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African Leadership Group Health Fair

Saturday November 5, 2022 | 8AM to 12PM
Overland High School
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African Leadership Group Health Fair

Saturday November 5, 2022 | 8AM to 12PM
Overland High School
Learn more and register here »

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Introducing the Women Empowerment award winners

At the African Leadership Group’s Women Empowerment Initiative annual event, five extraordinary women were honored with awards. The categories were: Women in Entrepreneurship, Breaking Barriers, and Outstanding Student.

Here is what some of the the winners had to say about themselves and their awards:

Women in Entrepreneurship Award

Vera A. Osuokwu-Idam

Tell us a little about how you got started as an entrepreneur?

I am a first generation African immigrant from Lagos Nigeria.  I relocated to Colorado in 2010 with my three children. I am the fourth of six children to a mother who was widowed quite early. I have a bachelor’s degree, three associate degrees, and a master’s degree. 

One year after arriving here, I enrolled in a technical college, from where I obtained an associate degree in Network Systems Administration. Going to school here was probably the toughest time in my family life. While studying, I worked in retail, and juggled work, my schooling and family. Right before completing my associate degree, I got a job with a telecom company.

During my vacation to Canada in August 2014, my siblings reminded me of my skills and passion in publishing. They expressed how successful they believed I would be if I continued on the path I was in Nigeria. Their thoughts inspired me to start my own publication here in Colorado.

I have always been inclined to culture, lifestyle and creativity, so I naturally gravitated to my familiar space. Another reason was that I had been here for a few years but had to learn most of the things that were important to my family’s success, the very long and hard way. Also I had only met very few Africans who knew next to nothing of what was going on in mainstream society. 

I knew I had to stick with an African magazine to bring them together, help them integrate into the larger community by sourcing stories that inform them, and connect them to more happiness. Being from Africa I felt the need to create what felt like a homestead here for all Africans to identify with. I wanted so much to tell my story as an immigrant, and to project Africa and African immigrants in my own little way. 

And what’s more, there was nothing like an African immigrant print publication here at all.  I quickly did the necessary research on how to incorporate and run a publishing company, then I registered the name Afrik Digest Int’l Magazine and began working. By December 4, 2014, the first print issue was out. It has been a labor of passion and an incredible blessing ever since.

What advice would you have for young women interested in becoming entrepreneurs?

March is Women’s History Month and I celebrate all the amazing women everywhere.

Women are courageous fighters, and because we do not give up, we emerge champions. Life can be tough at times, what with a deluge of dirt that keeps piling up on us from all angles; but I encourage us to hang in there. If a situation does not kill us, it teaches us the tricks of survival. 

Yet, the goal is not only to survive, but to thrive. How do you accomplish greatness as a woman? It has to be through resilience and determination. Tell yourself you are carrying the touch for all women and it must not go out. As women, we must not give up on our dreams to build a better life for ourselves and our communities for any reason. As an entrepreneur, be ready to stick it out. Life will give you many reasons to throw in the towel. The fire of your motivation will flutter and dim many times, but you must not let it die. 

There are two critical issues we must continue to intentionally address as women. They are wellness and wellbeing; in other words, health and happiness. You have to be happy enough to be healthy enough to thrive. 

Life is too short to live in the doldrums, so do whatever is safe that brings you happiness. And I mean this: Finding happiness is where to start. Many years ago, in the church I attended in Lagos Nigeria; as my pastor was preaching, he said, “Do whatever makes you happy no matter how expensive it is. If you can afford it, get it!” Those words ministered instantly to me, and I have found myself applying them at tough times. Let me tell you… they work all the time.

If I were to advise someone, I would say I prefer paying to find happiness, than paying to dig myself out of a sad pit. But you know what, you don’t have to pay for it if someone can volunteer to help you out. As women, let’s volunteer to help our fellow women. Let’s recognize how hard it is to make it alone. Let’s seek the welfare of others. Let’s deliberately reach out and touch someone’s life. Never let greed and selfishness narrow our perspectives on the success stage. Deal fairly with other women because you can still thrive in spite of ambition.

What does winning this award from ALG mean to you?

The award was for Women of Entrepreneurship and winning it means a lot to me. It means that finally, I am being recognized for all the hard work and tenacity of being a woman entrepreneur. Having run my companies for more than seven years, I can tell you that it is harder for a woman. It is much easier for a man to be seen and appreciated, but a woman has to be doing exceptional work to be seen and recognized in the game. Women tend to be low-key in business, and are mostly in the shade in order not to be seen as too extra and vainglorious. So, I am grateful to Papa Dia and ALG for the honor of the award and thankful to the ‘binoculars’ that magnified me from the shadows.

