Business 04 January 2018
When you're diving into starting a business, you will quickly notice how every thought, every decision, and every conversation you have is driven by the product or service you are starting to build from the ground up.
You may find yourself skipping out on social activities so that you can hunker down and do research for your company. You may even decide to break your lease and move back home to your parent's house so you can use the cash you would normally spend on rent, on bootstrapping your new idea.
But one thing you might not be able to control is how much you find yourself talking about your start-up to your family members, your friends, your dentist, and even potential investors you meet at a networking event. It will become your favorite thing to talk about and phrases like, “Can I pick your brain" or “What do you think of this idea?" will flow out of your mouth without you even realizing what you are saying and who you are saying it to.
So if you're in the business start-up zone and you're looking to impress an investor, spill the behind-the-scenes of the company to a close friend, or let a first date know how much of a badass female entrepreneur you are, here are tips on how to refine your elevator pitch to meet your audience's needs.
Finding yourself standing in front of a table of investors can be a frightening and also empowering thing. Chances are you have worked your butt off to get a business plan ready, a product or service outline to present, and even some press surrounding your start-up to show off to them. It might be a groundbreaking meeting, but if anything, it is a chance for you to clearly explain your business idea and the impact it will have on your target audience.
For this, it's important to get personal while also staying on track. Begin the pitch with an anecdote of what drove you to start this business and how the problem your business is going to solve is something near and dear to you. Then go on with the answers to these questions, “Why you? Why now? Why this?"
Providing a short pitch, answering those questions first, will allow potential investors to understand why you're starting this business and what makes you quailed to lead it down the path of success.
When you're catching up with your close circle of friends, either over brunch, the phone, or a group text, people might share what they've been up to lately. If all you can think about responding is, “I've been up to too much stuff with starting this business," you might want to bite your tongue or erase the text and think of something more useful and practical to say.
It's okay to vent about the struggles you're having with your business to your friends, but don't forget to also boast about the positives and the wins you've experienced too.
If you find that you've already handed your friends your elevator pitch one too many times and got them excited about what your business is going to be, it's time to refine the pitch so that when you talk to them, you're providing them with updates on your business so that they can give you feedback and also help keep you motivated and inspired.
This pitch should include just one problem you've faced that week and then two wins or positives you have acquired so that you can get in the habit of celebrating success. By also stating those important things, you'll be able to help your friends better understand your business idea, why it matters, and how it's going to change the industry that you are breaking into.
3. A First Date
One of the most annoying questions for an entrepreneur on a first date is the question of, “what do you do for a living?" Perhaps you're working a 9-5 job, a part-time gig, or a handful of part-time gigs, while also creating magic on the side for your new business, and the answer to that question can be complicated.
Or, maybe you've recently quit your full-time job to pursue your own business and you fear that by saying that to your date, they'll give you a stern talking about how you're going to drain your savings and be out of the workforce for too long.
Either way, it's important to come at your date with a confident answer as to “what do you do for a living?" and the best place to start is with a quick elevator pitch for your business.
Unlike the one you gave to investors or friends, who might be the same demographic as potential customers for your business, your goal with this pitch is to excite and impress your date.
Start with a sentence or two about the problem you're looking to solve, the audience you want to target, and the unique feature of your business. Add in another sentence about your background and experience, so you're date can get a feel for how rad you are, with a final sentence about why you're the right person to start this business.
This pitch will not only eliminate your date's questions on whether or not you're a serious entrepreneur but will also get them feeling intimidated and certain that you are one strong and fierce female sitting across from them on this date.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.