Entrepreneurship, particularly in the realm of technology, has stereotypically been a male-dominated sector. Flying in the face of this stereotype however, is Shana Kay. Shana lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she owns and runs her online security start-up business, Intellicred. Young, driven, and battling it out as a female CEO in the tough marketplace of South Africa; Shana is an inspiration for any aspiring young female entrepreneur. So far in her career Shana has been awarded a SAB (South African Breweries) Kick-Start award and has been voted as one of the Mail&Guardian’s 100 Young People to have lunch with. Read on to find out how Shana got started, and how she battled through hurdles on the way to success.
The seed of Intellicred, originally named Infointeg, was planted while Shana was still living in Cape Town, when she and her partner Kevin Derman grew frustrated at the lack of credible information online. In light of this, Shana had the idea for a company which would validate information about what potential suppliers could provide, and thus Infointeg was born. Shana subsequently moved from her home in Cape Town to Johannesburg, to be closer to other movers and shakers in the business world.
While certainly no mean feat to become a female CEO in South Africa, Shana says that there is actually much help out there, with many government initiatives geared towards female entrepreneurs. That’s not to say however, that Shana didn’t face difficulties in the beginning. When she began her first company, co-founded with two partners, Shana was still studying for her degree, and had to strike a delicate balance between her work and study commitments. She pushed herself by working 12-14 hour days, and often worked through weekends; showing what an integral role hard work plays in success.
Like any young entrepreneur, Shana faced many challenges on her way to becoming a successful CEO. The most disconcerting of these challenges was the apparent failure of Itellicred’s first product; Infointeg Trust Seal. This product enjoyed a short life on the market before being overtaken by a competing product from the corporate giant Verisign. As a start-up company, Infointeg did not have the financial resources to compete, and so had to park their product.
Shana responded to these initial challenges by working twice as hard and altering her approach. By putting in more hours and more resources, Shana built on her failed product and transformed it into a White Label product called Intellicred, a product which has been received remarkably well and is the basis of Shana’s current success.
What Shana’s story should show all inspiring entrepreneurs is the importance of not giving up at the first hurdle. When starting out in business it is unlikely that your first product will be an instant success, and like Shana’s, it may even fail completely. If you have complete belief in your concept, and that there is a niche to be tapped into, then simply pick yourself up and go at it from a different angle. Large corporations will always pose a threat to start-up businesses, which simply do not have the same resources and manpower to compete. So as an aspiring small business owner, ask yourself what you can bring to the market that a larger business can’t. How can you make your product different? Or perhaps more importantly, how can you market it successfully to appear an appealing alternative?
Like Shana, you are almost sure to find yourself in a juggling act when you first get to work on your business plan. Funds are of course needed first and foremost, and it would be most unwise to quit your day job whilst your idea is still coming to fruition. Business start-up loans are a route to explore for funding your business, but you ideally should have a certain amount of seed money saved before applying, and banks will of course take into account your history and credit rating. Depending on your country of residence, as in South Africa, in many countries there are government start-up loans offered specifically for young entrepreneurs. These loans are part of government initiatives to boost the economy, and if you can present a strong and viable idea, you could well be in with a chance of being granted one. Whichever route you decide to go down with your funding, remember that your loan is an investment, a tool for achieving your dream.
Eve Pearce is a freelance writer.
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