Why it’s good to have a ‘To Do’ List

When you are an entrepreneur, mastering the art of juggling all the work and tasks that have to be completed each day is a necessity, and it’s not easy. As the business grows, so too does the need to keep even more balls in the air. As a result, it’s all too easy for organizational chaos to encroach on a small business as jobs are not prioritized and some tasks fall through the cracks altogether. That’s why it’s essential to stay on top of all those tasks and to monitor progress in getting them completed. The good news is that there are a whole range of checklist apps on the market that can help any time-pressured entrepreneur to stay on top of things. Some of the best ones we have found include Wunderlist, WorkFlowy, Habitica, List It app, Any.do, Evernote Business, Google Keep, Checklist, Remember the Milk and Workflow. So lose all those endless paper checklists you keep writing, and use the power of an app to stay on top of all those ’To Do’s when it comes to running your business more smoothly.

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Africa’s economic rise creates opportunities for women entrepreneurs

6 of the world’s top 10 fastest growing economies are currently in Africa, according to the World Bank’s latest report, and Africa’s economy as a whole is projected to continue to rise to 3.2 percent in 2018 and to a further 3.5 percent in 2019. According to the report, non-resource intensive countries are expected to expand at a solid pace, helped by robust investment growth. The list is led by Ghana, followed by Ethiopia and Côte d’Ivoire, with Senegal and Tanzania occupying the fifth and sixth spots respectively. The latest forecast places Ethiopia’s growth at 8.2 percent with Ghana leading the continent at 8.3 percent. The top 10 African economies that women entrepreneurs can watch for future business opportunities in 2018 as forecasted by the World Bank are Ghana, Ethiopia, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Benin, Rwanda and Niger. These are exciting times for Africa’s economy as the world looks to tap into unprecedented investment and business opportunities that are emerging - the challenge is for women entrepreneurs to also seize these opportunities.

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Calling Africa’s Young Female Founders

For all those young women entrepreneurs in Africa looking to break into the German startup scene, there’s some good news from the Berlin based Westerwelle Foundation. Applications have opened for the 2018 Westerwelle Young Founders programme. The initiative is aimed at young entrepreneurs from developing and emerging economies. As part of the programme, 25 innovators will participate at the Young Founders Conference set to take place from 16 to 20 October in Berlin. Westerwelle Foundation programme manager Christoph Rohde, said the programme’s aim is to “support young founders in strengthening their companies, connecting them with other outstanding entrepreneurs as well as the German startup scene and thereby accelerating their success.” During the year-long programme, participants will not only get the chance to attend The Young Founders Conference but will also be matched with mentors and benefit from access to entrepreneurship conferences as well as the initiative’s alumni network. The last cohort on the programme had 23 participants from 19 countries — including Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Uganda and South Africa, selected from over 1500 applicants worldwide. African women participants included: Wazi Vision CEO Brenda Katwesigye, CodeSpace co-founder Emma Dicks, Direxiona CEO Nayrouz Talaat, and Securella co-founder and MD Samia Haimoura. Entries close on 25 June. Apply here.

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Why access to markets for women entrepreneurs is a global challenge

A new report from the National Women’s Business Council in Washington suggests that the challenge for women entrepreneurs to access key markets is not just a problem facing Africa’s women business builders. It’s a global problem. The report’s findings suggest that women-owned businesses are a major component of the U.S. economy, accounting for around 20 percent of all businesses with paid employees and a combined payroll of $293.1 billion. Yet, the obstacles they face in accessing financial capital and customer markets is a real barrier to growth - this will definitely ring a bell with Africa’s women entrepreneurs. So what’s the problem and how does change happen to improve the situation? Jen Earle, CEO of the National Association of Women Business Owners points to the fact that more research is needed on the economic variables that affect this access, such as the effect of export credit insurance on women-owned businesses’ ability to access foreign markets, or a lack of confidence or practical knowledge of doing business in new markets, or dearth of information on companies’ supplier diversity programs in relation to women-owned businesses. By highlighting the challenges and backing this up by solid research, the right supportive environment can be created to address this access issue.

