There seems to be a major disconnect between what investors and entrepreneurs are looking for. Investors continue to say that they can’t find good businesses to invest in while entrepreneurs are getting frustrated that they can’t get the funding they need for their businesses to grow. With this type of situation nobody wins.
Join us on Thursday April 14 for a twitter chat with Kenyan investor, entrepreneur and business mentor Laila Macharia on understanding what investors want. If you’re not sure how to effectively communicate with investors, get them interested in your business or even find them, then you need to join this chat.
Raised in Kenya, Namibia and Somalia, Laila Macharia is currently an Angel Investor based in Nairobi. The current Vice Chairman of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, the leading national business association, she also serves as a non-executive director at the Barclays Bank of Kenya as well as at Centum, the largest listed private equity firm in East and Central Africa.
Admitted to practice law in New York and Kenya, Laila holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon, a JD and LL.M from Cornell University and a doctorate in law from Stanford University, all in the US. She was honoured in 2010 as a Fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Africa Leadership Initiative and in 2012, was named one of the Top 20 Women to Watch in Africa by the Times of London.
Isis Nyong’o Madison is a tech entrepreneur, investor and influencer in the African entrepreneurship scene. Aside from being named as one of the youngest power women in Africa, she is a principal at strategic advisory and investment firm Asphalt and Ink and previously served as the Vice President and Managing Director at InMobi and Google’s Business Development Manager in Africa.
With numerous nods, including several acknowledgements from Kenya’s Business Daily’s Top 40 under 40 Women, Isis Nyong’o Madison is someone all young African women need to look up to. We went through some of her interviews and learnt a few career lessons.
1. Take a leap of faith
Kenya in recent years has been touted as the hottest tech hub of Africa but in 2002, this was not the case. Isis chose to come back to Kenya against the advice of a career officer at Harvard in order to pursue tech opportunities in the market.
Even if the steps you want to take in your career do not look like the correct ones to others, you need to be able to critically review advice from others and draw your own conclusions. Coming back to Kenya was a leap of faith for Isis and it has paid off.
To achieve anything in life, clear decisions need to be made. Once you have decided what direction your career should take, it is important to stick to it. Isis has said in numerous interviews that there are no quick wins.
Success takes time; you need to give yourself time. Isis has declined higher paying jobs in her career that did not meet her own personal goals of challenging work, responsibility, and growth.
4. Build/create/do something worthwhile
It is not enough to just focus on moving up the ranks, you need something to show for it. It is just as important to build a track record or building something on your own or within a company no matter what role you are in. This is definitely something that can be said of every role Isis has held.
5. Be confident
No one is going to hand it to you. You need to go after the career or promotion you want. Once you have taken the time to build something worthwhile, do not be afraid to show it.
Use it as a portfolio to show just what you have accomplished and make it hard for anyone to pass you up for or question your promotion. Isis has been asked several times by people with more seniority than her whether she can do the job and her response as always been yes. You’ve shown you can do it, now prove it.
6. Be open to learning
You can never learn anything enough and Isis knows this. Take every opportunity you can to learn something new. As Isis puts it, “learn about new ideas, build a new skill or deepen your understanding about a subject you are already familiar with.”
7. Be committed
After it’s all said and done, Isis truly does commit to her work. In an interview with Forbes Africa magazine, Isis said about her former firm, “As we are a global organization (InMobi), there are often conference calls in the middle of the night and early hours of the morning. InMobi never sleeps.”
To grow your career, you should be willing to give that level of commitment to your career.
No matter how many times you practice your introduction or write down the skills you’ll bring to the position, interviews can be the most stressful part of getting a new job. We all know the stakes are high for an interview – you can go from the bottom of the pile to the #1 candidate by presenting yourself well and telling a compelling a story.
With so much riding on your success, you can’t go into the interview room full of jitters and unsure of yourself. The best way to make yourself stand out is to be confident and calm. Not sure how to do that?
We’ve pulled together a list of 10 East African songs to help center yourself and find some inner peace before the big moment.
1. Habida – Superwoman
As the title suggests, this song will get you into a ‘conquer the world’ mood. With its catchy beat and uplifting lyrics, it is just the kind of song you need to conquer an interview.
2. Octopizzo – Black star
Straight from the chorus, it is clear that the song is telling the listener to believe in themselves.
“Forever you will be, a shining star…
You will always be, a black star…”
Go forth black star and rock that interview.
3. Khaligraph Jones – Yego
This song is about Julius Yego, the Kenyan javelin thrower who broke the African record twice and Kenya’s national record four times. Seeing as the song is based on a champion, it shouldn’t be hard to get into a winning spirit when listening to this song.
