The information and communications technology (ICT) industry in South Africa is still largely male-dominated, with only 23% of jobs in the field held by women. But even though men still lead the field both in South Africa and internationally, there are a handful of women who are really disrupting the status quo and making their mark. Three such women are co-founders of Airshot; Samantha Staats, Claire Storm and ex-Miss South Africa, Heather Mostert.
In 2017, these three women, who were all running successful businesses at the time, wanted to address a gap in the market with a tech-centered solution. The problem? None of them actually had the tech skills or the education to back their vision. In fact, none of them had any form of tech background at all! And yet the co-founders believe that they possess the necessary skill and experience required to make their dreams a reality. “We’d like to think of us as having exactly the right skill set to make this happen. Whilst having a tech background would’ve been an added advantage; it wasn’t critical. Leadership, project management, problem solving, delegation and networking are the skills that have served us best,” Heather explains.
And so, these ladies (with the help of their wingman and serial entrepreneur, Felix Schmitz) pursued their dream and founded Airshot, a forward-thinking digital solution that boosts employee engagement and productivity across a company’s value chain. Now, two years and 1000 users later, Airshot has managed to bag one of South Africa’s largest retailers as a client, making the co-founders vision of building a global business that drives growth, is a catalyst for change and ultimately makes every single person they engage with maximise their potential, a reality.
In celebration of Women’s month, Sam, Claire and Heather share 5 tips with wannabe shetrepreneurs:
1. Know your vision, make your tribe, start!
Claire shares that taking the first step was critical to their success. “Airshot started with a conversation! Sam and I had realised that a technical solution needed to be developed. It took all of five seconds for Felix to agree and a few months later, the team was completed by Heather. Step One: Know your vision. Step Two: Make your tribe. Step Three: Start!”
2. Affect change no matter the circumstances
Heather believes that when you have an opportunity to affect change, you don’t necessarily need all the required skills, education or background to make that happen; you do however need the right people. “They say do what you love, with the people you love. My approach is to work with a group of creative, energetic and captivating people, who bring a different set of skills to the table that, when combined are perfect alchemy.”
3. It’s not going to be for everybody
“When someone says ‘No’ to your product, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t be a success,” says Samantha. She adds that it’s important to remember that your product or service is not going to be for everyone. “I am so passionate about Airshot that I just want everyone to have it and love it, but realistically, it’s not going to be for everyone and that’s okay. Every no is closer to a yes!”
4. Be agile and open to learning
No business is without its challenges, but being able to quickly adjust and lean on the collective skills within your business, plays a pivotal role in your ability to bounce back. “We have an all-hands-on-deck approach when it comes to challenges. We believe in fixing problems immediately and when one partner knows more than the other, we support them in finding a solution that has a positive impact for our clients,” says Heather.
5. Talk about your ideas
Don’t be scared to talk about your business for fear of someone stealing your ideas says Claire. “Talking, connecting, sharing and networking can only grow your abilities, and hiding it, is just one potential customer down the drain. There are more collaborators than destroyers in business.”
“Women can become leaders in any industry, but a strong vision and a formidable team are great contributors to overall success,” Samantha concludes.