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Zoona co-founders head to Mauritius!

Zoona co-founders, Brett and Brad Magrath, are currently in Mauritius attending the African leadership network annual gathering!

20161103_083634The annual leadership retreat seeks to unite the people who will take Africa forward, through leadership. With focus on “The art of leadership”, the core objectives here are to bring together leaders of values-based and purpose driven organisations and create an inspiring space for them to have insightful conversations around tapping into the enormous potential present in Africa.

Specific focus will be given to the art of leading as either an African Elder or and African Millenial. This will map out challenges, tips and tools unique to the continent and spark relevant conversations between attendees.

On 2 November 2016, the proceedings kicked off with Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Minister of Finance for Nigeria, helping to facilitate a tour of the ALU headquarters in Mauritius. Dr Ngozi is adamant that the rising of Africa is not a fluke. The time is now, and we need to, at some point, come together and be the change we want to see.

On 3 November 2016, Brett and Brad will attend The Africa Awards for Entrepreneurship (AAE) , for which Zoona is a nominee! The awards will be hosted by the African Leadership Network in Mauritius this year.

The awards dubbed “the Oscars of Entrepreneurship in Africa”, is a prestigious awards program which identifies leading business leaders in Africa, and recognises the ones who demonstrate innovation, profitability and business excellence.

The AAE also recognises social impact and celebrates leaders who are seen as role models who can inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs in Africa.

Categories include:

  • The Lifetime achievement award
  • The Transformational Business Award
  • The Outstanding Mature Business Award
  • The Outstanding Growing Business Award
  • The Outstanding Social Entrepreneur Award

There will also be discussions on managing a maturing organization. We are confident that, as Zoona transitions from Start-up to Scale-up, these insights will be extremely valuable.

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Perhaps the most interesting activity planned for our leaders, will be Leader Jazz with Kirk Whalum, where all participants will be experiencing what Jazz improvisation teaches us about innovation, collaboration and leadership!

We are quite confident that Brad and Brett have their Jazz hands dusted off and ready to go!

jazz-hands

Zoona is helping people who help communities thrive!

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It’s world customer service week and Zona has been busy!

Over the past few weeks, we at Zoona have been privileged enough to run a “Helping Communities Thrive” campaign in Lusaka, Zambia.

The campaign centered around the identification of female community heroines/entrepreneurs, with criteria stipulating that those nominated should be change agents, women who empower the community, be younger than 30 and women who have positive social impact in their communities.

We partnered with award winning Zambian social activist and Zoona community brand builder, Mwansa Bwale, who did a phenomenal job of running the campaign on the ground. The nominations came pouring in at lightning speed and the young women who were highlighted are nothing short of amazing!

A competition was run as part of the campaign, which saw community members voting on who they think deserves to win a cash prize. Three beautiful, courageous young women were the recipients of K3000 each which they will all be using to further their endeavors to help those in need. Thereafter, of the three, a final winner was chosen, who will go on to take part in skills development programs with particular emphasis on business and entrepreneurial skills.

Below are the background stories of the three winners:

zanjiZANJI VALERIE SINKALA

Zanji is the founder of an NGO called “Ku Mwanachi” (To the woman). Ku Mwanachi equips low-income female entrepreneurs with business essentials in order to help alleviate poverty and improve the standard of living of young women and their families. Zanji will use her winnings to invest in the business essentials training facilitated by Ku Mwanachi! This will help many young women!

 

thaboTHABO JOY MASIYE

Thabo is an Economics degree holder and is currently pursuing ACCA. She is a clothing and jewelry designer who founded a campaign called “Who am i?”. The campaign seeks to empower young people to discover their talents and make use of them. She is seeking to cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurship amongst the youth and to help them grow into successful business people. Thabo intends to invest her winnings into the “Who am i?” campaign so that expenses can be met and more young people can be reached.

