Help another woman entrepreneur today

It is always gratifying seeing great women business builders succeed, it sends a clear message to the world that we’ve got this, that we are creating impact driven businesses that matter. But it’s even better when we see those women, and so many other women entrepreneurs, paying it forward and making a real difference in the lives of others. If there is one thing that everyone realizes, it’s that being an entrepreneur is tough enough without having to compete with each other, as is so often the case in the corporate world. Instead, by paying it forward and helping other women entrepreneurs on their journeys, these women gain mutual respect and propel their own businesses forward and others too. So today, why not take the same approach? Help another woman entrepreneur out by referring a business opportunity, or offering to pool resources and collaborate, or offering mentoring advice to deal with a particular challenge being experienced. It will make you feel good, but importantly, it will make a big difference to the life of a fellow entrepreneur.

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Own your achievements

Have you noticed how many women entrepreneurs find it difficult speaking about their own accomplishments in business and in life, honestly and with pride? Or taking a compliment about the business they have built or the products and innovations they have created? And on a personal level, I have to admit that for many years I was one of those people. Often, women feel uncomfortable talking about their achievements and may be perceived as bragging or being too boastful. But the one thing I have learned over the years is that your achievements and accomplishments are some of the biggest selling points your business has, and it’s a necessity for a successful woman business owner or entrepreneur to talk about them in order to connect with potential audiences and customers. So the bottom line is that it’s okay to toot your own horn occasionally, and to own your achievements.

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Pay it forward and help other women entrepreneurs

For me, there is nothing quite as gratifying as seeing great women business builders succeed, it sends a clear message to the world that we’ve got this, that we are creating impact driven businesses that matter. But it’s even better when we see those women, and so many other women entrepreneurs, paying it forward and making a real difference in the lives of others. If there is one thing that everyone realizes, it’s that being an entrepreneur is tough enough without having to compete with each other, as is so often the case in the corporate world. Instead, by paying it forward and helping other women entrepreneurs on their journeys, these women gain mutual respect and propel their own businesses forward and others too. So today, why not take the same approach? Help another woman entrepreneur out by referring a business opportunity, or offering to pool resources and collaborate, or offering mentoring advice to deal with a particular challenge being experienced. It will make you feel good, but importantly, it will make a big difference to the life of a fellow entrepreneur.

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Focus on what excites you

After speaking at a recent event, 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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We all need relevant role models to inspire us

I was reading an interesting article this week about how women around the world are less likely than their male counterparts to become entrepreneurs because they simply don’t have enough role models around them. And it’s not a case of being able to see superstar women role models to look up to, but instead ‘everyday women role models’ that they can really feel a connection with and aspire to be like. It’s why we share the inspirational start-up stories of ordinary women entrepreneurs doing extraordinary things from our Lionesses of Africa community each and every day - to show what’s possible. The article went on to suggest that women need to see on a regular basis people just like themselves successfully building businesses and brands, creating great products and services, and become fulfilled entrepreneurs, as it shapes their view of what is possible. The bottom line is that we need more everyday, successful women entrepreneur role-models in our lives to encourage us on our own journeys. 

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Seeing time differently

As entrepreneurs, if we sat down to think about how much time we actually spend looking ahead, planning, visualizing where we want to be in our businesses 2, 5 and 10 years into the future, we would realize we are missing something pretty fundamental. We are not actually living in the moment! We can plan all we like, but if we don’t take the time to enjoy the small things that make life so special; or to celebrate each small (or big) win that happens in our businesses; or to just have fun with like-minded people on this crazy business building journey we are on, then we are not really living our best lives. It’s about being present, taking the time to enjoy the journey instead of constantly looking at the destination ahead. It’s about seeing time differently, as a series of moments to be relished and enjoyed, rather than stressful reminders of how much there is still to be done. Life is precious, let’s live more in the moment and really enjoy it!

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Share your startup story

I never tire of reading and sharing each day the truly inspirational stories of women entrepreneurs in the Lionesses of Africa network who are building great businesses and brands across the African continent. Everyone’s story is very personal to them, but their experiences (good and bad), personal insights, challenges and solutions when shared, can benefit all of us as entrepreneurs. Building a business requires us to be open to learning new things constantly, and therefore being able to share with others who are undertaking similar entrepreneurial journeys can be invaluable. It also helps us to know that we are not alone. So this month, I encourage all of you to share your startup story and connect with the 800,000+ other women entrepreneurs in the Lionesses of Africa network who are just like you. That’s the power of sharing!

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There is no perfect time to start your business

Every week, I receive messages from aspirant women entrepreneurs across the African continent who are looking for advice on how and when to start a business and make the move from a ‘safe’ corporate career. My advice is often the same - there is no perfect time to start a business, often it’s a case of making the first brave move and just doing it. However, I am very conscious of the need to manage risk, as here in Africa many women are the main breadwinners in their families, and giving up a stable corporate career with a regular salary for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship is simply not an option. But that doesn’t mean you can’t start a business anyway. Many women entrepreneurs around the world dip a toe into the business building world with a side-gig, working in corporate by day and starting a business in spare time, during evenings and weekends. It’s hard work but possible, and if you want it badly enough, you make it work. After all, life’s just too short to wait for the right time!

