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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Farah Fortune Of African Star Communications On Choosing The Right Clients

Publicist extraordinaire Farah Fortune of African Star Communications built her business not by courting big clients, but by backing young up-and-comers, and growing her brand right alongside theirs.

Monique Verduyn

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Farah Fortune
  • Company: African Star Communications
  • Established: 2008
  • Contact: +27 (0)79 826 1955, farah@africanstar.co.za

The 36-year-old publicist launched her celebrity PR business in 2008, with R1 000 in her pocket — she spent R589 of that on registering a CC and the rest on business cards.

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From working on her bedroom floor and sharing two-minute noodles with her daughter as she struggled to survive, today African Star Communications represents high-profile rappers such as K.O and Solo, and stand-up comedians Loyiso Gola and Jason Goliath.

She has an office in Nigeria and plans to open two new offices in Botswana and Ghana.

You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. How did you overcome the hurdles?

I lost my first business to a crooked partner in 2006. I was determined to try again and I went in search of funding, but no-one would give me money.

When the last thing I had to feed my child was a mouldy piece of cheese, I went back to work for a PR company, earning R12 000 a month, managing accounts worth millions. I hated every minute of it. In June 2008, when my CC registration came through, I walked out the door.

My first pitch was for a small charity day that AIG hosted for Manchester United in Johannesburg. I was the only woman in the reception area, but my offer to do the job for R10 000 was irresistible and I signed my first client. That was just the beginning of a long struggle. I was broke for the next three years.

Friends bought my groceries, and I would feed my daughter and have her leftovers for dinner.

I couldn’t afford petrol so I walked from my house in Randburg to do pitches in Sandton in my takkies, and then changed my shoes at the client’s office. The only thing that kept me going was the belief that I could somehow make it work.

What was your big break?

Farah-Fortune-woman-success

In year three rapper AKA was about to release his first album. He pursued me for four months. Initially, I didn’t want to work with him, but his ambition won me over.

I’ve never regretted the decision. We signed a contract, and shortly after that more clients came my way, mostly for small events.

Working with AKA made me realise that my passion was for music and I decided to channel my energies into promoting South Africa hip-hop stars. That’s how I ended up specialising and finding my own niche in the crowded PR sector.

Our team convinced 8ta/Telkom to look at AKA for their ads and it worked. I branched into corporate PR after the celebrity side took off.

What made your business stand out from other PR companies?

First was affordability. Publicists do not come cheap. I signed up many young artists who had not yet hit the big time, and charged them as little as R4 000 a month to manage their publicity and help make them famous.

Taking on lots of small clients meant that I could spread the risk. We still structure our packages according to what clients can afford and I’ve kept the overheads low. To this day, I’ve never advertised.

Second was my focus on hip-hop. Before 2011, corporates were not interested in rappers and the scene was very much underground. I convinced Vodacom to sponsor a big hip-hop party with AKA as the star attraction.

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After that, many other corporates woke up and took advantage of the popularity of the local rap scene. I like to think I played a part in mainstreaming South African hip-hop.

How have you stayed relevant in a fickle industry?

Once the business was pumping, I built my own brand. I never planned to be in the spotlight, but the more I appeared in the media, the more I was able to build my clients’ profiles, and get bigger accounts.

I focused only on doing business-related interviews and people started to take me more seriously. I could not believe how many corporate contracts I did not win because I refused to sleep with the client.

It’s a disappointing reality of this business when you are young and female. Developing my own brand helped me to build a career based on respect and professionalism.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Savvy Business Sale Spells New Life

With woman’s month nearly at the end- take some inspiration from business woman, Sue Kiley. Who discusses, how selling her business paved a way for bigger and better opportunities for her to re-invent herself and how Andrew Bahlmann’s professional guidance, was pivotal in making this business transaction – a “Savvy Business Sale”.

Andrew Bahlmann

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Breaking up is hard to do – even if you have made a rational decision that the time has come to sell the business you built up, the exit process is never easy, says businesswoman Sue Kiley. But she feels that since she and business partner Gordon Slater sold Johannesburg-based boiler company Dryden Combustion, she has been freed her to reinvent herself.

