In Nigeria, many people view artisans with no small measure of skepticism and even outright distrust. As anyone who has ever been at odds with one can attest to, hiring artisans takes a lot of work, especially when you fall into the hands of a poorly skilled and underqualified artisan.
Leveraging technology, how can artisans be further trained to develop the best practices in their professions? How can clients access the services of high-quality, vetted, and reliable artisans?
A simple answer to both questions is LaborHack, an integrated platform that connects artisans to households and businesses in Nigeria.
Our guest for this week’s edition is Oare Ehiemua, the founder of LaborHack who shares her startup journey with us.
Can you tell us about yourself and your venture?
I’ve always been passionate about people’s development. I grew up just wanting to address the high rate of unemployment in the country and it informed my decision very early in my career to go into human resources which I did for about six years.
Then I left to go do a Masters in England just to broaden my mindset and when I returned back home, I spent about four years in a private equity firm before starting a Not-for-profit organization. I just sort of transitioned to LaborHack after that.
I basically started out running a not-for-profit organization that trains artisans. We started in 2019 and the idea was to train a couple of electricians, carpenters, and the like and find apprenticeship placements for them getting them access to the best practices and leading technology.
We ended up training our first few batches of trainees when we discovered it was not really easy to find opportunities to place them in jobs. This was a bit strange to us because this is Nigeria where people are always complaining that there’s a small pool of trained artisans and how it’s kind of difficult to find people who are qualified.
When we discovered that there’s really no visible platform giving high quality, vetted, and trained artisans such opportunities on an on-going basis, that influenced my decision to start LaborHack.
LaborHack is an integrated platform that connects artisans to households and businesses in Nigeria.
What inspired you to start LaborHack?
It was really just, as I mentioned, an idea that right now businesses and households don’t have access to a vetted pool of artisans on-demand to perform services for them.
Seeing that it’s important to dig through the large pool of artisans that we have in Nigeria to identify the ones that are actually good, LaborHack ensures that you are able to access them when you need to.
What we’re trying to do is just to create a direct link between the client and the artisans who are dedicated to performing on-demand services, who are on call and available whenever the need arises.
We are controlling the pipeline of the artisans, making sure that we only use artisans that have been trained and vetted, ensuring that the work that they do is done to the highest standard with little margin for error as well as assuring the safety of clients when they go to their homes.
Did your background contribute to your decision to choose a career in tech? And if so how?
My background probably didn’t. I started out in Human resources. I was never really into technology. I took no courses growing up so this is a brand new space for me, but it’s an interesting space.
I would say that I have had to do a lot of catching up over the past year or so, just trying to understand what technology is and how to use it properly for the solution I’m trying to provide.
We are just ensuring that connections with our clients are just mobile and more efficient. That’s precisely what technology is doing for us and we’re using technology because of our intention to scale the scope of our services beyond Nigeria and reach Africa.
How has it been for you working in a space where women are the minority in terms of numbers?
I guess for me, the most obvious trend I’ve noticed is that there are not many female role models that you can look up to in the space. If we’re able to get more of them in the space, that will make it easier for younger women who are aspiring for a similar path to get the sort of direction and support that they need.
It’s also a challenge for women tech entrepreneurs in the space to make sure that they look out for and try to help others that are on the journey as well.
There are so many factors that contribute to why a woman may not really excel or thrive in the tech space but I think those factors all boil down to choice at the end of the day and the priorities we place on what we consider to be important at that particular point in time.
Those challenges can be trying to create a work-life balance, the fear of not being good enough, or that you’re competing with a class of males that hold the top spot and other mental restrictions that we sort of put on ourselves.
I think it’s time we broke away from that and just start building a community of strong women and support each other in the space.
What advice would you give to young women who want to consider a future in tech?
I would say they should just go for it. If you have an idea and you believe very strongly in it then that’s how any business or enterprise starts, it starts with an idea.
Forge ahead, develop your concept, find the right infrastructure to build your business.
Surround yourself with people who understand what you’re trying to do and are generous with their time and resources enough to support you along the way.
Don’t feel like you’re alone because you’re certainly not, there are other women in the space, look out for them and connect with them. Just go for it and there’s nothing that you really can’t achieve through hard work, take key learnings from challenges and keep growing.
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