"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.
Taking that first big step to starting a business is always a big decision to make for any young woman entrepreneur. And the importance of role models in helping them to make the leap should not be underestimated. Seeing other women succeed in building their businesses and brands is vital. As is being able to watch and learn from them at a practical level. Even more importantly for these young women entrepreneurs is having the opportunity to connect with their role models, to ask for advice and mentorship. Research indicates that for many young women entrepreneurs, their start-up decision was influenced by seeing their role models succeed - and, showing what is possible. Many would not have the confidence to embark on an entrepreneurial path without such positive examples in their lives.
There was a time when investors simply looked at a balance sheet and focused on a business’s ability to achieve a return on investment in the shortest space of time. Today, things are much more complex. Investment decisions are made by also taking into account the ability of the business to make money and make a difference. It’s all about creating impact and benefitting humankind at the same time. Investors want to see their money working for them and for the world. So if you are looking to pitch your business to potential investors, ensure your social impact goals are also clearly defined. And ensure you research the philanthropic or corporate social responsibility goals of the investors you are trying to reach, and ensure your own goals align with theirs. It will improve your chances of making that all important connection.
We’ve all heard about the entrepreneur overnight success stories that apparently happen to the lucky few - and we like the idea of it. But in reality, it’s just a myth. For entrepreneurs there’s no such thing as an overnight success! It takes years of hard work, tough times, sacrifice, and so much more, before all that effort hopefully pays off. Read the interviews with entrepreneurial legends such as Richard Branson and Elon Musk, to name but a few, and they will talk about the years of failure and frustration before success was achieved. An overnight success in reality takes around 7 to 10 years to actually happen - if you are lucky! It’s something to remember during those difficult times in our business journeys. Even the most successful entrepreneurs have been through similar tough experiences. They know that the road to success comes from navigating the ups and downs, and being in it for the long haul. As Leo Tolstoy once said, “Great achievements take time, there is no overnight success.”
As entrepreneurs, we all know that feeling - when despite putting in all the time, effort and passion into our businesses, we still get the inevitable rejections. And, it can be absolutely confidence crushing and fatiguing, no matter how long you have been in business. But the fact is, as an entrepreneur, you are going to encounter rejection - it’s part of the journey. You have to learn how to deal with it and move on without dwelling on it. Some people cope with rejection really well. They walk away, but they learn from it. Others find it harder - and it can hold them back. So how do you deal with rejection as a woman entrepreneur? Remember that you are not alone - entrepreneurs around the world are experiencing the same pain as you. So, if rejection is getting you down, reach out to another woman entrepreneur for a coffee and a chat - swop your rejection stories, exchange experiences, and share that pain with someone who knows what you are going through. It will make you stronger.
Agriculture currently accounts for 32% of GDP in Africa, offering the greatest potential for poverty alleviation and job creation. A recent research report by KPMG and the UN Global Compact highlighted that increasing the participation of small and medium sized agribusinesses in value chains advanced sustainable development. It also pointed to the need to create more local value added goods, to meet the fast-growing demand in both African and overseas markets. Women entrepreneurs are seizing the opportunity to build businesses that transform locally grown raw materials into world class products and brands. They are generating market demand, both at home and abroad, providing sustainable incomes for local farmers and creating new sources of consumers for locally grown products. Women entrepreneurs are tangibly helping to build agriculture value chains across Africa, so when their businesses thrive, so do local agri-communities.
There is a tendency to think that our challenges as women entrepreneurs are unique to ourselves, to our cities and countries, and to our business sectors. But the fact is that, it doesn’t matter where you travel across the African continent or indeed the rest of the world, the business challenges we are experience tend to be just the same. As we continue to tour Africa’s business capitals with our Lioness Lean In events, meeting with really inspirational women business builders along the way, we hear the same challenges being honestly discussed. These range from getting access to capital, to accessing new markets, to juggling work and family commitments, to training and developing people, to name but a few. So as women entrepreneurs, whether we are building our businesses in Lagos or Lilongwe, Maputo or Lusaka, we can all learn from one another, share our experiences and insights, help each other along our journeys. That’s the power of belonging to a community of like-minded women entrepreneurs, and remembering that we go Further, Together!
