This is a great time to be a female entrepreneur, as we are surrounded by so much support. There are several groups for women – WEConnect, WIMBIZ, WISCAR, NNEW, among others. On 8 May 2014, I attended the World Economic Forum on Africa (WEFA) Side Event on Gender in Abuja, Nigeria and it was more support for the growth of women in business.
I feel very fortunate to have been raised by a proud feminist in an era where women are encouraged to pursue their professional dreams. My mom, Obafunke Anthonia Motolani, ran a successful business selling her branded Italian leather shoes/bags (LANZONI) on wholesale and retail. She was the first to encourage me to be ambitious, studious, thoughtful and curious. All these she had imparted in me before she passed away almost 21 years ago. This she took seriously because all her children were girls (the three of us) and she was not going to let us be consumed by what she knew as a “Man’s World”.
There have, of course, been challenges – challenges faced by both men and women. However, as millennial female entrepreneurs, we work doubly hard to demonstrate how deeply we understand the landscape we work in, especially in developing and transition economies in Africa.
During challenging times, my mom’s best advice always kicks in. Here are some (not all) of the tips from my mom:
Learn to network at every opportunity….in fact create networking opportunities yourself.
My mom was all about networking. She was concerned about our communication skills. She constantly told me that she was struggling to send me to a good private school so I could network for the future. Don’t be afraid to talk to people, even if you are not accepted. I was not the social butterfly in secondary school, but my mom helped build my confidence. She would always tell me “Even if you are in a room full of men, intelligent professors, presidents…..speak up and don’t be intimidated.” Most women typically are at the two extremes, either too shy or too proud to network. Are you taking or creating networking opportunities?
If it is a survival skill, acquire it even it seems like its luxurious.
I remember mom watching the news on the cable TV we had at the time (I think it was called BOP TV) and she watched how the only survivors of a plane crash were those that could swim. The next day, she enrolled us into swimming class even though she had initially perceived it as luxury at that time because of the cost. One of the key discussion areas during WEFA is about women embracing technology, as it is a survival skill for businesses to succeed now and in the future. You really do not want to know the cost of ignorance. What other skills do you know you are to acquire for the success of your business that you think is too expensive?
My mom was all about education, education, education. And she always said education is not just acquired in school. Read newspapers, read books, attend events, travel to new places, be curious…. As an entrepreneur, it is easy to become all consumed with work and to only want to read articles or start discussions based on what we do weekly for more than a 100 hours a week. But you can’t. You must have a deeper sense of what’s happening outside of your bubble. Not only to stay savvy and ahead of world’s shifting trends but so that when you go to the next event, you have something to speak about other than yourself. This is a life-hack to stay educated and well-liked, in the most traditional sense.
At W-HBS, we truly believe in our mission of helping entrepreneurs succeed. Growing up, I saw the impact my mom’s successful business had on our immediate and extended family, our community. In her little way she was able to impact our economy, creating jobs, changing livelihoods, and making a difference. And when I was asked during my last birthday with my mom, what I wanted to be when I grew up. My answer was swift and clear……a businesswoman (entrepreneur) just like my mom.
So if it weren’t for my mom, I would not be focused on W-Holistic Business Solutions — and for that, I thank her tremendously for giving my life a clear purpose.
Writer: Olanrewaju Oniyitan is the Founder/CEO of W-Holistic Business Solutions, a firm set up to help entrepreneurs succeed. Lanre is a seasoned writer, professional speaker, trainer, consultant and an enterprise advocate.
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