Skip to content

Client Success Stories: Inspiring Examples of Entrepreneurs & Businesses We Support

In the last 10 years, we have worked with dozens of Africa-focused entrepreneurs and businesses to transform their visions into successful realities. These are some of our best and most inspiring success stories.

One of our clients, Engr. Musa Darboe of Maruo Rice (middle), poses with the President of the Republic of The Gambia (right) and the President of the African Development Bank (left).

When you look at Africa, what do you see?

Many people see a long list of ugly and disappointing problems.

But some people see an attractive market that's full of opportunities to create value, wealth, and impact.

These people, who we call "believers", are the kinds of clients we work with.

They usually have a bold vision and promising business ideas.

They are full of energy, passion, and optimism.

And they have the fighting spirit to take on challenges and recover from setbacks and failures that are quite common in business.

Our work at Activator HQ has made it easier and faster for dozens of believers to start new businesses and product offerings, grow and diversify existing businesses, and overcome difficult obstacles that range from fundraising and sales, to profitability, growth, and management issues.

Our methods work, and we have the following success stories to prove it.

Maruo Integrated Rice Farms

The Gambia

Photo credit: African Development Bank (AfDB)

The man in the middle of the picture, flanked by the President of the Republic of The Gambia (right) and the President of the African Development Bank Group, is Engr. Musa Darboe.

He is the founder of Maruo Integrated Rice Farms, the biggest indigenous rice producer in The Gambia.

Our paths first crossed in 2017.

Back then, he was based in the United States where he'd lived since 2000 and worked as a telecom engineer with Verizon.

He read one of the business guides on our website and got in touch.

We exchanged a couple of emails and had a long conversation about his business idea to start an integrated rice farm in The Gambia and possibly leave the USA and return home.

In 2018, our founder and CEO, John-Paul Iwuoha, developed Musa's first business plan with a strategy to leverage smallholder rice farmers in rural Gambia under an outgrower model that offers mechanization, hybrid seeds, inputs, and agronomy support in exchange for a guaranteed offtake at harvest.

For context, despite its relatively small population (2.6 million), The Gambia has one of the highest per-capita rice consumption rates in Africa. However, the country imports up to 80% of its rice needs, in the face of rising youth unemployment and poverty.

In just five years, Engr. Darboe has hit most of the ambitious milestones we set in that 2018 business plan.

Today, with a network of 2,000 outgrowers, 1,000 hectares under cultivation, and a processing capability that delivers premium and general-grade rice and couscous under the Maruo brand, his company has developed a robust value chain for local rice production in The Gambia.

In 2021, he finally made the move to leave the USA and relocate back home to The Gambia.

Due to his remarkable work, he has become the partner of choice for the government of The Gambia, international development organizations, and private sector players.

To date, Engr. Musa Darboe has raised over $1 million in funding and technical assistance to grow his company, Maruo Farms Limited.

The African Development Bank is investing in The Gambia's plans to produce an extra 200,000 tons of rice by 2028 to cut down imports, and Maruo Farms will have a big role to play in this strategic national project.

In early 2023, we developed the 5-year growth and expansion plan (2023-2028) to guide the next phase of his company's journey.

Engr. Darboe is a dogged executor and I have no doubt we will hit most of the milestones.

After 6 years of working closely (but remotely) with him to build Maruo Farms from a dream into a real, thriving business, John-Paul travelled to The Gambia in November 2023 to meet Engr. Darboe in person for the first time.

Some of the images below were taken during our courtesy call to Maruo Farms in The Gambia and includes rice field visits, machinery and equipment, the company's rice processing factory in Brikama Ba, and several finished rice products under the Maruo brand.

In addition to startup and growth strategy, we have been responsible behind the scenes for optimizing the business model, competitiveness, operations, and fundraising goals of Maruo Farms since 2018.

He is one of our favorite clients (of all time) because he always gets results.

Click here to learn more about how we work with Africa-focused entrepreneurs like Engr. Musa Darboe.

Services provided to Maruo Farms:

Follow the links below to learn more about each of the services provided to Engr. Musa Darboe and Maruo Rice Farms:

Testimonial from this client:

"When I joined his program, all I had was a passion for farming, with very little professional business experience. Now, I can talk to real business people and investors and sell my idea. John-Paul is not only an exceptional business advisor, but indeed a mentor. His understanding of market opportunities is unique." — Engr. Musa Darboe, CEO, Maruo Farms

Smart Havens Africa


Note: Click each image to expand. Photo credit: Smart Havens Africa

These two remarkable people are standing in the middle of what seemed to be an impossible fantasy only five years ago.

The story of Anne Rweyora K. (front) and Will Broad (back), the co-founders of Smart Havens Africa in Uganda, is compelling proof that big and intimidating business ideas will yield to grit and hard work.

