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STEPHANIE OBI: Knowledge is the New Gold

It is almost impossible to think online course creation and sales  in   Africa without thinking ‘Stephanie Obi’. The author of Amazon best-seller ‘Knowledge is the New Gold’ is one of Africa’s leading online course creation strategists helping entrepreneurs to monetise their knowledge on the internet.

The enigma behind online education platform, ‘Trayny’, Obi’s most recent contribution to the tech world is TrainQuarters, a tech startup which makes it easy for people across the globe to seamlessly create courses, receive payments and build websites. The First Class graduate of Computer Science, who holds MBA from the Lagos Business School, is a highly sought after speaker at conferences and events both locally and internationally.

Congratulations on the launch of TrainQuarters; what distinguishes it from other e-learning platforms?

TrainQuarters is the first all-in-one e-learning platform in Africa that enables any individual or organisations to create, host and sell own online courses.

It’s different from Coursera because Coursera partners with top universities and organisations to create online courses while TrainQuarters empowers individuals in Africa who want to teach people in Africa how to actually create their own online courses.

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TrainQuarters is also empowering organisations to create their own customised e-learning courses which are specific to their organisations. For instance, they can create their own online on-boarding programs, employee training programs, partner training programs and even training programs that they can sell to customers. The difference now is, instead of only offering physical training programs which are limited and take a lot of time, they can now offer these trainings online with the help of TrainQuarters.

When you initially set out to assist Africans in creating online courses, your main focus was on women entrepreneurs; why the focus on only women?

I saw myself in the women I was working with. They were going through the same challenges I went through a few years ago, and I felt so drawn to help them. I also noticed that women struggle with the idea of monetising their knowledge, using technology and being visible online. I knew that if I could help them get over these fears, they would be able to earn an extra $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 and more, which would impact the lives of their families and communities greatly.

This experience however opened my eyes to the huge education gap we have on the continent. Schools are not adequately preparing graduates on the specific skills they need to succeed in our market; many entrepreneurs don’t have the skills they need to succeed in business; the online courses we have access to, are not localised; and many viewers struggle to apply the lessons in our market. The way to solve this problem is to help more Africans create online courses so that collectively, we can close the education gap. This is why I’m now moving beyond women to also work with men and even organisations.

How do you think including/excluding male entrepreneurs on the TrainQuarters platform makes any difference?

TrainQuarters is a tech platform that solves a problem that men and women in Africa face. The global online education industry was worth $107 billion in 2015 and is estimated to grow to $325 by 2025. But up till now, Africa has been completely cut out of this market because we did not have the tech platforms that make it easy for people in the continent to create and sell online courses, and also receive their payments.

The TrainQuarters is referred to as an all-in-one platform; how is it so?

Over the last three years, I have been working with hundreds of entrepreneurs to help them create and sell online courses, so, I knew what their greatest pain points were, with regards to tech. I saw them struggle to build websites, host their online courses, grow their email lists and receive payments for their courses. So, we decided to build an all-in-one platform that would make it easy for anyone who was trying to launch an online course.

Before TrainQuarters, you had to use one software to build your website, another software to host your online course, another to build your email list, another to receive payment, etc. But with TrainQuarters, we have put everything together in one place and we have made it very easy to use so that people who are not techies can successfully launch their courses and earn an extra stream of income.

What courses are accepted on the TrainQuarters platform?

The beauty of online courses is that everything can be taught. As long as the topic is legal and you can find people who are interested in learning that topic.

Individuals have created online courses on topics like how to run a profitable manufacturing business, how to sew clothes that fit, how to design engaging powerpoint presentations, how to bake cakes, how to design websites, how to pass IELTS exams, how to speak French, how to start a Montessori school, how to style your natural hair, etc.

Organisations can also create online courses focused on on-boarding new recruits, training employees, training partners, training vendors, and even training customers if they offer trainings as a product.

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What are your intentions for the TrainQuarters platform in say, five years from now?

We see TrainQuarters as a major force revolutionising the education space in Africa. We see it enabling thousands of people to teach what they know and get financially rewarded for it, so that they can continue teaching; empowering thousands of Africans with the knowledge they need to succeed in their lives and businesses; enabling organisations to upskill their staff so that they can improve the quality of their workforce which will in turn improve their service and productivity; and enabling NGOs to teach children and adults in underserved regions through our provision of quality educational resources via technology.

We are very passionate about Sustainable Development Goal-4, which advocates for inclusive, equitable quality education, promoting lifelong opportunities for all.

How does TrainQuarters contribute to the economic growth of Nigeria and Africa at large?

There are two major things it will do. First of all, it will create more wealth in the economy as it is empowering people to easily earn $1,000, $10,000, $100,000 and even more, from their knowledge. It will also contribute to solving the education gap we have in our country by providing a platform for alternative learning opportunities.

Looking back, what exact moment would you say was the defining point for you?

I’ve had several. My first defining moment would have to be when I created my first online course. It was really an experiment. I used to enjoy making accessories and it had become a side business that had earned me money for ten years. I decided to teach other ladies how to start their own accessories business and I held a workshop that nobody attended. In a bid to reach more customers, I started marketing my workshop online and people from different cities started asking me to travel to their city to host the workshop.

I could not travel to all these cities and so I decided to launch an online course so everyone could easily have access to my video trainings. I was shocked when the first person paid for it. To date, this course has been taken by women in over nine countries.

I continued to create more online courses and after a while, people started asking me to show them how to create and sell online courses. To date, I’ve trained over 300 people in my coaching program but I found that they were struggling with the technical aspect of launching an online course. Hence I decided to bridge that gap with the establishment of TrainQuarters.

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