4. Juliani – Exponential potential
The title says it all and so does the video. The video is set within the confines of a boardroom which seems appropriate given the lyrics of the song. This is just the song you need to get the energy to unleash your full potential.
5. STL – Dreamer
Stella Mwangi (STL) uses this song to encourage all the dreamers to go out into the world and follow their dreams while recounting her own story. It will definitely get you in the mood to conquer your fears and ace the interview.
6. Wangechi feat Karun – Analogue dreamer
Although on the surface, the song seems to be talking about following your dreams, the more profound message is about being courageous enough to be different and to be you in a world clogged with similarity. Just the dose of courage anyone needs before an interview.
7. Muthoni the Drummer Queen (MDQ) – Nai ni ya who?
This song was written for the city of Nairobi and what it takes to make it. But the song’s universal message also applies to any other city in the world. At its core, the song emphasizes the importance of getting up and doing something to change your life. The track’s awesome beat will get you hyped in seconds.
8. Avril feat Rabbit King Kaka – Ninaweza
‘Ninaweza’ means ‘I can’ in English. The song stays away from metaphorical analogies and remains as simple as its title suggests. It is the only motivation you need to get hyped for your interview. The message is clear, ‘You can.’
9. Vanessa Mdee – Hawajui
With a colourful video, Mdee encourages her listeners to overcome any obstacles that come their way, including unfair judgement from people who have no idea who you are.
10. Jua Kali – Baba Yao
The song begins with these words,
“Hauezi niekea chini, me ni baba yao”
“You can’t put me down, I am a champion” (English Translation).
Side Note: The Direct translation of the phrase, ‘me ni baba yao’ is ‘I am their father’ which is a sheng colloquialism used to refer to oneself as the best or a champion among colleagues.
Which of these are your favorites? Any ones we missed? What is your all time favorite song for getting pumped your big interviews?
Since her feature film debut in 2013, Mexican born Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o’s star has been lit and has remained that way ever since. With a beautiful smile, a boatload of talent and passionate voice she’s been winning hearts all over the globe.
Proven to have many more film projects and theater shows up her sleeve, Lupita is the exact kind of career woman we will happily take future-improving advice from.
1. Doubt is part of the path
Lupita has said in interviews that when director Steve McQueen had already asked her for a leading role in his screen picture Twelve Years A Slave, she still felt like he could call back any moment to tell her he had made an mistake.
The fine art of supporting a cause and not becoming the center point of it – Lupita masters that.
Whether it’s her ambassadorship for WildAid or the race and gender diversity discussion in Hollywood, Lupita’s pages include inspiring posts that explain her personal relation to the cause and encourage fans, readers, followers to get involved.
3. Be aware of what makes you happy
Though she has won more awards in two years than lots of peers do in a decade, Lupita says her greatest satisfaction comes from being an inspiration to girls all over the globe, her native Kenya included. Validation and success can not always measured by money or prizes – your social footprint can play a big part in your happiness.
4. Support your environment
Whether it’s her stylist Micaela or co-actress Danielle Brooks, Lupita is supportive of those around her by putting on for them publicly. Especially via social media, Lupita is very outspoken about her talented friends and coworkers.
5. Drastic change can make for growth and opportunity
After attending different schools in Nairobi, Kenya, Lupita left for Mexico and the United States, where she went to college. Although it took her a while to appreciate this new environment, Lupita explains: “I was very indecisive about what I wanted to do. I knew that if I was in a more structured environment, I would end up not taking the risks I was raised to take.”
Look at her now!
6. Value your surroundings
When she won an Academy Award, her brother Junior Nyong’o was right by her side, and in other press, Lupita speaks lovingly of her family as well. She says honesty, dignity and integrity are some of the most important character traits she has learned from them. “All my conscious life, my father has fought for what he believed in, even when it was highly inconvenient.”
Coming from a hard-working, well known and successful family, Lupita acknowledges the privileges she has been able to enjoy, and always shows gratitude for education.
Any other career lessons you’ve learned from mega star, Lupita Nyong’o? Any other stars you would like for us to research and investigate?
Ethiopian born, Kenya raised Mimi Alemayehou is a Managing Director at portfolio company Black Rhino Group, and Executive Advisor and Chair of Blackstone Africa Infrastructure LP.
After studying International Law and International Business, Alemayehou found development consultancy firm Trade Link Holdings LLC. She has held major positions as Director of International Regulatory Affairs at WorldSpace Corporation and was United States Executive Director at the African Development Bank. The mother of two has also served as Executive Vice President of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).
