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5 Truths Women Need To Grow A Successful Business

Established woman entrepreneur Olatorera Oniru, CEO Dressmeoutlet.com shares essential strategies for growing a very successful business rapidly.

Olatorera Oniru

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Many resilient women have picked up the challenge of entrepreneurship. This increasing flock of women in business is strengthening the cliché – what a man can do a woman can do. In general, the number of women-owned firms is on the rise, but challenges remain inclusive of self-imposed limitations.

Every business owner has numerous goals when starting out, including instant success, recognition and fast growth. The fact is overnight success is not often the standard and there is no guarantee given all efforts, as over 90% of start-ups fail within the first 3 years according to research conducted by Forbes.com.

While recognising the critical contribution of women-owned businesses to Africa’s economic growth, many organisations are increasingly committed to supporting women-owned start-ups.

Related: Farah Fortune Of African Star Communications On Choosing The Right Clients

Many programmes exist to help women start businesses but very few programs are designed to help women entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Want to rapidly and firmly shoot your business to success and achieve growth milestones?

1. Have experience and thorough knowledge of the industry you are in. Never stop learning. Build your network. Employ the best people

Learning is a continuous agenda and a daily goal for any founder and CEO. We must strive to continue learning from all angles. Learn from your competitors, colleagues, employees, mentors, industry leaders and even friends and family.

Have a strong knack for research and utilise all tools and resources available to you to garner knowledge including free webinars and seminars. Desire and aspire to be a walking-and-talking knowledge base for your industry. In line with this, you’ll find that it will be easy for you to innovate, establish patents and grow even faster.

Despite all your knowledge and experience, avoid doing everything yourself as the chief executive. Ensure that you recruit the best employees to help manage certain units of the company.

Also acknowledge where you just aren’t skilled enough and have a passionate expert assist you with handling that unit while you focus on the bigger picture of growing the company.

2. Know, understand and implement solid financial plans and goals

Financials are one of the most important aspects to starting and growing any business. Financials must never be neglected. If you aren’t a finance and accounting guru, hire someone and work closely with them. Your goal is to have a fair balance between your current expenditure and revenue generated on a monthly basis.

To break even and maximise growth within the early years of your business start-up, your revenue should significantly exceed your expenses. Until that happens, keep pushing strongly and keep costs at the minimum necessary to grow optimally.

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

3. Dream big, trust your gut and don’t underestimate your own wisdom

“Push your dreams; don’t let anything stop you from doing anything great for the world”

Let’s all dream big. We all can be great. Greatness for all equates to greatness for Africa. To flourish, you need to have both the courage to dream big and the ability to execute and carry others along.

Pay attention to your inner voice. If you find yourself hesitating because something doesn’t feel right, step back and listen. If your voice say “This is it, go for it” then put everything you’ve got into making “it” the world’s biggest success story!

Olatorera-Oniru

Olatorera Oniru CEO of Dressmeoutlet.com

4. Get Involved, Be persuasive, Take on new roles

There are lots of great resources and communities out there that provide opportunities to connect with women entrepreneurs and leaders. These groups provide important places to be heard, to share ideas, and find encouragement and support.

Also consider attending at least one conference per quarter. If carefully chosen and carefully planned, it becomes an investment and you can earn the money back in terms of vital new contacts, great ideas and keeping up with your industry.

By taking on roles outside your cultural and intellectual comfort zone, you may realise how much fun it is and you will also improve your leadership skills. Being on the board of other startups and initiatives is great way to give back and develop your leadership skills.

5. Take chances but reduce your risks

Risk is an unavoidable part of starting and growing a business. It is impossible to control everything, but there are ways to limit internal and external threats to your company and its growth.

Related: 10 Inspirational African Entrepreneurs

In facing challenges, find out the possibility and the consequences that go with it, some of that fear subsides because you believe you can handle it. Being in business isn’t all about wins, it’s about learning from your failures in order to move forward. If and whenever you fall, get back up and go much higher! Let’s all meticulously craft our ambitions, work hard together and make Africa greater.

For more strategies on establishing, growing and sustaining your business join Olatorera Oniru – CEO of Dressmeoutlet.com and other inspiring women at the 2016 Women in Business Seminar in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 6th of July, 2016.

Olatorera Oniru (born March, 3, 1987) is a Nigerian entrepreneur and development speaker. She is the founder and CEO of the electronic commerce website Dressmeoutlet.com. In 2016, she was named in Forbes' list of "30 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs In Africa"

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

11 Quotes On Hard Work, Risk-Taking And Getting Started From Beauty Billionaire Estee Lauder

The cosmetics tycoon provides lessons on the importance of passion and perseverance.