 

chilufyaCHILUFYA SIMWANZA

Chilufya is a law student who , at just 21 years old, has founded the “Crown of Hope” foundation which provides basic needs to underprivileged children. The foundation’s main focus is to send underprivileged children to school. Chilufya has also started a campaign called “I am more” which raises awareness around sexual abuse, rape, harassment etc and strives to empower young women through education, entrepreneurship and confidence building. Chilufya intends to use her winnings to generate even more capital which will be used to send more children to school!

 

We are pleased to announce that Chilufya Simwanza was selected as the overall winner after winning by a landslide! Chilufya had this to say about her win:

 

I cannot express how happy I am to have won this money ..
Just last week I embarked on a project to start making reusable pads for underprivileged girls and women in prison ,after noticing how expensive the pads have become for them to afford I had so many girls volunteer to help me with the project but i only had a bit of money remaining from the last money I won.So now that I have the resources I can’t wait to start this .
Am short of words and I know none of this would be possible without God ,and the support of my friends I can brag that I have the best support system,the real definitions of friendship goals and I thank you so much for voting .

Thank you zoona and mwansa bwale for coming up with this initiative its really helping communities thrive.
I love zoona is now just not a #hashtag but a mark that has been imprinted in my heart and the hearts of so many underprivileged children and girls suffering.
This isn’t the end and I can rest assure zoona and mwansa bwale that this money will make a lasting impression.
This money will send a child to school ,this money will produce doctora,lawyers ,nurses etc and I will be there standing with them to thank you and remind you of today .
Right now there is a girl at some orphanage a girl in a village that has been missing classes every month Because she doesn’t have pads and because of you this will change today .
Thank you and God bless. 
#ilovezoona #helpingcommunitiesthrive

 

News of the campaign was caught by media and Mwansa and the winners we featured on a radio interview on Power FM in Zambia, as well as featured in the Lusaka Times and the New Vision Newspaper. Click here to read the article: https://www.lusakatimes.com/2016/09/23/zoona-partners-award-winning-humanitarian-mwansa-bwale/

Click here to read the article: https://www.lusakatimes.com/2016/09/23/zoona-partners-award-winning-humanitarian-mwansa-bwale/

Helping people who help communities thrive!

Zoona is proud to be embarking on a campaign to find women who help their communities thrive!

In a bid to highlight female entrepreneurs and/or change agents who have a positive impact in their communities, and as part of our focus on The Girl Effect, we are looking to find women who contribute to society by  running a sustainable business and provide key services where they are needed most.

In that spirit, we are very excited to announce that Zoona has partnered with popular Zambian social media blogger, Mwansa Bwale.

Mwansa is the winner of the 2016 Zambian Woman of Year Award for Community Service and together with her, we want to discover and reward female entrepreneurs and/or change agents in Lusaka who are helping their communities thrive!

Each week we will ask Mwansa’s and the Zoona community to nominate these remarkable women, and to share their inspirational stories. One of these women will be chosen to get a ZMK 3000 prize, to be collected from their local Zoona booth.

To enter our competition, follow Zoona and Mwansa Bwale on Facebook, and together let’s help the people who are helping their communities thrive!

**Terms and Conditions**

– Winner must have been nominated via Facebook comment
– Only one winner per week, chosen at the judge’s discretion and is completely subjective.
– No relatives of Mwansa or the competition organisers are eligible to win.
– Nominations close on Wednesday each week for the duration of the campaign
– Women can be nominated multiple times during the month of September.
– Winner must be a female entrepreneur or change agent operating in Lusaka
– Judge’s decision about the winner each week is final

Nominate a woman change-maker in a comment on the post below!

Zoona Raises $15 million in Series B funding

It’s been over seven years since Zoona was launched in 2009. It was born from an idea in a text message exchanged between our two founders, brothers Brad and Brett Magrath – and it’s humbling to see how far we’ve come.

We have enabled over 1,000 emerging entrepreneurs in Zambia and Malawi to start their own businesses as Zoona Agents, earning income, creating employment, and providing key financial services to their communities.

