The Holy Month of Ramadan started last Monday and for the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world it is the month of fasting and prayer. For those that don't know what Ramadan is, its a time each year when all Muslims fast from dawn until dusk and they must refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and drinking alcohol. Its a month of spiritual reflection, a time to look upon ones own activities and question them and reconnect with your faith and cleanse your soul. I'm not Muslim but as I've lived in the UAE all my life, its very much part of my yearly calendar and I find the month very important to my own character and soul.
So I wanted to share with you why Ramadan is a great month for Entrepreneurs even if you are not Muslim and how you can make effective use of the time.
Time to reflect and renew our energy levels
So each year when Ramadan comes round I see it as a time to reflect on my own life and take a moment to reassess my own energy levels. I have fasted in the past to embrace the Holy month but most of the time I see the month as a time to detox my health, rebuild my exercise regime and meditate some more. Feeling physically better does wonders for my own mindset so when Ramadan comes around I do indulge all of these activities and I really recommend the same for you.
So how can Ramadan help Entrepreneurs - well really for similar reasons. Take the time to reflect on your business, get clear about what is working and what isn't, detox your own business by cleaning your office space, your computer laptop (I know I always have tonnes of files sitting on my desktop screen that really need to be properly filed), reorganise your leads, your budget, get clear on your business's future needs. In Ramadan its a time for Muslims to reconnect with their faith and their core values. You can do the same aswell. Get clear about your core business values again. Sometimes during the year I know these values can get blurry particularly if you are super busy and starting to spread thin. Ramadan is also great time to learn, articulate and understand a lot of the key knowledge you have learnt over the passed few months and get that material ready to use in your business, with colleagues, co-workers or even family.
So just taking the month to detox your business, reset your business intentions and knowing your path will really revive your energy levels and get you ready to take on the world again.
Opportunity to slow the pace down.
How many of you are doing long days? Possible more than you've ever done when you compare it to your previous career you may have had. A lot of the long hours is because we love what we do and time has little meaning when you get to spend the day doing what you love. However, there are times when we need to slow down or even take a break. Its not healthy to be constantly in active mode. We do get tired and grubby when all our engines have been depleted, well I know I do anyway.
So with Ramadan, lies the opportunity to slow the pace down. Take your foot off the gas and don't rush. Yes we need to get a lot done with leads to funnel and sales to close but with an opportunity to reflect and reassess your energy levels why not take the time to slow things down a bit. Slowing things down destresses us too. Feeling more relaxed and less stressed does wonders for our productivity and helping us get clear about what we want to achieve. Ramadan is also about reconnecting with your family and friends so use the time to reconnect with family and friends and people you've been wanting to connect with for a while but haven't. I did this recently. I set up a meeting with an old colleague in Dubai who I hadn't seen in 18 months and it was awesome. We shared, chatted and brainstormed and more than likely will do some collaborations soon too. Awesome!
Opportunity to look at working 'on' the business
How many of you work 'in' your business as opposed to work 'on' your business? Its interesting to get clear on this as it can help you map where you are going and how your business is going to get you there. My husband suffers a bit from this issue. He's a strategy and detail man but sometimes he can gets so caught up in the detail that I need to tell him to come to the surface again because we need to work on the strategy. He recognises his blindness quickly and realigns himself with our strategy objectives. Its all very easily done and can sneak up on you subconsciously. I think a lot of us do it so Ramadan is an awesome time to reconnect with your 'Why' of the business. Your 'values' of the business. Where you are now and where you are going. We can plan as best we can but we all know that a lot of the time its guess work but knowing your why, your values or your potential direction is more about being clear and having clarity so use the holy month of Ramadan to take a step back from your business and look at the bigger picture. You never know what you could be missing. Detail can be organised later by your team or by yourself but in complete awareness that you are in 'the detail'
Fasting is possible and so others things are possible.
The BIG objective of Ramadan is fasting. Its the 5th pillar of Islam and one of the toughest to do. This particular holy month of Ramadan, Muslims in the middle East are looking at Fasting for over 15 hours and this is tough particularly when its 45 degrees outside and thirst really is the big factor with those heat levels. I watched video on Facebook yesterday where Muslims in Finland are fasting over 20 hours a day! Watch it becuase its just amazing. The fasting is to help you understand what its like not to have food or water and that there are people of this world that don't know where there next meal is coming from.
