"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 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.
In the two diverse worlds of sport and business, the saying, ‘being on top of your game’ means you recognize the value of what you are doing, you have the edge, and you are determined to stay ahead of any competition. The trick is to make sure you don’t fall behind once you have gained this edge. One of the best ways to stay on top of any situation is to keep learning - whether that’s learning new skills, new business practices, new manufacturing techniques. It’s about welcoming change, embracing new ways of doing things, bringing new technology into the business, and accepting new information and using it effectively. By its very nature, business is always changing and successful entrepreneurs know that learning to adapt to those changes is key. Having the ability to quickly learn and apply those learnings directly into the business practically translates into a more flexible and agile business, better success down the road, and an improved ability to cope with the obstacles life throws in your path. As you learn, and as you apply the lessons in your life and business, you can stay on top of your game.
Women entrepreneurs often spend too much time worrying about the competition, and not enough time focusing on what makes their business more attractive to customers in the marketplace. It’s a common trait, but one that needs to be avoided. Competition is a reality, but how you approach it is what sets you apart in business. Celebrate what makes you and your business unique, and remember that no other company or entrepreneur has your story, so leverage that fact with your customers. Acknowledge that we live and operate in a new economy, one that celebrates sharing and collaboration, so perhaps instead of seeing other entrepreneurs as competition, explore whether there is the opportunity to share expertise and collaborate to win new business. And importantly, stop comparing your efforts and results with those of other entrepreneurs. Everyone has a different business building journey they are on, so learn from others, celebrate and be inspired by other entrepreneurs’ success, and focus on your own journey. It’s a mind-shift that is needed, but one that is worth the effort.
Every small business has probably experienced that feeling of being overwhelmed when trying to compete with bigger businesses. Yet often it is precisely being small and agile that wins the race. So how do you position your unique brand and business to win customers away from the bigger guys in the market? It starts with specialization, building a reputation for providing a product or a service that is unique or boutique, or that does things differently. Secondly, it’s all about the personal touch, having the opportunity to deliver a more personalized service, one that treats customers as individuals and creates a positive experience. Thirdly, communication is key, using that insight and knowledge of each individual customer to build up a regular touchpoint that in turn builds brand loyalty. Fourthly, smaller businesses are more agile, better able to respond to market conditions or customer needs, producing products or services that resonate. Ultimately, small businesses are at the heart of communities and can deliver unique customer experiences that big businesses cannot, so stop worrying about the bigger competitors and simply focus on what you do best.
Are you in charge of your daily schedule, or is it in charge of you? If you are one of those fortunate people who is naturally organized around your schedule and you make it work for you, then that’s great. However, there are many entrepreneurs out there who struggle daily with their schedule. So here are five ways to help you get to grips with it, and fast! Firstly, shorten your daily to-do list - if it’s too long, chances are things will never get done and that just adds to the daily stress. Secondly identify your priorities for the day and make sure you tackle those first. Thirdly, if meetings take up the majority of your day, something’s probably wrong. Determine which people need a face to face meeting, and which ones can be dealt with online, ultimately keeping all meetings short and to the point. Fourthly, take control of your email, use an email scheduling tool, and set aside designated times to deal with your messages. Finally use a calendar application, making your scheduling much more efficient. This should help you to reclaim your time and maximize your productivity.
We all know the saying, “love what you do and you will never work a day in your life” and this especially rings true for many passion driven entrepreneurs. But the reality is that the day to day grind of running a business can be just that in the early start up phase, a grind! You will be required to tackle endless, seemingly menial tasks that drain your creative energy, such as managing your customer lists, or doing your accounts, or marketing to find new clients. You will often find that there are just not enough hours in the day to complete everything you have to do. At times like these, you have to keep that entrepreneurial fire burning, focus on the passion you have for what you do, and keep your eye on the end goal you are trying to achieve. Yes, there will be days when you have to do things that don’t inspire you, but the trick is to find that fire and approach any task as though it’s the most exciting thing in the world. That fire will drive your business and it will pay off in the long run.
Have you noticed how much broadcast and social media talk, and how many newspaper and magazine column inches, are dedicated to talking about innovative technologies like AI and blockchain. And there’s no doubt that these have a lot of potential. But there’s a tendency to forget that the biggest trend in business is on how we understand and treat our customers and ensure we continue to meet their needs. New UK research indicates that consumers place a significant value on human interaction in the customer services process, with 87% reporting they tend to stay more loyal and increase their business with companies that offer a real person to talk to at the right stage of their customer journey. So while all this talk about innovation is exciting, there is no substitute for world-class customer service delivered by people who really care about the customer experience, who are responsive and open to listening to what customers really need. It’s why there’s nothing quite like the human touch.
