Connect with us

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

“See The Gap, Be Decisive And Love What You Do” – Advice From A Fempreneur

Women are making headway in the entrepreneurial landscape, but we still have a long way to go to eliminate the gender gap in terms of entrepreneurial involvement.

Sylvia Schutte

Published

on

sylvia-schutte-2

Women face many barriers in business, including a lack of support structures, limited access to funding and the challenge of juggling personal and work responsibilities. Even though there is a growing community of women entrepreneurs globally, if we want equality in business and inclusive growth in our country, women entrepreneurs need to be developed and supported.

Having worked in the marketing and PR industry for many years, I came to recognise the frustration that clients felt at having to brief multiple agencies and it sparked an idea. I realised there was a gap in the market for an integrated agency that could develop a communications strategy for a client, and then offer all the marketing services in-house, from digital and direct marketing, to PR and social media.

Without a mentor or role model to learn from, I went in head first and handled everything on my own – new business, key client relationships, overseeing creative and even conducting quality control. With some guidance in the early years, I probably would have focused more on the bigger business strategy, rather than being stuck in the trenches. What I have learned over the years, is that running a business can be lonely, so I network with other business owners often to share ideas and concerns, and to see how I can do things in a more decisive and efficient way.

On the financial side, I was very fortunate to have business partners who invested in me and Stratitude. With this financial backing I could concentrate my efforts on building my business and delivering the best possible results, rather than worrying about money.

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

Relieving stress

When it comes to work-life integration, I know that these two areas overlap, so I take a very pragmatic approach; in the same way that I don’t think twice about working from home when necessary, I’ll also take time out during the day to watch my children play sport or take them to the doctor. While I keep office hours and schedule meetings during the day, when I’m on a deadline I can be behind my laptop at 5am or 11pm.

I truly love what I do but, just like any business owner, you inevitably deal with moments of pressure and stress. To relieve this tension I run and swim. Swimming is my meditation and thinking time, and a good run in the morning helps me see the world more clearly. When it comes to relaxation, I make time to go to the beach or berg – I love the mountains and get recharged at the sea. As a family we also ensure that we take mini-breaks over weekends and commit to spending time with friends and family.

Positive attitude

Women entrepreneurs are increasing in South Africa and they offer a unique optimism and focus in the business environment. While women look at the big picture and plan ahead, they also place emphasis on staff members and growing each individual. At Stratitude we have internal mentorship, training and coaching programmes to ensure that our skills are always up to date and to nurture our passions. I believe this is why we produce the award-winning work that we do.

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

To help solve South Africa’s unemployment crisis, we need more women-owned and led businesses. With more women creating jobs, rather than looking for jobs, we will start to impact the country’s business landscape and economy for the better.

Sylvia has a BA Honours degree in Communication from RAU (UJ). She started the first two years of her career in media at the SABC. In 1998 she joined Sasani Communications (later re-launched as Magna Carta) as an account manager. During her tenure at Magna Carta, it was grown into South Africa’s largest and most awarded PR agency. In 2001 she was promoted to the position of Client Service Director and appointed to the board. In 2007 she joined PLP Group as head of commercial. In 2008 she entered into talks with PLP to start a strategic creative agency within the group and in 2009 Stratitude was launched, with Sylvia as the managing director and shareholder. Under Sylvia’s management, Stratitude has grown into a full service agency with 20 employees and numerous awards won for its integrated and channel-specific campaigns. In 2017, Stratitude was appointed as the exclusive South African agency of AMIN Worldwide, an international network of 52 independently owned full service agencies.

Advertisement
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Collaborating To Create #balanceforbetter

Communicating this business case, setting goals and reporting on progress are key to driving change. The door to diversity will not open itself.

Anna Curzon

Published

on

women-entrepreneurs

Each year on 8 March, International Women’s Day, I get invited to attend events that celebrate and discuss gender diversity in the workplace. They’re often rich with intelligent discussions about women and work, a topic I am immensely passionate about.

