Women in entrepreneurship: What it takes to be a female entrepreneur in Africa

Growing up seeing her mother run a successful business for over 20 years, Juliet Gateri’s decision of becoming an entrepreneur was no surprise. She is the Founder of Talentboard, a Human Resource Consulting company which participated in our Acceleration programme 2017, Kenya cohort. With a Human Resource Consulting company, she developed HR Expert, a modern cloud-based HR software that reduces paper work, increases productivity and gives everyone time to concentrate on real work. We spoke to her about her journey of shifting from full time employment to entrepreneurship and her experience of being a female entrepreneur in Africa.

Juliet Gateri, Founder of TalentBoard

How was the idea to start a business birthed?
Like many entrepreneurs today, Juliet Gateri was in full time employment for 5 years before transitioning to entrepreneurship. She started off her professional career as an accountant in Australia before switching to Operations and Human Resource Management when she came back to Kenya. With a Bachelor of Arts (Sociology) and a Bachelor of Commerce (Finance and Accounting), Juliet succeeded in both roles admirably. Working in Operations saw her manage a team of 52 where she was highly involved in training and coaching. Over time in this role, her heart warmed up to Human Resource Management and in 2013, she founded a Human Resource Consulting Company and later developed  HR Expert, a solution that uses technology to manage Human Resource processes in organisations. Their target market is small & medium sized business and SME enablers with their key marketing tools being cold calling, social media and referrals.

What motivates you as an entrepreneur?
Driven by the need to solve problems, Juliet realised that most small and medium sized businesses were neglecting the Human Resource role, mostly due to inadequate funds to hire a Human Resource Manager. This realisation steered her to develop the HR Expert solution that is cost effective and less labour intensive. Juliet admitted that her mum, who is has over 20 years entrepreneurial experience has been her greatest role model and mentor.

What challenges do you face as a woman in entrepreneurship?
Although Human Resource Management is a female-dominated industry, Juliet faces the challenge of being undermined due to the age and experience factor. “Some companies prefer dealing with a more seasoned woman when it comes to Human Resource Consulting, “she stated. She added that unmarried women face the fear of dimming their light in business once they settle down and start a family. However, to solve this, she believes that women in business need to support each other through mentorship and guidance since they understand the struggles involved.

What one thing have you learnt that has served you well?
Being a champion for continuous learning, Juliet’s principle in business and life generally is, ‘Think Big, start Small’ from The Business Book. She is a firm believer of having a work-life balance and for her she is committed to spending time with her family and living a healthy lifestyle by working out on a daily basis.

Has the place of women in entrepreneurship been embraced in Africa?
Speaking from her experience, Juliet believes that female entrepreneurs still face discrimination to some extent especially based on their marital status. Most women in business are constantly faced with the question of whether they are married since it is the belief of some people that being a woman founder, someone must have helped you up. To change this, Juliet advocates for women in business to come together to help shape an opinion that young, single women are capable of establishing and running a successful business.

Any last words?
“When managing a team, entrepreneurs, both men and women, need to develop a level of trust such that where they assign tasks they should believe that it is going to be done well, “ Juliet stated. “Embrace persistence, continuous learning and adopt a global mindset, she added.

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