We still remember that Zoom call between Lagos (Nigeria) and Kampala (Uganda) in March 2019.

As part of our fundraising program for entrepreneurs, our CEO (John-Paul Iwuoha) was grooming Anne for a business pitch before a major international audience in the UK.

48 hours later, Anne was in London selling her business idea before the Duke of York at the Pitch@Palace Africa Competition, an event held at the St. James Palace and co-organised by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

Anne finished in third place out of all the contestants from countries around the world.

Anne and Will are building the future of affordable and climate-smart housing in Africa with a focus on women.

With an estimated housing deficit of over 50 million units on the continent, their company, Smart Havens Africa, offers a rent-to-own model that enables low- and middle-income women to become homeowners within eight years, with only a 4% initial down payment.

Five years since they impressed us with their grit and hard work in the fundraising program, Anne and Will have delivered over 200 homes (like the ones in the photo), created up to 1,700 construction jobs, and attracted funding and significant global attention—including becoming finalists for the prestigious Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, and features on CNN and BBC.

The images below show various residential housing projects delivered by Smart Havens Africa since 2018.

In addition to business planning, executive business coaching, and supporting the startup and growth strategy of Smart Havens Africa behind the scenes since 2019, John-Paul Iwuoha accepted an invitation to serve on the company's advisory board, an honor that is reserved only for our most deserving clients.

Anne and Will are inspiring examples of committed entrepreneurs who quietly and painstakingly focus on solving Africa's most difficult but rewarding problems.

Click here to learn more about how we work with Africa-focused entrepreneurs like Anne Rweyora and Will Broad to start and grow businesses.

Services provided to Smart Havens Africa:

Follow the links below to learn more about each of the services provided to Anne and Will, and their company, Smart Havens Africa:

Testimonial from this client:

"Thank you John-Paul Iwuoha for mentoring and coaching me and my co-founder. We are a true success story of your amazing works. We have closed $250,000 in investments since completing your coaching program and became a top finalist for the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation." – Anne Rweyora, Founder, Smart Havens Africa

The SUN Business Network


In May 2021, the SUN Business Network (SBN) in Nigeria engaged John-Paul Iwuoha (formerly of Smallstarter Africa) to develop a bespoke capacity development training program on fundraising, investment readiness, and business financing.

Established in 2012 and co-convened by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the SUN Business Network is active in several African countries and supports food-based businesses in growing the role they play in nutrition.

The training program had registered participants pooled from local chapters of the Chamber of Commerce and the Nigerian Association Of Small-Scale Industrialists (NASSI)

Delivered through a combination of workshops and case studies, the training program was held between May and June 2021 in four cities across Nigeria (Kano, Lagos, Jos, and Calabar), with over 120 participating entrepreneurs and business owners.

Service provided to Smart Havens Africa:

Follow the links below to learn more about the services we provided to the SUN Business Network in Nigeria:

Testimonial from this client:

Our members in all four locations (in Nigeria) got a lot of value from the Funding Masterclass training program. John-Paul’s insights and practical fundraising strategies will help many of the participants overcome the financing challenges in their businesses. The learning experience was impactful." Ms. Ibiso Ivy King-Harry, Nigeria Coordinator, SUN Business Network

Total Energies E&P Nigeria Staff Multipurpose Cooperative


With total assets of nearly $100 million and annual profits (after tax) that exceed $1.5 million, the Total Energies E&P Nigeria (TEPNG) Staff Multipurpose Co-operative Society Limited is one of West Africa's most successful cooperative institutions.

The cooperative society's business interests range from financial services to real estate and e-commerce.

In 2015, John-Paul Iwuoha of Smallstarter Africa (now Activator HQ) was engaged on a management consulting contract by the Management Committee of the cooperative society to provide strategy advisory in support of the growth and expansion vision of the organization.

Our engagement with the executive leadership (management committee) of the organisation included closed-door strategy development retreats held in two key areas of operations: Lagos and Port Harcourt.

Our lead on the engagement, John-Paul Iwuoha, also delivered critical training interventions that focused on analytical methods and decision frameworks for evaluating the Cooperative's business priorities and investments, business development strategies, and product development models.

In 2017, following the success of our work at the TEPNG Cooperative Society, John-Paul Iwuoha was recommended for a similar a management consulting project with the Staff Cooperative Society of Nigeria LNG, one of Africa's largest natural gas producers.

Services provided to the TEPNG Cooperative Society:

Follow the links below to learn more about the services we provided to the TEPNG Cooperative Society:

Testimonial from this client:

"John-Paul has helped to provide more clarity and depth to our vision and growth strategy for the Cooperative. His work was professional and I am happy with it." Mr. Louis Ogbeifun, Former President, Total Energies E&P Nigeria (TEPNG) Staff Multipurpose Co-operative Society Limited

Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Staff Cooperative Investment & Credit Society


The NLNG Staff Cooperative Investment & Credit Society has total assets valued at over $18 million (2020).

