by Monity Odera, publisher and author of children’s books and OWIT Nairobi member
OWIT has given me a platform where I can share my experiences and learn from other business people not only in Kenya, but across the globe. I have been able to interact with fellow women and develop relationships and expand my networks – Evelyn Kasina, Eveminet Communication Solutions Limited
Availability of finance – up to Ksh 5 million without collateral – was a great boost for me as sometimes, it is just operating capital that you need to get going – Joan Njeri, Miamu Properties
For the very first time in OWIT’s history, a conference was being held on African soil. After a lot of lobbying and strategizing, Nairobi, Kenya was decided as the venue. It was with much joy, foreboding, anxiety and everything related that OWIT-Nairobi board members undertook to organising for the conference. Of course the organisation was without its drama as I later learnt at the Board meeting. Would they pull it off? Would it be a flop? Thanks to the leadership of Madam President, Mucha and her team, they did not just pull it off but it was a great experience. A big shout out to Eva too!
The conference was set. The speakers were confirmed; venue was confirmed and now what would happen if people did not turn up? Participant mobilisation begun in earnest …. Registration trickled in one here, one there. The conference registration was too expensive. Again, the Board members needed to work overdrive to get more sponsors to drive the cost even lower in keeping with the mantra, “Leaving no woman behind”. Thank you to the intervention of the international office and whoops! A big sponsor came in and finally the costs went really down.
Registration soared suddenly. Many people registered for the conference: 90 participants for the Capacity Building Workshop and 175 participants for the conference. It would be a good conference. This is where my story begins.
Workshop – 24th October 2018
I registered for the conference with the main reason of networking with women all over the globe. As I left my house, I felt inadequate. Did I have enough business cards to share? Would I make new friends? Establish new networks? Share experiences? Did I have the right pitch? My pitch is my story. No one can tell my story better than me. I know my story and if I exhibit passion for it, I will definitely have a listening audience. As I pitch, my focus should be on the value that I will give my customers. How will I be different from my competitors?
I had to keep reminding myself to get into my customers shoes. Empathise with them as I reframe my objectives.
Throughout the day, I learnt about strategically looking for partners in order to go global. Being a member of OWIT, I have access to many strategic opportunities. I made a note to grab these opportunities as WE ARE ALL GOING GLOBAL AND I’M NOT BEING LEFT BEHIND!
I could not wait for day 2!
Conference – 25th October 2018
There is no shame for me. I write my script as I go on. – Flora Mutahi
Its day 2. I have my pitch. I practised it the whole night. My story will introduce my brand. How would people perceive my brand? My brand is both corporate and personal. For my brand to be visible, I must tell a consistent story and consistently build it. My brand is neither my logo nor my product. It is the essence of the customer experience. My brand should have a voice that appeals to the heart.
The registration process was flawless. I got my name tag. I was no longer invisible, everyone could read my name – all the 175 participants. Now I needed the confidence. Did I have what it takes? Can I go global – with all the women in the room? How can I go global? To go global, I first need an export strategy. There is no shortage of information on strategies. I can get all this online. But I need a plan that clearly shows the activities to be undertaken by who, when, where and what. I should not be scared to go global. There is no force equal to a woman determined to rise – WEB Dubois. I am a woman. I am determined. I will take on the risk. Even when things do not look good, I will wake up, dress up and show up! But even as I go global, people will buy my product because of the quality and not because of gender.
Lunch time … this was the greatest test. I had a few minutes to make deals. How could I go about this? I needed the right pitch. I should have studied several agreements – AGOA, African Continental Free Trade Agreement, etc. Researching these agreements helps one to prepare for going global. Which products are granted preferential treatment? It was also very exciting for me that I could get credit of up to Ksh 5 million without collateral. How cool can things get? How can I take advantage despite my earlier misgivings? I met and networked with ladies from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Canada, Dominican Republic and the USA. It was amazing. We shared our contacts, experiences, best practices, failure, and successes, and agreed on areas of collaboration.
I went home a changed person. Actually it is my mind that changed. My mind had been my greatest challenge. My mind had said go – nothing would and will stop me.
Board meeting – 26th October 2018
I am in the board of governors of two secondary schools. I attended the board meeting to see if there are any improvements we can make to our boards. It was more than a normal board meeting. Congratulations to all those who received the various awards. I was very encouraged by Leslie, WIIT (NC). Though mourning her dad, she attended the conference as a tribute to him. He taught her two important things: 1) even a woman can be a shoe shiner – she was a shoe shiner at the age of 8 (basically what a man can do, a woman can do better. Sad reality though is that women start more businesses than men but bring in the least revenue); and 2) employees are your most important resource (we all know this but during down times we sacrifice a few for others. Let everybody feel the pinch and you got loyalty for life). Loyalty is driven by how people feel about you. It is an emotion. Emotions drive people and people drive performance.
It was an amazing two days for me. Thank you to the amazing business lady owners. Thank you to OWIT-Nairobi. Thank you to OWIT-International. Thank you to the sponsors. Thank you to the speakers and panellists. Thank you to Jen (who cornered me to write this article J). Karibu sana to the OWIT family – Nigeria and the Dominican Republic. Who knows – Uganda could be next. I definitely look forward to Florida – October 24 – 25, 2019. Save the date!