PTP.028: Victoria Crandall-“Young African Entrepreneur”

The purpose of the Pathway to Promise Podcast is to provide a pathway for persons stymied by adversity to claim their god-given promised life of peace, prosperity, and purpose.

In Episode 028 Dr. Brad talks to the publisher of the “Young African Entrepreneur Podcast” Victoria Crandall.

Victoria graduated from the University of Virginia and set out to boldly seek out a career in international business feeling a definite tug to explore life in the Mideast and Africa.   She lived and worked in Syria, Morocco, Dubai, and Egypt before landing in the west African nation of Ivory Coast.   It is there that she is pursuing a career in public relations.

Beyond that, she has been compelled to network with support and encourages business in Africa by launching the Young African Entrepreneur podcast.   

She talks to Brad about the bold decisions she made to be a businesswoman in Africa and the challenges she faces as well as the particular business challenges in Africa.  She relates one particular story of an entrepreneur from Ghana who created a mobile phone app which helped improve the supply, cost, and availability of pharmaceuticals to people which was a major improvement to their lives.

She talked about the importance of her daily routines and vital relationships and living a disciplined life is to her success.

Indeed, the story of Victoria Crandall is one of taking bold action to achieve success.  This is the story you want to hear on Episode 028 of The Pathway to Promise Podcast.

The Pathway to Promise Podcast is published weekly by Dr. Brad Miller who is passionate about short-term life transformation.  He has 35 years experience in pastoral ministry and has a doctoral degree in transformational leadership.

Dr. Brad Miller

August 2018

Young African Entrepreneur Podcast

iTunes link for Young African Entrepreneur Podcast

Read Full Transcript

Brad Miller 0:00
Welcome to pathway to promise with Dr. Brad Miller where it is our mission to help folks overcome adversity to achieve success in their life and find their life of peace, prosperity and purpose. And our guest today is has a fascinating story to tell about things that she deals with her life and challenges that she faces in working in the field of commodities and other things in the business world in Africa she lives in the in the Ivory Coast in Africa and his in the business world there but a bug that thinks she works on is the young African entrepreneur weekly podcast with her heart for that as well but she has a great story to tell our guest today is Victoria Crandall, welcome to pathway to promise today, Victoria.

Victoria Crandall 0:49
Thanks for having me. Brad.

Brad Miller 0:51
That is a certainly a joy to have you today, Victoria on on pathway to promise we like to tell stories of about how folks have found themselves where they’re at in their situation in life right now. And then what maybe some of the obstacles they’ve overcome to be there. And what led them there. Now, I I believe that you’re not a native of Ivory Coast, I take it you are American citizens. that correct?

Victoria Crandall 1:17
I am from Virginia.

Brad Miller 1:18
Very good. So tell me a little bit about your path that led you from Virginia to the Ivory Coast. And what’s your pathway there, tell us a little bit about your path.

Victoria Crandall 1:30
So it was a long and circuitous one, I’ve been out of the US for 10 years now. And I left after I graduated from college at the University of Virginia, I had studied foreign policy in the Middle East and French language while I was at UVA, and was generally fascinated with

with, with Europe with the Middle East. And when I was in college, I became very passionate about the Israeli Palestinian conflict, mainly because I had become involved with a student activism group while I was at college. And I became fascinated in Palestinian history and kind of the Palestinian side of the conflict, which isn’t as well known in the US. And from there, I learned about Middle East about the Middle East and about American foreign policy in the Middle East, and

became interested in Arab culture and Arabic. And because I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college, I thought, okay, if I go and live somewhere in the Middle East, and I learn Arabic that will surely get me a job. So I packed my bags, and I moved to Damascus, Syria, of all places. And this was in 2008. So this was a good two, two and a half years before the, the Civil War broke out.

