In the Category of One: The African woman entrepreneur that is a Stanford Business School Case Study
Something remarkable happened half-way through 2015 for African women entrepreneurs. One of our own — Tara Fela-Durotoye and her business, House of Tara — became the subject of a Stanford Business School case-study — also with distribution through Harvard Business Publishing. Yes; not just Stanford but Harvard, too!
Credited with opening Nigeria’s first make-up studio, launching West Africa’s first make-up school and creating a full make-up product line entirely dedicated to African women, House of Tara demonstrates the art of the possible when passion meets business and when business forms a continuum into purpose. For you see, as has been written in this column before, the vast majority of women entrepreneurs come into business out of passion.
African women entrepreneurs glow with pride not merely for the fact that House of Tara made it to become a Stanford Business School case-study; but we also glow because in reading Tara’s story, our own hopes and aspirations are once more awakened.
We also glow because from a little-known SME some twenty years ago, today House of Tara proves that a SME run by a woman — an African woman, in Africa — with all the infrastructural challenges that our economies are affected by, can make it through to the other side and do so very successfully.
It doesn’t matter that they laughed at you and told you there is no future for an SME. It doesn’t matter that they told you your business cannot grow to become a national business. It doesn’t matter that they told you to pull your socks up and join the ranks of your ‘mates’ in corporate jobs in Lagos, Dakar or Accra. It really starts and ends with you. What are your business convictions, and what do you want to do with your business?
In following that passion, first a strong strategy and a road map must come; second comes the execution strategy. In between there will be grief, anxiety and stress, but whoever said that the road to greatness was going to be paved with gold? And even if it was, wouldn’t you have stopped at the first mile for a little rest, a little slumber, a little folding of the arms to rest?
What always surprises me when I meet and engage with women entrepreneurs is the reticence of their vision and the reserve of their ambition, for more often than not many of them do not perceive the merit or significance of their business idea to clients and society at large. It is just a hobby. It pays the bills – and we stop there.
But you see, what Tara proves is that in going the extra mile in pursuing passion and turning it into a business, in seeing the possible extent (value proposition) of your business idea to society, and in deliberately strategising on the ‘how to’ with the requisite support and mindsets, the sky is the limit. And I say that purposefully.
Tara says that one of the things she enjoyed about make-up was making people feel and look good. In making-up brides, friends and family, she she realised that these women wanted to feel good and look good all the time…not just on special occasions. They wanted to purchase the products and learn how to recreate the looks she had given them. Therein came the opportunity to turn a hobby, a passion, into an enterprise.
I always find myself reminding women entrepreneurs that whatever they do, they are in the business of bringing joy. Far-fetched? Well, let me explain.
Strictly speaking, Tara is in the business of bringing joy. Bringing joy to those who use her products. Her products present a positive externality to its end-users. What she has carefully executed is a strategy to couch joy (in make-up products), nurture it, learn from it, differentiate it, expand it, distinguish how it is presented, sell it in a manner that is expansive yet personal, and even take it outside of Nigeria to another African country – Kenya to be precise – and the list goes on. In business-language this translates into strategy, products, systems and processes, customer service, pricing distribution channels etc.
There are many places/businesses that I escape to when I need joy and respite. That lovely café serving brewed coffee and home-made cakes (not forgetting their welcoming staff). That resort with breathtaking views I can escape to for some calm and inspiration– believe me, if being in these environments didn’t bring me some comfort and joy I certainly would not patronise them.
So, ladies, remember that you are in the business of bringing joy; and remember that many look to your business as a little way of easing day to day tensions. Carpe diem. Seize the day, ladies. Lead extraordinary lives!
– See more at: http://thebftonline.com/features/opinions/17920/in-the-category-of-one-the-african-woman-entrepreneur-that-is-a-stanford-business-school-case-study.html#sthash.ROSHHdOK.dpuf