Late November last year, I spent time at Aunt Olivia’s vineyard. After a week of living in luxury, I was forced to review my life and identify opportunities for change. I was on a mission.
I narrowed down my goals for 2018 and subconsciously carved out life just like Cindy’s, Aunt Olivia’s daughter. Prioritized on my list were:
Quit Karte Carbon and become my BOSS.
Move to the U.K.
I was pumped.
As January 1st, 2018 rolled around, my resignation letter was prepped and ready to be sent. Plus, the advertising industry was so not my thing.
Drowning in my misery, I booked a late lunch with an old friend, Dorcas, who had just flown in from New York. To keep this story short, lunch with Dorcas taught me a few things that changed my life forever.
For too long, I had compared myself with online/Instagram personalities, which is probably why Chike left me for Suzana, but that’s another story altogether.
I was so desperate to shine that I hadn’t realized that my light was hidden in my purpose. If I lived within purpose, building on my passions and sharpening my skills, I’d shine in my own “little corner.”
However, if I chased glam, copying everyone else, I’d never be the best but at best, second best.
When I finally figured out that pottery was my thing, I still couldn’t take action. Think about it for a second – Who was going to buy my pottery?
After that initial experience, I began to chase a new dream. I mapped out my vision and set goals for myself. Today, Karte is history, and I’m living a life I always dreamed. Listen, Oprah, Beyonce, Jim Carey and others who have visualized their success never lied.
Visualize your future. Pencil it down and watch it become a reality.
“Stop comparing yourself to others. Your magic is like none other. Start chasing your dreams and thrive in the presence of fear.”
If you have decided to ignore all the advice of well-meaning individuals and friends and have still gone ahead to start a business this year, you must have some real guts. Starting a business is no easy task. There are endless challenges that often discourage you from even starting.
When looking at all the challenges entrepreneurs face, it’s easy to question how your business would thrive. If your business was a soft, supple, newborn baby, your goals as a business owner is to see that this business survives its first years.
But how do you achieve this and start your business like a boss?
1. Face your fears
Spending nights rolling on your bed, worrying about your business goals won’t make you cause you to achieve them. Unfortunately just thinking about your business will not turn it into reality. You may have several doubts about the likelihood of people getting your products and services, but until you put your business out there you won’t know for sure.
Start by creating your sample products, sell them to family and friends and get feedback about them. With every action, you take you to become less and less afraid. Every action you accomplish will help your confidence grow and you’ll begin to see your fear diminish.
2. Surround yourself with positive people
Surrounding yourself with positive people can make a huge difference on the success of your business. There are people who would do nothing to encourage you and will not give any positive feedback. If you stay close to such people, you will begin to doubt your ability to reach your business goals.
The truth is, the people closest to you may be more susceptible about your business than strangers. Expect it. They may not believe in your ability to drive your business to fruition, you shouldn’t make it your aim to prove that point to them.
On the other hand, having a supportive people chip in a suggestion or two will stir your faith in your business, you’d start to believe in this brand becoming tangible as you hear them talk about it like it already exists.
3. Be Patient
If there is one thing you will most likely encounter, is roadblocks! And when you do, you will need lots of patience. When things get tough, don’t through your hands in the air and shout “I don’t have time for this”.
Firstly, try and understand that the problem you face is not always your fault. If you cannot go through the problem, find a way to go around it. Do not compare yourself with what you see on the news and social media. Seeing everyone move on a much faster pace may be discouraging.
When you do his a roadblock on your journey, figure out how to deal with it while putting other aspects of your business in track. You should always be ready to take off when the roadblock is removed.
4. Dance upon disappointment
As an entrepreneur, managing disappointment is a skill you can’t afford to live without. So what if things do not work out as you plan? What if a key team member decides to leave at the last minute, or a trusted supplier fails to supply your ingredients on time? What would you do when people fail you?
You cannot always control all circumstances when working with people. When things go wrong, you shouldn’t beat yourself over. Try and come up with new alternatives. Though this may be tough, it will become a lot easier if you stay positive about it.
Take a break, play some music and dance away your disappointments. You can also create a warm environment where everyone can come together and decide on the next steps for the business will be.
