Since Covid-19, we’ve all been in search of new ways to do things from the comfort of our couches. Figuring out how to find a mentor online can be a bit challenging because successful people are usually booked and busy but it’s very doable!
When you’re looking to find a mentor online, sending a bunch of emails or LinkedIn messages requesting that they take you under their wings may not be the best way to go. If you’re looking to have someone to mentor you, they probably get tons of similar requests every day. You’ll need a strategy that helps you stand out.
Here are some hacks to help you find a mentor online and possibly a friend for life:
Find relevant people
If you haven’t already, make a list of people in your field who inspire you. You can then boil it down to 3-5 people. When you have your list, make sure you find out as much about these people as you can. To find a mentor, you can also use the LinkedIn Career Advice feature, a great tool for finding new mentors.
Make yourself visible
The next step is to make sure your LinkedIn is popping with your work experience and accomplishments. The CEO of a company is not very likely to reply to a message from an account with no bio and 5 connections. Apart from LinkedIn, you want to make sure your presence on social media is clean and reflects who you are in the best way possible.
Hit them up!
Now it’s time to send a message to your mentor. Don’t say who you are and then go on to ask for them to mentor you. What you want to do is show that you respect the work they’ve done and talk about how this has also impacted your own life, you can then go ahead to ask if they can help with a specific area of your career.
Once you do this, don’t forget to give a reasonable time for a reply, preferably a week. Make it easy for them to contact you by providing your contact information.
What can you do for them?
Don’t forget that mentors are people too so what you want to do is gain their friendship. One of the best ways to get a mentor is to build a personal connection.
Volunteer to help them with a project, help out with a cause they’re passionate about or offer to help with some research. You can even interview or write an article about them – this is a great way to get to know who they are and connect with them in the process.
Catherine Lesetedi is a graduate of Statistics from the University of Botswana. She has built a career in the insurance industry since she joined it in 1992. Currently, Catherine is the Group Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Insurance Holdings Limited (BIHL).
She has built her career from scratch, and over the years, she has been adamant that adopting a flexible style of leadership is beneficial for leading an organization and getting the best out of her team.
Her career so far…
Looking at Lesetedi’s career, nothing about her story and her leadership principles and philosophies are ‘textbook’. Her style of leadership is pliable and acrobatic. It lends itself to whatever situation she and her team are in.
She’s extremely driven, open and open-minded, preferring to lead from behind, pushing her team forward, encouraging their gifts and honoring their intellect, allowing them to innovate, to grow and give to the business what she cannot.
Catherine maximizes on their strengths and makes sure that wherever there are gaps, there are people who are passionate, willing and able to execute and fill them.
Her journey there…
There is nothing predictable about Catherine Lesetedi. Even her choice of Statistics as a field to study at the University of Botswana (UB) was a bit of a wild card, even for her.
She describes it saying, “when we were making choices about what to study at varsity, we didn’t really know much about careers, to be honest with you, I didn’t know anything about Statistics until I got to the Department of Student Placement at the Ministry of Education.”
“I was late; my father and I had run out of fuel. By the time we arrived, I was out of breath, and I had forgotten my initial course choices. My brother, who I really admired, had studied Public Administration and Political Science, and that’s what I wanted.”
“They said that that weird combination didn’t exist, and told me that I was going to do Statistics and Demography.”
“If you think something is difficult, it becomes really difficult. If you think you can do it, sometimes you even surprise yourself.” – Catherine Lesetedi, CEO, BIHL Group
Her life experiences…
She studied Statistics at the University of Botswana, and even though her journey into that field was incidental, once there, she made the best of her situation, excelled and gleaned many things that she took forward with her into the rest of her life.
Certain experiences and her mindset set the stage for her early career and propelled her forward.
According to her, “in terms of decision-making, logical thinking, the confidence, and aptitude to learn; the program grounded me.”
“I may not use the formulas every day, but there are skills that I gained that I apply on a daily basis, even if I don’t recognize that ‘this is Statistics.”