As every start-up knows, in the early days you have to wear many hats and fulfill many roles, it’s just part of the journey. But not every entrepreneur is a natural marketeer, or a talented designer and content creator, or a detail oriented accountant or business strategist. And, taking on a specialist workforce during the start-up phase may simply not be an option. So it makes sense to work with freelancers who bring their skills and expertise to the table and undertake individual projects or key tasks when needed. The advantages of this approach can be seen on both sides. The freelancer gets the opportunity to build a multiple client and work portfolio, and the entrepreneur finds a solution to dealing with non-core work demands as they happen, freeing up essential time to focus on the things that matter most in the business. Time is a precious commodity to any entrepreneur, so it makes sense to ensure that it is maximized by outsourcing to specialist freelancers when needed.
Co-working is rapidly becoming the norm in the world of start-up businesses. And it’s interesting to see how big business is also starting to tap into this way of thinking, with many of them setting up satellite offices for their innovation or intrapreneur teams in trendy co-working spots. As a result, co-working spaces are not only providing a sense of community for the independent entrepreneur who is looking to be part of a like-minded community, but also an inspirational environment for employees who want to think more like entrepreneurs. It makes for interesting and often dynamic spaces. Because they are often accessible 24/7 and people can come and go as they please, these collaborative spaces encourage interaction on what can often be an isolating entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial journey. Co-working is now a part of our entrepreneurial lives and thinking, and whilst it may not suit everyone, that sense of community created in these dedicated spaces is definitely a draw card for many. That’s why many businesses are now incorporating co-working into their strategies, seeing the value that can be generated from the experience.
There’s a big difference between starting a business and then successfully running and growing that business over time. It can be a hard slog with continual stress, pressure to effectively manage finances through the inevitable peaks and troughs, managing and developing your employees, retaining your existing clients and finding new ones, and still finding the time to innovate and develop new products and services along the way. It can be a lot to deal with, and unlike corporate employees, you can’t simply leave it all behind at the office each day when you are an entrepreneur. Stress management amongst entrepreneurs is a continual challenge. That’s why you need a really effective support network of fellow entrepreneurs, friends, family and people who can be there when you need them, to offer advice, a shoulder to cry on, a familiar face to have a moan to when the going gets tough, and a cheerleading brigade when you have something to celebrate.
It’s said that a business is only as good as its people, and in a startup, everything revolves around people. In those early days of building your business and developing your products and services, it’s essential to build the right team, and often that’s the hardest part of the journey. Make the wrong hiring or partnering decisions, and it can cost the business quickly, but get it right and build a team that works and thinks well together, and it can be the fastest way to success. This is a fact that most entrepreneurs underestimate. A dream team is made up of people who bring the right combination of skills and experience to the table, but most importantly, the right collaborative mindset and a winning mentality. It’s not just about bringing in as many people as possible in the early days in order to speed up the process, it’s all about getting the right people to the table and into the team. South African entrepreneur, Emma Kaye, founder of Bozza, has some great insights on the subject. She says, “You can see your company turn in a heartbeat from just a couple of bad people. So the most powerful thing for me is choose your team very carefully because your team is you. Always employ people who are far better than you at what you do, and empower them.”
It’s often said that there is never a perfect time to start a business and make the bold move into the world of entrepreneurship, and that’s particularly the case when you are creating something new and innovative. But talk to any uber successful entrepreneur about what it took to galvanize them into action and start their businesses, and they will tell you that the prospect of never having tried was far more regrettable than the prospect of giving it their all and failing. Ultimately, that was the key factor compelling them to take the leap. We all know that there are no guarantees when starting a business, and that failure is often part of the journey, but surely it’s better to have tried and failed than to live with the regret of never having started. As Ellen DeGeneres so aptly says, “When you take risks you learn that there will be times when you succeed and there will be times when you fail, and both are equally important. It's failure that gives you the proper perspective on success.”
An overlooked benefit of women’s entrepreneurship to their economies is their natural strength as skills coaches and job trainers. Women are not only creating much needed new jobs through their businesses, but are also heavily invested in training up their staff. It is often said that the best kind of training is that received on the job, and it is here that women entrepreneurs are making an incredible contribution to training and skills development in their communities. It stands to reason that having created a job the entrepreneur has every reason to ensure the new hire is able to do that job productively and to the very best of their abilities. So whether it is a new sales person, a new machinist, or a new admin assistant, women entrepreneurs are not only creating the new job, but are also training up the new hire. And, because these women know people are their most valuable asset, they are more committed to training people than just about anyone else. In a nutshell, women entrepreneurs across Africa are not only job creators, they’re also great job trainers. It’s time policy makers start to recognize this fact and start to better support women entrepreneurs.