If you are like us, you will hold your breath after reading about Alemayehou’s career journey. Below, we share some insights from this African power lady.
1. Strive for your educational goals
Mimi:The first successful entrepreneur I knew and looked up to was my grandmother. She could not read or write but she was one of the smartest women I have ever known. I often wonder how far she would have gone if she had been allowed to go to school by her parents, who chose only to send the boys to school.
Although, the silver linings of your career may not shine through that window frame just yet, your education is a step towards reaching your career goals. Mimi agrees (higher) education is a huge part of the African growth story.
2. There is much more in your future
After being asked whether she thought her position at OPIC was the climax of her career, Mimi replied: “I have always believed that life is a journey of learning; there is no end to it until you are no more.”
Although, success can be comforting, that comfort shouldn’t stop us from going beyond our comfort zones. There is always a next move. “I don’t believe there is such a thing as a perfect position or a dead-end job. At every step, you learn. Life’s a journey of learning.”
3. Believe in your work ethic
During her career at the African Development Bank, Mimi was the only woman working in the midst of 17 men. “I have never doubted myself in the things I pursued. Fortunately, I have had some amazing mentors in my life and in turn I try as much as I can to mentor as many people, particularly young women.”
Confidence is key when it comes to directing your future. Feeling strong about what you do and what you want will minimize doubt.
4. There are ways to do it all
“In terms of the balancing act of career and family, I believe mothers are natural multi-taskers”, is Mimi’s response to ‘how she does it’. And no matter how many exciting career moves she has made, she says “being a mother is my biggest accomplishment so far.”
Mimi believes prioritizing and accepting the pros of cons of having to travel for work is key to combining career and motherhood.
5. Approach situations with an open mind
“My most impressionable years were probably during my time in Kenya. I met so many people from many parts of the world for the first time in my life and that had a long term impact in my life as it made me more open-minded and gave me a greater appreciation for human diversity,” says Mimi.
6. Be picky with what advice you take
Mimi’s powerful statement: “I got to where I am today partly because I did not always listen to the advice I got. For example, earlier in my career I was always interested in working on Capitol Hill but a lot of people, including some of my own family members told me that there was no way a member of Congress would hire someone who was not an American citizen. I pursued this dream anyway and was ultimately hired as legislative staffer on Capitol Hill. I have found it invaluable to question things and not necessarily take “no” for an answer.”
Be aware of your possibilities, be thorough in how you approach them and follow through.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here
On balance: “I am an advocate of business being an important instrument of development. In fact, business is the fabric for development.”
Joanne Mwangi – Founder and CEO, PMS Group
Mwangi founded Professional Marketing Services (PMS), a group that currently has five subsidiaries and a presence across the east African region. In 2010 PMS was voted number one in the Top 100 SME competition in Kenya.
On balance: “You are a business leader but what other hats do you wear? If you don’t balance your other hats then you have a problem. Do not sacrifice all at the altar of making it in business.”
Flora Mutahi – Founder and C.E.O, Melvin’s Tea
Mutahi first got into business with money her mother lent her so that she could get a loan from the bank. She started off with manufacturing salt, later progressed into the tea business, and has now delved into rice.
Sharon Mundia started blogging regularly three years ago, right after graduating from Monash University in South Africa with a degree in Marketing and Management. She had always had a passion for literature, even receiving a high school literary award, but practicality won out when it came to choosing an academic major.
Luckily for her, the background in marketing came in handy when she started to think of her blog, This is Ess, – which started as an online avenue for sharing little pieces of her life – as a platform on which to build her brand.
As her community of readers grew, companies sought her out to advertise their products. Initially, she would feature the free products she received from them without asking for anything in return. Blogging, however, took up time and energy.
She realized she would burnout if she couldn’t make it profitable. Her parents, who were concerned about her, gave her a time frame to figure it out. The resulting sense of urgency compelled Sharon to rethink her approach to her blog and to start viewing it as a business.
Turning the blog into a business
Sharon had to first stop accepting freebies as payment for featuring products on her blog. “Imagine Company X chose to advertise at a media house– would they tell the media house: ‘Can we give you five pairs of shoes to run this on your platform?’” she said. “They would never, so I started to think of myself as a platform for companies to share their product.”
However, she is aware that a “don’t accept freebies” policy might not work for every blogger. “It depends on where you are,” she said. “If you’re just beginning then you need some flexibility.”
She then came up with a rate card for potential clients. The card clearly spells out the cost of featuring on her blog and social media accounts. As a rule, she gives this rate card to anyone she works with – including pro-bono clients – as a way of communicating the monetary value of her work.
