We caught up with Maseru through the Simbi online bartering platform. As a recent contractor and now full-fledged business provider, she shares some of her background with us.
What made you decide to start the business?
Shekinah Business Solutions is an online company that I started this year 2018. I am a professional female freelancer from Lesotho, Africa. I am a black woman who refused to let her environment and circumstances define her. When I started freelancing, I was located in the deep mountains of the nation and had to travel over an hour to get to a place with electricity to work. I was tired of the situation I was in, tired of accepting that just because I was born in a 3rd world African nation and lived in a rural village with lack of water and electricity I would amount to nothing.
My favorite time of day has become the blue hour. That time before dawn when in the distance you can see blue. A friend recently posted on Facebook about it — I had no idea that it had a name, but I love it! I LOVE SILENCE. I love silence a lot more than I should probably admit. With three kids in their tween & teens, I really appreciate that I wake up early without help and ENJOY being productive before anyone else is even up. I sometimes even get outside and enjoy the colors of that blue hour as, in my opinion, they are magnificent! There’s nothing like the silence coupled with the beauty of the world.
Living in south Florida we rarely get to open our windows or air out the house. This morning is different. The gusts wind rushing underneath the shutters that we closed in preparation for the storm that thankfully blew past us, is the only sound I hear in addition to the click, click, click of my keyboard. Each time the wind makes a noise that is similar to someone up and walking around the house I am distracted to look at the time and think, NO! THIS IS MY TIME! I used to feel selfish for these thoughts. I don’t anymore.
When I confirmed a sit-down interview date with Angela Lee last year, I didn’t realize quite how much of a headliner she was.
Looking for names of women under 40 who have successfully started their own companies, I found her in Entrepreneur Magazine, in the article “Six Innovative Women to Watch in 2015.”
When we set the interview date, I (wisely) decided to do some research, and found that Angela is not only the founder of 37 Angels, the investment community and training program for female investors. She’s also a publicly recognized business expert, highly sought-after on Bloomberg TV, CNBC, and Fox Business Network. If that wasn’t enough, she also serves as the Assistant Dean of Columbia University’s Business School, where she teaches courses in Leadership, Strategy, and Innovation. No big deal.
We had agreed to meet at her apartment, a post-war Columbus Circle complex, just as New York City began to melt into the swelter of summer. Taking a seat in an oval study room at the top floor of her building, my back faced both Central Park West and Lincoln Center.
This is a man’s world, and Kit Hickey, is trying to change that mantra, one dress suit at a time.
“We invent apparel,” she tells me, as we start our casual phone conversation about her company, Ministry of Supply, which she started three years ago.
Ministry of Supply is the Boston-based company that Kit and co-founders Aman Advani and Gihan Amarasiriwardena started while they were MBA students at MIT. They use the same technology that NASA uses to develop its space suits, in creating dress shirts that are designed for a better fit and greater comfort. To be specific, their shirts minimize perspiration and odor, and are also wrinkle-free.
But for the co-founder of a company that recently raised $1.1 Million in seed funding, Kit owes her confidence in board rooms to growing up being the only girl in a room full of boys. At her high school right outside Boston, she recalls feeling like the outsider on her otherwise all-male ice hockey team.
It has been 11 months of being a single founder of a startup. As I have spent several months, I learned about time management on how to do things when not everything is moving in a speed that I wanted. I have to be mindful on what I am doing. Here are a few learnings that I want to share.
Meta management of time
The money and time is one of the most valuable pieces in one’s life and this is more true for startup. Especially managing time is more challenging than others because of wearing many hats as a single founder. As a result, I give a extra thought on how I am spending my time and whether it is worth it or not. I call it as ‘Meta management of time’. I use morning time to decide what to work on and my meta management mainly consists of estimate.
When I start a task, I try to give an estimate and try to stick with it as much as I can. Giving estimate is a learning process though. As long as I am mindful and give a thought, I expect that it is going to get better. On picking up a task, I think of impact of result, this is also a try and error process because priority that I envisioned originally does not always turn out as I expected. I suspect the more I am aware and the better I will estimate.