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Chidiogo Akunyili is a woman of many trades. She is the Founder of She ROARs – Reimagining Our Africa Rising. This pan-African platform seeks to empower women across Africa to unleash their full potential.
As a writer, storyteller and movement builder, Chidiogo is impacting the global narrative with her belief in the power of people affecting change. Having lived on 5 continents and being able to speak 7 languages, Chidiogo’s philosophy is founded on the African concept of Ubuntu and celebrating our shared humanity.
Beyond her work, Chidiogo Akunyili has been awarded multiple awards. These include ‘100 most influential Young Africans’ by Africa Youth Awards and ‘100 most inspiring women in Nigeria’ by the Guardian. She is also a World Economic Forum Global Leadership Fellow.
In this interview, we learn more about She ROARs and the impact it has been bringing.
What led you to start She ROARS?
After working with hundreds of women across Africa, I came to the realization that we needed more spaces to support women on their personal and professional journeys. Changing a community begins with enabling women to tap into their full strength and potential.
Inspired by this, we started She ROARS. Through this platform, we support women by equipping them with tools to build bridges to fulfilling their potential. We do this by creating spaces for them to flourish, empower each and impact their communities.
Can you tell us more about the impact She ROARS has had?
To date, She ROARs has reached hundreds of women across Africa and the diaspora. Through events, we’ve created spaces where women have been challenged, empowered to realize their dreams and walk in their own truths.
We see in all our gatherings the great value of stepping away from business as usual and truly connecting with a powerful circle of womanhood.
Women have added that this platform gives them confidence and support from the group as a whole. We see the strength of space to connect with self and each other. Even if you take nothing else away, there is already a great power in knowing that you are not alone
What have you learned since starting this platform?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that, if you have an idea that inspires you, just start! What it will grow into is unknown. However, you should trust your curiosity to lead you to greatness.
She ROARs was born out of a Women Advancing Africa Conference where Graca Machel challenged us to empower each other as women. As women shared their deepest wounds, vulnerability, and courage, I felt all that could be when women were given a space to share together.
Though this idea came from an intuition, it soon turned into a business with a name, logo, website, social media presence, launch and finally a team to push things. We then started leveraging women gatherings to offer She ROARs seminars, workshops, events, and partnerships.
What challenges have you faced with She ROARS?
The challenges are real. But the most important thing I’ve learned is to be kind to myself despite not being superwoman. Starting She ROARs alongside a full-time commitment to write a book meant working on two things that needed my full discipline and drive.
Despite spending over 10 years in the corporate world doing strategic consulting, I doubted my potential to deliver without the habitual external deadline. This fear soon morphed into a constant ‘you are not doing enough’ voice in my head. This soon became stressful.
So, I learned to let go and take some time off every now and then. And above all, I needed to remind myself that if I wanted to go the distance, I couldn’t do it all alone. I needed to trust others talents to help me. Finally, I would write down everything I needed to do monthly, weekly and daily. This helped me declutter my tasks and achievements.
Can you tell us more about the book you are writing?
My first book has been such a rewarding project! It started as a simple idea, the story of a mother, Dora Akunyili. My mother is described by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie as “radical because she had integrity in a system that was unfamiliar with integrity…kind and vigorous, and when she spoke, she widened eyes as though to better convey the force of her conviction.”
Her life is a story of strength arising from the ashes of struggles — the deeper her scars, the stauncher was her fight and spirit of justice and truth. I want the reader to take away the power of conviction and the courage needed to follow through.
What were the fears you felt you had to overcome with the projects you are undertaking?
The deep fear of failure. Three years ago in the mountains of Peru, on the back of an extended retreat, I was held by 9 sisters as I shook and cried at the recognition of a truth that was calling to me, to leap.
Ixchel, a most treasured guide who was holding this sacred space of sisterhood shared these words, “You keep getting that same message… what are you afraid of giving up my sister? The fear will always come in, when you see it, walk through it, that you may be free, that you might know what it feels like to be free falling from a cliff.”
Dance has truly helped me overcome my fear. Dance is a space where I can explore the connection between my mind, spirit, and body. To me, it means freedom to live the life I want and be in an active space of creation. Dance is a reminder to let life flow.
