Innovations in Platform-Led Upskilling: Bellafricana
This Membership for Creative Product Founders Generates Low-Cost Training Using Its Network
Building an Ecosystem for Creative Businesses
Bukky Asehinde, Bellafricana co-founder and CEO, wants to build a supportive community where creative producers can grow their business by connecting with local and global consumers. She is bringing this vision alive with Bellafricana, an online directory for creative companies to showcase their products to customers.
Bellafricana specializes in clothing; skin and hair care products; leather goods; food products and snacks; and arts, crafts, and home decor products. Sales are not executed on the platform; customers click through to the companies' websites and social media pages to make purchases. The platform has over 1,000 businesses listed, over 75% of which are run by people under 35 years old and 95% of which are run by women.
Bellafricana monetizes through membership fees, in exchange for which, companies can list their products on the online directory and receive other benefits, including training.
Training focused on practical application for small businesses
Bellafricana’s training aims to help companies create marketable and exportable products. It provides an online portal through which members can access training and tools to help them register their businesses, learn about good business practices — such as pricing and standard operating procedures — and access practical resources such as worksheets, templates, and checklists. Content covers soft skills, hard business skills, and creative skills. On average, active members spend two hours daily and 14 hours weekly on the platform. Bellafricana also regularly engages with its members on WhatsApp and Telegram.
Bellafricana has found that getting feedback from members is important in developing training modules that are relevant and impactful. They solicit feedback from members on training quality and usefulness, and how people intend to apply what they have learned. The company has found that their members particularly request training in sales, marketing, and customer service. Since COVID-19, the need to create an effective virtual customer experience has also been significant.
“People who make creative products are self-talented and love to create but don’t always take the time to build that business up. There is not a lot of focus on structure and building good customer experience, which are both key elements to making a business thrive.” Bukky Asehinde, Bellafricana Co-founder and CEO
Periodically, they also ask members how the training and the platform, in general, has impacted member businesses, for instance, in sales volume, visibility, and even empowerment.
Masterclasses and the value of community in small business training
A lot of the training Bellafricana offers is provided through masterclasses, whereby local influencers and thought leaders provide live webinar-based sessions providing tips and guidance on a particular topic (recordings of the sessions are shared on the portal). What is interesting about this model is that it leans on the power of the community: influencers offer the classes for free or at a very low cost because, for them, this is a business opportunity, a chance to market their services to hundreds of small businesses. An SEO expert, for example, can provide a class and generate new business from Bellafricana members who might need her services. This model enables Bellafricana to run a lean training offering, which, in itself, becomes a marketplace.
“We leverage on the fact that we have a community. Many of these experts have offered their services to our members at outrageously discounted rates. That's the power of numbers." Bukky Asehinde, Bellafricana Co-founder and CEO
Masterclass topics are diverse and based on member feedback. Currently, topics include financial planning, Instagram use, product photography, product costing, legal and corporate governance, export, mentorship, pitching and storytelling, and hiring a digital team.
How Bellafricana helps fill skills gaps
Leveraging the power of influencers and the creative community is a unique approach to platform-led upskilling, which brings value to members while keeping costs low for Bellafricana. It enables sellers on the platform to learn key skills to optimize their businesses, creates mentoring relationships, and drives more traffic and momentum to the Bellafricana platform.