ElsaMarie D’Silva on 8 Hacks for Successful Entrepreneurship
Ahead of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2017 we bring you a series of stories of Women Entrepreneurs and their journey to success.
I started my social entrepreneurship journey about five years ago. At the time, I was working with Kingfisher Airlines as Vice President Network Planning where I was responsible for the route network of over 500 daily flights.
It was a job I loved, but I had reached a saturation point after spending close to 20 years in the aviation industry traversing varied jobs across two major airlines. I worked as a flight attendant, flight safety instructor, revenue management specialist and on network planning. I was looking for my purpose and wanted to give back, especially on women’s rights.
So, when Kingfisher Airlines went through a financial downturn and eventually discontinued operations in 2012, I made a choice to start something on my own rather than take up one of the lucrative corporate opportunities awaiting me.
I decided to give myself time to learn new things and relearn and unlearn others. What started as a self-exploratory journey turned into a global movement to address gender-based violence, particularly in public spaces, through my organization Safecity, and I find it to be deeply satisfying.
Some of the lessons I learned while on my entrepreneurial journey and which I would like to share with you are:
1. Pick an issue you love
We are all passionate about several issues and causes. But I would recommend that you narrow it down to one and work on it. I decided to concentrate on making public spaces safer for women and girls which is a very narrow part of the larger problem regarding women’s safety. But I believed it was where I could make the most impact as I was using data and technology to identify the problem and find local solutions based on patterns and trends.
When things go wrong or when you are going through a rough time in your business, which you will, knowing that you are following your passion gets you through.
2. Review goals every six months
When I first started off, I didn’t really know what I was doing as I didn’t come from the women’s movement nor did I major in gender studies. So it was important that I was adding value to the cause. I knew if it wasn’t, the best thing would be to return to my corporate world and donate my money to someone who was truly making a difference. Regular evaluation of my goals, my organisational journey and my correlating it to my vision was what has kept me on the right path. It also helps you course correct, seek the help from mentors and experts and find the right team.
3. Have your 2 minute pitch ready
I have a 2 minute pitch always ready, including a 3 minute, 5 minute and a 7 minute one. You just don’t know who you will meet and as an entrepreneur, you must be able to capitalise on the moment. Take for example, I met someone at a meeting at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit last year in San Francisco, we got talking, he loved my work and ended up giving me money to fund my mobile app.
4. Use social media as a marketing tool and build your thought leadership
As a social entrepreneur with no experience, I had very little money to fund my marketing efforts. I turned to social media, using Facebook and Twitter extensively. My team invited people to blog for us and take over our Twitter handle for a week at a time. As a result, not only do we have a vast and diverse following, but we also have become a thought leader in the space providing valuable perspectives and insights on the issue. This has resulted in me personally writing a regular column with SheThePeople.TV, we’ve held conversational shows in Twitter India’s Blue Room, and joined panel discussions and speaking opportunities around the world as well as interviews with leading media outlets.
5. Say Yes
Don’t be afraid to say yes and take up new opportunities. Entrepreneurship is all about creativity and using available resources to further your business. For us, we have expanded our work to educate people on awareness regarding child sexual abuse and its prevention, consultancy on sexual harassment prevention at the workplace and even another crowd map for women speakers to list themselves to prevent “manels”.
6. Keep your articles, photos, bios etc up to date
I am very organised with all my articles, interviews and those of my organisation. For myself, I have a personal website and LinkedIn profile where I constantly update the information so that people can find and reach me easily. For our organisation, we turn all our activities into blog posts as it is easy for people to access and read. I learned to have all this handy in links and in email drafts because when reporters call in for an immediate statement and you are on the move, then you can still send it from your phone.
As an entrepreneur I realized I was the peon, finance person, marketing hero and CEO all in one.
7. Select your team for passion and diversity
As an entrepreneur I realized I was the peon, finance person, marketing hero and CEO all in one. Yet, I could not be an expert on all things and I realized fast that I needed help. Find a team that is diverse in all aspects – age, gender, experience and thinking. Let them challenge you and compliment you whilst you give them a platform to express themselves and be creative. It will make your organisation richer and unique. Passion for the issue is an important criterion for all my team mates.
8. Block time in your diary for leisure
As you can imagine, this journey as an entrepreneur is not easy and when there is a social aspect, it is very emotional. Self-care is critical for your own well-being. Block time off in your diary for reflection, exercise and for other interests. Being your own boss gives you the flexibility to manage your time, so make the most of it.