The mathematical element empowered her to be able to engage with budgets and numbers, and not shy away from that aspect of whichever job she did.
Her philosophies for life…
All of the disciplines in the world are interrelated, so having a good understanding of what is going on across the board is beneficial for one; especially if a young woman wants to build herself up and build her career.
This is something she practices herself because, throughout the course of her career, she has gradually improved upon her leadership skills, attending leadership courses and taking on the responsibility of self-improvement.
Doing this has encouraged her to take a deeper look at herself; what drives her and pushes her beyond her own limitations. This outlook has put her in good stead as a leader, as someone who encourages others, ensuring that they are able to get the best out of what they need to do.
As a mentor, both personally and professionally, the story that she tells, the example that she sets, is one of “show up and do your best.”
Ms. Lesetedi is big on recognizing talent and putting it to good use within the BIHL Group. These are some of the elements that make her up as a woman, as a leader, and these are some of the things that she has imparted to her mentees.
Botswana is one of Africa’s success stories, from one of Africa’s poorest countries to a vibrant, developed, middle-income African state.
I recently got a professional mentor. This was not something that had been penned down in detail in my goals for the year. What had been penned down is that I need to seize opportunities that will enhance my network.
So as a true choleric, I jumped on any networking opportunity that presented itself to me. This rather abstract goal led me to join a mentorship forum for Human Resource Professionals whose goal is to provide mentoring opportunities to HR professionals through peer mentoring.
My first meeting with my mentor happened early this year. Let’s call her Alexa. To say that I was intimidated is an understatement. Alexa has achieved so much. She is a high-flying career woman, she has a C-suite job, and reports to the Board.
She is confident, she is witty and to wrap it all, she has an amazing sense of style.
Ok. Stop giggling.
I, on the other hand, have worked at my current job for eight years. I was not proud of my employer and I had been carrying this label that I work for the wrong organization.
It was for that reason that all my job applications had not been successful. So much negative vibe about my work situation.
So Alexa and I met at a beautiful restaurant and the conversation started with her telling me about herself. I wanted her job. She makes so much impact.
Isn’t that all that us millennials want, to make an impact?
Then the conversation moved to me. I told her about myself, my work situation and why I had signed up for a mentor. At the end of the meeting, Alexa told me that as part of the preparation for our next meeting, I need to identify the one thing I want to take out of our mentorship relationship once it came to an end.
It was a wonderful evening I must say.
When I got home later that night, I reflected back to my conversation with Alexa. It was like I was outside, looking into our conversation and I was deeply saddened by the picture that emerged. I started my career so positive, so energetic and with an attitude of I can handle whatever comes my way.
Eight years later, to sitting across my mentor, I had changed to this negative person who felt like she had no power.
This realization coupled with Alexa’s assignment on my expected outcome from the professional mentorship forced me to take a long hard painful look at myself. That was the only way I could change the narrative.
I must say that it was not easy. I took some time out to reflect on my life and I realized that it was no longer clear to me what my vision was professional.
The Bible says that my people perish because of a lack of vision. How true this is. If you do not know where you are going, anywhere is good enough. But anywhere is not good enough for me.
I want to live a life of purpose and a life of meaning and my career plays a huge part towards that. Pema Chödrön in his book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, says “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”
Self-reflection is hard. Self-reflection is painful. But self-reflection is necessary for you to scale to the next level of your career.
Do I now know what my vision for my professional life is? Yes.
Do I have a plan of how to achieve it? Yes.
It involves stepping out of my comfort zone by seeking opportunities that will make use of skills that I possess. Indeed, writing this article is stepping out for me. And so for my next meeting with Alexa, I know precisely what I want out of the professional mentorship I am being offered.
In the words of Denzel Washington, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influence in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.”
Fellow female professionals, do you want to scale the career ladder? My advice, get a mentor.
Gogontlejang Phaladi is a philanthropist and development practitioner from Botswana. She is the founder and executive director of a non-profit making NGO called the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope Project (GPPHP).
