blessing abeng © I am Benue 2019

The 21st Century Entrepreneurial Woman

Business, Stories 8/07/2019 by Blessing Abeng

I was really glad when I was contacted to be the Keynote Speaker of this great event. When I got the mail, I was thrilled, even though I stressed the team a lot about the little things about picture choice, etc. I sweat the small stuff because it is the small stuff that makes the difference. The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra and not many people are willing to take on that extra. The extraordinary is a product of a commitment to excellence and consistency. In the end, that is what truly makes the 21st-century entrepreneur and if I stop here, I would believe that just committing to excellence and consistency would make all the difference and make you a Lifetime Century entrepreneur.

However, I should highlight that not everyone has to be an entrepreneur in terms of starting and running a business. However, everyone can be an entrepreneur in their own way by being enterprising with their jobs, their hobbies and more. Entrepreneurship is about adding value and making money, it doesn’t mean you have to run a business. So, don’t feel any pressure to delve into it, quit your job or be a startup, just because. Why? Because business transcends your talent or skill and demands structure, processes around sales, hr, management, finance and so many other things you may have no interest in. There are so many great women like Ibukun Awosika who worked and are still working for people.  Now she has a business, but she didn’t need one to make a difference.

But, if you have an interest in running your own business and you are a business owner, you already know it is not glamorous… Still, there are 7 great ways I will describe the 21st-century entrepreneurial woman, my 21st-century entrepreneurial woman, all based on things I have learned, experienced, have been, am, and becoming. This is a 7 pointer of my story, things you will probably never find on my bio, some I have never shared and as I share today,  I hope it inspires you to create your own dent in the world as you become the 21st-century entrepreneurial woman.

Also, read:

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  2. I am John Msughter LAN; CEO Chelsea Mobile Phones Nigeria
  3. If not now, when? If not you, who?

blessing abeng © I am Benue 2019

First, The 21st Century Entrepreneurial woman:

  1. Is a person:

    2 Love birds fell in love in Jos and after miscarriages, they birthed me. My father always wanted 1 child but my mum wanted 2 and she birthed another girl, my sister. People would ask her, how many children do you have, she’ll say 2, then they’ll ask, is that all? 2 girls? You don’t have a child yet o. Don’t stop trying… You need a boy… You need to ensure your husband doesn’t replace you… like children were a status currency. So, my mother will cry and say, you are my boys, you are my girls, you are mine. Lucky me, my dad felt that way too. He grilled me and made me realize that before male or female, I was a person and probably, that informed my empathy for humans in general. It fuelled my thought to respect people first till they prove they don’t deserve it. And this consciousness has helped me grow. You are a person, not a disadvantaged victim, a lesser being, a neck, a tail, a weaker vessel or anything less than a person. When you strip people down to their bone or see just their blood, at first glance you can’t tell if they were rich or poor, celebrities or beggars, etc. The fundamentals that keep us alive are the same. You are a person. The sooner you believe it, the better. This will guide you as you make other decisions, develop your confidence and confront life. You, my darling are a person. When you embrace this concept, you would realize that treating people with kindness is easier, taking care of yourself stops being a guilt exercise, because like everyone else, you are a person!

  2. Is Courageous:

    Now that I knew I was a person, I was bold but still, fear lurked around. I was afraid to leave Abuja to Imo, to leave the cushion my family accorded me to move to Lagos, to put all of my life savings into Orange Academy and improve my skill. What exactly was I afraid of? I had no house, no money, no plans to stay with relatives, just a goal. The truth is I was afraid of No. I was Afraid of rejection! I was afraid of failing. I was afraid of my parents laughing at me. I was afraid of what people would say. But every time I have done it afraid, I have either learned or won and I learned the power of Courage. It is not the absence of fear, but the will to “DO’ in spite of fear. It is asking yourself, what would happen if I do it? What would happen if I don’t do it? Which is a more powerful question. How I have gained courage is simple, well not that simple – I hate not Knowing, so I would rather know what it feels like and learn from it, thank not know at all. If your dreams scare you, then great!!! Do it afraid! Be courageous! No will not kill you. No cannot kill you! It is an opportunity to learn. No is not a failure, failing is not a failure. Failure is running away from trying, Failure is giving up whether or not you have started. So don’t stay down, keep trying. Try a million different things, a million different ways and make an impact. There are destinies tied to yours. If not for your sake, for their sake, be courageous.

  3. Is a Learner:

    As I said earlier, I hate not knowing. In my very short life, I have been an accountant, a designer,  a curator, a dancer, a lazy person, a content creator, a presenter, a podcaster, a community manager, a salesperson, a writer, a poet, an author, a whole lot of things, why? Because I am constantly learning. Learning about myself and learning new skills. You never know where they will come in handy. Nkemdilim Begho of Futuresoft said to take 30 minutes every day to learn something new. I have practised it and it has helped me. Unconsciously society has segmented the skills they teach men and the things they teach women. Outsmart the society. Learn anything and everything. Learn negotiating skills, learn confidence, learn financial skills, learn anything and everything. Negotiating skills are very critical, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate. Learn to be confident, bring value to the table, gun for win-win situations, be bold, be daring, be empathic, be a power negotiator, take that fierceness our mamas taught us in the market and bring it to the board room. Learn.  Learn from your mistakes, learn from people, learn from books, online courses, newsletters, learn from everyone and everything. Filter your learning. Learning is only complete when you implement and practice. A critical part of learning is unlearning. Don’t be afraid to edit parts of your life as your value evolves. Don’t stick to traditions or beliefs that are wrong, just because you want to stick to your word. You are more credible when you admit you are wrong. Unlearn the things that hold you back e.g. “Sorry” apologizing for who you are, your existence… sorry, you’re in my way. Learn words like thank you and excuse me and only use sorry when you are genuinely apologizing. Follow the sorry up with how you may have wronged the person (why you are apologizing) and actions you will take to ensure next time is better. That way, you would have genuinely apologized. In all, be committed to learning and unlearning.

