Elaine Da Graça from Cape Verde ( Cabo Verde) is the founder of Scientia, Ltd and an accessories’ brand called “The House of Ella”. At an early age, she knew she had the skills for crafts. Her mother (now retired) was an Arts teacher. She puts her through the rudiments of Arts. After her University education, her first job was with Toyota Canarias, where she worked for three years. Elaine later changed sector to what she had always loved; the fashion industry, until she decided to move back to her home country Cape Verde. She also worked AEB, a Spanish owned water and electricity company in Boa Vista Island in 2013. Eliane at a point started her entrepreneurship life as a freelancer providing virtual assistance services alongside the execution of projects and business plans for international clients that wanted to invest in Cape Verde. During the same period, she opened a sports bar, with her partner. In 2015, floated a company called Scientia .The core of Scientia is to provide marketing and digital marketing solutions. In 2017, Elaine decided to focus her company and efforts in one of the three biggest influential segments in the digital world – Women. According to her “Cape Verde is a matriarchal country where women do not have the same opportunities as men”, therefore, Elaine has made of Scientia’s mission to empower and to assist women in their search for opportunities and in the development of their abilities.
Elaine in this encounter with Sunday Oyinloye, Publisher of Green Savannah Diplomatic Cable speaks about her business, her country and other issues.
Why did you set up Scientia?
I always envisioned myself having my own business. Therefore, it was only natural for me to eventually set it up. I trained in Marketing Management and International Trade, and my work experience has always been in Marketing. The simplest definition of Marketing I have ever encountered is; “matchmaking”. This is what I want to be doing in life in general; finding solutions to problems. Going more into details, I have always looked up to women like my grandmother and mother. They raised their children and ran small businesses from home. I want to empower women to be their best versions.
What happened to your Sports Bar, do you still operate it?
It was more of an experience. My partner and I opened the bar in Boa Vista which is a tourist’s destination. We created a concept that doesn’t exist in the island; a Sports Bar – made for football lovers. We kept the bar opened for exactly one year. Having the bar meant that I couldn’t actually work in my line of work; creating solutions for other businesses.
Has Scientia made much impact in Cape Verde?
Scientia is a global company. Our customers are in various parts of the world. We have only one customer in Cabo Verde, the rest customers are in Senegal, Morocco, UK, Portugal and more. Yet, in social terms I would like to believe we have impacted the people somehow with the creation of our” Pop-up series” and the free trainings sessions. In 2017 we launched this event called Fashion Pop Up, to give visibility to female entrepreneurs and crafters to present their products and services at a lounge area of Avis, a restaurant in the country’s capital, Praia. Also, I have given several on-site and online courses to women and younger Cabo Verdeans in general.
Would you like to share the story behind “The House of Ella” and what is unique about your products?
The truth about The House of Ella (THoE) is this. I needed another source of income; therefore, I created the brand. I’ve learnt since young age how to do crafts, from painting to sewing, my being a Plastic Arts teacher. So, I chose the craft I felt more comfortable with and decided to create and register a brand in Cabo Verde. I created The House of Ella as an accessories’ brand. Every single product is designed and sown by me, mainly handbags and similar items. The House of Ella is meant to be a fun and responsible brand. We had expansion plans that had to be postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic. However, the crisis came in form of opportunity for Scientia; opportunity to help other business go digital and survive. In the future, we want to separate THoE into 3 sub brands: THoE Artisanal, THoE Senses and THoE Swimwear. In order to focus all the handmade products in the Artisanal sub brand, we shall outsource the production of body and home senses and design and produce swimwear. For now, these plans are on hold till 2021 when we hope to implement them.
What is the place of women in your country; do they have equal opportunities like men, and is there anything in particular you are doing for women?
I am a true believer that there are no such things as “equal” opportunities. Our societies were built upon values that have gone against the equality of all, regardless of gender or origins or any other variable we use to segment and identify groups of people. Cabo Verde is a matriarch country yet, men do have more opportunities and status than women. But having those things do not means we cannot fight to achieve the dreams we have. Cabo Verdean women are strong and resilient. Only by becoming our best versions will stablish a natural equality system. I do not want or need a man to validate my status. In a society of men, I will be my best version. Scientia will continue to work harder particularly for West African Women. Besides helping women from my country, I want to help women from ECOWAS Region though a project that will focus on business women/ entrepreneur subscription service. ECOWAS is a great market and we should validate it by working with each other.
As a successful entrepreneur involved in digital marketing, what do you consider to be the major challenges of startups and what should an entrepreneur do to make her business survive?
I will say this, for every type of business, for every new adventure we will always have risks and threats. Challenges are part of our existence. Having them is part of the process. For me, it has been a long way of ups and downs. Right now, I feel like I’m walking towards achieving more for myself and for my business, which is great, yet I shouldn’t slow down or relax because things are starting to go well. As an entrepreneur or business person, you should never give up or feel contented with what you already achieved. We are in a moving environment and with the help of the internet of a thing, we are moving even faster. People, in this globalized world, are in constant contact with one another. We know what is going on in different parts of the world. We know of the acceptable standards of the other nations. These create expectations which to be have managed accordingly .Our biggest challenge is self. We fail when we are not prepared. But failure doesn’t mean we should give up, it should mean we must prepare better and try again. We must learn to accept that challenges move on to drive our vision. Therefore, our response to the challenges in front of us is what validates our destiny each day.
Are there some important lessons of life that you would like to share with our readers?
I would like to share a lesson I have learnt over these past few years.
This made me realize that every explanation I have used so far to describe why I haven’t achieved this or that was simply an excuse.
For this lesson I want to share the following with you: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” Lao Tzu
We must live in the moment balancing what is right and wrong for us and for the next, in our personal and professional lives. And instead of finding excuses to “explain” why something went wrong, we must admit it is our actions leading us there, nothing else. Therefore, in business I believe in the say that proper planning prevents poor performance. No more excuses, just accountability.
The population of your country is about 500,000 and an estimated one million of your countrymen live abroad, do Cape Verdeans living abroad connect with their roots in terms of investments?
Our Diaspora is very connected to the country. In the first trimester of 2020, Cape Verdean emigrants sent remittances worth more than 5,056 million CVE (EUR 45.5 million), equivalent to a daily average of 60,645 million CVE (EUR 550,000).
In terms of investment, in the first parliamentary session of 2020, January in Praia, the Parliament unanimously approved a draft law establishing the rules for direct investment in the country of Cape Verdean emigrants, providing several incentives, such as tax exemptions. This will only reinforce the ownership of capital and assets in our nation.
How well can you cook your national meal, Cachupa
This is a funny question. I actually do love cooking and eating good food. I am a granddaughter and daughter to bakers. My grandmother and my mother have been in the baking and catering business before I was even born. So yes, I can cook my national meal very well (laughter) .It takes good few hours to cook it, so it is a Saturday morning kind of dish. You start at 8am to eat in the afternoon
How do you relax?
This is all about the mood. I enjoy doing different things.
But if I really want to relax my mind I want calm and silence; absence of white noise.