Kiley had joined Industrial Plant and Machinery, Dryden’s parent, in 1981, working her way up from receptionist/secretary to running Dryden by 1988. She and Slater, who had joined Dryden in 1989, were both given minority shareholdings by owner George Roberts in 1991. In 1997, Roberts sold his remaining interest to them.

“We poured our hearts and souls into growing the business for two decades, then it slowly dawned on us that it was our turn to consider whether we were ready to go through another round of expansion or whether we would sell on,” says Kiley. “It felt daunting and frightening but we are sure that both we – and ultimately our buyers – benefited extensively from the professional guidance we received from acquisitions expert Andrew Bahlmann.

“Selling up can be like a messy divorce or a death in the family with everyone squabbling over access to assets. Instead, it was a savvy and controlled negotiation leading to a well-managed handover.”

Related: 5 Truths Women Need To Grow A Successful Business

Kiley and Slater had built Dryden into a thriving business, increasing staff from nine to more than 70, for instance. Both recognised that their business had “hit some ceilings” and certain departments needed the benefits of substantial expansion.

“We realised that we had reached our limit and did not really want to change how we worked by bringing in new partners, doubling staff and substantially increasing factory capacity, even though this was what both the company and our staff needed,” says Kiley.

They opted for Bahlmann’s professional and hands-on sales offering because they wanted to avoid the more perfunctory way in which some business brokers simply post their portfolio of businesses for sale on the internet.

“We assumed that our business would go to our opposition but Andrew pointed out we were selling future business potential to a buyer that wanted to expand into our sector,” says Kiley. “We ended up with international offers on the table from India, Belgium and Pakistan, as well as South Africa.”

Kiley and Slater chose the offer from Cape Town’s Energy Partners, part of the PSG Group, not because it was the highest but because it made such a good fit with Dryden. Recognising and working with the intense emotional aspects of selling your business was an important aspect of Bahlmann’s guidance, says Kiley.

“Your company is your life and opening up our floor and our books to strangers made us feel very exposed,” she recalls. “Andrew ensured we were well prepared and fortunately I have always been a stickler for proper governance.

“This ensured that everything had been recorded and referenced, making the company far more saleable than if its history and processes are just in the owner’s memory. In fact, we accomplished due diligence in four days instead of at least six weeks.”

Preparing to part ways with the business and staff was inevitably emotional, especially as many employees had been with the company for at least 10 years. Kiley and Slater were as transparent as possible, sharing with staff the fact that the business would be sold as soon as they had engaged with Bahlmann.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

“It was pivotal to us that Energy Partners wanted to retain our staff,” says Kiley. “Becoming part of a larger company and group also gave staff opportunities for career growth that would not have happened with us.”

Dryden’s staff were not the only ones to enjoy career growth. After a handover year as semi-employees at Energy Partners, Kiley semigrated to Knysna where she is currently launching a completely different new business – collaborating with a young designer on the Roze Collection, a fashion label for plus-size women with sales run online.

“Selling Dryden was the right decision for all of us,” says Kiley. “The new owners are taking the company to exciting new levels that we would never have undertaken and our former staff are really happy and thriving on this.

“Gordon felt ready to retire and is enjoying it. I didn’t want to look for a new business partner but still wanted to have an exciting reason to wake up in the morning, something to plan and strategise about.”

Kiley believes selling Dryden enabled them both to move on completely and she is delighted with her opportunity to reinvent herself.

“I have always loved fabrics and fashion so I have a fresh start working with a lifetime passion,” she says. “Those around me comment on how the change has completely re-energised me. I am having the time of my life and selling up made this possible.”

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

How I Run An International Business From A Remote Beach Town In The Eastern Cape

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce of www.Segeriusbrucecoaching.com talks through how she does business with a world-wide audience of entrepreneurs from her home in a rural part of the Eastern Cape.