She founded the organization over 10 years ago in response to the needs of orphans and vulnerable children affected and infected with HIV in Botswana. She is currently a Board Member of the Global Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), and a member of the National Vision 2036 Council.
GPPHP is an NGO that is mandated in capacity building, civic education, human rights advocacy, promoting gender equality and doing humanitarian work.
Gogontlejang is also the team leader of a company called SWAHIBA (PTY) LTD which provides leading Technology and Innovation solutions for human and social development issues and broad internet services.
In this interview, Gogontlejang talks about her humanitarian work, running a non-profit organization, and how she manages her leadership roles.
Tell us what we don’t know about Gogontlejang in detail
Gogontlejang Phaladi is an African woman leader who is passionate about transforming lives and believes a world free of poverty, with equity and dignity, is possible with more youth driving the development agenda as agents of change.
You can say I’m a seasoned human and social development expert who has served as a member of the African Union High Level Advisory Group on Humanitarian Effectiveness in Africa, Botswana Presidential Task Team of Vision 2036, UNICEF Botswana Child Ambassador, a former Radio Presenter, member of the WHO external advisory group on the Accelerated Action for the Health of Adolescents (AA-HA) Framework and a Motivational Speaker.
I am also a trained SRHR, CSE and HIV and AIDS educator, Governance and Leadership trainee and campaign facilitator having worked on several campaigns aligned with UNFPA, UNAIDS, WHO and UNESCO.
I am currently pursuing my undergraduate studies and doing humanitarian work, motivational speaking as well as development work consultancy. During my spare time, I mentor girls and women through an initiative dubbed #SIMI (She Is My Inspiration) and I also enjoy farming.
You became a leader from the age of five. As a young woman now, what three personal values have you appreciated that are transcendental to the Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope?
I think three things are essential for a leader regardless of at what level you are:
Discipline and integrity
These two values were central to my upbringing. My mom is a tough disciplinarian and continues to instill discipline in me and everyone around her. She is an innate leader and does not tolerate any form of indiscipline. So I have always known that wherever I want to get to in life, discipline is the vehicle to take me there
Doing my best to apply discipline in every aspect of my daily living has been very helpful in getting to where I am today. My dad believes in being a person of integrity so that part was instilled in me by him. He is a man of principle and consistency, often says little and shows more through his actions what he values most.
My parents have always taught me to do my best to stand by my principles no matter how compromising them may seem temporarily convenient.
Not leaning on your own understanding
It is important to appreciate that there is value in listening to others’ opinions. Even if you may not agree, they bring the much-needed objectivity to your point of view.
I value conversations with people who come from a different background from me. There is a lot of humility you learn through listening to others and allowing yourself to be guided by the wisdom of others. This also helped me a lot professionally, personally and socially.
If you don’t love what you do how will you get the motivation to keep doing it? Challenges are inevitable. Obstacles, setbacks and even sabotages are all things you will face in your workplace and as a leader.
If there is no passion you will quit, be consumed by your detractors’ negativity and give in to their predictions of your downfall. But where there is passion, there is an undying spirit of persistence, perseverance and a thirst to thrive and succeed.
What are the responsibilities of the GPPHP with being a member of these local and international organizations?
The GPPHP is a member of the UNFPA African Youth and Adolescent Network (AfriYAN) and of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH) Adolescents and Youth Constituency.
Membership is sought once an organization believes they align with the core mandates of the global/ regional bodies. The purpose of belonging to such entities is to encourage a culture of fostering partnerships with stakeholders who work together in order to harness and enhance capacity.
The networks also enable a space of learning from all the other members.
There is strength in numbers when advocating for certain issues, in concerted efforts, consistent messaging and capacity building. Currently, the GPPHP is a member of the two networks and is involved in various initiatives of both networks. it is also in the executive leadership positions.
I am the board chair of the Adolescents and Youth Constituency of the PMNCH while one of my colleagues is an executive committee member of the AfriYAN network in Africa.
