Three Successful Women Entrepreneurs in Africa Give Advice on Common Entrepreneurial Mistakes
It is all too easy to believe that successful women entrepreneurs in Africa have been fortunate from the beginning, when the truth is they have all overcome challenges. In this post, I share tips from three successful female entrepreneurs on some of the biggest mistakes to avoid when growing a business in Africa.
Get capital in perspective: Ory Okolloh, Director of Investments at Omidyar Network, has founded multiple successful companies. She told CNN, “Most entrepreneurs think capital is the biggest problem they have — but it’s not.” Okolloh recommends that entrepreneurs prioritize their own understanding of the marketplace and how they can develop a strong position in it. “You can have all the capital you want,” says Okolloh at CNN, “but if the market fit and ability to adjust are not present, your startup will likely not succeed.”
Mistakes can be your best teachers: For Sheila Afari of Sheila Afari Public Relations, mistakes are a vital part of entrepreneurship — and trying to avoid them is problematic. “I spent so much time ‘playing it safe’ out of fear of not being perfect or not keeping clients happy that it took me quite a while to learn a lot of the things that have helped my business grow exponentially,” says Afari at She Leads Africa. Stating that mistakes have been her best teachers, Afari’s advice is to not be afraid about making them, even at the outset. “Had I allowed myself to make more mistakes at an earlier stage,” adds Afari, “I believe my company would have been where it is now about a year or two ago.”
Don’t quit the skills you developed in the past: Gina Din-Kariuki was in charge of corporate communications at Barclays Bank for 14 years before she left to set up Gina Din, a leading independent and indigenous strategic communications agency in East Africa. Though she had climbed as high as she could on the corporate ladder in the banking world, she longed to step out on her own. She advises entrepreneurs who quit their jobs to not make the mistake of abandoning the skills they have built over the years. “You can’t have spent 30 years doing something and [then] just leave it,” says Din-Kariuki on Know Your Leak (K24TV), adding that such skills are really worthwhile. Advising entrepreneurs to draw on their previous experiences in management, organization, logistics, or elsewhere, Din-Kariuki says, “Whatever you’ve been doing is a real value-add,” reminding us to draw on what we know.
For women entrepreneurs in Africa, there will always be challenges to overcome, but by learning from the continent’s successful women entrepreneurs, you can avoid common pitfalls and step forward with confidence.