"It's better to be a lioness for a day than a sheep all your life!"
The Edit Daily and Melanie Today are the personal blogs of Lionesses of Africa's founder and ceo, Melanie Hawken. They feature community news, opinion, and commentary on a wide range of topics of interest to today’s women entrepreneurs on the African continent. They are your daily must-reads for relevant, thought-provoking entrepreneur news, with the occasional irreverent moment thrown in for good measure.
You would never set out on a journey to an unknown destination without a map, so why would you set out to build a business without a roadmap to take you to your end goal? When you fail to plan an efficient route to realize your long-term business ambitions, chances are it will take a lot longer to get there. So to ensure your business heads in the right direction with a minimum of detours along the way, it’s essential that you put a strategic roadmap in place, reviewing it frequently. A well-designed road map is like a GPS for your business. It keeps everyone moving in the right direction, at the right time, focused on the right objectives, with a clearly articulated vision. And it’s not just big established businesses that need such a roadmap; every business needs a route to success. So make your strategic roadmap an integral part of the way you run your business, it can be one of the most powerful tools you have to keep you and your team focused on the end goal and heading in the right direction.
They say, “time is money”, but in your business day how often do you actually track the amount of time you spend on key tasks, and importantly, are you spending your valuable time on the things that actually bring in the revenues? Like many entrepreneurs, you might be surprised at just where your time is actually focused and it might not be in the right place. So how do you start making your time work better for you? Here are a few tips to ensure you maximize your valuable time in the business. Start by monitoring a week’s worth of activities, track time spent on each activity each day, and the return on investment of that time on each activity. Incorporate a digital time-tracking tool into the business so that everyone sets time completion goals for each activity and records it against agreed deadlines. The daily and weekly digital reports will highlight where improvements can be made or where certain activities need to be addressed differently. Knowledge is power and by incorporating a time-tracking system into the business, it’s possible to make time work better for you.
Most people think about hiring a Virtual Assistant when they feel overwhelmed by the routine tasks that stop them from doing what they really want or need to do in their businesses. And that can definitely be one of the signs that it may be time to hire a VA. However, another sign is when you find yourself spending a lot of time on tasks that don’t necessarily make any money for the business. It could be basic administrative tasks, or responding to emails, handling social media or updating the website. The bottom line is that if you’re spending more time on these small tasks than actually prospecting clients or working on projects that do bring in the money, then the balance of time and effort for return on investment isn’t right. So why not take a look at your business and make an honest assessment of what you’re spending your time on and what the value proposition is of that time spent. Ask yourself how many of these routine tasks could be handled by someone else. It may be time to start looking for a virtual assistant.
In the two diverse worlds of sport and business, the saying, ‘being on top of your game’ means you recognize the value of what you are doing, you have the edge, and you are determined to stay ahead of any competition. The trick is to make sure you don’t fall behind once you have gained this edge. One of the best ways to stay on top of any situation is to keep learning - whether that’s learning new skills, new business practices, new manufacturing techniques. It’s about welcoming change, embracing new ways of doing things, bringing new technology into the business, and accepting new information and using it effectively. By its very nature, business is always changing and successful entrepreneurs know that learning to adapt to those changes is key. Having the ability to quickly learn and apply those learnings directly into the business practically translates into a more flexible and agile business, better success down the road, and an improved ability to cope with the obstacles life throws in your path. As you learn, and as you apply the lessons in your life and business, you can stay on top of your game.
Women entrepreneurs often spend too much time worrying about the competition, and not enough time focusing on what makes their business more attractive to customers in the marketplace. It’s a common trait, but one that needs to be avoided. Competition is a reality, but how you approach it is what sets you apart in business. Celebrate what makes you and your business unique, and remember that no other company or entrepreneur has your story, so leverage that fact with your customers. Acknowledge that we live and operate in a new economy, one that celebrates sharing and collaboration, so perhaps instead of seeing other entrepreneurs as competition, explore whether there is the opportunity to share expertise and collaborate to win new business. And importantly, stop comparing your efforts and results with those of other entrepreneurs. Everyone has a different business building journey they are on, so learn from others, celebrate and be inspired by other entrepreneurs’ success, and focus on your own journey. It’s a mind-shift that is needed, but one that is worth the effort.
