Entrepreneurs need to develop a laser focus on the things that are important

Markets may change, business models may be tweaked, but the one consistent factor in business is the need to maintain a laser focus on the things that are important to you and the future success of your business and brand. That laser focus also extends to keeping a watchful eye on developments and opportunities in the markets in which youoperate, constantly talking to current and potential customers about their needs, and being ready to respond with products and solutions that can fill a gap. A laser focus also means doing the basics right, day in day out, whilst at the same time staying connected with everyone who is part of your value chain, from your employees to your suppliers. After all, a company is only as good as its weakest link, so ensuring that everyone who is a part of your entrepreneurial journey is fully committed to the brand and the business goals, and understands their part in the company’s future success, is critical. So, no matter how many other things may have to change and pivot as your business grows, one thing that needs to remain consistent is your laser focus on the things that matter.

Read More

Having an idea is the easy part, executing it is what matters

How many times do you hear people talking about all their ideas for new businesses, new projects, new innovations? As the old saying goes, ”Ideas are a dime a dozen," but the real trick is taking that idea and turning it into something tangible and viable. It’s all about execution, and that’s where the hard work comes in. What separates entrepreneurs and innovators from those who simply talk about ideas they have is that they take action. They know that an idea without execution remains simply that—an idea, a paper exercise or a passing thought. For most people that is where the thought process begins and ends. What makes the difference is that entrepreneurs are those that go the extra mile, they look at what it takes to turn that idea into a product, or a business, or a solution to a key challenge - they execute, one step at a time. They don’t allow themselves to get bogged down by focusing too much on the big picture in the early days of the process, they simply build that idea one practical block at a time until it becomes something tangible. It’s all about the execution and that’s what matters.

Read More

Finding entrepreneurial success relies on having a positive mental attitude

Being an entrepreneur is a lot like being a professional sportsperson in many ways. If you want to run a successful business, it’s essential to understand the mental, psychological and behavioral characteristics that are the key building blocks for success. It starts with having a positive mental attitude. The indomitable US entrepreneur and retail brand building legend, Debbi Fields, Founder of Mrs. Fields Cookies, said:  “The one thing that I think is critical in the entrepreneurial spirit is that it’s all attitude. If you think you can, then you’re half way there. If you say, ‘I can’t,’ then you’re defeated.” Its hard to be a successful entrepreneur without a positive attitude because you are certain to experience difficult times along your business journey and your success or failure will be determined at these times. So there are a couple of key questions to ask yourself when starting out in business to test your positive attitude.  Firstly, are you confident you can build a successful business, even when things might not go according to the original plan or take far longer than you could have thought possible? Secondly, do you feel good about your chances for success as an entrepreneur despite all the challenges that life might throw at you? If you can positively answer yes to both of these questions, then as Debbi Fields says: “You’re half way there.” It’s all about starting with a positive mental attitude.

Read More

Create a customer experience, not simply a product

As entrepreneurs we get excited when we create a new product or service that we think is revolutionary or will take our customers by storm. But the thing to remember is that the most powerful way to reach and connect those customers to our new offerings is to tap into their real needs, their challenges that need solutions, their business pain points that need new ways of doing things. It’s about creating an opportunity to add real value to their personal or business journeys. Often the best way of making this connection with customers is to create a real and meaningful experience with your product or service, to get them to feel what their lives would be like and how they could be improved by using that product or service. It’s why homeware and furniture designers create stylized room sets that hint at a lifestyle to come with the purchase of a new table or crockery set; or why computer software or hardware designers create and market solutions that are geared towards lifestyle (think IPod, Apple Watch, fitness wristbands etc) and create customer experiences to connect aspirational lifestyle to product. So, when launching and marketing your new product or service, ask yourself the question ‘are you giving your identified customer an experience as well as a solution?’

