"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.
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.
So here’s a fact that we probably instinctively knew already - women entrepreneurs have to work harder than their male counterparts to make a success of their businesses. According to a Centre for Entrepreneurship study, almost one in five women say they lack the technical knowledge required for their business compared to only one in 20 men - meaning they have to learn as they go. And, a quarter of women entrepreneurs say they don’t have the networks necessary to build their businesses, while fewer than one in ten men say this is a problem. But these challenges are no longer barriers to success, if anything it makes women entrepreneurs more resilient, more open to learning and collaborating, and more tenacious. And here’s the good news from the study - in a marked contrast to normal pay structures, it would seem women entrepreneurs in their own businesses take home twice as much pay as the men.
The world of PR is changing, and with the rapidly evolving, 24/7 social media driven world we live in, it means that the notion of PR as we know it is changing in business. Any mystique that existed around this industry has gone, and for startup entrepreneurs there is a realization that there is no one better at selling their businesses and getting their brand messages out there than themselves. So if you are a startup entrepreneur and looking to DIY your PR, here are a few helpful tips to remember. Firstly, always accept that coffee invitation, you never know where it will lead. Secondly, get to know your customers, what they need and want, their buying patterns and habits, and tap into those needs with your messaging. Thirdly, when pitching your stories to news media, do your research and ensure your stories will resonate with their specific audiences. Fourthly, harness the power of social media, it could be your best way of quickly reaching audiences and getting people talking. Finally, first impressions count - make sure your stories and messages are well written, visually well presented, and impactful. And remember, good PR takes time but it’s worth the effort.
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!
As entrepreneurs, we are all driven by our vision to create a successful life and business for ourselves, but with success comes other challenges. The question is, are you adequately prepared to deal with the way life can change once success arrives? For example, do you have a plan to manage the continual growth of your business, particularly if that growth is rapid, including having a strategy to manage your people? Are you personally prepared to deal with the added responsibilities of managing a bigger business? Are you emotionally prepared to deal with all the stresses and strains that come as part and parcel of building a high growth business? Life as a successful business builder undoubtedly becomes more complicated - the trick is knowing how to prepare for that success, and put in place the building blocks for growth at an early stage, so things don’t catch you out later.
We all know that the life of an entrepreneur is not for everyone, that’s why it is very much a lifestyle choice when embarking on the journey to build a business. When friends and family around you are working 9-5, you are working all hours of the day to make things happen in your business. When others are planning vacations, you are planning how to take your next trip to meet a client and hopefully bring in the next big client. When friends are hanging out in a bar or restaurant as part of their relaxation time, you are at networking events, mixing with fellow entrepreneurs and making valuable future contacts. In the crazy world of entrepreneurship, life and work merge together - the secret is making it work for you so that you can enjoy both facets of your lifestyle choice.
If you are in business, and you are out there selling your brand, your products and your services to prospective customers, day in and day out, chances are you will hear the word ‘no’ more often than you hear ‘yes’. It’s all par for the course in the life of an entrepreneur. But you are not alone. Did you know that Huffington Post founder, Ariana Huffington, was rejected by 36 different publishers at the start of her entrepreneurial journey? If that wasn’t enough, she ran for public office in the US against Arnold Schwarzenegger for the seat of Governor of the State of California, winning only 0.55% of the votes at the time - that’s also a fairly big public rejection to get over. Yet she was inspired by the words of her mother who said: “Failure is not the opposite of success, but a stepping stone to success.” Ariana went on to famously to create one of the world’s most successful blogging platforms, write 13 books, and secure her position as one of the world’s most influential women. Now, that’s how to deal with rejection!
We all do it as entrepreneurs - we avidly watch how the very successful business builders are getting it right, how they are marketing their products to the world, and how they build sustainable brands that resonate with customers. Often, the temptation is there to try and emulate their success by replicating the way they do things in our own businesses. But it’s important to remember that those entrepreneurs got it right by forging their own paths, doing things their own way - being leaders not followers. Success comes when we recognize that it is precisely what makes us unique that resonates with others, and that goes for our businesses, products and brands too. There is a great quote by the legendary writer Jack Kerouac who says: “When writing the story of your life, don’t let anyone else hold the pen.” It’s all about following your own unique entrepreneurial path.