Give us an insight into how your typical day looks like
It’s difficult to say what a typical day looks like for me. To be honest I would be worried if I saw a 23-year-old with a typical day. We are at a lucrative and fertile time to take risks, try out new things, apply ourselves fully and be active.
I think at this point in my life, it makes sense to have days that add value and growth in all aspects of my life.
During the month I’m doing plenty of NGO work, the mentorship programme I run for young women, traveling locally or internationally, visiting the farms, spending time with my parents and nieces, watching a lot of comedy/ sarcastic shows and audio books and a lot of alone time which I value highly. Oh yes, watching football whenever I get a free weekend.
About twice a month I am traveling, either outside the country on UN, AU or NGO missions, or locally visiting local communities and doing community outreach initiatives. Every quarter, I spend the time at the Bokaa farm vaccinating livestock and dogs.
Sometimes, twice or three times in a week I can be found inside an office like any other employee and of course the usual meeting drills. I spend several afternoons and weekends doing school work. I spend many nights up working. Most of the time, I work at night as it is quiet and the internet is also faster at that time.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about establishing a non-profit organization, especially with a small society?
The misconception that the main motive is money. I have been doing this for almost 20 years and have never received a pay cheque with my name on it for doing humanitarian work.
This has never stopped me from doing the work I love. When I started my organization, I was using my parent’s resources. I have since continued to do work and have successfully undertaken several projects using my own resources and kind efforts of people who are also passionate about human rights advocacy and philanthropic work.
I believe there are more people who are active agents of change and catalysts of development in good faith than those ulterior motives. Nevertheless, we must continue encouraging a culture of giving back no matter how trivial the gesture may seem – our collective efforts are what eventually make the world a better place.
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Nnanke Essien is a visibility strategist and business transformation coach. She helps individuals with awesome ideas, products and services to get seen and found by their ideal clients.
She does this using a 5 step visibility building process to build an effective and efficient visibility roadmap. Nnanke believes that the path to success is littered with awesome but poorly marketed ideas, hence her mandate is to support businesses find this sure pathway.
She is a John Maxwell Certified coach, a HR professional and a visibility builder round the clock. She has been supporting start-ups and businesses since 2007 even through college.
Why is it important to stay visible?
If nobody knows you exist, nobody will buy from you. It’s really that simple, you must always find a way for your ideal clients to remember that you exist. We call it top of mind awareness. In other words, if at any point your client has a need, your brand name should be top of mind.
How can brands stay visible despite strong competition on social media?
Truthfully, social media isn’t going anywhere and the earlier business owners understand this and take ownership the better for brands. Firstly, to stay visible, brands must adhere to a stellar mindset.
Beyond this, brands need clarity on why they are in the business. This is in terms of the business mission, vision, values, identifying their business playing field (niche), their core message and their brand positioning on the value chain.
Brands also need clarity on their ideal clients. Who are the people whose lives and businesses will be transformed by virtue of the fact that this business exists?
Understanding the client’s exact needs, desires, challenges, what they need to transform, lifestyle, spending power and motivation is key to business visibility success.Finally, brands can also stay visible by authenticating their authority in the market. Having consistent, attractive and meaningful bio’s on their social media platforms can contribute to this. Their bio must contain relevant information on who the brand is.
Also, nurturing communities i.e groups, leveraging on content and becoming an information reservoir for clients can be a great way of authenticating authority. In all of these, consistency and building revenue generating models, systems, processes and assets are key to success and visibility.
What are your top three tips for business owners to incorporate into their brands?
Have a consistent brand voice and visual appeal that is easy for people to spot and recognize.
Focus on building relationships using KLT (Know, Like and Trust) techniques like live videos, Instagram stories, guest appearances et al.
How can women balance putting themselves out there while not appearing too forward?
Woman know what you want. Don’t do things out of compulsion or pressure. The woman you buy shoes from didn’t shy away from her calling, the woman who sells human hair didn’t shy away from her calling.
Recognize your hustle. Validate it! Look for a group of persons or coaches and mentors who can help you identify your hustle, find your sweet spot, stay there, flaunt it and own it.
