OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Pitch Black has announced its top five finalists for the business competition put on by Midlands African Chamber.
Designed to promote entrepreneurship, the competition features local minority-owned businesses competing for a chance to win $10,000.
Here on KMTV, we'll be featuring each of those five finalists.
The owner of e-commerce company, Topkifer, didn't originally set out to start a business.
3 News Now reporter and anchor Alyssa Curtis spoke with him about how he's bringing people together through a sort of "Amazon for Africa."
"I moved out of Togo which is where I'm originally from, about seven years ago, around the same time my mom was leaving, we left behind my grandmother and since then we have always missed them."
After leaving Togo and arriving in the U.S., Essohanam Robert Ekpai was missing his grandmother. The pandemic made it more important to connect with her but it was difficult to do so.
"Having video calls is the best way to do so. So we decided to try to get her a good phone we could have video calls on, but rather quickly we were stuck in our tracks," said Ekpai.
Ekpai and his family realized there were hurdles like pricing and even access to a phone. If he was experiencing that problem, he thought others might be too.
"We just wanted to solve a problem. Here we have easy access to those things. We started solving the problem and quickly, amongst talking to sellers, we started to understand this is something that can really benefit from there. We needed to learn how to build a business," said Ekpai.
Now, Topkifer is an online platform connecting sellers in Africa to buyers in Africa and around the world. E-commerce on a single streamlined platform is new to Africa, Ekpai says.
"We're talking electronics, fashion, anything any other person would want as well. And so easily for any African immigrant like myself to buy something for our families back home or people living there can use it to do direct, online shopping," said Epkai.
Many of the sellers they onboard to Topkifer are through word of mouth and door-to-door knocks. If they win the prize from Pitch Black, Topkifer would use it for marketing.
You can find the online store at topkifer.com.
Pitch Black's final presentations will be held on Saturday, August 6.
To learn more about the competition visit the Pitch Black website.