On her Twitter cover photo is an image that says “Be Your Own Hero,” a quote that gives remarkable insight to the sort of woman Anie Akpe is. Serial Entrepreneur, and Founder of Tech Enterprises; IBOM LLC, Innov8tiv, and Networq App, Nigerian-born Anie is not letting the presence of challenges keep her from achieving her dreams. Understanding the crucial role that Technology plays in everything, Anie is one of the leading Ladies creating tech-enabled platforms, and advocating for more women-centred careers in STEM. Be inspired by her amazing interview.
Who is Anie Akpe, and what does she do?
My name is Aniefiok (affectionately called Anie by my grandmother) Akpe, and I was born in Eket and grew up in Calabar before moving to the United States at ten years old. I’m the Founder of IBOM LLC along with Innov8tiv magazine and Networq App. In addition to the above, I’m also the Vice-President of Mortgages (currently managing a $700 million portfolio) at a banking institution.
Wow. How Impressive! So what’s the connection between Technology and Banking for you?
Well, technology is in everything that we do. Specifically, to Banking, being in my position, I have the privilege to identify and implement the best technology systems for the area that I oversee. Hence, I become the project Manager ensuring that nothing is erased or compromised during conversion and implementation of the new systems. The other thing that I have to take into consideration is forecasting what new positions this technology will impact thereby allowing me to maintain current staffing levels and reducing operational cost at the same time.
With IBOM LLC, Innov8tiv and the NetWorq App, would it be right to call you a serial entrepreneur?
Funny, that’s the term that I flip every which way and still come back to the same conclusion. Yes, you can call me a serial entrepreneur, but I don’t see that. Instead, I see myself as someone that pursues their passion. If that entails creating new things, so be it, I create new things.
Let’s backtrack a little, how did your interest in technology start? And tell us what led you to found your own companies?
Well for me, technology is equated with efficiency. So we all love to do some things in the least amount of time possible. So being that I never liked to waste my time, I always found the quickest way to complete my chores or projects. Falling in love with technology started in my Marketing Class where we had to create the best graphics using the Apple computer to create designs. Mind you; we only had one computer in the classroom but it didn’t matter, we couldn’t wait to get our turn. From there, getting excited about something so simple as graphics, imagine the heaven I felt (especially for someone who dislikes wasting time) knowing that computers could do so much more.
In terms of why I launched my company, I learned that the greatest gift that you could give yourself and others is sharing your talent. There was a period that I would go to other people’s events, and people would come and ask me Business Banking questions all the time. At the same time that this was happening, I also started to feel that that feeling/craving of feeling like I needed to do more within my community. When you’re initially climbing the Corporate America ladder, these thoughts don’t exist. After a while, people, places, and things appear and remind you that you need to do more. So looking within and hearing my thoughts, combined with people asking questions along with random happenings, I knew it was time to do my part in giving back to my community.
What are some of the major milestones you’ve recorded in business?
I’ve always set personal goals, so I have many milestones in my life. From growing a portfolio from $150 to $700 million, which is what I would consider as a gradual growth goal to planning panel sessions on app development. Overall, I treat every experience/event that requires more than three weeks of planning as a milestone. So besides what I listed above, below are some additional goals that I’m proud of:
- Getting a business license
- Creating my first event that allowed Africans in the Diaspora to get answers on business related items that they didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone else.
- Launching my technology blog Innov8tiv. This platform gives me freedom in the form of having a voice.
As an entrepreneur, what have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in running your business?
Prioritizing because God knows, we always want things completed immediately. With that said, patience is something that I have to work on consistently as well. Nowadays, I typically marinate on an idea for over six months before I make a move. Whenever I operate this way (easier said than done), the doors automatically open for me.
You’re black, and you’re female, how do you deal with being termed as a minority within the Tech space?
The word doesn’t bother me as much as walking into a room and feeling the impact/definition of the word. Some people would feel that it’s hugely exaggerated, and they completely misunderstand it. However, as you look for the common factors that bring people together disappear because you are the rare bird in the room, you immediately realize why the word becomes necessary and why women like myself advocate for the change.