As global economies are seeing their fair share of challenges right now, Africa’s growing business opportunities and strong economic growth are not only catching the attention of investors and big businesses. It seems the continent is becoming an attractive startup destination for women entrepreneurs in the African Diaspora too. This growing sense of optimism in Africa’s economic potential is backed up by some strong facts and figures. The IMF predicts that seven of the world's fastest-growing economies over the next five years will be in Africa; Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria, are all expected to expand by more than 6% a year. And women entrepreneurs who have been living and working abroad are increasingly looking to return and contribute to the continent’s future socio economic success story. They come armed with a wealth of experience, global insights, specialist business building skills, and above all plenty of passion. The future looks bright for women-led businesses across the Continent.
Walk down global high streets or shopping malls at the moment and you will see a change beginning to happen. The appearance of newer, smaller, independent brands and stores beginning to appear. And it’s backed by an interesting trend that is being driven by a desire for a different type of consumer experience. These niche, small business retailers have a competitive advantage on their bigger, better capitalized, globally driven retailers - and that’s their personal touch. And it’s precisely this approach to seeing every customer as an individual, that is reshaping the retail landscape. The next big predicted trend in the retail space is that small is beautiful again, with a focus on personal, customer centric experiences that take place in both physical and digital retail spaces. It’s less about what is sold, and instead how you sell it. Market analysts attribute this retail shift to smaller niche player being seen as more authentic, connecting to local growers and value chains, and the power of story telling.
The growth of e-commerce in Africa is providing new and exciting opportunities to connect buyers with sellers, and proudly African-made products with global markets. Importantly it is also reducing the barriers to cross border trade on the continent. Women entrepreneurs are beginning to tap into the power of digital, connecting their businesses with important retail opportunities pan-Africa and globally. The flexibility of e-commerce also empowers women to build businesses that can fit around home and work life, bringing not just financial independence but also creative and personal freedom. The rise of this She-Commerce business environment is also inspiring a new generation of young women to consider digital entrepreneurship to drive their own economic futures. This new digitally empowered generation have a much clearer roadmap to financial and business independence. They see e-commerce as a “Minimum investment, Maximum profit” business model that can bring them both lifestyle and economic rewards.
Research continues to show there is a clear confidence gap that remains between men and women entrepreneurs. As a result, this causes women to be more averse to taking risks in business, which could be restricting their growth. But there is an upside to this confidence gap. Although women don’t take as many risks, they are better at assessing them. They recognize that the stakes are high, particularly in Africa. Women start businesses to feed their families, to educate their children, to support their communities, and to contribute to the social and economic development of their countries. They recognise that their success in business is part of a much longer impact value chain. So the upside of the confidence gap is that when women do make the decision to go into business, they plan and prepare for success and profitability, even though the road to get there may be slower. The good news is that with work, confidence can be acquired, self doubt can be diminished, and women entrepreneurs can become better at taking calculated risks that pay off in the long term.
Have you noticed how entrepreneurs who do well in business often challenge the ‘status quo’, pushing boundaries or redefining business sectors and industries? These disruptive entrepreneurs are good at spotting new opportunities in the marketplace, and then changing the rules that exist around them. They also grow their workforces at a much faster rate than their more conventional competitors. Research suggests that the most disruptive entrepreneurs who have changed all or many of the rules in their business sector, were 58% more likely to increase their overall workforce. These findings send a clear message to others. Going forward, businesses that are not embracing innovation and disruption risk being left behind. Why? Because disruptive entrepreneurs are laser-focused on driving growth and building strong businesses by attracting the best workforce talent. And that’s why disruptive entrepreneurs create jobs.
So here’s an interesting trend! It seems that women entrepreneurs tend to outperform their male peers when it comes to hiring, according to the EY Global Job Creation Survey. Speaking about the upward trend, Uschi Schreiber, EY Global Vice Chair ‒ Markets, said: “There are signs that women entrepreneurs are fast becoming leading job creators. This is extremely encouraging as entrepreneurship has long been a route to employment and business success for many women despite the enduring gender gap. While some challenges remain for female-led businesses, like often not scaling to the same extent as their male-led counterparts, our research shows some tentative and welcome signs that this is changing. Our research shows that female entrepreneurs are more likely to run billion dollar businesses and outperform men when it comes to hiring and creating jobs.” And what is even more exciting is that young women entrepreneurs are leading the job creation charge, bringing more workers into help grow their businesses than their young male counterparts.
