Here on Whoot Africa, we not only showcase brands, but we also talk to the people behind those brands and have them share with us their back stories as well as give tips on how to successfully start and run a business.
Welcome to Whoot Africa’s – 15 Questions with the CEO.
Today, we will be talking with Agnieszka Łyniewska, CEO and Co-Founder of Nikweli Tanzania
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself and Nikweli as a brand you represent?
My name is Agnieszka Łyniewska and I am a Co-Founder and CEO of Nikweli, a job matching platform for informal and semi-formal job seekers in Tanzania.
2. How did you get started in Business and what did it take for you to get to where you are today?
The idea for Nikweli originated from my previous work in private sector development in Tanzania. I had a substantial exposure to the problems of the labour market and could hear the perspective of both employers and potential employees. I managed to translate the idea into concept ready to test and implement and got on-board the other Co-Founder Tiffany. We started our operations in Tanzania where we are currently running a pilot in Dares Salaam.
3. What were you doing before Nikweli kicked off and why did you decide to start Nikweli?
I was an MBA student at London Business School.
4. Did you know you were going to be an Entrepreneur all along or did it happen by chance?
No, I was not really planning it ahead of time. I come from an entrepreneurial family, and witnessed how much commitment running own business entails. I did not anticipate that I will join this field that soon!
5. What do you love most about your business and your life as an Entrepreneur?
I love the potential transformational impact that it can bring, the variety of the tasks and the need to constantly re-think the assumptions and the small successes that each week brings.
6. What keeps you and the Nikweli team motivated? How do you envision Nikweli in 5-10years from now?
We are convinced that there is a need and demand for a comprehensive labour market solution for informal sector hiring. We envision growing in scale in 5 years time and expanding across the region in 10 years.
7. What do you think are the most important personal skills someone must have to be successful in business? What was the BIGGEST risk you’ve taken?
Persistence is definitely the most important skill. The actual decision to commit and launch the venture was probably the biggest risk so far.
8 Why did you choose this line of business/service or product and when did you know it was it for you? How would you describe your leadership style?
As mentioned before, the idea developed quite organically through my experience. I would say that living and working in few different cultures and countries I have quite an adaptive leadership style, but in general I like to empower members of the team to take the ownership of the tasks they are handling.
9. Nikweli was recently part of DEMO Africa 2014 and listed as one of the top 40 start-ups in Africa; what was the experience like and do you feel pressured now that your platform is in the spotlight?
It has been very exciting so far, we are preparing for the event and working hard to leverage the interest Nikweli has gotten in relation to DEMO Africa.
10. How far has Nikweli gone in terms of milestones in providing jobs for young Tanzania’s?
We are currently in the pilot stage. We started building the initial database of the candidates (over 300 people) and we are holding trials with the employers.
11. if you had to sell doing business in Tanzania in a few words to an investor, what would they be?
Growth, development, opportunity, nice country and nice people!
12. There are numerous human resources websites across Africa, one of which includes Cameroon’s Njorku.com (Now Africa’s celebrated and Forbes Africa recognised job search platform). How do you plan to stay competitive and spread your reach beyond Tanzania?
We are the first job matching platform in Africa addressing the needs of informal and semi-formal job seekers, we are a people bank not a job bank and we use both mobile technology and internet to expand the reach of our platform and lower the cost to the customers. We plan to leverage our model to reach scale and develop long term relationships with both groups of customers. We also see a lot of potential around value added services related to job market information provision and training.
13. Who was the most influential person or mentor in your life?
There were many people who shaped my professional path and supported me to become who I am today. When I first arrived to Tanzania I was inspired to deliver more than it was expected of me. It changed my perspective.
14. What do you think about college education? Should kids go to college now or get into business if they feel it’s a better choice? Considering some of the world’s greatest never had college education, your thoughts?
Everybody should have an option to make the informed choice according to their preferences. Creating the system where higher education is easily accessible by many is ideal. Yet not everybody wants to nor should go to college; there have to be other options such as vocational and technical training sector.
15. What would be the most important piece of advice you could give to young entrepreneurs and why?
Spend time doing what you care about, connect with other people, it will make your journey easier and more enjoyable and if you are not sure if you can succeed, calculate your risks and try, otherwise you will never know.
If you missed the previous parts of the 15 Questions with the CEO series, please click here