Founder Profile: Danqing Zhu (WG20)
MEET DANQING ZHU, Transforming the Supply Chain in Africa
“People people people. People are everything in a startup.”
Danqing Zhu (WG20) is the Founder of WINGI, a supply chain platform that helps African businesses source products and grow more efficiently. When businesses use the WINGI platform, they can access more, cheaper and better products.. That way, entrepreneurs can focus on their sales and front-end business processes.
Prior to attending WEMBA, Danqing had extensive experience in international development, international business, and startups. She had worked at the World Bank Group supporting innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem building in Africa and Asia. There she realized that sourcing is a universal challenge across Sub-Saharan Africa — a huge hassle for small businesses, especially for women entrepreneurs who have limited access to capital or networks.
Danqing started to conceptualize a cross border sourcing platform tailored for African small businesses. She wanted to leverage technologies to digitize the manual/fragmented sourcing process, and unlock access to products that would be better, cheaper, and more diverse.
The WINGI platform offers thousands of products from verified manufacturers. WINGI offers support throughout the process by communicating directly with manufacturers, helping with quality control, and checking on the production process and doing the actual shipping and custom clearance.
Since launching in March 2021, WINGI has onboarded over 200 SMEs, with 85% owned by female entrepreneurs. We love this quote from a new customer, Caro, one of the wholesalers in Nairobi, RNG Plaza who said, ‘‘Kuanzia leo nimepata njia ya Kuomoka,’’ meaning, today marks the beginning of prosperity in my business as well as attainment of financial freedom.
Tell us a bit about your company
Building frictionless sourcing platform to power African small businesses
What inspired you to start your business — what opportunity in the market are you seeking to address?
Sourcing products is a hassle for small businesses, especially for women entrepreneurs who have limited access to capital or networks. We are leveraging technologies to digitize the manual and fragmented sourcing process, and unlocking access to better, cheaper, and variety products for African small businesses.
What is it about your personal background, experience, or perspective that fuels your passion for this venture?
Prior to WEMBA, I worked at the World Bank Group supporting innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem building in Africa and Asia. I realized that sourcing is a universal challenge across Sub-Saharan Africa. And the continent’s consumer economy is mostly fueled by SMEs. Since then I started to conceptualize a cross border sourcing platform tailored for African small businesses, and Wharton education has equipped me with business tools and network to launch the venture.
What are one or two of the biggest wins or most encouraging experiences you’ve had so far?
We have onboarded over 200 SMEs, 85% of them are owned by women entrepreneurs. We are also launching our mobile app, which has a “Sell Now Buy Later” function to allow social commerce entrepreneurs to pre-sell on social media to reduce their inventory risk.
What has been one or two of your biggest learnings so far?
- People people people. People are everything in a startup.
- Apply ruthless prioritization in all decisions
What is an obstacle that you are grappling with as you continue to build this venture?
Recruiting top notch talents in a nascent market with limited resources
What surprises have you encountered as an entrepreneur? Something out of left field?
There are some people out there willing to help you to pursue your dream without expecting any returns.
What has been the most rewarding thing about starting your own business?
Building a team; providing career opportunities to youth in the African markets
How can the WAFFA community help you?
Advisors on business model, pricing, product and fundraising. Investor connections with VCs and impact funds interested in emerging market opportunities.