Ask any successful woman entrepreneur where they have received the best advice and support, and often they will tell you it has come from other women business builders. And let’s be honest, as we all walk this challenging entrepreneurial journey, we all appreciate the occasional nudge to try something new from a fellow entrepreneurial sister, or a few words of encouragement during tough times from someone who has also been there. But just as we seek the support of these amazing women entrepreneurs on our own journeys, so we need to reciprocate and give support to other women in their businesses - and, on an ongoing basis. Let’s make a positive decision to elevate each other, to invite them to speak at our events and connect with our own networks, to provide opportunities for them to introduce their products and services to our markets. By shining a light on our fellow women entrepreneurs rather than simply on ourselves all the time, we elevate each other and grow together.
As women entrepreneurs, we all know that feeling when we come to the end of a really busy week or month, when we are experiencing the serious toll of running a business on our minds, bodies and spirits. Often at times like these, it feels like there are more problems than solutions and we are the only ones in the world struggling to make it all work. Then we remember that we belong to a community of fellow women business builders who are just like us, experiencing the same challenges, the same highs and lows. Getting together and meeting regularly with your entrepreneur peers is not only uplifting, it can be transformative. After exchanging pleasantries and catching up on personal news, the conversation inevitably turns to the challenges that you are having in your business and personal life. You all share advice on your specialist areas of expertise, you talk about ways to scale your business and to try and achieve some sort of work/life balance. Importantly, you walk out of the meeting feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the world again. That’s the power of the Pride!
Job creation is a major issue for the African continent, with its young, growing population. Between now and 2035, African nations will have to create 18 million new jobs every year just to keep pace with the rapidly growing population. That’s almost 50,000 new jobs every single day, simply to maintain employment at its current level. And, for many women on the continent, it is this specific challenge that sparks them to become entrepreneurs in the first place. The contribution they can make to job creation is significant. As an example, the agriculture sector and the artisan enterprise sector are the two largest employing sectors on the African continent, and both are dominated by women. Women grow this continent’s food and their hands produce the artisan crafts that employ local people within the community. The challenge is to help these women to build businesses that can grow to become significant employers of other people, right along the value chain. And importantly, to create opportunities for the next generation of young people to become the successful entrepreneurs and job creators of the future.
At Lionesses of Africa, we passionately believe women entrepreneurs hold the key to creating economic change and for tackling Africa's many socio-economic challenges. In fact, Africa’s women entrepreneurs can become the continent’s most effective game-changers and an incredible force for growth on the continent. It’s a big statement to make - but women entrepreneurs hold such incredible potential. Africa has the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs by population anywhere in the world. The most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Report and the Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship tells us that Sub-Saharan Africa leads the world rankings, with female entrepreneurship rates of 25.9 per cent of the female adult population. Women entrepreneurs are economic game-changers because they typically reinvest 90% of what they make back into their communities - this is according to the World Bank. This means women entrepreneurs not only have the potential to be amazing engines for economic growth, they are also the most powerful engine for distributing that growth equitably across society. So, the opportunity is compelling!
Today’s digitally empowered customers know all too well how to seek out the information they need on the products or services they are looking for, and they are no longer influenced simply by big advertising spend on tv, in glossy magazines, or on expensive billboards. Inbound marketing has changed all that, focusing on attracting customers through relevant and helpful content and adding value at every stage of the customer's buying journey. With inbound marketing, customers find businesses, brands and products through blogs, search engines, and social media, all underpinned by great content that connects, addresses problems and needs, and has great visual and editorial appeal. Inbound marketing means that today, small agile businesses can compete with their larger counterparts for share of eyes and customer spend. The bottom line is that if you have a good understanding of your customers and what they need, and you can create compelling content, you can have as much brand power as your bigger rivals. That’s the power of Inbound Marketing!