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.
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.
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.
It’s one of those key times in the life of any entrepreneur - knowing when it’s necessary to pivot in business. When you pivot your business, you change direction in response to realizing that the way you are doing things simply isn’t working and it’s time for a rethink. And, there’s nothing wrong with pivoting the business, after all, market needs change, customers change, technology changes, all factors that can necessitate a Plan B and a pivot. It’s all about making the right move for the future sustainability of the business. The key is knowing when to pivot. It could be that your business is experiencing difficulty in sustaining its revenue sources. Maybe your business model needs a rethink. Or customer feedback indicates that a business offering needs tweaking to meet their requirements. Ultimately, it could just be that your business is simply not growing as it should be, and new action plans are needed to move it forward. So take a good hard look at the business, start by figuring out where the growth and sustainability is most likely to be, and pivot in that direction.
“Fortune favors the bold” as the poet Virgil once famously said, and this is definitely a saying that can be applied to many a successful entrepreneur through history. Just ask Virgin founder, Richard Branson, an entrepreneur who has personified the word ‘bold’ in business over the years. He is a great example of not sitting around and expecting to just ‘get lucky’ in business, but instead going out there and grabbing the opportunities as they present themselves. He says, “I have often struggled to figure out where coincidence stops and good luck begins, or how just happening to be in the right place at the right time can so dramatically play into one’s path through life. One thing that’s clear, however, is that entrepreneurs who play it safe for fear of failure are the ones who just never seem to get as lucky as the risk-takers. Is this just a coincidence? I don’t think so.” Perhaps the question you need to ask yourself this morning is, “Just how bold do I feel today on my entrepreneurial journey?”
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.
In an increasingly consumer conscious society, where buyers want to better understand the provenance of the products they buy and the impact their purchasing decisions are making on society, Fairtrade standards provide a great guide. And, Africa’s impact driven retail entrepreneurs are embracing the Fairtrade philosophy to ensure their products are made to standards set by the Fairtrade Foundation. These standards were designed to help improve the quality of life for producers in developing countries and provide very specific sets of criteria in order to gain recognition with a genuine Fairtrade mark, certified by the Fairtrade Foundation. For those women entrepreneurs in Africa who are looking to break into powerful global retail markets and to win over conscious consumers who want to make a difference through their purchases, the Fairtrade standards and Fairtrade mark can provide a real market advantage and global recognition.
How often do you see companies, business leaders, and event programmes talking about the importance of innovation, finding the next ‘big idea’ or new way of doing something that can change the face of an industry sector? But innovation is only one part of the process, it’s not the end game. Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, made an interesting observation on the subject, saying, “An innovation has no value until an ambitious entrepreneur builds a business model around it and turns it into a product or service that customers will buy. If you can't turn an innovative idea into something that creates a customer, it's worthless.” The bottom line, as Jim Clifton suggests, is not that there isn't enough innovation, it’s that there aren't enough entrepreneurs turning those innovative ideas into viable businesses.
The world’s environmental challenges are front and centre of global political, economic and social discussions and debates right now, with daily calls for innovative and sustainable solutions. And there is no doubt that major innovative thinking is needed if solutions to some of the biggest environmental challenges facing the world are to be found, such as how to combat climate change, how to lower global greenhouse gas emissions, how to deal with waste in an effective and environmentally friendly way, and how to preserve biodiversity in the environment. And it’s everyone’s problem and responsibility, to be part of the solution, not the continuing problem. Africa is undoubtedly feeling the impact of many of these environmental challenges, and that’s why a new generation of innovative women eco-preneurs is emerging from the continent with practical solutions. They are building sustainable recycling businesses to deal with waste management challenges in some of the continent’s biggest cities; they are building companies that create world-class products using recycled plastic as their base materials; and they are tackling invasive weed infested waterways by using them as a source of new materials for beautiful products that the world wants. This is the age of Africa’s women eco-preneurs who are making a real difference to the environment through their high impact sustainable business models.
