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BOLD Woman Award By Veuve Clicquot: A Celebration Of Audacious Business Women In Nigeria

By Shola- Adido Oladotun
23 October 2022   |   6:00 am
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Bold”? For Veuve Clicquot, it’s about celebrating the efforts of incredible women in whose lexicon the word “impossibility” has no place. Inspired by the audacity of Madame Clicquot and to celebrate the House’s 200th-anniversary Veuve Clicquot decided to pay homage to this great, daring woman…

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Bold”? For Veuve Clicquot, it’s about celebrating the efforts of incredible women in whose lexicon the word “impossibility” has no place.

Inspired by the audacity of Madame Clicquot and to celebrate the House’s 200th-anniversary Veuve Clicquot decided to pay homage to this great, daring woman by creating the Bold Woman Award. This initiative is passionately committed to empowering successive generations of audacious female leaders. It supports and gives women entrepreneurs a voice encouraging future generations to be even more audacious.

We are making history, as this year marks the first time that the globally renowned award will be launched in Nigeria. 2022 also marks the 50th year of this coveted award which honours the impact of Female leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship worldwide.

The Bold Woman Award will recognize one exceptional female Nigerian leader who will join the ranks of an illustrious list of over 410 audacious women honored by this prestigious award in 27 countries. This award ceremony was inspired by Madame Clicquot, a trailblazer who embodied resilience and courage when she took the reins of running the Veuve Clicquot House during a time when women were not allowed to work or own a business.

Selected from a pool of over 250 visionary Nigeria businesswomen, Affiong Williams founder ReelFruit, Ifedayo Durosinmi-Etti founder of Herconomy, and Ifeoluwa Dare-Johnson founder of Healtracka emerged as the top 3. In a quick chat with Guardian Life, the finalists whose personalities and works are a true reflection of the saying, “the future is female” discuss everything from their careers to the importance of a platform like Bold Woman Awards by Veuve Clicquot.

Affiong Williams

Affiong Williams. Photo: Amazon photography

Unlike several entrepreneurs who start a business with the sole aim of making a profit, the idea behind Affiong’s trendsetting brand, ReelFruit, was to help solve the problem of youth unemployment in the country, which saw her book a one-way ticket to Nigeria.

Fueled by her passion, she embarked on a series of research and found a gap in Nigeria’s agribusiness: the absence of dried fruits. Although there was an opportunity, launching ReelFruit wasn’t all rays and sunshine for Affiong. She points out that it took 5 years for the brand to build a market and gain acceptance. Then, the brand had to deal with macroeconomic instability, which affected the growth plans.

Finally, sourcing funds was a major problem, as it took her 9 years to raise three million dollars for expansion.

Despite all odds, Affiong was able to push ReelFruit forward in both the Nigerian and international markets, building 700 stores nationwide and bringing about one of the biggest innovations in agribusiness.

To add to this, Affiong says that ReelFruit will be introducing a major game changer in the food industry.

“ReelFruit will be commissioning the largest dried fruit factory in December 2022, and this is going to allow us to scale our product offering, launch unique products into the market, and sell our products to more customers within and outside Nigeria.”

The story of Madame Clicquot is a source of inspiration for the CEO as she discusses the similarity between her and the legendary trailblazer. “I resonate with Madame Clicquot building her business in tumultuous times, including wars and trade embargos which affected her market. I liken building a business in Nigeria to being ‘at war’- there are so many variables to contend with as well as macro challenges that are beyond your control that you must solve. Like Madame Clicquot, I have had to look at every challenge and navigate around it, to continue to grow the business to its full potential”

Winning the Bold Woman award, according to Affiong would be, “an acknowledgment of my achievements and my drive to build a business that lasts in Nigeria.”

Ifedayo Durosinmi-Etti

Ifedayo Durosinmi-Etti. Photo: Amazon Photography

A word that best describes this female entrepreneur is bold. This word choice is largely due to her nature as a serial entrepreneur, which entails taking several risks to have an impact on society.

Among the few projects developed by Ifedayo, one that stands out is Herconomy, a financial resources service for women. Ignoring the fact that she had zero core experience in banking, Ifedayo was able to bring her vision to life with the right team and mindset.

Interestingly, Ifedayo never saw herself as an entrepreneur.