Arrive in any major global city as an entrepreneur and one of the things that will immediately catch your eye will be the growing number of trendy co-working spaces springing up. According to the latest research forecast figures published by global coworking specialists GCUC, it is anticipated that the global number of coworking spaces will reach 17,725 by the end of this year (with 2.3 million members), and almost 30,500 by 2022 (with 5.1 million members). And what’s behind this meteoric rise in interest in the co-working concept? Well, its a practical response to the increasing demand for more flexible, adaptable and fun working environments. This trend is being driven by entrepreneurs in the main, but is increasingly becoming attractive to major corporates who are looking for spaces where their employees can innovate and disrupt traditional ways of doing things. The success of these co-working spaces is built on a sense of community, creating physical spaces where like-minded people come together to collaborate, ideate and network. And as research suggests, with 84% of people who use co-working spaces reporting they are happier and feel more engaged and motivated, it’s not hard to see why co-working is a growing trend.
We all know the saying, “love what you do and you will never work a day in your life” and this especially rings true for many passion driven entrepreneurs. But the reality is that the day to day grind of running a business can be just that in the early start up phase, a grind! You will be required to tackle endless, seemingly menial tasks that drain your creative energy, such as managing your customer lists, or doing your accounts, or marketing to find new clients. You will often find that there are just not enough hours in the day to complete everything you have to do. At times like these, you have to keep that entrepreneurial fire burning, focus on the passion you have for what you do, and keep your eye on the end goal you are trying to achieve. Yes, there will be days when you have to do things that don’t inspire you, but the trick is to find that fire and approach any task as though it’s the most exciting thing in the world. That fire will drive your business and it will pay off in the long run.
In today’s increasingly competitive world, small businesses can sometimes feel that they are at a disadvantage when it comes to getting ahead, but there is one factor that they underestimate, and that is agility. Small businesses are naturally agile, they have to be. After all, when market conditions change, or customer preferences shift, entrepreneurs think about how they can respond by changing strategic direction, or creating new products and service offerings, often at a moment’s notice. This ability to remain agile is a real competitive advantage for any small business. Bigger companies and organizations find it much more difficult to continuously innovate and adapt quickly in response to market changes - they are like the proverbial oil tankers trying to turn around quickly, it doesn’t happen at the speed they would like. Agility has long been a benefit of the small business as there are no vast entrenched processes and strategies to deal with, or bureaucratic systems to overcome. It’s easier to pivot at a moment’s notice if necessary. So start seeing your small business as agile and use it to your advantage.
So here’s a fact that we probably instinctively knew already - women entrepreneurs have to work harder than their male counterparts to make a success of their businesses. According to a Centre for Entrepreneurship study, almost one in five women say they lack the technical knowledge required for their business compared to only one in 20 men - meaning they have to learn as they go. And, a quarter of women entrepreneurs say they don’t have the networks necessary to build their businesses, while fewer than one in ten men say this is a problem. But these challenges are no longer barriers to success, if anything it makes women entrepreneurs more resilient, more open to learning and collaborating, and more tenacious. And here’s the good news from the study - in a marked contrast to normal pay structures, it would seem women entrepreneurs in their own businesses take home twice as much pay as the men.
Why is it that, as entrepreneurs in business, we think we are expected to know everything there is to know in our chosen fields, when in life that would never be the case? We are always learning, and in fact, it’s important to keep ourselves open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, it’s what keeps our businesses and our minds fresh. That’s why it’s okay to ask for help and advice from other people who may be more experienced or who come with a different perspective to our own. And we need to stop worrying that by asking for help, people will view us differently. We need to put our pride aside and simply admit that we don’t have the answers, or our ideas have dried up, or our perspective has temporarily disappeared and we need some support to look at a situation with fresh eyes. Asking for external help can sometimes provide a competitive advantage too, particularly if you are trying to get a new product or service out to market and you need to tap into a wealth of specialist knowledge and expertise from those who have been there and done it before you. As South African entrepreneur, Benji Coetzee, founder of EmptyTrips says, "Don't be scared to ask. You will be surprised how willing people are to help, when you humble yourself."
Crowdsourcing has become the resourceful entrepreneur’s path to finding the right support and solutions when most needed, by tapping into the power of community and networks. So it should come as no surprise that women entrepreneurs are naturally talented at harnessing the power of crowdsourcing for their businesses. Think about it - as women we are no strangers to asking other women in our networks for help and advice on how to get something done, or where to find a particular product, or how and where to get the best bargain. As a woman entrepreneur building a business with often stretched financial resources, the ability to come up with creative strategies, access other people’s knowledge, connections, and resources is crucial. Therefore, tapping into our natural abilities as crowdsourcers and harnessing the power of collective knowledge and networks can be a real asset.
