7 Important Lessons My Mentor Has Taught Me In Four Months

I recently agreed to take up a consulting job for an upcoming conference center. One of the main reasons why I decided to do so; is that there is a business lady I wanted to work with. She is a business woman based in Nyeri; however she does business all over Kenya – her name is Irene.
I am humbled to have her as my mentor-ess (^_^). It’s amazing how much you can learn from someone who has a vast amount of knowledge and wisdom in a short period of time. I’m constantly learning a lot from her and I’m glad I chose this opportunity to do so. I never knew how important it is to have a mentor, especially if you’re a start-up entrepreneur.
Here are a few important things I’ve learned from her in such a short time; that will help any entrepreneur(s) out there.
1. Create more than one stream of revenue.
When you work on your start-up and it stabilizes; create another income generating project and if possible, another. This will guarantee when you have lows in the economy – especially in some industries, you’ll have a kind of cushion when it comes to the revenue you’re collecting. If possible, ensure that the income generating projects are in different industries. An example of how my mentor does that is by having a business in the hotel industry, one in the road construction industry and another as a wholesale distributor of goods to institutions and large organizations.
2. Be tough and authoritative
If you are a start-up entrepreneur; you will wear many hats, especially the one of a manager. You will have to make tough decisions especially when it comes to your employees. As important as it is to work with your employees and get to know them; you are still the boss. If there are difficult issues to be addressed; no matter how hard it is, you should address them. If you have employees who are likable but are not working well, make sure to address the issues at hand. They may not like it; and you may not either, but you have to do it. If you are a manager in an organization; some changes may be necessary to make, they may not please everyone – but you are the boss, so they will have to follow suit. Don’t be timid in your directions, be authoritative.
3. Have your own unique personal style
Don’t be afraid to dress the part as a start-up entrepreneur; dress accordingly. If you’re in a corporate setting; dress professionally and according to the industry setting. You can dress more casually if you’re industry calls for it; or if you are in the fashion industry – ‘dress to kill.’ Make sure you dress comfortably and appropriately. Select outfits that give you confidence and make the right impression. If you’re as brave and confident as my mentor, feel free to dress in bold colors such as yellow and red ^_^. They make a statement and your look exudes confidence as well.

Even Beyonce knows how to rock a pant suit ^_^

Even Beyonce knows how to rock a pant suit ^_^

4. Be generous: give and you shall receive
Most start-up entrepreneurs I’ve met and even heard about have big hearts; therefore it’s not hard for most of them to follow this advice. Give in any way that you can, it doesn’t have to be money, give your time to people in different ways. You can teach people a skill you know and want to help them empower themselves. You can share information about a certain topic that will help many people who have similar passion or interests but don’t know as much as you do (a great way to do this is starting a blog that offers information on a certain topic e.g. baking, saving energy using jikos, etc.). You can join a group of people who help others e.g. a church, youth or common interest group. You can volunteer your time or services to an NGO that helps people. There are many ways to give back to the community. Choose one way and start giving; you’ll be blessed in return.

Be Generous

Be Generous

5. Network – network like a fiend!
One thing I’ve noticed with Irene is that she knows a lot of people in many different industries and walks of life. She is a great connector and is always meeting different people as well as introducing me to different people as well. At first it seemed to me like a talent you have to be born with due to how easy it was for her. She has however taught me to be constantly on the look-out for experts in different fields, entrepreneurs who can help by offering great products and/or services. As well as just meeting people in order to enrich your life; spiritually, mentally or business-wise. I have realized you can gain insight on many topics and industries from certain people even at one sitting. I have gotten better at networking and even though I have a long way to go; with more practice it will come naturally to me in time. Ensure you do the same everywhere you go. If you identify great entrepreneurs and individuals who seem to have insight into specific things, get to know them. Connect with them, ask questions and if possible; keep in touch. You will grow exponentially when you learn how to network.

Connect with insightful individuals

Connect with insightful individuals

6. Have faith; in God and in yourself
I am a Christian and I have a very strong faith. Whatever religion you are, make sure you have a strong belief in your faith; it will keep you strong especially through the tough times (and they are many!) You should also make sure you believe in yourself and abilities. As start-up entrepreneurs; sometimes we often feel overwhelmed by some projects and we can start doubting our skills and abilities at times. It’s necessary to be self-motivated as an entrepreneur. Believe in your idea or passion in the same way you take breath every moment of your life. Have faith in your skills and ability to grow and keep learning. My mentor is the kind of person who encounters challenges in life and doesn’t seem affected by them at all. She always finds a way out or around any issue and believes they is always a solution. She has the utmost confidence in herself and her ability as a business woman; to me that is truly inspirational.
7. You can be a successful entrepreneuress and have a happy family life
In this day and age; many marriages don’t last and families are constantly breaking apart. A large reason is mainly due to the spouses being too busy to nourish their family life and work on their relationships in order for the marriages to work. A lot of start-up entrepreneurs (especially women) find it difficult to run a business and have a successful family life. It is not an impossible thing; one just has to work hard at the relationship and work as partners with your spouse. Many great business women have shown great examples of how it’s possible; my mentor is no different. She has a successful family life and maintains a good balance of business and family most of the time. She shares that it’s not a perfect life but she knows when to give her time to her family and when to focus on business – that is the key. Create time to nurture and grow your personal and family relationships even as you do business. It’s very important in life and especially when you need moral support. It’s very inspiring for me to see up-close how achievable it is (I won’t lie, I was skeptic before ^_^).
I hope these bits of advice will help you out as an entrepreneur; I know they’ve helped me a lot. You don’t necessarily have to go out and find a mentor; but it’s advisable to have one. You can even choose someone who inspires you and read about them; learn from their actions (and even mistakes) and if possible – connect with them.
Do you have a mentor, or just someone who inspires you, challenges you to be better and gives you guidance? Feel free to share any piece of advice you’ve learned from him/her below. Thanks!
If you found this post helpful, make sure to spread the love by sharing with your friends ^_^

