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What it Takes to Be a Successful Leader: Part Two

What it Takes to Be a Successful Leader: Part Two

We asked some of our leading female entrepreneurs to share advice on what it takes to reach their level of success for a four-part blog series! With experiences ranging from the tech sector to recruitment firms to social enterprises, they each share lessons learned from their unique entrepreneurial journeys that brought them to the top of their game.

Today, we asked our leaders: What do you wish you’d known before starting your entrepreneurial journey? Here’s what they said.

Zahra Al-Harazi

Despite being successful and building a couple of companies, I still have a lot to learn. Every detail changes with the people, the reactions, the economy, the technology, the market, the competition, the product, etc.  And each reaction is different based on the situation. I feel like I am learning every day.

With a no-holds-barred attitude, Zahra Al-Harazi helps people and organizations realize their potential for success, drawing on her experience as a pioneering woman in the business world with a unique approach to attitude, leadership, and success.

Erin Bury

I wish I had been exposed to entrepreneurship earlier. Both of my parents worked for big companies, and growing up in the ‘90s, entrepreneurship wasn’t as “cool” as it is today. Now, kids grow up with role models like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Spanx’s Sara Blakely, but I’m not sure I even knew what an entrepreneur was until I graduated university.

It was only after going to work at a startup shortly after graduating that I was exposed to the startup world, and I immediately fell in love with it. I loved how passionate entrepreneurs were about solving a particular problem, and how they built these tight-knit, talented teams. Now that I’ve been exposed to entrepreneurship, I can never go back!

Named one of Marketing Magazine’s “Top 30 Under 30”, Erin Bury is a marketer, former technology journalist, and startup enthusiast who shares the ins-and-outs of entrepreneurship, marketing to millennials, creating a killer personal brand, and how to harness the latest digital trends.

Mandy Gilbert

I wish I had known to secure money when I needed it the least. I started my business, Creative Niche, just a couple of years after the dot-com crash in 2002, only to run into another even bigger crash six years later in 2008. When there’s a global economic crisis, companies are laying off employees, not hiring them. And for a staffing and recruiting firm, that means we’re directly affected.

When times are good and numbers are up, the banks are more than willing to give you a line of credit. However, it’s the exact opposite when you’re facing challenging periods. So, do yourself a favour and secure funds now just in case that rainy day comes.

Having successfully built two international businesses from the ground up, Mandy Gilbert speaks on entrepreneurship, leadership, culture, talent, and building a professional brand, all grounded by her own journey from a “one woman show” to founder of multi-million-dollar enterprises.


Nilofer Merchant | Former Tech Executive | Bestselling Author

The one thing I wish I understood was that there are many ways to scale and I didn’t have to do it all myself.

Most entrepreneurs become so because they have an original idea. And then as they build a company around that creative spark, they often think they need to keep being the source of every other creative spark.

But that focus on the originator of an idea as the leader neglects a fundamental truth about how innovation of any sort happens — ideas and sparks of creativity are important but so is the manifestation of that idea into reality, which never (e-v-e-r) happens alone. Yes, original ideas are born of you, from that place in the world where only you stand, your onlyness. But those nascent ideas are shaped, honed, and made manifest by many, those who share the purpose of that idea. Both parts really matter, but unfortunately, they are not celebrated equally because American culture, and business specifically, celebrates the leader as an individual hero, while collaborative leadership is undervalued.

Scale can happen in many ways though. We need to recognize that alternative leadership model, which is to have many start to own an idea as if it were their own so they can co-create that idea into reality.

Knowing this, I would have hired people not on how well they could do a particular role, but on how much they believed in the end goal.

Nilofer Merchant is a master at turning seemingly “wild” ideas into new realities, and showing the rest of us how we can, too. A bestselling author on innovation and collaboration, a TED mainstage speaker, and the recipient of the “Future Thinker Award” from Thinkers 50, Nilofer reveals new ways of connecting our ideas to the world, in an era when the potential to make a difference is wide-open.

Barbara Stegemann

I am kind of glad I didn’t have a crystal ball. I think that would have taken some of the adrenaline rush out of the journey. So, I am glad I had to ask good questions and go on a steep learning curve. That’s what made the journey fabulous. I think if there was one thing I wish I’d known, it would be to stay the course regardless of the challenges and find a way to go around or over any obstacle.

In her inspiring talks, Barb Stegemann shares her journey from launching her award-winning social enterprise, The 7 Virtues, out of her garage to becoming the first Canadian brand featured in Sephora’s new “Clean at Sephora” space in both Canadian and US stores.

Nicole Verkindt

I wish I had known how long everything would take.

Nicole Verkindt is passionate about leveraging the talents of entrepreneurs. Speaking to the importance of disruptive thinking, women’s roles in business, technology, and innovation, Nicole shows audiences how the real key to success is learning how to push past being told “no” over and over again.

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