Women entrepreneurs network and learn at Lionesses of Africa event


Four female entrepreneurs shared their journeys at the Lionesses of Africa’s monthly event on Thursday 25 May 2017. As business owners, they shared lessons they learned.

fatuma abdullah entrepreneur lessons
Fatuma Abdullah is the founder of the black doll, Akiki. Abdullah also self-published children’s books, Akiki’s Stories, where the main character is modelled after her daughter. (Images: Melissa Javan)

Melissa Javan
There are mentors you do not have to pay, advised Suzana Moreira, founder of moWoza, to attendees at a Lionesses of Africa event on Thursday 25 May 2017.

The Lionesses of Africa Lean In Breakfast was held at the Standard Bank Incubator in Rosebank, Johannesburg, at which Moreira was a speaker.

Moreira said she got mentors through networks she associates herself with. “For example there are tons of virtual networks out there. [I also got mentors through] academics and accelerator meet-ups.

“Entering competitions to pitch your business is important. Sometimes, someone might call you and be interested in your business. If they don’t give you money, you can ask for mentorship.”

She said the ladies she met through accelerator programmes are mentors too. “We hold each other accountable.”

Suzana Moreira entrepreneur
Suzana Moreira says her role model as a child was her aunt, a businesswoman. “She and her husband, who is blind, had a successful business in Europe.
“I learned your circumstances don’t set what you want to become.”

MoWoza, based in Maputo in Mozambique, provides informal cross-border traders in Southern Africa with a mobile information service on pricing and access to goods.

Originally from South Africa, Moreira moved to Mozambique three years ago to launch a mobile commerce platform, moWoza.

Other lessons Moreira learned in her entrepreneurship journey includes:
• Entrepreneurship happens in practice.
• When you’re getting a developer, know what you’re getting yourself into. Have a contract in place, she advises. Her first developer told everyone about what they were planning to do. Another developer disappeared.
• An investor in Europe is different to one in America. “We got overvalued,” said Moreira.
• You need the right mindset. You’re not going to have a nine to five job.
• You need to be super brave to be an entrepreneur.

Lionesses building new generation of businesswomen

Melanie Hawken, founder of Lionesses of Africa, said on its YouTube Channel the initiative is about sharing, connecting and inspiring. “It’s about creating a community of like-minded women entrepreneurs from across the African continent who can get together, share ideas, share inspiration, and ultimately build a powerful new generation of women entrepreneurs in Africa.”

Melanie Hawken:

She added that the aim is to create a new economic future for the continent.

Once a month, Lionesses of Africa hosts a Lean In Breakfast event for women entrepreneurs to come together. It’s an opportunity for them to share entrepreneurial stories and network.

On Thursday, 26 women entrepreneurs, who took part in the first Lionesses of Africa accelerator programme, were introduced to the audience. They graduated in April 2017.

The accelerator programme, in partnership with Liberty and Standard Bank, focuses on business development and access to resources.

‘Being an entrepreneur allows me to make a difference’

edith venter entrepreneur lionesses of africa
Edith Venter of Edith Unlimited says that as an entrepreneur she learned you have to let your employees go, because some of them might want to expand or grow elsewhere. “Remember, you helped to make them a better person.”

Edith Venter of Edith Unlimited told the audience that she had been in corporate for a very long time – before she started her own events management business. She described her entrepreneurial journey as amazing.

The mother of two boys said when she started her own business because she wanted to do something for herself. “I wanted to do something that will make a difference.”

The lessons Venter learned in business are:
• Networking and trading business cards is very important.
• Never say you cannot do anything. “You say yes and you go figure it out. You can also find someone to help you,” she said.
• As someone in the events management business, you have to realise that you are holding a client’s dignity in your hands.
• Have your contract checked out.
• Be mindful when going into partnerships. “There are promises made but not all with the right heart. In business look deeper than that,” she advised.
• Don’t over promise, but over deliver. “I always try to keep things simple because it works.”
• Don’t be greedy.

Conscious parenting

Abdullah shared how she started making dolls and writing children’s books. She said her daughter was two years old when she started looking for a doll for her. Abdullah wanted to find something that looked like her daughter.

“I kept saying ‘I can’t find a doll for my daughter’. Then my colleague said ‘Why don’t you create one?’ But at the time I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind [to do that].”

Three years later, when her contract at a former job ended, she started working on creating the Akiki doll. “I didn’t want her to have a size 0 doll. I created a doll with a childlike figure.”

Her daughter was surprised when she got the doll and said: “She looks like us”.

Later, because of conscious parenting, Abdullah decided that she will create books for her two children that have characters who look like them. Even though she had never written children’s books, she went for it. Abdullah said most of the books are about values and things they can relate to.

“I can’t write about a Gogo fetching [water] at the river. I know the question on my children’s mind would be ‘why doesn’t she just open a tap?'”

One of the stories of Akiki is when she got lost in a mall. “I always tell my children to look for a person in a uniform if they ever get lost in a mall. You must know mommy’s name, not just as ‘Mommy’ but my full names and my number.”

The lessons Abdullah learned is:
• Do your research if you walk into an industry you know nothing about.
• Use social media as an entrepreneur. “I was not a social media person. Someone said we need to know you exist,” she explained.
• When you are trying to find a route and it doesn’t work, find another route.
• You have to keep moving.
• Never take anything personal in business and don’t make assumptions.

Watch an episode of the Lionesses of Africa’s television magazine show:

The audience shared what Anna Shilina, author of the ‘The Business Tango’ book, said in her talk:

Sources: Lionesses of Africa, Radio 702, Standard Bank and Lionesses of Africa, YouTube Channel.

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