If you are a woman entrepreneur with plans to start your own business, or to grow an existing business, getting mentorship from existing entrepreneurs or membership of an entrepreneurship support group could be an important step in realising your business goals.
As a first step, believe in yourself and your abilities to succeed.
At GroFin, we support a number of highly successful female entrepreneurs and it is our experience that being a woman has never hindered an entrepreneur’s ability to run a profitable business. Having said that, we would also caution that women do face challenges unique to their gender which may influence their decisions when starting or growing their business.
So, our GroFin Kenya investment officers spoke to two of the successful businesswomen that GroFin supports, in order to help other women entrepreneurs get their advice right from the horse’s mouth.
Pamela Muyeshi, the owner of Amaica, a restaurant specialising in authentic Kenyan cuisine, and Ruth Kwalanda, owner of CIAR Management Institute – a corporate training business and provider of Kenya’s first E-learning platform – provided their insights on the challenges and opportunities specific to women entrepreneurs.
Pamela states that the primary obstacle women face in business is a lack of self-belief.
“There are less female business owners because, as women, we don’t believe enough in ourselves. If you are not strong-willed, you will not survive in business. A lot of women will start a business but will give up if they don’t have that dedication and strong will,” she candidly states.
Ruth Kwalanda adds that a lack of self-belief causes women to take fewer risks in business.
“You’ve got to be willing to take the risk. My advice to women entrepreneurs would be: ‘Don’t be afraid to develop skills as you go along’. I surround myself with people who are experts in their field to compensate for areas in which I am less experienced. I also know that whatever I don’t know, I can learn as I go along,” she emphatically states.
She adds that women can also address any fears about their skills set by asking the right questions.
“If you are ever in doubt about anything, ask. There is always someone willing to help you. These days I ask a lot more questions as I run my business and know it’s OK to make mistakes as I go along,” she highlights.
Pamela feels that while businesswomen are no less skilled in business, achieving a balance between running a family and a company can be difficult.
She states matter-of-factly, “Women face the dual responsibility of ensuring that their business is running and their family is stable.”
Ruth agrees, “As a woman, you worry whether one of the aspects of your life – be it business or personal – is getting the shorter end of the stick. However, I have come to realise that, if you are honest, your colleagues will understand your responsibilities in both your personal and work life.”
She adds that, male or female, the key to any successful entrepreneur is their passion.
“Whatever it is you do, it’s got to be something you’re passionate about. There comes a time when all you have is the passion and nothing else and you need to be able to count on your passion to see you through the tough times,” Ruth concludes.
At GroFin, our experience bears out that the gap is narrowing between the size of male- and female-owned businesses. However, we firmly believe that there is still a lot that can be done to help prepare women business owners to accelerate their businesses onto a fast-growth trajectory in order for them to achieve their full potential as business owners. Membership of the right association is one such step.
There are quite a number of groups in Kenya – KAWBO (Kenyan Association of Women Business Owners), OWIT (Organization of Women in International Trade) and GOWE (Growth Oriented Women Entrepreneurs) – that are doing a great job in supporting female entrepreneurs. Through their extensive and supportive member base and the capacity building initiatives they focus on, they help women entrepreneurs embrace change; be trend-setters rather than simply react; innovate beyond expectations; develop global integration; and practice social responsibility. These are real initiatives that can help entrepreneurs transform concepts of the future of their business enterprises and help them achieve the vision and the confidence to catapult their businesses to a whole new level.
This post was originally published on 05.01.16 on LinkedIn Pulse by Nishika Bajaj.