As we know, these are extremely challenging times for women entrepreneurs all over the globe. Our Trustee Rosanne Gray, a woman entrepreneur herself, shares her thoughts on how you can use your innate strengths and coping strategies to weather the storm and get yourself and your business through this crisis.
Back in 2009, as the world reeled from the global financial crisis, I cleared the kitchen table, pulled up my laptop and with a large cup of tea took the first steps to starting a business. Some would say I was crazy — it was not exactly the best time to be starting a new venture — but eleven years later, as we find ourselves reeling from another global crisis, I find there was much I learnt at the time that has impacted how I have navigated the last few months. I thought I’d share my learnings in the hopes that they might resonate with you, too…
Kitchen tables are productive places
With half of the world’s population now being asked to stay in in order to save lives, many of us are spending much more time in our homes. However, for many women entrepreneurs our homes have always been our headquarters and our kitchen tables our boardrooms! As such, we are some of the most prepared to weather this lock down. Unlike office-based workers we know what it feels like to juggle family meal times, kids school work while continuing to build our businesses at the very same time. It is easier said than done, as we race to clear a small space on the table for our notepad, project plans and budget sheets, but we know we have been here before and through these coming months I hope you can find that small space on the kitchen table to keep being creative, as your community and family know the value of your business to rebuilding your community and keeping everyone afloat.
Reinvention takes re-imagining
The financial crisis was still very real as I set up my business, yet it made me realise that the old norms, the given ways of working, were open to reinvention. Customers were seeking new solutions and today we find ourselves again needing to re-imagine the future. Remember, as an entrepreneur, you have a mindset that seeks out opportunities and turns what can at times seem impossible into the possible!
Last week, speaking to a good friend in Zimbabwe who runs a successful car hire business, she told me that she either had to close the doors on her company as the customers had dried up overnight — no tourists, no local travel allowed, her cars standing empty — when she saw the need and an opportunity to reinvent the business overnight into a delivery service! Her company is now delivering much-needed essentials to those who can’t leave their homes during this time, providing employment for her team and a new solution that customers are more than welcoming. Maybe there are new opportunities for your business to go online, carry out home deliveries or adapt in other ways?
We can’t control the future but we can control our decisions
We don’t know what the future holds and we aren’t able to control the coming months, but we can control how we react to decisions that we are going to be faced with. We can choose to react with curiosity, positivity and hopefulness, which in turn will build engagement with any team members we have and create the best environment we can to succeed.
The resilience needed to keep our businesses afloat requires an approach that quickly weighs up options with the facts that we have so that we can then move forward with confidence. When we look back on the decisions that we take in the coming months we realise they may not have always been the right ones, but knowing we made the best ones with the information we had at the time is what I always find to be important.
Cheerleaders and challengers
One of the best questions I was asked when setting up my company was “what sustains you as an entrepreneur? How do you thrive and flourish?” At the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and from my own experience too, we know that having interpersonal professional support, such as a strong network, is crucial to thriving. A mentoring relationship, in particular, is one of the most beneficial partnerships women can have as we build our businesses. Having a cheerleader and a challenger who supports you has been proven to sustain and support many of the women we work with at a time that is often very lonely. If you’re interested in becoming a mentee through the Foundation’s Mentoring Women in Business programme, you can find more information here. Likewise mentors too find enormous benefits, and companies can learn more here about how they can partner with us so that their workforce can experience being a mentor and all the good that brings.
As I head to my kitchen table this morning having poured a large cup of tea I am reminded that I can be productive in amongst the chaos, reimagine the future from my home, make good decisions despite the uncertainties and remember to reach out to my cheer leaders. I look forward to hearing your stories and learnings as we continue to navigate this time of crisis as know that we can make what may seem impossible, possible!
Are you a woman entrepreneur in a low or middle income country seeking to build your business’ resilience through COVID-19? We just launched a free, online programme to help you develop a plan to keep your business afloat — click here to find out more!