Chanelle Segerius-Bruce

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We’re so lucky to live in this era where the world has become a very small place.

With the right set of skills and IT infrastructure behind them, I believe anyone can set up to work from literally anywhere, including the South African beach town of Jeffrey’s Bay where I have been working with a varying international client base since the beginning of 2016.

Whether it’s a virtual assistant, coaching, consulting, web design, copywriting or translation work, I have seen a mass of companies starting up that don’t require regular face-to-face meetings. In fact, I believe face-to-face meetings are almost outdated with Skype and Zoom being so successful in bringing teams together.

After doing a year-long coaching programme with one of the top multi seven-figure earning coaches from the USA, I now have the confidence to charge in USD $ so that I can leverage the currency conversion which works out nicely for me in South Africa. I’ve been able to help people do the same thing too.

One of my clients is a branding and website designer based in Knysna and she’s able to work with clients globally too. When she lost her house last year in the big fires, she was able to save her laptop and backup drive and therefore save her livelihood even though her entire home burnt down! Imagine what would have happened if she lost her laptop too.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

The first thing I did when I looked at our beachfront property to rent was check the Internet line speed. To run an online business, you need to have the best Internet connection available. We have a 10 Meg uncapped ADSL line and I believe they’ll be installing fibre optic soon. Don’t skimp on this technology.

The way I attract international clients is by giving value-led video training sessions using live streaming such as Facebook Live. This is the fastest way to show people you know what you’re talking about and they can decide if they want to connect with you.

Build a community

I have a thriving Facebook group, with over 2,000 members, where people feel safe to ask questions about their business and everyone’s able to get to know each other. By having your own Facebook group and being seen as a leader you automatically gain authority.

Become an influencer

Use Instagram and Facebook to show behind the scenes, share where you travel to, what you like and share your unique perspective. Create a personal brand online, be visible, show up and stand out. Although some people have an issue with becoming more visible online, my coaching skills do come into play when I’m helping people with confidence issues or impostor syndrome. They key is to give practical marketing, social media and personal branding advice.

Work on your money mindset

As South Africans, many of us grew up being told “money doesn’t grow on trees” and many of you may have a mentality that needs to be changed, especially when it comes to having the confidence to charge your worth and even charge in USD $.

Finally, outsource as much as you can as fast as you can

Ask yourself “Who else could be doing this task?” Keep in your “Zone of Genius” and get a virtual assistant, web developer, bookkeeper and a cleaner to help you with all the things that take up your time. Stick to the things that only you can do in your business, like creating content, showing up on video and planning out your bigger picture plan.

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Business Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

Rapelang Rabana’s Innovation Formula – 3 Key Ingredients To Innovate

To be a success in today’s fast paced world, you need innovation at the heart of everything you do.

Nadine Todd

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The innovation formula is simple: According to tech entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana, innovation is at its best and greatest when it’s sourced from your unique perspective and accumulated wisdom, combined with shared value and execution.

At this year’s BCX Disrupt Summit, Rapelang broke the process down into the three key ingredients that together shape innovation and success.

1. Prepare your mind

Your ability to innovate and be creative is based on the sum of all of your experiences. Great ideas do not take shape in our minds, they are the result of external stimulus hitting a prepared mind. We don’t think up ideas — we notice them. We connect the dots in new and creative ways. And our ability to do so is based on how prepared we are to notice what’s happening around us, and to tap into that information.

When asked what it takes to be great like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, Musk’s ex-wife, Justine Musk had this advice to offer:

“Shift your focus away from what you want (a billion dollars) and get deeply, intensely curious about what the world wants and needs. It helps to have an ego, but you must be in service to something bigger if you are to inspire the people you need to help you.”

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

So, ask yourself this: What do you have that is so deeply compelling and needed that no one can outsource you or replace you? Until you can answer this question, keep building your mind, your abilities and your knowledge. Work on your repository, and your ability to connect the dots.

