Interviewed by: Dr. Julian Businge
If you haven’t heard of the growing UK-based tech company BuildHer — you are surely missing out on some Black girl empowerment!
The financially and economically growing phenomenon, empower as many Black and Brown women as possible through pooling money and resources together, joining forces and becoming a subgroup to be reckoned with. They currently build awareness, so more Black and brown women know they exist and thus help more women achieve their dreams and goals.
Below is an interview featuring BuildHer co-founder DamiLola Soyoye.
Who are you and what do you do?
Thank you very much Dr. Julian Businge for the invitation. I am an entrepreneur, and I am the CEO and co-founder of platform called BuildHer; and BuildHer is a crowdfunding platform for women, women of Black origin to be able to raise the funds that they need to start any project, any business, or creation or innovation. So basically for women who want to start something and maybe historically, not having enough access to funding would have prevented them from starting that thing. That is why I created this. My husband is a co-founder.
How did you come up with the idea? What led you to being the successful woman that you are today? How did you get there?
I think I’m still getting there. I don’t classify myself as “gotten there” just yet. I think it’s definitely a continuous journey. And BuildHer is our baby for the time being. It’s a recent platform but we are getting off to a great start. Why did we start BuildHer? Basically, it was my brainchild, in terms of I was seeing the ongoing disrespect, that was being afforded to Black women and brown women. When I say brown women, what I mean is bi-racial women, that’s what I’m referring to. I saw the difficulties that Black women were having in various aspects of life. Not just business, not just to do with money, pretty much in all aspects of life. And I felt that there was a common thread or common theme across all of these aspects. I felt that the fact that we tend to not have the strongest financial backing and the strongest financial support system around us, is one of our biggest issues as a collective group or sub-group.
And I thought that we needed to come together, we needed our strength, to be in our numbers. And as women, to be able to come together, to be able to financially support each other. Put our money where our mouth is and support each other’s project and creation so that we could begin to be a sub-group that is more recognized; so that we begin to be a sub-group that is afforded more respect and recognition. So that other groups, other races or ethnicities and genders would be able to realize that we are not one to be ignored or overlooked. And that we have amazing, innovative ideas and that they deserve to be on the same level, playing field as innovations and creations from other groups.
Did you recognize this problem?
Black women typically can start out with over £30,000 pounds or dollars worth of debt. So just by beginning to want to create something or start a business or anything like that, we’re starting out in debt from day one. And it shouldn’t be like that. We are the least likely to be granted bank loans statistically. We are the least likely to be granted a loan from any sort of bank manager or any other sort of similar institution. Therefore, we have to turn to our credit cards. We should not have to turn to our credit cards and put ourselves in debt because we want to create something that the world needs. And I believe Black women are some of the best people to create things that the world needs because of our unique perspective and our unique outlook of the world and women, in general, are best placed to create things.
I felt that the current status of accessing funding was atrocious, no woman should start something and get into debt because of it. So I just felt like, out of frustration and anger, I was like, okay, something needs to change. I didn’t really know the term ‘crowdfunding’ if that makes sense. Growing up, what I had seen was my mother for example and my husband’s mother who are both of Nigerian descent. What we have seen while growing up is our mothers would do something. Those who are Nigerians are from a Yoruba background, which is what we are, Ajo basically means a group of people will come together and all contribute money into a ‘pot’, and then one person gets that ‘collective pot’ and they go round and round until each person in the group has received the ‘pot’. So we call it “Ajo”. I believe different societies and communities have their own name for it. So I just felt like we need this Ajo on a big scale, we need this on a wider scale. And then, that’s when I realized after doing some research, there is this thing called crowdfunding. This is exactly it! This is exactly the model that we need to adopt and that was why I wanted to start BuildHer.
What an amazing story. How does BuildHer help women start their businesses? How does it help them raise the money they need to start their businesses? Can you tell us a bit more about it?
