroon)
  7. Samuel Charandura Zimbabwe)
  8. Thomas Mwiraria (Kenya)
  9. Valerio O. Thompson Boco (Equatorial Guinea)
  10. Victor Ugo (Nigeria)
  11. Winston Muleba (Zambia)
  12. Zyna Mejri (Tunisia & Libya)

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR

  1. Adnane El Idrissi Ammari (Morocco)
  2. Amon Sheefeni Namundjebo (Namibia)
  3. Arnold Nyendwa (Zambia)
  4. Benjamin Fernandes (Tanzania)
  5. Clifford Ndecham (Cameroon)
  6. Gilbert Peters (Zimbabwe)
  7. Joyce Boadi Okyere (Ghana)
  8. Kelvin Macharia Kuria (Kenya)
  9. Moemedi Senwelo (Botswana)
  10. Nalubega Joan (Uganda)
  11. Nkululeko Mhlaba (South Africa)
  12. Vukile Manzi (South Africa)

LEADER OF THE YEAR

  1. Armstrong Poleeno Addae (Ghana)
  2. Bhongolwethu Sonti (South Africa)
  3. Brenda Mcwilson-Okorogba Nigeria)
  4. Elizabeth Ntonjira (Kenya)
  5. Julius Karl D. Fieve (Ghana)
  6. Martin Muyuya (Zambia)
  7. Nthatisi Miriam Lesala (Lesotho)
  8. Nyandoh Paho Tadfor Tadfor (Cameroon)
  9. Sabere Anselme Traore (Burkina Faso)
  10. Samson Wambuzi (Uganda)
  11. Segun Fatudimu (Nigeria)
  12. Ssekitto Kalule Emmanuel (Uganda)

Meet the Black Barber Making Almost $500K a Year Creating ‘Man Weaves’

Wade Menendez, founder of The W Hair Loft

Wade Menendez, also known as “Wade the Barber,” has been credited for transforming the hair game as a pioneer of creating “man weaves.” Those who have a balding scalp run to his Maryland-based barbershop called The W Hair Loft, and it’s no surprise that his unique procedure has earned him almost $500,000 in one year!
Menendez, a 35-year old African-American man, has been highly acclaimed as an innovator in the field of hair styling. He developed the cranial prosthesis, most commonly known as “man weaves,” that fills a balding scalp with hair — without the need for a surgery!

With the help of another stylist, Menendez developed a simple procedure to install hair to balding scalp. He glues natural and synthetic hair pieces to the scalp and blends it to the remaining natural hair.

For over 13 years, he has been in the barber field making impressive cuts to his wide range of clientele. In 2011, he opened his first barbershop in Glen Burnie, Maryland where numerous services are offered. And just four years ago, he added creating man weaves into his portfolio.

Aside from being a hairstylist, Menendez also hosts classes where he teaches over 500 hair professionals how to do what he does. Last October, his class gathered stylists and barbers from different areas around the world, including London.

“There’s a big demand for [hair units] in the U.K.,” Steve Diligence, who flew from London to Maryland to learn from Menendez firsthand, told Vice News. “People have seen videos from the states, and they say it’s impossible or magic.”

Hair weaves or extensions have been a lucrative market, especially to Black women. A market research reports that “nearly six out of 10 black consumers wear a wig, weave or extensions, which enables them to switch up their look.”

Menendez has definitely had the advantage because of that market. Last year, he earned more than $400,000 through his business alone. He revealed that he also got a few celebrities among his clients. But he says his achievements aren’t only measured by his profits.

“I’m doing this to help other people – and that’s not just with that confidence but helping other people even make money,” Menendez said. “I’m always here to do whatever I can, and I feel like that’s what I’m called on to do, so I’m operating in my purpose and my destiny.”

For more information about Wade Menendez and The W Hair Loft, visit www.wadethebarber.com

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This Entrepreneur Built an All-Female Driving School — in Egypt

In 2001, Nayrouz Talaat figured it was time she learned to drive. The Cairo-based journalist was, after all, 20 at the time. But as she explored driving schools, she found only male instructors — something that didn’t make her feel particularly safe or comfortable.

She asked her uncle to teach her to drive instead, and realized that her experience wasn’t unique. Many Egyptian women rely on relatives to teach them to drive because the alternative is to be alone with an unfamiliar male instructor and at risk of sexual harassment. It got her thinking: Why should Egyptian women rely on men at all? 

Fifteen years later, she decided to finally do something about it. In 2016 she opened her own driving school, Direxiona, a startup employing female driving instructors teaching female students exclusively. Women can sign up online or visit the company’s Facebook page and be matched with a local instructor. Students and teachers are paired up based on age and social class to keep both parties comfortable. “We seek to empower women on the road,” Talaat says. “Women in Egypt prefer to learn with other women for security reasons, but it’s tough to find professional female drivers, who quickly and unfairly get stereotyped as bad drivers.”