Read More

Women entrepreneurs are more courageous than they think

We have all heard the saying “Courage is having the heart and roar of a lion” - but for women entrepreneurs, courage comes in different forms and not necessarily with the same amount of noise. If you watch a lioness on the plains of Africa, she is quietly confident, always watching and monitoring what is happening around her, choosing her moments to hunt and strike, and her moments to nurture and inspire, having the courage to deal with adversity. It is the same with women entrepreneurs on the continent - there are often many challenges to overcome when creating businesses, or trying to break into tough markets, or dealing with entrenched attitudes towards women in society and business. Yet what is inspirational is how Africa’s women entrepreneurs demonstrate courage and a confidence each and every day - as they build their companies, create their products and service offerings, launch their brands, and find ways to positively impact society through their social entrepreneurship solutions to major challenges. Women entrepreneurs here in Africa understand that courage is not the absence of fear on our business building journeys - rather it is feeling fear, facing it, and doing it anyway.

Read More

Consistency leads to entrepreneurial success

How many times as entrepreneurs do we know what our big dream or goal to be reached is, and we think we know what needs to be done to get there, but we just don’t do it regularly enough to make it happen - we are not consistent? We get caught up with the day-to-day challenges, stresses and strains of running our businesses that we forget the big picture. Yet, if we look at some of the most successful entrepreneurs and their businesses, consistency is what leads to success. They get the basic things right with the running of their businesses, but they also remain open to ideas and opportunities, and importantly, remain focused on the end goal and how they are going to get there. Ultimately, what makes the difference is that they are consistent in taking the dream and making it a reality, whilst doing the basics right day in, day out. Something we all need to think about as entrepreneurs as we chase our dreams.

Read More

Surround yourself with fellow entrepreneurs who just ‘get’ you

You know what they say - in life, you start to turn into the people you spend most time with. In the world of entrepreneurship, the same is true. The fact is that if you surround yourself with family, friends and networks of people who are not entrepreneurs and who don’t intrinsically understand what it is like to build a business and a brand, then you are not doing yourself any favours. All too often, the people who are closest to us are simply not objective because they love and care for us and want us to succeed, but they don’t tell it like it is. Sometimes, we need a big dose of reality from people who are truly objective, who understand risk and reward, who have an entrepreneurial mindset, and can give us the sort of feedback that we need to grow and thrive in business. So, this morning, take a step back, look at the people who are closest to you on your entrepreneurial journey and ask yourself if they have the entrepreneurial mindset and experience that will inspire and practically help you as you look to achieve your own business dreams.

Read More

Women entrepreneurs need to be at the forefront of a new drive to make and buy proudly African goods

It’s estimated that the export of goods produced in Africa for intra-regional consumption makes up a minuscule 10% of all African exports. The sad thing is that Africa still imports almost everything, from food and fashion to cars and electronics. It appears that despite having a wealth of natural resources and human talent on the continent, trade deficits continue to widen. Visit most African countries and the trend leans towards consumers purchasing imported goods and brands by choice, rather than making conscious decisions to buy locally made and sourced goods that support the economic development of the continent. Going forward, it makes sense for entrepreneurs from across the African continent to lead a new charge, building globally relevant brands and businesses that produce goods of world-class quality and relevance that local consumers want to buy, and that have a brand cachet equal to their imported counterparts. We as a powerful collective of consumers on the African continent need to realize that if we support proudly locally made and sourced goods, then we are putting money directly back into our local economy.  Not only that, we are supporting the growth and development of a strong entrepreneurial culture, one that is capable of driving a new and sustainable economy in each African country, and opening up market opportunities for the exchange of locally made goods cross border. That is how Africa can thrive and develop to its full potential. 

Read More

Innovation and women’s entrepreneurship go hand-in-hand

Innovation and women’s entrepreneurship is a hot topic on the African continent right now, and the latest edition of the AppsAfrica.com Innovation Awards 2016 which has just taken place in Cape Town, South Africa, proves that. The Awards celebrated the best in mobile and technology from across Africa, attracting over 200 entries from 25 countries, with the winners on the night hailing from South Africa, Nigeria, Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Two women entrepreneurs from the African continent were recognized at the event as award winners:

  • Ruth Nabembezi, founder of Ask Without Shame, Uganda, won the Social Impact Award.
  • Faraja Nyalandu, founder of Shule Direct, Tanzania, won the Women in Tech Award.