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Like most entrepreneurs, passion was at the core of cosmetics tycoon Estee Lauder. From a young age, Lauder was obsessed with beauty, and it wasn’t before long that she turned her dreams into reality. With the help of her chemist uncle, Lauder developed creams and other products that she would sell to local beauty stores in her hometown of Queens, N.Y. In 1946, Lauder officially launched her now world-renowned beauty company Estee Lauder with her husband Joseph Lauder. The business skyrocketed to success.

In 1998, Lauder was the only woman to land on Time’s top 20 business geniuses of the 20th century. In 2004, the year Lauder died, the beauty entrepreneur was named Time’s person of the year. Estee Lauder has become one of the biggest brands in beauty, with a worth of more than $50 billion. The company employs more than 46,000 people worldwide.

To learn more from Lauder and the cosmetics empire she built, here are 11 inspirational quotes on hard work, perseverance and getting started.

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Best Advice From Business Leaders On What It Takes To Be Great

Top women business leaders and entrepreneurs weigh-in on the lessons they’ve learnt and the advice they’ve received that have helped them build businesses, teams and brands.

Nadine Todd

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The best advice I’ve ever received

In the words of Grant Cardone, author of The 10X Rule, follow up, follow up and follow up: ‘90% of business lies in the follow up’. I always do, and believe that you should follow up so much that they tell you to go away, and then follow up again two weeks later. I chased a client in Cape Town for two years. When their promotions vendor let them down, I was top of mind and I got the deal. — Erna Basson, founder, Erabella Hair Extensions

Choose either to remain the best expert in your field operationally or choose to be the best in business — you can’t be both. It was a tough decision, but in 2004 I chose to be the best in business. I’ve never looked back. — Lyn Mansour, owner, KLM Empowered Human Solutions Specialists

The underlying ethos of an entrepreneur is one of service and giving. Combined with passion, dedication and commitment, this creates an unstoppable force that can have a far-reaching positive impact on the lives you touch and the people who benefit from your product and services. — Amanda Rogaly, founder of BabyYumYum and Chief Mommy

“When something is not working, you need to take immediate action and make the necessary changes. Nearly every successful company since the beginning of time has had to change strategy.”

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

Networks are useful because you can learn and share knowledge, which becomes a powerful tool in business. There are very few, if any, completely new isolated issues in business.”

Stay grounded, stay focused and surround yourself with like-minded people who support you. Take time to think and stay committed. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey, but if you manage to share it with other entrepreneurs who help you learn and grow along the way, it will help you to succeed. — Lesley Waterkeyn, founder and CEO of Colourworks

To qualify as a CA you have to follow a set programme: Get into a top university, do three years followed by honours; join a reputable audit firm, do three years, then two years as an assistant manager. Move into management and then focus on becoming an associate director, and then partner. I had my whole career mapped out, and got comfortable thinking the world is made up of defined paths.

Then came the global financial crisis, and any plans or programmes I may have had needed to be seriously re-thought.

My late dad said, ‘My girl, take control of your career today. No one is safe, no place is safe and no one can drive this car better than you. Best you realise that if you don’t learn to take the wheel someone else will be in the driving seat, taking you to an unknown (and possibly unwanted) destination.’

And based on that advice, I changed my path, and took control. — Londeka Shezi, director, Agile Capital

When someone resigns, accept the resignation. Never counter-offer. If someone has already decided to resign, there is very little you can do to convince them that they are wrong — you end up paying them more, but they leave six months later anyway. If they wanted to stay but were unhappy, they would have set a meeting to discuss why they were unhappy and not resigned. I’ve never counter-offered, but I have made sure that I have an open-door policy where anything can be discussed in a ‘safe space’ with no judgement.

On a personal level, focus on your strengths and not your weaknesses — that way you feel like you have achieved something every day. — Samantha Gabriel, group managing director, Designers Ink

I’m not an extrovert, but I was once told that if you’re going to be a business owner, you have to be a marketer. How you do that is up to you, but you have to let people know about your personal brand and your business daily. What I discovered was that I didn’t need to be an extrovert — I just needed to be absolutely passionate about what I did, and to share that passion daily.  — Chelsea Evans, co-founder of Plan My Wedding and CEO of YoMilk

Leading and finding balance

“It’s much easier to get things done if you have the support of other team leaders in the organisation. Stay away from the ‘us and them’ mentality because everyone should be working towards shared organisational goals.”

