Lagging technological infrastructure and limited access to finance are just two of the many obstacles to regional and global expansion for Caribbean and African women entrepreneurs. Still some are able to overcome these challenges and successfully build businesses without borders.
Here are 8 tips from leading women in business for regional and international business growth.
Know yourself. Know your niche.
Lauri-Ann Ainsworth, CEO of the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship Caribbean, encourages women entrepreneurs to take some time for self discovery, introspection and recalibration. Once you know who you are, then you are best equipped to decide the market you are most suited to serve. This, she emphasizes, is the baseline for a sustainable business model that is grown through passion and purpose.
Connect and collaborate.
According to Dr. Shelly-Ann Gajadhar, the founder & CEO of a UK-based coaching business called Alphastute, “If you want to scale your business or enter new markets, you cannot do it alone… Identify best practices in your field or industry, and create a collaboration that is mutually beneficial to achieve the desired scalability. We must rid ourselves of the competitive mindset if we are to get ahead globally.”
Embrace culture and gender.
Michelle Chong is the co-founder and CEO of Honey Bun Limited, a 40-year-old wholesale bakery based in Jamaica. She is a strong proponent of fully embracing one’s cultural identity and allowing your culture to shine through in your products and services. Once this is done against a backdrop of adherence to global standards and proper governance and planning, Michelle believes the sky’s the limit for both regional and international opportunities for growth.
Maintain global awareness.
Trinidad & Tobago based fashion designer, Meiling Esau of her signature line Meiling, firmly believes in the importance of keeping your standards up to par with your global counterparts. “Pay attention. Don’t relax. Your competition is not what’s happening beside you, it’s what’s happening in the world. Keep moving and be relevant, but don’t follow trends. Pivot when you have to, and don’t get caught in a time warp. Always keep refreshing,” Meiling outlines.
Network, network, network!
Elizabeth Agboola is the founder of Nigerians Travel Too, a premier travel agency in Nigeria that has made a huge mark by actively creating international business connections to bolster global marketing. “Find the right support pillar and mentor so you make limited mistakes in the beginning,” she advises. From there, she stresses the importance of visiting the place you intend to scale in order to create viable connections.
Leverage the power of social media.
According to Meryanne Loum-Martin, the owner of Jnane Tamsna, a famous boutique hotel in Marrakech, Morocco, “Create a stylish platform that will be the image of your product. You can reach millions of people at minimal cost.” Social media is a tool that wasn’t available when she started, Meryanne reflects. It’s a tool that brings the world to entrepreneurs’ fingertips, she says, and can facilitate the same caliber of presence as major international brands.
Approach partnerships with an open mind.
Tiffanie Anderson, is the founder of Away to Africa, a travel company that provides small group tours throughout 12 countries in Africa. She suggests spending time in the countries you want to expand into, so you can immerse yourself in the culture and observe its nuances, as well as identify key players in business. “Have an open mind to create mutually beneficial relationships without thinking you are saving the business, country or continent,” Tiffanie says.
Nwabisa Mayema is the Strategic Partnerships Director at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship South Africa. After working with countless entrepreneurs, she has seen the toll entrepreneurship can take on people. Her important bit of advice is just to remember to have fun along the oftentimes difficult journey. “You’re going to make mistakes,” she says. “Laugh at yourself and understand that those mistakes are actually a part of the process.”