But all too often, I sit up on stage, look out to the crowd and I think, ‘where on earth are all the men?’ There are many supportive men on gender diversity (I know quite a few) but there is still work to be done as I often find myself singing to a choir of women who already know that gender diversity is a business priority.

It’s irrefutable that having a gender balance leads to better business outcomes, greater profitability and value creation. Better balance between women and men means broader insight, more empathy, and fresh ideas.

Gender diversity is not only a women’s issue. It’s a human issue. And the majority of our business leaders today, in particular in technology, are men. The only way we are truly going to make headway is to have the men standing with us to create a business environment where women can thrive.

I believe collaboration is vital to have as part of any gender diversity discussion and would even go so far as to say it’s negligent if this isn’t on a male or female business leaders’ agenda.

However, I think it’s easy to point fingers and we all need to look at how we can create more inclusive environments. It’s critical we have discussions in an open forum, and that organisers of events and support groups create positive opportunities for discussion that encourage men and women to attend and work together.

It worries me that the 2018 McKinsey and Company report on Women in the Workplace shows that progress hasn’t just slowed, it’s stalled. All the while, companies are reporting that they are highly committed to gender diversity. It’s a frustrating paradox. We didn’t open the door to diversity, only to turn around and shut it behind us.

Recently, I was introduced to the term moral-licensing through Canadian author Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast Revisionist History. I can’t help but think that the phenomenon might be at play here. It describes the subconscious decisions we make to engage in prejudice behaviour, because in the past we did something virtuous.

Moral-licensing became a popular theory in 2009, describing those who voted in US President Barack Obama, and subsequently reverted to racist behaviours.

When I think about it in this context, I think about the companies who have hit a quota of females and assume the job is done. But token acts of egalitarianism do not mean you have an egalitarian workplace. It’s box-ticking and it’s bad for business.

I encourage every business leader to introduce a diversity plan and to really think about fostering an inclusive and respectful environment for diversity to thrive. Here’s where I think is a good place to start:

Women need to feel supported in the workplace, they need allies to feel confident enough that they can share their beliefs, their values and their views. Our leaders need to reengineer working environments to make them a safe, supportive place.
We need to be aware of our unconscious biases and flagging behaviour in the workplace that isn’t inclusive. It’s little things like calling grown women ‘girls’. They’re small but reinforcing behaviours and when added up, they have impact.
Support groups and events around International Women’s Day are great, but how can we make sure we have a diverse spread in the room and it’s an inclusive and encouraging environment for everyone.

I do believe the majority of businesses have the very best of intentions in this space, but leaders need to turn those intentions into actionable plans. So this International Women’s Day, I challenge you to speak out publicly about your business’s progress and goals for diversity. How is your organisation tracking and what is your vision and plan for the future? What you’re doing to ensure you’re not giving in to moral-licensing?

Communicating this business case, setting goals and reporting on progress are key to driving change. The door to diversity will not open itself.

Continue Reading

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

Female entrepreneurs are growing in numbers, but without access to appropriate funding many start-ups will find it difficult to grow their businesses, regardless of whether there’s a man or woman at the helm. Fortunately, access to funds for female entrepreneurs is improving thanks to government and private enterprises.

Nicole Crampton

Published

on

business-women-entrepreneurship
Prev1 of 10

In fact, The Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) noted that 72% of micro-enterprises and 40% of small enterprises are currently owned by women. Government and private enterprises have put programmes and funds in place aimed at empowering the women of South Africa.

Starting a business is always a challenging objective, what makes it more challenging is trying to find funding to get your innovative idea of the ground.

Content in this guide

  1. The Isivande Women’s Fund (IWF)
  2. Women Entrepreneurial Fund (WEF)
  3. Business Partners Women in Business Fund
  4. IDF Managers Funding
  5. Enablis Acceleration Fund
  6. The National Empowerment Fund (NEF)
  7. Absa Women Empowerment Fund
  8. The Special Projects and Programmes Unit (SPP)
  9. Women in Oil and Energy South Africa (WOESA)

Funds and Financial Assistance

Here are seven funds and financial assistance programmes as well as two resources for women entrepreneurs in South Africa.