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Ignite your spark if you want to succeed

Talk to investors, VCs, and bankers about what they look for when entrepreneurs are pitching their businesses and projects to them, and often they mention waiting for that intangible ‘spark’ that comes from a passionate business builder. But for many entrepreneurs, finding and igniting that spark can be challenging - particularly if they are on the receiving end of predominantly ‘no’s’ when pitching, even though that’s an inevitable part of the journey. But it’s worth remembering that on every level, both personal and business, igniting that spark is key. Think about the huge rush of excitement when you land a new client, or when your work is recognized publicly, or that moment when you finally get the ‘yes’ from that pitch meeting. One spark is all it takes to reignite your passion for your business, and that spark is what connects you to those who can help take your business to the next level, be they customers or investors. As Richard Branson says: ”When you believe in something, the force of your convictions will spark other people’s interest and motivate them to help you achieve your goals. This is essential to success."

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Build a business that harnesses your natural talents

If you have ever wondered why some entrepreneurs just seem to make it in business bigger, faster and more easily than others, it could be because they are harnessing their natural talents better. In the new book Born to Build, authors Jim Clifton and Sangeeta Badal, suggest that an entrepreneur’s natural talents can have a tangible effect on business outcomes. For example, if you are a born risk taker, then you are more likely to invest in new markets or business areas that have a higher potential for growth, as a result leading to higher profitability. This means risk takers tend to build high growth potential businesses. Whereas naturally more creative entrepreneurs will develop new products and services for the market where they don’t currently exist, meaning they are more likely to build edgier, more agile, innovative businesses. And here’s an interesting trend - those with a natural talent for confidence tend to start businesses that are more sustainable, hiring people in the process. By harnessing these natural talents, which in turn affect behaviors, it appears it’s possible to affect outcomes such as business survival or growth.

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Is your business tapping into the millennial ‘workation’ boom?

A recent study published by Airbnb has predicted that by 2025, 75% of all consumers and travellers will be millennials and younger generations, with this increasingly influential group making combine work/life travel a priority in their lives. They have reinvented the ‘workation’, where they pack up their laptops and other mobile devices and choose to spend time as digital nomads, working in more interesting places in the world than in a traditional corporate office building, and in a cubicle!. This represents a growing business opportunity for entrepreneurs who want to tap into this affluent and influential, uber design conscious market. Whether it’s businesses with trendy products in the niche travel bag market combining great design with mobile functionality, or designers creating the ultimate capsule wardrobe that fits into one airline carry-on bag, or those selling the latest digital accessories for the ultimate mobile work life.  These mobile workation consumers are discerning and interested in supporting niche entrepreneurial brands, particularly those with a strong social backstory. So is your business tapping into the millennial workation boom?

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With age comes wisdom in the world of entrepreneurship

Pick up any magazine on entrepreneurship, or watch the news of the latest startup sensation making waves in Silicon Valley, and you would be tempted to think that the most successful businesses are built by young whizz-kid founders. But a group of economics researchers in the US have conducted a major new study into the starting age of founders of high-growth startups, and are debunking that myth. It appears that the average age is about 41.9 years of age among all startups that hire at least one employee. Among the top 0.1 percent of highest-growth startups, that average age moves up to 45 years old. Another interesting finding from the research was that older entrepreneurs appear correlated with better startup performance. For example, the 1,700 founders of the fastest growing new ventures interviewed in the US for the research had an average age of 45, compared to 43.7 for the top 1% and 42.1 for the top 5%. All of which would seem to suggest that for older entrepreneurs, with age comes wisdom, and at a practical level, experience in their respective business fields, all of which seems to improve the changes of high growth startup success.

