A couple of weeks ago, I attended the 2016 Lionesses of Africa Annual Conference. This was probably one of the most inspiring and informative event I have attended this year (2016). It was a day packed with inspirational talks from African entrepreneur women, who have traveled from all over the continent and beyond, to share their stories, connect and network with fellow South Africa based, women entrepreneurs.
Lionesses of Africa is a community founded by Melanie Hawken and as stated on its website, it is a community ‘passionate about women entrepreneurship in Africa and support the start-up dream of all women on the continent’.
Hosted at the prestigious polo club Inanda in Sandton, the event headlined more than 30 panelists, moderators and speakers. Some of the speakers included Dr Ola Orekunrin, Founder and CEO of Flying Doctors Nigeria, Anne Githuku Shongwe, Representative of UN Women, South Africa Multi-Country Office, and Ruka Sanusi, Founder and CEO of Alldens Lane, Ghana. The panelists included Margaret Hirsch, Co-founder and COO of the Hirsch’ Homestores chain in South Africa, Divine Ndhlukula, Founder and CEO of SECURICO, a company providing security services in Zimbabwe, Johanna Mukoki, Co-founder and Group CEO of Travel with Flair, a corporate travel company. It also included Nigerian designer Deola Sagoe, Swaady Martin, Founder and CEO of the luxury brand Yswara, Kenyan jewelry designer Adèle Dejak and Ghanaian Akosua Afritie Kumi, founder of the bags and accessories brand AAKS
Some of the topics discussed included: how to fund the next generation of women entrepreneurs, how to build a global brand, how to use technology for innovation and social entrepreneurship and how to create a business that promote social change.
Here are 5 takeaways from the conference:
- Entrepreneurs are people who find creative solutions to everyday life challenges
Most of these women succeeded against the odds. They all had to face challenges either due to their economic situation, discrimination due to gender, age or race, skepticism from banks and financial institutions. But they kept going through, finding creative ways to reach their goals and grow their business.
- Entrepreneurs have to be resilient, especially women entrepreneurs
Another lesson learned from these powerhouses’ women is that one has to be resilient to be an entrepreneur. It is true especially for women. I have learned that entrepreneurship is a journey and that you have to keep pushing and keep going after your dreams.
- Women entrepreneurs need to create their own tribe
One of the biggest lesson of this conference is solidarity. In order to grow, we must build tribes of women or should I say pride of owmen. (Did you get it? Pride, lionesses, women? Ok never mind!) . The purpose of Lionesses of Africa is to build a community where successful women can share, mentor, inspire other women on their way to success. Successful entrepreneurs must mentor and fund younger women. We do not operate in a vacuum. No woman can be successful on her own. And I love the fact that the accent was put on Pan-African solidarity as well.
- In Entrepreneurship, authenticity is key
One thing that these ladies had in common is ‘Authentic Leadership’. All of them are positive and genuine women, who spoke candidly about their experience, their mistakes and lessons. They are both mission and purpose driven. They have emphasized on the importance of creating an honest and ethical business, leading from heart and giving back to the communities where they operate.
- Entrepreneurs transform lives around them
Another common thing shared by these women is that they transform lives around them. Most of them are building socially responsible companies, they are game-changers and via their business they are solving major economic problems such as unemployment. Also they are empowering their staff and the communities where they operate through social initiatives, mentoring and charity work.