What is your biggest regret and achievement?
I do not believe in regrets but rather in lessons. My biggest lesson has been to let things go. You find that so much energy is spent sweating on little things. Therefore, I try to always remember that ‘this too shall pass’. I shouldn’t get lost in the struggle, but find peace in the learning.
My highest achievement is letting go of my illusion of control to follow my deepest calling to flow. This included leaving a successful career to follow an idea to write a book. I took the proverbial leap of faith has led to us sharing this moment together. I have never looked back since.
If you’d like to get featured on our Facebook page, click here to share your story with us.
The comfort zone is a terrible thing. I’ve probably made this statement and tweeted it at least 20 times in the past month. This article is as much for myself as it is for many of you out there.
The comfort zone is this wonderful place where you can sit pretty and be comfortable. In the comfort zone, you have a good level of assurance that despite not being where you are meant to be, you are okay for the time being.
It might be a physical space or a mental one. One thing is certain though, the comfort zone is a dangerous thing. There are steps you should be taking, moves you should be making to put yourself out there. But you’re not.
In your 20s and 30s, you have got the zeal and energy to make things happen. Your mind is fire and you have so much potential you need to explore. So, why aren’t you popping right now? Because you’re comfy…in the comfort zone.
Unfortunately, the comfort zone isn’t where great things happen. You can’t realise your dreams or start the business you’ve been planning for the past six years in it.
Sure, many of us have heard stories of how opportunities literally fell into the laps of unsuspecting people. This model was discovered by a scout as she went about her shopping in the local mall; Rita Dominic accompanied a friend to an audition and got discovered. But let’s be real, that’s just not everyone’s story. And while you’re waiting for the mystery opportunity, the clock is ticking.
Haven’t you noticed that some of the greatest hustlers are those that started from the bottom? With no safety net or comfort zone, there is no other choice but to hustle for all it’s worth.
It might be a plush prison, but you’re in a holding cell nonetheless. Girl, you need to step out and the time is now.
Leaving is really scary. You’ve got a myriad of fears. What if I fail? Well, so what if you do? If you do, you pick yourself up and go back to the drawing board.
If you don’t try, you’ll never know and will resent yourself in the future for wasting the prime years of your life saying what if?
So what do I do now?
– Tell yourself you need a change
This first step is very important. It might sound so simple but you shouldn’t underestimate the power of the spoken word.
If you aren’t convinced in your spirit that you need to take charge of your life, then it doesn’t matter how many times others tell you. You need to tell yourself this, and you need to believe it.
– Start doing the groundwork and looking for opportunities
Look for opportunities that excite you and scare you at the same time.
– Take a leap of faith!
Go out there and just do it. Take action. It’s not necessarily going to be an easy path but the heat refines the diamond.
Once you get out there, you can really get your hustle on.
When it comes to public speaking, we’re all different. For some people, it can come easily, and for others, it can feel as if the world is crumbling down. Especially when you’re trying to speak without sounding like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
It’s frustrating. But keeping quiet and not practising will not make it better. This can be in the workplace, in school, even in social settings.
Is the right time to get exposed to it? A good starting point would be these observations I’ve made over the past few years:
1. Set a target for networking events and conferences
It’s very easy to go to networking events and decide to only speak to one person before the event starts. One lesson I learnt was to go to an event with the intention of having spoken to three other people.
Speaking to more than one person helps you deal with different kinds of people. It also helps you learn how people react to you speaking, and in learning how to interpret people’s body language.
Learning someone’s body language will help in determining in whether or not they’re interested in what you’re saying. People become disinterested during conversations therefore the more networking events you attend or more people outside your circle you interact with, the more you learn to be able to turn the conversation around.
Even though this isn’t public speaking, learning to read people’s body language in a smaller setting can feed into how you interpret people’s interests and attention span in larger crowds.
2. Join Toastmasters
One of the best pieces of advice received a few months ago was to join Toastmasters to help overcome my fear of public speaking. This was, and still is a daunting idea.
Firstly, it requires that you actually speak in front of people you wouldn’t initially know. But this is a great way to learn, and also a good step towards overcoming your fear.