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If you want to do better business, get socially conscious

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post this week that examined the relationship between small businesses that were growing in profit terms and their proactive involvement in social issues that resonated with customers. It appears that social consciousness is becoming an even greater issue when it comes to consumers' shopping and dining habits. According to the 2018 Cox Business Consumer Pulse on Small Businesses, seventy-one percent of survey respondents said they would spend more money at a small business if it supported a positive social or environmental cause. And interestingly, 68 percent of consumers think small business owners should openly communicate the causes they support, to give consumers the opportunity to make informed purchasing decisions in line with their own social and/or environmental views. It’s not just about connecting with customers - getting socially conscious as a business can also help in the recruitment and retention of top talent, increase employee morals, attract capital and improve brand equity. This is definitely an era where businesses are expected to make a positive social contribution in the world, not just a profit, and entrepreneurs are leading from the front!

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The search to find home-grown companies that can inspire Africa and the world

Every entrepreneur needs inspiration on their business building journey, but now there is a move to find those companies in Africa that can inspire a continent and the world too. Building on the phenomenal success of the Companies to Inspire Africa 2017 list, published by the London Stock Exchange Group, the company is looking to find more companies to feature for its 2018 edition - and nominations are open now. Last year, the publication identified 343 leading SMEs across the African continent and showcased Africa’s strong microeconomic landscape to the global investment community. This publication raised the visibility of companies to investors in Africa and around the world. The website with information on the companies featured has been accessed over 3 million times. The London Stock Exchange Group has also worked actively with African and global media to raise these companies’ profiles, and hosted events in London and five African countries with featured companies, connecting them directly with investors. This year, the London Stock Exchange Group has the target of identifying 1000 leading private businesses across Africa, from all sectors, in the 2018 report. The deadline for nominations is 31 May 2018. Go to https://asokoinsight.com/inspire-africa-entry to nominate.

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Be a thought leader in your business

The word thought leader can sometimes be overused, often associated with those who are busy building personal brands and wanting to get their voices heard above the noise. But there is something to be learned from the concept of thought leadership in the entrepreneurial space. After all, thought leaders are recognized as highly experienced authorities in their specialized field and people whose expertise is sought after. Therefore it stands to reason that as entrepreneurs, if we also spend time investing in our own personal knowledge banks, becoming real thought leaders and experts with something valuable to share with others, it can be good for business and not just our personal brands. It does take time, often lots of it, to become a recognized thought leader, but it can be time well invested as we go on our entrepreneurial journeys. It starts with what we are passionate and knowledgeable about, continually expanding that knowledge with research and insights. It is backed up with experience, built up over the years and supported by writing on a key subject that becomes a go-to resource for others. And, it requires engagement on a continual basis with your audience.  Investing in becoming an authentic thought leader in your field can be a good investment in your business.

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Stop pressing the replay button and let your mistakes go

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.

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Find a pain point and fix it

If you are a confirmed chocoholic and you are looking for another great reason to enjoy your favourite chocolate treat guilt free, then read on! Chocolate, and by that it means the dark, minimum 70% cacao variety, is being called the latest ‘brain food’ due its ability to improve memory power and mood, according to a new study by University Health News in the US. It appears that eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate benefits health in many ways. In fact, chocolate is now considered an anti-aging, anti-inflammatory “superfood” for the brain and body. The right kinds of chocolate (the dark 70% + cacao varieties), consumed regularly, can help keep your cardiovascular system pumping, your mind sharp and alert, and your mood calm and happy. This is great news for consumers, and also for some of the most innovative and dedicated women chocolatiers and chocolate brand builders in Africa, who are turning the continent’s precious cacao natural resources into some of the world’s finest chocolate creations. Read all about them here.

