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Yes, success is this simple: 5 Women who've been there, done that!

Achieving Woman By Peter Oduor

Have you ever been toiling with a business idea and have no one who cares to listen or even assure to have your back when things get tough. We had a chat with 5 women who've been there, done it. Glean from their wisdom.

Success is an almost common want. We all want to be the best, we all want to be at the top, we all want to lead good lives and we (at least most people) want to be recognised for what they have achieved. What is uncommon is how to get to the top.

This part is not just uncommon, often, it is unclear. For women in the work place and in business, external factors make success even harder to come by. What does it take, to win, to lose, to be at peace with starting all over. What must you do when you have competing needs from family and business? As a woman, how can you be assertive without coming out as rude or entitled?

One woman says sometimes, it all lies in not trying to be authoritative, another one thinks being a mother can actually be good for you even as you go up while yet another insists that there is no point procrastinating success because you are young.

Here are thoughts from women who have made it in different fields. They point out the things that work for them, the pitfalls to avoid and how to reach for the stars without losing sight of your prize...

Peggy Mativo and Sapna Chandaria:Photo; Courtesy

Sapna Chandaria

Co-founder, Commercial Director and Events Guru of UP Nairobi, Kenya Concierge and Mondeas Ltd

Top 40 Under 40 Winner 2015

The specifics of running a publishing company whose core values are to be forward thinking, change makers, smart, relevant and cool, are rigorous and at time unpleasant. It is a recipe for sleepless nights, inaccurate accusations, unhappy employees and so much more. But we make it work. How...?


Stay True to yourself and to your goal: Don't let what others say or think deter you from your goal, especially when they are saying NO. No one will ever believe in you or your product more than you do and if you lose sight of that, it will all be over before you even start.

Have fun: Tell (and remind) yourself to have fun! Success is not meant to be painful, heart wrenching and destructive. This city/ this country is a dog eat dog society. People and the city will act interested in what you have, and either take advantage of you or if they can't then they will spit you out. I believe that as long as I am having fun, no one can ever take advantage of me.

Take comfort in copycats: When I see former employees or just random strangers getting into the business of publishing, or running a media or content company, it gives me hope. No one copies something that sucks! That is how you know that you are doing something right.

Biggest hurdle

The biggest hurdle to success in a male dominated field is being a woman.

Peggy Mativo

Founder PACE Kenya (Promoting Access to Community Education) and, founder of Pan African Scholarship Program

Spark Change Maker of the Year 2015

27 years old


Seize opportunities: Keep your hand raised, seize opportunities when others are being silent. When you're tempted to fall into the trap of silence, speak up. After listening to a great lecture or talk, usually, participants are invited to ask questions.

In those moments, I push myself to ask a question so I can learn something new. Raising my hand high helps conquer my fears.

Ask for help: Yes ask for help, and then decide which help is helpful. Not all help is helpful at any given moment. I have an army of mentors and advisors.

Their support and advice has helped grow our work- and gotten us through challenging situations. Everyone needs someone they can reach out to for wisdom, networks and opportunities.

Do the hard work: There's no shortcut to success. If you want to build something that outlives you, you have to put in the hard work. PACE has me awake at 4 am in the morning. I've learned that as an entrepreneur, you'll have to work longer hours- but the effort eventually bears fruit.

On dealing with success at a young age: Honestly, we should not preach to ourselves the gospel of procrastinating success. If you have a gift or talent, start working on it immediately. Don't wait until you're older or an adult, or have a better job. Go for it.

Natalie Lukkenaer: Photo; Courtesy

Natalie Lukkenaer

Founder Sauti Academy and Director Penya Africa

Runs an artist development program. Elani, Willy Paul and Ha_rt the Band passed through her in Sauti Academy.


Be ready to fail, and learn from your mistakes: Not everything works for you. Some things will fail, sometimes you will fail. I managed Sauti Sol for 2 years. I wasn't good at it, but I learnt from the experience. Turn every failure into a learning experience.

Be honest with yourself: You need to be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses. You have to know your limits be they favorable or not favorable so that you can learn how to handle different situations. It is actually hard to be honest (to yourself and to others) about your weaknesses, but you have to do it.

You can be a mother and still be a successful career lady: My daughter is 2 years old now. It took me about a year to get back properly on my feet after she was born. First ten months back at work, I actually had to bring her to the office. It is challenging to be a mother and keep working, but it is possible. People are actually understanding to your needs as a mother in the work place.

You have to balance your life: As an entrepreneur, be ready to put in long hours at work. I work 6 days a week. This can eat into your personal life and family life. So, find a balance that works for you. Get help, you can't do everything. It is okay to accept help. It is hard to move forward when your personal life and work life are not balanced.

Study, stay informed, keep getting better: Go to school. Get a second degree, or a PhD or Masters. Know your field. You need to keep refreshing your skills. Have a system that keeps you ahead of information and trends in your field. Stay informed, about the society and your field.

Biggest Hurdle:

Balancing motherhood and work

Joyce Karanja Ng'ang'a and Emma Miloyo: Photo; Courtesy

Emma Miloyo

Architect, Partner at Design Source

Director, Kiota School

Vice President Architectural Association of Kenya


Have a good support system: Family is paramount. Surround yourself with people who can tell you the truth. People who challenge you to be better, those who cheer you on, those who are not afraid to tell you that you can do better or to call you out when you are faltering.

Integrity: People will always know whether you are worth your word or not. Be honest in your dealings with family, friends, (co-)workers and clients. Clients should trust you and your work.

Hard work and commitment: Success calls for hard work. Be ready to commit to your business/ work, put in the hours to get what you want. Slog in your 10,000 hours.

God: All things are futile without God. Try as much as you can, to let your work glorify God.

Biggest hurdle:

I have two really...

Getting the right people (team) to grow an organization with. People who can believe in the vision of the organization and go the extra mile to help the team achieve its highest potential.

Giving your all for a client or for a project, then losing out in the end due to external factors.

Joyce Karanja Ng'ang'a

Partner, and Head of Competition at Coulson Harney Advocates

Success is living life with no regrets, even if it doesn't always follow the path that you had planned. I am successful because I deal with what life has brought me, I am successful because I can't wait to see what life brings me.


Live and work beyond your CV: I'd like to believe that I'm successful because I live and work beyond my CV. I'm not defined by my work success and the titles I hold. Rather I've taken time to develop my own identity and be comfortable with whom I am – a person that can wear a canary yellow ensemble in a black-suited world and not lessen the respect people give me or have them question my intelligence. I've had many successes because I care more about my team and my family and less about my "power."

Approach life like a marathoner: I approach both my professional and personal life in the way a marathoner thinks about running. I know there will be ups and downs; good days and bad. A sprinter will lose if he does not have a good start or stumbles along the way.

The marathoner can deal with these and still come out ahead. I look at hurdles as a path to more success – thinking beyond today into the future to build my career (it's not enough that I've handled a billion shilling matters – I must focus on the bigger, precedent-setting cases that haven't yet come my way) and my personal connections (each day provides another opportunity to share a coffee or a call with a friend or family member).

Do it with a smile: I've learned that I don't need an authoritative manner to handle my cases or earn awards. I've handled high profile clients in very serious cases. I have been told by clients that I am 'very sharp and with good antitrust knowledge'.

Global Competition Review also acknowledged my work by naming our competition department as the only elite competition practice in Kenya. And I did it all with a smile.

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