Being a successful female entrepreneur in Africa’s current economic and cultural context is an arduous journey. Calling organic entrepreneurship impossible
Despite being a marginalised group, women entrepreneurs in Africa have great potential to positively impact the economy of the continent. It is time, we as women discussed credible models for emerging entrepreneurs as well as winning solutions in womenprenuership.
Here are some key principles I have learnt along my path pushing the clothing brand Chenesai, it’s still a journey I continue walking in confidently despite the challenges which I emerge from more determined. I’m an avid believer of sharing skills of the trade with my fellow womenprenuers in the continent.
1. Define your vision.
Vision is born from action. Engage your ideas and define your vision. One must be able to fully conceptualise how their brand will operate and relate to consumers at its pinnacle. An entrepreneurial spirit becomes paramount to sustaining this vision and seeing it through to the climax.
Entrepreneurship is not just an activity, it is a lifestyle committed to the development of the dream. It is an attitude, a psychological and physiological engagement completely dedicated to achieving the ultimate goal. So, how does one afford the luxury of investing in that dream?
2. Be your own capital and collateral.
Believe in yourself enough to invest mind, body, and soul in your vision. Capital remains the main challenge that continues to dominate the dialogue on entrepreneurship in Africa. The solution to this is to start where you are and with what you have, then work your way upwards. Pessimists may be quick to dismiss this view citing that a few dollars cannot start up the multi-million empires they desire. However, to be an entrepreneur you need to always see the glass half full instead of half empty.
When I started Chenesai, I transformed my study into my factory. I did not even own a sewing machine, so I offered the space to a design student in exchange to use her machine for my designs. From the arrangement, I saved up to purchase my own machinery.
In the four years, I have been working on Chenesai, there hasn’t been a single day where I had extra capital to bankroll my projects. I’m continuously searching innovative ways to develop at each stage as I go along, that is my capital. Quid pro quo deals are an effective way to secure services and inputs you may require. Find what services you can offer in return for products and services you need from others.
Securing a loan may seem like a necessity for your business but what this essentially entails is that your activities and course are determined by your commitment to repaying the debt. Organic growth allows you to make mistakes, learn, improve and expand.To be a successful organic entrepreneur you need to always see the glass half full Click To Tweet
3. Be solution driven
You don’t have enough time to dwell on challenges. Perfection is a myth so act! As Motswana female tech entrepreneur, Rapelang Rabana puts it, “the most powerful ideas come from solving your own problems.” It is important to never think of challenges, I live in solution mode.
I had to do most of the work by myself, in the beginning, I could not afford to employ a trained designer. Instead of giving up and holding the “challenged” placard as justification for failure, I thought innovatively, tapped into the unqualified resource pool and trained my first employee from scratch.
Because I personally trained her on all the essentials of my business, she thoroughly comprehends my vision and works well to complement my efforts. The idea is to consider your surroundings and continuously devise effective strategies to utilise resources and opportunities to power up your business.
4. Possess an autonomous mind
Entrepreneurship is a test on your mental state. Keep your mind clear. This should be established from the onset and maintained throughout the running of the business, it must become a lifestyle. For one to be able to make effective decisions, they should have as much control of the factors in play as possible.
Limit obligations and understand that it’s a long and lonely walk. Refrain from engaging in relationships, friendships, activities and commitments that will affect the course of your business negatively. Every activity you partake in must bring growth to your entrepreneurial spirit or feed into the vision in some way.It is important to never think of challenges, I live in solution mode - Chenesai @Inspire2Aspire Click To Tweet
5. Honour your time
Put a price tag on your time, maximise every hour, minute and second of each day operating on 100% productivity. You are expected to wear different hats as you grow your enterprise, as such your time is gold. When I made the decision to venture into Chenesai, I left my job at one of Zimbabwe’s top law firms and settled on a much smaller one to afford me the time I need to invest in my dream.
I now work 3 days a week and the rest of my time is dedicated to my brand. If you need to keep an 8 to 5 job, then every minute outside of work must be accounted for. Create and own your flexibility outside of the office or workplace and make the time for the business.
6. Tackle the gender barriers
Finally, for now, the strategic deviation has got to be embedded in your DNA if you are looking to succeed. While we continue to work to address cultural structures that deprive us (women) of several opportunities, we do not have the luxury to wait for things to change.
We need to actively find ways to get around the issues we face as women entrepreneurs. Find inspiration from your multiple roles and where you can, merge them with your passion. For example, as a mother, I include my son in all my projects because I must play my part in raising him (do not forget the dads) and looking after him. I have developed a line of clothing, “King K” which is inspired and dedicated to him.
Solution driven thinking and time management will solve a lot of the issues we face as women. That along with the compact rules I have shared from my experience, I am confident that we can all prosper as womenprenuers in Africa!