Reyhema - a Zoona Agent in Malawi

A Zoona Agent in Malawi

We’ve done this by focusing on the Girl Effect . We have specifically sought to empower young African women, such as Misozi Mkandiwire (WATCH: Video of Misozi’s Story) and Sandra Jere. Misozi and Sandra started as 19-year-old Zoona Agents in Zambia more than 5 years ago with no formal business experience and only high school diplomas. Today, they each employ dozens of young women and men and run businesses that transact more than a million dollars per month.

We have earned the trust of over 1 and a half million active consumers, who have transacted over $1 billion dollars at our agents since we launched.

We have grown from a team of 2 to over 150 people with 25 nationalities across four countries. Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths and the key to building a customer-centric pan-African business that remains true to our mission of helping communities thrive.

And we are just getting started.

Today, I am pleased to announce that Zoona has raised $15 million (R200 million rand) in its Series B investment round from world-class venture capital investors.

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10 Truths of Entrepreneurship

Last week, I had the privilege of speaking at the Nyamuka Zambia Business Conference in Lusaka, Zambia. Having been born in Zambia myself, and Zambia having been Zoona’s first market, it was very special to be speaking to this fresh generation of entrepreneurs.

Over 300 budding entrepreneurs from all walks of life were in attendance, and I was tasked with sharing with them a bit of the Zoona story through a keynote speech.

I elected to share the story with them through what I consider are 10 Truths of entrepreneurship that we’ve picked up along the way.

The keynote is reproduced below for anyone who could not make it.

1o Truths of Entrepreneurship

My first truth

When you sit down and have bacon and eggs for breakfast the hen is involved (it lays the egg) but the pig, well the pig is bacon, it is truly committed… I believe that to be a successful entrepreneur you have to be truly committed and focused  – committed in passion, energy and time. You can not play at being an entrepreneur – it is a full time and all consuming – people often say to me, that they want to start a business but it is just not the right time – it is never the right time but sometimes you just have to jump in and learn to swim.

Our team have sweated, bled and sacrificed to build Zoona it did not happen by luck or accident but hard work, resilience and commitment – you need a lot of things including luck but sheer effort is a non negotiable

My second truth

I believe that for the entrepreneurs here today: your ideas (as just ideas) are worthless and raising money is not your biggest challenge or problem right now. In Africa today no one will invest in an idea and to be honest no real investor will sign an NDA – capital and investment flows to one type of business and one type only – business with a proven track record of winning and ones that have a great team. So you should only focus on two things – your customer and delivering value that customers will pay for so you can generate revenue and cash and talent – the biggest success factor in your business will be your first 10 hires, they will define the culture and set the tone. One of our first employees and now our CEO and partner took 50% of his wages for three years and every month put them back into the business to buy shares from us.

My Third Truth

I believe the greatest threat to the entrepreneurs here today, is totally in your power to control and remove as a threat. In simple terms it is our inability to focus – truly focus with razor like discipline. This is a threat for three reasons 1) we see opportunities everywhere, we are like a kid in a candy store – thinking “i can do that, I can do that…” 2) we try and assimilate risk by doing lots of different things – thinking if this one fails, maybe this other one will work but 3) all the research shows that if you try and do 10 things you will fail at all of them, if you try 5 you might do one or two with average results, exceptional results are only achieved when you try and do less – in doing less you achieve more. We built Zoona focusing all our attention on this one business, in one market and with one simple product – we removed complexity and opportunity and adopted relentless focus. My advice to you is focus on one business, focus on who you customer is and focus on what do they want.

