Have you ever sat in a restaurant and thought: Oh! …If I owned this place I would put in different lighting, change the colour scheme, …I would change the layout…or I would definitely put this or that on the menu? Well, if you have, then – congratulations! – you are definitely showing signs of entrepreneurship- thinking out of the box. Entrepreneurs start with a question…What if?
Anyone sitting next to ‘our’ table on that sunny day would have witnessed the animated conversation of three women;
– But seriously… I don’t understand…why are there so many funders complaining of the lack of good investment projects?
– Why, if there is such a move from aid to trade, are they not investing in agriculture production, foodstuffs, supply chains…isn’t that the basis of what’s being traded?
– But who is actually producing? Women of course!
– Yes, but what about mass migration to cities, foreign countries…who is staying at home in the rural areas and continuing farming? Women!
– Who are keeping these rural communities going? Women certainly…Look at the schools, health services, local commerce, food markets, trade!
– So isn’t that the connection…? Agriculture, job creation, growth…Investing in women!
And then came the question…the magic spark, “What if….we made the connection? Join the dots and link investments with bankable women led agri-businesses and agri-supply chains?
And that’s how it all started! Then…. “so what should we call ourselves?”
Impact Investment Hub
Banking on Women(shoot that’s taken!)
…and then a ‘Eureka’ moment:
Women+Agriculture+Business partnerships+Investment+Social Impact = The LadyAgri Impact Investment Hub!
We got it. And we agreed! And everything went so smoothly. So why was I so surprised? Well because starting something new is not easy, and it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.
You see, I had done this before and I was no stranger to entrepreneurship. 18 years previously,I had started my own company with two others. At the young age of 27 and with my co-founders, we unwittingly found ourselves in a situation where we had asked the same question…”What if..”? We took the jump and launched our own EU Public Affairs consultancy … diving into the ocean of 300 other companies offering the same services in Brussels. Competition was high so what was our USP? We would focus on things we believed in, and we would live by the following mantra: to do what we say and say what we do. We knew it would not be plain sailing…the waters of advocacy could be murky and lacking in transparency. With the ‘entrepreneurial fire’ in our bellies we invested everything: time, energy, days and nights of trying to unravel complex systems and matters that concerned our clients. But the fog lifted and, soon, we found ourselves in a position to recruit staff and we trained them to learn to believe in what we (and they) represented. We gave the office a homely vibe, and put people at the centre of our values. Of course sometimes we got it wrong… the usual start-up hiccups, terrible cash flow, frustration with banks, tax office, social inspectors and a very heavy administrative burden, but did stay true to our original philosophy to do things right, despite the difficulties.
By the end of our first year, we were already one partner down. We struggled. We worked around the clock to keep our clients happy and our small team motivated. Not a particularly fun time to be honest. It was lonely and sometimes very precarious.
Now we leap forward 18 years and what had I learned? If you are going to ‘jump out of that plane again’ and launch something new you better make sure you have the right parachute and DIY toolkit. The parachute should be broad full of complementary skills, the supporting ropes tight and steadfast. Because for any fledgling initiative to fly there must be support. For any young tree to grow and flourish it should have a strong ‘tutor’ to show it the path, shelter when necessary and guide over and around the obstacles.
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In launching this new legal entity, this young tree ‘LadyAgri’ needed to be supported. She would flourish and blossom if well-surrounded. I knew that this was the ‘critical ingredient’ and it was exactly what our 18 year tall ADS Insight could offer. We could make the difference between success or failure, especially in the early start-up phase. Our ADS Insight team answered the call with dedication and a ‘whatever you need’ attitude. They provided the ‘supporting ropes’ and collectively came together along with our amazing mentors and advisors to allow LadyAgri to take flight.
So when we talk of providing technical assistance, mentoring and coaching to our LadyAgri beneficiaries, we KNOW what we are talking about. We KNOW how helpful it is when you have someone who UNDERSTANDS your vision and what it is that you are trying to achieve. We SEE the immediate benefits of learning from those who have ‘done it before’ who have gained experience and are willing to share.
So here we are. Building our Hub together, pooling our business skills, networks, knowledge to provide all of the support needed by our LadyAgri entrepreneurs.
So today, we will walk the road together: and that’s the best way to start and continue the entrepreneurs’ journey (at least in my opinion)!