"It's better to be a lioness for a day than a sheep all your life!"
The Edit is the blog of LoA founder and editor-in-chief, Melanie Hawken. Featuring opinion, commentary and analysis on a wide range of topics of interest to today’s women entrepreneurs on the African continent. It’s your daily must-read for relevant, thought-provoking entrepreneur news, with the occasional irreverent moment thrown in for good measure.
The chances are as entrepreneurs we have all been in the position where as ourbusinesses start to grow we have to bring new people on board to expand our teams and bring in new specialist areas of expertise. Although growth is a good thing, it brings with it a new set of challenges. As business owners, we are responsible for overseeing all aspects of the day to day operations, but there are only so many hours in the day and it’s a case of prioritizing where our time is best spent. It’s not possible to manage everything and everyone at the same time, so the trick is to quickly learn the art of delegation - not always easy when you have moved from startup solopreneur to growing business owner. Here are 5 steps to take that will help you to delegate so you can focus on the things that you do best and that make the biggest contribution to the continuing growth of the business. Firstly, take a deep breath and let go of the controls for your people management to a dedicated, trusted person in your team. Secondly, develop a really effective framework for project and people management. Thirdly, become a better communicator, ensuring that everyone is informed, engaged and onboard. Fourthly, ensure everyone in the business knows and understands who is responsible for what in terms of roles and responsibilities. Finally, breathe easier knowing that essential tasks are getting done more efficiently without you micromanaging all the time.
Do you remember the days when businesses would typically set their long term goals at 5 and 10 year intervals? These days, the business environment is changing so fast and so dynamically that long-term goals are being measured in months, not years, in order to stay fresh, relevant and on trend. And who knows how your business might look in 5 or 10 years’ time - probably very different from the vision you have for it today. So a different approach is needed to setting your business vantage points, to keep you moving in the right direction and letting you stay agile enough to adapt along the way. It’s still okay to have a big sweeping vision of where you would like to see the business in 10 years’ time, but your long term goals are likely to be around 24 to 26 months in reality. And your immediate goals determining your day to day game plan will have a vantage point of just three months. At the end of every business quarter it means you can review your progress, reset your focus if necessary, and adapt to meet new challenges and take advantage of opportunities. So, just how close are your business vantage points?
Have you noticed how much time is spent by big corporates talking about innovation and how to disrupt existing marketplaces with new products and new ways of doing things? And how often do you see those same big companies collaborating with lean, edgy startups who have game-changing new ideas or who challenge existing ways of thinking and doing? Well, look out for a new revolution, one that is being led by social entrepreneurs who are looking to make big changes happen for society as a whole by collaborating with the world’s big corporates. Over the past few years, a new generation of impact driven social entrepreneurs have demonstrated that the innovative solutions to some of the biggest socio-economic challenges facing the world today won’t come from individual big companies or organizations. They will be found through smart collaboration, with social entrepreneurs challenging big companies to look differently at how they make a big societal impact, going beyond corporate social responsibility or philanthropy and instead creating win-win partnerships that make a difference and make good business sense.
If you are a tennis fan, you may have been watching the amazing turn of events at Indian Wells this week as Roger Federer, the veteran of the game, claimed a record-tying fifth title at the tournament, lifting the trophy to the astonishment of players and commentators alike. This latest win continued his career resurgence following a six months break for knee surgery last year. Hereturned from that surgery to win his 18th Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in January. With this latest triumph, Federer became only the second man to win five Indian Wells titles, and at 35 years old, Federer is the oldest ATP player to win one of the elite Masters titles. So what’s the secret? Persistence - he has the ability keep going because he loves the game, to keep going no matter what the challenges, physical or mental, until he achieves that important end goal. A lack of persistence or “giving up too soon” is one of the most common reasons for failure in any endeavor - in sport or in business. Things will inevitably get tough, it’s part of the journey, but keeping going, persisting in the face of adversity, is what gets you to the finish line - just ask another tennis legend, Bjorn Borg. He said: “My greatest point is my persistence. I never give up in a match. However down I am, I fight until the last ball. My list of matches shows that I have turned a great many so-called irretrievable defeats into victories.”