You’re having a Women’s Tech event in Kenya, later on this year; tell us about that?
Nothing compares to exchanging information. So my event partners and I decided to combine our skills together and create an event series that allows us to share and highlight with the various Diaspora communities the African Women that are impacting their local technology ecosystem. Some of these ladies are doing amazing things, and we’re excited to share their stories with the world.
The first African Women In Tech Event Series is being held in Nairobi, Kenya on July 20th-22.
How do you measure growth and impact with what you do?
The good thing about helping others is the instant gratification that comes with seeing that light in other people’s eyes when you know you’ve helped them. You see this look without having to be told nor do you have to search for it. The people you assist seem to let their guard down completely and you know you’ve earned their trust. To me, that is my ultimate measure of impact. The other measure involves strategically planning your year. You can’t forecast in April 2016 for May 2016. That should have been completed in July 2015. So I measure against my monthly/yearly goals.
What keeps you going; and how do you stay motivated?
Passion! I can’t do what I don’t like to do. If it involves something that I have a passion in, the result is boundless for me. My creativity has no boundaries if I have passion in what I’m doing.
What do you think can be done to encourage more women to take up careers in STEM?
When we are small, we learn through visualization. We see our mother cooking we want to cook. We see her smiling we want to smile. We get older; we see people talking we want to talk. As young teens, visualization doesn’t change. If the image of what you see isn’t relatable to you, you will not want to do that which you see. Its, not every girl that sees an image is going to say; I want to be that girl learning Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. At a very minimum, we should attempt to create those images as well as encourage and educate young girls on why pursuing those fields of study is important.
You run your own business, as well as work a 9-5. How do you juggle both and maintain balance?
When I work, I work hard. When I relax, I relax to the fullest. The thing that saves me most is being organized. It’s that old saying of making hay while the sun is still shining. You can’t even begin to imagine what headaches tomorrow might bring so it’s best to accomplish all your tasks within that day. This way when you’re supposed to be relaxing, you’re not thinking of that unfinished work still on your desk.
Name 3 of our favourite Apps, and tell us why you love them?
Waze App: I hate traffic. Any app that helps me figure out a way to avoid traffic is like adding an extra life line.
Games AB Pop: This helps relax my mind. So to me its Mindless fun
My streaming music Apps: SoundCloud and Pandora — You can tell my mood based on my music selection of the day. One day could be old school hip hop; the next day could be a combination of Nigerian sounds, or I could be listening to Charlotte Church. Music allows me to sink further into my mood.
How do you unwind and rejuvenate?
My permanent address no matter where I live in the world is the Beach. All I need is the beach and a good book.
Where do you see yourself and your brands in the next 5 (five) years?
Being able to be a resource for a global community.
Name 3 (three) women you admire and who inspire you?
My grandmother: The Prayer Warrior. No one can ever forget mama for waking us all up at 3 am for prayers. God knows you questioned your life at that time but when maturity sets in, you know without ever questioning why.
My mother: Her work ethics is what she instilled in me. Work hard without coming up with excuses is her philosophy
My younger sister: We all know Nigerian parents want you to be a doctor or engineer from the time you utter your first scream. My sister wasn’t forced to be a doctor. She chose to become one. She made it happen She set a goal without being pushed, and we all fell in line and supported her decision. She is now doing her residency and for that reason, I respect and admire her and the decision that she made.
What 3 books would you recommend?
Based on my recent activities, I haven’t made as much time for reading, but I recently received a book called The Me Journal by Shane Windham. This book (through a series of questions) helps you see how well you know yourself. It’s not a short book; it probably has over 400 pages.
Words of advice for upcoming female entrepreneurs?
It’s cliche but keep learning and keep growing. I believe the moment that we believe we know it all is when we encounter our biggest failures. Acknowledging that you don’t know it all leaves you open to opportunities which then allows you to grow.
Second, never forget or have too much pride in asking for help. And finally, seek a business mentor. Life is less complicated not to mention less costly when you can avoid making mistakes.
Follow Anie on Twitter: @AnieAkpe and Instagram @citychicknyc
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might feature her.