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Five Lessons From One Career-Focused Mom To Another

Here are five of the lessons Allyson Downey learnt from her experience and research.

Catherine Clifford

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Learning how to be both a business owner and a mom was not easy for Allyson Downey. Prior to motherhood she had worked in the wealth management department of Credit Suisse in New York City. Her clients were billionaires.

Once she had her first child however, Downey did not return to Wall Street. Instead, she launched her own business, weeSpring, a platform where new parents can find reviews of products from friends, peers and other trusted voices in their networks.

The experience of building a business and becoming a mother at the same time was exciting, challenging and often overwhelming, so much so that Downey has now written a book entitled Here’s The Plan. Your Practical, Tactical Guide to Advancing Your Career During Pregnancy and Parenting.

For the book, Downey interviewed nearly 75 professional moms and used survey data. It’s a comprehensive, straight-shooting guide to all of the questions that new moms are too afraid or naive to ask.

Related: Is It Possible To Be A Mom And An Entrepreneur?

1. Communicate what you want clearly

Whether you want to work from home part-time or you want to be sure your boss knows that you still want that promotion even though you have just had a baby, Downey says that women need to be ready to communicate often and clearly.

“We tend to assume that people know what we are thinking but they very rarely do,” she says.

“The onus is on the woman to be crystal clear and vocal.” She recommends women set quarterly reminders for themselves to proactively communicate with managers both what they want to do and how they will accomplish their goals.

2. Build up your network

It’s especially important to keep the networking going when a woman is pregnant, on maternity leave or taking care of young children.

“It’s often one of the first things to go when they are having children because they think that they don’t have time anymore to go out and go to networking cocktail events or show up for an industry breakfast,” says Downey.

Don’t forget to lean on partners and caregivers so that you can attend those professional mixers, advises Downey. Also, there are ways to network from your computer, too, she says. Proactively make email connections that don’t necessarily have an immediate impact. You get the benefits of networking without having to put in the face-to-face time.

Related: Bankrupt And Dreams In Tatters: How Sheree O’ Brien’s Self-Belief Drove Her To Success

Allyson-Downey

3. Arbitrage your time

You can’t be everywhere at once. Pay people to do things for you. Take your annual salary and reverse engineer your hourly rate and when you can afford it, pay people to have tasks done that are less than what you make per hour.

“I know that people don’t have endless resources, but people also don’t have endless time,” she says.

4. Create a paper trail of your achievements

This isn’t just in case you find yourself the victim of pregnancy discrimination, either. Women need to keep a “dossier of their successes,” says Downey.

Every Friday afternoon, take 15 minutes to document your successes. Put in writing conversations that commend your work. That way, when it’s time for you to meet with your manager for a review, you have a detailed list of everything that you have done well.

5. Change the way you think about having kids and a career

You can’t be leading a meeting in the board room and changing your baby’s nappy in the nursery at the same time. So switch how you feel about that reality.

“Everyone feels torn all the time. I do not know anyone who doesn’t suffer from working mom guilt. That is an absolute truism,” says Downey.

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

But there is a way to reframe how you feel about being pulled in two directions. “If you are someone who enjoys work and loves work and you are home with a baby all day long for two years of your life,” she says, “it is not going to be good for you and it is not going to be good for your relationship with your kid.”

Catherine Clifford is a staff writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, she was the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Catherine attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Email her at CClifford@entrepreneur.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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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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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13 Female Entrepreneurs Rising To The Top In SA

These 13 black businesswomen are rapidly rising stars. You can learn from their journey and their entrepreneurial advice.

Entrepreneur

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Women all over the world are the powerhouses behind some of the newest, innovative start-ups and concept businesses. South African businesswomen are gaining momentum in this global arena too, with success stories like the 13 ladies below.

Female-led business growth is happening in South Africa, despite the latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) statistics showing that only 6.2% of South African females take the leap into entrepreneurship.

These 13 black female businesswomen are going against statistical trends and represent some of the rising stars in South Africa’s entrepreneurial landscape. 

  1. Boitumelo Ntsoane
  2. Phuti Mahanyele 
  3. DJ Zinhle 
  4. Polo Leteka Radebe
  5. Michelle Okafor
  6. Sonia Booth
  7. Basetsana Kumalo
  8. Sibongile Sambo
  9. Molemo Kgomo
  10. Nkhensani Nkosi
  11. Bonang Matheba
  12. Matsi Modise
  13. Khanyi Dhlomo
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