Taking our cue from powerhouse Sheryl Sandberg, the title of this article refuses to underestimate female entrepreneurs. Because women in business are working hard, not just in business but out there in the world; changing perceptions. Every day they have to find new and innovative ways and attitudes to assert themselves. So in celebration of International Women’s Day on the 8th of August we have rounded up five essential lessons from top entrepreneurs, who all happen to be women:
LESSON 1: “Define yourself differently” by Sheryl Sandberg
Sandenburg is the COO of Facebook and the first woman on their board of directors. The author of the forward-thinking book, Lean in, stresses that how you define yourself really makes all the difference. She goes on to say that it’s essential be proud that you are a woman but that this does not always define your role in the company, as a business owner, or manager. “One day the word ‘female’ won’t exist ” here she points out that the word ‘female’, when inserted in front of something, always comes with a note of surprise, like Female COO, female pilot, female surgeon. As she so aptly puts it, “I am a female leader but one day there won’t be female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
LESSON 2: “Invest in yourself” by Bassie Kumalo
Kulamo rose to notoriety when she won Miss South African in 1994 and over the years has become a steadfast businesswoman and entrepreneur in her worn right. She understands how we are all always learning. She distinctly points out that this is by no means a weakness but rather a strength. She explains how she has seen learning as an investment in herself saying, “I worked really hard to prove myself and made sure that everything I did was done to the highest standard of excellence. My attitude was that, although I knew that I didn’t know much, I was willing to learn. So over time I did business courses and learned from others in business”. Bassie teaches us that when you wake up each morning, you have to think of yourself as a brand and act accordingly. This is essential for your brand’s success. With this attitude you begin to live the brand well, and people start to believe you and buy into what you are bringing.
LESSON 3: “Differentiate yourself” by Sara Blakely
Blakely, the founder & CEO of Spanx calls on entrepreneurs to differentiate themselves by identifying why they are different and the reason that their customer needs them. She urges business owners to ensure that they have this down to a fine definition that can be used as a backbone when challenged. Sara has also suggested “Don’t share your fragile idea with the world too soon”. In fact this savvy business owner kept her idea of making a revolutionary undergarment for women quiet for an entire year while working on developing the prototype. Only after she was 100% sure about it and ready to launch, did she tell her circle and explain her vision. Sara explains that “ideas are vulnerable, fragile things. Wait until you’re completely ready to invest in it before you share it with people. Meaning well, they’ll shoot it down, offering all the reasons why it won’t work. Now when they do, you’ll be ready to deal with it.”
LESSON 4: “Don’t be afraid to think bigger"
bu Sibongile Sambo
Sambo is a trailblazer in South African aviation. She is founder and Chief Executive Officer of SRS Aviation Ltd., the first 100 percent black, female-owned aviation services company in South Africa. Her lesson is all about how you shouldn’t be afraid to think bigger or pivot your direction. When Sambo interviewed to become an air hostess back in the day, she was turned down on the premise that she was too short! Once she processed the rejection and the reason behind it, she got back up and decided that if she could not be part of her dream industry as an air hostess, she would create one another way. So she did what any self-respecting entrepreneur would do…she started her own aviation company. Not only that, but she then did it differently by placing a strong focus on investing in her employees by helping three employees obtain their private pilot licenses. “I have a philosophy that I’m where I am today is because somebody invested in me. It’s my opportunity now to invest other people,” she says.
LESSON 5: “Learn, test, fail, repeat” by Nneile Nkholise
Nneile Nkholise reminds us that it is essential to be patient with yourself and that failing is a big part of learning saying, “I believe that we have made failure seem like the worst experience so much so, that many young women are afraid of being involved in tech because of the realities of failure,” she explains. Her advice to other women entrepreneurs? “Be patient with the journey of entrepreneurship; it takes time to achieve your set goals and sometimes reality may not meet your expectations. Stay grounded in your passion and goals to turn your ideas into great products and services”.
What we’ve learned
Women in business have so much to offer the workplace – from savvy skills to deep commitments and a fresh perspective. So underestimate them at your peril. Wishing all our merchants a very happy International Women’s Day, men and women alike.