Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Follow Networking Tips on Netsheila

I am Lin McDevitt-Pugh and I worked with women entrepreneurs in East Africa in 2010-2011. I was inspired by the way the intermediary organisations for women entrepreneurs created links to resources for the members and stakeholders of their organisations.
The contract is complete now, but that is no reason to think the communication will not continue.
On the Netsheila blog you can keep up to date and develop your knowledge of networking. I look forward to seeing you there,

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Most Valuable People in Your Network

The Most Valuable People in Your Network
I came across this Harvard Business Review posting on the value of networks.
I like the two illustrations. The most effective network is Susan's network. Richard spends more time than economically necessary talking with people who know each other.
 copyright HBR 2011.

Practically, this means we need to think about where our electronic links are taking us. If we are circulating too much with people we have known forever or people who themselves are all spending time in the same meetings and interactions, then we are not getting the performance impact we can from social-media tools. Bigger is not better. The magic lies in the new ideas and perspectives that can come from connections into different networks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

UNIVERSITY OF EAST LONDON Business Incubation Centre

From patronage to incubation

Rather than mentoring, the Business Incubation Centre at the Knowledge Dock at the University of East London (UEL) matches patrons to starting women entrepreneurs. I there a difference? We think so, after visiting UEL today. Patrons bring a presence into the room, having a patron lets you know that they think what you are doing is worthwhile = worth spending their time on. Patrons are people who have experienced the roller-coast of being in business and can listen to you from their wealth of experience.

But perhaps my idea of patron is coloured by my experience at UWEAL in Kampala. When UWEAL’s patron enters the room, we expect brilliance and we know that we are at an event that is worth attending. So imagine my confusion when I was trying to park my car at a rural Australian railway station, and the sign said “For Railway Patrons Only”.  Was I a patron? Did I have to pay a special fee to be a patron? It finally dawned on me that patrons in Australia are simply people that give you their business. Patronizing a cafe has nothing to do with making the cafe small. Patronizing a woman does make her small.

In the end, the value of a word is the value you give it. And at UEL they choose to imbue the word Patron with a sense of dignity and value.

We met with Danielle Sheerin, a very engaged and passionate woman from Employability and Enterprise, who introduced us to her colleagues Thorsten Klein and Jackie Chandler. I was struck first by their passion for the work they do, then by the clever way they utilize EU funding. To start with the latter: they don’t bother with applying for EU funding – usually funding for 4 years – if they can’t turn it within 8 years of commencement into a viable, self-financing activity. This approach is in stark contrast to a different institute we visited, whose funding strategy is based on “let’s see where the money is”.  No, the BIC develops a concept, finds EU financing to develop it basically as a start up, asks the University to support to program for the 4 years after subsidy ends and expects to have a business arm at the end of the process.

Their concept is a three-tiered  business incubation and support service. 60 new business entrepreneurs – students - use the BIC’s hatchery, a room with partitioned cubicles and desk top facilities that entrepreneurs can access 24/7.  They can ask for advise, talk with each other, or just get on with developing their business.

When the business takes off they can move into a shared office space, where one or two desks are separated by partitions from other businesses in the room. The companies get their chair, desk, chest of draws, filing cabinet, printer and desk top computer. They have the advantage of being able to bounce ideas off other people in the room, a receptionist, and meeting space for client contact.

Then there is a third level, and we saw the company Yoomi. John Lewis is an engineer who invented a way of heating babies milk without dunking the bottle in hot water or a microwave. The bottle is fitted with an element you can switch on. Mothers who express milk or use other milk products are buying this product as if they had been waiting for it. The elements are manufactured in South Africa and assembled at the site in UEL.  Pauline Ofong of UWEAL, who in a past life had a one-stop shop for all the needs of pregnant women an women with young children, was delighted at meeting John. I will not be surprised to see the Yoomi baby bottle introduced one day soon to Uganda.

Pauline Ofong and I are excited about possible future cooperation with UEL. They are happy to take interns, and UWEAL may consider sending an intern to BIC to learn how everything is done. Having such a centre in Kampala, perhaps in cooperation with MUBS (Makerere University Business School), would provide great opportunities for business development in Uganda.

Kevin Ma on getting business at the Olympics