Women entrepreneurs are often motivated to start their new businesses because they see a gap in a marketplace or community that they know personally and very well. They respond to local needs and wants, they know when a particular product or service is not readily available, and additionally, they understand the customers who are in need of those missing products and services. As a result, they seize the opportunity, and create business and product offerings to fill the gap - whether that be in the retail or local manufacturing space, or in the specialist service sectors. Economists refer to these women business builders as “opportunity” entrepreneurs as they are market driven as opposed to those who are survivalist entrepreneurs who lack other options. These women opportunity entrepreneurs are key to Africa’s regional economic growth, particularly in their own communities, as they are building successful businesses that know their customer needs well, who create products that are highly targeted to meet local needs, and who employ and train local people as they grow. It’s a win-win scenario, particularly if they are given the support and development to take their businesses to the next level.
Entrepreneurs are very often seen as leaders, whether they are setting new business or design trends, or creating innovative new products that shape future marketplaces, or disrupting existing ways of doing things. They epitomize the very notion of leaders from a business perspective. But it’s also interesting to see just how many women entrepreneurs are also leaders in their communities, using their businesses and their success as a means to help those communities to grow and thrive too. They say that the value chain created by women entrepreneurs is so much longer because they are hardwired to spread the benefit of their business success to others. They look at ways of tackling socio economic challenges in their local communities, they are interested in educating the next generation of children, and they are passionate about finding solutions to environmental challenges affecting those communities. These women entrepreneurs are real leaders, passionate about using business to make a lasting impact, and showing others how it is done. We can all learn from their example and be the change that is needed in the world through the businesses and products we create, and the experience and knowledge we share with others.
They say you are never too old to learn, and when you are an entrepreneur you never stop learning, particularly from those around you. Put a group of like-minded entrepreneurs together in a room and within minutes, experiences will be shared, networks will be opened, and advice will be given - often, whether you want it or not! But that’s the wonderful thing about being amongst people just like you. You can learn from each other’s mistakes, and hopefully not repeat them. You can get insights into how to launch new products or break into new markets from those who are already there. You can glean useful trade tips from specialists who have great experience of doing business in tough industry sectors. And importantly, you can make connections that can stand you and your business in great stead when it comes to gaining knowledge and getting access to specialist expertise. There is a great quote from uber successful global entrepreneur, Cher Wang, co-founder and chairperson of HTC Corp, who says, “As entrepreneurs, we must continue to ask ourselves ‘what’s next?’ It takes humility to realize that we don’t know everything, not to rest on our laurels, and know that we must keep learning and observing.” Great advice!
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!
There is nothing quite like the energy that comes from a room full of young aspirant women entrepreneurs, keen to talk about their ideas for a new business, enthusiastic about learning from other more experience women business builders. And perhaps one of the biggest lessons that these next generation women entrepreneurs can learn is that by taking the opportunity to connect with other successful women who have been there and done it in business, they can gain invaluable knowledge. Not only that, they can see at first hand how these women so often turn passion into profit, and importantly get inspired and fired up to start their own entrepreneurial journeys. Seeing other successful women entrepreneurs in action also helps to shorten the learning curve for those starting up in business, witnessing at first hand how to deal with some of the inevitable challenges that arise. Starting out in business for any young aspirant entrepreneur can be daunting, but by seeing how other women have blazed a trail before you demonstrates that it’s possible.
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.
It can happen to the best of entrepreneurs - that period of time in business when you know it’s important to keep things fresh and to ensure products and services stay relevant and interesting to your customers, but your creativity dries up! New ideas suddenly refuse to appear, inspiration is hard to find, and you hit that proverbial creative wall, worried you will never have an original idea of your own again. The truth is, creative slumps are par for the course in business, and they can strike at any time. The trick is to find ways of getting that spark back in your life, and there are some practical methods to do that. Start by surrounding yourself with other creative entrepreneurs, get a dose of their passion and enthusiasm for their new ideas, be stimulated by the conversations you will have. Try something new, develop a new interest or skill that could help the business further down the line, set up a chat with someone whose creative work inspires you, and share experiences. Chances are, you will beat your slump, and if all else fails, at least you will know you are not alone.
