Tribe XX is on a mission to create an enabling environment for female entrepreneurs across Africa. Quite an audacious aim you might think, but with Emalohi Iruobe a serial entrepreneur and the brains and heart behind it, one that it has every possibility achieving. Last week the shared work-space opened in a quiet street in Onikan, Lagos Island, an area which in itself is enjoying a revival for creatives who are seeking without the eye-watering rents of other parts of the cities. And as with many of the best ideas, she got it from her Momma.
“It all began with my beloved mother, who constantly supported women throughout her life in many ways. In emulating her values, I have been witness to and part of a group of women constantly supporting, cheering, advising and helping each other out… [Furthermore]…I have successfully opened and continue to run three businesses, which were solely funded, supported and publicized by my female friends.”
It made sense that as a serious entrepreneur, Emalohi would choose to share the love beyond hashtags and shout-outs to her fellow female business owners. She talks passionately about the obstacles that female business owners face in Nigeria and Africa at large:
“The statistics are staggering. In 2017, female population for Nigeria was 94.2 million… [with] over 70% of the female population in Nigeria in some form of entrepreneurship either via petty trading, side gigs, creative hustles or as full time entrepreneurs… opportunities are few and far between, coupled with blatant patriarchy and nepotism, making it quite difficult for female entrepreneurs in Nigeria to get ahead, and yet they thrive.”
For the female business owners that have signed up to be part of Tribe XX, they get to share a space that is conducive to work, play and critically collaboration. Think light flooded communal spaces, a roof-terrace for morning yoga, and a shelf full of books with a feminist or female authorship that will sharpen the mind and ensure that you don’t dull and remain ‘woke’.
Expanding beyond the natural ‘circle of friends’ that most women have, Emalohi is seeking to create a community where like minded individuals not only share knowledge but critically build enduring businesses. She speaks passionately of how “with the new wave of consciousness sweeping the globe, we are now privy to the knowledge that magic happens when women band together.” And indeed we are with #MeToo, #TimesUp #30percentclub and now #inclusionrider all widening the conversation of equitable, just and meaningful participation of women across a plethora of industry sectors. Closer to home she uses the blueprint of her own successes to inform how the space works:
“I am an entrepreneur and risk-taker, and I continue to have a tribe of women who stand with me and for me. As I enter into my tenth year as an entrepreneur, I decided it made sense to recreate the tribe that has surrounded me and helped me succeed over the years…All my work and business and life are all connected to one goal. To make life easier for women, to employ women, to empower women, to promote self love, body positivity and balance.”
It speaks to the can-do approach of women and millennial women in particular, that Emalohi has chosen to be part of the solution rather than lobby external agents. A ‘start now and the rest will follow’ mantra has meant that she has been able to build upon gaps in the market and to provide solutions that are needed in real-time. It is the same : approach that informed her to start her ground-breaking lingerie line Aimanosi, which is also has a retail outlet within the Tribe XX space. Speaking of Aimanosi she expands upon the idea of inclusivity: “It was borne out of a need to promote body positivity and self love in African women. Our tag line is “every BODY is in” and we strive to make sure we have something flattering and supportive for every type of body.” Indeed they do with bras that run to larger and difficult to find cup-sizes and knickers that accommodate and celebrate women with a serious or tiny derriere. Aimanosi is also expanding the conversation to female pleasure, with a number of adult toys are available, thus removing the stigma around female sexuality, and Emalohi notes the time is ripe for change in “Nigeria, a country steeped in patriarchy and misogyny covered up as culture.”
iven that female-owned businesses are more affected by the reality of additional external pressures, from child-rearing to helping with elderly relatives Emalohi is keen to create an environment that has sustainability as its capstone: “Everything I do is geared towards seeking and maintaining balance- mentally, professionally, financially, physically and socially.” She adds that Lagos, Nigeria and Africa as a whole needs spaces that propagate “a tribe of women working together…pooling knowledge, resources, magic and promotion [because] we deserve a seat at the table and its time to work together to put each other in those seats.”
We couldn’t agree more, especially today on International Women’s Day where we not only celebrate the hard battles won by women in Africa and across the globe but also seek to push forward an agenda that sees increased opportunities and possibilities. Emalohi has a wider vision that sees Tribe XX “In at least five African countries, building a network on the continent. We hope to have a scholarship fund, pitch competitions and grants available to start ups.” In the interim, if you are based in Lagos and need a beautiful and inspiring space to work from with like-minded women in the mix, look no further.