Talk to highly successful entrepreneurs about what has brought them success in business and in life and the chances are they will tell you it was less about luck and more about sheer hard work and determination. Developing a strong work ethic is key. As Thomas Jefferson once said: “I'm a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.” So if you want to develop a strong work ethic that can really reap rewards on your business journey, then there are a few things you can do to put the right foundations in place. Firstly, be present in the business - you need to be in touch with everything that is happening and lead by example; secondly be professional at all times, in the way you conduct yourself and your business; thirdly set your goals and action plans for each day, and deliver; fourthly, dedicate yourself to getting the job done right, put the hours in until it’s done; fifthly, be tenacious and keep reaching for those goals and opportunities and track your progress constantly; and finally, take personal responsibility for the actions and outcomes in the business. As Oprah Winfrey says: “The big secret in life is that there is no secret. Whatever your goal, you can get there if you are willing to work hard.”
Many entrepreneurs set out with aspirations to build a big business or brand, one that can make its presence felt in a particular market or get the world talking. And many would also like to see things happen quickly. But look at all those companies that today have achieved that sort of status and the chances are good that it took time first and foremost, patience and a good dose of self belief. So how do you give yourself and your company the best chance of building a business that can go the distance, one that can grow and become a force to be reckoned with in the future? Firstly, grow at an organic rate, at a pace that is manageable and allows you the time to get your products and services fine tuned. Secondly, put the necessary business foundations and people in place that can grow with you. Thirdly, keep asking yourself the question, are you solving a problem by doing things differently, by offering intrinsic value? Fourthly, leverage your strengths, stay authentic and don’t try and copy what others are doing. Finally, remember that there are no hard and fast rules, you need to take your time, be patient, work hard and get the basics right - the rest will follow.
Over the past few years, there’s been an emerging trend across the African continent which has seen the rise of exciting new digitally-native, vertical brands - otherwise known as vertical commerce. It’s helping to reshape the retail landscape on the continent. Vertical commerce brands are companies that are innovative from the beginning. They are born online, created by entrepreneurs who are taking a completely different look at the way products and services are sold, and turning their existing and traditional retail models on their heads. They are creating new ways of selling everyday items to customers and making the whole consumer experience trendy and ultimately cool. They’re developing powerful digital, direct-to-consumer relationships which are not only good for the customer because it keeps prices low, but it also improves retail margins. Not only that, but these digitally-native, vertical brands are capturing the imagination and the investment of the traditional big players. A great example of this is Dollar Shave Club, a wildly successful vertical commerce brand that was acquired recently by Unilver for one billion dollars. So who will be driving Africa’s next big digitally-native, vertical brand?
An interesting debate took place this past weekend in London at the annual Women of the World Festival on the subject of how tech can address gender equality challenges. One of the key voices at the event was Senegalese techpreneur Marieme Jamme, creator of ImatheCODE, the organization on a mission to teach one million women to code by 2030. She firmly believes that the way to gender equality lies in tech, saying: “It is a global problem, not just an African problem. In fact, Africa is soon going to be leading the way. Africa is resolving its own issues...I see women in Senegal coding e-commerce sites. Our girls are making apps, we can’t keep up with them in science and literacy.” Tom Ilube, founder of the African Science Academy in Ghana for talented young women across Africa and another panelist speaking alongside Marieme Jamme had an interesting take on the challenge to empower young women on the continent, saying: “There are 250 million women under the age of 15 on the African continent. Statistically, this means there’s an estimated 10,000 young women in Africa with Einstein levels of intelligence who are not currently being given the opportunities to showcase their talent. We’re trying to find them. We want to help them on their way to the next stage.” The take-out from this discussion is that Africa has talented young women waiting to fulfill their potential, and with the right access to opportunity, education and training, they can be the next entrepreneurial tech game changers who can change the economic future of the continent.