Every small business has probably experienced that feeling of being overwhelmed when trying to compete with bigger businesses. Yet often it is precisely being small and agile that wins the race. So how do you position your unique brand and business to win customers away from the bigger guys in the market? It starts with specialization, building a reputation for providing a product or a service that is unique or boutique, or that does things differently. Secondly, it’s all about the personal touch, having the opportunity to deliver a more personalized service, one that treats customers as individuals and creates a positive experience. Thirdly, communication is key, using that insight and knowledge of each individual customer to build up a regular touchpoint that in turn builds brand loyalty. Fourthly, smaller businesses are more agile, better able to respond to market conditions or customer needs, producing products or services that resonate. Ultimately, small businesses are at the heart of communities and can deliver unique customer experiences that big businesses cannot, so stop worrying about the bigger competitors and simply focus on what you do best.
Are you in charge of your daily schedule, or is it in charge of you? If you are one of those fortunate people who is naturally organized around your schedule and you make it work for you, then that’s great. However, there are many entrepreneurs out there who struggle daily with their schedule. So here are five ways to help you get to grips with it, and fast! Firstly, shorten your daily to-do list - if it’s too long, chances are things will never get done and that just adds to the daily stress. Secondly identify your priorities for the day and make sure you tackle those first. Thirdly, if meetings take up the majority of your day, something’s probably wrong. Determine which people need a face to face meeting, and which ones can be dealt with online, ultimately keeping all meetings short and to the point. Fourthly, take control of your email, use an email scheduling tool, and set aside designated times to deal with your messages. Finally use a calendar application, making your scheduling much more efficient. This should help you to reclaim your time and maximize your productivity.
We all know the saying, “love what you do and you will never work a day in your life” and this especially rings true for many passion driven entrepreneurs. But the reality is that the day to day grind of running a business can be just that in the early start up phase, a grind! You will be required to tackle endless, seemingly menial tasks that drain your creative energy, such as managing your customer lists, or doing your accounts, or marketing to find new clients. You will often find that there are just not enough hours in the day to complete everything you have to do. At times like these, you have to keep that entrepreneurial fire burning, focus on the passion you have for what you do, and keep your eye on the end goal you are trying to achieve. Yes, there will be days when you have to do things that don’t inspire you, but the trick is to find that fire and approach any task as though it’s the most exciting thing in the world. That fire will drive your business and it will pay off in the long run.
Have you noticed how much broadcast and social media talk, and how many newspaper and magazine column inches, are dedicated to talking about innovative technologies like AI and blockchain. And there’s no doubt that these have a lot of potential. But there’s a tendency to forget that the biggest trend in business is on how we understand and treat our customers and ensure we continue to meet their needs. New UK research indicates that consumers place a significant value on human interaction in the customer services process, with 87% reporting they tend to stay more loyal and increase their business with companies that offer a real person to talk to at the right stage of their customer journey. So while all this talk about innovation is exciting, there is no substitute for world-class customer service delivered by people who really care about the customer experience, who are responsive and open to listening to what customers really need. It’s why there’s nothing quite like the human touch.
As every start-up knows, in the early days you have to wear many hats and fulfill many roles, it’s just part of the journey. But not every entrepreneur is a natural marketeer, or a talented designer and content creator, or a detail oriented accountant or business strategist. And, taking on a specialist workforce during the start-up phase may simply not be an option. So it makes sense to work with freelancers who bring their skills and expertise to the table and undertake individual projects or key tasks when needed. The advantages of this approach can be seen on both sides. The freelancer gets the opportunity to build a multiple client and work portfolio, and the entrepreneur finds a solution to dealing with non-core work demands as they happen, freeing up essential time to focus on the things that matter most in the business. Time is a precious commodity to any entrepreneur, so it makes sense to ensure that it is maximized by outsourcing to specialist freelancers when needed.
Co-working is rapidly becoming the norm in the world of start-up businesses. And it’s interesting to see how big business is also starting to tap into this way of thinking, with many of them setting up satellite offices for their innovation or intrapreneur teams in trendy co-working spots. As a result, co-working spaces are not only providing a sense of community for the independent entrepreneur who is looking to be part of a like-minded community, but also an inspirational environment for employees who want to think more like entrepreneurs. It makes for interesting and often dynamic spaces. Because they are often accessible 24/7 and people can come and go as they please, these collaborative spaces encourage interaction on what can often be an isolating entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial journey. Co-working is now a part of our entrepreneurial lives and thinking, and whilst it may not suit everyone, that sense of community created in these dedicated spaces is definitely a draw card for many. That’s why many businesses are now incorporating co-working into their strategies, seeing the value that can be generated from the experience.
