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App

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Husband and Wife team create a Coloring Book App For the Culture

Over the past few years, adult coloring books have become increasing popular. Some researchers suggest that coloring is an excellent form of relaxation and meditation. Enter Color Noir, a coloring book app that celebrates #BlackGirlMagic in all of its glory.

This coloring book app is the creation of tech power couple Muoyo Okome and Nicaila Matthews Okome. We chatted with them to find out more about their new project.

Coloring Book App
Muoyo and Nicaila

What inspired the creation of Color Noir?

Muoyo: I hadn’t colored since childhood, and knew nothing about coloring books for adults until a few years ago when I noticed quite a few of them popping up during my routine App Store research.

I saw that they were becoming popular and successful, but I didn’t understand why. It turns out that people use them to have fun and relax, and as I started to play around with a few different ones, I began to understand the appeal.

Coloring Book App

I also noticed that (similar to many other forms of entertainment), despite millions of people using them, these coloring book apps made Black people an afterthought. It didn’t click to me at that moment.

Later, when my wife and I watched Black Panther and saw the impact it had on us and so many others by unapologetically telling a black story via a black director and a black cast, set in a black land with beautiful black people and black culture… it got us thinking.

We realized that we are also passionate about using our talents to amplify the stories of black people, and there is a huge need to do so. So I returned to this idea of a coloring book, and the vision for Color Noir took shape from there.

What different skill sets did you both contribute to the success of this app?

Nicaila: Muoyo is the Computer Scientist and App Guy, so he handles the project management with our development team, troubleshooting any coding issues, and getting the product made. I am the visual side.

I feel strongly about curating how things are displayed, the user interface, and the overall user experience, as well as the actual images in the app.

So I work to continually improve that and talk with Muoyo about what’s working and what’s not, what features we should include, and pay attention to what kind of images people are gravitating to. We combine this with feedback from the community to make Color Noir the best it can be.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs who have an idea for an app?

Muoyo: This might sound harsh, but I’m going to keep it real with you: nobody cares about ideas no matter how cool or novel they may be. People care about their own wants and needs, and the more you can help them with those the more successful you are likely to be.

You want to really make sure there is demand for the app that you want to produce so you’re not wasting your time and money on something nobody wants.

I’ve seen this happen many times, and even done it before. Not a lot of fun. Get to know the intended audience for your app and really fall in love with them, so that you can continue to solve their problems and serve them over the long term.

Just like with anything else worthwhile, it’s not going to happen overnight just because you have a great idea. You have to commit to learning and doing with intensity, and then continue until things start to work.

When I was getting started, I was able to follow in the footsteps of entrepreneurs who were quite a few steps ahead of me, by reading their books and blogs, listening to their podcasts, joining their groups, and even investing in their courses and seminars.

Ultimately I still had to put in the work and learn through my own execution, as no two paths will ever be exactly the same, but having their examples to follow helped to save time and cut down on my learning curve. This combination of intense learning and intense execution will always pay dividends over a long enough period of time.

In what other areas of the tech industry do you feel there needs to be more Black representation?

Nicaila: Just about every area. There’s no shortage of Black talent, but there is still a huge problem with inclusivity in hiring practices and the cultures within many of these big tech companies.

There is a need for more opportunities for black developers & engineers, technical leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, and every other position you can imagine. We are some of the biggest consumers of technology, so why shouldn’t we be among the biggest producers as well?

On our side, we are just going to take matters into our own hands. We want to have as much impact as we can. We’ll continue to attack the representation problem via Color Noir and subsequent apps we produce, as well as by helping other aspiring entrepreneurs via our respective podcasts, Side Hustle Pro and Game of Grow, as well our accelerator programs for aspiring podcasters (Podcast Moguls) and app entrepreneurs (App Moguls), and Muoyo’s book “The 7 Steps to App Success”. We are proud and excited to play a small role in many other success stories and benefit others along the way.

What else do think our readers should know about the Color Noir app?