So fasting is done and is possible I think if you can discipline yourself to follow your faith and push your way through the hunger and deprivation then I say, 'think of what you can do when you have been nourished!?' I have learnt that a lot of what we do is often down to our mindset and if we all had the strength of mindset to be disciplined, have some self awareness of our thoughts then we can see ourselves through our goals or objectives successfully.
So there you have it. My four reasons of why Ramadan is an awesome time for Entrepreneurs and how you can embrace the month even if you are not Muslim. How else have you embraced the tradition of Ramadan? Would you fast from dawn till dusk? Do let me know as I'd love to know your thoughts on this. Have an awesome day.
So at the weekend I was badly introduced by a colleague to someone I was very interested to meet. It caught me completely off guard and it didn't leave a great first impression. I realised then that I need to work on my own 30 second elevator pitch. So when moments like that happen again I can take control back. Weirdly enough I had helped in the creation of one for my husband recently and so when he is in a business situation. I think he's got a great one. Here's what he says!
''I'm an Aviation Technologies professional with a knack for marrying business and technologies to help businesses achieve their goals and strategies. I'm passionate about the aviation and technology. I read and learn as much as I can about the industry. I have been credited many times by my colleagues for my wealth of knowledge and understanding. I want to help companies really see the value in the technologies out there that can help them build greater customer experiences.'
I like it because it has all the skills, confidence and goals of a quick, clear and understood pitch. Control is firmly in his hands and I think he leaves room for the person he is expressing it too to ask more questions. What do you think of it? Do you like it? Do you think it can be improved? Do you get what he does and how can help. Do let me know!
So, Why an Elevator Pitch?
So anyway.... after last weekend I really think its important to have one for myself. It also reminded me of how important it is when you are introducing someone else too. So my first question in the future before I introduce someone to someone else is to ask if they have an 30 second elevator pitch or kind of create one based on a few key principles.
There are some great benefits to having a good elevator pitch like:-
a) Helps you be more clear and confident about who you are and what you do. How often do we get derailed with thoughts when we meet people for the first time or feel less confident when we meet someone we are super excited to meet yet nervous too!!! A clear, confident pitch just eases all of that!
b) It take the, 'uh..er....' moment out of the equation and you don't have to worry about sentencing a collection of exciting nouns, verbs and adjectives because you have already done it and its ready to go.
c) As you practice it, you become more and more connected with your pitch and you become more passionate about it. The way you say it becomes more embedded in you and you become more authentic.
d) If you are of a nervous disposition when you meet people for the first time and feel awkward setting the pace of the conversation then having a pitch could relieve some of the anxiety that's created in these first few moments.
What Makes a Good Elevator Pitch?
Through my research I've discovered that a good pitch has some clear elements
a) A goal. What are you trying to achieve with your pitch. So personally I reckon you should have may be 2 or 3 'go to' pitches based on your audience you are talking too. Clients or potential suppliers will have different themes so it makes sense to me to vary your pitch slightly.
b) Describe the problem your business aims to solve and then share how your business solves that problem. Keep it simple too. Too many problems you are trying to solve can be overwhelming for the person you are pitching to. We want them to remember what you did, not leave them saying....'uh...he does a number of things but can't remember what'..
c) Identify your unique selling points. It is important identify your strengths, your products or companies key attributes and wrapping them up into the rest of your pitch so you sound clear, understandable and actionable.
d) Simplicity is also a key point. How often do you read a company's 'about us' page and you get dizzy reading the words because they've tried to be clever by weaving fancy words together? I know I have and I land up reading the sentences two or three times just to 'get' what it is that they do. So work your magic on being simple and using language that is conversational as best you can.
My Pitches (Always Work In Progress)
So reading up examples and keeping in my the key elements I created two pitches because I do two key activities. Here they are: -
My Podcasting Pitch.....
'I’m a podcaster and I interview and share the stories of the entrepreneurial women of the Middle East. From across the region, I get to speak to women who are trail blazing, creating changing, building businesses and thriving. My platform is an audio blog which you can listen to anywhere at anytime via ITunes, Stitchers, Soundcloud, my website or via social networks. I have been credited many times for helping my guests feel very proud of their accomplishments and helping them summarize their efforts. For the listeners, these ladies offer shared experiences, opportunity, success and the real story of how it really is to have a business in the Middle East'.
My Social Media Pitch.....
I love social networks and their ability to create, connect and share with family, friends, colleagues, clients, and suppliers. Because of its power I’ve created Facebook groups as large as 40,000 members and created fan pages with a total of over 30000 fans. I have helped numerous people over the last 6 years find the right platform for them and then helping them generate their own leads. I want to help small businesses brainstorm the right strategy for their businesses.
