“Learn, do something, get off your seat, and go and get the crowd. Nothing will happen if you stay indoors. When things happen, they will be one of the best rewarding professional and life experiences you’ll ever have.”
Servane Mouazan believes in impact made by women. She is the founder and director of Ogunte, [ www.ogunte.com] an award winning organisation that contributes to “building a better world powered by women”. Ogunte enables women social entrepreneurs, and their supporters – incubators, finance providers, networks – to make a positive impact of people and planet, by enabling them to learn, lead, and connect. Servane led the creation of Make a Wave, the first UK incubator for women social entrepreneurs. She developed the International Women’s Social Leadership Awards, as well as an activist angel network, focusing on women-led good businesses. She currently manages the Womanity Award programme, investing in a replication ecosystem to prevent violence against women. Outside Ogunte, Servane advises and coaches on Conscious Innovation , helping people design positive and impactful projects, and amplify their legacy.
Who is your role model as an entrepreneur?
I have many, which is a great luxury, as I run a learning network for women social entrepreneurs. They are my source of inspiration and research for activist change. I particularly like people who can blend activism with business, research, future-thinking, and systemic change; at least they don’t waste their time, or their customer’s time.
One of my key role models is Meenu Vadera from Delhi, India, who started Sakha Cabs, to make travelling in Delhi safer for women. As we’ve heard in the media, violence against women can take gruesome proportions. Meenu introduced women-only taxis and provides training and work for women from marginalised communities. The company has scaled, it has a clear remit, it is inclusive, and it works. The second women I admire is Janine Benyus, for her work around bio-mimicry, at the crossroads of nature, business, science and design. As a scientist, she studies how nature works and designs itself and then applies those principles to business, technology and systems designs.
The third role model who inspires me is Donna Morton, from First Power Canada, and Principium, for combining clean energy, clean money, and work in indigenous communities. For me, that is a great example of how you can align a quadruple bottom line, achieving positive social, environmental, financial and cultural objectives. It’s a non-negotiable. She has contributed to set up the Principium asset management firm to help move money into the sustainable and regenerative economy. All of these women and many others impress and inspire me, in the areas they are experts in, the way they do business, how they are curious and learn.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
First of all, my son – he is my ongoing achievement! From a professional point of view,
I think it’s making the point that women social entrepreneurs are a determining factor to accelerate positive social impact. I have been doing that through my company over the past 14 years. We now see a trend emerging here and there about social entrepreneurship, people pay more attention to the work women social entrepreneurs do. Now there are more players in this field and I feel less lonely.
The Ogunte team combines entrepreneurs, activists, angels and facilitators, who are here to help women make a positive impact on people and planet, through business incubation, leadership programmes, networks, and awards. One of my highlights is creating the Ogunte Women’s Social Leadership Awards, which we set up in 2007 in the UK. These awards highlight the achievements of women worldwide whose innovative campaigns and enterprises not only benefit but also, crucially, engage and empower the people they serve. To date, we have had 137 finalists from 23 different countries.
My second highlight has been to pioneer an incubator for women social entrepreneurs, that has run in different locations in the UK, and also on-line, with international recipients. Based on the knowledge that we have acquired throughout the years and the experience of working with women innovators and social entrepreneurs, we are in the position to help a lot of other intermediaries, funders, business support providers, policy makers, and help them look at women among their beneficiaries, constituents, with a more robust approach.
What has been your biggest challenge as a Women Entrepreneur?
The challenge in my business life in general is to align my passion for women-led social change, with the discipline of running a sustainable business. Sometimes life throws blocks along the way that are distracting and tiring, it could be separation, illness, or more positive things like a child, but the business can sometimes suffer. I have learned to be flexible, to adapt and expect that different things may happen. I have learned to say no, but I have still got a lot of work to do on that.
For me success is not only financial. It’s about having an extended sense of connectedness, building relationships that last, being curious about the people, the ideas, people’s potential, not just spreadsheets
What in your opinion is the key to your success?
For me success is not only financial. It’s about having an extended sense of connectedness, building relationships that last, being curious about the people, the ideas, people’s potential, not just spreadsheets (although the spreadsheets are necessary to visualize if business can emerge from a conversation…). It’s the human side of things that make things sticky and an organization sustainable. It’s knowing what my key values are.
Embrace finance! I would learn about finance much earlier in my life and not be afraid of it. For a long time I thought fundraising was about filling in applications, but that’s not true. It’s about exciting people, engaging them, getting them on board, building a story together.
If you could do one thing differently, what would that be?
Embrace finance! I would learn about finance much earlier in my life and not be afraid of it. For a long time I thought fundraising was about filling in applications, but that’s not true. It’s about exciting people, engaging them, getting them on board, building a story together. Financial skills are then great to give a solid foundation to that story. I lost a lot of time because I was afraid of finance! Money is not an end in itself, it’s just a tool.
What would you say to others to encourage them to become entrepreneurs?
I can’t force feed people to become entrepreneurs. It’s a journey they have to discover themselves. They have to give themselves permission to be entrepreneurs, have a purpose that positively serves others and ideally the planet. Then get on with it. Learn, do something, get off your seat, and go and get the crowd. Nothing will happen if you stay indoors. When things happen, it will be one of the best rewarding professional and life experience you’ll ever have. I found a great example in nature, that successful women social innovators are actually like Slime Mould, they have a strong focus, strong drive, they show a great sense of connectedness, and courage! Check out this Tedx talk ‘The world belongs to smart connectors’: http://youtu.be/Gvihf1O2emA
How would you describe your leadership style?
Transformational, I guess. I am quite iterative and I want people, myself included, to continuously learn and grow, but also be accountable and practical. My style of transformational leadership is based on trust and creativity, with a strong focus of the impact that needs to be achieved. It’s about moving together, where nothing is fixed.
Just get on with it. Do it for yourself, not to please others.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Having random ideas about how you want to change things around you is ok. You are learning, eventually, everything will find a place. But get on with it. Do something. Do it for yourself, not to please others. There is a time and place for everything. Have a strong focus…
Tedx: About Love and Tantrum Physics (http://youtu.be/8nYfrJdkpFA) is a talk where I explain how I was afraid of that randomness, whilst I could see that the world around me needed changing, and I didn’t know what to do to be genuinely useful. Then I met the right people, at the right time, and learned that activism was not an act of grandeur necessarily, but the sum of everyday actions.
What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?
I am moving Ogunte CIC (Community Interest Company) to a third tier position, where we can help networks of social entrepreneurs, incubators, campaigners groups, and policy makers achieve more concrete and integrated steps to advance women, especially women social entrepreneurs, as I think they are key to making deeper change in communities. Moving to a more strategic advisory position will enable us to make a bigger impact. I want Ogunte to be a key player in advisory services for anything related to women social entrepreneurs globally. Personally, I want to be in a financial position where I can directly fund and invest in women social innovators, in various parts of the world, but that would be my hobby!
3 key words to describe yourself:
“Get on with it, it’s worth it.”