BuildHer helps women to start their businesses because instead of having to go get a loan from your family member or a friend, which can put some people in difficult situations; especially if things don’t go the way you planned originally, it can cause some awkward tensions within a family. And in order to avoid obviously trying to go and get a bank loan and pay crazy interest rates, and all these other hidden charges that typically comes with an institutional loan; so crowdfunding is a great way for one to be able to start their business in that all you need is the idea and some information to put together. You can create your own campaign page.
Are there any life lessons you’ve learned in business or in life that you will like to pass on or share with other women out there. How can they keep going?
What I’ve learned is that every experience has helped me get to this point. Even, at the time I asked myself so many times because this isn’t the first thing that I’ve done, or started or created. I’ve tried a lot of different things, I tell you, Dr. Julian, I’ve tried a lot of different things in the past and failed many, many times. And guess what, at times I would ask myself “what was the point of all of that?” I don’t even see any connection, what did I learn from that?
It’s just now that I can see that everything that I had been through before has actually prepared me for this particular venture that I am now in. And this is where I’m actually supposed be. And the things that didn’t work before, they didn’t work before because that wasn’t what I am supposed to be doing, nor where I was supposed to be. That wasn’t where my passion lay, it wasn’t my particular calling. It’s just about finding your calling and it doesn’t matter how long it takes. Just figure out what is important to you, what is that thing that is giving you pain or hurting you and that you desire so much to see a solution and a change to. Once you’ve figured that out, however way you figured it out to get there, you’ll find that things really start falling into place. And then you are able to look back and think so that thing I did before, that didn’t work out because of this. But guess what? I’m able to use that experience and now I’m using it in this venture, in this business as well. And it’s actually helping me. With that, I guess the message or moral is never give up. Don’t do something just for money or to make a quick payout. What do you call those type of business, ‘get rich quick’ schemes? People do fall into their trap. It’s really really important not to solely do something because of the financial prospects or benefits. Because if that’s the only reason you’re doing it, then you will not last long. There really needs to be your why. Why am I doing this? Why am I in this? Once you’ve understood that, you know, everything, the frustrating times, it’s the why that will keep you going and keep you focused.
If someone has an idea, say they haven’t started a business but they just have an idea, is that something that you can help them, probably put on your platform. If they don’t have any pictures or evidence of what they are doing. Or you only take people who have already started a business? They have evidence, they have this and that. How does it work?
We definitely want to support those who are in the very early stages of their idea. So it’s not that you already have to be an established business person or business owner. We want to foster and support new ideas. Saying that though, one needs to have something to show. You need to be able to visually portray what it is that you are trying to create for the people.
However, you’re going to visually show us. They need to be able to believe in it and buy into it. Ok, let’s say you have invented this new invention that you feel the world needs. Then show us. If you don’t have the physical thing, show us a prototype, show us 3D design images of what you’re trying to make. Make your video showing us who is behind this invention and tell us why you created this invention and how does it help us. Why is it necessary? How much do you need? What is the money going to be used for? All of those things and your text descriptions. What I’m saying is, there are ways to still portray your message and crowdfund to start something but still get people really excited to believe in your campaign, and to get them to donate or contribute. I hope that answers your questions?
Our final question is where can people find you? Do you have a free offer, coaching and mentoring?
People can go to BuildHer.co.uk, as in to ‘build’ something. B-u-i-l-d-h-e-r, one word, .co.uk and basically we are on all major social networks and platforms as @BuildHerCrowd. You can find us everywhere. In terms of offering coaching and support, we do that. What we have created is we’ve put together a guidebook, a coaching guidebook which hopefully will really help and support the women that come through our platform to be able to create the best campaigns possible. It’s a complete A to Z. It takes you from the beginning right through to launching. Being ready to launch a campaign and make it go live and public. Everything that you need to consider from how to make it look visually appealing, your campaign, market it, how to get the word out and spread the campaign. We also offer ongoing email support, so it’s all very easy to reach out to us. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Very simple. We offer ongoing support if there’s any issue.
This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.
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