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She Did It Her Way, WNX Breakfast Recap

27 May

photo 2When she was in grade seven in Montreal, Sue Abu-Hakima, Co-founder & CEO of Amika Mobile, took a career aptitude test. The result was that she should be a filing clerk. Sue ignored it on the advice of her mother, a PhD from London University and teacher at McGill University. With Sue’s story, the title of May’s Women’s Executive Network (WXN) breakfast talk in Ottawa could not have been more appropriate: I Did It My Way: Lessons Learned from Entrepreneurs.

During that event, Sue gave us seven key takeaways for running a successful business.

1.    Decide what you’re going to attack – find the problem you’re going to solve.

2.    Pick a huge market. “A million dollar market isn’t good enough. You need a giant market. If you get only 1% it has to be big. Talk to me about a $100 million market.”

3.    Make great products and patents.

4.    Form a team. “You are the cheerleader. . . You are kind of like the bell weather for your team.” Sue likes to throw a Frisbee around the office with her team, or take them to blockbuster movies like The Matrix and Iron Man. She knows that the work environment can be stressful, and it’s her job to maintain the right kind of energy.

5.    Business model: “Get your product into customers’ hands and get their feedback ASAP. Also, keep in mind, your competitors know everything about you, so get to know them too.”

6.    Find financing. “There are strong angel groups out there including in Ottawa. But be careful when seeking financing. When it comes to venture cap, as a woman you don’t ‘fit the mold.’ Only one in 400 companies are funded and only one in 1,000 lead by women are funded. So, don’t go in with high expectations and get ready to bootstrap!”

7.    Have an exit strategy for teams and investors. “Be generous to anybody that helped you especially your team and angel investors as you will need them for the next company.”

WXNIf you want to catch more detail on these points, we have a video of Sue’s TEDx Talk here.
Sue’s insights went beyond her seven-point presentation. Here are just a few of the gems she shared:

“Go out, get people with gray hairs who have done it before and they can help you on your board of directors and as advisors.”

“Help your community, help yourself.”“You only live once. If you hate your job, you are dying, start thinking how you can change it.”

“Make those mistakes, recognize those mistakes, and fix them.”

“Women, we are the hardest on ourselves. If we can’t get 80 or above, we can’t do it.”

“There’s no such thing as perfect.”

After her presentation, Sue went around the room and took the time to speak to the attendees and exchange business cards, cranking up the networking and getting women to connect.

Thanks very much to Sue for your candid conversation and encouragement for all the women in the room. And thank you also to the WXN for organizing these events.

Till next time,

Sunny Skies Ahead, WXN Breakfast

14 Apr

It was a pleasure to be part of the Virtual Head Table this past March 24th at the Women’s Executive Network (WXN) breakfast in Ottawa. The topic for that morning: Sunny Skies Ahead, The 2015 Financial Forecast. As we sipped coffee and met up with like-minded colleagues at that beautiful tower in the sky, The Rideau Club, I was woken up and reinvigorated by all the talent in the room. Skies are most certainly sunny when you have such a smart group of ladies gathered together in one space.

WXN Breakfast March 24

Speakers for the morning were 2014 WXN Top 100 Award Winner, Carol Deveney of PricewaterhouseCoopers, as well as Corinne Pohlman, Senior Vice-President of National Affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and Nancy Graham, Portfolio Manager of PWL Capital.

What I personally found most interesting was how the conversation rolled from the financial outlook to a broader outlook on life.Here are some take-away moments from the conversation:

  • To navigate the financial journey, you have to realize what is needed (not as easy as it sounds), develop a road map, and know how to get help.
  • In uncertain times, we as leaders need to be transparent and be true to ourselves.
  • It’s a challenge to have the right people in the right jobs–fit matters.
  • Find a financial adviser who will be your advocate. This is tricky when the system is commission-based.

For the final question–What would you say to your 20-year old self?–it was striking to see how the answers tied into our kinaesthetic intelligence around how to live in and be responsive to each moment while being present. Some of the responses included:

  • You miss the moment too easily. Pay attention, take pictures, savour it.
  • Anchor those moments of meaning, so you can call them up during moments of hardship.
  • Make space in your schedule to escape the city.
  • Travel is the best education.
  • How do you stay present in the moment? Pay attention to your body. Yoga, nature, spa days.
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