ESSENCE Network: Africa Health Now’s Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo On How to Start a Nonprofit
mater mea/J. Quazi King

While selecting models as the Bookings Editor for ESSENCE, Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo’s dad became ill back in Ghana. The support of the local community helped him get back on his feet and his daughter was inspired to ensure communities across the continent received health care. See how Eyeson-Akiwowo created a global nonprofit and her tips for changing the world.

Name: Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo
Age: 37
Title: Founder and Executive Director, African Health Now
Location: New Jersey
Hometown: Ghana by way of Brooklyn, NY
Twitter: @africanhealthnw
LinkedIn: Nana Eyeson Akiwowo
Instagram: @neyeson & @africanhealthnw

The gig: I am the founder and executive director of African Health Now, a community-based organization that provides primary health care to women, children and families in Sub Saharan Africa. Talking to men, women and children that attend our health fairs, teaching a woman to give herself a breast examination or seeing the joy in a child’s face after their first dental visit is the most rewarding aspect of my job.

The journey: I was working in publishing and my dad got sick in Ghana. The community he lived in rallied behind him and helped him get better. As a way to say thank you, I produced a health fair to provide general medical health screenings. If my father had known previously the importance of screenings or the signs of a heart attack his could have been prevented. After each health fair and the interaction with our participants, I just felt compelled to come back. Now I can’t see myself doing anything else.

Her top tips on starting a nonprofit: The biggest misconception people have of nonprofits is that they aren’t run like a “business,” when in fact all sustainable nonprofits run like corporations. Essentially you are trying to get people to “buy” into your cause. You want people to walk away feeling compelled to champion your cause. Learn as much as you can about every aspect of nonprofit work, from board development, fundraising, programming, to quality and evaluation.

Confessions of an African entrepreneur:  My biggest challenge is that people sometimes expect organizations who are providing programs about the continent to have a Caucasian face as a leading member or ambassador. As an African, it’s imperative that I not only tell my story, both the good and bad, but that I am also a key player in developing the solutions.

Her biggest lesson learned: I did a local program partnership with another organization and it wasn’t beneficial. In fact, I ended up losing out. I entered the venture on an honor system and didn’t have anything in writing. From then on, I learned that every partnership, every deal has to be in writing.

Her mantra: The dream is free, the hustle is sold separately.

Her stress relievers: Hanging out with my family is a must. I’ve been married seven years and we have a daughter who is two and a half. I also spend a lot of time on Pinterest and doing DIY projects.

Her student loans status: I worked a full time job while going to college. Currently, I am on the same payment plan as everyone else.

Her secret superpower: Balance! From all of my professional experiences to my adventurous life of being married and now a mother to running my non-profit and traveling home to Ghana several times a year and trying my best stay in style.

Her tech fix: I really love my One Drive app as it allows me to see all my documents without being attached to my laptop.

Her beauty must-haves: Concealer, raisin blush by Mac and mascara.

Her power style accessory: A statement necklace.

Her work/life tip: Breathe and prioritize accordingly.

Her theme song: Right now it’s Drake’s “Back to Back.”