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Develop an authentic digital presence

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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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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Reach out to fellow women entrepreneurs to build your support systems and networks

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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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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You only get one chance to make a first impression

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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We can make a meaningful difference by building more sustainable businesses

I was chatting recently with a wonderful woman entrepreneur, Hazel Aggrey-Orleans, founder of Eki Orleans, who is passionate about building an eco-conscious luxury fashion business, one that treads lightly on the world we live in, whilst at the same time making a profit. She is a great example of what is becoming a growing attitude and approach in the world of entrepreneurship - businesses that combine passion with profit,   together with an ethical and eco-friendly way of producing the products they sell. As the world is battling major environmental challenges, more and more businesses are realizing that they need to be part of the eco-solution, not the problem. It’s great to see progressive, passionate women entrepreneurs from across the African continent looking to build businesses that are focused on ethical production methods, natural materials, waste reduction, and recycled packaging. We can all make a contribution in our own way to building more sustainable businesses.

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Let’s acknowledge and celebrate each others success

I don’t know about you, but personally I love hearing about women entrepreneurs from across the African continent and the Diaspora who are successful. Those women who are building strong businesses, game-changing brands, world class products, and differentiated service offerings that win them fans both at home and globally. We all need inspiration and let’s face it, there is nothing quite as motivational than seeing our fellow women entrepreneurs making it in the world of business - it spurs us on to greater heights on our own journeys and shows us that it’s possible. I often speak about how important it is to acknowledge and recognize each other, to celebrate our successes together, to congratulate each other when we launch new innovations, products and services into the marketplace. As a growing community of women entrepreneurs in Africa, we are far more powerful when we genuinely support one another - after all, celebrating others’ success is good for everyone. 

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It’s good to have a routine

I don’t know about you, but I find comfort in certain routines, both in my personal and my business life. I like knowing that my early morning routine is the same, no matter where I am travelling in the world. It sets the right tone and gives order for my day ahead. That sense of routine is like an anchor that keeps me grounded, no matter how busy or chaotic my life might get. And trust me, when I am travelling across different time zones and keeping up with a ridiculously busy schedule in different cities and countries, knowing I have a routine to stick to makes life so much easier to manage. I’m not on my own in this respect - my love of a good early morning routine is shared by such well known entrepreneurs as Jessica Dilullo Herrin, founder of online fashion merchandise store Stella & Dot, who gets her day started by caring for her mind, body and soul with meditation and exercise; or Huffington Post founder, Ariana Huffington who sets her intentions for the day with yoga, meditation, and Bulletproof coffee before starting work. The bottom line is that whatever works for you, it’s good to have a routine.

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Challenges are part of the journey

There is a great quote from the inspirational soleRebels founder, Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, who said, “You’re not in a dynamic business if you’re not experiencing challenges.” How true! This quote came back to me as I was chatting to two wonderful women entrepreneurs in my network, both in the retail sector, but one a start-up and the other the creator of a mature, market leading company. Both were in the midst of taking their businesses to the next level, expanding their product offerings and trying to break into new markets. And, both were experiencing significant challenges along the way, notably in the access to funding and access to global markets environments. Often we may be tempted to think that the longer you have been around as an entrepreneur, and the more businesses you have built, the easier it gets and the fewer challenges there are to be overcome. These conversations were a great reminder that when we build dynamic businesses there will always be challenges, it’s part of the journey.

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Women entrepreneurs are in it for the long haul

So here’s an interesting piece of research information to think about as you start your day. It appears that the number of male and female entrepreneurs who say they are interested in growing their businesses over the next five years is almost identical, at 82% and 83% respectively. However, the similarity ends when asking both men and women about they type of business growth they envision. Research suggests that women entrepreneurs are more likely to take the long-term view of achieving that growth, by typically reinvesting business profits back into the business in order to generate steady and profitable growth. They are also driven to build legacy businesses that can be passed through the generations, supporting both family and communities for the long-term. Their male counterparts on the other hand are more likely to aim for a faster growth trajectory, exploring ideas and opportunities for equity investment, but ultimately a quicker exit and less of a focus on leaving a legacy. 

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Finding your inner resolve

Life as an entrepreneur has its ups and downs, and there’s a reason why we often refer to it as a roller-coaster. There are times when you experience real “highs”, when everything seems to be going right and everything seems possible, and then there are those inevitable low times that inevitably knock your confidence. One day you sign a big contract you have been working on getting for months, you read a great article about your company in a leading magazine, and life seems great. The very next day your new prospective investor backs away from the deal, and you lose your biggest client to a competitor. But the test of a successful entrepreneur is how to ride these crazy ups and downs without giving up. The path to success is never a straight line. The trick is to enjoy the highs when they happen, but keep your eyes on the end goal and find your inner resolve when life throws you that curve ball and you are back on that rollercoaster again. 

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