Prev1 of 10

Continue Reading

Support for Women Entrepreneurs

Too Few South African Women Become Entrepreneurs, But This Can Change

Organisations built by business women and that speak loudly and assertively for business women will send an unambiguous message that women belong in the community of entrepreneurs.

Gugu Mjadu

Published

on

south-african-women-entrepreneurs

Although South Africa’s constitutional democracy has been advocating for gender equality for the past 24 years, the level of entrepreneurship among South African men and women is still far less equal than the country’s economic peers such as Ghana and Uganda. This is an indication that a progressive constitution alone is not enough to ensure that women join the local community of entrepreneurs in equal numbers to men.

Illustrating this, are the latest figures from the 2017/2018 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) which show that 13 out of every 100 South African men are involved in total early-stage entrepreneurial activity, compared to just 9 out of every 100 women. 

This research shows that the inequality goes deeper than just the headline figure. A higher percentage of women who do start their own ventures do so out of necessity (34.3 percent for women vs. 18 percent for men), whereas South African men, on the other hand, are more likely to start a business in response to an opportunity (82 percent for men vs. 65.7 percent for women). As research indicates that opportunity-driven entrepreneurs are more likely to create wealth than necessity-driven entrepreneurs, this is definitely an area for improvement for our country.

The GEM study is an annual survey, and dishearteningly, a look at the GEM figures over a number of years shows no discernible trend towards closing the gap, while some of South Africa’s economic peers such as Brazil and Vietnam consistently show an equal number of men and women starting businesses. 

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

Gender parity in entrepreneurship needs a consistent stretch of truly high economic growth, north of 6 percent, to shake lose any remaining cultural, psychological and economic chains that are keeping women back. Unlike its counterparts, South Africa’s economic growth over the past few decades has seldom breached 4 percent – hovering around 3 percent since 1994. 

This might also explain the general low levels of entrepreneurship in the South African population, among both men and women, compared to its economic peers – 11 percent of the South African population is involved in entrepreneurial activity. Wealth creating businesses start in response to opportunities, which multiply when economic growth is strong.

Short of a massive economic stimulus needed to propel South Africa’s economic growth upward, is there anything that can be done on an incremental level in order to establish entrepreneurial equality between men and women in South Africa? 

I believe that there are many low-key ways in which to entice more women to become entrepreneurs. One place to start, is to focus on the income-generating side-lines that many South African women are engaged in. A scan of social media shows that South African women are not short of ideas nor initiative. From activities that are traditionally seen as female-oriented such as baking and sewing, to truly innovative social clubs and online initiatives seem to provide an outlet for many women’s entrepreneurial urges. Yet too few of them develop into proper full-time careers.

Programmes focused on women and their side-hustles might find fertile ground to grow them into fully fledged businesses.

Another factor that might entice more women to start businesses is more accessible finance. There is no easy solution, however, as research shows that men are more likely to start looking for finance early when they launch their ventures. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to use their own funds to start a business and thus delay seeking finance until their venture is potentially in trouble making it more difficult to secure finance. 

The solution, if any, lies in education and training deep enough to effect a significant shift in mind-set. Given the poor state of the educational system, South Africa still has a way to go, but it could be argued that any incremental improvement in the education system would boost the country’s levels of entrepreneurship. 

It remains to be seen if an increase in gender equality and representation among bankers and financiers may lead to improved access to finance for female entrepreneurs, but because it is a good thing in itself, gender parity in the finance industry is worth pursuing. 

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

The celebration of female entrepreneurship in popular culture, social media and as part of cultural events remains important and probably cannot be overdone. Awareness of the possibility of success in the business world for females remains fundamental to any young woman’s decision to choose entrepreneurship.

Finally, a strengthening of the profile of women’s business associations in South Africa can become an important factor in increasing the number of female entrepreneurs. Organisations built by business women and that speak loudly and assertively for business women will send an unambiguous message that women belong in the community of entrepreneurs.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

SPOTLIGHT

Advertisement

Recent Posts

Follow Us

Entrepreneur-Newsletters
*
We respect your privacy. 
* indicates required.
Advertisement

Trending