The Timeless Women’s Conference is an annual conference organized by Timeless and Dynamic Services Limited that serves as a platform for dialogue between top-level African Women Leaders from all sectors. They share their opinions and lessons in order to move forward in the journey to make their dreams of a flourishing Africa come true.
The conference is headed by Nyakan Munyeki, the CEO, and founder of Timeless Women of Wonder Foundation which is also a subsidiary of Timeless Dynamic Services Limited. It is aimed at ensuring that African women are part of the social and economic transformation of Africa. This year’s conference theme was ‘Africa’s Enterprise Reformation’.
The Conference ran for a period of 3 days with each day focusing on different fundamental issues in promoting enterprise reformation in Africa. There were a selected number of speakers brought in to discuss and give their two cents on these issues. The sessions were however very interactive with active participation from the other conference attendees. Here is a summary of the conference conversations.
The first day of the conference focused on Investing in Africa, Going Global and Making Connections while in business. Some of the speakers included were; Siddharth Chatterjee UN Director, Nyakan Munyeki CEO of Timeless Women of Wonder, Mary Lusaka CEO BrandKenya, Richard Byurugaba CEO of NSSF Uganda and many more. There were people from all over the continent. It was evident from the get-go that one of the issues that we need to address is that women and men need to work together if we hope to push Africa to greater heights. Even though we may have different agendas, none of us will move forward if we leave the other behind. Other key issues to note include;
Investing in Africa
For enterprise reformation in Africa, there is need to build high impact enterprises. This is through getting access to capital, equipping people with the skills they need to build these enterprises, putting pressure on regulations that hinder the growth of our businesses.
We need to also understand that Africa already has all the resources it needs. We often look to outside help and in the course of that interaction end up losing our intellectual property. So many other countries outside Africa benefit from our rich resources and we need to learn how to benefit from it ourselves.
As a continent, we are yet to fully tap into our agricultural and industrial sectors. This eventually hurts us because 80% of women are in the agricultural sector and they are about half of our population. Agriculture is often viewed as a poor man’s job yet it has so much potential. If we exert ourselves, Africa has the capability to feed itself and the whole world.
We should also look into hosting a World Economic Forum to bring major investors to the continent opening up investment opportunities. This will also help us equip our entrepreneurs at the grass root level with skills and show them how to structure their businesses.
We need to understand that going global is not about breaking physical boundaries and making our businesses international. It is a mindset where we choose to make the whole world our market. This can be done by;
Producing quality products
Making sure your products are available to everyone
Ensure you resolve difficulties quickly because global brands can very sensitive when they make errors
Protect our intellectual property
We need to push for more business interactions with other countries. But even before we do that, we should ensure that we have strong ties with each other right here in the continent before venturing further. Global positioning is a game of strategy. Always start where you are, then to the inter-county, then inter-country, then regional growth and finally the global market.
Technology and Innovation play a big role in going global. Utilize one of the most important free tools your business will ever have- the internet. Use it to reach out to different people in different sectors of the market to sell your product or service.
When it comes to financing your business. It is more than just getting access to that money. Entrepreneurs need to understand financing in terms of the business needs. You may acquire finance and use it inefficiently.
It is no secret that making connections is a big part of developing our enterprises; what we call networking. It is about making strong and meaningful connections with other people or businesses that push your business or career to the next level. Princess Bola, an author, and motivational speaker outlined what making connections entails using the 7 C’s
Conceptualization- Embrace that everyone you meet has value. It may not be direct value and it may not help you at that moment, but anyone can be the key to moving to the next level of your business.
Clarity- Know your vision like the back of your hand. No one will follow you if you are not sure where you are headed.
Conquer- Fight whatever insecurities or doubts that prevent you from approaching people you know can help you move forward in your business.
Congregate- Learn where people involved in your kind of business hang out, what events or workshops do they go to so you may go into them yourself.
Communicate- First impressions matter. Know how best to sell yourself to anyone in under 60 seconds.
Continue- Do not stop at the introduction. Get to know your connections, listen to them. Some networks give us knowledge instead of opportunities.
Consistency- Keep pushing. Show them the ways in which you or your business can benefit them.
As stated earlier before, when making connections, it is important that you discover how to sell yourself under 60 seconds- the elevator pitch. Using those 7 C’s compose a 60-second introduction of yourself that communicates; who you are, what you do, how you can help the person you are talking to and where they can find you.
During the second day of the conference, the conversation moved to Africa’s Entrepreneurial Shift, Developing Sustainable Women Enterprises through non-traditional ways, and access to the Energy Sector in Africa.
Africa’s Entrepreneurial Shift
There needs to be entrepreneurial shift if we are going to get anywhere as a continent. An important aspect of this is leadership shift. There is need to have good governance, charismatic leadership, leadership that knows how to follow authority. Our leaders need to have servant leadership skills that allow them to respect other people’s opinions instead of brushing them off because they do not come from a position of power. Additionally, these leaders we vote into office need to have personal leadership skills to ensure that they use their roles wisely to benefit our business in the long run. To evaluate your leadership skills one can use the 5C’s;
Character – You are a leader that can be trusted
Competence – You get the job done
Conciliatory – Learn to build bridges and not walls when preaching and promoting peace and collaboration.
