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Lessons from Kilimanjaro

“Every mountain top is within reach if you just keep climbing.”

— Barry Finlay, Kilimanjaro and Beyond

Establishing a business is really not for the faint-hearted. It requires faith, stamina, and perseverance. In essence…it is more of a mental challenge to overcome than anything else.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with a remarkable lady about two years ago, on Women’s day, to be exact. Here is an extract from my Facebook post a few days later.

On Women’s Day, I attended an awesome event in Sandton, Johannesburg. I was shown to my seat at table 6. A part of me wondered who I might be seated next to.
The first lady guest arrived. She sat on my left. We immediately connected and chatted away. Another lady (slightly older than me) came to sit next to me to my right. She introduced herself and we struck up a conversation. A few minutes later, I recognized the next guest. I heard her speak at another event about a month ago, and learned that she had just climbed Kilimanjaro successfully! As she introduced herself, I jokingly called her “the Kilimanjaro lady”! We had a great laugh. Then the lady seated on the right calmly said: “I also did Kilimanjaro…about 15 years ago.” Wow! What a coincidence? That two women who both climbed the highest mountain in Africa would sit next to me?

I was fascinated and bombarded the older lady with all kinds of questions. Her answer, in short, was: “It is definitely more of a mental challenge than it is physical. I didn’t train as hard physically as some of my other team members, and many of them succumbed to the pressure and quit. But I was mentally prepared on so many levels, and that is why I made it!” I was stunned. It dawned on me that as an Entrepreneur, I am climbing my own Kilimanjaro.

So here are the lessons I learned at that table on Tuesday:

1. I am overcoming challenges in my business every day, by using my mental health and well-being. If you have never been an entrepreneur, you would never understand the pain and frustrations we go through. Whether we have chosen to follow this path willingly or not, it requires constant problem-solving skills and a level of presence. I voluntarily choose to get up every morning because I believe in my dream of building a legacy and business that will benefit the greater mankind. That lady chose to tackle Kilimanjaro by putting one foot in front of the other and pushing herself to achieve her dream. I too am choosing to put one foot in front of the other all the way to the summit!

2. Women are the most amazing beings. They birth, they feed, they clothe, they nurture, they cry and weep, but they also laugh and conquer! I am so honoured to be surrounded by so many great women. My Moms, my sisters, my girlfriends and my fellow women entrepreneurs. And at that table, I was surrounded by greatness!

Surround yourself with people who believe in you and motivate you. We women cannot help but build and we choose to build together!” If that was the only reason I had to attend that event…I have learned very valuable lessons. Now I must mention that I have no plans to climb Kilimanjaro anytime soon! But respect to those who have! But I will keep climbing!

Originally published on: http://www.lionessesofafrica.com/blog/lessons-from-kilimanjaro

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Confronting the friendly giant called “The Media”

The media sometimes comes across as a scary monster. Being a visual thinker, I always imagined it to be a big creature sitting behind a desk chewing papers. To sum it up in one word…it seemed intimidating. As of late and out of my personal experience as an entrepreneur, I can safely say…the media is and can be a friendly giant. 

The perception exists that the news and media only focus on the bad and scandalous bits of the day, however, they also want to feature good news. If you have a newsworthy article or product, they want to hear from you. Maybe you are not visible enough!

I want to share a few tips from my experience as an entrepreneur approaching the media over the last few years:

1. Make a list of the media platforms you would like to be featured on – tv, print, blogs, newspapers, etc. Study them and see what kind of content they feature.

2. Do an e-introduction. Start by sending a short email, introducing yourself and your business. Follow this up with a telephone call. Find an angle to introduce your product or service to them. Maybe quote an excerpt from an article and use that as an entry point to the discussion.

3. Cultivate the relationship. Be honest and friendly. Do not exploit their position by submitting content that is offensive or of no value. Always submit content that would add value to their subscribers and readers.

4. Ask what they want and need. The media industry work according to planned schedules and you can use this to your advantage. They have themes for each print and if they are willing, ask them for a list of their themes for the year so you can be better prepared when launching a new product.

5. Supply them with high res images of your product and good copy. Would you believe me if I told you the pic below was taken on my bed with a smart phone? With a little light and imagination (and some editing), I managed to take a product picture that I could send to a magazine and they featured it! If you can, pay a photographer to take good quality pictures. Good pictures will assist you in getting new customers and following!

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6. It helps when your product has a great back story i.e. of creating employment, rags-to-riches, etc. As a Social Entrepreneur, the story of my life and business is all about restoring both products and people. So, tell your story and how you are impacting the world in a positive way. People want to know the person behind the product.

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7. Focus on the human element. If your business has a strong social message, proclaim it! Use your voice to raise relevant issues of the day. For example, I have decided to use my designs and products to raise awareness regarding my opinions. Instead of venting about it on social media, I now let my products talk for me, in a more constructive manner.

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8. If at first, you don’t succeed, try again. Listen to their advice and criticism. Ask them to give you advice on how to improve your submission for the next time.

