Passion is energy

After speaking at a recent event in London, I had a number of audience members approach me afterwards to comment on how passionately I spoke about women’s entrepreneurship in Africa, and how it made them connect with the work we are doing at Lionesses of Africa. It was a reminder about how as entrepreneurs and founders of our businesses, our ability to communicate our passion for what we do can be a great sales tool. As the old saying goes, “people do business with people”, and often it’s easy to forget that we are our own best spokespeople for our businesses, brands and products. We can connect on an emotional level with our audiences and our customers, making our passion for what we do and what we create, resonate with the people we are trying to reach. As Oprah Winfrey says, “ Passion is energy - feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

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Googled yourself lately?

These days, what’s the first thing people do when trying to find out more about you and your business? They check out your digital presence, of course! So, when was the last time you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and checked out your own digital presence to get that first external experience of you and your brand? We live in a 24/7 digitally connected world, so it’s important to have a strong, authentic digital presence, both personally and for your business, that works for you; that people can connect with and feel like they can trust. It should also be the first place that people can get to learn more about you and your business before they make that all important face to face connection. So if you haven’t checked out your own social media pages or your personal or corporate websites recently, then now could be a good time. After all, you never know if that next potential big client is evaluating your digital presence right now!

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Let’s get our stories working for us

Wherever I travel in the world, to host or speak at events to raise awareness of Africa’s women entrepreneurs and to open up business opportunities for our Lionesses of Africa network, I always get the same feedback from audiences. They are truly inspired by the personal stories we share of women entrepreneurs in our community from all corners of the African continent who are building great, often impact-driven businesses. These stories resonate and make a real, meaningful connection with audiences who are listening and reading. As a result, it creates greater interest from global market decision-makers who may want to explore business opportunities with more women entrepreneurs on the continent. So let’s get our stories working for us, let’s share them with the world and get people talking positively about Africa’s future economic growth, driven by entrepreneurial women game-changers.

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An eco-friendly ethos is good for business

I find myself these days being increasingly drawn to businesses and brands that share my concerns for the environment and who find innovative ways to deal with waste management, for example. Take a look at our article on ecopreneurs here. And, it seems I am not alone. I am fascinated to see how many businesses and brands are responding to customer sentiment and concerns by taking a more conscious and minimalist approach to they way they produce their goods and run their operations. The term business minimalism is growing, with countries like Canada taking the lead and showing how the anti-waste movement is influencing all aspects of business. We can all do more in our own businesses to be resourceful and less wasteful. For example, cutting out plastic bags, using recycled products, being more rigorous with our own recycling, and importantly communicating to our customers about our ethos. This approach is not just good for the environment, it’s also good for business.

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The power of working with great partners

At Lionesses of Africa, we believe that as women entrepreneurs who share, inspire and connect, we are stronger together, that’s the ethos of our community. But I am also a firm believer that we are stronger together if we work with like-minded visionaries, companies and organizations who understand what we are trying to build and achieve, and who want to be part of our journey. We need to constantly connect and work with our global impact partners to fund the development of our products and programmes, and to scale their distribution and impact across the continent. We collaborate with influential Impact Partners who share our commitment and vision for advancing Africa’s women entrepreneurs, and we see our Impact Partners as change-makers. They put their money where their mouths are and become our genuine partners, sharing our mission to build meaningful impact for the most underserved women entrepreneurs on the planet. Working with our Impact Partners, we can practically support the development of a new generation of women entrepreneurs who can become the change agents Africa so badly needs. So to all our valued Impact Partners, a big thank you from all of us at Lionesses of Africa, your support helps us to make the difference.