Are you one of those solopreneurs who can literally work anywhere - a true digital nomad? Is your perfect work environment dictated by the interesting people around you, or the best free wifi connection, or perhaps by the quality of the coffee? The fact is that more and more startup entrepreneurs are working in a truly mobile environment, not stuck in an office from 9 to 5 - in fact, that very thought would probably strike a note of dread in the heart of most solopreneurs. Yet to be at our most productive, it’s important to create the right environment that inspires us, helps us to focus, and makes us feel good. And that interpretation is different for everyone. There is the home office, which has its pros and cons - on the pro side, it’s cheaper than rented office space, you have hot and cold running food on tap, and you could work in your PJs if you wanted to. The cons - it can be lonely, you can easily blur the lines between homelife and worklife, and you can end up working 24/7 without breaks. There’s the co-work space option - they can be vibrant places to work and to meet fellow entrepreneurs, but can be distracting if you are not used to working surrounded by noise and lots of people. Then, there’s the coffee shop entrepreneurial culture - free wifi, great cappuccinos on tap and lots of people to meet, but the downside of perhaps too many distractions and excuses to socialize more than working. Whatever your choice of working environment as a solopreneur, the trick is to find what works for you.
Often, big challenges need innovative solutions, and that is certainly the case with the business funding landscape for women entrepreneurs in Africa. So, it was interesting to read of a highly innovative approach to solving this challenge in Ethiopia, where the country has seen a dramatic transformation of the funding environment for women entrepreneurs in the country. Drawing on International Development Association (IDA) funding and expertise since 2012, Ethiopia has loaned over $2 million to growth-oriented women entrepreneurs per month, and supporting over 10,000 women with loans and business training to date. In tandem, several hundred women participate in the project’s cutting-edge entrepreneurship training program each month, which draws lessons from modern cognitive psychology and equips participants not only with business skills in the traditional sense, but also with the ability to ‘think like an entrepreneur.’ In addition, a partnership between the World Bank Group’s Finance & Markets Global Practice and the Gender Innovation Lab, The Women Entrepreneurship Development Project (WEDP) is introducing innovative credit technologies to lenders, such as psychometric tests which can predict the ability of a borrower to repay a loan and reduce the need for collateral. This technology allows entrepreneurs who do not have collateral, a common challenge for many women entrepreneurs in Africa, to take an interactive test on a tablet computer which predicts their likelihood to repay. If they score highly, they can borrow without traditional collateral. The current rate of repayment of loans by women entrepreneurs going through this approach stands at 99.4%. So it seems that taking an innovative approach to providing finance for Africa’s women entrepreneurs is paying off.
In a new report, the 2016 Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE), released by MasterCard this week, it was reported that 34.8 percent of businesses in Uganda are owned by women, making the East African nation the top performing country in Africa in terms of women entrepreneurship. Uganda also has the highest percentage (90.5%) of female entrepreneurs in the world borrowing and saving money to start a business, which is significantly higher than the 52.4 percent average of other low-to-lower-middle-income countries. The report suggests that women in Uganda are as likely as men to start a business activity, showing the cultural and social acceptance of women as entrepreneurs is a key factor in the country’s high women business ownership representation. What is most inspiring is that the average entrepreneur in the country is a millennial, between 18 and 34 years old, with at least secondary education and operating predominantly in the customer service sector. Although support for entrepreneurs in the country as a whole is poor, organizations such as UWEAL (Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Ltd) have been highly supportive to women owned businesses. The MasterCard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) is aimed at helping governments and other relevant bodies better understand and identify ways of bridging the gender gap among business owners in different economies. The American financial services corporation examined 54 countries around the globe, including Botswana, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Uganda.
As many women entrepreneurs will tell you, selling is not always something that comes naturally and can be a constant challenge. It therefore makes sense to look at creative and effective ways of getting customers to connect with you and your brand in other ways instead of having to continually go out there looking for them. That’s where having a great content marketing strategy comes in. By creating relevant, interesting and engaging content and publishing it on your website, social and mobile media platforms, you can do just that. A proactive SEO and content marketing campaign with innovative, entertaining and informative content will help you to drive your customers to your brand, hold them in conversations, and encourage them to buy your products and services. Not only that, but as you build a reputation for creating great content that customers actually want to engage in, they will bring their friends and family with them, extending your marketing reach in the process. So if you are not a natural salesperson but you still need to engage those customers, get your content marketing strategy working for you.