You could also bypass attending the networking events, because joining a Toastmaster’s club helps you get right into speaking in front of people. But it’s important to take baby steps and move at your own pace.
It becomes second nature to you the more you are acquainted with people and the art of public speaking.
3. Volunteer to facilitate meetings and workshops
If you’re in corporate and can get the chance and experience to facilitate a meeting or workshop, then volunteer to do so.
One of the best, and most challenging aspect about this is that you’ll find that you’ll be speaking to different people at different meetings or workshops.
This is where studying the body language and possibly joining a Toastmaster’s club will come in handy.
The song resonated deeply and set the tone for a session which was powerful, inspiring and emotional all at the same time. At several points during the program, I felt chills all over as I connected deeply with the message Dr. Edozien put across.
The talk was simply geared at using her personal growth story to help the participants overcome the fear of failure and step out. She started off by describing entrepreneurship as emanating from something you feel, going further to state that you cannot fail at what you love.
“Social enterprises are aimed more at solving problems thus it is impossible to fail because you’re solving a problem. An important way to measure impact is by making profit. You cannot separate enterprise from the ability to make profit.”
Although she loved to give money out, it took Dr. Edozien 17 years to realise she had to develop the love to yield profit.
Dr. Edozien spoke to her audience about the ability to reach inside and find a feel that’s right. She explained that her life has flowed like a river due to never neglecting her gut feeling. This she likened to religion and how we follow our beliefs because it feels right inside.
Follow your instincts despite what others think
– Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien
Drawing parallels from her story
She used several stories as a way to drive her points home some of them too numerous to share. Below are my three favourites:
“At Queen’s College, I used to come 22nd out of 24 students in a class. I was a quiet, timid girl who wouldn’t say a word. It all changed for me when I got glasses, and literally and figuratively got to see the world around me. That school term, I skyrocketed to the 5th position. Eventually, I was selected for a competition alongside nine other QC students to attend sea school with 30 participants altogether. It was a very big deal at that time.” This particular story was an important one to hear because it helps us understand that it doesn’t really matter what state you find yourself in at the beginning. There is always the potential to turn your story around.
“My family and I moved from our house in the prestigious Ikoyi to my husband’s family home in Central Lagos Island. This was very important to my husband because it was an heirloom that had been in his family for generations. On hearing this, a lot of people told me I was mad. However, it afforded me an opportunity to connect with the locals. It made sense to live there because it was the simple people I yearned to connect with and empower.” Dr. Edozien acknowledged that women have a fear of security. She expressed her belief that forums such as the SheHive help women see that they have the same fears but also have what it takes to succeed.
“In 2001, a man who wanted to empower women in his village approached me for support. This man is now one of my absolute favourite persons in the world. With N1 million that he received, he went on to build a loan portfolio of N12 billion impacting 434,000 women with a 98% loan repayment rate. He sought to recognise and thank me even years later despite my refusal until I finally agreed to have someone represent me. The Kaduna stadium was filled and 90% of the crowd was womenfolk.” This particular story brought tears to my eyes. The man in the story had a simple idea which he ran with because of a passion and conviction in his heart to lift local women out of poverty.
Important lessons from Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien
Trust what you have before you. “Perfect is the enemy of good. Think, feel and then move. If you strive for perfection, you will never get started.” – Dr. Ndidi Nnoli Edozien
Find someone who inspires and believes in you. Not necessarily someone you love or vice versa, have an individual who can hear, see and feel you. Look for different mentors you feel a connection with. A mentor can be someone you never met. Once you discover that person, connect with them, read their books, follow their story etc.
Be vulnerable. Cry! You’re probably thinking, what?! Yes, Dr. Edozien stressed the importance to cry because something moves you. Not alluding to self-pity, it’s okay to feel vulnerable. Her first company logo was a butterfly because it reminded her of how vulnerable the winged insect is.
In Dr. Edozien’s closing remarks she boldly stated, “Do not be afraid of failure. Ask failure what is the worst thing that can happen to me? Take it into cognizance and move.”
She also asked that young women remember the significance of building a team. In her own words, “you cannot grow a business without a team. It might be your idea, but it gets very lonely at the top. A team will help you drive your vision and fill gaps that may exist.”