Caring – Find out what your people need and use that to benefit them.
Compelling vision – Have a plan to push the people who look up to you to the next level.
There is also need to delve more into mentorship programs. There are more entrepreneurs getting into the market each day. If we are to push Africa’s enterprise reformation, the experienced entrepreneurs need to find ways to communicate and share their knowledge with these new entrants into the market. This way, they do not have to go through a huge part of the trial and error process as is common in many new businesses.
Also, learning how to link up with other people in other sectors other than the one you are involved in is important. Initiate collaborations with these businesses. It strengthens your networks and promotes your business to an otherwise unexplored sector of the market.
Another important aspect of this entrepreneurial shift is acknowledging that women are major consumers of the products made by these enterprises. Thus there is need to involve them in enterprise development. To increase the number of women in business, there is need to develop a simplified financial instrument for women in business to be able to obtain access to credit. This will allow them to establish high-quality enterprises.
Associations like COMESA can contribute to this by facilitating networks towards ensuring linkages. All it will require are sector-specific activities and the names of the women who would want to exploit such links. For women that we build an ecosystem that supports women in the entrepreneurial environment. For example, the Ministry of Trade can commit to;
Capacity building for women entrepreneurs around managerial and technology skills development;
Partner in techno innovation exhibitions to give innovators the platform to link to investors.
Developing Sustainable Women Enterprises through non- traditional ways.
Delving deeper into the role of women in enterprise development, we need to find non-traditional ways to develop sustainable women enterprises. Women need to take charge and pursue what the businesses they are passionate about without fear. Long are the days, a woman could not run a successful business and that is a mindset that needs to change.
As women join this entrepreneurial market, they need to do their research. They need to go out there and hunt for information because if we do not have the knowledge and information about policies, structures, opportunities about the market you are about to enter then you can not exploit any of them to your advantage. Talk to 3 people before you start a business; one who has tried and failed, one who has succeeded and one who is struggling through the business. Use this information to know more about how a business runs and what hurdles you are likely to run into. When it comes to hiring people to your team, choose wisely. Select the right team players. The biggest failure of enterprises is managerial skills that are below standard.
Take your business step by step. Do not be in a rush for quick results. To gauge how your business is doing, compare your input vs your output. The key is growing a sustainable enterprise and not a business that only takes from you.
One sector that should be explored when it comes to enterprise reformation is the energy sector. To ensure all genders are well represented, existing policies should be reviewed to determine if they are gender sensitive and practical. It should also be made easier to access finances in the energy sector. This can be done through focus on partnership building for women in business and financial institutions. However, before you get into any partnership, understand your value so you do not get the short end of the stick in that agreement. We can also develop approaches to organize women in business to access markets, finance, and mini-grids as well as other energy solutions for business. For the other businesses, we need to develop simplified business opportunities and approach in the energy sector that women can use to determine what area of business they can tap into.
The last day of the conference focused on the stories of successful entrepreneurs and how they go to where they were. The speakers included; Shalom Munyiri, Olive Gachara Founder of Couture Magazine, Andia Chakara and Investment Expert, Terry Mungai CEO of Ashley’s Kenya. Their stories highlighted issues that need to be addressed in the entrepreneurial market such as;
The need to have enterprises that solve solutions. A sustainable business is built on the foundation of a need in the market. Your business should be directed towards solving an existing problem. If you get into entrepreneurship with purely money on your mind, you are likely to fail. Passion and the push to solve issues is a more powerful tool.
Establish mentorship programs that are of mutual benefit to the mentee and mentor. Mentors can also learn so much from their own mentees. Mentoring is also not enough, you need to invest in any of their ideas that have promise. This way, young people can be encouraged to join the entrepreneurship journey.
At the end of the session, The Timeless Application for Women in Business was launched. Using this application, people can sell and buy products from all over the world. There was also an exhibition for some of the businesses that had brought samples of their products or services for viewing.
Looking back, such conferences are of utmost importance to anyone running a business or simply looking to move to the next level of their career. They house a great deal of entrepreneurs under one roof all with a common goal- to build their businesses. It therefore gives you the chance to network with an array of like-minded businesses people where you can share your ideas, brainstorm on new ideas and even forge new partnerships.
As Princess Bola put it, you may end up making five times the amount you paid to attend the conference from a business deal. Additionally for a new business, this is the perfect time to get exposure for your product or service. Sign up for an exhibition and showcase your work. If exhibitions are not available, you can still sell yourself either way. By making as many meaningful interactions as possible, you open your business to people who may not have known of it before.
Also, as entrepreneurs, you seek to learn and accumulate as much knowledge as we can in your entrepreneurial journey. Such forums provide a pool of knowledge from those who have tried and failed, succeeded or are still working on their businesses. Such conferences enable you to learn from people’s experience, learn what works or does not work and even find out about opportunities you can exploit for your benefit. Not forgetting the importance of coming together to discover ways you can grow as business owners. So as a business minded individual, make it a point to attend such conferences when you can. You never know, it could be the big break you have been waiting for.