For many women entrepreneurs, their business building journeys do not start with a ‘Eureka’ or ‘Lightbulb’ moment, instead they are the result of a measured and well thought out lifestyle decision to start companies to better balance their work and family lives. By choosing to step away from the world of corporate and instead enter the world of entrepreneurship, women have the opportunity to achieve economic independence whilst at the same time satisfying their combined needs to build family and business simultaneously. And it’s not always just about the money - although that’s an important factor. Many women are choosing to run their own businesses from home to better control work and personal lifestyle, and harnessing the power of the digital economy to help them to realize their goals. As creating wealth for the sake of it is often not their primary focus, many women owned businesses remain smaller by choice - and it works for them both on a personal level and for their families.
Africa is bracing itself for a transport revolution as more countries are recognizing the need for intelligent mobility and embracing new technology. And the need has never been greater. The latest World Economic Forum competitiveness data highlights the fact that only three African countries make it into the top 50 global list for the quality of their roads, rail and ports infrastructure. An intelligent mobility revolution means finding smart ways of electrifying, automating and digitalizing existing transport infrastructure in order to give every citizen access to safe, reliable and efficient modes of transport. If Africa is to realize its significant potential, its entrepreneurs and business builders need efficient, reliable transport and logistics infrastructure that connects their products and people to important local, regional and global markets. With intelligent mobility comes opportunity, possibility, and ultimately rewards, not just for entrepreneurs but for the continent’s citizens. The time for that mobility revolution is now.
The world of PR is changing, and with the rapidly evolving, 24/7 social media driven world we live in, it means that the notion of PR as we know it is changing in business. Any mystique that existed around this industry has gone, and for startup entrepreneurs there is a realization that there is no one better at selling their businesses and getting their brand messages out there than themselves. So if you are a startup entrepreneur and looking to DIY your PR, here are a few helpful tips to remember. Firstly, always accept that coffee invitation, you never know where it will lead. Secondly, get to know your customers, what they need and want, their buying patterns and habits, and tap into those needs with your messaging. Thirdly, when pitching your stories to news media, do your research and ensure your stories will resonate with their specific audiences. Fourthly, harness the power of social media, it could be your best way of quickly reaching audiences and getting people talking. Finally, first impressions count - make sure your stories and messages are well written, visually well presented, and impactful. And remember, good PR takes time but it’s worth the effort.
If you want to build a business that goes the distance, what’s the key trait you need to possess by the bucketload? Self belief! It’s essential. Passion might get you started, enthusiasm and energy will keep you going in the early days, but self-belief is what will ensure you reach the finish line. Many successful women entrepreneurs will tell you that it was only their self belief that allowed them to bounce back from the continual rejections, naysayers, and inevitable challenges faced along the journey. Self belief gives you the courage to keep picking up the phone and making those cold sales calls regardless of the number of rejections you get; or to keep standing up in front of an audience to pitch your business when your heart is racing and your palms are sweating with nerves; or to keep presenting your innovative ideas to conservative-minded business leaders who think they have seen it all before. There is a great quote on the subject of self belief by South African entrepreneur, Nobesuthu Ndlovu, founder of fashion retail company, Burgundy Fly, who says, "There will always be reasons as to why you shouldn't start a business; focusing on the cons and on the negatives for most ideas is a sure way to ensure failure. Therefore, it is essential to ensure that not only are you in a positive headspace, but also that you believe in yourself and your capabilities, all the way through the journey."
Let’s face it, you can have a great business in Africa that creates world class products and services, but if your productivity and growth is hampered by poor infrastructure such as continual power interruptions, loadshedding, poor roads, or unreliable internet connections, it can be frustrating. Economic development requires a good basic infrastructure framework and that includes good roads, consistent power supply, access to reliable and affordable internet, and transportation facilities such as railroads and waterways. Many small manufacturers from Johannesburg to Lagos have to battle daily with power blackouts and surges, causing equipment damage and reduced productivity. Bigger businesses have to invest in power generators, making production more expensive and products less competitive in the market. Moving goods from one part of the country or continent to another takes a lot longer than necessary due to poor infrastructure and incurring higher costs. This is particularly challenging for those who deal with perishable goods, as by the time they get to their destinations some of their product is already damaged. If Africa really wants to grow a thriving entrepreneurial community, it needs an efficient infrastructure to support it.