There’s a big difference between starting a business and then successfully running and growing that business over time. It can be a hard slog with continual stress, pressure to effectively manage finances through the inevitable peaks and troughs, managing and developing your employees, retaining your existing clients and finding new ones, and still finding the time to innovate and develop new products and services along the way. It can be a lot to deal with, and unlike corporate employees, you can’t simply leave it all behind at the office each day when you are an entrepreneur. Stress management amongst entrepreneurs is a continual challenge. That’s why you need a really effective support network of fellow entrepreneurs, friends, family and people who can be there when you need them, to offer advice, a shoulder to cry on, a familiar face to have a moan to when the going gets tough, and a cheerleading brigade when you have something to celebrate.
It’s said that a business is only as good as its people, and in a startup, everything revolves around people. In those early days of building your business and developing your products and services, it’s essential to build the right team, and often that’s the hardest part of the journey. Make the wrong hiring or partnering decisions, and it can cost the business quickly, but get it right and build a team that works and thinks well together, and it can be the fastest way to success. This is a fact that most entrepreneurs underestimate. A dream team is made up of people who bring the right combination of skills and experience to the table, but most importantly, the right collaborative mindset and a winning mentality. It’s not just about bringing in as many people as possible in the early days in order to speed up the process, it’s all about getting the right people to the table and into the team. South African entrepreneur, Emma Kaye, founder of Bozza, has some great insights on the subject. She says, “You can see your company turn in a heartbeat from just a couple of bad people. So the most powerful thing for me is choose your team very carefully because your team is you. Always employ people who are far better than you at what you do, and empower them.”
It’s often said that there is never a perfect time to start a business and make the bold move into the world of entrepreneurship, and that’s particularly the case when you are creating something new and innovative. But talk to any uber successful entrepreneur about what it took to galvanize them into action and start their businesses, and they will tell you that the prospect of never having tried was far more regrettable than the prospect of giving it their all and failing. Ultimately, that was the key factor compelling them to take the leap. We all know that there are no guarantees when starting a business, and that failure is often part of the journey, but surely it’s better to have tried and failed than to live with the regret of never having started. As Ellen DeGeneres so aptly says, “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important. It's failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.”
An overlooked benefit of women’s entrepreneurship to their economies is their natural strength as skills coaches and job trainers. Women are not only creating much needed new jobs through their businesses, but are also heavily invested in training up their staff. It is often said that the best kind of training is that received on the job, and it is here that women entrepreneurs are making an incredible contribution to training and skills development in their communities. It stands to reason that having created a job the entrepreneur has every reason to ensure the new hire is able to do that job productively and to the very best of their abilities. So whether it is a new sales person, a new machinist, or a new admin assistant, women entrepreneurs are not only creating the new job, but are also training up the new hire. And, because these women know people are their most valuable asset, they are more committed to training people than just about anyone else. In a nutshell, women entrepreneurs across Africa are not only job creators, they’re also great job trainers. It’s time policy makers start to recognize this fact and start to better support women entrepreneurs.
What makes some businesses succeed and others fail? Well, according to the CB Insights Survey, the top reason for failure is creating products or services that consumers don’t actually want or need. Tackling problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was cited as the No. 1 reason for failure in 42% of cases amongst the companies surveyed. Product "pricing/cost issues" and "user-unfriendly products" were near the top as well. Businesses fail when they are not solving a market problem and when they don’t understand what consumers need and want. It sounds simple, but if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. Success comes from solving a large enough problem, need or pain point that can be addressed with a scalable solution. As author and business guru, Seth Godin says, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”
For women entrepreneurs in Africa, there are few things that will help you build traction in your business and support your growth aspirations faster than creating a strong network. It’s essential to have a great network of fellow women entrepreneurs for a number of reasons. Firstly, it can be isolating building a business, particularly if you are a solopreneur. Having access to a network that comes with a variety of specialist resources can increase your access to information, knowledge, expertise, advice, and importantly, access to opportunities to promote your business and brand to others. Secondly, if you work from home or are based in a remote area without access to face-to-face networks, then tapping into virtual online business networks means you can still connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and raise your business profile to potential clients and business partners. Another great way to build networks is to simply participate in specialist forums, e-mail discussion lists, and chat rooms that relate to your business or the type of customer you want to attract. Building a strong business network is key to success. As Robert Kiyosaki says, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work.”
