#LadyBoss: “Entrepreneurship can be a humbling experience; people usually see the success but never the underground work it takes to get there’’ – Ayaan Mohamed Ali, Founder of Digitech Oasis

Ayaan Mohamed Ali

Ayaan Mohamed Ali is the Founder of Digitech Oasis, a full-service digital marketing agency creating custom unique strategies for clients in alignment with their needs & goals. She is a business strategist and a digital innovator.

She was born in Nairobi, Kenya and her parents are originally from Hargeisa, Somaliland. She spent most of her younger years in Nairobi. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business and Management from Leeds University. She holds a Postgraduate Certificate in International Business, Finance and Banking from Leeds University and a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship & Innovation from the University of Essex. 

She enjoys watching crime documentaries in her free time, going to new places, & trying new things.

 

Digitech Oasis is dedicated to providing highly effective and innovative digital strategies that generate business growth — how did the journey start?

Digitech Oasis is a full-service digital marketing agency creating custom unique strategies for each of our clients in alignment with their needs & goals. We use technology designed by Digitech to deliver an all-encompassing digital experience to your customers. Our software solutions are the heart of our business.

The journey started in 2016/2017 when I was still at University (Leeds, UK). Let me backtrack a little – in my second year of University (2014), I began learning how to code in my free- time through online courses. I always had part-time jobs & internships in between studies since 2013 because one thing about me is that I can’t stay idle. After a summer program at Google, I just did not picture myself in an office for the rest of my life.

I began freelancing in my local area (West Yorkshire) providing digital marketing services from branding to application development etc. After seeing my digital strategies generate value to these clients, I started thinking up ways on how I could make this permanent. In 2017 after graduation, I was not ready to join the real world so I made the decision to go back to school pursuing a Master of Science in Entrepreneurship & Innovation (Essex).

This bought me time (one year to be precise) to strategize and figure things out. After graduation in 2018, Digitech Oasis was born and the rest was history. Ever since Digitech Oasis has been driven by commitment; a commitment to innovation & excellence to provide value to each of our clients.

 

How did you know that this was what you wanted to do? That you wanted to make this level of impact?

I’ve always been interested in technology so it was always a field I saw myself in. During the holidays whilst I was at University I would sometimes return to Nairobi. I remember using a lot of Uber’s at that time & of course, with any Uber journey comes to the rider-driver conversation lol. Quickly brought to my attention was these drivers were well-educated youth with amazing degrees in amazing fields (mostly STEM); just lacking the opportunity. From there I knew I wanted to change that narrative because I believe everybody deserves a fair opportunity. Digitech Oasis seeks to facilitate job creation for youth in the STEM fields across the country.

 
Let’s backtrack a little bit — who is Ayaan Mohamed — and what makes her tick?

Ayaan is a very ambitious 25-year-old with a constant willingness to acquire more knowledge. I’d call myself a digital innovator. Growing up a third culture kid – born to Somali parents but raised in Kenya, then going to an American school; I was exposed to numerous countries & cultures. I think new environments and new people give me new perspectives and that’s what makes me tick. I’m always thinking “what next?’, I am never satisfied; I guess you could call that a blessing and a curse.

 

We imagine that there’ve been highs and lows. What are the significant milestones and challenges you have encountered in your entrepreneurial journey?

I think in life typically 2 things define us. Our patience when we have nothing & our attitude when we have everything. Entrepreneurship can be a humbling experience; people usually see success but never the underground work it takes to get there.

I always compare the start of one’s entrepreneurial journey to a stock graph; with so many ups and downs. Milestones in my journey started with seeing my product/service in action. Turning a profit makes another significant milestone; creating something from nothing and seeing it actually generate value is rewarding and a key motivator in my entrepreneurial journey.

Challenges include initial rejection and limited access to external funding. You typically have to start your journey with your own personal investment. Taking risks is all a part of the journey.

 

And what are the major lessons you’ve learned being an entrepreneur?

