When it comes to starting a business, African women tend to struggle more than their male counterparts. Research shows that female prospecting business owners experience more problems in terms of securing funding. Other challenges include a lack of a support network due to the fact that the world of entrepreneurship largely remains a man’s world. That is why Nwabisa Mayema and Nicci Stewart from South Africa set up nnfinity, to help fellow female entrepreneurs reach for the stars and beyond. We chatted to Nwabisa, a Scholar at the Aspen Institute, about their journey so far.
Q. Please tell us about nnfinity, in your own words
A. We founded nnfinity with the purpose of creating social capital for female entrepreneurs. Besides money and talent, one of the most critical factors to ensure sustainable business growth is for that business to be part of a connective ecosystem. This ecosystem should allow for the exchange of ideas, people, money, advice, and experience. The purpose of nnfinity is to grow women-owned African businesses by providing this ecosystem.
Q. What are your key services? What type of clients do you serve?
A. Our key services are consulting services to women-owned businesses, including public speaking training and coaching through our SpeakerBox programme. This is a 10-session coaching trajectory that grooms female entrepreneurs into a stage-ready professionals with a clear personal and professional narrative which they can use to grow through audience engagement. We also assist entrepreneurs to understand the workings of their businesses and set them on course to achieve their vision. Our aim for the future is to move into the investor matching space.
Q. Please tell us more about you Growth Maker Programme?
A. The objectives of the Growth Maker Programme is to give women entrepreneurs access to learning opportunities by matching them with other female entrepreneurs, connect women business owners to peers outside of their own operating environment, and afford women the opportunity to grow in a market outside of their current operating market.
Q. You have been selected as one of the 67 SMEs to benefit from the Colourworks 67 Logos Designathon. How important is this to you?
A. Setting up a new business is challenging. Being selected as one of the 67 SMEs to benefit from the 67 Logos Designathon is an incredible milestone for nnfinity. It came at a time when we had become so much clearer about who we were and how we wanted to do things. It is a great confidence boost! I hope this will allow for nnfinity to be an even more recognisable and trusted stakeholder in the entrepreneurship landscape.
Q. What has been the most challenging thing in terms of setting up and running nnfinity? How did you overcome these challenges?
A. Staying true to our vision whilst keeping an eye on the bank account was a challenge. Knowing that we had to exercise the utmost patience to distil our vision into a practical and attractive service offering has also been a challenge. Luckily Nicci and I are very honest with each other. We have had difficult conversations, and we have always offered one another a way out of the partnership. As a business, we also asked for help. We receive mentoring and coaching, and we took time out from the business to break it apart and check if things still made sense or not. Our last exercise was a day-long affair in Johannesburg. It brought much clarity.
Q. What has been the highlight?
A. That has been travelling abroad with Nicci for nnfinity. Our last trip together saw us discuss our business in the subways of Vienna, Austria.
Q. What are your three tips for women exploring the entrepreneurial space?
1. Check your sense of humour because you will need to laugh at yourself and not take things too seriously. You will make mistakes.
2. Sleep. Don't buy into that silly notion of "grind whilst they sleep". You will need all the sleep you can get to churn through the surprises that will come your way.
3. Believe in something: your God, magic, or the universe. Put in all the work but also dare to believe that something else will take care of the rest.
Q. Where do you see yourself and nnfinity in five years from now?
A. The aim is to grow nnfinity into a successful impact business that operates across Africa. The strategy is to grow the business fast so we can learn through the rigours of accelerated growth.