2. Create shared value

thato-kgatlhanye-bagsThato Kgatlhanye, founder of the Rethaka foundation, an organisation that creates school bags that are also solar panels, and can provide schoolgoers with energy in the evening so that they can do their homework, says that she is money-driven, business-driven, and empathetic towards her people. In other words, her business is created through shared value, and the desire to not only create money for her business, but within her communities as well.

Most successful organisations would never have been launched  if their primary focus was for the business to win. People are hungry for things that are inclusive and show positive change.

Consider Airbnb — the founders had the audacity to put a blow-up mattress in their livingroom, and believe that other people would find value in their offering. And they were right, mainly because the business model is all inclusive. The business wins, the hosts win and the customers win.

According to Nielsen, 40% more social entrepreneurs are growing compared to other SMEs, and they’re showing greater profit. In addition, people say they are more likely to purchase from ethical and sustainable businesses. The cynics might say this is what people say, not how they buy. This may be true, but it’s also a leading indicator of how we will behave in the future. We’re trying to get there, and our behaviour will catch up to the sentiment.

Always be cognisant of how responsive the market is. Learn to leverage public sentiment and get attention through the ideal of shared value. Winning with others is the fastest way to create value today.

Related: 20 South African Side-Hustles You Can Start This Weekend

3. Get stuff done

When we start a project or idea, we try to project into the future. We want to draw a linear picture between now and then. The problem is that creation is far more chaotic.

Instead, minute variations over time create profound changes. It’s a journey. There are no defining moments of success or failure; just a series of events strung together over time. To make the necessary minute variations though, you need data points and you need to take action. Often this starts with just beginning. If you start, you can move forward, slowly but surely. Progress is far more evolutionary than simply trying to imagine the end.

The problem is that the mind blocks us. We essentially block ourselves from success. How? Building anything and trying to be innovative requires a series of many, many decisions made over years and years. Many of those decisions are made — or not made — from a place of fear. Our instincts tell us to do something, and then our minds stop us. The most incredible things can happen if we learn to follow our instincts though.

the-five-second-rule-mel-robbinsIn her book, The Five Second Rule, Mel Robbins unpacks the skill of acting on your instincts. In essence, the space between your instinct and the moment of hesitation that stops you from acting is five seconds. This means you have five seconds to make things happen, and the way to utilise that time and to make things happen is to count down from five: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. At one, move. Get up, take action, call the client, speak to your boss — don’t let fear come in and crush the instinct.

Why a countdown? A countdown suspends — for a moment — the self-doubt that gives you space to move before the brain kills it. I started using the rule for small stuff at first. A countdown in the morning to get out of bed and go to gym. Then I started using it for the harder stuff, like not losing my temper. If you can be aware enough to make the countdown, you can change your behaviour.

The ability to execute and turn innovation into profit comes down to a series of five-second moments over years. Push yourself. Get past your mental blocks and act on your instinct.

Combine this with building on your knowledge, connecting the dots around you, and understanding that value is not given or taken, but is created through shared value, and you have the recipe for innovation and success.


IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Focus on learning new stuff

FACT: The super-successful focus heavily on learning new skills, reading practical books and listening or watching podcasts, interviews and informational courses.

Take best-selling author and leadership coach Simon Sinek, who said:

“My work is never complete, we wake up with a hunger to learn, and no one is ever truly an expert. Anyone who says, ‘I’m an expert at anything’ has closed their mind to the idea that they might not know everything. There’s always more to learn. I’ve never considered myself an expert. I’m always a student of leadership. All the work is imperfect and all the learning is continuous.”

Action Step: If you can read 20 full pages a day, or even listen to an hour-long audio/podcast, you will accumulate more than 36+ books a year of new knowledge.

Start here: If you’re not sure where to start, download the audible app (audible.com) and browse the business books available, or subscribe to podcasts. Three great places to begin are:

  • Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson, a show focused on disruption and hosted by the biographer of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin amongst others.
  • The Tim Ferriss Show, hosted by Tim Ferriss and one of the biggest podcasts on the planet.
  • Masters of Scale, hosted by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, who chats to some of the worlds biggest and most successful entrepreneurs.

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