I think as an entrepreneur you are always learning; good or bad. I’ll summarize the top 3 major lessons I’ve learned.

Firstly, You should take time to think up your pricing strategy. It’s easy to compromise and undercharge or overcharge your product/service in the beginning. Secondly, not every client should be YOUR client. You’d want to take on every client/customer; don’t do it. And lastly, balance your time, your friendships/family/relationships. Life is too short to not spend it doing other things you love or with people you love as well.

Ayaan Mohamed Ali
Do you think that there are challenges that are specific to female entrepreneurs in Kenya?

For starters, I think society already makes things difficult for women to do anything really. You already have to prove your capability as a woman so defying social expectations is at the top of that list.

Challenges specific to female entrepreneurs in Kenya are largely due to the culture embedded in African society that the man is the head of the household and the woman should not even be at school. While we’ve made tremendous progress to move away from that mentality, the reality still remains we are not seen as equals to our male counterparts.

Access to funding is a major challenge; I think it’s important for women to seek out female investors for their ventures. Also, not being taken seriously is a challenge; female entrepreneurs should actively join communities and groups with other female entrepreneurs.

At the same time, I will say women are strong and defy all odds in every aspect of life and we certainly overcome every challenge thrown our way. Sub-Saharan Africa boasts the world’s highest rate of female entrepreneurs at 27%. African women are doing amazing things and breaking all social constructs while at it. We are the future. Information technology continues to be a largely male-dominated industry/field, & a large number of unemployed youth in Kenya are women in the STEM fields.

 

Name 3 women who inspire and motivate you?

The first woman who inspires me would definitely have to be 28-year-old Conna Walker, Founder of fashion brand House of Celeb Boutique. She went from selling on e-bay at age 17 to building a multi-million-dollar empire. That’s definitely not an easy thing to do, her entrepreneurial spirit and her ability to build a global brand at such a young age is certainly something I admire.

Soujourner Truth would be another woman who inspires me. One of her most famous quotes being “I feel safe even amongst my enemies; for the truth is powerful and will prevail”.  I think her strength was very admirable, her eloquence, her grace, her willingness to keep on keeping on despite all the traumatic events that went on in her life.

My late mother, in the short time I shared this Earth with her I can describe her as powerful. Her strength and intellect were unparalleled and she continues to be my everyday inspiration and motivator.

 

Now for some more personal stuff — what books are you reading now, and what music do you have on your playlist?

You know how people say “fitness journey”, I feel like I’ve had my own “book journey”. My parents always had a large book collection in the house and I was around 10 years old when my siblings went off to University. With nobody in the house to play with, I started reading all the time. I always had a book with me everywhere I went. At University, I dropped reading books for leisure & started reading more articles or listening to audiobooks. In the past 2 years, I developed my love for reading for leisure again.

I am currently reading Emily Chang’s “How to Break Up the Silicon Valley Boy’s Club”. An insightful take on the huge influence of technology on our world & the barriers women working in the industry take on that put them at a professional disadvantage. Without giving too much away it contains stories from hundreds of women working in tech companies such as Facebook and Google. Definitely, a MUST read for any woman in the industry.

My music playlist contains various different genres. I listen to different music for different activities/situations. Right now, Black Coffee’s new album; the instrumentals take me to a different dimension. Mahalia is another one, her voice is so unique & intriguing to listen to.  

 

What does self-care mean to you, and what three things do you do to unwind?

I think self-care means consciously being aware of your 3 states (physical, mental, and emotional state) and continue taking care of them. Whether it be making time for relaxation, setting boundaries with people, picking up a new hobby. The three things that I do to unwind are regular exercise during the workweek which keeps me energized, celebrating/treating myself for every little win or goal accomplished, and prayer.

 

If you had an intention or wish for 2021, what would it be?

My wish for 2021, would be an end to the pandemic so we can travel & live without regrets with our loved ones.

 

The Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.

It is an offshoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion, and diversity for women of African descent.

If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email lead@leadingladiesafrica.org, and she could possibly be featured.

 

 

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