Brad Miller 2:57
But still, but still, I travel in that part of the world around that period of time, still

a lot of tension that part of the world Even then, I’m sure

Victoria Crandall 3:07
a yes, that that is true. And when I lived in Damascus, you know, it was very much an author, you know, a robust authoritarian regime, and you knew that there were certain things she didn’t talk about, and you had to be mindful that you were a guest in the country. And if you were ever to do anything that was even perceived as being political, you could swiftly be deported and that was a privilege that American citizens you know, I mean, we would be deported it’s not like we would end up in prison that as a Syrian would so I was I was very mindful that hey, you know, I’m here to travel around the country to learn the language and to to get exposure to the culture and it was an amazing experience and I feel so powerful which that I got to live there before before the war because unfortunately the places Syria You know, it will never be the same kind of stating the obvious but

Brad Miller 4:14
and Have and Have you lived there must be heartbreaking to you to see what’s been going on the last couple years in that part of the world.

Victoria Crandall 4:21
Oh, absolutely. I’m all of my friends mix except for one have have left the country I I had an amazing Arabic tutor who was Kurdish and he ended up in northern Iraq, stayed there for two years, and ended up paying a smuggler to get him to Turkey and to take a boat. He crossed the GNC to get into Greece and made it to Germany. And he’s one of the lucky ones. But you know, three years ago when there was just a wave of migrants getting to Europe he you know, he he was a part of that group I have two dear friends of mine who are in the US and one studying one who’s now a cardiologist. But no it’s been heartbreaking to see to see what’s been going on in Syria and everything I’ve been privileged to travel in that part of the world not in Syria but in Israel a couple times and heavy even spend some time and with Palestinian folks and in pal spent some time in a Palestinian refugee camp and just the the incredible difference between for instance a an Israeli

Brad Miller 5:35
settlements and the Palestinian camps is just Stark in my and spent some time in the Syrian border area towns. And just to stop reminders about this is a challenging world we live in with lots of challenging things.

Victoria Crandall 5:50
Yeah, no, absolutely. And unfortunately, kind of post Arab Spring,

there’s just fewer places to travel in the Middle East. You know, Egypt is a very difficult place under the current regime. Libya, I mean, Libya has always been pretty difficult. But now it’s just kind of a no man’s land, Yemen. There’s an awful, awful war going on there. People are starving. I mean, yeah, it’s and of course, Syria, Iraq. So there’s just large swathes of the Middle East that are just yeah, that are inaccessible. And of course, you know, civilians are greatly suffering. So, but to go back, so this was, you know, I, I left in early 2011, and mainly because I needed a job. And I knew that I couldn’t really, I couldn’t really achieve what I wanted to professionally if I stayed in Syria. So I moved to Dubai, of all places, and which is not exactly a place you want to show up to, if you don’t have a job because it’s very expensive. And I was very much gravitating towards journalism and journalism isn’t,

isn’t a very dynamic sector in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, because there’s really no freedom of press. So you there are a couple of good newspapers, but kind of few and far between. So for me, I ended up staying about four months. But I ended up getting my first job, which was with a business intelligence company that was in the UK, but had offices in New York and Hong Kong. And I worked as a freelancer and my job was very particular. But because I could read Arabic, they said, Hey, we’re going to give you certain era markets to follow. And we want you to follow the local press and to read the press in Arabic, and to look for deal flow. So to look for a merger and acquisition, an IPO, a joint venture, kind of any opportunity that would interest as a subscriber based who were, which were mainly investment banks or law firms. And they also gave me Sub Saharan Africa to cover so I was reading the Kenyan press, I was reading the Nigerian press, the Canadian press, and I just became fascinated with business in Sub Saharan Africa. And so kind of between the intervening years, so that job I got in 2011, and until I moved to West Africa, which was in 2013, I was just kind of looking for a way to set up shop in West Africa and to start covering business and that

Brad Miller 8:37
is, I take it that is what soft commodity consultant it has to do with dealing with business in this part of the world. And this nature?

