Equal opportunity and equal treatment in the labour market are at the core of decent employment. Unfortunately, women in South Africa and around the world still face additional challenges that hinder them from accessing employment.
Even once employed, they face discrimination when applying for more senior, decision-making roles.
According to Stats SA, Q1 of 2021 revealed that 34% of unemployed people were women versus 31% men, and that more women (56.2%) than men were still being discouraged from getting a job, never mind starting their own business.
The pandemic has certainly shown us that the way life used to be is not how it can continue, which is especially true for women in the workplace and with fewer jobs to compete with male counterparts for, perhaps it’s time women consider pursuing their own startup.
Simone Musgrave is the founder and owner of Musgrave Crafted Spirits. She has an incredible eye for spotting trends and is passionate about collecting and creating beautiful things.
She began her career journey working for a retail brand but after being retrenched, realised her dream by returning to be her own boss. She shares her advice about starting a business as a woman in South Africa, so more women can begin to take charge of their own financial futures.
Coming up with a great business idea
Many people get stuck on this point. So instead of trying to brainstorm business ideas that could make you money or that you have experience in, first try to figure out what consumers need and find a way to solve it.
Also consider what excites them and figure out how you can make a difference in their lives. Then tap into your own talents and passions and see if this is something you can do and offer as a solution.
As a trendwatcher in the food industry in my previous company, I knew I had a knack for spotting up and coming trends. And so, I paid close attention to what was happening in this sector and for anything I could bring to South Africa that would make an impact and be an opportunity for a business.
My idea to start a gin brand was born out of my understanding of brands and product. Ideas are essentially things you feel and understand rather than sit down and create.
If your passion, product, and idea has been given all your energy and thought, then the money will come. You must worry about making money from your idea. This is always a consideration in any idea.
Embrace business fundamentals
Not understanding money can quickly result in the downfall of your business. And don’t try to kid yourself, many men also don’t understand how to handle money. The best thing I ever did was to employ someone who could help me, and make sure you are being honest about your own capabilities.
Ask for explanations a million times but make sure you understand your costings and margins. Once money begins to come in, don’t be in too much of a rush to grow too quickly either. This is what many entrepreneurs are inclined to do, as it can feel empowering to have your own money.
But I recommend building up your business slowly, and not having a lot of overheads. Some people rush off and spend a lot of money on building an elaborate website, or on office space and furniture too, even before they have any customers. Don’t do this.
Keep it simple and negotiate yourself into the best deals always. Ask for terms, ask for less all the time. One of my rules is to never give away consignment stock as this can destroy your cash flow. A deal is only worth it if it works on your terms and your capabilities.
Step into your power
Trying to be a man is a waste of a woman and what women have that is unique and powerful is their femininity. Even though women have made strides in the workplace, they are still not backing themselves enough and they seem to think they need to be just as good as men if not better.
Owning your femininity is how you’ll distinguish yourself as a leader and a business owner and will set you on the right path for future success.
There are sadly many men who are intimidated by powerful women and who will try to discourage you on your path to financial independence and even stop you from pursuing your business ideas.
If confronted with this situation the best thing you can do is to avoid trying to beat them by being like them, and rather tap into what is essentially your own superpower: femininity.
Women are in fact naturally gifted leaders thanks to their brilliant ability to multi-task. They can get a lot more done in a fraction of the time. Believe in yourself and you will go far.
Finding opportunities in a world dominated by men
It might feel like there is a solution for everything, and there are no unique business ideas left for you to tap into. I feel that the opportunity lies in finding ways to make people feel free and in charge of their own choices.
We are so disempowered by governments globally that where we can feel we are making our own choices is where the opportunity lies by producing products and offering services that give us freedom to feel empowered.
In the case of my business, I launched Musgrave Pink Gin to appeal to women and their love of beautiful things in a category that is classically male dominated. It worked because it made women feel empowered.
Remember that people buy with their eyes and emotions so if you can tap into that and try to create happiness and excitement you may just having a winning formula.
Owning your own financial future is freedom, and its about time more women step into their power and take control of their destinies. Every single one of us is capable.