“I always thought I’d work a 9–5 job and just retire there, and to my amazement, after my MBA, I got 3 job offers, and one of them was with the company (a multinational) of my dreams, so there was no need for me to leave. But as time went on, I got the urge to solve people’s problems and most of the problems I was finding solutions to gravitated more toward women. Some of my friends call me ‘a fixer.’ I get things done, and if I cannot, I always know one person that knows one person that will make any problem go away, and that’s literally how I got into entrepreneurship… ”

While being a serial entrepreneur comes with its perks, she, like every entrepreneur, has also faced a fair number of challenges, such as funding and talent. Her biggest challenge was finding a female CTO and workers to join her on her journey.

When citing several prominent figures who inspired her entrepreneurial journey, Ifedayo was quick to mention Madame Clicquot. She spoke about how the bold matriarch was able to build up a successful brand after the demise of her husband. She further reveals creating an acronym, RIBP, that properly explains her similarity with Madame Clicquot: “The R stands for Resourceful, I-Innovative, B-Bold, and P-Partnerships.”

Looking back, Ifedayo is proud of how the economic space has evolved to be more habitable for women. “I’m excited to see more women working in spaces that were previously dominated by men, from construction to technology to banking and many more. The narrative is changing. More women are being considered. There are also more female VCs and women are also coming up with creative ways to raise funding for their ventures.”

Everyone wants to be a winner, but Ifedayo is very passionate about it. “The Bold Woman Award commends the work of fearless female business leaders and also challenges the status quo—calling for higher ethical standards and transformational practices. It will be an absolute honor to showcase not just me but my brand as one of the companies in Nigeria paving the way.”

Ifeoluwa Dare-Johnson

Ifeoluwa Dare-Johnson. Photo: Amazon Photography

Every brand has a story, and that of Healthtracka, owned by Ifeoluwa, hits close to home. Ifeoluwa began researching non-communicable diseases in Africa after losing her father in 2019 to an illness that could have been detected earlier. This made her realize how millions of Nigerians are moving about their day-to-day activities with no idea that they may have pre-existing health conditions.

Besides finding out that late diagnosis is responsible for over 24% of deaths in the country, she also discovered that affordability, access, and convenience are factors that contribute to the apathetic attitude toward regular checkups. Although she experimented with the idea of Healthtracka, it wasn’t until the pandemic happened that she got a wake-up call and decided to create a digital platform that offers at-home lab testing.

One of the biggest challenges faced by entrepreneurs is Funding and Ifeoluwa agrees with this as she walks us through how Healthtracka managed to get funded. “It is tough to raise funding, especially as a female founder. In the early days, I was bootstrapping and emptying my savings to fund Healthtracka. As you can imagine, building a tech company is an expensive venture. I ran out of money after some time and had to look for other funding sources. We were lucky to have gotten our first investment from First Check Africa—a female-focused VC firm that had just launched at the time. They took a gamble on us and wrote our first $25,000 check. Other investors also took that as a good sign and invested in us. “

Despite being a successful entrepreneur, Ifeoluwa experienced discrimination from her male colleagues. “I remember during a fundraising; a potential male investor asked me how I was going to manage running a business since I was a woman with a family. I thought it was weird because nobody ever asks men this type of question during a business meeting,” she recollects.

The values upheld by Bold by Veuve Clicquot remain dear to Ifeoluwa’s heart, especially the inspiring story of Madame Clicquot who was a pioneer and visionary in the wine industry. She challenged the status quo and was bold enough to take risks. Ifeoluwa believes that these are the same attributes that have helped her pioneer a subcategory in the healthcare industry and be bold enough to take the risk of losing her life savings to chase the ambitious vision of reversing the increase of non-communicable diseases in Africa.

Drawing the curtain, she drops some nuggets that live rent-free in our heads. “I want to say to every woman that you CAN. You CAN be a woman (with all the complexities that come with it) and be ambitious. You CAN get to the top of your career. You CAN do the seemingly hard things. You CAN build a global business. “You CAN be a bold woman, unapologetically.”

ABOUT VEUVE CLICQUOT

Founded in Reims in 1772, the House of Veuve Clicquot remains true to its motto: “one quality, the very first”. In 1805, Madame Clicquot took the reins of the House and became one of the first businesswomen of modern times. Quickly named “la grande dame of Champagne”, her visionary spirit and innate sense of French “art de Vivre” live on today. Her iconic cuvée, Brut Carte Jaune, is synonymous with more than two centuries of know-how in the heart of an exceptional heritage. The colour of the sun symbolizes the values of audacity and optimism that the House has carried for 250 years.

Please drink responsibly.

To stay updated on the winner, kindly follow Veuve Clicquot on all social media platforms.