By Ama Duncan, Founder, The Fabulous Woman Network, 2017 Mandela Washington Fellow, amaduncan.com
I read somewhere that 8 out of 10 startups fail within their first two years. Well, by the grace of God, my two startups, Corporate Training Solutions and The Fabulous Woman Network (The FWN), are over three years and two years, respectively. I feel so grateful to have been able to come this far, and I thought I would share three of the strategies that have worked for my team and me. So if you have a startup, are looking to have one or are simply curious, then this is from me to you avec love.
I will use a recent event to demonstrate what I mean. One of the events we have been organising at The Fabulous Woman Network is our Executive Strategy Retreats with Yawa Hansen-Quao, founder of the Leading Ladies Network and an executive leadership coach. In 2017, we had two sessions, in Kumasi and then in Accra. It was targeted at leaders and professionals, and the rates were quite expensive, as the costs involved are very high. Marketing them was not a funny joke, as a lot of people even within my target market moaned that the rates were too expensive. Every day, after a potential participant told me, “No, I can’t afford it,” I would question myself: “Are you sure this is a good idea? I mean, will people really pay this much to attend an event they are not used to?” Interestingly, every time I would doubt myself I would feel in my spirit, “Don’t worry, just do it.”
Well, not only did the Kumasi and Accra events come off successfully, with the participants so grateful and giving much positive feedback, we had a residential session at the Coconut Grove Beach Resort in Elmina this year and, oh my, it was just fabulous! To think that everything in me wanted to give up almost every day before the event! I am so happy I held on to the little shred of faith I had and trusted Jesus to make things happen. And guess what: It is this same tiny-mini-mustard-seed of faith that made me announce that our next Executive Strategy Retreat will happen in Dubai come 2019! I cannot stress enough how important the role of faith is on an entrepreneurial journey. What vision has been laid on your heart? Have faith, it can actually happen.
Have an invisible board
It was one of my mentors who taught me this strategy. When I started my businesses, I was so worried that I may not be doing things right and wanted desperately to have a board in place to advise us on how to run the businesses. The only challenge was: I was not in a position to pay for a board. One time when I brought this discussion up, he simply told me to have an invisible board, each advising me on a different aspect of my business, such as finance, marketing, management, product development, etc., without them formerly being told that they were part of my board. He also advised me to find a way to compensate them by also being helpful to them or at least giving them Christmas gifts.
Having an invisible board is essentially a form of mentoring and has been so helpful to me in managing my businesses. Some of my biggest financial breakthroughs have come from sitting at the feet of mentors whose wisdom I jotted down and implemented. To have an invisible board, it is important to be strategic. Look at the areas you need advice in and identify people within your network who can help you. By network, I mean, for instance, your church, former schoolmates, clubs you join, colleagues, etc.
Find a hub
Let me just start by saying I did not even know what a hub was until I quit my job two years ago. I remember the first day I attended an event at hapaSpace in Adum, Kumasi; I thought to myself, “Wow, there is a whole new world outside one’s office!” Finding and building a relationship with hapaSpace has been so instrumental in the growth of, especially, The FWN. First, they organise monthly networking events which are free and open to all entrepreneurs. I have met many startup entrepreneurs through their events; some are my clients, while others are my partners. Second, I signed up to Hatched, their incubation program for startups, which was really eye-opening for my team because I was very new to this whole starting your business deal. Third, because they had event spaces as well as the co-working space, I could actually organise some of my events there at very low prices.
Above all these, the biggest value I have had in maintaining my relationship with them is access to resources. Apart from their website, they have a WhatsApp group called Kumasi Entrepreneurs Community where very valuable information is shared. Not a single day goes by without an advertisement about an upcoming training, networking event, fellowship, etc. Advertise your event on this platform and thousands of people will hear of it because it is a community where members actually support each other. In fact, discovering and working with a hub can really make a lot of things easier for a startup, and I encourage all entrepreneurs to take this strategy personally. Simply Google “hubs in Ghana” and do your research.
Anyway, I can go on and on about the different “ninja” strategies my team and I have used to sustain our businesses. However, I will end here because as I type this I am on my third flight across Africa within the last 24 hours, and my brain is threatening to go on strike! Ha ha. If you are a startup entrepreneur, trust me when I say you are on your own but not alone. Until my next write-up, here is to our success!
Author and Founder of The Fabulous Woman Network
Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.