Many successful entrepreneurs will tell you that their businesses have grown and been sustainable over the years because they have taken conscious decisions to live frugally in the startup years and reinvest back into the businesses. It’s a wise strategy to adopt, particularly because so often one of the biggest challenges facing fledgling businesses is managing cashflows at critical times, and ensuring there is always a source of critical capital available when the business needs it most. But the temptation is always there in any startup business to take cash out in the moment, instead of reinvesting it for the longer term. So take some advice on this subject from one of the most successful women entrepreneurs on the African continent, Divine Ndhlukula, founder of Securico Security Services in Zimbabwe, one of the country’s most successful businesses. She says, “Don't be tempted to take cash out of your early-stage startup venture....when a bit of cash starts rolling in, have the discipline to know that it is not your money yet. It is still the business’s money because you want the business to grow. So for you to sustain it and enjoy phenomenal growth, that anyone going into business wants, you need to reinvest all the little bits of cash that you get then you can be assured that your business will grow.” Great words of advice!
Have you noticed a particular trait that is shared amongst the most successful entrepreneurs? They seem to display an inner restlessness, a desire to never stay still, never sitting back and just enjoying their success. They seem to always be on a mission to strive to improve, or create the next innovation, or find another solution to a key challenge. Over the years, this restlessness has always propelled entrepreneurship and innovation forward. It usually reflects a need to make a difference or an impact. Often this restlessness is personally motivated, with entrepreneurs getting frustrated with the status quo, and indeed, there are usually very personal and passion driven stories behind many successful social or business ventures. So if you feel you are getting stuck in your business or in your life, and feel a little restless, then harness that inner restless dissatisfaction and those feelings and use them to propel your business and your life in a new direction.
Building trust in your business, particularly amongst your employees, is a critical foundation stone for success. As the founder of your business, it’s so important that those around you have trust in you, your judgement, and your leadership. When your employees, your shareholders, your suppliers and your customers trust you, they are more likely to engage with the business. And that’s where transparency comes in - if as the founder of the business you are transparent in your leadership and your decision-making, then that in turn will inspire those around you to adopt your values in their own working lives. It’s really all a matter of practicing what you preach. It sends a message that openness, sharing, and collaboration are all core values in your business and ones that are adopted from the top down in the business. So if you want everyone to join you on this entrepreneurial journey and fully engage in all aspects of the business, then transparency is key to building that all essential trust that is needed for success.
We all know that every business starts with a vision and a mission, it helps to create a solid foundation for the company and give direction to all those who have a vested interest in its success. But as an entrepreneur, do you have your personal mission statement to guide you on this crazy business and life journey you are on? Just as any business puts in place a strong mission statement to keep everyone focused on the end game, it also makes sense to do the same thing in your personal life. So what are the benefits of crafting your own personal mission statement? Firstly, it provides direction and motivation. Secondly, it keeps your eye on the ball during the craziest of times. Thirdly, it forces you to be honest with yourself and encourages you to ask difficult questions that are essential for the business. And finally, it reminds you each day of why you became an entrepreneur in the first place. Just as an example, Oprah Winfrey articulated her own personal mission statement as, “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.” So, have you written your own personal mission statement yet?
The role that ecommerce plays in international business and commerce continues to grow, both in numbers and in importance, with total worldwide ecommerce sales expected to reach $4.5 trillion by 2021.The fact that ecommerce continues to grow at this rate suggest that online business represents exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs to tap into growing global markets. Despite the battle for market share amongst existing big online retailers, the African continent still has an attractive consumer base waiting to be unlocked. Commenting on whether e-commerce is going to be profitable in Africa, given the continent’s socio-economic challenges, Emilian Popa, CEO of Groupon explained, “There are 175 million online shopping users today and there will be 600 million users in 2025. Internet penetration is 16% today and will be 50% in 2025. There are 57 million people who have smartphones in Africa and there will be 360 million in 2025. There are clear opportunities.” The bottom line is that ecommerce represents an exciting mechanism for Africa’s entrepreneurs to get their unique products and brands out into new and exciting global markets, and to do good business. The planning needs to start now!