Nicaila: Color Noir is currently available for iOS in the App Store (download at appmagic.co/color ) and is on the way soon for Android. We are super active on Instagram (@colornoirapp) and have a Color Noir Facebook group where hundreds of our users are sharing their creations, contributing feedback, and getting the latest updates behind the scenes.

We are growing our user base every day, and will continue to invest in making this one of the best apps in its category, as well as in the entire store, over the long term.

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (@thebusyafrican)

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GrpFit is using Technology to Promote Health and Fitness in the Black Community

GrpFit is a fitness app created to address health issues in the Black community.

Since we’re all about health and wellness, we decided to find out more about the company. We spoke to co-founder Rich Bailey and this is what he had to say.

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Grpfit co-founders: Chris Ketant and Rich Bailey

What inspired you to create Grpfit?

It’s no secret that certain health issues such as obesity, diabetes and hypertension are more prevalent in the Black community. But, some of the statistics are baffling. According to studies, 76% of our community is either overweight or obese and 43% of us have hypertension.

And then, when it comes to causes of deaths, heart disease and stroke are #1 and #3, respectively. A lot of these health issues can be alleviated by living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Because of that, we decided to create GrpFit with the mission of making the Black community a more fit and healthier one.

The Black community has many health issues that need to be addressed. How does GrpFit provide a solution? 

GrpFit is a safe and encouraging platform for people of all fitness levels to share their fitness journeys, learn and motivate each other. Users of the app can share photos and videos, get sample workouts and read health and fitness related articles.

Our most powerful aspect of GrpFit is the ability to connect with other people who you can relate too. An underrated part of any fitness journey is the accountability and motivation you receive when you have a great support system and community behind you. We are providing a platform for people seek those type of connections.

We also have a ton of other features and services that are currently being developed and will be released in the near future. Stay tuned!

What has been the most gratifying and the most challenging thing you’ve experienced as an entrepreneur thus far?

The most gratifying thing is the opportunity to serve as an inspiration to others. Becoming an entrepreneur/tech startup founder is no easy feat, so showing other people that it can be done is so fulfilling.

The most challenging thing I’ve experienced is being able balancing the pressure to succeed with taking your time to figure out what’s right for your company and brand. The pressure to succeed can often lead to making quick decisions that aren’t fully thought through. Every decision you will make should tie back to your vision/brand and what’s best for your users.

Tell us about your 21 day fitness challenge.

The 21-Day Challenge was something we did back in January and February of this year with 21Ninety and Gym Hooky. Its purpose was to provide women the tools and resources to create lifestyle changing habits as it relates to health and fitness.

We provided the members with community support, weekly Q&A sessions, daily challenges and guides that helped them create goals, choose better foods and pick and perform exercises.

Where do you see the company in 5 years?

In 5 years, GrpFit will be the one-stop-shop for everything related to Black Health and Fitness. We want to be atop of everyone’s mind when it comes exercising, advice, fitness communities and a source of information. Ultimately, we want GrpFit to be synonymous with Black Health and Fitness.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Nothing is too hard to accomplish. If you don’t have the necessary skills to embark on your entrepreneurial journey, then take the time to educate yourself and surround yourself with others who complement your skills. Also, be prepared to learn along the way and always keep an open mind to changing things at a drop of a dime. The latter is crucial because what you think may be a great idea may not be what people want.

 

GrpFit is currently available on iOS and Android

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)

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Tech CEO Sheena Allen on How Her App Promotes Financial Health and Wealth

Sheena Allen is the founder and CEO of tech companies CAPWAY and Sheena Allen Apps. We chatted with her to find out how she went from having no coding experience to running businesses with millions of app downloads.

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SB: What inspired you to start your tech companies?

SA: I started Sheena Allen Apps as a senior in college. I was in school double majoring in Film and Psychology and had no plans of ever going into tech.

Even though the first app didn’t do well as far as traction, I fell in love with the process and the potential of having people from all over the world using an app that I created.

