Lessons From The #SheStartedIt Documentary & Panel Discussion at MEST Africa

Written by Nancy Ewurum and Hazel Apondi

As part of the #SheStartedIt documentary encouraging young women to go into STEM, these are five lessons gleaned from each of the females featured in the documentary:

Stacey Ferreira:

Stacey was a first time founder at 18 years. She ventured on her first successful startup idea with her brother. Things weren’t too smooth afterwards. We see from her experience that even your closest confidant and family can give up on you. It can be heartbreaking when no-one believes in your idea, but that is not the time to quit. Delay if you must but giving up is never an option. The entrepreneurial space is not a friendly space especially for young females but with grit and determination, Stacey was able to stick to her passion.

Thuy Truong:

Thuy’s story is about the most inspiring I got from the documentary. Being in Silicon Valley is one thing. Being a foreigner in Silicon Valley is a totally different ball game.Her accent made it difficult for potential investors to hear or understand what her product is all about. No-one bought into her idea and the idea kinda collapsed. What did she do? She started another. She believed in herself and what she can do. She believed that she can make products that Google hasn’t even thought about and that propelled her to come up with another idea which thrived better than the first.

Brienne Ghafourifaur:

Brienne emphasised the importance of knowing your craft and being confident about it. So you’re able to clearly communicate to whoever, wherever or whenever called upon.

All in all, none of their journeys have been smooth sailing. They’ve had to overcome obstacles along the way. What’s so inspiring is that they all chose to not let their circumstances define who they are or how far they can go. They all maximized what they had in the moment in their immediate environs and created something beautiful out of the process.

After the movie, we had an engaging and informative review in tandem with a Q&A session. The audience shared takeaways and challenged each other with thought provoking questions. This was under the guidance of a panel of six ambitious women, who stop at nothing in pursuit of their entrepreneurship dreams.

Key points raised by the panelists and audience.

Pitch your ideas whilst there. Cliche as it is starting to sound, networking is very important; go out, meet and know people

  • Urgent vs important: The need to focus on the most important things now.

Do one thing at a time. We tend to lose sight of our goals when there is distraction around us.

To consistently move forward, you need to have the vision and end in sight. Know the importance of progress and process. Do not discount any over the other without proper basis.

  • Create value:

Businesses ultimately need to sell their products or services to users. So focus on your customer. Don’t waste your time on things that are not in line with what you do. Create value that people would gladly pay for.

  • Persevere:

The statistics of 9/10 entrepreneurs fail aside, entrepreneurship generally involves a lot of hope and strong belief in times of unpopular opinions. As one of the panelists so rightly put it, we are all creators. Valiantly working to bring our visions to life. Expect to hear a lot of productive and detrimental noise. At the end of the day, believe in yourself. Share that strong belief in self with your team and even customers. Most importantly, don’t give up when you fail. Change tactics if you must.

  • Do your best:Remember, there’s always a way.

Do the best you can now with what you have. Don’t wait for a perfect time, situation or environment. You may never start or do anything at that!

Understand your value and present it boldly. You are only limited by the walls you confine yourself in. Get and create jobs by merit and not favor. You’re not meant to be hired just to fill some quota, balance some ratios or save face.

  • Mentoring:

There are so many unsung African women setting out, working towards shattering the glass ceiling, pushing limits and persevering in spite of setbacks every now and then. Find these phenomenal women if whatever they’re doing is in line with your aspirations. Learn from their experiences and tap into their networks. To all phenomenal women out there more than willing to guide mentees, keep up the great work!

  • Build on your strength:

Where the focus goes energy flows. Do what you love. Else do something that ultimately paves the path to what you love.

As Akua so rightly put it, “You do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!”

A challenge to all attendees is to evangelize to everyone else. We need to encourage more girls, especially in Africa to pursue STEM. Most of the panelists related instances when they were the only if not one of the few ladies in the room. Where are all the other women? It is up to you and I to ensure that as we rise, we lift another girl with us. Don’t watch your sisters or brothers stuck and carry on without a care.

Nuggets of insights from that spark to write & create stuff…