Networking For Success
On a continent where women are still routinely marginalised in corridors of political power and business, and where the fight for gender equilibrium is far from over, the inaugural Women of West Africa Entrepreneurship Conference (WOWe) aptly spotlighted young African women entrepreneurs. WoWe’s aim is to provide a high-level networking platform that brings together the most effective woken entrepreneurs to exchange ideas and dialogue on issues related to entrepreneurship and leadership. Tori Abiola, managing director of Montgomery West Africa, who organsied the conference, says of its outcome: “I was really inspired and thrilled by the response from women entrepreneurs, government officials, banks and financial services organisations that attended our inaugural event in Lagos. Feedback has been great, we are now looking at developing and organising training programmes around Nigeria and West Africa for women, a WOWe Ghana is also on the cards. We will follow WOWe, Nigeria by taking it to South Africa in November, where we will be working with South African women entrepreneurs and then to other parts of Africa.” Abiola goes on to add: “We are now working on building a WOWe membership association of over 100,000 women entrepreneurs across Africa, and within the African Diaspora – the idea is to create a business membership organisation for women of African origin based in Africa and outside of Africa to connect, learn and do business. We will focus on access to finance, building capacity in entrepreneurship (Business management skills) with a core interest in these diverse business sectors for women – Women in Fashion, Design, Women in Communications, Media and Broadcasting, Women in Entertainment and Creative Industries, Women in Agriculture, Women in Banking and Finance, as well as a WOWe masterclass focused on securing investment and access to finance.”
Ronke Ige, Hanneli Rupert and Ruth Obih, entrepreneurs and speakers at the conference talk about the purpose a conference like WOWe serves for Africa’s next generation of business women and why a strong network is essential to becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Ronke Ige: Founder Emi & Ben & PR Consultant, Bread + Butter Communications (Nigeria/UK)
Attending WOWe was an opportunity for me to learn as an entrepreneur. Women live diverse and busy lives – juggling family life, our careers and community activities among other roles we take on. The purpose of a conference like WOWe cannot be underestimated – it gives us the opportunity to build networks, collaborate, provide advice, share experiences, learn from each other, gain information, increase our visibility within our field and establish personal connections which can potentially help our business to flourish on a global scale. It gives us a sense of empowerment and support, instilling a ‘can do’ attitude, which at times, can be lost when you’re working from home alone. While entrepreneurship is still a new thing for women in the Nigeria, from attending the WOWe conference as a speaker, I was able to see the breadth of women already running their businesses and those who aspire to. It was inspiring to see that there are lots of us striving hard to make it work and I sincerely hope this change continues to grow throughout Africa. Witnessing the fire, focus, determination and discipline from the women who attended the conference, I believe women will contribute greatly to the business landscape in Nigeria, Ghana and the whole of Africa, and I’m excited to see it take shape.
As an entrepreneur, it reiterated the lessons I have learnt on my journey and why creating a niche is important. A feat I have been able to achieve by being positively disruptive, shaking up the status quo, creating new opportunities and ways for consumers to think about natural skin care. The development of Emi & Ben came from my own experience of using Unrefined Shea butter. It ignited the idea for me to develop a business around West Africa’s best kept beauty secret. As an entrepreneur, I have two great challenges; my time and finance. Running two businesses, my PR Consultancy alongside Emi & Ben, being a mother, dutiful daughter, sister and friend, it’s a lot to handle and something, I continue to work on to find a balance. It’s about taking bite size chunks of the work, personal life and everything else in between and devising a plan which is manageable, in addition to learning to say “no.” Saying no is OK and women shouldn’t be afraid to do so. Finance remains a hurdle with banks not being forthcoming with business loans, personal funds not being enough to cover the business, however from networking with other business individuals; I’ve come to learn that this is something my peers are also experiencing. In order to run a business successfully and to maintain its success, women need to have a full understanding of what they will be up against. They need to budget their time effectively and not shy away from asking for help or taking on hired help.
If there is one thing WOWe reinforced on me, it was to have a brand that people know and respect. That’s extremely important to me as a business owner and should be the same for all entrepreneurs, including women. When other people have a positive experience with my brand, they talk about it to others with affection, that it’s hard to ignore. Personal recommendations are the best form of marketing for my business, so projecting and maintaining a brand identity which oozes integrity, quality, honesty and one which consumers find approachable is paramount. My business goals remain to inspire and support women across West Africa and to achieve their dreams of developing a business centred on West Africa’s beauty secret; Unrefined Shea butter, and develop a skin care brand which is recognised internationally for its quality and brand values and the ultimate aim is to develop a distribution network that allows me to gain a large market share via online sales using my online outlet, emiandben.com
Read Full Article – WOWe: Networking for Sucess