How women entrepreneurs can survive and thrive in 2021

Irene Ochem, AWIEF Founder and CEO/ My immediate advice to entrepreneurs is to build personal and financial resilience as we enter Year Two of the pandemic.

With the start of a new year and a second year in the midst of a global crisis, it is business unusual and we need to think differently in order to survive and thrive. Women entrepreneurs need to be agile and responsive and learn to adapt short-term business strategy, without losing sight of their long-term strategy.

We must be able to adapt during times of crisis. We need resilience right now. Keep going, face it, resist and work harder. We also need to surround ourselves with people who will inspire and motivate us. Networks are even more critical during these times.

Last year at the Africa Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF), we had to pivot rapidly, moving our annual AWIEF conference and awards online, with great success, to a two-day event with speakers from all over the world and participants from all over Africa. The AWIEF Community was also launched as a digital space for women entrepreneurs to join a thriving network of women entrepreneurs sharing ideas and experience; and where focused discussions and forums can take place.

Launching the AWIEF Community was part of our strategy which we fast-tracked due to COVID-19 to provide an essential networking space for women entrepreneurs online.

Women entrepreneurs have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. My immediate advice to entrepreneurs is to build personal and financial resilience as we enter Year Two of the pandemic: spend less; focus on critical costings; and manage cash flow better.  Look out for opportunities for financial support as a business owner, be it Government incentives, or opportunities within your industry sector. Building that financial resilience means identifying those costs that you can do without.

We should be creative thinkers and not afraid to jump into new things or talk to people who can help us; lean on our networks for support and encouragement.

Times of great global crisis are often followed by periods of accelerated innovation and invention. These pandemic years may have a negative impact now, but they are also creating opportunities as people move online, with e-commerce, with health innovation, and with new solutions for education. We are currently seeing more African-born, Africa-relevant innovations.

Finally, we must practice self-care to nurture our mental well-being during prolonged turbulent times such as these. As women entrepreneurs, we do not have a corporate machine behind us of systems and support.

My message is clear: Don’t give up!

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