Have you noticed how some of the most successful entrepreneurs around the world just seem to exude confidence, in all aspects of their life? It seems to be part of their DNA and you get the feeling that they were just born confident. And yet for those of us not blessed with inbuilt confidence, this is a quality we can absolutely develop over time. It starts by being the best at what we do, demonstrating to ourselves and to others that we have a real sense of pride in what we are creating. Confidence building also comes through sharing our knowledge, expertise, skills and passion with others, and there is no doubt that a real love and passion for what you do can not only drive your confidence levels but inspire others to find their own too. Confidence is all about action, the ability to ‘Just Do It’, in the words of Nike. And let’s face it, if you want to find a source of inspiration from some of the most confident people on the planet, then look to those who reach the pinnacle of success in the sports world, who exude confidence and courage each time they head out to the track, pool, court or pitch. As the legendary woman tennis player, Chris Evert, said: “In a decisive set, confidence is the difference.”
Anyone who has started a business as a solopreneur will be able to tell you that it can be a pretty lonely journey at times. When times are tough, there is just you to work things out, to find the solutions; and when times are good, who do you share your victories large and small with? Being a solopreneur does have its challenges, but there are a few ways you can build your support systems and better enjoy the journey. Firstly, join other groups of entrepreneurs who meet regularly to share experiences, information and networks. Secondly, perhaps look at a co-working space for your business, somewhere that has a great location and that works for you, but importantly brings other entrepreneurs into your day-to-day working life. Thirdly, get a mentor, someone who has the depth of business building or specialist experience that you lack and who can be your go-to person for advice, support and encouragement. Fourthly, create a support team of employees or service providers who can help you to develop your product or service offerings, and who become your back up system on a daily basis. Finally, remember that friends and family are there for you - they may not understand the intricacies of your business, but they are there for emotional support when you need it. Above all, remember to enjoy the special journey you are on as a solopreneur.
Did you know that it’s estimated 90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously? It appears that our brains are on autopilot most of the time. If you have ever caught yourself dashing through a grocery store and looking into your shopping basket only to find that it’s filled with the same brand groceries time after time, you will understand this phenomenon. It’s not only habit that influences our buying decisions - it’s sounds, smells, and colours - all stimulating our senses and tapping into our subconscious. For example, how often do you walk into a store where the smell of fresh bread hits you immediately from the bakery counter and you find yourself buying bread and confectionary that you didn’t plan to buy, but it’s too irresistible not to? It’s the same with sound - did you know that wine stores sell more French champagne when they play classical music as opposed to any other type of music? When planning your own retail experiences and environments for your brand, it’s good to remember how much our senses dictate our subconscious purchasing decisions, and tap into those senses for maximum sales returns and brand connections.
How many times do we hear as entrepreneurs that we need to find a way of differentiating ourselves in the marketplace, making our brands connect with our customers, making our businesses stand out and stand up for what we believe in? Well the way to do that is simply to be authentic, and although it seems like that’s the marketing buzz word for 2017, this is not simply a tactic that has worked for decades, it’s a way of being. Building a brand that is authentic simply makes sense - it’s not about marketing spin, it’s about telling a story about your business and your brand that is human, that touches people and their lives, that builds relationships based on a real emotional connection. How do you do that? Share your story - tell your customers where the inspiration for your business came from, how you built the business, what happens behind the scenes when creating your products, share your values and vision. Also as the founder and face behind the business, introduce yourself to your customers through your storytelling, make it personal. And finally, get creative and make your story human. It’s okay to share the triumphs and tribulations that are part of your entrepreneurial journey, and your customers are interested - they want to emotionally walk that journey with you. So if you want to build a business and a brand that can really connect with customers, then open a window for them to look into your world.