Victoria Crandall 8:46
Yes, absolutely. I mean, commodities is just, you know, one industry of many, and even how I got into commodities was very, you can say, through the back door, pretty much between the Dubai I lived in Egypt for seven months. And because at this point, I was very much kind of a vagabond, I was living out of a suitcase because with this job with merger market, I could work anywhere, there was an internet connection. So I went to Egypt, which was kind of a difficult time just because of the political climate. And it was really at this time that, you know, my interest in Africa was only becoming, you know, bigger and bigger, and I left Egypt I moved to Morocco because I had an appointment as North Africa correspondent, and I didn’t really like Morocco. It’s It’s a beautiful country to visit as a tourist. And it’s a fascinating place. But if you’re working as a business journalist, it’s kind of a small market to cover. It’s tightly controlled by by the king by Mohammed six. And it just wasn’t as interesting, I thought, and I was still had, I still had my own West Africa, and I was looking for a way to move here. And that opportunity came when I worked on a project a freelance project that took me to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Ivory Coast, and I was covering commodities transportation, the energy sector, and I ended up interviewing the head of soft commodity research at a bank and we had a great interview and it was just at that same time on LinkedIn. I saw that this very bank was looking for an analyst to cover soft commodities, which are agricultural commodities. So cotton coffee, cocoa and, and they wanted that analyst to be based in Abidjan. So I applied for the job, I got it. And I ended up moving to Abidjan where I still am and to cover soft commodities, which I did from as five years. Wow. fascinating

Brad Miller 10:53
story. Just to get you there. What are some of the challenges is that you see your role as you are in it right now, or some adverse issues that you face that you need to tackle and overcome to either do your job or just live life in Ivory Coast

Victoria Crandall 11:09
there. There are a couple, um, I would say, when I was working in the commodity space,

I would say one challenge for me was that I constantly had to battle a feeling of imposter syndrome. I because I was a very untraditional candidate that had no background in finance. It didn’t have an MBA, I didn’t have a background in commercial trading, I was a journalist, so I kind of always felt like maybe Mike, I really had to earn my credibility. And because I approached that first year of work, just as I’m going to do as much as I can, I’m going to approach this as, like a learning opportunity. You know, I really wanted to cut my teeth. You know, I really excelled in the job. And I did some really some some great work. But, you know, that kind of niggling feeling of like, Oh, I’m not good at my job. Or I could always be doing this better, or comparing myself to others, kind of always not at me. So I would say that that was one challenge. A second challenge had to do with being a woman in a very much like in a very male dominated space. I remember when I went to a palm oil conference that was in Ghana to speak and I was literally the only woman in the room. Oh, boy. Wow. Yeah, besides a couple of them, there were a couple of the organizers were also women, but I was the only woman who was actually a representative or attending the conference. And that that was also a challenge just because

Brad Miller 12:54
were you aware of that, going into that conference, for instance, I know you probably were about this male dominated culture, but I assumed

Victoria Crandall 13:00
it or I guess I can say, I wasn’t shocked when I showed up in the room. And it was like, oh, wow, I’m the only woman here and and relatively young, I think at that time, at that time, I was maybe I hadn’t even turned 30 yet. So you know, so you have to deal with people who and and maybe it’s not, they don’t even know what their behaviors like, or how they’re being perceived, but who are quite patronizing. And whether it’s because I’m a woman or whether because I’m young, I don’t know. But it’s, you know,

Brad Miller 13:36
what are some specific actions, I like to call them bold actions that you’ve taken in your life, when you’ve had these challenges come up, whether it’s being a woman in the marketplace, or living in a culture of far away from home, or other challenges you had, what are some actions you take,

Victoria Crandall 13:51
I surround myself with inspiring good people who are smarter, smarter than me, I’ve, I’ve been away. I’ve been out of the US for so long, for 10 years now, that actually, Cote d’Ivoire feels more feels more like home, and I found my experience, you know, whether it was living in Syria, or Egypt, or Morocco or in Cote d’Ivoire. And since then, you know, I’ve traveled to have the good fortune to travel to so many different places like Ethiopia, Molly, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, I found that actually, we there’s a lot more that kind of that we have in common that really, then then then what then kind of then then what we don’t have in common? Yeah, so

Brad Miller 14:41
to kind of battle feelings of isolation or feeling of estrangement, you know, I just, I seek out people who are who are on my same same wavelength people I find interesting. And so you’ve been very proactive in terms of developing and nurturing your relationships and your friendships and the actual emotional connections that you’ve had, wherever you’ve been in, you found that to be as real source of helping fuel your life, any transitions that you’ve been making?