What do you wish more entrepreneurs knew about today’s changing marketplace?
I wish they would spend more time actually researching than copying and wasting endless time doing idle and non-income generating activities. Behaviors are changing. The spending power of your ideal clients is changing. Algorithms on all the social platforms you are using are changing.
Too many people feel like they’re in a dead-end job or that their career is just not taking off like they expected. Feeling stuck, unfulfilled and unmotivated has to really suck. The good news is there’s always a solution to every problem out there.
Here are seven things you can do when you’re in a career limbo and feel like giving up:
1. Do something out of the ordinary
Try out new things and discover new interests. You need a different head space to realign yourself with your professional goals. Have these changed?
Taking a breather can help you decide if you need a different strategy or simply want to try something different like switching to a new company or even a new career.
2. Improve on your skill set
Perhaps, the reason why you feel like your career isn’t really moving forward is because you haven’t actually put in the effort to improve on yourself.
Put in the time and effort to build your skills via online courses, training, self-study, workshops etc. Working on yourself is always an advantage. Sometime soon, someone will be sure to take notice. And if they don’t, tell them.
3. Be prepared to take risks
This could mean taking a risk by changing your method of working.
Perhaps, you have refused to move with the times whilst everyone else is finding advanced ways of getting their work done and moving up the corporate ladder.
4. Go to your mentor
At this stage, if you already have a mentor that you reach out to from time to time, be prepared to hear some hard truths. There are certain things you should be doing to stand out which may be lacking that your mentor will point out to you.
If you don’t have one, you know what to do. Look for someone you admire for their professional ethic and successful career in a field related to yours. There must be things that you can emulate from their story and apply to your own career to get you out of the rut.
5. Take on leadership responsibility
One way to get a promotion is through leadership. Can colleagues look up to you for guidance and maturity in dealing with challenges? Are you one to look out for the team as a whole?
Leadership is about putting yourself out there and motivating others to do their best. If you’re seen as a leader, you’ll eventually be given additional responsibility which can move you into new assignments, opportunities and promotion.
Social media can be a great tool to help you achieve this. You have the power to modify your professional game. Through channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter you can sell yourself by highlighting your interests and aspirations.
In the workplace as well, you can re-invent yourself by getting involved in things that will expose you to new areas.
7. Express your concerns to your manager or supervisor
The thought of approaching your superior about your feeling stagnant within the organization might be a bit awkward or scary.
However, they could help you figure out what opportunities exist, what areas you need to put more effort in or simply tell you why things just aren’t moving at the moment.
After giving some of these your best shot, something’s gotta give. Good luck in getting your career back on track. We have faith in you.
The size of Africa’s hair market is just mind- blowing. The demand for human hair is increasing by the day and from this we have seen the increase in the supply of this contemporary ‘ladies’ essential’. We have with us CEO of HAIREXPRESS Premium, Kiba Bam sharing her entrepreneurial experience.
Born and bred in Cape Town, South Africa, Kiba’s heart of entrepreneurship was kindled at the age of 9 when she was working in her parent’s shop. This exposure forced her to think on her feet and be mature enough to handle the business’ finances.
The young lady then moved to Johannesburg to study Clothing Management and from then she was in the retail industry for 9 years. From learning the dynamics of the industry Kiba had sparks of interest to tap into the undiscovered potential in beauty retail. This led to the birthing of her human hair distributing retailer and custom wig making company.
When did you “charter” HAIREXPRESS?
HAIREXPRESS premium opened for its first day of business in August 2015. I started the business by myself in my parents’ house, working from my bedroom. The business retails human hair bundles, custom makes wigs and is a distributor to salons.
When I started I had very limited technology and resources but I was a woman on a mission. Results and progress is all I cared about. I started the company because this was a dream God gave to me. l believe I started at the right time because everything was just flowing and HAIREXPRESS came together.
Initially, I never had funds to start the business but as I said things just worked out for good. I got pregnant and the company l was working for in Joburg started retrenching staff. I was due to give birth to my daughter and decided it would be done in Cape Town where my family is.