So what do you think? Did I get it? With all these types of things they can be refined and improved as we use them, so I'm going to start with these and then go from there! See how my audience responds.
Great Resources To Help Create Your Pitch.
Like I said earlier though I didn't do this without some help and inspiration from articles and examples out there. So if you want to check them out, these are the links to the articles that I looked at to help create my pitches. I hope you will find them useful too.
a) Crafting an Elevator Pitch
b) The 7 Key Components of a Perfect Elevator Pitch [with Video]
c) A quick guide to writing your elevator pitch (with examples!)
And Finally, Practice, Practice, Practice
Make those sentences an extension of yourself so they naturally roll of your tongue and put you in the right light and send the right impression. I won't be making this mistake again. Authenticity is important these days and builds trust and relationships.
Do let me know what your elevator pitch is. If you have comments about mine, then please do share. I don't want what happened at the weekend to happen again. Its just embarrassing.....
PODCAST #73 - 'I trusted My own Intuition & Quit My job', says Chérine Kurdi, Transformation Coach & lifestyle Entrepreneur (Abu Dhabi, UAE.) (Part 1)
When you think about taking the plunge to entrepreneurship, what are the thoughts that come into your head? Obviously there is a lot of success, passion and positivity, but behind that there's also 'the big fear'. The fear of failure, getting out of your comfort zone, the doubt, the worry. There is lots that starts to grow when - Read More & Listen
PODCAST #69- 'Workout & burn fat. but burn the fat that prevents you from enriching your soul' says Dina Sherif. Co-Founder of 'Ahead of the curve'. (Heliopolis, Egypt)
How would you make your community more sustainable? Make it not just about creating economic growth and the creation of jobs [which will happen] but more about creating multiple layers of economic, social and environmental value where you and your community all benefit? Does this sound like something you could do or want to be part of?
My next guest, Dina Sherif, is on that mission. She is passionate about finding better ways that serve everyone better and her vision is focused on creating sustainable societies. Her goal is to see her business be leading the way in the commercialisation of social innovations.
Her second business called 'Entrepreneurs with Impact Ventures' is all helping entrepreneurs who build businesses that tackle major issues in society, so entrepreneurs that focus on key industries like Education, Energy, Healthcare and Environment. She wants her business to be seen as the entity that changes the mindset of individuals and businesses within growth markets.
Her third project is at the core of everything she does. Its aim is to see more women in business. Women are an untapped market and businesses are missing out on potential economic growth.
I thorougly enjoyed my convesation with Dina. She's an Economist, a Researcher, definitely a thought leader and change maker in Egypt and beyond. She is passionate, driven and was full of great nuggets of insight and experience. She is one women to watch in the coming years to see how her philosophies, her studies and business insight for this region develops.
This is Dina's Learning Curve Story! Listen Now
The First Women Entrepreneur Podcast in the Middle East.
Over the last year I have spoken to 42 different women on the Learning Curve Podcast. From all walks of life across the Middle East. Each time they have shared their entrepreneurial story, their challenges, their successes, how they organize their day, how they see social media, where they seem themselves on their own learning curve and so much more. It’s been an amazing journey and I feel privileged that these ladies have opened up to me so that more women out their can take their own entrepreneurial journey. Their stories were all so different, so varied, so personal too yet there was a common pattern and this I feel came down to these 5 common traits.
I watched a video recently of Jada Pinkett Smith's answer to her daughter asking, "How hard is it being a wife and mother?" – And the message was pretty clear but there was one part that resonated with me. You have to take responsibility for your own happiness. It’s a crucial milestone and its key lies in recognizing your own attitude towards events and people. It’s all easy and clear in theory but in reality its pretty hard. We have to be personally responsible for our happiness not rely on someone else to make us happy. The big power house in the seeking of happiness is the influence our thoughts. How many of us can feel a negative thought pop up and it kicks your gut into butterfly central? Your brain then start to generate more negative thoughts and before you know it, you are angry, upset, and hostile even. All because we haven’t been able to control how our brain’s thought process. Negative thoughts are an evolutionary thing. They are there to protect us. The fight or flight approach. Negative thoughts curb our risk and keep us from harm.
From my prospective - all my guests found a way to be happy. They were passionate about what they did, constantly rebuilding their vision and adding more layers to their business. This constant cultivation of their passion meant their negative thoughts were probably there but they kept them at bay because they really loved what they did. Through my interviews I could see a constant positive mindset, a can-do attitude and taking responsibilities for their own lives and happiness.
