Joining our fantastic line up of TGI game changers is Rudo Nondo, founder and creative director of African Rack, who decided to return to university to study an MA in creative and cultural entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths, after being awarded a Chevening Scholarship.
She shares with us her top tips, what she’s learnt, both academically and through experience. And how entrepreneurs can benefit from studying.
You have run a business previously, can you briefly tell us a bit about that?
I ran a fashion and home products business (African Rack) which then also became a consultancy.
The business was founded ten years ago in my home country (Zimbabwe) when I discovered a gap in the fashion market, which was a hive of incredible talent and extraordinary products, that no one could access outside of the network.
So, I set up a platform to highlight products coming out of Zimbabwe, and the projects people were working on.
In understanding the fashion industry and ecosystem, I then developed my own fashion brand ANAIA which literally blew up! It was brilliant as I had no fashion background but through networking I ended up showcasing at the Harare International Festival of Arts (HIFA) and Zimbabwe Fashion Week. It became a thriving and successful business.
Why did you decide to then study to become an entrepreneur?
Throughout my journey, I’ve been evolving as a businesswoman. At no point in our formative education were we taught how to be entrepreneurs. It was something we had to figure out on the ground, learn through practice, and often by making mistakes.
So, I chose to study creative and cultural entrepreneurship at London’s Goldsmiths to better understand what I was doing, and if that was right! And to build on that. I am making an investment in myself as an entrepreneur. I chose to pause my business and study full time, after being awarded a Chevening Scholarship.
As I’m also a mentor, I have passed my clients to a number of my mentees, which helps grow their experience too, and gives them exposure to a network they didn’t have before.
What have you learned that you wish you knew then?
I’ve learned to trust in myself more! As much as I was running on instinct, what I’ve learned studying is very much aligned with what I was doing. So, instincts are way more powerful than we think.
I have always been a big networker, and studying has shown that to be very important. So it’s really helped put these aspects in context.
How can studying help entrepreneurs?
It gives us the opportunity to understand theory. We base some of our business decisions on assumption, scraping the surface by looking at statistics or the news, but never in depth academic material. It enables us to work through the layers.
It can also hugely expand our network, giving us great exposure to similar entrepreneurs, and potential partners or suppliers.
Pausing and studying full time is risky. But part time is much easier. Even studying aspects of your industry can help greatly. Taking courses on writing if you’re publishing for example. We must keep learning. Things change so quickly and this is how we ensure we are constantly adapting. It can massively help to grow our skill base and will ensure we constantly evolve.
What would be your top tips for female entrepreneurs?
Have an excellent support system! Because there are times when it gets very hard. You need mentors, but also friends. People who have your back.
Find balance! Something I’m still figuring out. Have hobbies, like going to the gym. Do what makes you happy. Take time out of the business and come back with a fresh perspective.
Always know what your competitors are doing! If possible, develop relationships with them so you can trade industry secrets.
Finally, always manage cash flow! I was taught that at 7am you should know what’s coming in and going out, likewise at 11pm. That way you can always make the right decisions.
How do you think The Gender Index will help them?
Knowing the statistics can push us into action. The Gender Index gives us the raw data. It also shows us we’re not alone and that we need to push for change.
How do you view the proposed internship with Savvitas over the summer?
I’m hugely excited to be interning with Savvitas this Summer. As I am a student, this is a natural step. Working with people who have pioneered in their field is an incredible opportunity. I’m looking forward to learning even more about being a business leader and expanding my network. You can never learn enough from people who have paved the way!