Within the bustling international metropolis of Shanghai, Teranga Valley gives a platform to a world of like-minded entrepreneurs, innovators, students, professionals and business people of all nationalities to network, learn and share ideas. ‘Teranga’ is a Senegalese word that means ‘welcome’ and it was this essence of inclusivity and innovation that inspired founders, Isabelle Hannouche and Mac Gueye to start the platform.
Despite both being entrepreneurs from Senegal and living in Shanghai since 2012, it took 6 years before the two actually crossed paths in 2018. They immediately started Teranga Valley to provide a space for emerging entrepreneurs to have access to information and solutions to problems they faced in their journeys navigating running businesses in China.
After just two years of working in China, Isabelle started her own trading company, Teranga-trade.com; ‘I just found no reason why I could not do it. I just decided to take the step and start my own trading company’ she says. She went on to start a recruitment company, Wegoo2china.com and co-founded Africa Tours & Business. Starting a business anywhere in the world is not an easy task. In China, obstacles such as language barriers and cultural differences may make it harder for foreigners to thrive despite the competitive technology available to implement ideas at a rapid pace, therefore, it’s not surprising that entrepreneurs often find it easier to operate in silos, perhaps sceptical of their ideas being taken and executed faster and more efficiently by competitors. Given the disconnect, there exists a need to increase accessibility to the information and advice needed to start and run a business in China.
Mac describes Teranga Valley as ‘a place where every person can take an idea and find the resources for it to thrive’. Having initially moved to China to study Mandarin as an addition to the 4 other languages he is fluent in, Mac founded the tech start-up Oh By The Way -a virtual campus for university students to connect and interact. The start-up recently secured first place from an initial selection of 100 start-up businesses across Asia at the OCEA Youth Startup Camp; a competition where he was the only African participant and in which he presented entirely in Mandarin.
With such dynamic entrepreneurs behind Teranga, it is no wonder that the Valley has attracted multicultural entrepreneurial talents from a broad range of industries and is consistently gaining international traction through events and sharing video content. It is a visual representation of the great creative, innovative and disruptive solutions African people can create when working together globally, and it is a contagion of inspiration which Isabelle and Mac envision translating to people being empowered enough to start with what they have; start where they are and connect with who they need to know to in order to become entrepreneurs in some way.
‘We are all somehow entrepreneurs in our lives. Opening a company is just one form of entrepreneurship but it is not the only one’
For more insights on their journey and to hear the full interview, please click here to listen to the podcast.