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‘Women in Tech’ is our way of identifying women who are making an impact in the tech sector, bringing to the forefront what they are doing, and helping others who want to follow in their footsteps.
My quest for this cadre of women led me to Andrea Kamara Dunbar. Quite an impressive lady, Andrea is the Founder of a chain of businesses spread across different sectors of the economy. She’s also a Forbes Fellow.
An infectious smile across her face as she entered our offices on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, she struck me as a relatable businesswoman who has amassed quite a level of experience from her activities across sectors and the confidence that comes with it.
She shared with me her journey, from how she started to growing her businesses and when she finally decided to expand to other countries.
When mom gives you a job application when all you asked for was some money…
Andrea’s foray into business started at the age of 14 when she requested some money from her mom to buy some shoes but got a job application for her troubles. According to her, that helped her to be more independent and develop a ‘tough skin’ when it came to work.
This part of her background has played a key role in shaping how she does business.
I started working at 14 in a restaurant. I remember I wanted some particular shoes, and I asked my mother for the money and, she came home with a job application. She said, “if you want these shoes, go and work for them”. I was upset at the time, but I am actually happy now that she gave me that job application.Andrea Kamara Dunbar
That basically started Andrea’s journey into business. From working as a cleaner, Andrea rose through the ranks to become a hostess. Then she became a waitress, a bartender and an events coordinator.
From bartending, here are some businesses Andrea has founded and how she runs them
In 2011, Andrea Kamara Dunbar started Broad Street International as an event planning enterprise. The company later pivoted into Customer Service Training for hotels, restaurants, government institutions and staff, leveraging a lot on her food background.
The consultancy company (BSI) started in Washington DC as Andrea’s senior project while she was a student. Here is a fun fact: Andrea likes food!
In 2015, I worked with a Real Estate firm and I received commission for each unit I sold. Instead of taking my commission in cash, I took in form of the ground floor of the building and set up a restaurant there and it’s been there since.Andrea Kamara Dunbar
After running Broad Street International for a while, she started Broad Street Cafe, and then decided to bring tech into the mix, with Balance Bowl.
Balance Bowl is a tech-enabled healthy food company that focuses on helping people achieve their health goals with the appropriate diet. The foodtech startup began in Liberia in 2018.
Balance Bowl took off from Andrea’s efforts to be more deliberate about eating and shedding some weight. After pinning some food pictures on Pinterest, she started getting orders from friends for a bowl or two. After seeing the potential in it, she launched it as a full-time business.
“After I sent a bowl of food to my friend’s office, her boss tasted out of it and liked it, so the next day, I sent two bowls, and then three bowls, and then four bowls.”Andrea Kamara Dunbar
Realizing that tech could help her reach more people, as well as enable her to bring in other valuable services as part of the Balance Bowl offering, Andrea began the process of building a mobile application. However, it was not an easy task.
“There are quite a number of people here, but finding people that want to do the job with integrity has been quite challenging. I have to rebuild the app three times in the process”Andrea Kamara Dunbar
Using artificial intelligence, and machine learning, the app will make it easy for people to locate restaurants where they can get healthy food near them. They can also pay and get their orders delivered in a relatively short period of time.
Besides ordering food on the Balance Bowl app, people will be able to talk to a virtual dietician on the platform. Customers with health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, etc, can speak with the virtual dietician who will help them plan meals and choose a BalanceBowl plan that is the best for their health.
Putting the health needs of customers at the forefront, Andrea Kamara Dunbar leaves no stone unturned. Through the app, users can buy health supplements to ensure they are getting the maximum nutrients needed to stay healthy.
If you like cooking healthy foods but don’t know how, the app provides recipe videos to help you replicate healthy dishes in the comfort of your own home.
“Balance Bowl is already established in Liberia, so I decided to expand to Nigeria because there is a large number of tech-savvy young people and the population is much more.
But I realize that food is not a problem in Nigeria, there are many restaurants already, so I decided to offer a food solution that would enable people manage their health from their phone; the Balance Bowl app.”Andrea Kamara Dunbar
Currently, the food-tech company operates in Lagos and has plans of scaling to other states in Nigeria, before expanding to Accra and Kigali.
Besides her work in Balance Bowl, Andrea Kamara Dunbar considers herself a Rural development entrepreneur who is passionate about helping rural women become more entrepreneurial and develop their skills and capabilities.
She started Quintessential Business Women Association (QBWA) in Liberia, after she had volunteered with the QBWA in Nigeria. In Liberia, Andrea works with her team to empower women in the agricultural sector by providing help with packaging, market access, finance among others.
Part of what Andrea and the QBWA team do is also to help the women become bankable. They also provide them the right structures in place for their businesses so that they can approach banks and other organizations if they need funding or other relevant resources.
Yea, she was rejected by Forbes then what?
When Forbes called for application to be recognized as one of Forbes under 30 women making impact, Andrea sent in an application. After a long process, her application was rejected and the list came out without her name on it.
“I was hurt, and I was hurt so much more because they made me work so much. It was months and months of back and forth between the people that applied and the editors; interviews, clearance, photo shoots and all the other due diligence that was involved. But I learnt a lot, when you have to tell your story that many times, you start to find ways that you can use that to impact other people.”Andrea Kamara Dunbar
According to her, that took a lot out of her but she did not let it weigh her down. Interestingly, Forbes Women had taken notice of her and they invited her to the first global summit that took place in Israel.
Networking with other high-achieving women and getting some more exposure were the highlights of the summit for Andrea and it helped to reaffirm to her that limits are meant to be stretched.
“The biggest takeaway for me was the networking I got to do. Sitting in a room with Fortune 500 CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors, politicians and others from all over the world was just powerful. We are friends now, because of the networking at the summit.”Andrea Kamara Dunbar
Balancing more than one major role is quite tricky. It is however necessary as women rise higher in the ranks to take on more complex roles in society.
With the launch of the BalanceBowl app and expansion of its operations, Andrea is just starting to chip at the edges of more responsibility and success, which is what women in tech do.
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