Victoria Crandall 15:11
Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Um, I, I wouldn’t say that I’m an extrovert. But maybe on the introvert extrovert spectrum, I lean towards more being an extrovert and I’d firmly believe that, you know, you can’t go it on your own, that you you know, that you can only really excel when you find kind of a community that yeah, that’s, that inspires you. And yeah, and kind of finding your tribe and I could never, I could never do it without kind of having that sense of finding people who were a part of my tribe, you know, saying

Brad Miller 15:47
and a part of finding your tribe and reaching out and connect with others you’ve chosen to create the young African entrepreneurs podcast which I take it as something has inspired you to do that what is inspiring you to do that to reach out to folks in the culture you that you’re in to nurture that tell a little bit about the young African entrepreneur podcast. So I

Victoria Crandall 16:09
created the podcasts pretty much in a moment of professional of just of discontentment. Maybe I’m just feeling that I wasn’t really challenged in my last job, or I felt under stimulated in some sense, or I wanted a creative outlet. I have always been fascinated, you know, with business and in Sub Saharan Africa. And that’s kind of my love of it came from, you know, reading these newspapers on a daily basis, whether it was Nigeria, Kenya or Ghana, and just really being an author of just the dynamism and that there’s just so much to do in African markets. And I’ve been very lucky just to know, some really amazing African entrepreneurs. And I was really fascinated about their personal story of what you have to go through to set up a business and Mr. like Nigeria, which is incredibly difficult, it’s a really, really difficult place to do business and just how tough you have to be, and the challenges to succeeding as an entrepreneur, which are going to be difficult anywhere you are, but particularly in Sub Saharan Africa. So I set up the podcast and mainly as an excuse to go out and talk to, you know, these really inspiring African entrepreneurs that was really at its origin. And I have to say,

Brad Miller 17:29
what have you learned? What of it? What what’s its story that’s inspired youth. So some of the folks you’ve talked to you, and what do you see as the possibilities and the hope for folks in that part of the world in business?

Victoria Crandall 17:41
Oh, so many stories, I’ll take one recent interview, spoke with a Guinea and entrepreneur named Gregory Roxanne, who is just amazing. And he has, he has an amazing business called n pharma. And it’s a mobile first solution to pretty much manage pharmaceutical inventories. So the problem you have in many Sub Saharan African countries, is that the pharmaceutical supply chain is very fragmented. And just so so what that means is that many Africans, when they go to the pharmacy, there’s a stock out that their their doctor will write them a prescription, and they go to the pharmacy, and the pharmacy doesn’t have that drug. So you can imagine what problems that that that poses. And so what he did is that he created he created a platform on the mobile and app that connects doctors with with pharmacists who tend to be with pharmacies, which tend to be small scale mom and pop pharmacies. And so in real time, they’re able to know, okay, this drug is actually in stock. And then that was kind of the first iteration of this business. And then what he did, he figures out, okay, the bigger problem is actually that people can’t afford the pharmaceuticals. So then what he did is that he aggregated all the demand and that he negotiates he pretty much he’s collecting, connecting supply and demand. So he’s able to leverage all of his connections with the pharmacies. And he’s able to go to the large pharmaceutical companies like Novartis and Roche, and say, Hey, you know, we know what demand is in real time for these drugs, because he’s capturing all of the data through his platform, and he’s able to negotiate discounts and, and that’s led to cost savings of up to 40%, which means a lot of Guineans can afford high quality cancer drugs, so that he is an amazing visionary leader. And it was such a privilege to talk to him about his business.

Brad Miller 19:53
Now, there’s just one example where an entrepreneurial business person as doing things that are better fitting the greater good of his community of his country, and also support himself and generating the income to help stimulate the economy and things like that. So out of that process, Victoria, what are you seeing it as some signs of hope and opportunity for entrepreneurs in Africa,

Victoria Crandall 20:18
oh, the opportunities are, are almost limitless here. Because there’s so much there’s so much work to do. And I think the thing that’s really exciting

is that if you look at a market that a country that’s very innovative, which, you know, like Kenya, for instance, which is really pioneered mobile money is that pretty much a lot of things that have been very difficult to implement in terms of infrastructure. So if you think of schools, if you think of hospitals and health clinic, a lot of things, you know, a country like Kenya can leapfrog building a lot of those kind of traditional infrastructure, because they can do it through the mobile and that’s, that’s what we’re seeing now. And, and that process is really accelerating. So you’re seeing a lot of really amazing entrepreneurs who are solving problems, you know, mobile first, I’m sorry,

Brad Miller 21:07
when you say mobile first, you mean mobile technology, mobile communication, mobile courage around like cryptocurrencies, these type of things, tell me a little bit more what you mean by going mobile door to leapfrog.