Talaat started recruiting female instructors on Facebook and Instagram, and offered training for women with more than five years of driving experience and an interest in becoming an instructor. In addition to on-the-road lessons, Talaat and her team offer training sessions and classes on car maintenance and road safety.

It didn’t take long for Direxiona to catch on. It currently operates in 12 neighborhoods across Cairo and has even started attracting Saudi women, who sign up for lessons while visiting the country on vacation. Talaat now employs 50 female instructors and serves at least 100 students each month; she expects to triple the size of the company by the end of 2019. In the past year, Direxiona has competed in startup competitions and summits in Egypt and parts of Europe, picking up mentors for Talaat and her team.

As the company grows and gains more recognition, local conservative men have been condemning it or questioning its legitimacy. In response, Talaat says, all she can do is keep working and prove them wrong. More and more women are signing up for lessons — and to her surprise, some men are asking for lessons, too. They’re usually the fathers or fiancés of past clients, but Talaat won’t budge from her vision. Her company is for women only, she says, and she’s now focused on raising capital to expand to more cities, increase services and build an automated booking system that utilizes artificial intelligence to produce better driver-student matches.

“At Direxiona, we know very well that it is hard to maintain the success of a women-only startup in a conservative, male-dominated society like Egypt,” Talaat says. “But we are adamant about completing our mission to empower women here — both in the region and on the road.”

This story first appeared in the November 2018 issue of Entrepreneur

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23 Weird Things You Didn’t Know About Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most recognizable CEOS in the world, and what he has achieved at 32 years old is pretty staggering.

Even though more than a billion users flock to Facebook every month and he has donated billions of dollars to medical research through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, it’s important to remember that he’s still a human being with weird quirks, just like everyone else. Read on for some unexpected facts about the Facebook founder.

1. He nearly worked for Microsoft.
When he was a senior in high school he co-created an app called Synapse Media Player, an MP3 player that kept track of the user’s favorite songs and made playlists based on their choices, essentially an early Spotify or Pandora.

Microsoft sought to acquire the company and its founders, but instead of working for the Seattle tech giant, Zuckerberg and co-creator Adam D’Angelo  — who went on to found Quora — got a patent for the tech and went to college instead.

2. He was inventing in middle school.
When Zuckerberg was 12, he created an instant messaging program that he called ZuckNet so his dentist father could know when patients arrived.

3. He has unexpected pop culture tastes.
One of his favorite books is The Aeneid, and one of his favorite TV shows is The West Wing, which was created by Aaron Sorkin, the man who also wrote the movie based on the creation of Facebook, The Social Network.

4. He’s known for being frugal.
Even though today he has a beautifully appointed home that is powered by an AI butler with Morgan Freeman’s voice, in an interview with The New Yorker in 2010, he said that he found all of his apartments on Craigslist.

5. His eyesight is the reason behind Facebook’s color scheme.
Facebook’s logo is blue because Zuckerberg has red-green color blindness.

6. He wasn’t always a high-level coder.
He first learned to code from a C++ for Dummies book.

7. He’s multilingual.
He’s always been interested in ancient languages such as Latin, and he can speak Mandarin.

8. He turned down many offers to sell Facebook.
Many big name companies wanted to see if he wanted to sell — NewsCorp, MySpace, Viacom, Yahoo, NBC, Microsoft (again) and Google all put their hats in the ring — but Zuckerberg held firm.

9. He and his wife’s first meeting was a little inauspicious.
While Zuckerberg and his wife Dr. Priscilla Chan are now parents and major philanthropists, they met for the first time in line for the bathroom at a fraternity party at Harvard.

10. He’s an admirer of Steve Jobs.
The late Apple founder’s bold leadership style apparently inspired the message he put on his first business cards: “I’m CEO, bitch.”

11. He’s on Twitter.
But he’s unsurprisingly not very active on it. He’s tweeted 19 times since 2009.

12. He can laugh at himself.
Zuckerberg is known for being somewhat awkward, but he wrote an appreciative post about Andy Samberg’s impersonation of him on Saturday Night Live.

 

13. He’s a fitness buff.
For 2016, Zuckerberg set a goal to run 365 miles during the course of the year. He met his goal midway through the summer.

14. He looks up to Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso.
He has Einstein’s quote, “Make things as simple as possible but no simpler,” and Picasso’s insight that, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up,” as his favorites on Facebook.

15. His dog is a celebrity too
Beast, Zuckerberg’s Hungarian sheepdog, has his own Facebook fan page that has more than 2 million likes. His daughter’s a fan too — he posted that Max’s first word was dog.

16. A dozen people held him manage his Facebook page.
Zuckerberg reportedly has a team of 12 people that tend to his Facebook account to monitor the comments, write his posts and take the photographs that end up on his page.

17. He’s very protective of his privacy.  
Zuckerberg has made some considerable and litigious moves to ensure his privacy. He bought a $100 million plot of land in Hawaii in 2014, and is recently decided not to sue the people who own pieces of the property through generational ties. He also tried to tear down four houses in and around his home in Palo Alto, Calif.

