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How I Rebooted My Career After Getting Fired — Twice

People told me it was over. I didn’t listen.

Sallie Krawcheck

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Call it getting reorganised out. Call it getting fired. Whatever you call it, the result was the same. One day, I was running Merrill Lynch Wealth Management. The next day, they’d “simplified their leadership structure,” and I was on my couch, without a job for the second time in my adult life.

It’s a difficult thing to go from leading a team of tens of thousands to doing nothing. It’s more difficult when it feels so sudden. And it’s even more difficult when you don’t know what you’re going to do next.

My thoughts kept drifting back to a conversation I’d had with a high-profile editor when I was fired for the first time. It was back in 2008, and I had just been shown the door at Smith Barney.

Related: 10 Inspirational Quotes From Successful Actress-Turned-Entrepreneur Jessica Alba

We were talking about what led up to the firing: How we at Smith Barney had mistakenly positioned high-risk products as low-risk, how our clients had lost far more than we had led them to believe they could and how I’d gone up against the CEO (and won the support of the board) in favour of partially reimbursing clients.

Then the conversation turned to what would happen next, and what she had to say was a punch in the gut: “A man could come back from this. A woman? Not a chance.”

The short-lived career reboot

I refused to dwell on it, and I eventually was offered the job of running Merrill Lynch. Same type of job, but a bigger firm, a more storied history, in need of a turnaround. One that I and my team delivered.

But then the CEO who hired me retired and the new guy got busy putting in his own team. And so now I had two strikes on my record. Could I come back a second time? I remember pausing to stare out the window, and thinking, What if this is it? This could just be it for me. This could be the end.

It didn’t help that I went to lunch with one of my dear friends a couple of weeks later expecting a pep talk; what I got instead felt like a professional funeral. She asked me why I simply didn’t move back to my hometown of Charleston, S.C., and throw in the towel.

Related: Channeling The Fire Of Authenticity: Asia’s’ Top ‘YouTuber’, Joanna Soh

I felt like I was going to throw up. Two super-accomplished women, both of whom had my interests at heart, telling me it was over.

The self-created comeback

sally-krawcheckI made the decision that I simply wouldn’t believe them, despite evidence that they were right. I kept making calls and returning emails. I kept setting up lunches, and coffees and drinks. My phone started to ring. My inbox started to take on a life of its own.

As life returned to normal, I started to realise one important thing about success: There’s not just one road to success. It’s not that you are successful or you aren’t, or that failure and success are endpoints.

Instead, every single one of us has multiple opportunities to be successful. Each of those opportunities may be a long shot, but it can be the case that only one of them needs to work out for us to “be successful.” We just need to stay open to the possibilities.

Related: What Sheryl Sandberg Taught Me About Giving Criticism

So, exploring possibilities became my plan. I spent the next year or so learning what was out there. I called it “playing in traffic”: Engaging with people, learning about new industries and networking like it was my job. Because it was my job!

How networking led to career success

I’ve since come across the research that tells us that networking has been called the No. 1 unwritten rule of career success. Opportunities are far more likely to come from loose connections than close ones. And, through a string of those loose connections across a number of years, I had the reboot my career.

My first step was buying the old 85 Broads, a global professional network for women. I only found it because one introduction during that period of searching led to another introduction, let to another introduction, let to another one, and so on. Today, the old 85 Broads is Ellevate Network, a global community tens of thousands of women strong.

It is a a community that believes in the positive impact of women in business, and the community has made it our goal to help women advance at work. I later went on to found Ellevest, an investing platform for women; what unites the two is the recognition that advancing women — and, frankly, getting more money into the hands of women — is an unmitigated positive.

Related: Entrepreneur Thuli Magubane On The Importance Of A Strong Network When Starting Out

Getting reorged out of Merrill Lynch was a low point. But the challenges and self-discovery that followed gave me a tremendous opportunity: the chance to be an entrepreneur, and to use that platform to impact the lives of thousands of women around the world. It’s been more difficult than running Merrill Lynch, and more rewarding by far.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, Chair of Ellevate Network and Chair of the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund

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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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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[Infographic] The World’s Most Influential Female Entrepreneurs

Numerous women have enjoyed massive success with the businesses that they started. Some of these are profiled in the infographic below from All Finance Tax.

Colette Cassidy

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Managing your own business is not easy. Unless you’re willing to stop at nothing to make the business succeed and unless you can balance supreme self-confidence with the cool, analytical head to know the risk that’s a risk too far, your entrepreneurial sojourn will almost certainly be brief and disastrous.

If you can set up your own company and keep it operational for at least several years, you will have proven that you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Even if you don’t turn over a massive profit from the company, being able to stand on your own two feet with self-made earnings is an achievement.

Then there are those whose businesses more than just survive. They grow into multimillion-dollar international enterprises which could make the owners world famous. One such example is JK Rowling. Granted, she might not fit the stereotype of a business owner, but she turned her passion into her life’s work and earned a fortune because of it. Like many entrepreneurs, she had an idea which took her from being in financial distress to owning a globally-recognised brand, namely the Harry Potter series.

Her story is an inspiration to female entrepreneurs everywhere, as the corporate world is still thought of as a male-dominated environment. That perception is rather misleading, though, as numerous women have enjoyed massive success with the businesses that they started. Some of these are profiled in the infographic below from All Finance Tax.

the-worlds-most-influential-female-entrepreneurs-infographic

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

 

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