As an entrepreneur, how often do you feel like you are overwhelmed, trying to constantly juggle the demands of building a successful business at the same time as keeping up with the demands of family life, children’s education, community responsibilities, friendships, and still have some time left for you as an individual? Is precious leisure time getting rarer by the week because you spend your evenings and weekends catching up with all the business admin you didn't quite get around to in the week because of other time pressures? If so, then you are not alone. It’s a feeling that many women entrepreneurs experience on their journeys, particularly in the early days of building businesses and brands, and innovating in the product development space. Chatting to women entrepreneurs regularly around the African continent, it can feel like life is just a constant battle with time and never actually having enough to go around - although somehow, women entrepreneurs find a way of making it work regardless. So if you are feeling overwhelmed right now, and leisure time is a long distant memory, take a look at author Brigid Schulte’s interesting takes on the subject in her book ‘Overwhelmed - How to work, love and play when no-one has the time’. It offers a really insightful look at how to attempt to find a balance between work, leisure time and personal achievement.
For many women entrepreneurs, the idea of standing up in front of an audience of business decision-makers and corporate procurement panels to pitch their businesses in a competitive environment can be a daunting, if not terrifying, prospect. But like anything in life and business, it’s all about developing confidence in ourselves and in the businesses and brands we are building. Successful pitching is a skill that can be learned, but like so many things, it is underpinned by confidence. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was attending our Lionesses of Africa Accelerator session in Johannesburg. The topic was on Pitching with Confidence and for some in the session, the prospect of standing up in front of an audience and pitching remained daunting. And yet here’s the thing - these amazing women entrepreneurs have been learning over the past few weeks how to grow and develop not just their businesses, but also their confidence, and it showed. These women found their ‘inner lioness’, confidently presented their businesses and connected with the audience on a human level, and got their messages across powerfully. It was a great example of how important confidence is to achieving business and personal success in life.
Are you one of those entrepreneurs who feels like they are constantly looking over their shoulders to check out what the competition is doing, and then worrying about how to get ahead of them? Do you get anxious and insecure and then perhaps a little jealous when the competition seems to be doing better than you, or they get a big customer win, or they win an award for their products and service? If the answer is yes, then read on! Competition is a reality in business and it’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, but the bottom line is that if you spend precious time focusing on what your competitors are doing, constantly readjusting your own business model to react to theirs, you end up working for the competition instead of on your own business and clients. So perhaps a more radical approach is to look at collaborating rather than competing? Maybe you and your competitor have ideas or solutions to consumer problems that are two halves of the whole, and brought together could create a much bigger market changing solution? Perhaps a consumer challenge in the marketplace requires a big, innovative, out-of-the-box approach that is too big for one entrepreneur to take on alone, but could represent an incredible business opportunity for two entrepreneurs to collaborate on to find the answer?
Do some research on social media and you will notice that it’s become the top channel for consumers in search of customer care around the products and services they buy, and yet the interesting thing is that only a fifth of businesses actually use social media as part of their customer care strategies. So for proactive and innovative entrepreneurs who want to differentiate themselves by providing a more positive and immediate customer service experience, social media could be your best friend. But you have to give thought and attention to developing your customer care strategy for social media so that it works for you, your brand, and your customers alike. You need to build effective response mechanisms on your various social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to quickly respond to your customer messages in a way that is both personal and empathetic. Customer engagement is the key here. There needs to be a customer care fact book developed for whoever is allocated the responsibility of managing your social media activity, ensuring that responses are accurate and consistent. Above all, its about engaging in a proactive and helpful conversation with your customers through social media, so that their experience with your brand is always a positive one.
We all know the story of the plumber with the leaky tap - spending hours each day fixing everyone else’s problems and then never finding the time to fix their own. As entrepreneurs it’s the same challenge when it comes to finding precious time in our working days to allocate to important tasks that will help to build our own businesses, such as working on our corporate and personal brands. Let’s face it, if we were our own client we would be allocated a set number of hours in the business each week to service the account, and the work would be delivered on time. So why do we not take our own brand building seriously enough to allocate the same precious time in our working schedules? We need to remind ourselves that our brands and what they stand for are what connect us to our customers - they are important and need to be given time to be continually developed. So the trick is to recognise this fact and block out specific time in the calendar each week to devote to those activities that help to build that brand connection, such as new product development, blog writing, product photography and social media posting, etc. Become your own client and block out the time you need to service your own brand the way it deserves.