In an ultra competitive business environment where the challenges for women entrepreneurs trying to break through into key markets still exist, collaboration could be the key to generating stronger business outcomes. Collaborative, win-win partnerships with like-minded women can open up new business opportunities, strengthen business offerings, put additional power behind pitch situations, and ultimately speed up growth. When thinking about embarking on any partnership arrangement, many women entrepreneurs voice concerns about trust - they worry about potential partners possibly stealing their ideas, poaching their customers and their employees. But ultimately, successful partnerships are built on trust and loyalty, and it should be remembered that behind every successful company and entrepreneur, there is a network of supporters, strategic partners, and mentors. They appreciate the power of partnerships to bring something fresh to the business table, to fill the gaps where key skills and experience are needed. That’s why women entrepreneurs should perhaps look to complementary partnerships being the smart business decision to make.
Look at any successful business that resonates with you and the chances are that you connect with it because you appreciate and understand its core values. It’s something to think about with your own business. When a customer makes that all important decision to buy from you, they’re endorsing your own values and those associated with your brand. That’s why it’s important to define the core values of your business right from day one. Customers need to know what you stand for as a business, what’s important to you, how you operate in the marketplace, how your brand is viewed by others. Your core values help to guide and safeguard your reputation, and help you to build a successful business that reflects who you want to be, and where you want to go in life. They also play a pivotal role in helping you to make big decisions. So, if you haven’t spent time defining the core values that are at the heart of your business, then you could be undermining your business and brand in the eyes of your customers and your employees.
If your business is operating in a busy or congested marketplace, how do you find a way of differentiating yourself and your brand from everyone else around you? How do you make that all important connection with customers when they are being bombarded with rival brands, products and messaging 24/7? No matter what product or service you want to provide, it’s all about doing your homework, studying the market and whose playing in it, watching to see what brands and products are connecting with customers, and then importantly finding practical ways to differentiate your offering. You can do this in various, equally effective and impactful ways - personalize your products and take a more bespoke approach; change your look and feel to reflect a completely different and more cutting edge brand persona; change your customer service approach to offer something that none of your competitors are doing. How you differentiate is up to you, but at the end of the day it’s all about standing out in the marketplace and getting those potential customers to notice you and your brand, and importantly make that purchase.
It may not be something that immediately comes to mind, but humility is a core component of entrepreneurial thinking - that’s according to a study undertaken by the University of Washington Foster School of Business. It drives even the boldest business builders to challenge their existing thought processes and ways of doing things and recognize their potential for continual improvement. The study identifies three essential aspects to humility that can enhance your effectiveness as a leader and an entrepreneur. Firstly, humility means having the ability to listen, to actively solicit feedback from customers, colleagues, and community. As a result this boosts employee morale, improves your product offerings and develops customer loyalty. Secondly, humility means never assuming you’re right and being open to test your assumptions to gain genuine insight into what’s working -- and what’s not. Thirdly, humility means admitting mistakes and not seeing them as a sign of weakness but instead a sign of being human. Humility may not obviously be the most glamorous signifier of success, but it’s an essential part of being an entrepreneur.
There is a great sporting quote that goes ‘there is no I in team’, extolling the virtues of building teams that are stronger when everyone unites together to achieve one goal. And in the world of entrepreneurship, there is something to be said for taking a team approach to building a successful business. As women entrepreneurs, we know that we cannot be good at every aspect of our businesses. We are not all natural accountants, or sales people, or human resource managers, but we have to try and be all those things in the early days of business building. Taking a team approach to filling the gaps could be the way forward. By identifying your weaknesses, you can seek out other women entrepreneurs to collaborate with or to provide their specialist expertise where you find it lacking in your own business. By teaming up with other like-minded women, sharing knowledge, and exchanging strengths, you will help to keep your overhead costs down, improve your own efficiencies, and ensure long-term success.