9. Be visible on social media. Much of my media coverage has come because I am consistently visible on social media, my blog, and other on-line platforms. Possible investors and journalists are always on the look-out for potential and if you’re active on the web…they will find you! Be sure to have a consistent message throughout. Also, consider what you say! It can either benefit you or be to your detriment!

As business owners, we wear many hats, and whether we like it or not, being our own public relations people is one of them. Building healthy relationships with editors of newspapers and magazines is crucial, especially more so when you have a physical product to present to the market. The same applies for on-line news platforms and radio. 

Get over your fear, and start by contacting them today!

First appeared on Lionesses Of Africa

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6 Easy ways to apply creativity to your business

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When I get a creative idea, it feels like the inside of my brain is having a fireworks display. Little pockets of colour and excitement explode non-stop and the only way to calm this euphoric sensation is by executing my idea. Sometimes it is easy to bring the idea to life, sometimes the execution becomes an experiment. Either way, I love this process. It allows me to explore unchartered territory, or even unusual ways of doing things.

In business, creativity is non-negotiable. In fact, I would dare to say…you cannot build a successful business or brand without it. I believe many businesses struggle because they have not struck a balance between good business practices and creativity. Not just creativity in the sense of a creative product, but applying creative thinking and creativeness in every area in business.

It is imperative that we constantly find creative ways of selling and building our brand. If we want to stand out from the crowd, we need to be different. Being different requires ingenuity. Standing out sometimes means swimming upstream.

A great example of constantly applying creativity in business is the Sir of business himself – Richard Branson. He has built an empire based on creativity and resourcefulness.

Let’s look at the word, creativity:

Creativity – the ability to create; the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness

Guess from which source I derived the above meaning? You guessed it, Google! One of the most creative companies of the modern-day world.

In my own business, I have to constantly look at new and creative ways of growing my brand and business.

Let us look at 6 easy ways of boosting creativity in your business…

1. Creative thinking

Take time during the day and dedicate it specifically to creative thinking. A practical example could be to keep an idea box. Write down your ideas (even if they seem far-fetched), and regularly re-visit them. Keep this box in a communal area and encourage your employees to use this system to also encourage team spirit.  Do not allow the box to gather dust! Open it at your weekly team meetings and try to apply at least one of these ideas per month. You could also keep it anonymous to refrain from judgmental tendencies.

2. Play area

Dedicate a communal area in your office for them to relax and “play” in. Make it as interesting and stimulating as possible with bold wall colours and comfortable seating. A great example of this is again Googleplex in California. It is a place of complete delight and bliss. According to research, creating an interesting environment for staff members will also decrease absenteeism. Research also shows that mental breaks and playtime increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.

3. Revisit product/service

Revisit your product or service and gauge it in the market. Study your competitors as well as general businesses who are reaching success in the market. Come up with new ways of selling your product to the market. I recently visited Expresso, South Africa’s first R10 coffee shop. It is a brilliant concept that sells great quality coffee and pastries at only R10 per serving!  I immediately fell in love with the brand as I find comfort in the fact that everything in store is R10. As a consumer I could feel the tangible generosity of the brand as I am receiving great value, at a great price!

4. Give them web-time

Yes! Allow them to play on the internet for a certain amount of time per day to research sales strategies and study the brand giants. Web platforms like Google and YouTube can be very resourceful to small businesses especially. We all use the phrase “Google it”. Although we do not encourage employees to spend hours upon hours playing senselessly on the internet, your business and sales can benefit exponentially from this exercise, done within limits.

5. Appoint a CCO (Chief Creative Officer) 

Give this informal title to your most creative employee. This is not a formal job position. It gives room for the staff member to constantly seek creative solutions. This could be a roving title as it spreads the responsibility and also motivates team spirit. Allow this person regular access to different departments to see how the operations work. This promotes transparency and allows them to find creative suggestions for streamlining operations and sales.

6. Forget about budget

Yes, I said it…forget the numbers! Do not let the lack of money and resources dampen your ideas or strategy. Most small business owners struggle with working capital and this can be quite disheartening. You are not alone…cheer up! Instead opt to implement the same idea with the money and resources available. If the idea is really good and you see benefit in it, try and raise the money to roll it out. Or put it on the back burner till you have the cash!

Because I sell a physical product, I need to apply creativity above all else when I design a new furniture piece. I pride myself on designing unique and exclusive items, thus I have to apply some of these above-mentioned ways to bring my designs into being and to market.

As in life, there are no guarantees, except if you diligently apply them, and almost force yourself out of your comfort zone, your business will start seeing growth.

As I mentioned earlier, fireworks are synonymous with celebrations and milestones. So my conclusion is that your creative ideas should be celebrated. They need to be brought to life…by you!

Lizl Naude is the founder of Lilly Loompa in South Africa, a company that creates beautiful and usable furniture pieces made with recycled material. Lilly Loompa’s “Rubbish Range” is the result of Lizl’s craving to deliver pieces that are completely “green”. Lizl is a self taught designer and started designing and making furniture because she couldn’t afford to buy new pieces to furnish her home. She started to scout and source for budget material and quickly realised that most people discard of very usable materials. This led to her building and designing beautiful furniture items that she used in her home.

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM |  Read Lizl’s startup story here.

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