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Tips for growing your career as a female founder

Article written by Nthabiseng Makgatho (Head of Marketing – Xero SA)

It has been a challenging year for all businesses, and with ongoing turbulence nationwide, it’s clear that the future will also involve challenges. Despite the setbacks, we’ve seen female business owners continuing to push our business community forward, champion women in the workplace, and so much more.

I spoke with four inspirational women about starting their businesses and their advice to other women in business.

Taking the leap

We all have different motivations that drive us in our professional lives. For Hazel Bango-Moyo, the founder of Primorial Solutions, starting a business was about supporting other – largely female-owned – small businesses. “From a young age, I knew that to achieve my purpose in the world and my personal life, I would need to start my own business,” shares Hazel.

Similarly, Depo Ogunruku, the founder of Outsourced Finance, explains, “the purpose of starting a business for me was to help solve the social-economic divide of South Africa by ensuring job creation and training. That was the mindset behind the start of Outsourced Finance. It’s had its ups and downs, but I’m so proud of where our 25-strong team are today.”

Lauren Dallas, who founded Future Females, found inspiration from a relocation. “I had recently emigrated from Sydney to Cape Town, and I struggled to fit in. There weren’t enough places dedicated to entrepreneurial women like me – so my co-founder Cerina and I decided to create a space and invite women in.”

Overcoming challenges

Reflecting on the most significant challenges she faced early on in her career, Hazel explains, “the biggest obstacle was the stereotyping of what women can or can’t do, in terms of their abilities as professionals, especially being a black woman. I overcame it by working harder, taking on the most challenging jobs, calling out biased behaviours and never losing faith in my abilities.”

For Kirsten Halcrow, from Encapsulate Consulting, finding the right balance was a hurdle: “My biggest career challenge was finding the balance between being a wife, a mum and a full-time entrepreneur. To excel at all my roles, it often felt as if I wasn’t doing any of them very well. I needed to take a step back and take away some of the ‘self-imposed’ pressure. We are often our own biggest critics.”

Five pieces of advice from successful women

All the women I spoke to were eager to uplift other women and offer them advice on their journeys. Here are five pieces of actionable advice for female entrepreneurs, accountants, and professionals:

Invest in a mentor or coach – Hazel Bango-Moyo, Primorial Solutions

Don’t doubt yourself because you are more capable than your mind – and society – might lead you to believe. Surround yourself with people who truly believe in you and support the goals that you have. As part of this support system, invest in a mentor or business coach. Budget for the cost as you would for your staff’s salary – it will be an essential support and sounding board.

Exercise self-love and care – Nthabiseng Makgatho, Xero

It’s so easy to be hard on ourselves – especially if things aren’t going the way we want or expect. The same is true for work and business. It’s important to remember that nothing is perfect: we all make mistakes. All you can do is learn from them. Taking time out to reflect on what is important. Take things one day at a time and be your own cheerleader.

Don’t fear failure, take the first step – Lauren Dallas, Future Females

Stop fearing failure; start fearing regret. It might feel easier to stick with your day job, clock off at 5pm, and receive a fixed salary every month. But does that light you up? At the risk of sounding like a Nike ad: “Just Do It”! This is not a practice run: you only get one, wild life, so take action and don’t put it off if you’ve been thinking about it for a while.

Be unapologetic – Depo Ogunruku, Outsourced Finance

Sometimes as women in business, it feels like we need to work ten times more than our male counterparts to get the recognition we deserve. When I started Outsourced Finance, I was very apologetic about being at the table. Over the years, I have realised I am just as good or even better than my male counterparts. My advice to other women is not to be apologetic: you have every right to be there.

When times get hard, get support – Kirsten Halcrow, Encapsulate Consulting

Entrepreneurship is not easy, but you will reap the benefits if you put in the work and do it with passion. There will be times when you feel like giving up, but it’s those times that you need to rely on support like other business specialists. Remember that you are not an island – always ask for help and support when you need it.

Xero is a proud Partner of the NSBC