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Building lifelong friendships is part of the entrepreneurial journey

Have you noticed that when women entrepreneurs meet and support one another, great things happen - business is done, collaborations start, and mutually beneficial networks are opened. But it’s so much more than that. I have noticed through our Lionesses of Africa network and at our regular Lioness Lean In events around the continent that not just professional relationships grow, but also long-lasting friendships are formed. And that has certainly been my personal experience as an entrepreneur. I am a great believer in the power of women entrepreneurs to go much further in life and in business when they have great support systems and networks, and strong friendships to support them through the good times and the bad. So in addition to the business benefits that can be gained from building working relationships with your fellow women entrepreneurs with whom you share so much in common, the added bonus is that they can translate into great friendships! What could be better!

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A little solo time can be a good thing

Do you often find in this mad life as an entrepreneur that you sometimes just need that quiet time and space to reflect, to review your progress, to think about new ideas and different ways of doing things? We get so caught up with the day-to-day grind of running our businesses that it’s often difficult to see the woods for the trees. As an entrepreneur, a little solo time is an essential part of your working week, but you need to make a conscious decision to build it into your schedule, otherwise you end up pushing it out of the way to make room for other things. And yet these periods of solitude can be good for the business, and for your sanity. Personally, I find in those moments of complete solitude is when I can get the most done and be at my creative best. My mind is quiet, new ideas have the space to flow, and I feel re-energised. So, if you feel that your business is running you instead of the other way around, do yourself a favour and find that all important solo time to stop and get some quiet perspective each day. 

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If you are time-pressed, focus on what you do best

As women entrepreneurs, many of us share the perpetual challenge of how to manage our time better, as we try and juggle all the various aspects of our lives simultaneously. And often we feel severely time pressed and this can have serious implications on our business and our personal productivity. But there are steps that can be taken to prevent problems with productivity occurring too frequently. A simple solution is to focus on what we do best and acknowledge that we really don’t need to try and do everything ourselves. It’s about knowing when to delegate and what to delegate to others, freeing ourselves up to focus on those things that really do need our personal attention and skills, and that ultimately we do best. There is a great quote by Virgin Group Founder, Richard Branson, who is the ultimate delegator in business. He says, “You must understand the art of delegation. I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back. The company must be set up so it can continue without me.” So, if you are feeling as though you are constantly battling time in your life and business, make a conscious decision to focus on what you do best, and delegate the rest.

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Africa can benefit hugely from the Diaspora’s entrepreneur smarts

When I travel around the African continent visiting our Lionesses communities in each country, I often speak about how women entrepreneurs can leverage the power of the network to open up business and collaborative opportunities in different countries. But just looking at our Lionesses of Africa network and seeing the increasingly large numbers of users in countries and cities around the world, it becomes clear that women entrepreneurs in the Diaspora are committed to contributing to the continent’s success. And there is an important role they can play. Meeting and talking to many highly experienced and knowledgeable women from the African Diaspora has opened up opportunities for collaboration, for business, for investment and mentoring. Such connections emphasize the important role women entrepreneurs in the African Diaspora can play in bringing their global business smarts to the table and helping to shape the future of the continent through great collaboration, business building, and information sharing. That's why we are delighted to be in London this morning for our first Lioness Lean In event in the city, showcasing these amazing women business builders.

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Delivering great content to inspire and motivate our community

You all know the saying, ‘Content is King’, and in a world where we are bombarded with information and messages 24/7, it’s becoming even more important as entrepreneurs to connect with our customers and audiences through great content. I have to say, at a personal level, that the Lionesses of Africa community has been built on a foundation of creating great daily content to inspire women entrepreneurs. It’s what we do every day, and as anyone who writes knows, it’s hard and time consuming, but absolutely vital to our community. And I have to say that the reason our content resonates with the women entrepreneurs in our network is that we understand the power of shared stories, wisdom and experience to help others on their own journeys. It’s why we have a great and constantly growing team of passionate, committed content contributors who share their own insights and stories each day. So this morning, I would like to say a big thank you to all our guest bloggers, our radio content creators, and our event content producers who help us to create powerful daily content that inspires and motivates our community each day. Your words and insights make a difference and you are all true Lionesses of Africa! 