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Be the change in the world

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards for 2018 have just announced the winners of this prestigious annual competition, which looks to recognize and support women entrepreneurs and creative excellence around the world. Once again, the competition was incredibly strong with some of the most inspirational women entrepreneurs nominated from around the world, bold women who are making concrete contributions to the global economy and to finding effective and affordable solutions for future generations. The winner for sub-Saharan Africa was Melissa Bime, founder of Infiuss in Cameroon. Her business is a revolutionary health service that connects health facilities to a vast database of blood banks in other health institutions, to help them have more options for blood transfusions. The company also provides health education to the masses and encourages blood donations from individuals. Congratulations go to Melissa Bime for her high impact work, together with her fellow finalists Audrey Cheng of Moringa School in Kenya, a multidisciplinary coding school offering training to African youth digital professionals, and Evelyn Namara of Vouch Digital in Uganda, a business creating digital coupons revolutionizing cash transfers from governments and humanitarian organizations. Each of these inspirational women reflect Cartier’s values: curiosity, audacity, caring for others and willpower to be the change in the world.

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Visibility is key to breaking into new markets

The success of last month’s Start-Up Night! Africa event in London was an impactful example of what happens when you create an effective platform where Africa’s high potential women brand builders can showcase their businesses to the right audience. The keyword is Visibility! Getting access and breaking into new markets is always tough, but when you can grab the attention of audiences and customers because they are seeing your brand at first hand, and your products being presented and endorsed by the right people, that is powerful. Achieving visibility for your business and products is not something simply reserved for the big brands. As entrepreneurs we can all work on this aspect of the business, each and every day, it should be at the heart of the marketing strategy. Whether it’s paid-for advertising, or celebrity endorsements, or sales and marketing events, or speaking gigs to get the word out, it’s all about getting there and getting noticed. So let’s all make Visibility a key objective as we build our businesses and brands this year.

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Have you lost your creative spark?

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.

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Coworking spaces are really about human interaction

Go to any major global city today - Berlin, London, New York or Rotterdam, and one of the most noticeable things you will see is the explosion of co-working spaces for entrepreneurs - they are everywhere. And, they are increasingly appearing in Africa’s most happening entrepreneurial cities across the continent. Coworking spaces make sense to a new generation of entrepreneurs who want to feel part of a like-minded community whilst operating their businesses on their own terms, often remotely, without expensive office overheads. But it’s not just a matter of having a desk space with internet access, or a meeting room when you need one - it’s more about human interaction. For many entrepreneurs in the startup phase, it can often be a solitary journey. Being surrounded by your tribe of fellow business startup warriors in an environment which is totally geared towards you and your needs, such as a coworking space, just makes sense on every level. So it’s not surprising that it’s become one of the biggest startup trends.

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Fortune favours the brave, or so the saying goes

“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?”

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Working together everyone achieves more

There has been so much written about the power of team work in business - you only have to look at the bookshelves to see the sheer volume of publications on the subject. But the truth is that when you are an entrepreneur, you need all the help you can get and often that means building a great team of people with complementary skills-sets to surround you as you work to build and scale your business. After all, TEAM stands for Together Everyone Achieves More. There is a famous saying by Henry Ford about the power of working together to get things done. He said: “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Something to think about as you build your business and your own team who will help it to grow.

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Women access capital for their businesses differently

A new report has just been published in the US by The National Women’s Business Council “Understanding the Landscape: Access to Capital for Women Entrepreneurs.” It’s findings are relevant to all women entrepreneurs and there are definite lessons to be learned if the funding landscape is to change for women business owners. It seems that although women business owners continue to make significant contributions to the economy, they continue to struggle to access capital, which in turn restricts their growth. Compared with men, women business owners raise smaller amounts of capital to finance their businesses and are more reliant on personal sources of financing. Women still continue to choose bootstrapping instead of overdrafts. They also have networks with fewer connections with ties to resources like financial capital in comparison to their male counterparts. They are also more risk averse, and more likely to keep their businesses small and manageable avoiding external sources of financing because it leads them to give up control or take on higher levels of risk. So, perhaps it’s not just the funding landscape that needs to change to be more women entrepreneur friendly, but also the attitude to going after different types of funding on the part of women entrepreneurs.

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