In the midst of my maternity leave I got a call to say l was getting laid off. Funny enough there was no panic in my spirit because consciously I did not intend to go back to Johannesburg. This call then meant I would get a retrenchment package of R50k, it came and l invested part of this money into buying my first stock. The rest is history as they say.
What successful ideas have you implemented to boost your business?
Re-working my marketing plan was the best thing I could have done for the brand. As we know without customers there is no business. We went for a total brand revamp. Before I explain what we did, I want to share why we did it.
The reason was we identified our niche target market and we also studied our competitors closely and capitalized on their weaknesses. It’s not enough to have just good hair. We created a lifestyle around the brand. We wanted our clients to desire to be identified with the brand, for it to be a personal thing for them. To love the hair and the woman behind the brand.
Since we have taken this leap clients have been rolling in and we are being noticed by a few media houses for interviews which is great. So publicity tick, customers tick.
Based on your experience, is it better to cut staff or use less expensive products to reduce salon costs?
The best is to possibly reduce the hours of staff but not cut on staff as your people are an asset to the business. The pleasant thing about our business is that the staff rent for space from our premises so it’s a win-win situation. Bringing in labour when it’s most needed and having contractual staff instead of permanent staff.
I don’t have the opportunity to use less expensive products because I sell and distribute a premium product. My brand is everything. My integrity is all I have in the industry and I can allow bad publicity over bad quality. It’s not the HAIREXPRESS premium way.
How do you think your start-up story will motivate other African women out there to start their own business?
It will motivate them because I honestly started something from nothing. We have a very clever God! All He requires from you is willingness. I was willing and hungry to be the CEO of my own multi-national. I’m not there yet but I started and now I’m working my plan.
My strategy is in motion. I want to motivate other woman and say money should not stop you from starting because I didn’t have money. I got retrenched at my old office job. Things worked out, they always do. Endure the beginning stages. They are painful but well worth seeing the growth and change.
Women need to forget about the noise and focus on their purpose in life. Being the It girl, best dressed, wife to a rich guy is not an achievement. If that’s what you want then great, own it but what I know is we all have dreams given to us by God. Take a leap and just try and try everyday to move closer to the dream. Women need to understand that they are natural born leaders. We are naturally organized and think things through. We always have a plan A- Z. That already is the mind of an entrepreneur.
What is the best thing about being an entrepreneur?
Being able to transfer your knowledge to other young entrepreneurs and colleagues in the entrepreneurial space. This is a long road that needs focus and determination. The best thing about the journey for me is to see the strategy coming together. I started alone and now I have a very savvy smart business manager who is part of the team.
The business is growing and people are inquisitive about the brand. We are so grateful. It’s also so rewarding to see people buy into the idea and business of HAIREXPRESS. Clients referring other clients, people recognizing the brand and being clear of what we do. Of course the financial reward in the long run will be the utmost best reward.
Where do you want Hair express to be by the end of the year and how do you plan on getting there?
By the end of the year our loan will be approved (March 2017) and we will move into our headquarters (May 2017).
At our HQ, the front of house will be the hair salon with hair dressers, nail technicians and make up artists renting space from us. The back of shop will be the wholesale and distribution center for our salon clients where they will be able to restock for their salons.
Apart from human hair industry being monopolized by the Chinese, what other challenges do you face?
Having constant availability for my clients with stock is a major issue. The turn around time for stock is 10-14 working days per order. I have every intention of changing that, my clients want hair and when they want it they want it now with no delay. So the wholesale and DC will eliminate that problem immediately.
The other problem l faced was separating myself from the competition taking a step back and studying what’s “really” happening in the market and acting on the information collected. Women love convenience and don’t like to change their suppliers. If you are not consistent in your ways with clients they will go elsewhere, and that has been a major challenge.
Apart from being CEO of HAIREXPRESS what else do you do?
