CSIFinancial Planning

Mentoring women entrepreneurs amid COVID-19

By: Patricia Nzolantima, Bizzoly Holdings

“We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice.” – John C. Maxwell

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, serial entrepreneur and founder of Bizzoly Holdings, Patricia Nzolantima, is calling for mentors to help entrepreneurs spot real opportunities that make a difference in their communities. The Africa regional honouree for the 2020 YPO Global Impact Award says now is the time to make a profound impact. To inspire each other to have more humanity, think differently and take time to listen and reflect. Periods of significant change hold massive potential. Now is the moment for mentorship so small businesses can not only survive but thrive.

Nzolantima is a formidable force. She co-founded one of sub-Saharan Africa’s first ever marketing agencies; is a member of Harvard University African Studies’ Executive Committee; founded Ubizcabs, which focuses on women taxi drivers; started the Working Ladies  & Women In Africa (WL-WIA)  Hub empowerment initiatives; began Coding Girl to teach teenage girls to code; and joined the Young African Leaders Initiative. A person of boundless initiative, she also makes time to mentor businesswomen from around the world.

She says online mentorship is crucial amid social distancing efforts. “Life is not easy. We can all see what’s happening economically. I’m taking this opportunity to reflect. I know the lessons I’m learning now will be valuable to others.” One of the biggest lessons to learn from Nzolantima is her ability to adapt. Currently, she’s using her transport business to deliver the essentials people desperately need. In doing so, she ensures business continuity and answers a critical demand in her community.

“During a crisis, it’s about doing things differently; making some changes in order to give back. These are things I’ve learned from my mentors and hope to pass on to my mentees.” SMEs need to be nimble. “Don’t be scared. Meditate and consider how you can control the situation. Think about where you want to be in six months’ time. What are the next steps? How can the current situation make you more efficient? How can you really make an impact?”

Here is the advice Nzolantima is giving to her businesswomen mentees around the world right now:

  1. Be focused: “When you start thinking of where you want to be in 10 years, your life starts.” Be very intentional in creating quiet moments to set goals and ways to achieve these.
  2. Be disciplined: “Don’t be swayed by what’s trendy and fashionable on social media. Stay focused on your goal. I didn’t follow the trend; I followed the investment. Today, I still wake up at 4am to meditate, then I leave work early enough to get to gym. Rituals are important.”
  3. Believe in yourself: Right now, it’s very easy to feel discouraged. “People will tell you you’re not good enough. I urge you to know you who are and keep believing in yourself, even if you fail. I love failure! It’s taught me many things including never to take anything for granted. If you have self-confidence, you can rebuild.”

 

Nzolantima says that one of her favourites mantras is that ‘real businesswomen pray’. Why? Because so many challenges come their way! “You meet God through the challenges. That’s when you find clarity and grow.” In this crucial time, she’s calling on the private and public sector to not only mentor women entrepreneurs, but to also support them through enabling policies and accessible funding. “Women can change the face of this continent. We need to give them tools to do so.”

She says mentoring an entrepreneurial mindset should start in school. “Little girls with dreams become women with vision.” A little bit of guidance can kick-start a life-changing journey.

Addressing leaders, Nzolantima adds, “Right now, some of us have time. So, take the time to teach and learn. As well as mentoring others, I’m also using YouTube to learn from mentors I admire, like John Maxwell. Mentoring teaches you humility. You realise how much you don’t know and can learn from young people.”

She says that she makes time for mentorship because she made mistakes when she was younger, because she didn’t have a mentor, “That’s why I mentor the next generation.  You can have a profound impact on someone; help them to grow into a better version of themselves and inspire others around them.  You plant the seed, so the person continues to grow even when you are not there. That’s what I want to do; leave a legacy by changing lives.”

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