Everywhere we look there are distractions - our smartphones constantly encourage us to check on things that are happening in our 24/7 connected world; our team members want to bounce ideas around or chat about projects in a constant stream of engagement; our electronic meeting schedules remind us throughout the day of people to see and deadlines to make. We live in a world where there’s always another distraction to take us away from what we should be focusing on. But research points to a need to stop multitasking and working at a shallow level, and instead to focus our attention on individual tasks, and to remove the distractions around us until those tasks are completed. So here are four tips to cutting the distractions and getting the job done. Firstly, put your smartphone on silent and out of sight for the set period of time you have allocated to your task. Next, inform your team that you are not available for meetings or discussions during that time. Thirdly, switch off any electronic reminders or email alerts. Finally, be in the moment, just focus on the task at hand and it will get done quicker and less painfully.
How often as an entrepreneur do you find yourself spending precious time re-hashing mistakes or bad decisions you have made - over and over again? You are not alone! It seems that one of the hardest things for entrepreneurs to do is to stop pressing the replay button and to let that mistake or decision go once it has been made. It’s all about mindset - it’s important to learn from our mistakes and our errors of judgement, but then to move quickly on, incorporating those learnings as we go. As tech entrepreneur and founder of Dell Technologies, Michael Dell, says: “Recognize that there will be failures, and acknowledge that there will be obstacles. But you will learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others, for there is very little learning in success.” Something to remember when you are tempted to press that replay button in your head and relive your latest mistake.
Speaking about what it takes to build a successful life and business, best-selling author and serial entrepreneur, Tim Ferris, said, “Focus on being productive instead of busy”, and he has a point. As entrepreneurs we all have busy lives, that’s just a given, but if we really want to accomplish our goals we have to become more productive. It’s not about the number of hours worked, it’s about doing things that will move our businesses and lives forward. And, it all starts with knowing when your body feels at its most productive in the day - if you are a morning person, then harness those early hours of the day to tackle the most pressing jobs before most people have arrived at their offices. If you are more of an afternoon and evening person, then get your scheduling right to ensure you have quality uninterrupted time to work on your priorities, and squeeze in any essential meetings. Create a productivity checklist to review at the end of each day to ensure you have achieved your goals. Now, that’s being productive!
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.
If you are one of those women entrepreneurs who is constantly striving to be at the top of her business game, but who also underestimates her ability to succeed, or worries about not really belonging to the ‘successful entrepreneurs club’, then you could be battling Imposter Syndrome. It’s that fear of not believing you are worthy of the success you have achieved, or thinking that you have got to where you are today more by luck than management. If that resonates with you, then you are not alone. I was re-reading Valerie Young’s book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, this past weekend which is a fascinating read on this subject which afflicts many women entrepreneurs, and many successful women in general. Did you know for example that Oscar winning actresses Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep have both experienced nagging feelings that their awards and accolades were somehow not deserved? However, it appears there is a way of looking at Imposter Syndrome from the flip side. The author suggests that our fears of being inadequate pale into insignificance when compared with our fears of being extraordinary, and that if we embrace a can-do attitude and envision success as a hard won and well-deserved badge of honor, life will look a whole lot different.
The other day I was thinking about when I first learned to drive as a teenager, spending all those hours practicing and focusing so hard on trying to avoid the inevitable bumps in the road that had the potential to steer me and my car off course? And it got me thinking about how similar that experience was to starting up in business. You get excited at the launch phase, you make it through the first year, and then around the time between two and three years, those bumps in the road appear again - they could be in the form of a need for an injection of funding; or an expansion of capacity; or the need for a pivot to react to new market conditions. And it can be tough to navigate at the time. So that’s why it makes sense to expect the unexpected, and prepare and plan ways in advance of getting over the inevitable bumps in your entrepreneurial road when they appear.