In addition to various landmark residential and commercial developments in the real estate sector in Nigeria, the organisation generates income from financial services, general service contracting and procurement, and energy (power and gas) opportunities.

Following a successful management consulting project with the Total Energies E&P Nigeria (TEPNG) Staff Multipurpose Co-operative Society Limited, John-Paul Iwuoha of Smallstarter Africa (now Activator HQ) was referred to the leadership of the NLNG Cooperative to provide a similar service.

Sequel to a discovery and needs assessment phase with the executive leadership and management committee of the organisation, we facilitated strategy development retreats held in Bonny Island and Port Harcourt city in Rivers state, southern Nigeria.

The objective of this management consulting engagement was to define a new growth strategy that would turn around the organization, overcome its legacy problems, and set it on a path of improved operational and financial performance for the benefit of its members.

Service provided to the NLNG Staff Cooperative:

Follow the links below to learn more about the services we provided to the NLNG Staff Cooperative:

Testimonial from this client:

"The strategy retreat for the management committee was very insightful. It helped my team focus on the top priorities that will drive the change and growth we want to see in the organisation." Mr. Zakari Kyari, Former President, NLNG Staff Cooperative Investment & Credit Society



Launched in 2019, Shecluded is a funding and entrepreneurship development company that provides debt and equity capital, training, and market access to women in business.

Through its tailored financial products, training, incubation, and accelerator programs, advocacy efforts, capacity development initiatives, and exclusive focus on gender lens investing, Shecluded is a pioneering organization in Africa’s push to close the financing gap for women.

To date, the company has disbursed more than $1 million in loans to over 3,000 women and 400 women-owned businesses.

Since its launch, Shecluded has earned several accolades, including the company’s recognition as a UK Tech Hub company in 2020 and a selection as one of only thirteen global participants in the NASDAQ Milestone Makers program in Spring 2021.

Shecluded now has several strategic partnerships with local and international institutions including the Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) and the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ).

In mid-2023, in line with its aspiration to pursue growth and expansion, Shecluded contracted John-Paul Iwuoha of Activator HQ to develop a growth strategy for the company.

This engagement, which involved consultative strategy sessions with the management team, culminated in a comprehensive Strategy Roadmap report that defined a clear and actionable growth strategy tailored specifically to Shecluded.

Services provided to Shecluded:

Follow the links below to learn more about the services we provided to Shecluded:

Testimonial from this client:

"John-Paul worked with me to develop a compelling business case for my fintech startup. He is an experienced business strategist, easy to work with, and very reliable." -- Ifeoma Uddoh, Founder, Shecluded

Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF)

South Africa

The Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) is an award-winning pan-African women's economic empowerment organization that has been granted a Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

AWIEF works with hundreds of entrepreneurs to promote women’s business leadership and entrepreneurship in Africa.

Following a grant received by AWIEF from the Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (AFAWA) of the African Development Bank, the organization engaged John-Paul Iwuoha of Activator HQ to deliver training support to two cohorts of business owners, comprising about 100 participants.

The training program focused on fundraising for growth-stage businesses and covered critical aspects of investment transactions such as due diligence, legal concepts, business valuation, and negotiation strategy.

Services provided to AWIEF:

Follow the links below to learn more about the services we provided to AWIEF:

Testimonial from this client:

"John-Paul Iwuoha is a great pleasure to work with, he can be relied on for his invaluable expertise as a business strategy Coach and Mentor and has brought great value to the successful implementation of the Mentoring sessions for the AWIEF Growth Accelerator Program. John-Paul’s diverse business development experience allowed him to align and understand the unique needs of our program beneficiaries and their businesses, and it greatly helped the entrepreneurs in viewing their businesses differently and their potential to become global brands." - Mr. Ekene Ochem, Project Manager, AWIEF

AWE Organization


African Women in Europe (AWE) is a socio-economic organization and networking platform for African women from all over Europe.

Established in 2008, AWE seeks to enhance cooperation and collaboration among its members, especially in the area of entrepreneurship and investment activity on the African continent.

John-Paul Iwuoha of Smallstarter Africa (now Activator HQ) was invited by the leadership of AWE Academy, the learning and competency development arm of the AWE organization, to develop and deliver a Masterclass on "Financing for Startups and SMEs".

Access to funding is one of the biggest obstacles facing entrepreneurs and business owners, and was a critical knowledge gap among members of the AWE organization.

Delivered over Zoom in live sessions to members in different countries in Europe, the 3-part Masterclass focused on investor readiness, investor-entrepreneur fit, fundraising strategy, and the major sources of funding for businesses in Africa.

