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‘The Impossible Does Not Exist’

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At a time when Kenya was focused on developing its infrastructure, Lillian Wambui Chege was more concerned about developing the youth.

“Working with our youth also teaches me the impossible does not exist. Every day, we see youth from difficult situations driving change in their own lives, transforming local economies and turning corporations into billion-rand businesses. I have seen young people go from having very little job prospects to climbing the corporate ladder becoming successful entrepreneurs,” she says.

Chege is the co-owner of CareerBox, a company that recruits, trains and places the youth in jobs; her solution to Africa’s problems.

“I’ve always been committed to contributing to Africa’s transformational agenda,” says Chege, who was raised in a small town west of Nairobi, Kijabe, and went to school at Rift Valley Academy (RVA), an American school.

“Although RVA was a boarding school, I was a day scholar and had the privilege of growing up with my sisters and parents. Since my mother is no longer with us, I take comfort in the fact I could see her every day during my formative years,” she says.

READ MORE: From Monrovia To The Movies

She completed school and RVA was her ticket to America, where she attended Calvin College, a liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she graduated in political science.

“After college, I moved to New York City and had a series of jobs from working in a law firm, woman’s reproductive health advocacy, accounting and ultimately ended up in philanthropy working for the Rockefeller Foundation,” she says.

It was at the Rockefeller Foundation her career developing the youth shaped.

“I co-designed an initiative called Digital Jobs Africa. This was an effort to leverage the proliferation of ICT infrastructure on the continent to connect young people to jobs.”

This was a tough time for her country of birth.

“At the time our African countries were – and continue to – investing billions in infrastructure development and the continent played host to the fastest-growing economies. Unfortunately, the youth unemployment was at crisis levels and was threatening the security of our countries,” she says.

“Kenya was experiencing post-election violence, events fuelled by high unemployment and disenfranchized youth who had the education, skills and will to work but no jobs,” says Chege.

READ MORE: ‘A Cultural Hybrid

The foundation’s offices were in the country and the events were poised to undo decades of investments and contributions into the country.

“We spent an incredible amount of time and money accessing was best to intervene. We conducted extensive landscape analysis to identify key sectors that had the ability to absorb large amounts of youth into the workforce with relatively short training. We landed on the business process outsourcing sectors and decided to intervene in six countries, including Kenya and South Africa,” she says.

The countries were selected based on the government’s commitment, private sector investment and willingness of the youth to work.

CareerBox takes on youth from disadvantaged communities.

“Our innovative model has been successful. The government recognized by the government as part of the National Development Plan (NDP). We are on target to reach our goal of impacting 100,000 by 2020,” she says.

READ MORE: Highly Adaptable And Totally Indestructible

Chege’s role with CareerBox is to come up with expansion strategies and she sources capital for their headquarters in Durban, South Africa, and offices in Nairobi with 50 employees. Through support from international donors, they intend to relaunch in Soweto so they can transform the township and contribute to the government’s township revitalization process.

Chege travels to South Africa regularly because she believes more investments are coming to the country.

“Globalization and the growth of our economies have enabled many like me to be able to work across borders. It is also the diaspora that is also helping drive an incredible amount to business to the continent. I consider myself blessed to straddle multiple cultures, disciplines, and markets. This enables me to drive high-impact work that serves not only those with access but also more importantly, those who are marginalized,” she says.

Chege says the support of her team has enabled her to keep empowering the youth.

“As a result of this co-dependency, we communicate and meet frequently. They need my skills as much as I need theirs. This respectful way of working enables me to work and deliver on my responsibilities, most internationally-driven,” says Chege.

Billionaires

Quote Of The Day

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We have grown past the stage of fairy-tale. As women, we have one common front and that is to succeed. We have to take the bull by the horn and make the change happen by ourselves.

– Folorunso Alakija, Billionaire Businesswoman

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Entrepreneurs

From The Arab World To Africa

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Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi; image supplied

In this exclusive interview with FORBES AFRICA, successful Dubai-based Emirati businesswoman, author and artist, Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi, shares some interesting insights on fashion, the future, and feminism in a shared world.

Sheikha Hend Faisal Al Qassimi wears many hats, as an artist, architect, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). She currently serves as the CEO of Paris London New York Events & Publishing (PLNY), that includes a magazine and a fashion house.

She runs Velvet Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication in the Gulf founded in 2010 that showcases the diversity of the region home to several nationalities from around the world.

In this recent FORBES AFRICA interview, Hend, as she would want us to call her, speaks about the future of publishing, investing in intelligent content, and learning to be a part of the disruption around you.

