Picture of Raja Skogland
Raja Skogland feature on Diversify's Women Who Inspire

Women Who Inspire: Raja Skogland & The Factory

Raja Skogland is a serial-entrepreneur, Head of Fintech at The Factory, Angel Investor, Startup Advisor and Speaker – and these are only some of the hats she wears. She believes that as people, regardless of where we come from, we can re-write our stories and positively accelerate our lives if we have the right tools and resources.

Raja was born in Morocco and moved to Switzerland with her family when she was six years old. After securing her MBA degree, she joined the professional world and secured a progressive role in banking, in Geneva. Her life and experiences in Geneva greatly contradicted the daily experience of many in Morocco, where poverty is rampant.

Some time thereafter, she became disillusioned by the soulless decadence and extravagance that her life in Switzerland afforded. She wanted more – she wanted to feel her heart in the projects she worked on, so she developed an interest in startups and entrepreneurship. And as she started to explore her ideas and meeting other entrepreneurs in Geneva, she knew she was on the right course. However, she made little progress in scaling startup projects she worked on with other entrepreneurs, due to her limited (relevant) experience and network. Coincidentally, around the same time, her family was presented with an opportunity to move to Norway.

Like many of us, Raja moved to Norway from Switzerland because her Norwegian husband received a job offer in Oslo. One thing was clear to her, on her arrival in Oslo, she was not going to join the hustle of job hunting, she was instead, going to start her own company. Little did she know that she would successfully launch multiple ventures. It took hard work, determination, and a can-do attitude. Raja’s climb was not easy, she has endured ‘battle scars’ and learned from them. More importantly, she does not dwell on the negatives – a survival mechanism that has proven to be important and rewarding for Raja’s ascent. There is very little that brings Raja down, instead mishap in whatever forms they manifest, further motivates her to keep her eyes on the ball.

As women in the professional world, we are often told (be it directly or in-directly) to shrink and not take up too much space. We are expected to fit a cookie-cutter picture of womanhood. We often have to ponder our roles as women, mothers, wives, professionals, and negotiate the tradeoffs. Can we truly have it all? Something has to give… or does it? Meeting an unapologetic go-getter like Raja who says “yes, we can” to all the aforementioned, and demands it all and more, is so very inspiring. Yes, indeed! We can have it all!

Raja is a fearless force of nature. Her entrepreneurial prowess is evident. Her voice is strong and unapologetic. Raja is not passive; she takes space and brings her own seat to the table. She is a firm believer in taking an active role in our own lives, as one should never be in the driver seat. She also believes that the limits we have are those we place on ourselves.

These days, Raja works with several startups and established companies in various capacities and travels inter-continentally to participate at relevant events and gatherings. 

Raja is hardwired with a passion to see people succeed. In addition to running her own company, she is supporting entrepreneurs in building theirs. She enjoys her work – which touches the lives of many. When she is not working, Raja enjoys an uninterrupted quality time with her two sons, husband, and family.

See below to read more about Raja.

Please tell us a bit about yourself.”

I was born in Morocco and when I was 6, my family moved to Switzerland. My dad was a diplomat and got a mission in Geneva. After acquiring a Master’s in Business Administration degree, I started working in the banking industry in Geneva. I had great opportunities and was moving fast, with better titles and more money every year. However, my heart was not there. I did not feel that I was achieving anything meaningful, I seriously felt that I was wasting my time and lying to myself by having a high-end lifestyle, spending lots of money on luxurious items, partying, eating at expensive restaurants, and enjoying worldwide travels. My life was far away from other realities. I was living in a bubble, a beautiful fake bubble. Coming from Morocco where poverty is screaming on the street, and going back there each holiday period, was a repetitive reality check for me.

I started to find it unconscionable that we all do not have access to the same opportunities. That some seemingly knew how to succeed with their lives and businesses, while others struggled and couldn’t even dream of a better life. Around the same time, I started to become interested in startups and entrepreneurship, because I wanted to find a solution and learn how to build a company. I started to meet other entrepreneurs, help them with their projects, and started exploring my own ideas. But none of the projects were taking off due to lack of experience and a relevant network. That’s when my husband, who is Norwegian, got a job offer in Norway and asked me what I thought about moving to Norway. My answer was “Let’s go, it can’t be worse than Geneva!”

On your path up, which structures or systems enabled you? “

When we arrived 5 years ago, I was clear on one thing, I was not going to look for a job. I was not interested in going back to banking. I wanted to start my own business and was determined to make it happen. However, I was not choosing the easy road. I just arrived in Norway, I did not know anyone, I did not speak Norwegian (and I am still not fluent) and I did not have any strong entrepreneurial background. 

I quickly realized that I needed to start building my network, meeting people and learning from them. To do so, I rationalized that the quickest and most efficient way to do this was to launch a networking event for entrepreneurs. I created a Facebook page and called it DrinkEntrepreneurs. Thereafter, I created my first event. In the description I mentioned that I was going to host monthly events for entrepreneurs to help them network and create their own opportunities. I started re-sharing the event on relevant Facebook groups for startups. The guest lists started to grow and 2 weeks later 170 people were registered to attend the event. I was mind-blown.  

It occurred to me that this was something I could do for entrepreneurs, who just like me, were out there looking to learn and connect with the right people. This is how my journey started. Nine months later, I was hosting events with over 300 people. Amongst the participants were entrepreneurs, job seekers, journalists, investors and corporates. In 2015, DrinkEntrepreneurs became a name in the startup community and I was now connected and helping hundreds of entrepreneurs build their network and learn from each other. This is how I managed to establish a strong network in a short period of time, build my brand, learn how to grow a community, host events, manage social media pages, and access clients and investment opportunities.

“Why do you enjoy working with startups and why is it important for you to empower entrepreneurs?”

It’s one of my values and life’s mission to enable people with a validated idea to turn it into a profitable, sustainable and scalable business. I want people to have access to the opportunities, knowledge and network they need to succeed and materialize their dreams.  This is why I like to work with entrepreneurs; they are people with big visions and I want to help them bring their visions to life. This is what I have been dedicated to and my work in the last 5 years makes this clear, especially in my launched initiatives such as DrinkEntrepreneursEntrepreneur-toolshub.no, or GrundrAcademy.com. I am motivated by seeing happy people who are succeeding with achieving their dreams. 

“What advice would you give to newly arrived internationals in Norway who need to enter and succeed in the Norwegian job market?”

Build your network, get out there and instead of telling people what you do, SHOW what you do. Create content, host events, launch a website, brand and promote yourself. Since people don’t know you, get them to know you. Since people don’t trust you yet, show them what you can do, so they can start trusting you.

“How did you become the confident and strong woman that you are today?”

Some days I do feel strong and confident, some other days I feel less, and that’s ok. On the days when I don’t feel my best, I try to slow down and listen to the voice within. Over the last 5 years, I have been on a spiritual journey as well. It has had a grounding effect on me – helping me to re-center when I needed to look within for answers and clarity.  I believe that what gives me strength and confidence is clarity when it comes to what I want to achieve and what my purpose is. Practicing mindfulness and meditation have been a powerful tool in my life. 

“You wear many hats – (professional, entrepreneur, Head of Fin-tech @the factory, founder, mother, wife, daughter etc.) – how do you negotiate and navigate it all? Does it get difficult?”

I am Head of Fintech at The Factory, that’s my day job. The rest of the time, I am CEO at my investment & consulting company, Grundr AS.  In that role, I follow the investments I have made and advise the startups who are using Grundracademy, an online course for entrepreneurs that Grundr launched last year. I also give guest lecturers at universities and talks related to entrepreneurship. Being a mum of two young boys on top of all this, is rather challenging. 

Nonetheless, my husband is extremely supportive and understands how important my career is to me; he is very involved and hands-on with our kids. We also have an au-pair who lives with us. Without my husband and our au-pair, I would not be able to be as active as I am with the monthly travels, working late, giving talks and hosting/attending events in the evening. 

During the week, my professional activities are generally my priority, but my weekends are sacred and family oriented. That’s the balance we have found as a family.

“What advice(s) would you give to someone who is struggling and not quite sure on how to get out of the rot?”

  • Keep on believing, always trust yourself
  • Listen to your intuition, to the voice within
  • When in doubt, take a break, take some distance to better reflect
  • BE SOLUTION ORIENTED. Think of solutions instead of complaining, overthinking or focusing on the problems.

“Ideally, what does the next 5 years look like for you?”

I keep on doing what I do, which is to accelerate startups, advise them and invest in them. Hopefully in a few years I am doing it from a sunnier place. South of Europe is calling me!

If you’d like to get in touch with Raja you may reach her via one of her social media/digital platforms: Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Grundr Academy.

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Chisom Udeze

Founder of Diversify, Diversify Consult, HerSpace & The Annual

Chisom is an Economist, a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Strategist, and a 3 times founder of impact driven companies. She has over 14 years of experience working with organizations like the European Commission, The United Nations, ExxonMobil and The Economist Group. Chisom is analytical and a data enthusiast. She is passionate about interrogating the cross-sectoral relationship between society’s inhabitants, resources, production, technology, distribution and output. She efficiently and effectively unlocks complex systems, interprets data, forecasts socio-economic trends and conducts research.

Having lived and worked in 7 countries across 3 continents, she is highly adaptable to different circumstances and people, and thrives in uncertain environments.

As the founder of Diversify and Diversify Consult, Chisom and her team work with companies, institutions, governments and civil society to develop sustainable DEIB strategies and embed measurable diversity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace and society. In addition, in 2022, Diversify launched the Diversify Nordics Summit, the largest conference in the Nordics that gathers cross-sectoral stakeholders to amplify DEIB in the Nordics and beyond.

In 2020, she founded HerSpace, a diverse and inclusive co-creation community for all genders, with particular focus on women and non-binary people. In 2022, HerSpace launched HerTech, Women in Tech incubator, for women-led companies, with a focus on the inclusion of diverse founders. 

Chisom is a thought-leader in DEIB and a passionate advocate for mental health and wellness. She writes often on DEIB and justice related topics, some of her work is published on Forbes.

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