My second startup, CapWay, is financial technology. CapWay was started after visiting my hometown in Mississippi and noticing the people in my community were still using the predatory economy – payday lending, check cashing, title loans, etc.

I knew I had to create a platform that can prevent the next generation from falling into same the cycle of relying on the predatory economy. I want to provide them with a better understanding of money (financial literacy), and a financial platform that provides services they actually needed.

Traditional banking has not worked out in our favor for financial health or wealth. It was time to create something new, so I created CapWay.

 

SB: Not everyone who wants to create a tech business is tech savvy. What suggestions do you have for those an idea but lack the tech skills?

SA: I had no clue how to code or anything when I started, so I understand having an idea for a tech business but not being tech savvy or a non-technical founder. First thing first, you do not need to be 100% tech savvy. Some of your biggest and most well-known tech founders weren’t/aren’t technical founders.

The key is it to learn enough so that no one can beat you out of your money and time. For example, you may end up outsourcing the development. You need to learn and know enough so that if a developer tries to charge a rate at 10 hours to add a splash screen, he/she is lying and just taking your money.

Things like this happen a lot and it can be scary for those who aren’t tech savvy, and it is why I wrote my book, The Starting Guide. It’s a guide on how to get started if you lack technical skills and all in between.

SB: What are your thoughts on how to overcome the lack of diversity in Silicon Valley and still succeed?

SA: Five years ago or so, I would be the first to say make your way to Silicon Valley. When I first got started, it is where I went. However, times have changed.

You no longer need Silicon Valley to be successful in the tech world. Silicon Valley will always be Silicon Valley – the bad and the good that comes along with that reality. However, as minorities, there are other up-and-coming tech hubs that we can now take advantage of including Harlem, Atlanta, Cincinnati, and New Orleans.

SB: Since there’s a lesson in every experience, what did you learn from your most successful app and what did you learn from your least successful one?

SA: My least successful app to date was my first one, and I’m happy it worked out that way. I learned that no matter how great we may think our idea is, everyone else may not think so. It also taught me that not everything might work out the way we want but what matters is how we respond to that defeat.

My most successful app taught me to be appreciative. While some people may take millions of people using their app as a boost to their ego, it honestly humbled me. It made me appreciate the process, the hard work, and most importantly, every single person who downloaded and used my app.

SB: Where do you see your company in 5 years?

SA: With Sheena Allen Apps, we will continue to develop more apps and expand our footprint into products and other things. We are currently at a few million app downloads, but I see use reaching 30 million+ app downloads as we expand.

With CapWay, we will continue to perfect our platform and create an untraditional financial ecosystem. After all, we are using blockchain technology which is already an emerging technology and will be more advanced and understood in five years. Most importantly, we will have made an impact and see a positive impact on the financial health of the financially underserved.

 

SB: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs interested in creating a tech startup?

SA: There is information all around us. Use it. Google is your friend. Also, reach out to people who are where you want to be. Use LinkedIn to your advantage. People are more willing to help than you probably give them credit for. Most importantly, just start.

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafricn)

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Casey Bridgeford of OnCast Media on why more Black Americans should consider doing Business in Africa

I first found out about Casey Bridgeford and his company, OnCast Media while watching a CNBC Africa video on YouTube. It was refreshing to see someone who at the time I thought was not African, talking about business in Africa. (I later found out that his father is actually from Nigeria.)

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Since I’m all about having conversations about business in Africa and beyond, I reached out to Casey. This is what he had to say.

SB: What inspired you to create the OnCast app?

CB: I took my first trip ever to Nigeria in 2012. While I was there, I had an opportunity to speak to some entrepreneurs. After telling them my story and my journey, we ended the discussion with a Q&A portion.

5During the Q&A, they began to rapid fire, drill questions and every single question they asked was, “Can you help me find financing? Can you help me expand my business? Can you help you begin to sell my products in the U.S.?” I didn’t have the answers to any of their questions.

I didn’t even know the first place to look to get the answers. It left a sour taste in my mouth because I felt like I wasn’t being of any benefit to them.