As an entrepreneur too and the designer behind House of Hend, a luxury ready-to-wear line that showcases exquisite abayas, evening gowns and contemporary wear, her designs have been showcased in fashion shows across the world.

The Middle East is known for retail, but not typically, as a fashion hub in the same league as Paris, New York or Milan. Yet, she has changed the narrative of fashion in the region. “I have approached the world of fashion with what the customer wants,” says Hend. In this interview, she also extols African fashion talent and dwells on her own sartorial plans for the African continent.

In September, in Downtown Dubai, she is scheduled to open The Flower Café. Also an artist using creative expression meaningfully, she says it’s important to be “a role model of realism”.

She is also the author of The Black Book of Arabia, described as a collection of true stories from the Arab community offering a real glimpse into the lives of men and women across the Gulf Cooperation Council region.

In this interview, she also expounds on her home, Sharjah, one of the seven emirates in the UAE and the region’s educational hub. “A number of successful entrepreneurs have started in this culturally-rich emirate that’s home to 30 museums,” she concludes. 

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Entertainment

Kim Kardashian West Is Worth $900 Million After Agreeing To Sell A Stake In Her Cosmetics Firm To Coty

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In what will be the second major Kardashian cashout in a year, Kim Kardashian West is selling a 20% stake in her cosmetics company KKW Beauty to beauty giant Coty COTY for $200 million. The deal—announced today—values KKW Beauty at $1 billion, making Kardashian West worth about $900 million, according to Forbes’estimates.

The acquisition, which is set to close in early 2021, will leave Kardashian West the majority owner of KKW Beauty, with an estimated 72% stake in the company, which is known for its color cosmetics like contouring creams and highlighters. Forbes estimates that her mother, Kris Jenner, owns 8% of the business. (Neither Kardashian West nor Kris Jenner have responded to a request for comment about their stakes.) According to Coty, she’ll remain responsible for creative efforts while Coty will focus on expanding product development outside the realm of color cosmetics.

Earlier this year, Kardashian West’s half-sister, Kylie Jenner, also inked a big deal with Coty, when she sold it 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The deal left Jenner with a net worth of just under $900 million. Both Kylie Cosmetics and KKW Beauty are among a number of brands, including Anastasia Beverly Hills, Huda Beauty and Glossier, that have received sky-high valuations thanks to their social-media-friendly marketing. 

“Kim is a true modern-day global icon,” said Coty chairman and CEO Peter Harf in a statement. “This influence, combined with Coty’s leadership and deep expertise in prestige beauty will allow us to achieve the full potential of her brands.”

The deal comes just days after Seed Beauty, which develops, manufactures and ships both KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, won a temporary injunction against KKW Beauty, hoping to prevent it from sharing trade secrets with Coty, which also owns brands like CoverGirl, Sally Hansen and Rimmel. On June 19, Seed filed a lawsuit against KKW Beauty seeking protection of its trade secrets ahead of an expected deal between Coty and KKW Beauty. The temporary order, granted on June 26, lasts until August 21 and forbids KKW Beauty from disclosing details related to the Seed-KKW relationship, including “the terms of those agreements, information about license use, marketing obligations, product launch and distribution, revenue sharing, intellectual property ownership, specifications, ingredients, formulas, plans and other information about Seed products.”

Coty has struggled in recent years, with Wall Street insisting it routinely overpays for acquisitions and has failed to keep up with contemporary beauty trends. The coronavirus pandemic has also hit the 116-year-old company hard. Since the beginning of the year, Coty’s stock price has fallen nearly 60%. The company, which had $8.6 billion in revenues in the year through June 2019, now sports a $3.3 billion market capitalization. By striking deals with companies like KKW Beauty and Kylie Cosmetics, Coty is hoping to refresh its image and appeal to younger consumers.

Kardashian West founded KKW Beauty in 2017, after successfully collaborating with Kylie Cosmetics on a set of lip kits. Like her half-sister, Kardashian West first launched online only, but later moved into Ulta stores in October 2019, helping her generate estimated revenues of $100 million last year. KKW Beauty is one of several business ventures for Kardashian West: She continues to appear on her family’s reality show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, sells her own line of shapewear called Skims and promotes her mobile game, Kim Kardashian Hollywood. Her husband, Kanye West, recently announced a deal to sell a line of his Yeezy apparel in Gap stores.

“This is fun for me. Now I’m coming up with Kimojis and the app and all these other ideas,” Kardashian West told Forbesof her various business ventures in 2016. “I don’t see myself stopping.”

Madeline Berg, Forbes Staff, Hollywood & Entertainment

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