September 11th, 2022
5 Lessons in Entrepreneurship from 5 Female Founders
A 2018 study by BCG and MassChallenge found that startups founded or cofounded by women generated more revenue even with less investment capital. Yet less than 21% of the formal SME sector in South Africa is women-led.
It’s within this context that SheSays Cape Town – the local chapter of a global network of women in creative industries – partnered with natural and organic brand Faithful To Nature to host their most recent event. “We’re excited to partner with a proudly female-founded company to host this discussion and help women find the founder in themselves – whether that relates to entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship or starting their own side hustles,,” said Pride Maunatlala, Director at SheSays Cape Town and GMO of goodleaf, who also moderated the event.
The event featured a powerhouse panel of female founders and female-focused investors including Robyn Smith, Founder of Faithful To Nature; Zubeida Goolam, Creator of digital-first agency, Valiant; Erin Louw, Founder of Xena, a networking community for female entrepreneurs, mentors and leaders; and Thandi Mbulaheni, CEO of skincare brand SKOON.
Here are five key take outs from the event, which provide advice and guidance for women looking to venture into the entrepreneurial space:
1. Do business like a woman
The number one lesson that Robyn Smith learnt when starting Faithful to Nature was to do business like a woman. “Women have the incredible ability to create brands because of our empathetic and intuitive nature; it’s easier for us to connect,” she said.
“When I started Faithful to Nature, it never occurred to me to do business like a man. I’ve only ever done business like a woman –I haven’t been afraid to lead with my heart. I haven’t been afraid of really putting that authentic, compassionate and caring aspect to my brand. I haven’t been afraid to do things differently.”
2. Sell stories, not products
In a digital-first world, it’s important to use stories to your advantage when establishing a brand. “Digital allows you to tell longer stories and cultivate amazing narratives. We’ve always been about telling stories, especially telling South African stories, and digital is a space that allows you to do that,” said Zubeida Goolam, Creator of Valiant. “Take advantage of this by creating campaigns that encourage people to make decisions based on the feelings you incite through stories.”
3. Change your perspective
A key lesson that SKOON CEO Thandi Mbulaheni learnt from her background in corporate was to switch perspectives from what customers need, to creating a product that customers never knew they needed.
“In entrepreneurship, you must move away from the need. As an entrepreneur, you must give the customer something that they never thought they would need,” she said. “You need to expand your vision and give the customer something that will make them say ‘wow, why didn’t I think of that’. This is how you start to build and dream big, this is how you start to build a strong brand.”
4. Surround yourself with passionate, like-minded people
“So many women don’t have that hard association with LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, because they see themselves as a warrior trying to figure out this world of entrepreneurship,” said Erin Louw, who founded the networking community, Xena.
“Motivation comes and goes. It’s a feeling. But the passion stays. It’s the discipline and the conviction that you are doing the right thing that will get you up every morning, this gives you the strength to fight against the people that don’t think it’s going to work. I think that your network is important, I think community is important, and building your tribe is crucial to success.”
5. Find purpose in your product or business
A common thread amongst all speakers was the importance of finding purpose in your entrepreneurial venture.
“There’s something in you that needs to be birthed and are you going to be brave enough to do it? Faithful to Nature, that long clunky name that has so much heart in it epitomises and metamorphoses the calling for me which is around being faithful to something bigger than ourselves,” said Robyn Smith.
“In corporate, I was obsessed with ROI. It was all about return on investment, but this has shifted to ROR – Return on Responsibility – for me now. I wanted to move out of just growing money for other people. Growing a business became about being responsible, giving back to the environment, giving back to other people. For me, that’s the greatest responsibility I want to have,” added Thandi Mbulaheni.
SheSays Cape Town hosts quarterly events with the aim of bringing women from different backgrounds together to share their experiences, insights and learnings, as well as fostering a community of women within the creative and advertising industries. For more information on upcoming events and how to get involved, follow them on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
About Faithful to Nature:
Faithful to Nature is an online retailer of natural and sustainable products, founded in 2006 by Robyn Smith. Faithful to Nature offers over 7,000 natural & sustainable products across health & supplements, food, beauty & personal care, home & lifestyle, and baby & kids. Faithful to Nature’s purpose is to make shopping more sustainably and ethically as easy as possible – their vision is to build a future where more consumers shop consciously, from supporting local businesses to sourcing products that do not harm consumers, their communities, or our planet.