Services provided to AWE:

Follow the links below to learn more about the services we provided to AWE:

Testimonial from this client:

"We enjoyed the Masterclass sessions with John-Paul. He did a good job breaking down some of the complex concepts of fundraising for our members. It was a valuable investment of our time and money." Joy Zenz, Founder, African Women in Europe Organization.

💬 More Testimonials

Here's what other clients are saying out our impact on their businesses.

"John-Paul, I have always counted on your quality business advice. You have a magical way of structuring business ideas and strategies, especially complex ones. I'm very grateful to have you in my corner to always show me the way." – Deyo Olatunji, Founder, TexSourcing

John-Paul Iwuoha came at a critical and stressful point in my life when I was transitioning from employment to business. He converted my mindset and elevated my thinking. I wouldn't be doing what I am doing now and I wouldn't have gone this far if it wasn't for his coaching support." – Audrey Nkirote, CEO, Work & Live

John-Paul Iwuoha is one of the world's best startup specialists! 3 years ago, I took his business startup course, and with every tip -- from sources of finance to how to manage small startups, etc.-- I have established my construction company in Uganda! -- Kidega Amos Paonyak

"After I implemented the insights from your coaching program, the 'miracle' happened for me. I won the first prize in a business competition by Innovate Ventures which comes with a $10,000 seed investment." — Mohamed Qamsa, Founder, Safari Meals.

"I'm delighted that Kuueza has emerged the winner of the Seedstars World Competition in Ghana. Special thanks to John-Paul for his advice and all the personal sessions we had prior to the competition. They were of great help to reach this milestone. Thank you from the bottom of my heart." -- Maxwell Adew, Co-founder, Kuueza

"Before your book and courses, no financial institution accepted to fund my business despite all my endeavours. With the advice I gathered from your online courses and the book you published (Jackpot), I opened a poultry farm, signed a funding partnership with ACEP, and a potential investment from a World Bank-sponsored project." -- Stephen Atanga Wazeh, Cameroun

"It is with joy and happiness that I write to express my gratitude for all your business and financial training. I just won a grant from the International Breweries Foundation to kickstart my poultry business." — Faruk Mohammed, Entrepreneur

Our Services

We serve our clients through the 8 core services below:

Tap each one to expand and show more details.

Raise Up To $1 Million: A Fundraising Program for Entrepreneurs

Raise Up To $1 Million is an intensive virtual training and coaching program for entrepreneurs that focuses on critical aspects of the fundraising process and improves your chances of raising money to start or grow a business. This program has helped over a dozen entrepreneurs raise a total of $5 million... and counting.

Click here to learn more about how this program can help you overcome your funding challenges.

Market Intelligence Reports (The Africa Top 100 Guide)

Activator HQ actively tracks the most lucrative business opportunities across 30+ market categories in Africa that have a minimum value of $100 million each. 

Our "Africa Top 100 Guide" is the world's best-curated intelligence on strategic market gaps in Africa and remains a rich source of fresh business ideas, emerging consumer trends, unmet and underserved needs, niche markets, and other exciting business opportunities opening up on the African continent.

Click here to start reading the 2024 Edition of the Africa Top 100 Guide.

Investor-Ready Business Plans

We work with you to craft a compelling business plan that expertly articulates your vision, makes you stand out, and impresses key stakeholders like investors, regulators, management teams, and business partners.

Click here to learn more about our process for delivering winning business plans.

Training for Entrepreneurs

We develop and deliver training programs and customized learning solutions that improve the knowledge, skills, and confidence of entrepreneurs to overcome business challenges, exploit opportunities, and achieve their business goals.

Click here to learn more about our process for delivering highly effective training solutions.

Management Consulting for Businesses & Organisations

We provide strategic planning, performance improvement, organizational development, and change management support for businesses and organizations keen on overcoming challenges, embracing opportunities, and adapting to change.

Click here to learn more about the process we use to create transformative change. 

Private Consultations & Strategy Sessions

Our consultations and strategy sessions provide clarity, direction, and accountability for entrepreneurs who want to overcome tough business obstacles, exploit rewarding opportunities, and hit ambitious business goals.

Click here to learn more about the process we use to develop strategies that deliver results.

Online Business Courses

Join over 20,000 entrepreneurs who have used the lessons and insights from our online courses to start and grow their businesses. Our catalogue includes courses on fundraising, startup, sales, business systems, building strong teams, and more.

Click here to check out our catalogue of online business courses and start learning right now.

Personal & Group Coaching

Our coaching service provides the insights, guidance, safe spaces, networks, and accountability that entrepreneurs need to overcome business challenges and achieve ambitious goals.

Click here to learn more about the process we use to get results for ambitious entrepreneurs.

Want to work with us?

Have a question or interested in one (or more) of our services? Click here to send us a message.


Only members can leave a comment.

Become a member

Already have an account? Sign In