Q5: Empowerment dot com, with Selina Bieber [interview]
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Selina Bieber (@selinabieber), GoDaddy EMEA’s regional director for Turkey and MENA, talks business about entrepreneurship and women’s empowerment, and how the internet can support both, better. GoDaddy is an international internet domain registrar and web-hosting company.
Q5: What is the best advice you can give somebody wanting to start a small business online?
Selina Bieber: Don’t delay — get your feet wet as soon as possible so that you can learn, improve and grow. Thanks to the internet and the various digital tools available today, it’s not difficult or expensive to create and promote your brand online. Turning an idea into reality online is easy and you start by finding the perfect domain name and using a website builder to build a professional website in under an hour. From there, you can start to build an online community for your idea through marketing and social tools.
Here are a few more tips:
- Think of a domain name that reflects your business’s personality. Release your new website into the world with a memorable web address that reflects your brand or personality (eg konfettilove.com). Not ready yet? You can register your domain name now and then start to build your website and online presence when you are ready.
- Mobile continues to rise. More than 90% of internet users in South Africa are mobile. You should focus on improving site speed, navigation structures and readability on mobile devices, and look to optimise your website from the start for the mobile experience.
- Simple design. This is an extension of creating mobile-first experiences. Focus on relevant, concise and catchy content [and] professional images, as well as an elegant, simple design that is easy to navigate to help you catch your users’ attention.
Q5: Many women in SA don’t have access to laptops or desktop computers, or fixed internet. Would you say there is scope to run an online business using only a mobile phone?
SB: Yes, definitely! It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to run their businesses using primarily a mobile phone. We are living in a mobile-first world and there are plenty of powerful tools available for small-business owners and entrepreneurs who want to run a business straight from their smartphones. GoDaddy offers website builder tools that give you a one-page website ready for you to customise from the get-go. Our focus is on ease-of-use, so you can create and update your entire site on your phone, for example. Other tools and apps you need for an online business — email, social media and so on — are also integrated and available for your mobile device. The key is keeping it simple, starting slowly and learning as you go.
Q5: What can South Africans do to address the current gender divide in online entrepreneurship, here and globally?
SB: Keep telling the stories of the many female entrepreneurs making a dent in the online world, like Marissa Vogel here in SA, and other local women who have created small, thriving local business on the internet.
- Help to make financing and venture capital more accessible to women
- Provide information and mentoring for women who want to start their own businesses There are many would-be entrepreneurs who need help with basic finance and compliance matters, for example.
- Help build support and mentoring networks where female entrepreneurs can share experiences and knowledge with others who share their challenges and ambitions
- Keep pushing the technology industry to address its gender imbalance
- Encourage digital literacy and STEM studies among girls in our education system
Q5: What can technology companies like yours do to encourage entrepreneurship, especially among women?
SB: Our customer research shows that costs, time and technical difficulty are among the most-significant barriers that digital entrepreneurs face [emphasis added], whether you are a woman or a man. Technology companies should aim to empower people with easy, affordable tools that help them get online and run their businesses from the device that best meets their needs.
As a technology company, we can help to reduce the technical complexities from running a business online, while also providing education, inspiration and advice to aspiring and existing entrepreneurs and small-business owners. This can include tutorial and inspirational information, as well as products and services that are easy to use and affordable, for entrepreneurs who are just getting started.
I also think it’s important for technology companies to showcase their female customers who are thriving as entrepreneurs. Doing so can inspire other women who are considering pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams and reinforce the huge population of female entrepreneurs around the world.
Q5: Are you spotting any ecommerce/start-up trends particular to SA?
SB: GoDaddy ran a survey among 300 SA customers in late 2018 and found the services sector is thriving. This includes the IT, legal, accounting, consulting, marketing, and web-development sectors. Many entrepreneurs and freelance professionals in the services industry are making effective use of their digital presence to reach people in new markets — whether they are growing from local to national businesses or from national to global businesses.
We also noted that many of the customers surveyed identified as ecommerce retailers. Despite a gap in connectivity and logistics, our SA customers have largely tapped into digital technologies and shown an increased interest in ecommerce services. We anticipate the drive of these early adopters to spill over and support a broader segment of the population looking to benefit from ecommerce within the next few years.
It was interesting to see just how the idea of the “side hustle” has taken off in SA. Solo entrepreneurs accounted for nearly 60% of our total respondents; of those, nearly two-thirds are side hustlers. For side hustlers, the no. 1 short-term priority is becoming more successful and creating the financial conditions to quit their current full-time job to focus on what they love doing, currently their part-time activity.
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her new regular column “Q5” aims to hone in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with experts in media, marketing and design.