18. He’s buddies with Vin Diesel.
In an interview with The New York Times, the action star shared what the unlikely duo’s relationship is like. “We were hanging out up at Facebook about two years ago, and I was excited about Fast 7. He said, ‘You know what movie I’d most like to see is the return of Xander Cage.’ It’s at a point where if Mark and I are together and if I quote a line from a character I played and I do it slightly wrong, he’ll correct me. It’s embarrassing!”

19. He seems taller than he really is in photos.

Turns out, Zuckerberg is only around five feet and seven or eight inches, however he seems much taller in photos. And that’s because he apparently has some positioning tricks. A 2010 New Yorker profile reads, “He’s only around five feet eight, but he seems taller, because he stands with his chest out and his back straight, as if held up by a string.”

And according to Wired writer Graham Starr (and tested by Nick Douglas at Life Hacker), Zuckerberg has some photo tricks that help him look taller. One of his biggest tricks is standing closer to the camera or holding himself higher as others lean in closer.

20. His signature T-shirt costs $300 to $400.

Any day of the week, you can catch Zuckerberg in a grey T-shirt, a hoodie, a pair of jeans and some Nike sneakers. There’s a reason he wears the same thing every day. In a 2014 Q&A, when asked about his simple wardrobe, Zuckerberg said, “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community.”

Turns out, Zuck’s iconic grey T-shirt, made by Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli, costs a whopping $300 to $400. However, retailer Vresh Clothing studied the color, material and length of the shirt to create an affordable replica for those who want to copy the CEO’s style.

21. He can’t be blocked on Facebook.
As it turns out, you can only unfollow the mind behind the platform. Apparently blocking Zuckerberg or Priscilla Chan isn’t an option for users. If you attempt to block them, an error message will appear that reads, “this profile can’t be blocked for now.” As for the reason, a Facebook spokesperson told Quartz that “people trying to block a profile or Page may see an error message if it has been blocked many times within a short period.”

22. He has a substantial budget for security.
It costs millions of dollars to keep Zuckerberg safe in 2017 — $7.3 million to be exact. The figure was in a regulatory filing Facebook submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which noted that funds for his security plan — including trips made on a private airplane — made up 83 percent of his compensation package in 2017. The company spent $4.9 million on Zuckerberg’s security detail in 2016.

23. He doesn’t ride in style.
Zuckerberg has fairly inexpensive taste when it comes to cars, reportedly driving a $30,000 Acura TSX and a Volkswagen Golf GTI.

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Today’s Top Black-Owned Skincare Brands

Woman using Black-owned skincare products

Every purchase you make has the power to do good. Support Black-owned skincare companies that speak to your passions and create honest, thoughtful products. Your money can celebrate entrepreneurs that are paving the way for others in their communities. These black-owned skincare brands create products that celebrate skin with natural, unprocessed ingredients that will have you singing their praises.
1. Jacq’s Organics
Jacq’s Organics founder, Barbara Jacques, faced a deadly and frightening ovarian cancer diagnosis that made her reevaluate her relationship with her body. She decided that what she would put in and on her body would be of the utmost quality. This prompted her to create her own skin care line to honor herself and other women. She shares her love of the natural in her ethical, vegan, cruelty-free skincare line that promotes transparency, honesty, and living life to the fullest. The Dirty 30 Guarantee, which is a list of 30 common harmful chemicals, means that all her products are made without parabens, silicones, sulfates and preservatives.

2. Kaike
Keli Smith founded this plant-based skin care boutique following her own journey toward holistic living. Kaike (pronounced “cake”) realigns skincare with fun and celebration. It features dessert-inspired products like marshmallow masks and chocolate scrubs. The multipurpose focus of her brand creates even more value in her products—items like her stand-out Frosting moisturizer can be used on hair, skin, and lips!

3. Anne’s Apothecary
Clean, sustainable, and natural are the three words you’ll find on the Anne’s Apothecary website—and with good reason. The star ingredients of their products are clay, herbs, and oils because the company feels that skincare products should be safe enough to eat. They package their products in glass and PET plastic, which are fully recyclable and highly resistant to bacteria growth. This black-owned skincare company caters to all complexions and skin types, so don’t be afraid to give Anne’s Apothecary a try.

4. Beija-Flor Naturals
Based out of California, Stevonne Ratliff found that there were few products that catered to hyper-pigmentation, skin sensitivities, and kinky, coily, dry, color-treated hair. She took inspiration from her travels in Brazil and incorporates murumuru, tucuma, cupuaca and cocoa butter into all her products. She started her now successful business by using money from her unemployment checks as seed funding, dedicating herself to her vision of a pure, nourishing beauty line that catered to women of color. It looks like her gamble paid off!

5. Shear and Shine
Let’s not forget about the male Black-owned skincare brands! Shear and Shine believes feeling great starts with good grooming habits. Their brand caters to black men in matters of beard, skin, and Afro Caribbean hair care. In addition to all of their great products, they have an insightful grooming guide on their website that addresses common questions like male vs. female hair, how to pick shampoo for male hair, and more.

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