3 Ways of being an accountable leader that young women can look up to

Very recently, two separate incidents disappointed me on the current state of our Kenyan Women leaders. I decided to share a few ideas on how I believe women leaders should behave in order to inspire young women in this country. Since our youth desperately needs Kenyan role models and they are not easy to find amongst our leaders.

The first incident was the voting of the marriage bill in parliament. The women representatives who were in parliament that day walked out to show their displeasure of the bill. My main point is not really the marriage bill but the women leaders’ actions. First, only 13 women representatives were present that day to dispute the bill and when they didn’t get their way, they walked off. I later heard from another male member of parliament who stated two facts; once, there are a total of 68 women reps in the parliament (where were the other 55?). Second, none of the women had presented any amendments to the bill during the period of time they had been given to do so if they didn’t agree with the bill in any way (Why? If they had been so vehemently against it?). If we as women want to make a difference, I believe that we should take steps to amend or change laws in our favor, or at least to be fair to us. I don’t believe we should panic and protest at the last minute, scream and storm off when people don’t listen to us or we don’t have our way. It gives all women a bad name and this behavior coming from our leaders is a bad reflection of the women that we youth are supposed to be looking up to.

The second incident was of a nominated female senator, who was caught in the recent police crackdown of drunk driving, they were administering the alco-blow test and arresting the drivers that did not pass. There are several things wrong with this incident. It is not only sad that a leader was caught drinking and driving, it is tragic that it was a woman leader. Leaders are the ones who put laws in place, such as ‘no drinking and driving’ in order to save Kenyan lives. They should therefore ‘try’ and lead by example. Also, as a woman who is quite possibly a mother, she should reduce her risk of mortality by being careful in life, why would you put yourself in a position that endangers your life and those of your fellow Kenyans when you know the statistics yourself? This two incidents have made me sad because it is blatantly obvious that young women seriously lack women leaders to look up to in Kenya. So I’ve decided that we as ladies should start making a difference and leading by example from the grass-root level. I’m sure we can make a difference to each other in this way. We don’t have to be political leaders or hold great positions to be leaders in our community.

Here are a few simple and important ways you can be an accountable leader that your peers and youth as well, can look up to.

1. Lead by Example

This is a very obvious way of being accountable. If you’re preaching to people how to be better citizens, you should show them that you do it as well. People are more likely to choose and follow a person who does as they preach. Therefore; if you tell people not to drink and drive, make sure that if you do happen to go out and drink; call a taxi cab and arrange for your car to be picked up later. You can also sign-up with driving services that offer the service of taking you home in their cars as well as driving your car home following behind you. This ensures that both you and your car arrive home safely. There are many ways of leading by example and it’s a great way for leaders to help out and influence youth out there.


Wangari Maathai led by example-she planted trees (courtesy:takingactionfilm.com)

2. Stick To your Principles

I believe that everyone has principles they believe in. These are what guide our decision-making in every important aspect of our lives. However, there are tough times in our lives that our principles are questioned and these are very important and life-changing moments in one’s life. It can be very hard, but I believe that no matter what, sticking to your principles makes you a great and inspirational person, one that anyone can look up to. It is these times when you are tested that you should stick closely to your principles. A lot of Kenyan leaders have failed in these opportunities, especially in certain cases where they choose either money and positions instead of sticking to their principles. I think that we young women should emulate a great leader such as Wangari Maathai (may she rest in peace). She always stood by what she believed in and was willing to suffer and sacrifice for it.


Wangari Maathai protested for the environmental future she wanted and believed in (courtesy: aljazeera.com)

She stood by her principles and even though it was a long journey for her, she was able to achieve many goals for her cause and was recognized for it. Our female leaders should take a page from her book.

3. Listen and learn from those who support you

This may sound easy but as we’ve all seen from our Kenyan politics, a great example being our MPs (Member of Parliaments), this doesn’t always happen. It is very important to learn from your fans, voters, employees, supporters etc. (whether you’re a  celebrity, politician, business person or just a regular person). People who support you and have helped you get to where you are have your best interests at heart. So it is wise to listen to their problems, advice or queries and try to understand them; if possible, solve them. You should never believe that you are above anyone, I believe we are all equal. I believe that one can learn from customers (even the ones complaining), from people at the grass-root level, from C.E.O.s, elderly people and even very young children. All you have to do is be willing to listen and learn.


Oprah is an influential woman leader who is very good at listening to people

I believe if our Kenyan leaders did so, they would make an even greater impact in our society and youth would most definitely look up to them for sure.

I believe if we can start with these three simple ways, we can be very influential leaders in our area, business or homes. If you have any other comments or suggestions on how a leader can be accountable, Please feel free to comment below.

Now go out there and start leading by example people ^_^!