A study published by McKinsey and the LeanIn Organisation found that typically women have smaller networks than their male counterparts, and this could be impacting on their ability to tap into new business opportunities more regularly. The study found that there were two reasons for this apparent imbalance. Firstly, women are more reticent about building extensive networks because they have concerns about achieving work-life balance, and see belonging to and building too many networks as negatively impacting on their abilities to achieve this balance. Secondly, women see networking in the way that their male counterparts do it as being transactional and not genuine, with everyone looking to build a relationship in order to get the next deal, whereas women are interested in building genuine relationships with like-minded people. The downside is that because women don’t view networking in the transactional way that men do, they don’t make as many connections. Getting the balance right between these two approaches is perhaps the key to making networking count.
There is not a single entrepreneur out there who has not needed help or advice at some point on their journey, so why is it that all too often, women entrepreneurs find it tough to ask for that help. My biggest piece of advice: Don’t be afraid to ask, after all, what’s the worst that can happen? Just someone saying no, or not right now! Remember that everyone who has achieved success in business or the corporate world will probably have had to face challenges and hurdles along the way, it’s inevitable. So they will understand what you are going through, and importantly, how to provide some much needed advice or information to help you on your journey. So don’t be afraid to reach out to someone more experienced, to request a chat over coffee, or to ask for advice on how to deal with a particular challenge in your business. There is a wealth of experience and great insights out there, so get over any hesitation you might have and just ask. You might be pleasantly surprised by the response you get!
As an entrepreneur, if you have ever felt that your business is beginning to shape your identity because your whole life revolves around it, then you are not alone. It seems like more and more of us are dedicating almost all our waking hours to work on our businesses, putting other things such as hobbies, recreational activities, personal relationships, healthy eating and even sleep to one side. This approach inevitably means we become one dimensional, and this isn’t healthy for us, the business, or those around us. It also increases the chances of burn-out. So, how do you reclaim your identity and maintain a healthy sense of self outside of your business? Well, it all starts with your schedule. Make a conscious effort to book time in the diary for you and your family and friends; times for doing the things you enjoy, whether it’s exercise, reading a book, watching a movie, or meditating; set boundaries - times and places where everything except business is talked about; and build personal relationships that are based on you and your interests, not your business. Here’s to reclaiming your identity so that you and your business ultimately benefit.
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.
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.
I was sitting in one of my favourite cafes recently, enjoying a cup of tea and working on my laptop, watching the world go by. I noticed the cafe owner doing something she does very regularly - sitting down at one of the tables in the courtyard, experiencing customer service at first hand. In a relaxed way, she was able to observe how her fellow customers experienced her cafe’s service, their comfort levels, the way the food and drinks were served, the interaction between staff and customers, the overall ambience she was creating. It was her way of putting herself into her customer’s shoes, giving her the insights she needed to find ways of improving the overall customer experience in her cafe. It is precisely this attention to detail and this care for the customer that separates out the good businesses from the great businesses.
I was chatting last week 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.
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.
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie
Happy Valentine’s Day Lionesses! I hope that wherever you are in the world today, you are receiving expressions of love from those special people in your life. It’s always that day of the year when you see red hearts and roses in every retail shop window and on every online store, to mark the day. So today we are celebrating all those women entrepreneurs across the African continent who create special treats for this special day.
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie
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.
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.
I have to say, I love nothing more than seeing women entrepreneurs in action, passionately pitching their businesses to potential investors, selling their products to interested customers, or nailing that all important, life-changing deal. It’s great to see! After all, business is about selling, in all its forms, and some people are naturally better at selling and feel more comfortable with it than others. I was chatting to an amazing young woman entrepreneur recently at her studio and she was talking about how she loves the creative process in her business, developing the products and getting them launch ready, but literally dreads the sales process. Yet in business, especially when you are a startup, it’s a skill that’s essential to develop, and importantly, to perfect. So the bottom line is, we need to find a way to fall in love with the art of selling and not just creating, as sales are the lifeblood of our businesses.
Have you stopped to think about how powerful the act of kindness is in our lives? We know how it makes us feel on a personal level when someone is kind and thoughtful. We feel good, our mood changes, we see the world and other people in a more positive light. It is perhaps the most underrated “super power” that we have as human beings. And I think it’s time to see more kindness shown to each other in our business lives. It costs nothing to say thank you to someone who has provided a great service, or has referred a potential customer, or has just been there when you needed advice or information. There is a great saying that goes, “People always remember how you make them feel. And when you make them feel appreciated they remember.” So let’s start seeing kindness as an essential part of our daily entrepreneurial and personal lives, and really acknowledge it as the superpower it is.