What makes some businesses succeed and others fail? Well, according to the CB Insights Survey, the top reason for failure is creating products or services that consumers don’t actually want or need. Tackling problems that are interesting to solve rather than those that serve a market need was cited as the No. 1 reason for failure in 42% of cases amongst the companies surveyed. Product "pricing/cost issues" and "user-unfriendly products" were near the top as well. Businesses fail when they are not solving a market problem and when they don’t understand what consumers need and want. It sounds simple, but if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. Success comes from solving a large enough problem, need or pain point that can be addressed with a scalable solution. As author and business guru, Seth Godin says, “Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.”
For women entrepreneurs in Africa, there are few things that will help you build traction in your business and support your growth aspirations faster than creating a strong network. It’s essential to have a great network of fellow women entrepreneurs for a number of reasons. Firstly, it can be isolating building a business, particularly if you are a solopreneur. Having access to a network that comes with a variety of specialist resources can increase your access to information, knowledge, expertise, advice, and importantly, access to opportunities to promote your business and brand to others. Secondly, if you work from home or are based in a remote area without access to face-to-face networks, then tapping into virtual online business networks means you can still connect with like-minded entrepreneurs and raise your business profile to potential clients and business partners. Another great way to build networks is to simply participate in specialist forums, e-mail discussion lists, and chat rooms that relate to your business or the type of customer you want to attract. Building a strong business network is key to success. As Robert Kiyosaki says, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work.”
These days, what’s the first thing people do when trying to find out more about you and your business? They check out your digital presence, of course! So, when was the last time you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and checked out your own digital presence to get that first external experience of you and your brand? We live in a 24/7 digitally connected world, so it’s important to have a strong, authentic digital presence, both personally and for your business, that works for you; that people can connect with and feel like they can trust. It should also be the first place that people can get to learn more about you and your business before they make that all important face to face connection. So if you haven’t checked out your own social media pages or your personal or corporate websites recently, then now could be a good time. After all, you never know if that next potential big client is evaluating your digital presence right now!
Wherever I travel in the world, to host or speak at events to raise awareness of Africa’s women entrepreneurs and to open up business opportunities for our Lionesses of Africa network, I always get the same feedback from audiences. They are truly inspired by the personal stories we share of women entrepreneurs in our community from all corners of the African continent who are building great, often impact-driven businesses. These stories resonate and make a real, meaningful connection with audiences who are listening and reading. As a result, it creates greater interest from global market decision-makers who may want to explore business opportunities with more women entrepreneurs on the continent. So let’s get our stories working for us, let’s share them with the world and get people talking positively about Africa’s future economic growth, driven by entrepreneurial women game-changers.
I find myself these days being increasingly drawn to businesses and brands that share my concerns for the environment and who find innovative ways to deal with waste management, for example. Take a look at our article on ecopreneurs here. And, it seems I am not alone. I am fascinated to see how many businesses and brands are responding to customer sentiment and concerns by taking a more conscious and minimalist approach to they way they produce their goods and run their operations. The term business minimalism is growing, with countries like Canada taking the lead and showing how the anti-waste movement is influencing all aspects of business. We can all do more in our own businesses to be resourceful and less wasteful. For example, cutting out plastic bags, using recycled products, being more rigorous with our own recycling, and importantly communicating to our customers about our ethos. This approach is not just good for the environment, it’s also good for business.
At Lionesses of Africa, we believe that as women entrepreneurs who share, inspire and connect, we are stronger together, that’s the ethos of our community. But I am also a firm believer that we are stronger together if we work with like-minded visionaries, companies and organizations who understand what we are trying to build and achieve, and who want to be part of our journey. We need to constantly connect and work with our global impact partners to fund the development of our products and programmes, and to scale their distribution and impact across the continent. We collaborate with influential Impact Partners who share our commitment and vision for advancing Africa’s women entrepreneurs, and we see our Impact Partners as change-makers. They put their money where their mouths are and become our genuine partners, sharing our mission to build meaningful impact for the most underserved women entrepreneurs on the planet. Working with our Impact Partners, we can practically support the development of a new generation of women entrepreneurs who can become the change agents Africa so badly needs. So to all our valued Impact Partners, a big thank you from all of us at Lionesses of Africa, your support helps us to make the difference.