Did you know that increasing female leadership in British business was a priority on the government level? That wasn’t merely words.
The former Prime Minister’s David Cameron administration called for an end to all-male boards of directors anywhere on the FTSE350 and set the goal of reaching 33% female representation on corporate boards by 2020.
Lord Davies, Parliamentary at the House of Lords, worked on the guidelines for ‘Improving the Gender Balance on British Boards’ program to voluntarily involve FTSE (Financial Times Stock Exchange) corporations in increasing number of women on top positions.
Remarkably, the program, launched in 2011, showed tremendous results by the end of 2015:
very month my clients at Big Door invite trending startups to show off their products to potential users, marketers, entrepreneurs, creators, and like minded individuals in an effort to gain user feedback (through Product Hunt). November’s meetup is even more significant since partnering with BRAID to feature female founded companies.
In witnessing the recent national divide, we are now being called “to build that better, stronger, fairer America we seek” (from Hillary Clinton’s Concession Speech for the 2016 Presidential Election). Part of that responsibility includes shining a light, with bullhorn in hand, on the neglected or suppressed.
For the past few months, our team has been visiting customers face-to-face, including a 33-year-old woman living in the slums of Chennai, India.
We’ve visited her every day in temperatures easily soaring above 100 degrees. (The locals call this peak summer season ‘agni natchathiram,’ the season of fire.) We’ve visited her in the pouring rain, when the alleys in front of her home have begun to flood. And we’ve visited her despite her mild scoldings — she’s as worried about ourhealth, when we’re outdoors in this extreme weather, as we are about hers. It’s all worth it, though, because we’ve finally gained her trust.
Building trust, not technology, is the most challenging aspect of our work at Tulalens, the social enterprise I founded. The women we work with have been failed by markets and the government. They live off of less than $2.50 per person per day in their household. They have rarely if ever been asked for feedback on a product or service in their life. Without the foundation of trust, we found that equipping millions of women with the crucial health information they needed through technology would be impossible.
Today is the first of a four-part series on why we believe that investments in women’s health should be more inclusive.
Nagavalli, our customer, works as a domestic helper at 9 homes every day. During her only window of free time, she cleans the house, spends time with her children and cooks them dinner. Her conviction that her two sons and daughter, aged 14, 10 and 8, can lead better lives than her overrides the hopelessness that she could easily succumb to.
“I want my kids to study well and not end up in a job like me. That’s all I want and nothing else.”
Her husband is a painter, who sometimes has work. He spends most of his income on alcohol, and gives Nagavalli the leftovers. This money can barely buy her a cup of coffee, she says. She wants to be independent of him, so she works to pay for their food, school tuition for her children and all other household expenses.
I’m a big fan of automation and have written about my attempts to build a Dexter-enabled chatbot that sends inspirational quotes (Chatbots Magazine, My Bot Beginnings).
Lately I’ve been exploring the tool ifttt.com and all the “applets” that are offered, in an effort to coordinate and organize and “push” the information I’m most interested in, to my Twitter feed at @FemaleFounders1
According to Twitter Analytics, in May 2017, I started out with about 1.6k in impressions and looking at historical data, I had about 160 followers. By end of July 2017, that is at 115k in impressions and 450 followers.
I am so inspired by the work of Veronika Scott and the team at the Detroit-based The Empowerment Plan. Join other female founders in making a donation to the non-profit here: https://www.crowdrise.com/female-founders/fundraiser/monicadear
In her own words, Scott “was inspired to start The Empowerment Plan when a class at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit challenged her to create a product to fill an actual need in her community.”
Since that initial research into the issue of generational poverty and homelessness, The Empowerment Plan, and the EMPWR coat was created.
The Empowerment Plan has produced and distributed over 15,000 coats in 40 US States and 7 Canadian provinces since 2011, and has employed 39 people in Detroit.
I invite you to join me in supporting The Empowerment Plan in their effort to use this model in other communities.
According to an American Express 2016 report, there are over 11.3 million women owned businesses in the U.S. that employ nearly 9 million people and generate over $1.6 trillion in revenues. However, women leaders starting their own business face significant barriers to growth — among the nearly 500 deals closed in the Fintech sector in the US in 2016, less than a dozen went to companies founded by women.
