On 14 April 2017 I sat in my office, and looked at my computer. I was logged into Facebook. Staring at the screen, I was consumed with fear. A fear of what the future might hold. You see, shortly before this date i quit my job. I didn’t quit my job to pursue some fluffy dream I had. I had literally had enough of office politics, of not being taken seriously, of bosses preying off of anxiety, and proverbially whipping you into submission to deliver way beyond what you get paid for. I was tired. I was scared. But, i was inspired. I wanted to succeed with everything in me. And I knew there were women out there that felt exactly the way I did.
I was tired of hearing all the bubbly success stories, when I knew the truth. You know what I am talking about – “started from the bottom now we’re here”, or “I went from a 60 hour week to a 5 hour week”..”I am my own boss and I started with nothing, but look at me now, I am a multi millionaire.”… and all that bull.
The truth is entrepreneurship is hard. Starting your own business is hard. And usually when you start your own business, you are very much alone. I was lucky enough to have a very experienced partner on board, but most of the day to day stuff would be handled by me. I needed a tribe. A group of women that knew what I was going through. Why women you ask? It’s not a feminist thing. It is an understanding thing. Women understand what happens in the work place, what happens in a sales channel when someone speaks to a man vs a woman. Gosh, it reminds of a story covered in Fast Company. I quote: “Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer faced a lot of sexism and condescension when they launched their e-commerce marketplace for weird art–that is until they introduced an imaginary cofounder named Keith.” You can read more about it here. Point is, when people were facing them in business they were second guessed, asked to rethink choices and ultimately not taken seriously. Until they “introduced: Keith. Seriously, read the article. It’s worth a laugh and a great life lesson.
It was then that I started the group. It was first called Female Entrepreneur Network South Africa. Very proudly I called it FENSA, and invited my fellow entrepreneur feministas. The group grew slowly. It was just us, venting, sharing, asking and giving advice. Until one day…
Like I often do, I was staring at my Facebook feed, I started scrolling, and at that moment, coincidentally, I saw a prominent male entrepreneur friend ask “Why are the so few female entrepreneurs?”. I stopped. I blinked. Wait, what did I jut read? I looked again, and thought to myself: “There are SO MANY of us. No one gives us the time of day though. no one take us seriously, because it’s just a hobby, right?” Being me, i commented loudly and boisterously. And that my friends is where it all picked up. 100 requests a day, 300 requests a day. Until people realized it really is a support group and no advertising is allowed. Then it tapered off, and only the serious joined.
Fast forward a few years to 2020, and here I sit in the United States. So much has changed. The world is changing, industry is changing. Heck some even feel that the next industrial revolution is on our doorsteps. And here I sit, ready to start a brand new life outside of South Africa, and somehow I feel guilty. Guilty that I can’t look after this group as well as I wanted to from across the seas. it made me realize that I owe you proper leadership. Someone who is willing to step up and take this group to its next level.
I look back at this group which I re-branded to Female Entrepreneur Collective, soon after I realised that FENSA is a trademarked name in the UK for window installers! (haha) Props to Marisa Oosthuizen for helping me come up with the alternative Female Entrepreneur Collective. I can’t help but realize and feel pride in how far we have all come individually and collectively.
As I think back, this group has really become a true Collective, and has brought me so much joy. If someone needs knowledge, assistance or just kindness, this group is there. I have made amazing friends. Learnt from so many people, and have shared a bond with almost every one of our members. Even if they do not know it. I have looked at every single profile of each of the 6 000 members of this group before approving their request to join. I made it my personal mission for almost 4 years to create a safe space where female entrepreneurs in South Africa can share freely without concern. I want to thank Clare, Marisa and Jo for moderating the group, you offered up your time for the betterment of entrepreneurship, and for that I, and i am sure every member, is ever grateful.
But now, it is time for me to step down, and hand over the reigns to new leadership. I am going to go and pursue what I really love and what sets my soul on fire. I won’t be gone, just on my own journey like most of you. Just this time, I will be focused on me for a change. But i will never leave you hanging.
Handing over the reigns
With that, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to a face and name you know very well. Please join me in welcoming Yoke van Dam, your new leader for Female Entrepreneur Collective. She has been a member of FEC from the start and has been a continuous contributor on our website as well as on our YouTube channel where she has shared her knowledge and advice. Yoke van Dam is a catalyst for change, whether in a person, team or an entire company. She is a qualified behavioural change and leadership coach, public speaker, facilitator, trainer and sales consultant with more than 16 years’ experience.
Specialising in neurolinguistic programming, Yoke trains and coaches business leaders, executives, sales teams and individual staff members the tangible skills that can deliver the outcomes they want. She also presents keynotes in corporate and other settings to bring about positive change. And I know that her knowledge, skills and expertise will only serve you well in the years to come.
Her training specialties include sales, persuasion, presentation and emotional intelligence. She balances theory with practical solutions, and is highly adept at engaging her audience to be active participants in the development of these solutions so that they own them and want to make them work.
She has done several thousand hours of training and presentation to clients as diverse as sales executives, business leaders and owners, customer service agents, marketers, lawyers, engineers and accountants.
The industries she has covered range from automotive, retail, manufacturing and engineering to advertising, publishing, legal and academic.
Yoke has written for Entrepreneur magazine and contributes articles on emotional intelligence to the Female Entrepreneurship Collective. The video of her talk at Disrupt HR in Sandton, Johannesburg, in August 2018 became the most watched worldwide in the two weeks following the event. She is often interviewed on Mix FM and Radio Today.
Yoke got 10 years consultative sales experience working for Oxford Publishers, Pearson and Entrepreneur magazine. Additionally, she trained national sales team for Auto Trader, Commercial Trader, Auto Fuzion, Bikes and Corporate Sales. She developed team-building and staff dynamics workshops for Auto Trader and various companies. With her passion she founded Y-Connect in 2017.
Please join me in welcoming Yoke, and please do make her feel at home. Here is to amazing growth, for the group and for each member.
I won’t be going off the radar. You can still find me on Facebook, LinkedIn, or even my Instagram account. Please add me, and send me a message whenever you need a chat. And if you ever find yourself in America, let me know. I always have time for you.
Thank you FEC family, it has been an honour,
Founder of Female Entrepreneur Collective.
Business owner at Carter & Prince, eTailer, bizby and Certified Hypnotherapist.