Victoria Crandall 21:20
So what I mean by mobile first is that you’re creating a solution that that everyday Africans can access through through their, their feature phone. So like, through a basic, a basic phone, that’s, you know, that’s not a smartphone, per se. So pretty much if, if you want, and that’s exactly what happened with the mobile money revolution, in a place like Kenya is that someone, you know, who’s pretty low income, you know, they’re able to, they’re able to do so much, you know, and their, their purchasing power, they’re able to do a lot more with their purchasing power, because they can do things through their feature phone. And because cuz you’re able to do something at scale, using the efficiencies of something that’s through the mobile, you can actually you can tap that kind of bottom of the pyramid or kind of lower income consumer. And so that’s a really exciting trend that you’re seeing in places in East Africa, in Kenya, but also in Nigeria, in Ghana, kind of flattens the world to coin a phrase I know, has been used in terms of trying to level things out a little bit in terms of, you know, for folks who made before I’ve been kind of limited by communications, and all kinds of other things. And to Yeah, absolutely

Brad Miller 22:32
also seen how it seems like in many third world countries, a little bit of investment goes a long way I’ll speak to what I’m talking about here in a minute. It is I just got back from El Salvador and the mission group I work with, among other things, does works with micro businesses, and micro lending. You know, sometimes the loan to a new business entrepreneur can be as little as $50, and they will take that and just go with it, and just be some magnificent things that happened to me, your observation is that happening in the part of the world that you work with?

Victoria Crandall 23:02
Yes. Um, if you talk to any African entrepreneur about their their challenge, their everyday challenges, inevitably, they’re going to say, lack of capital, because the banking system will never lend to you. I mean, they don’t lend generally too small, small, medium sized enterprises SMEs, so they’re not going to lend to a startup, you know, which is the same in the US, you know, you’re always finding finding cash to start your business before it’s actually self sustaining is always a challenge. But, you know, on the flip side, I think the thing that’s really interesting is that you have so much capital that’s locked up, for instance, in the US, you know, if you look at institutional and venture investors, so, like pension funds, they’re always looking at how investable vehicles so they can make their money grow, you know, at eight, 910 percent. And the problem is that over 80% of future economic growth, it’s going to be in emerging markets like Sub Saharan Africa. So the problem is, how do you connect that pot of money, you know, trillions of dollars that are locked up in the US and how do you get them how do you get it to a place like Sub Saharan Africa so that so that is kind of that is the huge problem. But a lot of that has to do more with a perception of risk than anything else want to

Brad Miller 24:23
take just a little different track with you just for a second here, Victoria, talk about you personally for a second about how you How does and does a any role of connected to any kind of a higher power has anything to do with your success and what you’re involved with, or the people you’re involved with. I’m talking about any kind of spiritual meditative practices or morning routines and things along this line, is there any type of connection that way that is contributing factor to your life. I would

Victoria Crandall 24:46
say having having an just being cognizant of a higher power or have a transcendent helps put the daily struggles into perspective makes you get out of your head and, or it’s made me get out of my head and realize like, this just really isn’t that important. And I’m, I’m pretty picky about my about how I like to kind of what type of church service I like, it’s always been kind of hard for me to find a church and kind of a spiritual community that really resonated with me and the places I’ve lived. But I, what I found to be so helpful, and every day on a daily basis is that I meditate. So I tried to meditate for 15 minutes every morning. And, and I find that incredibly helpful just to not overreaction. The moment not to get angry not to let my emotions kind of get the best of me. And when you’re living in a place like in a developing country like Cote d’Ivoire where things do not work all of the time, there are so many things that are out of your control, you need that kind of internal check, and to not let your anger or frustration get the best of you. And I found meditation really helps with that, you know,