We all need a little continuous inspiration in our lives and great role models to show us what can be achieved, particularly in business. I have a number of women entrepreneurs whose stories I continually revisit on my own entrepreneurial journey. One of those is Anita Roddick whose personal passion led her to create and build what is today a global success story, the Body Shop. She was passionate about not testing cosmetics on animals and had a firm belief in natural organic products with recyclable packaging to reduce the impact on the environment. At the time, there was nothing else in the marketplace that looked like her brand, or that was driven by such a strong ethical, passion driven story that customers could identify with and buy into. Successful women entrepreneurs build a business around what they really love to do best, or what they passionately believe in. There is a great quote from one of our Lionesses of Africa community members, Narcissi Madishi, founder of children’s clothing brand, Kameo Kids in South Africa. She says, “Passion will carry you through....If you plan to go into business, choose something that you are absolutely passionate about. The passion will carry you through when the going gets tough.”
As many of you know, I am passionate about the power of community when it comes to supporting the growth and development of Africa’s women entrepreneurs - and, it seems like I’m not alone in my thinking. A fascinating research report by Facebook found that female founders who are part of a business community are twice as likely to forecast growth compared to those who are not. Despite this, half of female founders say they are not part of such a network. The research revealed that women are aware of the benefits of tapping into business communities, with 49 per cent of those interviewed for the report believing the opportunity to connect with other like-minded people would greatly benefit their business. 31 per cent of the women surveyed said the current business environment is better set up for male business leaders. Reading these research findings reminds me once again of why we started the Lionesses of Africa community - welcome to the Pride!
I have had several conversations recently with women entrepreneurs in the Lionesses of Africa community who are going through a range of challenges right now, and one word kept coming up repeatedly - persistence. And listening to their stories and experiences, those challenges will be familiar to so many others as each day they fight to keep their businesses going, or to take their businesses to the next growth level and into unknown new territory. Starting a business in the first place takes courage, but keeping it going, keeping it relevant and ensuring it grows, takes persistence. So this morning I would like to celebrate all those women entrepreneurs who are chasing their dreams, pushing through the inevitable difficulties, and getting creative in the face of adversity. Let’s learn from each other and never underestimate the power of persistence, it is an essential trait to develop as an entrepreneur.
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.
I was re-reading a copy of ‘All In’ by Stephanie Breedlove this past week, a great book on how women entrepreneurs can think bigger, build sustainable businesses and change the world. It’s a great read and a great reminder of what a difference it makes to your life and your business when you make the conscious decision and mindset shift to go ‘all in’. Being ‘all in’ is a key ingredient for success, it means giving all you’ve got, committing to making the big vision happen, and putting in the maximum time and effort to realize set goals and ambitions. It means having an unwavering belief in what you are doing, why you are doing it, and its value. As Stephanie says in her book: “When the entrepreneurial journey leads you to go all in to help create the economic and cultural changes the world needs, words can’t describe its worth. I wish it for every woman called to entrepreneurship.” If you are interested in knowing more about the theory of ‘All In’, read our review of Stephanie’s book here.
Can you believe it, the first quarter of the year is already over. Is it my imagination or did it go by particularly quickly this year? It’s an urgent reminder to revisit the business strategy for the year; to look at the targets we set and evaluate where progress is being made, and where possible remedial action may need to be taken to ensure those all important goals are reached. Often we get caught up in the day to day business grind, and we perhaps don’t revisit the bigger picture for our business often enough. So as we hurtle purposefully into the second quarter of the year, it could be a good idea to set daily or weekly target reviews to stay on track. Electronic reminders at the end of each day are a great way to keep us focused firmly on those goals and not distracted by the everyday challenges that inevitably creep into our productivity.
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!
I was sitting on a plane this week in Europe, chatting to a fellow woman entrepreneur from the UK who was a great example of how much of a balancing act it can be, building a business, taking care of family and managing often impossible logistics. She had her laptop in front of her, her lively one year old daughter on her knee looking to be entertained on the flight, and a deadline to meet before the plane landed in Zurich. She was travelling alone, being a mom and an entrepreneur at the same time, and trying to give attention to everything simultaneously. Many of us have been in similar positions ourselves, and therefore we know what it feels like. At times like these, it’s about being supportive to one another, seeing how we can help, and reminding one another that there is really no such thing as balance in the life of a woman entrepreneur. We just do the best we can!