Lead by example. Guide a team and motivate them for optimum performance and results. The leader needs to be the one pointing towards the North Star to show the team where they are headed and why in order to secure their buy-in. For the best outcomes, it’s necessary to align your own purpose and that of your team with that of your organisation.  — Hazel Chimhandamba, head of brand and social engagement, OUTsurance

As a leader, one of the most important skills you can foster is the ability to listen — and being prepared to do so. You also need to lead by example to earn respect. On-the-ground experience and emotional intelligence are crucial. You need to be able to understand the problems and challenges your staff face at every level and be able to relate to their issues. It helps to be able to put yourself in their shoes and show empathy. — May-Elaine Thomson, CEO, Hogan-Lovells

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

We often see life and work as an either/or situation, when in fact life is a continuum that includes many different situations and our many different roles. To me, the trick is to give 100% of yourself to whatever role you may be playing at a particular moment: When you are in parent mode, your children should receive all of your attention; when you are at work, you need to give your all to your entrepreneurial venture.

I strongly believe in nurturing one’s own needs — and without the guilt. We all have something that brings fulfilment. The important thing is that we create the space to nurture ourselves. Airplane safety instructions say to put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else with theirs. That’s because you need to be able breath first in order to be able to help others. We have to find out what makes us breathe — what makes you come alive, bringing joy and meaning to your life. This will enable you to make a difference to others, while still having sufficient oxygen of your own to remain buoyant. — Amanda Rogaly, founder of BabyYumYum and Chief Mommy

Make work a space where you want to be every day. For me, it’s very important that my business has a culture with which I identify and want to be associated.

No matter what, my work space will strive for excellence, quality and innovation but always with heart. I must always remember why I’m in business. — Londeka Shezi, director, Agile Capital

Lessons learnt

“We have to find out what makes us breathe — what makes you come alive, bringing joy and meaning to your life.”

 

Be authentic. At the end of the day we are all human beings — understanding and caring about your focus area as well as your target market enables you to create something that’s bigger than yourself. We all have an internal BS detector. By identifying with your target market, you circumvent the BS. Instead, you enjoy a relationship based on sincerity and honesty with your target market. This facilitates the opportunity of flexibility and open-mindedness where the business can continue to learn and grow from feedback, continuously refining the best possible solutions, which in turn serve to solidify a partnership between target market and brand. — Amanda Rogaly, founder of BabyYumYum and Chief Mommy

Don’t build silos. Collaborate across teams and departments as you strive to reach common goals. If the leadership team focuses on breaking down silos and all aligning with a common purpose, all the teams beneath will collaborate better.

It’s easier to get things done if you have the support of other team leaders in the organisation. Stay away from the ‘us and them’ mentality because everyone should be working towards shared organisational goals. Managers who have a big vision create bridges between departments rather than driving wedges between them. — Hazel Chimhandamba, head of brand and social engagement, OUTsurance

The bigger the problem you are solving for people, the more valuable you are to them, and the more money you will make. People are always searching for solutions. They will always look for better, faster and smarter ways to accomplish tasks. If you can take a person from point A to point B, by identifying their crucial problem and then offering to solve it, you will be able to create a business that matters. — Erna Basson, founder, Erabella Hair Extensions

Because I worked my way up the organisation, I gained a deep understanding of the organisational structure and culture of the business. This gave me a wealth of lessons that I could use to shape my leadership style.

Once you’re in a position of leadership, trust your team. Don’t ever feel that you need to be an expert at everything yourself — surround yourself with good people in their respective fields; it doesn’t matter if they are better and brighter than you. Your role is to guide them, not to do their work. — May-Elaine Thomson, CEO, Hogan-Lovells

“As a leader, one of the most important skills you can foster is the ability to listen — and being prepared to do so.”

Overcoming growth challenges

“Be agile and remain curious. You can never know everything — I learn something new every day. When you stop learning you stop growing.”

 

Finding the right people that have the same work ethic and mindset as us, and then shortening the timeframe from when they start to when they can manage and run with a project fully under their own steam is one of our biggest challenges. To overcome it, we’ve adopted a process of screening and psychometric evaluations that help guide our decisions. We also need to ensure that they can fit in well with our team and culture, so each candidate is interviewed by our team. — Samantha Gabriel, group managing director, Designers Ink

I knew that to grow my business I needed to have a Joburg-based branch. This proved to be a huge challenge for me as I am based in Cape Town. After two failed attempts, I realised that I needed a different plan. I then figured that instead of hiring someone in Joburg, I needed to identify a company that was already established in the city and merge with them. If something isn’t working, adjust your thinking or your plan. There’s always a solution, you just need to find it.  — Lesley Waterkeyn, founder and CEO of Colourworks

Overcoming challenges always starts with honesty. Too many people conceal issues until it’s no longer a minor problem (and can even lead to unnecessarily fraudulent activities). Being honest about the situation allows you to objectively analyse it, and more importantly, share the issues with other people in your network in order to get assistance.