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Support a fellow woman entrepreneur by buying from her

I have many conversations with people around the world who ask how best they can help women entrepreneurs on the African continent to grow, and there is a very simple and practical answer - buy from them. And that goes for women entrepreneurs themselves. If we all make conscious purchasing decisions to buy from other women entrepreneurs in our network, to procure essential services and products from a fellow woman entrepreneur, then we are helping them to grow and they in turn are more likely to support others in the same way. It’s all about investing in each other through sales, and as a result, growing women-owned businesses and brands that can make a real difference in the marketplace. Something to think about the next time you need to make that purchase, in your personal or your business life.

Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie

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Let’s grow our spirit of collaboration and supportiveness

I was speaking at an event recently in Europe and one of the attendees came to chat to me during the networking session and commented on a remark I had made about how I am constantly blown away by the spirit of collaboration and supportiveness in the Lionesses of Africa community. She seemed genuinely surprised and said that her experience of women entrepreneur networks was one of female competitiveness, where no-one really likes the idea of sharing in case someone borrows an idea or concept and gets to market with it first. I had to share with her that my experience of women’s entrepreneurship in Africa and in the Lionesses community is very different, and ultimately supportive. I am a great believer in the idea that we are far more powerful if we go together on our entrepreneurial journeys, and if we harness our collective energy, knowledge and expertise to ensure we all fulfill our business potential. So let’s continue to raise each other up as women entrepreneurs here in Africa and show the rest of the world the positive things that can happen when women entrepreneurs support and empower one another.

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Is it time to call in some help?

As an entrepreneur, if you have reached the point where you’re stressed by constantly having to multitask and keep all the balls in the air; or it feels like the days are just getting shorter and you can never get everything done; or you feel like you work constantly but never get any further; or you are struggling to grow your business because you are bogged down by too many admin tasks; well, it could be time to call in some help. And, before you yell out, “I’m a startup I can’t afford to hire people yet”, it’s worth remembering that help can come in many different forms. It could be a smart business decision to outsource certain parts of your business that require specialist knowledge or expertise, leaving you to focus on what you are really good at. Perhaps you need to outsource your sales, or certain parts of your admin process, or your marketing? In today’s Gig Economy, it’s easier than ever to outsource key tasks to specialist freelancers who can provide that additional help just when you need it, removing some of the stress in the process. So perhaps it’s not a case of saying “I can’t afford help” but in fact acknowledging that the business can’t afford not to bring in that external help when it needs it most.

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Make that first impression count

You know that old saying, ‘first impressions count’ - well, it’s still true today, especially in business. I was reminded of this again at a recent conference where I met with a large number of women entrepreneurs in a networking session. I was struck by just how many of those women didn’t take the opportunity to make a memorable, lasting impression when meeting with their fellow conference goers. Firstly, many of them didn’t have business cards to exchange, and secondly, few of them had their ‘business pitch’ at the ready. Studies show that first impressions are made within the first 17 seconds of meeting someone new. This means that before we even get sufficient time to demonstrate our abilities, the first impression is already cast. In life and in business, we often only get one chance to make a great impression on the people we meet, we need to make it count.

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Get to know the market before you make the leap

Let’s be honest, it’s exciting but often slightly daunting when you try and break into a new global market with your business. And it can seem literally a world away from what you know and are familiar with. So it’s always best to take baby steps in getting to know that market at a personal relationship level before you make the leap with both feet. Going global means recognizing and getting to know different business cultures and ways of doing things; it means getting to know people on the ground who can make your experience easier and much more enjoyable; and it means doing your market homework well in advance of any visit. It’s one of the reasons we originally launched our Lioness Lean In events across the African continent and our Start-up Night Africa! events around the world. They provide a women entrepreneur a friendly, supportive and safe community in which to put a toe into the water in each marketplace and build relationships before you go out there on your own. Check out which cities we will be visiting next here.

