I spent my weekend at #SheHiveLondon a professional boot camp for smart, young, African women organised by She Leads Africa – a community created for and by African women. I’ve been part of the SLA community for a while now, receiving the Motherland Mogul Weekly to my inbox which includes career tips (‘How to get that promotion’ ) and inspiring stories of African women in business and entrepreneurship.
I had noticed the #SheHive tour making its rounds across the continent (Lagos, Abuja, Accra, Nairobi, Joburg & Cape Town) and then to Washington DC and Toronto. Once the #SheHive was announced in London I knew I had to get involved. Having been to a lot of similar networking events though, I expected something very typical but regardless looked forward to being surrounded by like-minded women at the very least. Furthermore when I initially looked at the lineup of speakers although impressive, (Afua Hirsch, Minna Salami, Eryca Freemantle and more) as someone who isn’t running a business or even have a business idea, I didn’t think that the programme would be entirely relatable or that I would be getting the most out of it.
Well, to cut to the chase my preconceptions were blown out of the water and to me, #SheHive truly set itself apart as a space where African women at whatever stage of their professional lives can thrive, learn and be inspired! After just a few hours, because of the casual and intimate atmosphere the SheHive team created, we became a community where you felt comfortable enough to share plans, ideas, find common interests (and discuss possible collaborations!) and even test out each other’s products (Thank you Anita for the Shea Glo Skincare tester and Bandela Snacks for the groundnut treats!)
Another thing that I absolutely loved was the diversity of women in attendance. Unfortunately, it’s not every day that I get to meet and have conversations with Cameroonian women from Paris, Congolese women from Brussels or Malian and Guinean women. It was great to hear their perspectives and discover our common interests.
I took something away from every single speaker across the weekend, whose talks didn’t feel long or strenuous but enlightening and also very personal.
Although this would only be touching the surface of the many gems and inspiring notes of the last weekend, here were my key takeaways from this year’s SheHive London:
This question was echoed throughout the weekend by a few of the speakers in different ways. What is your why? Why do you do what you do? It’s important to be continually self-reflective and to tap into the love and passion that drives us. That being said as Khalia Ismain Founder of Jamii, Emeka and Ifeyinwa Fredrick Founders of Chuku’s urged, “don’t start a businessfor the business sake or because you see others doing it!” Only true passion and an understanding of your motivations can drive you through the hardest times. Without this, Mariatu Turay Founder of Gitas Portal said, this would only lead to a “dead end and will never take you to the point of fulfilment.”
2. Be your authentic self
A somewhat cliched statement but one that is so often forgotten. Being authentic and truly understanding oneself underlines your brand, your direction, your decisions and makes you distinct – it’s the only sustainable way to be!
“You really have to know yourself and that’s not an instant thing – its a journey.“Afua Hirsch
“Love of self; you are the best when you are anchored in self.” Mariatu Turay
3. Tell your story
This follows from point no2. Telling your story will allow you to present yourself in the most authentic way. What is specific to you? How did you get here? People relate to people and not things, placing your story and identity behind your brand will allow you to tap into your audience and be memorable.
4. Be a sponge
You have to be continually open to learning whatever stage you are at and regardless of what you have achieved to date. We all laughed when Ifeyinwa recalled being rejected from a waitressing role as she sought hospitality experience for her business Chuku’s, despite being an Oxbridge grad. However, it is that humility and openness to learning that leads to true development. Or as Khalia put it, “stand on the shoulders of giants” and learn from those who have gone before you.
5. It’s a long game
Something that most of the successful entrepreneurs that spoke had in common was their long and often unforeseen journeys. From Afua who is currently on her 4th career as a journalist to Nicole Pretorious, Founder of She Can Code who spoke about leaving her day job without any solid plans. Plainly, success is “a long game” where patience and resilience are key.
6. Prioritise opportunities
You cannot take on every opportunity that comes your way but you must discern what is best for you at the present time. What is right for me? Can I give this 100%? Will this take me to the next level? In determining this, what must underline your decisions is a belief in yourself that great opportunities will always come back around.
7. Take a break
I think every speaker advised on the importance of rest and the reality of burning out. As ambitious women, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to ‘have it all’ without thinking about our health and well being. Sleep, take a holiday, delegate, learn to put some balls down!
8. It’s a lie!
What untruths are you telling yourself? What untruths have you internalised? The mind is a powerful thing. As young African women, there are plenty of untruths society has told us about ourselves – we must begin to unlearn these things and live by positive affirmations about ourselves, our goals and our prospects.
For more key points and highlights have a look at my live tweets!
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