My Fourth truth

I believe people spend far too much time thinking about how big something can be and not enough time in the trenches proving it will work. The only person in your world should be your customer and your focus should be understanding their needs and pain points and working with them to solve them. Every industry has a choke point – one thing more than anything that unlocks real customer value or solves real customer pain points. Understanding that one thing and then with relentless focus absolutely owning that niche is all that matters. your key drive must be to commit to be 10X better than anyone at that one thing that matters most to the customer and then you own the industry. At Zoona that one thing was customers that wanted was a seamless simple ability to cash in and cash out – so we focused on owning that experience and being 10X better than our competitors at that – our mantra was to deliver a customer experience so that they never bounced at a green box – or in layman terms, that they were always able to cash in and out in a simple, quick safe way. We deliberately did not compete at advertising or promotions – or even price – we relentlessly competed where it mattered most and thats where we won the battle and why we were able to grow.

My Fifth truth

I believe nothing great was ever created or built when things are easy – scarcity and necessity are the mother of innovation and invention. So yes, as Zambian entrepreneurs you can honestly say you are not starting your business in a hot spot of entrepreneurship but you can use it as an excuse or flip it on its head and use it as motivation. Environment has such an impact and we are in a harsh start up business environment here but take that scarcity and own it, use it as your drive – people have built far greater things in far tougher times, and this same struggle and resilience is your advantage— when we started Zoona everyone would ask with surprise – why did you start Zoona in Zambia and then we would say we are from Zambia and they would go, ok that makes sense, as though the only reason we would start here is because we were from here. We rather took the approach of proactively and deliberately changing our environment – not just for us but our agents too. When we started we soon realised our agents could not raise the necessary working capital to start and run a Zoona Booth. So we pivoted our business to provide them affordable financing options to set them up and get them started. Again after some time we realised that the agents social and economic environment was putting undue pressure on them and that they were “dipping into their business tills” and taking money out of the business to meet the day to day pressures of life and putting their business at risk and our capital investment at risk too. But rather than retreat we focused on the real problem. So again we changed the environment – by this time we had a whole bunch of historical data on our agents and most importantly a transactional history of what a good agent would do on day one, week one, month one, month six, year one and year two. So our data engineers started building algorithms and generating cohorts that could predict from day one the trends as to if an agent would one day make it and be profitable or not. Once we had this data we were able to make a commitment to our young agents- we committed that as long as they stayed within our performing cohorts we would invest in all their short terms costs so that starting a business could also meet and keep their own personal, family and life environment in balance.

My Sixth truth

I believe in today’s world and in the future, David will always, always beat Goliath. The speed to be able to understand customer pain points and turn them into insights and actions and solve customer problems will be the winners. The speed at which you make things 10X better for customers will be the critical success factor – and speed includes agility and the ability to constantly pivot your whole organisation to move with disruptions and changing times. Speed is an outcome of an agile and change responsive ecosystem. Traditional big business have too much technical debt to move quickly or effectively – but my key advice to entrepreneurs who want to take on the big dogs – do not go and disrupt their existing business or they will try and eat you (and they can). Rather go and invent what is not yet there and then they will never ever catch up with you – At Zoona we always focus on attacking the core customer problem and not the competition – we fundamentally are committed to baking a bigger pie, and leaving all players in the value chain whole and rewarded. We foster win-win relationships and not win-lose ones.

My Seventh truth

I believe until we learn to embrace that failure is a stepping-stone to success and that failure should be celebrated and shared we will never be brave enough to truly grow. I appreciate we live in scarcity and failure can be costly but we need to move from assimilating risk and to truly celebrate the tall poppies – those that win but even more so those that were brave enough to try, and fail. None of the first four businesses my brother and I started are still around today, but in those failings we learnt our most valuable lessons. One of the investors who gave us $ 4 m in 2012 shared that the battle scars: both business savvy and humility he saw in us through those tough times were key to him giving us the money. The entrepreneurs most likely to succeed very rarely do so with their first venture – so when you fall, fall with integrity and then get up and start again, and the next time be smart enough to make new mistakes – and remember mistakes prove that you are trying.

