She Leads Africa opened its doors to Nairobi on June 30 to hold the first edition of SheHive Nairobi at Nairobi Garage, Westlands. This marked the beginning of what was to be four days of great insights from badass entrepreneurs and professionals in Kenya.
The first two days saw the All Access ticket holders being taken through training sessions by SLA co-founder, Yasmin Belo-Osagie. These were intimate, personalized round-table sessions that gave lessons on entrepreneurship and looked into each participants’ area of business while giving tips on how to improve it. Yasmin gave us an exercise that involved coming up with questions we would ask potential customers. This was an eye-opener to most of us on the direction we should be taking.
Day two had the same set up as day one; round-table, intimate, one on one, Q & As, a few exercises here and there. We also had a surprise guest speaker to start us off: Ory Okolloh, co-founder of Ushahidi. Ory took us through her journey in entrepreneurship and the challenges she faced while starting out. She gave us insights on how to balance being a mother, a wife and an entrepreneur. She was quick to add that not everyone you expect to help you will do so, and recommended surrounding yourself with people who support your dream to make your journey bearable.
Getting into business
Day three saw a shift in the set up. We had the weekend pass ticket holders come in, more speakers, a move to a bigger room and more activities on the program. We started with a team-building exercise that saw the winners getting hair products – I can’t deny that it felt good to be on the winning team.
Maureen Murunga, Founder & NEO of Amadiva was the first speaker on the list. It was while she was speaking that something hit me about getting into business; you never know what to expect. You just don’t know. One day you will be rearing to get your business off the ground, armed to your teeth and ready to face any obstacles head on, only to be forced to relocate for one reason or another. Or only for you to realize you are pregnant and need to take it slow. Maureen and Ory brought out one point crystal clearly: nothing is predictable in business. For you to succeed, you’ve got to learn to roll with the punches.
When the petite Hilda Moraa, founder of Weza Tele came to speak about her journey in the tech industry, she stressed the fact that surrounding yourself with like-minded people will help your journey in the business world, something she attributes her immense success to. Winnie Mwangi who is an Investment Manager-LGT, took us through retail business. She talked about the importance of location and the expectation of investors when they choose to invest in your company. She mentioned something that surprised me; just like a marriage, the chemistry between the investor and entrepreneur should be right otherwise the relationship will not work. Chemistry people! Who would have thought.
When Dr. Hellen Gichohi (who is not so keen on being referred to as Dr.) took the stage she dished out punchline after punchline; accountability and transparency, funds follow function, knock doors and seek opportunities. Hellen who is the CEO of Equity Foundation, is witty and very engaging. She stressed the need to have a functional system in place that will ensure that your business runs smoothly through and through. Any loopholes in the system could be to your detriment. This was echoed by Andreata Muforo, an Investment Director at TLcom capital partners who talked about women as funders.
The entertainment industry and importance of gender equality
Four speakers done in day three and the last day of SheHive Nairobi came so much sooner than I expected. There was nothing easy about our Sunday morning as we started off on a high note.
High because Wanjira Longauer is energetic, bubbly, witty and oh-so-humorous! Easy to see why she excels in the entertainment industry. Wanjira is a Radio host at Capital FM Kenya and a Television Host at Ebony TV’s ‘Moments Kenya’. The takeaway I got from her session several laughs later was the need for women entrepreneurs to always trust their gut because it never misleads you. I can vouch for that since I am a big believer and follower of my instincts.
Lindsay Caldwell took us through her journey in the different business ventures she undertook before settling on Angaza as Director of East African Operations. Lindsay stressed that a true entrepreneur is a doer and not a dreamer. We now had three more speakers to go, two of whom were male – the only male speakers we had. Shamim Ehsani, Marketing Director of The Tribe, talked about the deliberate branding that they envisioned for the hotel from the beginning. How they ensured that it stood out from other hotel establishments, not only in the country, but in the world. Something that has given them bragging rights of being among the top 100 hotels in the world.
Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom, followed hot on the heels of Mr. Ehsani. He addressed gender equity and its importance not only to the economy but also to the company. He noted that a company does well if it is aware of the importance of gender equity.
We were then to close the session with Eunice Nyala, Founder & CEO of Etiquette Xllent. Eunice took us through the do’s and don’ts of professional etiquette from dressing to poise to body language to tone of voice to demeanor. It was interesting to note that we sometimes communicate negatively – unintentionally so – by the way we dress or by the tone of voice we take.
It was a bit sad to see SheHive Nairobi come to an end. We had networked and learned so much in four days, we did not know what to do with ourselves now that it was over. As Yasmin gave her closing remarks to mark the end of the event, I looked around me to see women who were determined to make it happen in the business world. I could tell that SheHive had impacted their minds, and it was just about to change their lives.
Suffice to say, I look forward to attending the next SheHive Nairobi. Errm, too soon?