Networks are useful because you can learn and share knowledge, which becomes a powerful tool in business. There are very few, if any, completely new isolated issues in business. — Londeka Shezi, director, Agile Capital

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Business will test you. No matter how difficult, you have to be resilient and make some tough decisions. If you choose to push through, the key is to bounce back differently — if you’re smart, these adverse events will become a catalyst to a bigger and better next chapter. The biggest risk to businesses is having one huge client. Don’t have all your eggs in one basket, diversify your portfolio of service offerings and your clients, keep it fresh and current. Be agile and adaptable, yet always remain absolutely focused. — Lyn Mansour, owner, KLM Empowered Human Solutions Specialists

There’s a fine line between growing and growing too quickly. Learning to manage cash flow along with growth and development was one of the biggest challenges I faced. I needed to learn to keep my overheads tight, maintain control over my finances and invest our profits into the biggest growth drivers of the business.

To achieve this, you need to analyse your sales, evaluate which areas of your business are worth growing, what’s worth spending more time on and what should be outsourced. Every element of working capital needs to be carefully controlled to maximise your cash flow, and effective credit management and debt control are just as essential.

One of my mentors shared this excellent analogy: The fuel in your car is like the money in your business. You could be driving a bashed-up VW beetle and be going places or you could be driving a Ferrari and run out of fuel in your first kilometre. Plan ahead with realistic forecasts so that you know where you’re heading and what you’re aiming for. Don’t spend money on unnecessary things. — Chelsea Evans, co-founder of Plan My Wedding and CEO of YoMilk

Success Mindset

“Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey, but if you manage to share it with other entrepreneurs who help you learn and grow along the way, it will help you to succeed.”

Perseverance. Business is not a sprint but a marathon — you must be in it for the long run. There are few quick wins, so you need to believe in yourself, your product and service and never give up.  — Lesley Waterkeyn, founder and CEO of Colourworks

Be agile and remain curious. You can never know everything — I learn something new every day. When you stop learning you stop growing. Read books that support your chosen route and challenge your way of thinking. Don’t see failure as a negative — it’s an opportunity to learn how not to do something, so fail forward. — Samantha Gabriel, group managing director, Designers Ink

Absolute persistence and planning are everything. Most success comes from sweat, tears and persistence, but it also needs to be calculated persistence. Just pushing forward is meaningless if you aren’t heading in the right direction.

To find that direction, plan ahead. Many entrepreneurs find this challenging, particularly visionaries, but forcing yourself out of your comfort zone will make you a more effective business owner. — Chelsea Evans, co-founder of Plan My Wedding and CEO of YoMilk

Never focus on the 10% that’s negative; focus on the 90% that’s positive. We all need bad days to appreciate the good ones. When a client says no, see it as a new opportunity to recreate your strategy.” — Erna Basson, founder, Erabella Hair Extensions

Curiosity is one of the most important leadership skills because it requires us to ask questions. Instead of saying, ‘That’s not the policy,’ or ‘I hate that idea’ or ‘That’s not your decision to make,’ a strong leader will say, ‘Tell me more. I want to understand your thought process.’ — May-Elaine Thomson, CEO, Hogan-Lovells

For me, a success mindset is based on the desire to win. You need to yearn for success and want to win if you are to accomplish it. It starts with the individual will to succeed, which you then instil in the team so that everyone works together and achieves together. — Hazel Chimhandamba, head of brand and social engagement, OUTsurance

For me, all my wars are won in the mind. I’m vigilant about the thoughts that rent that space, I monitor what I consume from people around me and from the media. My mind needs to be in the right state to keep me motivated to achieve my goals. Some of the most successful people I know are where they are today because they kept going. For me, resilience is passion’s best friend. — Londeka Shezi, director, Agile Capital

Your thoughts become your actions. Only through the adoption of changed thinking and altered actions can you fully realise the potential of your investment in business and your people. Keep reinventing and keep current. Surround yourself with greater people than yourself. Stay curious and keep ahead. Be connected and remain connected. Entrepreneurs are instinctive. Trust yourself. — Lyn Mansour, owner, KLM Empowered Human Solutions Specialists

“No matter how difficult, you have to be resilient and make some tough decisions. If you’re smart, these adverse events will become a catalyst to a bigger and better next chapter.”