The Middle East has in the news this year been a wave of disruption, discontent and deterioration with very little to see if it is going to be better. But I believe happiness starts with one person first and then it radiates. All these women, given the unhappiness that exists around us, continue to thrive and grow even in the face of adversity. Jody Ballard recently told me that ‘Women set the mood in the house… ‘, well if these women on the learning curve podcast are anything to go by then these women are setting the mood for the future and that is let’s find our passion, be happy and take action.
2. Get Out of your Comfort Zone
The comfort zone can really be a scary place. Yes it can. When you are in your comfort zone, you get soooo comfortable that you don’t want to move anymore, do anything different, you can’t see anything different or if anything is wrong. You keep everything the same and repeating what you are doing. Your own learning curve could be pretty flat in your comfort zone. Risk is minimal and you think everything is wonderful. But really it’s a scary, complacent place. How are you EVER supposed to grow and move forward if you are lounging around in your comfy chair? How are you ever supposed to grow if you do the same things over and over again? Are you in your comfort zone? Like Goldilocks, have you found that comfy chair and you are not moving from it??? Please move NOW. Please reflect on yourself for a moment and see how comfy you are and if it’s off the charts, please stand up and get ‘uncomfortable’!!! All my guests have gotten uncomfortable, and look how well it has served them. That shift has made each of them achieve amazing products and services, help them take their passion and their business to another level and serve the customers better. We can’t move on our learning curves until we seek the uncomfortable and make that the new norm.
3. Ask For Help
One of my own terrible traits, is the inability I don’t ask for help. It’s a life skill that we should all learn and one that we shouldn’t be ashamed to share. How many businesses do you know that have been successes because of one person and no one else helped. Hmm…. I’m struggling to think of one. Yes key trends in all my interviews was the importance of team work, collaboration or partnerships. Or my new favourite word, ‘Collapetition’. I learnt this word this year and I love it. When I was at business school, we were taught to understand the competition, learn its strategies so we could beat them, but we were never taught we could ‘work’ with them. The idea of working with your competition to benefit you both I think is a great idea and this year one of my goals is to be more open to asking for help and more collaborative.
All my guests have sought help. They all recognized that in order to be successful at what they do, they can’t do it alone and they have asked for help. Plus the fact we don’t all have the skills needed to make something amazing happen. Synergy is another great word I like to use and I have been able to make that happen when I have connected people I think would be a great fit for one another on a number of occasions. Asking for help will help you climb your learning curve one step at a step.
Don’ Listen to the Naysayers
When I first started podcasting, views were very black and white. You either were a podcast listener and loved podcasts or people were not into them because they really didn’t get them. And sometimes it was weird saying, ‘I’m a podcaster’ and then wait for the ‘oh I love podcasts’ or the complete opposite, ‘what’s a podcast?’. Personally I love the medium, I’m not a great reader and though I do love visual, you can listen to a podcast in your car, on the bus, when you are exercising, or at work even. Believe me I had my moments when I wanted to stop the show but I always found when I got to that point something would happen that would encourage me to continue the show. The show really has had its own learning curve, and it’s been one rollercoaster.
This brings me back to my guests. All of them at some point heard the negative comments but they have refused to listen. Refusing to let ‘you can’t’ be the heartbeat of their project. Their own self-determination which which was packed with motivation, good defiance and a ‘can do’ attitude pulled them through. We all create our own businesses to make money but sometimes passion does out ride money. I know we can always make money but we can’t always just create passion about a product or service that has to be grown with the right amount of love and care.
Failure is just a dip on the learning curve. All curves have an upswing. Where are you on your Learning Curve?
This is actually my bio line on my twitter profile and I really like it. Each time I read it, it makes me step back and see where I am on my own learning curve. I hope it has the same effect on other tweeters looking at my profile. I’ve also starting asking my guests as a way for them to take a look at themselves and allow them that moment to step back too. The answers have always been progressive, flowing and moving. They are not stagnant, which is a positive thing. But overall none are scared of the word ‘failure’. In fact most of them have faced failure in some way and have created a bridge to cross over it and take the lessons learnt. The one lesson I learnt this year from these ladies, is seeing failure as a ‘positive upset’ and one that you can grow from. Its feels like one of those things we anticipate to happen and then once we have done the mistake we are fine again. We got over that hurdle and now we are moving forward again. So like my twitter line, failure is just a dip. It’s how we react to it that makes all the difference.