Sabe Kemer

Tell us a little about how you got started as an entrepreneur? 

I come from generations of business owners, from my grandparents to parents back in Ethiopia. However, having moved from Ethiopia at an early age, I grew up with stories of glorious young business days from my grandfather. Stories of a young man from a mountainous village of East Ethiopia who made himself a name through the big cities and how fulfilled he felt, to have built his family a legacy. He often said, “you truly are in a land of opportunity, you don’t have to worry about anyone taking away what you built from you here.” 

With that motivation, I merely wanted to replicate what my grandfather did, here in the United States. I started Colorado Language Services because I have passion for languages.

I started Denver Home Healthcare because I wanted to contribute to the senior-serving industry by using the foundation that my culture instilled in me. To celebrate our elderly population, to treat with honor, love, esteem and ideal respect. This African proverb says it best. “A village without the elderly is like a well without water.”

What advice would you have for young women interested in becoming entrepreneurs? 

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, don’t wait to start your dream tomorrow, consult with someone who is already successful in the type of business you are interested in and get started. 

Big achievements  are only combinations of little daily achievements. Above all, surround yourself with supportive people who will genuinely be willing to contribute to your goals. If you don’t have a support system right now, build one through local business-supporting organizations, religious groups, your community organizations such as ALG, school, and more. 

Building a business will not always be a fun process: You will inevitably face challenges, often just before you start growing and that is when your support system will be there to lift you up and help you over that mountain. Finally, when you reach your goal, you will also need people to celebrate your success with 🙂

What does winning this award from ALG mean to you?

I love that ALG gave me the opportunity to share my businesses and share my experience with the next generation of leaders. I am lucky to have had immense support and still continue to be supported. Winning this award was an opportunity to pass it on. and hopefully lessening the challenges of owning a business for someone else.

Nichelle Alavaro

Tell us a little about how you got started as an entrepreneur? 

I got started as an entrepreneur by realizing what my God-given purpose was, and that was to do hair and be a salon owner. I was in Atlanta, Georgia after I graduated with a business degree when I decided to go to hair school and then did hair for six years. 

I then moved to Denver to open my salon,  Crowning Glory Hair Salon in 2003, to give Denver clients more options of different stylists and provide an upscale salon. I wanted to provide hair services for our community and the less fortunate and set a better narrative of black salon businesses in our industry.

What advice would you have for young women interested in becoming entrepreneurs? 

The advice I would like to give young women interested in becoming an entrepreneur would be to educate yourself and master the field you want to be in business in. 

Most likely you will have to teach others that will work for you the trade and the vision you want them to support. Once you teach them, now try to duplicate yourself in them by being the example and teaching them your vision and ethics in your particular business. Never be afraid to reinvent yourself.

What does winning this award from ALG mean to you?

Winning this award from ALG was an unexpected surprise because I have always felt like an unsung hero. It was so great that this organization recognized me and my gifts to my community without anyone knowing the details of what I have done for others. It was like God was rewarding me for things I have done in secret that He knows, to an organization I was totally new to. I thank you for seeing the little light in me that was behind closed doors.

Breaking Barriers Award

Dana Manyothane

What barriers have you broken, and how did you go about breaking them?

I have broken the barrier of the division between African immigrants and African Americans. My mission is to open up dialogue and understanding to bring these two communities together in Denver, Colorado.  I understand that there needs to exist trust and a welcoming space to bring these two communities together. I am responsive by encouraging the communities to partner together on various occasions across town like the Colorado Black Arts Festival and African Leadership Group’s Afrik Impact. I ask people to show up and be present and to engage in the cultural and educational offerings. 

I know I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors. I share a common history with my mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters of the African diaspora. Our shared experiences in the U.S. demonstrate that we have more in common than differences. I am committed to bringing the African and African American communities together so that we may celebrate our commonalities and share our differences.

What advice would you have for young women who would like to follow your path?

My advice to young women who seek to follow my path is to know your history. Then to have courage, compassion, and determination to really understand people who look like you. You have to love yourself and then feel free to meet new people, break bread and form lasting friendships and connections. Trust yourself and allow yourself to build relationships with new people. Change happens with you.

What does winning this award from ALG mean to you?

Wow — Winning the ALG Breaking Barriers Award is so special for me. The recognition validates my work of bringing communities together. ALG shares my goal to break barriers and build bridges which is what is needed to bring [our] people together.  I share this award with so many fantastic people who acknowledge our shared goal of humanity and mutual respect.

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