My purpose and vision as an individual which also translates into my business is to change lives. Also, I mentor young people industry professionals to unleash their inner potential. I mentor young professionals through personal one on one meetings and group empowerment sessions.
I am fulfilling my passion of empowering young people to unleash their potential also through public speaking engagements at schools and events.
Fun question! What would you do if you didn’t have to work?
I literally would go shopping everyday for myself and my daughter . Everyday in South Africa and once a month on 5th Ave, Harrods and Selfridges. In the past couple of years, the budget has been tight because my money is being invested in my business 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣. So I would go shopping EVERYDAY till I get bored of it.
Then would go do my nails and facials every other week. Have a personal Pilates trainer come to my mansion. Then off I go once every two weeks to do body sculpting non invasive surgeries on my stomach and hip area 🤣🤣🤣🤣.
I’ll also go for a boob job (breastfeeding is real out here lol) and do lunch with whomever is available from among my friends. And before I forget travel travel travel. Build a house in Camps Bay, Franschoek, Hyde park and Braynston, buy an apartment at the Marina V&A Waterfront (to live in), go apartment shopping in NYC, Paris and London.
Oh and of course I’ll be driven everywhere in my Rolls Royce. So basically, I’ll look super hot with perfect skin and be body goals for many. I’ll be super on trend everyday and live my dream life. I’ll also speak every other day, give me a golden mic and fill up a stadium and speak to inspire others.
If you’d like to share your story with She Leads Africa, let us know more about you and your story here.
African start-ups are coming up across the continent, but the investments and programming needed to ensure their growth aren’t always there. What needs to happen for the number of investments and programming for African start-ups to increase? What should investors and venture capitalists be doing to increase the strength of the African start-up space and what can entrepreneurs themselves be doing to attract the right kinds of investments?
Given She Leads Africa’s accelerator program and our recent Demo Day, SLA is working hard to address these questions. Along with our partners from VC4Africa, Work in Progress, and others, SLA is working to ensure African entrepreneurs have the tools & resources they need to reach their goals.
Join SLA & Alina Vinogradova of VC4Africa on Nov. 24th, for a discussion on the importance of programming for African start-ups, whether it’s accelerator programs, incubators, pitch competitions or anything else that exposes African start-ups to investors and mentors. In particular, we will focus on why we need more programming focused on African women entrepreneurs and encouraging their growth across the sector.
Alina develops and manages startup support programs implemented by VC4A as part of larger donor-funded initiatives, such as Work in Progress! Project or World Bank’s Pan-African Accelerator. She builds out VC4A’s network of strategic partnerships with various African startup ecosystem players and is constantly looking for fit between organizations, their objectives, and the goals of the VC4A community.
Alina holds MSc in Business Economics from Baltic State Technical University in St. Petersburg and an MBA from Amsterdam Business School (UvA). Prior to VC4A she spent over 10 years working in various commercial roles in the private sector in both emerging and developed markets, with B2B marketing, sales & business development being her core expertise areas.
If you want to be a teen coach and you’re not sure where to start, you may want to pay attention to this.
Nomveliso Mbanga is a teen coach and mentor. She is also a youth public speaker & facilitator, storyteller and the founder and managing director at Mayine Development Institute, a start-up based in South Africa. “I can identify with poverty but I identify more with defying the odds and creating your own legacy through hard work and patience.” Nomveliso says.
SLA contributor Goistemang asked Nomveliso what advice she’d give to young women looking to start a business as a coach/mentor with little money and this is what Nomveliso had to say.
Understand your skills
First you need to know what you can do and what you are good at, plus any natural gifts. Choose an area that is of your passion and that you know very well. Build good relationships with people and follow good ethical practices.
Don’t be afraid to learn new things
What worked in starting Nomveliso’s own business was learning past experiences. She was willing to make mistakes. Personal development is key when you keep learning and trying out different methods.
Easy and comfortable will usually give normal results and won’t give anything worth applauding. You need to know what you want to achieve.