One of the biggest barriers to the growth and development of entrepreneurship in Africa is corruption. How often do you read in the newspapers or hear people talking about business owners being approached for a bribe by an official in order to get a contract. Such ethical issues are detrimental to the spirit behind entrepreneurship and ultimately have a widespread effect that at the end of the day reaches every facet of the community. When bribes are paid, it stands to reason that those additional costs will be passed on to consumers; or for those who don’t pay bribes, they will experience delays and inevitable frustrations in getting things done, translating into product and service supply challenges for the consumer. Corruption has far-reaching tentacles that keep the continent in a vicious cycle that hinders entrepreneurship and ultimately stunts growth. There is a quote by leading Rwandan education publishing entrepreneur, Lydie Hakizimana, that sums up the real cost of corruption on entrepreneurship, she says: “Corruption leads to a lot of missed opportunities, .... Corruption stops someone to think that he can be an entrepreneur. Corruption makes you fear to take the risk. When you have corruption in a country, people are just discouraged. There is no hope. They don’t see themselves successful in the long term.”
Have you noticed a golden thread that connects successful women entrepreneurs? And it’s not what you might think. It’s not that they all went to similar universities and share an MBA in common, or have developed a particular type of high growth business plan, or that they are in women-centric business or industry sectors. If you look at their personal stories about how they have started and grown their businesses and what makes them tick, the common thread is that they are also passionate about the power of community. For so many women entrepreneurs, it’s not just about making money and being successful for the sake of it, it’s about building a business that can also make a real difference in the lives of other people and supporting the growth of strong communities. They understand that with this approach, everybody benefits.
There is nothing quite like starting the week with some shared words of wisdom to keep us motivated. So I was delighted when my fellow Lioness, Margaret Hirsch, co-founder of the uber successful Hirsch’s Homestores in South Africa, shared a great quote with me this weekend that really resonated. So I thought I would share it with you all this morning. It’s by the American author and anthropologist, Margaret Mead, who said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world, indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” It made me appreciate once again that as women entrepreneurs here on the African continent building strong, sustainable businesses, we can change it for the better!
I meet so many women entrepreneurs on my day-to-day travels around the African continent who are building businesses that are inspired by their passions or their hobbies. And that’s great, because passion will keep you going through even the toughest times. But one of the biggest challenges they encounter is the practical reality of turning a passion project into a sustainable business - and one that makes money from the outset. For any business to succeed, there has to be a strategy and an ability to make money. It sounds simple, but for many women entrepreneurs who start with a passion project, they are not intentional enough about how they will go about turning passion into profit. That’s why it’s essential to have a sound income generating plan and a strategy for growth to create the foundation for that passion and the business to survive and thrive.
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie
I love getting the chance to meet up with the inspirational and uber-successful women entrepreneurs in our 100 Lionesses network, whenever and wherever I can. Recently, I had the pleasure of spending time in Cape Town with Divine Ndhlukula, founder of Securico in Zimbabwe. She always has some wonderful insights to share, coming from her years of invaluable experience building a game-changing business from the ground up. She shares a particular piece of advice with young startups, which is relevant to every entrepreneur in the early years. And it will resonate with all those who are trying to manage when money is tight. She says, “Don't be tempted to take cash out of your early-stage startup venture. When a bit of cash starts rolling in, have the discipline to know that it is not your money yet. It is still the business’s money because you want the business to grow. So for you to sustain it and enjoy phenomenal growth, that anyone going into business wants, you need to reinvest all the little bits of cash that you get then you can be assured that your business will grow.” Great advice from someone who knows!
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie
One of the most gratifying things I see each day in the Lionesses of Africa community is the willingness of successful women entrepreneurs to give back to the next generation. Despite running their own demanding businesses, these powerhouse women entrepreneurs are willing to support our programmes by sharing their extensive knowledge and experience - and importantly, their time. In fact, they are passionate about helping the young women business builders of tomorrow. Having successful role models to follow and learn from is critical to the journey of any young woman entrepreneur. It is interesting to read the survey conducted by Harris Interactive and Ernst & Young, entitled ‘Entrepreneurs & Philanthropy: Investing in the Future’. The report suggests that 90% of entrepreneurs donate their money to mentoring the next generation; and 70% donate a resource that is just as important - their time. So, I would like to acknowledge the thousands of inspirational women entrepreneurs who are giving so generously of their time and knowledge each day to helping the next generation to grow. You are making a real difference!
