At SLA, we are always super excited to interview young African women that are trailblazers, game changers, leaders and positive role models for other African women. Linda Mabhena-Olagunju has all of the above qualities and more.
Linda holds two law degrees: an LL.B. from the University of Cape Town and an LL.M. from the University of Aberdeen. She is the Managing Director at DLO Energy Resources, a renewable energy investment and advisory company based in Johannesburg. She is also the founder of the Renewables and Energy Forum in South Africa.
Linda has received a number of awards. She received the 2015 Forbes Women Africa Best Emerging Entrepreneur Award. She also recently received the 2016 Elle Boss entrepreneurial award and the 2016 All Africa Business Leadership Award (Young Business Leader of the Year – Southern Africa).
Linda shares with SLA contributor Abisola, her challenges in the renewable energy sector, her entrepreneurial journey and her advice for young African female entrepreneurs.
Did your legal education and training prepare you for entrepreneurship?
I have always said being a lawyer gives you an overview of how a transaction works so that you get to understand the business model of a particular sector industry. Legal practice, not just my law degrees, prepared me to an extent for business.
However, lawyers also tend to be risk averse, as our job entails avoiding risk. My legal training made me more afraid to take risks but after a while in the entrepreneurial space I learnt to take calculated risk. For a lawyer, that means risks that have gone through two sets of thorough due diligence.
What would you attribute your current success to? Maximized opportunities or sheer good luck?
Hard work, coupled with God opening the doors that needed to be opened and placing me in places and situations I had never imagined.
I also attribute it to a strong support system. I stress a lot and my parents have been great pillars of support during these periods. My father, especially, who believed in my vision when I had basically no support.
My husband also has this innate sense of calm and wisdom. His counsel has been the difference between me quitting at times and staying in the race.Linda Mahbena-Olagunju recently received the 2016 Elle Boss entrepreneurial award Click To Tweet
What three things can help African women achieve their professional or entrepreneurial goals?
Self – belief. God/Higher power belief. A real support structure, whether it be family or friends.
What peculiar challenges do you face in the renewable energy sector, especially as you seek to expand to other African countries?
A major challenge is regulatory clarity. Most countries in Africa need power but they do not create an enabling environment, at times, to encourage investment. Renewable energy projects are funded largely by banks and anyone that has ever borrowed money from a bank knows that lenders are averse to risk especially government risk and regulatory risk.My husband's counsel has been the difference between me quitting and staying in the race Click To Tweet
The other challenge which is particular to Southern Africa, is falling tariffs. We have seen tariffs fall rapidly due to competitive price bidding. This is great for consumers, but may be a challenge for new investors that have to raise funds to finance projects.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
You may be going through tough times now, but God has an amazing life planned for you.
What final piece of advice do you have for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Take the first step.
It may seem like a stupid idea but if you really want to venture into business you have to risk looking stupid.
Hey South African #MotherlandMoguls, the SheHive will be landing in Johannesburg from November 3-6. Find out more here.