Every entrepreneur looks to break into their chosen market and create brands and products that resonate with customers and ultimately result in sales. But these days, customers are demanding more than just a great product and value for money, they are looking for a much bigger feel-good factor - and that’s fulfillment. They are looking to feel good about their purchasing decision, to know they are improving and adding value to their own lives and to others. As a result, these customers are looking for brands that demonstrate their higher purpose. Brands that promise to go beyond simply the functional benefits or service offered and instead genuinely add value to the lives of the customers they aim to reach. Brands that can demonstrate a higher purpose don’t simply talk about the quality of their goods or services, but rather they focus on their integrity and their desire to make the world a better place. They reach out to customers by telling a story that is emotive and connects on a bigger human level. Brands that reach out to customers by communicating their higher purpose through the power of storytelling are seen as more authentic, more human, more real. So, if you want to find your customers, and importantly want them to choose you and your brand, then find your brand purpose and start telling your own story.
We all know that millennials are changing the face of business, both in the workplace and as consumers, and in the US alone it’s estimated that by 2020 they will make up 50% of all employees in the United States. This same trend is being seen around the world, and as a result, it’s becoming anything but business as usual particularly for those businesses looking to hire this new talent. According to an interesting new research study on Millennial Employee Engagement by Cone Communications, millennials are making conscious decisions on which companies to work for based on their need to seek greater purpose and to make a difference in the world. So if you are a business looking to attract the best millennial talent, then here are some insights you will need to consider:
- 64% of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work
- 64% won’t take a job if a company doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) values
- 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps them contribute to social and environmental issues
- 88% say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issue.
Millennials are also making their buying decisions based on a company’s social impact commitments. The research shows that more than nine-in-10 millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91%), and two-thirds use social media to engage around CSR (66%). Millennials already represent $1 trillion in buying power in the U.S. alone. So the bottom line is that if you want to impact your bottom line and attract the best talent into your business, then you need to proactively engage with millennials and ensure your social impact story is a strong one.
As entrepreneurs we spend so much time, effort and money on building our business brands, creating brand personalities that are capable of connecting with the customers and audiences we are trying to attract. We devise complex brand marketing strategies that will deliver our key messages, create impactful logos that will resonate with clients, and package our products and services to connect with customers. So why is it that we tend not to expend the same amount of planning, care and effort on building our own personal brands as entrepreneurs? After all, people do business with people as the old saying goes, and as entrepreneurs we are the face and voice of our companies and our personal brands matter. Just think about how many famous entrepreneurs you could instantly bring to mind, and then reflect on just how carefully those entrepreneurs manage their personal brands and messaging in the public domain. In the eyes of customers and clients, our business brands and personal brands are inexorably linked - it’s therefore worth taking time to ensure both are carefully managed so they deliver maximum results for the business as a whole.
When you are a young startup brand trying to get your products out into a marketplace which seems packed by highly established mainstream and household name brands, it can seem a little daunting to say the least. After all, those established brands have seemingly unending money to pour into product development, manufacturing, marketing, and PR, while startups are often battling just to create new product lines and package them up for the marketplace. But the fact is, competition is a reality and always will be, so the trick is to find innovative and creative ways to differentiate your brand and product offerings without breaking the bank. Create room between yourself and yourcompetitors through a strong brand personality in your space by developing a distinct design aesthetic linked to your vision. Emphasize these positive points of differentiation consistently through different marketing channels. This could be a combination of PR, digital advertising, events (attending trade shows), hosting private view events, etc. Also, look at your price point as a means of differentiation, together with your quality commitment to your customers. You might not be able to match the advertising and promotional budgets of the big players, but what you lack in funding you can make up for in creative marketing and promotion and still make that all important brand connection with your customers.