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie
I was watching various global news channels this weekend, catching up on events around the world, and there was one consistent theme emerging. In a fast changing world, where economies are going through considerable challenges and nothing is certain, particularly in the corporate world, to thrive you need to take control of your own destiny. It’s a world where you can’t count on big companies for a job. It’s a world where increasingly, we need to create our own jobs, and through our successful businesses, create jobs for others just like us. In Africa, the way out of poverty for many women where jobs are a scarce commodity is through entrepreneurship. By leveraging personal skills and identifying a gap in the market, women can take control of their economic futures. The challenge is to help more of these women opportunity entrepreneurs to create prosperous and sustainable businesses, so that they support not only themselves, but also contribute to the growth of their communities and their countries.
This morning, having just returned from Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire where we hosted our first Lioness Lean In events there, two things will stay at the forefront of my mind from the visit. Firstly, the power of partnership to make things happen - so a big thank you to our great friends at the Ambassade du Royaume des Pays-Bas for co-hosting our wonderful events on the ground. It was the most positive, impactful and enjoyable experience. Secondly, the power of community to bring like-minded women entrepreneurs together in a city to share, inspire and connect. It was great to see business connections being made and new, supportive friendships formed. There is an exciting and growing business buzz in Abidjan and women entrepreneurs are helping to drive a new spirit of enterprise in the city. At Lionesses of Africa, we are looking forward to helping each of these women business builders to fulfill their potential and create tomorrow’s significant and successful businesses today.
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie
Take a moment to think about the women entrepreneurs who inspire you most. And then take a look at how they successfully build and manage not only their businesses, but also their personal brands. Often we put all our energies and resources into building our businesses to the exclusion of everything else, forgetting that the road to success is also dependent on us, as founders. Our own personal brands can be a real and valuable asset to our businesses, yet they often get overshadowed by our company brand building activities. As American Express OPEN CEO BootCamp ambassador Katie Bressack says, "It takes time, energy and focus to truly create a personal brand. Entrepreneurs must not only become experts in a particular field or subject; they must also be able to sell themselves by creating their own unique value." So if you haven’t started to take your personal brand building seriously, it could be time. After all, it’s what sets you apart from your competitors.
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie
It’s wonderful to wake up this morning in the dynamic city of Abidjan in Cote d‘Ivoire, home to our latest Lioness Lean In events, and we have two of them taking place in the city today. On a personal level, I am fulfilling a long-held wish to visit this wonderful country and to meet so many of the women entrepreneurs whose startup stories we have told and heard about. I am looking forward to building our entrepreneurial community for women entrepreneurs here in the city, to making some great new connections and friends, and introducing them to you all. This is our month-long focus on women entrepreneurs in Cote d’Ivoire and we have some inspirational startup stories to share. It’s going to be a great visit to a great city, and hopefully the first of many more to come.
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie
Can you remember the spark that led to you choosing to become an entrepreneur? For many women, that spark is lit by the desire to take more control of their lives. They want to do things their own way, be a little more maverick (we all know how good that feels), create new things and make an impact in a way that makes sense to them. And what’s the underlying cause for this encouraging trend? It seems that around 85% of us are attracted to the freedom that being our own boss brings and in particular the flexible hours, an important factor when juggling the day to day challenges of business and family building. For women, however, this often means the ability to cultivate their own culture, to create work they love, constructed to fit with their own aspirations and business commitments. So it seems there has never been a better time to be the boss of your own entrepreneurial life.
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie
I was chatting to a fellow woman entrepreneur yesterday about what a difference having an ‘abundance mindset’ makes to your life and business, and what she said is quite true. An abundance mindset means being open to new ways of thinking and doing; of being inclusive of other people and their ideas; of trusting and having confidence in others; and importantly, remembering that if you give support and are inclusive, then that’s how people will treat you in return. Life is tough enough as an entrepreneur, so it makes sense to surround yourself with fellow women who share your abundance mindset, who are genuinely happy to support your business through the good times and the bad, and who want to see us all succeed.
Have yourself an inspired entrepreneurial day! - Melanie