Andrew Fassnidge founder of appsafrica.com, said: “Our goal at Appsafrica.com is to promote and honour the fantastic innovation across the mobile and tech ecosystem in Africa. We had diverse entries from 25 countries and both the finalists and winners are a testament to how technology is being used to disrupt business models, empower people and drive positive social impact across the continent.” 

The awards party in Cape Town was a great evening of celebration and networking bringing together over 300  mobile and tech leaders, media, investors and innovators from across Africa. Congratulations to all of the 2016 winners and particularly our Lionesses of Africa, Ruth Nabembezi and Faraja Nyalandu. 

Read our startup stories of Ruth Nabembezi and Faraja Nyalandu.

Read More

New Standard Bank Survey on Women’s Entrepreneurship in South Africa Published

Access to new markets and funding are the biggest barriers to developing or taking female-owned businesses to the next level, according to a South African Entrepreneurship survey by Standard Bank. Jobs and growth in Africa will be dependent on innovation and entrepreneurship, but the survey of 130 South African female entrepreneurs found that most women are still pressured to pursue a traditional career. Yet, if they do, they are then pressured to be the “perfect business woman and homemaker”. According to the survey, which was conducted in October to coincide with the inaugural Lionesses of Africa Annual Conference in Johannesburg, female entrepreneurs are seeking more resources (31%), support (24%) and networking (22%). Interestingly, infrastructure, training and technology were not seen as barriers by this group of women entrepreneurs, but this may be attributed to the sizes of their businesses. Almost all of the respondents had relatively small to medium-sized businesses with less than 20 employees (95%), and of those surveyed 44% had children (40% married with children, while 38% were single with no children and 6% single with children). The Standard Bank survey found that being a female entrepreneur takes courage, with those who have fear choosing to overcome it. In the survey, 82% of the respondents agreed that they are “fearless” when it comes to being female entrepreneurs in Africa - and they are fearless because the fear of not succeeding is greater than that of not acting. The specific challenges highlighted in the survey need to be addressed as we build the businesses of the future that will take Africa and female entrepreneurs forward. To read the overview of the survey results here.

Read More

Learning the art of accepting that not all business is potentially good business

You know that feeling as a startup, when you are prepared to accept any business that is on offer, regardless of whether it is the right type of client or the right type of project. The immediate reaction is to say “if it pays, then it’s good business”. But the fact is, not all business really is good business. The important questions have to be asked - if I accept this business opportunity, is it going to move my company forward, is it going to be a good use of my time, is it going to take my eye off the real ball, are these clients I want to work with or are they going to be a real headache and end up hurting my business and brand? This was a topic being discussed on the sidelines of the Lioness Lean In Breakfast event in Cape Town yesterday and it made for really interesting conversation. Many of the women startups chatted about how when times are tough, you take any business on offer, but often there is a negative impact that comes with not being discerning and there can be fall-out further down the line for not choosing projects and clients carefully. Learning the art of accepting that not all business is good business, and that it’s okay to say no to the business you don’t want may seem counterintuitive to an entrepreneur. But it’s important to focus, keep your eye on the main purpose and goals of the business, and choose clients and projects that will help to grow your business and brand in line with your vision.

Read More

Don’t let your fears stop you from becoming an entrepreneur

At Lionesses of Africa, we often hear aspirant women entrepreneurs talking about their ideas for starting a new business. But at the same time, we also hear them sharing their fears about taking the leap of faith to turn those ideas into reality. Often they hesitate to make that leap, thinking that perhaps the time is not perfect, or the market conditions not optimal. The fact is that it’s often more a case of fear taking over, controlling the decision-making process, and creating doubt and crises of confidence. The reality is that fear does indeed have a place in our lives, but we must never let fear shape our destinies. Instead, taking the leap towards becoming an entrepreneur requires courage, faith, huge amounts of passion, tenacity, and above all, confidence. If you wait for the ‘so called’ perfect moment, the chances are it will never come, or someone else with a similar idea to yours will beat you to the post. So what are you waiting for? Summon up your courage, push your fears to the side, do your homework, and take the plunge. Your entrepreneurial journey starts now.

