Aisha Tofa is Co-founder of Startup Kano, a company which incubates and accelerates businesses and helps them secure funding. She is the Director of the Women Founders Conference in Nigeria, an annual gathering which brings together female entrepreneurs to create conversations that matter and share stories and lessons in business. Aisha is also Managing Partner of Waves Advertising Limited, member of Global Shapers Community Kano, a Technology Enthusiast and a Women and Youth Activist. Aisha holds a Bachelor’s in Communications Studies from Bayero University, Kano and has received training in Entrepreneurship, technology and journalism from Google, Broadcasting Board of Governors, Voice of America and British council. More on Aisha’s work at www.startupkano.com
You are a proud ‘hustler’ with your finger in a lot of pies- advertising, real estate, fashion etc. What drives this multi-interest approach to entrepreneurship?
I believe entrepreneurship is about making things happen, it’s about seeing an opportunity and going for it, thinking of an idea and bringing it to life! I’m obsessed with doing that, that’s the drive.
You started your entrepreneurial journey at 17years old and have braved the challenges to now owning and running several enterprises and initiatives. What’s your biggest learning to date on what it takes to thrive in business?
I think for one to thrive, first is passion. You need to love what you do for you to win. Then there is consistency as well as needing to be ‘stubborn’ in a way. I’m not where I want to be and still learning about entrepreneurship everyday, keeping up with the trends, the hard work, research and reading. One also has to learn to ask for help; you can’t do it alone and the key to your success might be in somebody’s hand.
Some say you’ve mastered the art of taking risks! What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken and what have you learnt about how to manage risk?
I take risks every day, but one thing I believe about risk is that it has to be calculated and you have to pray and work hard. I strongly believe in prayer so I take every risk boldly and believe that the bigger the risk, the bigger the win. People overestimate or fear risk but risk is a major part of the process of success.
Women leaders whether in business, politics or corporate sector etc face many challenges. In your view what’s top of the list in terms of what needs to be prioritized in terms of supporting women?
I don’t have to tell you how women are breaking ground now in every part of the world. To me, top of the list is giving them equal opportunity in business, in the workplace, in running for office and in leadership. Let them make decisions without all the criticism they often get. Women can transform the world into a better place and several are already doing that with top female leaders doing more than amazing. Women need to be given a chance and an enabling environment.
Millennials like yourself are criticized often. What does Africa, or at least Nigeria need to understand about Millennials that they don’t?
I think Nigeria needs to understand that we need to tell our story, we need to speak and be heard. We have it in us to get things right and all we need is the stage to tell our story because no one can tell our story better than ourselves.
What do you value most about who you are and how does that enable you do all you do?
What I value most about myself is that I can conceive of something and implement it. I don’t procrastinate; if I think about an idea, I start working on it right away. It might not work out but at least I would have tried and learned from it. Another thing I love about myself is that I enjoying helping people grow. I see it as my purpose in life which gives me the courage and motivation to do a lot. I am now 26years and have opened doors for many especially women in technology and business. My team and I have trained countless. For me when a woman wins, I feel like it’s a win for me too.