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Casey and a group of Entrepreneurs from South Africa

I made up in my mind that one, I will be back, and two, when I do come back, I will not come back empty-handed. My next trip to Nigeria was in July of this year. This time, I had the answers to every question they asked.

The inspiration behind OnCast really lies behind the fact that there are a million things that we should learn in business school and our local accelerator or incubator, but we don’t. We end up spending a lot of time doing research.

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OnCast Media at Harvard Africa Business Conference Startup Showcase

We want to take all of that information, put it in one place where it’s easy for an entrepreneur to answer these questions and get about their day of running their business.

SB: Do you think Black America is missing out on opportunities to learn more about the “real” Africa? Why so?

CB: I definitely think so. I think travel is a big part, and I think its because we would would rather go to Europe,  Asia, or to the Caribbean. We never think, “I want to go vacation in Africa.” We never think, “I want to go see the people. I want to learn about what contemporary Africa is.”

Casey presenting at Wharton Business School

The media also plays a part with their constant coverage of wars and their advertising of safaris and opportunities to go see the animals.

I’m passionate about wanting as many African-Americans as possible to feel what it feels like to be on the ground in the middle of Black Africa. I say that specifically because there is no feeling like the feeling of weightlessness that you have when you’re not being judged by the color of your skin.

20160611_103821Most Black people, even those who have traveled the world, still don’t know what that feels like. They’ve never gone to the place where everybody looks like them, and the people that look like them run every single thing in the country.

SB: What are your thoughts on the whole, “Africans don’t like Black Americans,” or “Black Americans don’t like Africans.”

CB: It’s an absolute lie. My experience has been the opposite. In my travels just over the summer to South Africa and Nigeria this year, I’ve had several South Africans and several Nigerians ask me directly, “If you’re treated so badly in America, why are you still there? Why don’t you come home?”

12998147_548643201975425_5217953801619100561_oIt was powerful, hearing that come directly from someone’s mouth. First asking us as Black Americans, but then asking me as an individual, “Why are you still there? Come home.”

I think it’s a huge issue that we have here in America. We feel that we have to be reconciled with White America, but we don’t feel like we have to be reconciled with our African brothers and sisters.

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SB: In terms of the businesses in Africa, what are the challenges that you’re seeing that most of the startups or businesses are having across-the-board?

CB: There’s two sides of it. There’s the entrepreneur side and then there is the investor side. Entrepreneurs are always going to tell you one of the biggest issues they’re having is funding. Secondly, how to find good mentors, and thirdly, how to just find information that they need to get their business going.

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For investors, they would probably put access to reliable information number one. Then they would probably say access to mentors would be number two, and investment or finances would be number three.

SB: What are some of the most innovative and interesting businesses that you’ve come across so far?

CB: There’s a company that has both African-American and African people on the team. They’re launching their beta in Kenya and it’s called Magic Bus. Their technology allows someone in rural Kenya to be able to understand when the bus is coming, purchase their ticket, and know when it’s delayed and exactly where the bus is all through a cell phone without using any internet connection.

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Magic Bus

We see that as being one of those game changer technologies that really helps revolutionize and increase the efficiency of mass transit for people who are in rural areas as well as in city areas as transportation is one of the biggest issues.

SB: So what does success look like for OnCast Media?

CB: We want to become a meaningful resource for entrepreneurs to quickly find information to help them grow their businesses. In doing that, we want to help create 300,000 jobs on the continent through our mobile application. Thirdly, we want to amass the biggest real-time database of entrepreneurial information and statistics anywhere available.

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SB: What advice do you have for somebody who’s in the US reading this interview and has just realized that there are business opportunities in Africa as an investor and as an entrepreneur?

CB: Go! Go! Go! I’ve been telling my friends, “If you want to go, I’m going. Let’s get together and I will show you what the business scene looks like, I’ll show you what the social scene looks like, I’ll show you where the opportunities are, and you’ll be connected directly.”

 

Find out more about OnCast media via their website.

 

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson