When I joined the YWSE last year in November, I had little knowledge of the impact that it would have on me. At that point, I was still trying to get my footing right on this newly embarked journey of re-discovering myself.
I remember walking into a room full of women. Women who had “associates”, and by that I clearly mean women who had associations – a title, a purpose, a clear-cut definition of who they were (I still struggle with that question, “Who am I?”, and I almost always want to scream I’M A CRAZY BITCH – SOMEONE HELP ME!! – Okay, I’m kidding, don’t be scared now).
That night, the founder of the Nairobi Chapter, Rachel Zed, was giving her farewell speech. She got up and declared, that that night she wished to do things a little differently. That she was not going to inspire us with stories of her achievements and successes (and trust me, she has a lot under her belt), but instead, talk to us about her failures (what coined the title of this post).
Fast forward to last night, March 7, we had another wonderful evening with training and talks from two exceptional women. Maliha Sheikh, Founder and CEO of Myfinda, an interactive mobile application and Vivian Mimano, Founder and CEO of Armada Human Capital. Both these women had something in common (aside from their Founder and CEO titles). They had both FAILED. Not once, or twice, but a number of times and for a number of years, before they finally got it right. There were challenges and many obstacles along the way, but they kept going.
This post took me a long time to publish. I had a draft ready since Nov 3, 2015, waiting for a time that I would be ready to share my failure with the world, but I feel that there is no better time than NOW.
In today’s world, success is a yardstick measured by one’s achievements. No body want’s to know about how many times someone failed or why. But we forget that the best lessons in a success story lies in the failure. There is a mentor, a billionaire, who mentors young aspiring entrepreneurs. He failed 15 times. 15 TIMES before he got it right.
I was speaking to a lady who attended the event last evening. We go back a long time – back to the time when I was an entrepreneur (now I’m an intrapreneur). She happened to ask if I was still carrying out my business and this was the first time in many years, that I was able to tell it like a success story, which went something like this…
I had to close down my baby of 10years (iDeal Computers & Supplies LTD) after a fallout with my husband (yes, for those of you who didn’t know, I belong to the “been-there-done-that” clan). I began the IT company prior to getting married, and he joined me later as director. Six years down, when things weren’t as hunky-Dorey in our marriage, he took off with all the monies and left the company (me) in debt. I had to set up a proprietorship, Exalinc Systems, and speak with the suppliers to allow my new company similar credit facilities, so that I could continue to work and pay them off. Luckily they agreed. I got a job (well, I had interviewed and secured several positions but the stigma of being an employee again prevented me from showing up on the first day of these high-flying jobs) to help me with my personal expenses (rent, food) and continued to operate the business from my office desk with just a phone and an email address (no physical address). I had to say goodbye to my family (my staff – we all worked under the culture of being an “iDeal” Family) and told them to service whatever existing clients we had on their own (I was in no position to pay them any services, but because of our excellent working relations, they had no demands, and were happy to take this opportunity in life).
I have no idea HOW, but within two years, and with only a hand full of clients, I was able to pay back all my suppliers and clear off all debt that my ex had left for me, with enough money left over for another screw-up: Australia (story for another day).
Anyway, so there I was still alive, still standing tall, telling this lady about my epic failures and surprising enough, she had questions. “How did you this?” and “How did you that?” and “What about this?” It was like I was the motivational speaker now. (Maybe that would not be a bad idea someday).
Just because you fail at one thing once, does not mean that you cannot learn and take another go at it. It does not matter how often you fail, but how willing you are each time to get up and rise above it all. Deep down I know that if given the opportunity to be an entrepreneur again, I would jump at it without thinking twice.
As I recall Maliha quoting last evening, “Do not get frustrated and quit. Keep at it”. That is my message to all women, aspiring or otherwise, on Women’s International Day, 08 March, 2016
Keep moving forward…