One of the secrets to business success is pricing your products properly, but it is also one of the trickiest things to get right - as the saying goes, pricing is part art, part science. If you can get your pricing right at the beginning, it can create a great foundation for your business, but get it wrong and it can cause huge problems for your bottom line. There are huge quantities of books and online resources to guide your reading on this subject as an entrepreneur, but a pretty reliable approach is to formulate your pricing strategy based on the following factors. Get to know your customers, monitor their buying habits and understand their price pain points. Know your operating costs and ensure you build them into your profit margins. Understand exactly what your sales targets need to be to ensure you cover all your costs and make a profit each month. Track your competition and monitor their pricing structures for similar product and service offerings. Keep on top of the marketplace, monitor upward or downward pricing shifts, and be prepared to make any adjustments where necessary. Finally, understand the pivotal relationship between quality and price, remembering that customers will often pay a premium for a higher quality of product or service. The bottom line is that there is a certain amount of flexibility in how you set your prices, but you have to be attuned to your customers and the marketplace to know what is going to be a price point that will work for everyone.
Mindset plays such a key role as an entrepreneur and if you take a look at those people who achieve great success in business and in life they tend to share positive thinking as a personal trait. Having a positive perception towards your business and the approach you take towards dealing with the inevitable challenges, failures, mistakes and criticism you will face means that you see every experience as a learning opportunity - a chance to do things differently next time, to keep improving, to keep pushing the envelope. It would be all too easy to have your confidence knocked by such challenges and to feel defeated, but a positive mindset and the ability to keep learning and moving forward is what makes the difference. As Oprah Winfrey says, “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change by merely changing his attitude.”
Harnessing the full power of technology is a great thing when you’re an entrepreneur and when you’re looking at new and interesting ways of engaging with your customers. So the introduction of Facebook Live, Instagram Live and Periscope provides a powerful way of taking your customers right into the heart of your business to experience your products, services and brand ethos in a way that other marketing and communication techniques simply don’t offer. These three live video streaming platforms not only give your customers a ‘behind the scenes’ look at your business and the people who deliver your products and services, but they can also provide powerful ways of introducing newly launched products to your audience, promoting events or special offerings, and to getting feedback in real time. Interaction and engagement through live video streaming on social media may seem daunting at first, but it’s a powerful new tool to connect with those you are trying to reach, and the more you engage with your customers the greater your chance of enhancing your brand connection and ultimately sales. So if you haven’t got your social media live video streaming in place as part of your overall marketing plan, then today could be a good time to get it started.
Hopefully, at some point on your entrepreneurial journey, the challenge of taking the next major step to achieving high growth in your business will be top of mind, and with that comes the perennially thorny issue of getting access to capital. Even with solid financials and business plans in place, it’s essential to get ready for inevitable meetings and pitch sessions with potential investors and financiers. There are a number of things on your checklist to help you prepare for such meetings. Firstly, remember that global influencer organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank firmly believe that by increasing the participation of women in the global economy, including entrepreneurship, it would increase gross domestic product in key countries significantly. It’s worth having your macro impact story at your fingertips to tap into this sentiment. Secondly, believe in yourself and your business - you have a great story to tell, so share it with passion backed up by hard numbers. It makes for a compelling meeting. Thirdly, get to know all the decision makers you are looking to meet in the banking and investment community, and do your homework on what is a priority in their investment space right now. Fourthly, research all the potential alternative sources of funding, particularly women-led investment funds. Fifthly, choose women’s entrepreneurship organizations and networks that might open up opportunities and contacts. Finally, be confident in your business and your story, and go out and sell it to those investors who are looking to help you make an impact.
Who ever said that life as an entrepreneur was a comfortable choice? Making the decision to embark on building a business and a brand, creating products and services that can disrupt the marketplace and make a difference, often means regularly sacrificing comfort by stepping out of your box. It can be a brave move with considerable sacrifices along the way, but on the plus side, it means you don’t have to be like others who have gone before you, accepting the way things are done or slotting into a particular notion of what an entrepreneur should be. You have the ability to create who you want to become and how you want to build a business that is unique to you. Stepping out of the box means trying different things without fear; experimenting first and implementing second; improving on what exists; constantly learning and being open to change; being an innovator not a perfectionist; sharing ideas to keep things moving; and always rewriting the rules to encourage new ideas to emerge. It may not be all that comfortable when you take this approach, but who said that being an entrepreneur and stepping out of the box of convention comes with a comfort factor. Oprah Winfrey said: “I have created a life by stepping out of the box of other people’s limitations. I call it zigging with others are zagging.” A great way of looking at life as an entrepreneur.