In order to give her site a more clean and professional look, she started working with Victor Peace, a skillful photographer who now takes most of the pictures for This is Ess. For special projects, she also partners with Corrine Munyumoo, a hairstylist, and Muthoni Njoba, a makeup artist, who both ensure that she is camera-ready.
For the most part though, This is Ess is a one woman show. Each post that successfully goes up requires a multistep process that Sharon runs on her own. First, she drafts proposals and budgets to send out to potential clients. Since This is Ess is a lifestyle and fashion blog, she approaches companies that are in those industries and that are a good fit.
Once she has received a yes from a client, it is then up to Sharon to communicate with them, organize meetings, and send invoices and post-shoot receipts. Sometimes companies approach her to work with them. She then has to assess whether the products that they are offering align with her brand.
As the creative director for the photo shoots, Sharon scouts for locations, picks themes and directs Victor Peace on the specific details she wishes to capture. After Victor has edited the pictures and selected the final ones, Sharon then adds the necessary captions or graphics, writes a piece to go with the photos and finally uploads them to This is Ess.
The entire process can take up to several days and a lot of emailing back and forth, yet the final product can be consumed by readers in less than a minute “Sometimes people think you just show up and take a picture,” she said. “But you don’t know how much time – how many emails, proposals, time for the shoot – went into making that product.”
Investing in the blog has also presented Sharon with several other opportunities. It has opened the door to endorsement deals, for example. Sharon is currently a brand ambassador for Store 66 – a Kenyan clothing store, and for the Samsung A Series.
Last year, her blogging caught the eye of Capital FM, a leading Nairobi-based radio station that was getting into online content creation. She now shoots videos and writes articles for the station.
To prioritize, Sharon divides her day into neat chunks for each activity. During her most productive morning hours she is working on content for Capital FM. Afternoons are saved for emails, planning photo shoots and attending meetings.
In the evening, she might have an interview or take photos for her blog. She doesn’t party, after discovering early on that partying on Friday night meant that she’d be recovering on Saturday morning instead of taking pictures for her blog. That is one of the sacrifices that she has to make as a mediapreneur in order to achieve her goals.
It was my last day at work and the first day of the next phase of my life. I had decided to become a full time entrepreneur and solely focus on building my own business.
My 10-month-old baby daughter would be my constant companion since my nanny was going away on leave at that time. This meant that it would take me longer than expected to get my business up and running.
Several weeks later, I now realize that setting up a business is a gradual process that requires time and dedication. Things also don’t always go as planned. Here is what I have learnt from my journey:
Have short, medium and long term goals
Dividing your goals into these categories will help you to focus while managing your time effectively. A popular acronym developed by George T. Doran is S.M.A.R.T. This means that all goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.
Practising this approach can be beneficial if adopted at the initial stages of business development. Overlooking any of the criteria could hamper progress and create frustration.
I, for example, wanted to have my company up and running in two weeks. However, this was not possible given my home situation. I was able to adjust accordingly and establish my company within a more realistic time frame.
In taking this approach, I quickly learnt that focusing on gaining a large customer base and revenue without fully building and understanding my business model would not work.
According to Martin Reeves and Mike Deimler in their Harvard Business Review article, Adaptability: The New Competitive Advantage, a company must have its antennae tuned to signals of change from the external environment, decode them, and quickly act to refine or reinvent its business model, and even reshape the information landscape of its industry.
Going into the same industry as my previous employer, I initially believed that developing a similar work structure would lead to business success. However, I realized that this approach would not be ideal given the lack of human and financial capital on my end.
I chose to adopt the most relevant aspects for my business such as customer relations. I opted to take a different approach on other aspects such as marketing.
Goals are moving targets
Business goals are moving targets. You can’t afford to get comfortable as this leads to stagnation. It is important to be open to providing current market needs. Keep abreast of the happenings in your industry as well as related industries.
This can be done through reading business journals and articles, attending conferences with industry peers, or simply carrying out research to understand the latest developments in the market. As an entrepreneur you need to keep up with the ever-changing market needs.
Enjoy the ride
Make the most of your experiences. Learn from each of them. Don’t be consumed by the business, however, as this will result in stress. In order to avoid frustration devise various coping mechanisms.
According to Forbes magazine, this could be as simple as scheduling breaks throughout the day or focusing on other interests that are unrelated to your business. Most importantly, appreciate your family in this moment. In my case, being with my baby daughter was the best stress reliever I had and probably will ever have.
At the end of the day, my nanny being away turned out to be a blessing in disguise.