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Give your business a health check

Have you noticed that when it comes to looking after our health, we don’t think twice about visiting our doctors or wellness clinics and getting our regular health checks, just to make sure that everything is in good shape. So why don’t we take the same approach when it comes to looking after the health of our businesses on a regular basis? A good regular business health check means you can stay on top of what is and isn’t working, what the biggest challenges are, where the majority of income streams are coming from, and what is working best with your marketing and communications activity. It all helps to ensure you are getting the most from the business. The other benefit from this approach is that you can also have a ‘fun’ check, seeing where you got the most enjoyment from the business in any given month - after all, we all embark on this crazy entrepreneurial life not just to make money and make a difference, but also to enjoy the lifestyle and freedom that comes with it.

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Start that conversation today

I was at a networking event in Europe recently and was chatting to a number of women entrepreneurs in our Diaspora community about the challenge of opening up conversations with successful women globally who they admired but didn’t know. The world of LinkedIn and other platforms has been successful in appearing to bring such people closer to us, and in the world of entrepreneurship, we often experience things in common that make shared conversations much more of a possibility. Yet often, women entrepreneurs are hesitant in making contact and inviting conversations on areas of mutual interest. What I’ve found over the years as an entrepreneur is that often it’s a case of just doing it - picking up a phone, sending an email, connecting on LinkedIn, writing an article that piques their interest, attending an event where they are speaking and then just connecting on a human level, one entrepreneur to another. After all, the one thing we share in common is our personal entrepreneurial journeys - we might just be at different stages of those journeys, but we share an interesting road travelled. That’s a starting point for a conversation. 

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Celebrating a new wave of talented African women designers

There is nothing quite as exciting as seeing traditional African design, indigenous raw materials, and ancient craftsmanship methods being reinterpreted in a fresh, contemporary way by a new wave of talented women designers inspired by their cultural heritage. Our Image of the Day today features one such entrepreneur, Eva Sonaike, a great example of a highly creative entrepreneur, inspired by Africa and its design ethos. There is renewed interest around the world in finding fresh, edgy contemporary design that is influenced by the strong African design tradition, but taken to a whole new level. This has created an unprecedented opportunity for a new generation of young women designers to emerge on the scene, keen to celebrate their African heritage but with design ideas that are anything but traditional. Look out for our regular feature articles each day at Lionesses of Africa that showcase the work of some of the most creative women entrepreneurs from across the Continent and the Diaspora who we are tipping to be tomorrow’s design success stories.

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More of Africa’s women entrepreneurs need to get their products into global markets

I have gained some really interesting insights these past weeks being back in London, and probably the one that sticks with me most is the need for Africa’s women entrepreneurs to think more globally about their businesses. I have seen at first hand how excited UK investors and retailers are about the exciting new wave of contemporary African women-owned brands emerging from the continent with world-class products that also have a powerful back-story. But we are not seeing enough of these businesses and brands breaking through. The opportunities are undoubtedly there in Europe, the US, and other key global markets as the interest in African design and creativity continues to grow. But more women entrepreneurs on the continent need to think about building businesses and creating products that are geared towards global markets in order to tap into this exciting marketing opportunity.

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Being your own boss

Ask many entrepreneurs why they made the choice to build a business instead of working for someone else and chances are they will tell you it’s because they wanted to be their own boss. And that’s fine, it’s a great motivation to go out and fulfill the dream of working for yourself. But the reality is that being in business means that you still have to deal with the challenges of working with clients who sometimes make you feel like they are bosses in the workplace. Deliverables and deadlines still have to be met, products and services have to be created and targets reported on, senior executives who are paying your bills to answer to. The trick is to ensure that you are the boss of your business from the outset, setting the ground-rules when you engage with clients so that they are a win for both parties. As a business owner, there will always be people you need to answer to, but there is a way of managing that process so that it works for you.

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