Read More

Will the next innovative, globally important consumer brand for women emerge from Africa?

By now you will probably have heard that this has been declared the Decade of the African Woman Entrepreneur. What makes it important is that women across the continent are becoming empowered to launch and build sustainable companies capable of producing the products and services that women actually want in their day to day lives. Instead of simply being passive consumers, tenacious women entrepreneurs in Africa are listening to other women, designing and manufacturing products that can positively change lives. Not only that, these women groundbreakers are tapping into an increasingly connected continent and a millennial generation that understands the power of taking products and services viral. Africa is a continent that is changing and women are at the forefront of driving that change because they are powerful consumers, not simply a niche market to pay lip service to. Women control household spending, education spending, clothing and medical care spending, to name but a few. They have a say in the types of products and services they need, and women entrepreneurs are listening to that voice and providing the solutions. So who knows, maybe the next innovative globally important consumer brand focused on women will emerge from Africa? There has never been a better time than now.

Read More

Why being open to new ideas is good for business

We all start off on our entrepreneurial journeys with one business idea in mind and we throw everything we have at trying to make it work, often with varying degrees of success. The important thing to realize is that will very likely take more than one idea to achieve that success and not to get too bogged down with desperately trying to make a single idea work. It’s through this learning curve that we grow as entrepreneurs - see it almost like an apprenticeship in the early years of your business building journey. Be open to new ideas, new inspirations, and learn from each of them - it’s how we grow after all. If one particular idea doesn’t work, the lesson is not to see it as failure, its just part of the apprenticeship. Take the learnings from each experience and apply them to the next business idea you have - it could be the winning one.

Read More

Why we need to proudly promote 'Women Made In Africa' products globally

How often do we hear global marketing and PR campaigns that promote goods that are proudly made in a particular country, ie. Made in Britain, Made in Italy, etc? These campaigns celebrate the entrepreneurs that are creating world-class products and building globally relevant brands, but which are proudly made in their home countries by local craftspeople. Here in Africa, we have so much to showcase to the world in terms of proudly African brands and products, particularly those designed, crafted, and manufactured by talented women entrepreneurs from across the continent. We need to do more to celebrate and put 'Women Made in Africa' products on the global map, to get the world talking about the women entrepreneurs behind these world-class brands, and importantly buying these unique and beautifully made things that reflect the best in contemporary and traditional design from the continent. So, this month let’s proudly support ‘Women Made in Africa’ design, creativity, craftsmanship,  and the new and exciting brands that are emerging to set the world alight.

Read More

Informal entrepreneur communities are instrumental to startup success

New research from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) confirms that informal entrepreneur communities are instrumental to start-up success in those cities that are known for their nurturing of innovation. “Start-up ecosystems” are beginning to gain traction across Africa where entrepreneurs help other entrepreneurs in both informal and formal networks; and where business incubators and accelerators provide practical guidance and assistance to startups, as well as inspirational spaces in which to operate (the Standard Bank Business Incubators in key cities across South Africa are a great example of this). Successful start-up ecosystems are there to help turn entrepreneurial ideas into reality, to harness the energy and talent of bright new innovators to create tomorrow’s great businesses, and to help these new young businesses to access market opportunities, finance, and other specialist support. It’s often challenging for entrepreneurs just starting out on their business journeys - they don’t know who best to get advice from, how to market themselves and their businesses, where to connect with specialist service providers, or how to meet other like-minded entrepreneurs. This is where these informal entrepreneur communities provide a valuable and creative lifeline that is so instrumental to success.