Have you noticed that when women entrepreneurs meet and support one another, great things happen - business is done, collaborations start, and mutually beneficial networks are opened. But it’s so much more than that. I have noticed through our Lionesses of Africa network and at our regular Lioness Lean In events around the continent that not just professional relationships grow, but also long-lasting friendships are formed. And that has certainly been my personal experience as an entrepreneur. I am a great believer in the power of women entrepreneurs to go much further in life and in business when they have great support systems and networks, and strong friendships to support them through the good times and the bad. So in addition to the business benefits that can be gained from building working relationships with your fellow women entrepreneurs with whom you share so much in common, the added bonus is that they can translate into great friendships! What could be better!
Do you often find in this mad life as an entrepreneur that you sometimes just need that quiet time and space to reflect, to review your progress, to think about new ideas and different ways of doing things? We get so caught up with the day-to-day grind of running our businesses that it’s often difficult to see the woods for the trees. As an entrepreneur, a little solo time is an essential part of your working week, but you need to make a conscious decision to build it into your schedule, otherwise you end up pushing it out of the way to make room for other things. And yet these periods of solitude can be good for the business, and for your sanity. Personally, I find in those moments of complete solitude is when I can get the most done and be at my creative best. My mind is quiet, new ideas have the space to flow, and I feel re-energised. So, if you feel that your business is running you instead of the other way around, do yourself a favour and find that all important solo time to stop and get some quiet perspective each day.
As women entrepreneurs, many of us share the perpetual challenge of how to manage our time better, as we try and juggle all the various aspects of our lives simultaneously. And often we feel severely time pressed and this can have serious implications on our business and our personal productivity. But there are steps that can be taken to prevent problems with productivity occurring too frequently. A simple solution is to focus on what we do best and acknowledge that we really don’t need to try and do everything ourselves. It’s about knowing when to delegate and what to delegate to others, freeing ourselves up to focus on those things that really do need our personal attention and skills, and that ultimately we do best. There is a great quote by Virgin Group Founder, Richard Branson, who is the ultimate delegator in business. He says, “You must understand the art of delegation. I have to be good at helping people run the individual businesses, and I have to be willing to step back. The company must be set up so it can continue without me.” So, if you are feeling as though you are constantly battling time in your life and business, make a conscious decision to focus on what you do best, and delegate the rest.
When I travel around the African continent visiting our Lionesses communities in each country, I often speak about how women entrepreneurs can leverage the power of the network to open up business and collaborative opportunities in different countries. But just looking at our Lionesses of Africa network and seeing the increasingly large numbers of users in countries and cities around the world, it becomes clear that women entrepreneurs in the Diaspora are committed to contributing to the continent’s success. And there is an important role they can play. Meeting and talking to many highly experienced and knowledgeable women from the African Diaspora has opened up opportunities for collaboration, for business, for investment and mentoring. Such connections emphasize the important role women entrepreneurs in the African Diaspora can play in bringing their global business smarts to the table and helping to shape the future of the continent through great collaboration, business building, and information sharing. That's why we are delighted to be in London this morning for our first Lioness Lean In event in the city, showcasing these amazing women business builders.
You all know the saying, ‘Content is King’, and in a world where we are bombarded with information and messages 24/7, it’s becoming even more important as entrepreneurs to connect with our customers and audiences through great content. I have to say, at a personal level, that the Lionesses of Africa community has been built on a foundation of creating great daily content to inspire women entrepreneurs. It’s what we do every day, and as anyone who writes knows, it’s hard and time consuming, but absolutely vital to our community. And I have to say that the reason our content resonates with the women entrepreneurs in our network is that we understand the power of shared stories, wisdom and experience to help others on their own journeys. It’s why we have a great and constantly growing team of passionate, committed content contributors who share their own insights and stories each day. So this morning, I would like to say a big thank you to all our guest bloggers, our radio content creators, and our event content producers who help us to create powerful daily content that inspires and motivates our community each day. Your words and insights make a difference and you are all true Lionesses of Africa!
I have many conversations with people around the world who ask how best they can help women entrepreneurs on the African continent to grow, and there is a very simple and practical answer - buy from them. And that goes for women entrepreneurs themselves. If we all make conscious purchasing decisions to buy from other women entrepreneurs in our network, to procure essential services and products from a fellow woman entrepreneur, then we are helping them to grow and they in turn are more likely to support others in the same way. It’s all about investing in each other through sales, and as a result, growing women-owned businesses and brands that can make a real difference in the marketplace. Something to think about the next time you need to make that purchase, in your personal or your business life.
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie