by Lizl Naude, founder of Lily Loompa
In the wide world of entrepreneurship, I am a mere baby still. I have been running my business for just over two years and it has been a great blessing! I have been fortunate to meet a lot of great women along the way, and through our interactions, they all have inspired me.
The topic I touch on might be very controversial but I have to ask! Am I right in saying that women have a hard time to work together, generally speaking? We are usually very quick to judge each other, and jealousy has a way of creeping in. We compare ourselves to each other and our levels of success, which is totally unfair on us, as well as our counterparts. Am I right?
In September last year, I made a conscious decision to counter my own immature behaviour regarding this approach. It is not easy, but I have been consciously trying to celebrate, rather than criticize. I even posted a video on Social Media about it, as I really became a struggle for me. If you’re interested, here is the link.
Since then, I am proud to say, I have made huge strides. And through that, I have made even more meaningful relationships and friends…with women! And I have learned so much from them. I will give you a few examples:
I had the privilege to travel to Egypt in December and be part of the inaugural #SheDesigns expo at the Africa Forum 2018. The Egyptian Presidency selected and invited 57 women designers across Africa, and I am proud to say I was also chosen. I had no idea what to expect, but from the pre-event communication it was clear, some big designers and brands would attend the expo. First thoughts that came to mind…were that of intimidation and nervousness. I had only seen these women on Social Media and I had my own perception of them.
From the get go, I jumped out of my shell and started making acquaintances and introducing myself…and let me mention that this is something I learned at the Lionesses of Africa events in Johannesburg! Anyway, the atmosphere was full of excitement and expectation. We were all there for the same reason, to promote our businesses and brands, but I got so much more. Without dragging the story, here’s a practical example of what I’ve learned.
It was the day before the expo and we were given the day off to explore the city of Sharm El Sheikh. Bear in mind, we were all scheduled to fly out the day after the expo, so we only had the one free day. But before we could go off, the organisers told us we could set up and get our stands ready. However, because of logistical delivery challenges, most of us ended up waiting for our stock the whole day at the venue. As the day continued, a little frustration and impatience built up, as I really wanted to see the city. But conversations were had, and new friendships were made. At the end of the day, we couldn’t set up, and had to evacuate the building as a scheduled security check was going to happen. Some of us made our way to the bus stop on the sidewalk and while we waited, we were having a light banter and Adele Dejak was her usual funny self. She relayed a recent disappointment she had with a previous staff member who ended up stealing from her. I listened intently as she gave practical tips on how she would prevent it in the future.
The mood was still jovial, when suddenly I felt regret that we missed a day of sightseeing. I sighed out loud: “Guys, I feel I have wasted a day!” As some of us contemplated this, a few seconds later, my new-found, soft-spoken friend, Margaux Wong quietly said: “No Lizl, we haven’t wasted a day, we spent the day building relationships and getting to know each other!”
It was a light-bulb moment! She was absolutely right! In an instant I changed my mind set. It was clear that this trip was not just about building business.
Margaux taught me to always be optimistic. She taught me not to focus on the negative but to always see the bright side of things.
Adele Dejak inspired me to always have a laugh! She is a formidable force and spreads a little love wherever she goes!
From Mother-and-daughter team, Mapholo and Masechaba of the Ledikana brand, I learned that family can work together and build something great.
Anita Quansah, from Anita Quansah Jewellery always had a positive word for everyone and she is so talented! And her beautiful smile lights up a room!
Thato Tau and Tutuwaa Ahwoi from Nokware Skincare taught me about youthful exuberance, and to take every opportunity and run with it!
In life and in business, we always have a choice as to how we engage with people. I have learned that each of us have our own journey and we should not feel any less if the next person is more ahead than us. You are being unnecessarily hard and unfair on yourself, and if you don’t reach out, you could be robbing yourself of a great friendship! Stop seeing each other as the competition. Even if you do not collaborate with each other, do learn from each other. Today, choose to open yourself to new acquaintances and relationships! Try and keep the relationships alive because at the end of the day, it will be these small intimate moments that we share, that make life meaningful and beautiful!
And the story also ends well! I used the evenings to sightsee the city and made even more friends!
Lizl Naude is the founder of Lilly Loompa in South Africa, a company that creates beautiful and usable products made with recycled material. Lilly Loompa's “Rubbish Range” is the result of Lizl's craving to deliver pieces that are completely "green". Lizl is a self-taught designer and initially started designing and making furniture because she couldn’t afford to buy new pieces to furnish her home. She started to scout and source for budget material and quickly realised that most people discard of very usable materials. The company manufactures a variety of products, from storage holders, lamps, to dinner table accessories, among others. All materials are carefully sourced from waste and sustainably reimagined as beautiful, yet purposeful products. Eco-friendly, handcrafted and 100% South African, each Lilly Loompa piece, once trash, is now a meaningful piece of treasure.
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