Read More

New Global Entrepreneurship Index launches

The 2017 Global Entrepreneurship and Development Index, which measures the quality and dynamics of entrepreneurship ecosystems around the world, has just been published by The GEDI Institute. It reveals some interesting data for Sub-Saharan Africa, the second largest continent by area and the largest if measured by number of countries, and includes some of the least developed countries which is reflected in the countries’ global GEI rankings and GEI scores. This new GEI indicates there is significant work still to be done to improve the foundations for entrepreneurship across the region. The leading country in this region according to the Index data, Botswana, achieves a GEI score of 34.4, which ranks it 52nd among the 137 countries analyzed in the global GEI ranking. Botswana has an Attitudes score almost 50% higher than its other scores. This is a much larger difference than average, and is also visible in Ghana, Senegal,  Côte d’Ivoire, Benin and Mauritania. Other countries in the region score highest in Abilities including Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, and Burundi. Finally, some countries score highest in Aspirations including South Africa, Gabon, Swaziland, Kenya, Angola and Chad. West Africa’s profile shows bright spots in Opportunity Perception, Networking, and High Growth.

GEI Ranking of the Sub-Saharan African Countries

Botswana (52), South Africa (55), Namibia (60), Gabon (75), Ghana (86), Swaziland (88), Zambia (96), Nigeria (100), Senegal (102), Rwanda (103), Kenya (107), Ethiopia (109), Côte d’Ivoire (112), Gambia (115), Cameroon (116), Tanzania (118), Mali (119), Liberia (121), Mozambique (123), Madagascar (124), Angola (125), Uganda (126), Benin (127), Malawi (130), Guinea (131), Burkina Faso (132), Mauritania (136), Sierra Leone (135), Burundi (136), Chad (137).

Read More

Global Entrepreneurship Week officially kicks off today

Today marks the official start of Global Entrepreneurship Week, a time when 160 countries around the world celebrate entrepreneurs and their innovative spirit. Global Entrepreneurship Week is the largest gathering of innovators and entrepreneurs who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and stimulate socio-economic development. The week is dedicated to inspire millions of people across the world through local, national and global activities designed to help them unleash their potential as entrepreneurs and innovators. In Africa, the AU through its blueprint for socio-economic development, Agenda 2063: the Africa We Want, encompasses the ideals of entrepreneurship and innovation through its developmental aspirations aimed at building a sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem on the continent. Lionesses of Africa is celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week with the launch of the first Lioness Lean In Breakfast Event in Maputo, Mozambique on 17th November, powered by Standard Bank. It promises to be a great week ahead.

Read More

Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrates the innovators and job creators who launch startups

Global Entrepreneurship Week takes place next week from 14 to 20 November, and is the world’s largest celebration of the innovators and job creators who launch startups that bring ideas to life, drive economic growth and expand human welfare. It’s a week which inspires people everywhere through local, national and global activities to help them take the next step on their entrepreneurial journey. Researchers and policymakers engage in discussions around the world to examine the underlying policies necessary to promote entrepreneurial growth. Meanwhile, world leaders and local elected officials alike have embraced the campaign as they look to fuel the economic engine of high-growth startups in their own countries and communities. Global Entrepreneurship Weekis more than just an awareness campaign - its connection and collaboration, engaging all players along the entrepreneurship spectrum in strengthening ecosystems around the world. To find out more, check out http://genglobal.org/global-entrepreneurship-week

Read More

Why engaging your customers and keeping them engaged is so important

Anyone watching the US election over the past few weeks, and then seeing the global reactions following the surprise election results in the past 24 hours, will probably have a much better appreciation for the power of engagement. If there is one thing that the US election can demonstrate to entrepreneurs, it’s that knowing your customers and stakeholders, appreciating and understanding their needs, and then engaging with them constantly to ensure they remain engaged, is critical. Anyone in business knows that it is harder, much harder, to keep customers happy and satisfied for the long term as opposed to winning them in the first place - it takes continual effort, creativity, commitment and the ability to keep listening to what they want and need. It can be all too easy to take them for granted and presume they are on board and brand loyal (just look at the US election results as evidence of this), only to find out they are not. So keep talking to your customers, get feedback constantly, look to improve your product and service offerings to keep them engaged and loyal, and never take them for granted.

Read More