Entrepreneurship is leadership. As an entrepreneur, you are going to have to lead your team and show them the way to go. It’s your job to sell them the vision of your brand and get everyone to be on the same page. This is why building the right leadership skills are important.
Previously, we spoke with Toluwani Ojo on what has helped him negotiate the best prices with his customers as he builds a catfish growing business. This week, we spoke with Mary Magdalene Ekanem on how she builds leadership skills as an fashion entrepreneur.
Please tell us about yourself and your brand.
My name is Mary Magdalene Ekanem, although I prefer being called Mae because it’s shorter. My brand, Sanct is a beauty brand that was founded to redefine the concept of beauty in Africa, especially in Nigeria. We create cosmetics tailored to African skin and fully backed by advanced research on African skin.
What inspired you to start Sanct? How long has it been in existence?
I have always been interested in cosmetics, and being a makeup artist in my earlier years gave me insight into the beauty world. My degree in chemical engineering opened me up to exploring the science behind beauty. Being in Nigeria and seeing how the beauty industry is flooded with subpar products that don’t cater well to African skin made me want to do more for the African beauty industry. Sanct is a year old.
Our focus today is on leadership. As an entrepreneur, how have you been able to develop your leadership skills to lead your team effectively?
I have learnt to practice, read, and repeat. Whenever I learn something new that might help me with leadership, I practice it. As I begin to practice it, I read up more on it to know how to develop myself in it and get better. Then, I repeat the process. The more I do it, the more used to it I get.
Anytime I fail with leading my team, I’d go back and read on better strategies. From reading on them, I gain more insight and knowledge on how to do things better. It helps me know where I have fallen short and how I can improve to make up for my failures. I then practice those strategies. Truly, practice makes perfect.
In your opinion, what are the major leadership qualities every entrepreneur must possess?
From my experience, communication skills are the most important skills a leader should have. Without good communication skills, it will be very hard to lead a team or come out strong.
Communication skills help you to effectively pass across the goals you want to achieve with your brand to those that work with you. They help you to understand your clients, employees, and vendors better in order to build lasting relationships with them. If a leader fails with communication, it will be hard to move the brand forward.
How do you select the right people for your team and how do you motivate them to do more?
To select the right people to work with me, I pick people who are committed to my goal as an entrepreneur. Their skills can be perfected over time.
I say this because commitment is an important part of running a business. When I meet people that want to make the difference that I want to make with my brand, I get them. For the brand to move forward, my team has to have the same vision as me so we can work towards getting it done.
Yes, skills are important, but I would pick commitment over skills.
Yes, skills are important, but I would pick commitment over skills. With time, skills can be perfected and even learnt but you can’t learn commitment. It’s either you are committed to a cause or you aren’t.
What are the major leadership tips you follow that guide how you do things?
Learn and practice. Those are very 2 important tips I follow. Whenever I learn new leadership skills, I practice them, read up on them, and repeat the process. Learning never ends.
For every new strategy I learn, I always go back to practice it. If it doesn’t work for me, I just go and learn other strategies that will work. It’s a never-ending cycle in leadership.
You’ve had fashion designers sew clothes for you before. What’s your opinion of the industry?
I think it’s a very creative space. However, there isn’t much means of expression for new designers. The industry, especially in Nigeria, is limited, so, new designers cannot express themselves properly.
What were your worst and best experiences with a fashion designer?
My worst experience is always when clothes aren’t delivered on time. It’s a big issue with fashion designers in Nigeria.
I don’t have a best experience yet. Nothing has wowed me yet. However, that’s because I gave up on bespoke, I prefer picking up my outfits ready-to-wear from stores, it’s not as stressful.
Great! Thank you so much for your time.
You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
What leadership skills work have you picked from this article? Tell us in the comments section, we’d love to know.