Brad Miller 25:58
I’ve found it be a case as well, when the reason I even asked that question has to do with whether one finds connection through a worshipping community, a church or some other worshipping body, I found many successful people fired most of the successful people I’ve talked to have, as some sort of a spiritual connection or meditative practice, or some way of centering themselves in order to deal with whatever, you know, whatever chaos and whatever situations come their way that some finding a way to center yourself and focus on something greater than yourself, I found to be helpful is my observation from successful people, such as yourself, that there’s at least an element of that. So that’s why I asked not to put you on the spot. And I go into any particular church or anything along that line, but just wanted to understand as a commonality that I’ve seen maybe you’ve seen that are not in your experience, but I

Victoria Crandall 26:47
I know I would, I would agree. Sure, will be just

Brad Miller 26:48
a little you mentioned one habit or discipline that you have about meditation, what are I mentioned now, Victorian, any other disciplines, or habits or routines or kind of building blocks, things that you do to be successful in your life? Or perhaps that you teach others? Or maybe you’ve been mentored by others to be about what are some routines, habits, just words that you have? Oh,

Victoria Crandall 27:14
I have a couple, I would say, besides meditation, I always I always do the same couple things in the morning. And I was very influenced by Tim Ferriss. So it’s pretty much it’s very, pretty much it’s a morning ritual that, you know, that was inspired by his So typically, when I get up in the morning, the first thing I’ll do is make my badge just because it gives you that feeling of like, oh, there’s a small task that I controlled so I’m already kind of ahead of the game, I always journal in the morning. So I use a five minute journal and it kind of makes me accountable to certain things I want to accomplish during the day. And not only that, it makes me reflect of all of the things that I’m grateful for. And I always tried to exercise a little bit even if it’s just some stretching and I have a six months little puppy so he makes me get out of the house as well and walk around my neighborhood and it’s really nice to feel like I have a sense of community where I live and people in the neighborhood know me now because of my dog so and he just kind of helps me out of my head so I would say those are the things that have really kind of grounded me you know

Brad Miller 28:18
that’s amazing I it’s interesting to me how many folks I do talk to have been influenced by Ferris in one form or another I got a couple of his books on my shelf right now and as well and others because podcasts quite a bit and then also you mentioned about the make your bed you probably familiar with this but I just there’s a book out there by i think i by General something about make your bed first is a discipline to do your life well that that’s great just like to ask them with all my guest Victoria about three other particular things and then come to a conclusion before too long. But one of those is what is your purpose in your life, I would

Victoria Crandall 28:57
say my purpose is to constantly be working towards self growth and self actualization and the things for me that are really important to achieve that are having a sense of adventure. And for me, travel is very important and working with people who are different than me and who had different life experiences and come from different cultures is very important to me. How will you How would you define prosperity I think prosperity is is having is is having good relationships in your life of feeling engaged with what you’re doing a finding it rewarding

Brad Miller 29:36
and one last thing What brings you peace feeling like

Victoria Crandall 29:39
I tried my best but you

Brad Miller 29:40
shared a lot here today Victoria’s What are you working on now what’s uh. What’s next for you with you either with your podcast or anything else you’re working on and if and if folks wanted some of you in contact with you and learn more about what you’re about how can they do that

Victoria Crandall 29:54
recently joined a new company called insider it’s a PR company that works with African entrepreneurs and gives them strategic visibility so they can raise capital abroad so I’m going to be their new director of media relations and I’m incredibly excited to work with the team there and to be working with the clients and you know that’s what’s keeping me busy these days and I’m still continuing to work on the podcast spoke with a really amazing in entrepreneur in Ethiopia and another guy in Malawi and it’s just always such a such a pleasure to connect with people who are really making change in Africa and people can connect with me on on Twitter I’m tweeting two accounts at ya e podcast and also my personal account is Tori underscore Crandall and I’m also on the usual social media platforms Facebook Instagram and

under why he podcast and Victoria Crandall on Facebook and we’ll

Brad Miller 31:05
make connections to all those in our show notes and and we thank you today for Victoria Crandall for being on the pathway to promise podcast Victoria Crandall from the young African entrepreneurs podcast.

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