Let’s close this gap! Quesnay invites US-based women-led startups to apply to the Female Founders in Tech Competition- an opportunity that will help grow your company through funding, mentorship, visibility and access to decision-makers at corporations, investors, incubators and leading university experts. Female Founders is proudly sponsored by AARP, American Family Insurance, John Hancock, MassMutual, Microsoft, RGAx, TD Bank, Sterling National Bank, Thomson Reuters, Verizon, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich, & Rosati. The competition is also being supported by key fintech and insurtech thought leaders such as Andrea Silvello, Angela Lee, Ron Suber, Scarlett Sieber, and Theodora Lau. Apply at www.quesnays.com/competitions.
Interested in becoming a sponsor? Reach out using our inquiry form.
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Profitability is one of those big terms that seems scary to a lot of mission-driven entrepreneurs. It can get complicated when you’re talking about profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and cash flow. Then add your mission into the mix and it gets super overwhelming. Having a triple-bottom-line is definitely more than a single bottom line. That’s why I’m sharing these thoughts today. Profitability doesn’t have to be scary, complicated, or overwhelming.
Why Profitability is Important
Before we jump into breaking down profitability to its most basic simple equation, I want to say a few words about why profitability is important.
DC and Warner Brothers’ new Wonder Woman film has broken records and inspired movie goers across the world. The movie stars Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. The script was written by long-time comic writer Allan Heinberg, who has previously worked on Wonder Woman comics, and directed by Patty Jenkins.
From the get-go, Wonder Woman was already diversifying itself from the barrage of superhero movies being churned out in recent years — it was a live-action superhero film with a female lead AND a female director.
While most viewers might see the movie as pure popcorn entertainment (and there’s nothing wrong with that), entrepreneurs and business leaders can get a lot more out of it if they pay attention. You might be surprised at the insight and lessons hidden away in some of the scenes and themes of the film.
Here are just a few of the things you can learn from this amazing Amazonian warrior and apply to your own journey as an entrepreneur.
(Just a warning: there are some spoilers for Wonder Woman below. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you might want to bookmark this article and come back after you’ve watched this amazing film.)
So, how does it feel to be a woman working in digital innovation? This question has come up again and again since the inception of our company. The truth is, we’ve never defined ourselves as women entrepreneurs. Why should we begin characterizing our efforts and accomplishments as the summation of one genre?
My founding partner and I both have a passion for innovation that naturally led us to start our company. We never conceived of it as our heroic assault on some macho stronghold. All the same, we do concede that we’ve helped break up the monotony in this little enclave.
It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were a visible minority: two women under the age of 30. But what we hadn’t expected at the onset of our venture was the sheer force and persistence of a pernicious sexism, all buried under the guise of goodwill and a parade of clichés.
ID4A TECHNOLOGIES WAS NAMED ONE OF THE “BEST ENTREPRENEURIAL COMPANIES IN AMERICA” BY ENTREPRENEUR MAGAZINE’S 2016 ENTREPRENEUR 360™ LIST.
As we end 2016 on a very high note, I am reflecting on all the great achievements we made, the amazing people who joined our community, and the fruits of labor and growth that we acquired over months and years of persistent hard work with an outstanding leadership and team.
ID4A TECHNOLOGIES WAS NAMED ONE OF THE “BEST ENTREPRENEURIAL COMPANIES IN AMERICA” BY ENTREPRENEUR MAGAZINE’S 2016 ENTREPRENEUR 360™ LIST.
What countries have the highest percentage of women in business and on top positions? The ones you would never even think of.
When I moved to the United States, I was astonished by all the hardships women entrepreneurs go through in the world’s citadel of freedom and democracy. The US has always seemed to have all the prerequisites and plenty of opportunities for women to thrive. Though, I do not know any country 100% free from discrimination and sexism, this issue dominates the agenda in the United States more than anywhere else in the world.