So that concludes my 5 common traits from my guests this year. Next year’s guest line up is already exciting and I can’t wait to get Year 2 of the learning curve Podcast off the ground and growing again. This year I am hoping to collaborate with some great women building entrepreneur groups and find more amazing women to share on the show. I’m personally very thankful to all the ladies that shared their stories on my show, you were all amazing and I loved connecting with each and every one of you. This month of December has been my most successful download count ever, with over 5000 downloads from across the world. I remember in January 2015 my download was just 300. The show is definitely on an upswing. Onwards and upwards we go.
I wish all the podcast's listeners and readers a Happy & Prosperous 2016.
[PODCAST #63] Persevere, because one day its great & Amazing; the next day you are thinking, 'what am i doing?, ' says Antoinette Chorlton, Fashion & Style Entrepreneur. (Abu Dhabi, UAE)
The Learning Curve Podcast - THE Podcast for Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East.
How many of you out there feel disconnected with the styles and fashions that you see on the run way? How many of you look at it and think, 'I could never wear that!'. Well my next guest, Antoinette Chorlton wants you to see how runway wear can be 'real wear'. She wants to help women reconnect with their love of fashion and style.
From a young age her dad indulged everything 'fashion'. She shopped with him, got creative and really connected with her style and what would become, 'Antoinette'. But as her working age got closer her dad wanted her to have a proper career and not go down the fashion route.
But Antoinette is a savvy, hard working and positive person, skills her father engrained in her. She did follow her dad's advise but her love of fashion remained. Today she is an international fashion stylist and the is the founder of 'Glamour on the Go', a style agency focused on fashion events and style presentations. She is also the co-founder of Moda Africa - an international fashion agency introducing and representing African Fashion Designers globally. And the founder of her newest endeavour - Shop My Closet. A fashion event for high end & designer pre-loved clothes.
A mum, wife, daughter, & thriving business owner, she is a making 'Glamour' easier to connect with and helping women find their own 'fashionista'. In this very open and sometimes 'laugh out loud' comical conversation, Antoinette shares her journey with us from her childhood to how she envisions 'Shop My Closet' being a household name in the Middle East. - Listen Now
Guest Post By Janine Bensouda, President and Founder, Bensouda Consulting via Executive Women
Does a brand need a heartbeat to come alive and connect with its customers? We can all agree that when it comes to delivering a service; doing it with heart is certainly an advantage!
Then again, how can an inanimate, intangible name or object like a ‘brand’ have a heart, let alone one that beats? And more importantly, what for?
Let’s explore some of the reasons why making a brand truly vibrant reaps benefits for all who come in contact with it.
So what exactly is a brand? What is its ‘heartbeat’ and what is the value in all of this?
Amira Rahim, Artistpreneur and Abu Dhabi's lady of colour has blazed a trail discovering her artistry signature through colour. Colour has become her healer and her therapy. Her early artistic endeavors were trying to be 'picture perfect' and recreating exactly what she was looking at but this work made her miserable and demotivated. It wasn't until a fellow artist and blogger commented on her use and appreciation of colour which Amira completed resonated with that she realized her relationship with colour was her key to her artistic journey. In this interview we discover more about Amira's Learning Curve of her journey, how she interprets the lessons she has learnt along the way. She share's her project this month called 'Art for Syria' and share's with us why its important not to take yourself too seriously. Download via ITunes or Listen here
The Learning Curve Podcast - THE Podcast for Women Entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa Region: Nicholla had the opportunity to talk with Jules Lewis. Founder of Mountain High. On reaching the summit of a mountain on her 40th Birthday, Jules Lewis had a defining moment of clarity; to shape the experiences she had gained in health, personal leadership and self empowerment she had been immersed in for the previous twenty years into a Company where she could inspire, educate and coach people to reach new heights professionally a climb and in the following ten years, has evolved into the most credible company in the UAE dedicated to delivering Group Coaching, Speaking, Retreats and Expeditions. These portfolio of services are designed to complement one other, and are customized to the Company or individuals’ strategy and focus. Jules has led over 50 expeditions in over 20 countries around the globe to include Polar Expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica training multi-national and diverse teams of men and women to embark on life changing challenges incorporating her signature ‘Power of Three’ philosophy Read More and Listen
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Share interviews with Arab and Expat women entrepreneurs, sharing their entrepreneurial journey with their top business advise. We blog about knowledge, articles, FAQ on social media and share tools and resources to help us get going in our niche.