 

 

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Funding For Women Entrepreneurs – A Collective Effort

The bottom line is that while funders need to stretch further to reach female entrepreneurs, these entrepreneurs need to make their own efforts to connect and ready themselves to tap these resources. Only then will the latent economic value of women in our economy reach its full potential.

Jenny Retief

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It is well recognised that women are powerful drivers of economic growth in South Africa, and are vital to the country reaching its full economic potential. Yet women account for only 18% percent of business owners in South Africa, according to the second Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE), released earlier this year.

The reasons are many, including lack of financial literacy, but one of the biggest constraints facing women entrepreneurs is access to finance. As most women entrepreneurs are concentrated in the informal sector, the majority of them access financing through micro-lending institutions, which offer only limited support. When they are ready to grow into SMMEs, they again face difficulties in obtaining loans from commercial banks.

According to the ‘Inaugural South African SMME Access to Finance Report’, published last year by the online access to finance portal Finfind, the SMME sector provides a “compelling, largely untapped market opportunity for innovative funders”, estimating the SMME credit gap at between R86bn and R346bn.

Finfind’s research showed that many SMMEs that are eligible for funding are still unable to secure it due to their lack of finance readiness, i.e., they are unable to produce the financial documentation required by funders to assess bankability and affordability, in order to approve their funding applications. These documents include up-to-date management accounts, latest financial statements, budgets, forecasts and tax clearance certificates, among others.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

This was reiterated at the recent African Youth Networks Summit in Tswhane, where the head of Old Mutual Foundation Millicent Maroga stressed, “the key issue is a distinct lack of support in getting the business ready for funding”.

Enter initiatives like the Riversands Incubation Hub, a campus north of Sandton that houses over 150 established and start-up small businesses in subsidised premises, with access to business support services. One of its key values to its SMMEs is bridging the gap between them and the many players in the funding space, in particular through its annual FundEX event, a platform giving guidance and helping to match entrepreneurs with funders.

“Contrary to popular belief, there is funding available. FundEX provides practical guidance on what funding is available and what it takes to access this capital. It also gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to interact with a variety of funders, including banks, government funders and alternative funding platforms,” says Jenny Retief, CEO of Riversands Incubation Hub.

The theme this year is ‘Secrets of Scale’, unpacking what it takes to build a ‘fundable’ business. This is highly pertinent, as much of the complexity in the SMME funding environment is seated in the size of the business, and what stage of growth it is at.

Finfind’s research found that although SMMEs and start-ups may qualify for venture capital funding, funding opportunities for less scalable SMMEs are less promising. “This opens the door for new, innovative funding models to serve this section of the SMME market. Start-ups and micro-businesses represent a significant potential market for innovative funders who are able to develop new lending models tailored to address this growing market,” said the report.

As women proliferate in this space, they need to equip themselves with as much as information as possible about the funding opportunities out there, says Retief.

“The DTI, for example, offers funding programmes, and aggregators such as FinFind and others can help entrepreneurs navigate the more than 400 different funding solutions available in SA. Entrepreneurs can also boost their business by regular engagement with a mentor. Many incubation programmes offer this type of support,” she says.

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

There are also many initiatives to bring resources closer to entrepreneurs. For example, the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) offers Technology Stations in diversified sectors, ranging from agro-processing, chemicals, clothing and textiles to tooling. These provide entrepreneurs access to university-level technical levels and specialised equipment at affordable pricing levels.

This speaks to upskilling, a key offering of incubation hubs and critical for women entrepreneurs needing to become finance literate. “At Riversands, we have a team of coaches and mentors who guide entrepreneurs in specific areas such as finance or strategy. Relevant educational material is regularly presented in formal as well as informal ways and reinforced with practical coaching to help entrepreneurs put theory into practice in their own businesses.  This is flanked with professional bookkeeping services provided on a subsidised basis. This allows business owners to build the financial records and systems their businesses need to qualify for understanding,” says Retief.

The bottom line is that while funders need to stretch further to reach female entrepreneurs, these entrepreneurs need to make their own efforts to connect and ready themselves to tap these resources. Only then will the latent economic value of women in our economy reach its full potential.

Riversands FundEX takes place on August 16. For more information visit: http://www.fundex.co.za

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