A local businesswoman and editor of the new local independent business newspaper The Great Guide, Michelle Ashburner, recently launched a Mastermind Group for women business owners and women in business called Womantrepreneurs. I caught up with her recently and interviewed her about her new initiative.
LV: Michelle, you are so busy, why did you take on this Mastermind Group, Womantrepreneurs?
MA: As a serial entrepreneur, I find the mission is a lonely one. The entrepreneur or business journey for most women is filled with mistakes that slow one down, or paying an exorbitant price for lack of knowledge in certain areas, or only needing someone to be there to bounce things off. I was also tired of going to networking meetings where I would have a cup of coffee, listen to someone speak, swap a business card, and then nothing tangible comes out of it. All I have done is combine my passions – creating solutions, developing women and youth, and business, and voila! Womantrepreneur.co.za and the associated Mastermind Group was born.
What do you intend for Womantrepreneur to be?
I want it to grow into a virtual and physical space where women serious about the business of business can interact with like-minded women in industry. Womantrepreneur is the removal of the loneliness in entrepreneurship in a genuine way. It is a space where information can be freely offered and found, the discovery of different tools, the equip young business women so they can find opportunities to better themselves and explore the world.
How is Womantrepreneur different?
Beyond being a place where stories are shared, and thought leaders created – a form of validation that combines the bottom line or emotional satisfaction – there is a specific formula I have developed that will be the “secret sauce” of Womantrepreneur. The thing that makes Womantrepreneur most different, I think, is that it is for all woman, whether you are a street vendor or have a multi-national company. I am adamant that ceilings of any kind are not to be part of the Womantrepreneur culture.
I recently took an enormous amount of satisfaction that we are on the right track. It was at a women’s breakfast recently, where Natasha Mazzone was speaking, and she said that change, real change is the responsibility of all women working together to make it happen. This is what Womantrepreneur is about, whether it’s Aretha Franklin, Annie Lennox or Kylie Minogue singing the anthem, the bell still keeps ringing for sisters to do it for themselves. So we are.
And the response, has it been good?
The response to date, and with Womantrepreneur being but an embryo is hugely encouraging. I am finding deep satisfaction to be part of a dynamic group of South Africans who are business women from every industry and walk of life. The response is showing that we are heading down a path that womentrepreneurs and businesswoman want. By the way Lizette, I am now going to put you on the spot… will you be an ambassador for Womantrepreneur?
Michelle, what does it involved?
Well, you are high profile and really in the last year have grown your business phenomenally. In fact, if memory serves, haven’t you recently been nominated as a businesswoman of the year finalist somewhere? Yes, I have. So the question is are you prepared to help guide and support other womantrepreneurs to the best of your ability to grow their businesses and achieve sustainability? Yes. Would you be ready to agree to the code of conduct, the main one being to build other women and not break them down? I already do.
Right, because you see, one of the hardest things about going to, or being in business for yourself is that not everyone understands what you are trying to achieve (we are not talking about your significant other or your mother), so the naysayers creep out of the woodwork, the rafters and online. They can make one doubt the vision you have. Womantrepreneurs are there to honestly support another woman, irrespective of their field of expertise or industry. Being an ambassador is about living the code that can be found on the website www.womantrepreneur.co.za. It will also grow as a role for Womantrepreneur, but then I think so will you both as a womantrepreneur and person. So do you think you would like to be an ambassador for us? I accept.
What happens next?
As they say in the classics, watch this space. In work in progress design of Womantrepreneurs, we are amazed how the journey is unfolding and how creative we can be within Womantrepreneur. Mostly, on a personal level, I am excited about what Womantrepreneur will come to mean to our members because the path laid in front of us is unfolding in wonderous and surprising ways. The role of creating a paradigm shift for businesswomen, opening doors and providing hope for those of us who need it in the collective voice of women in business.
Speaking of that collective voice, as women in business we face challenges like being heard, dismissed or questioned because should we not “know our place”? The place where you can “own” the fact that having the business dream was not meant to keep you broke and tired for so long. Yes, we have big dreams and aspirations for Womantrepreneur as a group of business women with the love of business.
Surround yourself with people who support your vision and feed your soul. Share time with women who want to see you succeed. Find yourself a mentor from within the ranks, or another woman who can offer you a service that supports you to achieve your goals. Join us, provide yourself with a place, or space, where the loneliness of entrepreneurship is not extended unnecessarily, where bouncing back is easy and quick because a woman in business can encourage you, have your back. You are the driver of your business, protect yourself.
Where can people contact you?
We look forward to meeting you, both personally and online. If you want to know more, contact me on 071 222 0977 or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org