I want to create full transformation spaces for teenagers who will learn to understand that they are responsible for their personal growth and success in life. That made me come up with out of the ordinary methods to give me my desired results. I wanted to set up my business differently from other coaches. I didn’t exist before and I manage to create my own niche in the field.
In my case, I started with no money only because I had already built a following in youth development work. Through them, I tested a few models that gave me results. So, it was easy to trust that I could do it on my own as I have done it all in corporate and community space before.
Family and friends are also very important, they will uplift you in tough times.
The biggest challenges come from self
Self-doubt kicks a lot harder than challenges from others. One rejection can set you back and make you scared to approach new potential clients or partners. You need to know how to snap out of discouragement quickly. Know how to manage competition in a healthy way so you can keep improving your work instead of getting discouraged.
Be true to yourself. Don’t try compete with anyone. Work in your own pace as long as you give your all. Keep learning and reading.
Save, save, save!
Another challenge is cash flow. You must always keep and save what you get as you’ll never know for sure when the next payments will come in.
‘Get yourself a mentor!’ I bet most of you have heard this sentiment shared at one point or another during trying times in business or career. What always amazes me is the matter-of-fact way this is normally mentioned. When you get a chance to probe what precisely a mentoring relationship ought to look like, don’t be surprised to get a pair or two of blank stares. That’s the nature of buzzwords. Everyone throws them about but very few understand the process that one must follow to ensure a worthwhile mentoring relationship.
When I started my business, I was told at the first business incubation meeting that no business succeeds without mentors. I bought into this; after all business advisors who have been in the game for some time said it. What they failed to mention though is the importance of structuring the relationship in a business-like manner to make it mutually responsive for both parties. ‘If it is not structured, it’s not going to work.’
Before we get some structure, let’s define what mentorship is. In its simplest form, mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable one. With this knowledge in mind, I went looking for a mentor and my criterion was simple: ‘experienced business owner who has made strides in the business world’. But guess what? The relationship never took off and I found it a tad bit contrived.
Over the duration of my business, I have formed relationships with various mentors; some time-bound, others more regular and yet others sporadic based on need. I have also taken on mentees; some didn’t work out while others flourished. I have settled that structure makes or breaks a mentor/mentee relationship.
Structure has been credited for the turnaround of Ford Motor Company when Allan Mulally, the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) saved the company from bankruptcy. A structured approach to any intervention necessitates forward thinking. Without it, one is stuck in thinking in the now. Structure implies commitment and precision. And it is these two attributes that I found lacking in my previous relationships. I have, to my great dismay, found that lack of structure tends to be the norm in such relationships. Over the last two years, I have learnt that for a mentoring relationship to succeed, four elements need to be present.
1. Approach your potential mentor thoughtfully
Check the mentors’ track record with prior mentees to ensure that they have added value to others.
It also helps to have a specific request to approach them on and go there with a proposal on how you as the mentee hope to work with the mentor.
2. Have an agreement in place
For some reason we think it’s okay to have written agreements for all other interventions but not for mentoring, which is why, in my opinion, these relationships do not work to their full potential. You need clear guidelines on time, boundaries and work plans.
I have found that when you have it documented, both parties are held accountable to keep their end of the bargain. Most importantly, this enables you (and the mentor) to review the relationship periodically.
3. Understand your mentor beyond the surface
Just as we are always advised to understand what makes our bosses tick, the same principle applies to mentors. Know what works best with them; do they prefer email communication, are they best called in the morning etc?
Know what is important to them and how having you as a mentee is an added value to them.
4. You want the relationship, take charge of it
The assumption is you wanted to have a mentor for a specific reason to ensure that you fulfill your goal. Doing so, requires you take control of the relationship.
The mentor will not run after you, you need to do the running (until you’ve proven your value). Being timid will not get you anywhere neither will aggression. The trick is in striking a healthy balance.
When you approach a mentoring relationship in the same structured way you would coaching or training, you force yourself and your mentor to put priority to the union. When your needs are clear, the mentor knows exactly how they can support you.
The best part is both parties are accountable to each other, and with accountability comes measurement of impact and that is golden!