This cognitive dissonance has been bothering many women I know here. It’s not easy to grasp what exactly is going on, who is at fault, and how to change the situation. Being a multicultural person myself, I treat every culture with great respect. It took me a while to see the American reality from an unbiased perspective.
I’m a woman. I’m also the Founder and CEO of a seed-stage startup.
Since my product is a professional network, sometimes I throw events so people can meet colleagues and other people in their industry.
I announced an event last week, and an interesting thing happened… while the percentage of women who use my product* is similar to the low percentage of women in the tech industry, the percentage of women who RSVP’d to the event is 41%.
That’s crazy high, right? Some random thoughts on why:
I work as a web developer at one of the oldest and largest organizations in the social entrepreneurship space. I’m relatively new to the crew, having moved in the last 18 months from the West Coast to the Washington DC area for this work.
I also make an effort to speak, write, and discuss about technology, women in tech, entrepreneurship, social justice, and the “triple bottom line.”
Me speaking at Philly Women in Tech 2015. I was tired of not seeing brown women on the panel, so I decided to join one.
My organization supports changemakers worldwide. Here in the United States some of the individuals we work with are focused on race, equality, justice, health, the eradication of societal ills, and other inspiring issues.
These last few months of discussion, action, and soul-searching about #blacklivesmatter (and more recently ideas about #diversityintech) have been weighing heavily on my mind, especially when thinking around the frame of “what can I do?”, especially within my position, within my organization.
I am one small person. Here are the questions I ask, of myself and others:
Being a Black female tech entrepreneur continues to be an incredible experience. In the midst of the crazy that is co-founding a company — I’ve been intentional about taking brief moments to reflect, celebrate and share.
Recently, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking about the impact that Black women have made in business and tech both in this country and globally. Far too often, our conversations focus on the missing…rather than the present.
In the 5 years since I’ve been officially venturing — the work of these 14 Black women specifically have continued to inspire me. To them, individually and publicly….I just wanted to say Thank You. …For being visible, for building in public and for daring to dream.
My hope is that we will continue to amplify each other’s work and publicly recognize those who inspire us and blaze a trail.
CEO, Kollective Mobile
Melinda Gates has spent the past 16 years seeding social change through the world’s largest private philanthropy, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She and her husband have presided over an endowment that has grown to $39.6 billion — and they’ve added Warren Buffett as a third steward. The foundation funds initiatives that aim to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty globally, as well as expand educational opportunities and access to information technology in the United States. But even with such a broad mandate, it can’t do everything.
So Gates is stepping out on her own. Though she’ll continue to work on the foundation, she’s building up a personal office to dedicate resources and attention to an issue of central personal importance: getting more women into tech — and helping them stay there.
I have an ongoing list of tips to help me remember how I want to behave. Any other suggestions? Add in comments or tweet me.
1) Realize that everyone has their own internal challenge with which they are dealing — empathy, kindness, and tolerance will go a long way to smoothing relationships. Patience. Generosity. Compassion.
2) When calling someone for an unscheduled talk, always identify yourself by name, position and organization (or relationship) and ask if now is a good time to speak . Keep calls short. Follow up via e-mail or text message. Reduce endless email loops — put all relevant information into a first e-mail.
3) Always, always say Please and Thank You.
4) Mark down people’s birthdays on the calendar and remember to send them a quick note on their special day.
5) Self-respect. Also, demonstrate respect for others’ bodies, abilities, gifts, and strengths/weaknesses. There is no “better than” or “worse than” — there are definitely people of varying talents — the challenge is in matching the person to the task at hand.
Recently, I have been interviewing several female founders of design and/or technology companies across Europe about their careers and experiences. They have spoken to me about a myriad of issues and obstacles they have encountered along their journeys. Some of these are due to the fact they are women, and some are not. However, there’s one very specific situation that I keep hearing about: when female founders are securing investment for their ventures, they are sometimes presented with an investor who a) questions them about their future family plans, framed as a concern for their company trajectory or b) flat out refuses to invest in that company because of the fact that, since the founder is a woman, she may one day become pregnant. These are not assumptions; pregnancy as disqualification has been readily, verbally admitted by the investors in question.