  4. Is a Catalyst:

    There are different types of people in life, the subtractors, the dividers, the adders, and the multipliers. Subtractors and dividers take away from you, they are energy drainers, discouragers, “bad vibers”, always draining you financially, physically, emotionally and every other “ally” in different measures. While Adders and Multipliers are believers. They believe in you, your dreams, and take steps to help you get closer to your goals. Scroll through your contact list and segment your top ten friends into these categories, then gradually dissociate from the subtractors and dividers. Then, Ask yourself – Who are you? Which are you? Do people get better by just being around you? Do people grow around you? Are you a person of value, a person of impact, a giver, an adder, a multiplier, a catalyst for growth. Value should exude from you, anywhere you are even social media. Be a giver. Add to people. Give first and most times expect nothing in return. Just give because it makes you feel good as a catalyst. I promise you, the dots will connect. When I first came to Lagos, I met Lemi Ghariokwu while I was doing my first job in Lagos. I was to interview him and I had no clue who he was. I did a quick research and realized, he was the guy who designed Fela’s album covers. I discovered he got lots of attention from both national and international press but he didn’t have a website. So, I spoke to him and asked why. He told me all about the people who had scammed him in the guise of designing a website. I took my phone, bought a domain name and hosting, a week later, his site was ready at no cost. He was so overjoyed, he insisted on paying for the domain and hosting. He felt loved because I listened and I helped. To be able to help, you need to listen to the needs of others. Give knowledge, give what you have. Give what you can, but remember, you need to first have what you give and that’s why having the knowledge and Learning is important. That’s why having the courage to give, to teach is important. That’s why being your own person and having confidence is important. It makes being a catalyst easier.

  5. Is a tribe woman:

    She has a village of women she supports and supports her too. She is surrounded by a close circle of adders and multipliers. She is consistently hyping people in her tribe. She has accountability partners, sounding boards, people she is committed to growing with. Can in point – Toke & Anita Brows. Who is in your tribe. Don’t be that woman who wants to be the “only woman in a place”. It’s okay to be the first, but fight not to be the only, because that is how you truly make a difference for the womenfolk. Also have men in your tribe, who share your values and vision. People who you can hold accountable. Be dedicated to communities like this one, Startup Grind, communities that you love, that you can relate to and grow with. This is where networking comes to play. But I’ll teach you the secret sauce of networking – Gun for relationships, not just business cards. Gun for quality, not quantity. Make an impression by being a giver. Most things I have gotten in this life has been as a result of giving, most times not expecting anything back in return. However, don’t just dash things without recognizing the value of that person to your life. Be a catalyst in the community. Nobody likes a parasite. Be a symbiote. The question is, who is your tribe?

  6. Is anything she wants to be:

    As a community, people box people into believing there are things they have to be. The question is who are you really? I believe who we are is a journey. We don’t have the right to tell anyone who we want them to be. We can suggest but not force. It is unfair to victimize housewives for being caretakers, that might be how they find fulfilment. It is unfair to victimize career moms because they dare to do it all. It is unfair to victimize single mums, women who never want to get married, women who never want kids. It is unfair to victimize anyone based on our worldview, we have no comprehension of their journey, who they are now because they are a product of experiences and environment. So, when you see a woman, who has made a choice to be a thing, support her. Suggest. Drop your opinion and walk away. And Vice versa, filter what comes to you too. Take suggestions, filter them. Not everything applies to you. Yesterday, Adaora said, Gary V and Oprah can say 2 opposite things and they are both right, just take the one that matches your vision for your life. Picture your future, what’s in it? Don’t dumb it down? What truly makes you happy? And this is not about comparison, shoes, bags and all. It’s great to look good for yourself but not so you can compete with Tola… If all factors and comparison were alienated, what would truly make you genuinely happy? Think about it and make this a goal, distil it… be whoever you want to be in spite of what people think and societal norms. Detach yourself from labels and just do you. If there are women among us whose parents or husbands say no to their choices when it comes to being who they want to be, be rest assured that it is not out of malice. It is out of love and good intentions. Still, results always humble naysayers. This is a good time to mention the crucial role your life partner plays in your life. My partner is Uwem. He is my cheerleader and I am his. I was very clear about my future and I needed to know he was on board. Be sure you share similar values and complement each other’s strengths and most importantly you truly love this person and you are committed to their growth.

  7. The 21st-Century Entrepreneurial Woman Is You.

    Who you are is a journey. It is a limbo between who you were and who you are becoming. Learn from who you were and invest and guide your present on the path to who you are becoming. She is YOU!

blessing abeng © I am Benue 2019
When the bible discussed Proverb 31 woman, it went on to describe a million things that a woman should be and ended up giving one thing that supersedes it all. So, see this as a Proverb 31 kind of guide, there are 7 great ways I will describe the 21st-century entrepreneurial woman but above all else, she is a product of consistency and excellence. She is YOU!

Talk at Lagos Women Will Yaba, A Google Business Group event. June 29, 2019. This article was originally published on Blessing Abeng

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