My Eighth truth

I believe that when you fail you are not as bad as you will feel, but equally when you are winning you are never as good as you think you are. “One day you are chicken, and the next day you are feathers”. I have met some incredibly successful people and each and everyone of them shared the following characteristics: they were humble, they were sincere, they had empathy and they listened with real interest. Good people doing good things, can win. So as you reach for the stars keep your feet on the ground – as an entrepreneur you need to constantly grow and most importantly always be learning. I used to think starting a business was difficult but often all it required was resilience – you either kept going or quit, there were very few other options. As Zoona has grown my role has evolved and it is far more complex and challenging – I have to grow 10X as a business leader just to keep up and stay relevant as the business grows.

My Ninth truth

One of my favourite quotes is: “Those that danced were thought crazy by those that could not hear the music” – I believe that all the Entrepreneurs here should celebrate the music that is bopping in your brain and also understand not every one can hear it and I will share why it is important: Because once you understand this you will not get despondent when everyone tells you that you are crazy – your family, your friends, your bank manager – when people can not see your vision and business dreams rather than be discouraged – celebrate your journey. I was told a story once that if a teacher asks a bunch of young kids if they can sing – all say yes but if they ask early teenagers if they can sing about half say yes and by late teens the numbers drops to more and by adulthood only one or two people say they can sing – over the years children are told they can not sing and so they believe it – it is the same with entrepreneurs, we are told it is too risky or irresponsible or that we will never win – never forget that fundamental belief in your self and do not let doubters discourage you.

My Tenth truth

I believe that business of purpose that are built to make a difference and have positive impact matter. It is incredibly tough to start a business so I would challenge the young entrepreneurs to chose one’s that you can believe in – and even more importantly will attract great talent to join you. In today’s world the very best talent, want more than just a job. They want to be part of something making a difference and they want to be empowered and challenged to own their contribution to something real and that has impact. At Zoona every employee has share options and if asked nearly all them would agree that our purpose to help communities thrive is what attracted them to us and keeps them with us. 

My Final thoughts

People often talk about what will change – I will share two things that I think will not change: the importance of relationships and story telling. So to close off today I would encourage everyone to build and foster relationships to build an entrepreneurial community and share stories – and given I have talked too much already I look forward to listening to stories from some of our successful entrepreneurs here, and more importantly hearing the dreams and aspirations of our new breed of entrepreneurs who still have to go down the exciting journey of building their businesses

I was tasked to answer one question: What is the one thing you absolutely need to achieve entrepreneurial success – there are lots of things you need: skill, resilience, hard work, humility, luck but the one thing you absolutely need to do to achieve success – is too start. So be brave and bold and start.

Entrepreneurship Advice from the King of Kabwe

At Zoona, we use mobile technology to provide financial services to people when they need them most – so that communities can thrive. We do this by partnering with and investing in emerging entrepreneurs.

There is an incredible amount of untapped entrepreneurial potential in Africa, and at Zoona, we’re privileged to help unleash its impact.

We have had several success stories so far (WATCH: Misozi and the Girl Effect) – and it keeps us motivated to see the ongoing change that technology can help unleash.

A few weeks ago, we had one such success story visit us at the Zoona offices in Cape Town. Paul Katumbi (the “King of Kabwe”) is one of Zoona’s most successful Agents in Zambia.

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Wanted: CTO & Head of Engineering

At Zoona, we use technology to provide financial services to people when they need them most, so that communities can thrive.

Africa stands on the brink of a financial inclusion revolution, and as a leading African fintech company, we’ll be at the forefront of this period of incredible change.

We’re looking for an exceptional and best-in-class technology guru to scale our engineering team in pursuit of our goal of building a billion dollar business that helps communities thrive.

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How Zoona is Gearing Up for Growth!

You may have noticed that Zoona passed a pretty big milestone lately (READ: It’s Official – We’ve Processed $1 Billion In Transactions). The fact is, this is only the beginning.

We’re gearing up for a period of fast scaling and growth. As a company, we work towards a set of Wildly Important Goals (WIGs) – which outline what we want to achieve by 2020.

One of these WIGs is to be in ten African markets by 2020.

In order to prepare for this expansion, we’re expanding our Executive Team, and going on a recruitment drive!

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