Women shouldn’t shy away from leadership, especially during tough economic times such as these,” says Shilpa Mehta, the newly elected first female president of The Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Durban Chapter (EO) and owner of the electronic manufacturing service provider, Production Logix.
A CA by training and entrepreneur in her own right who is quite at home working in a male-dominated industry, Mehta takes over from property guru and Remax franchise owner, Grant Gavin.
She takes the reigns at a time when businesses in South Africa are struggling to cope with losses incurred during the Covid-19 lockdown and delays in the gradual re-opening of the ailing South African economy. The post-COVID-economy is looking to be one where we are extremely focused on rebuilding, growth as well as collaboration. Embracing diversity is a priority and businesses will shift to proactively embrace this.
“The challenges of a COVID recovery and embracing diversity are tough challenges for everyone. Whilst I am a woman, I have had the same challenges as other business owners. Entrepreneurs are carrying the load to ensure their businesses, staff and family are all safe and learn to respect diversity whilst at the same time ensuring you have a business that adapts in the current crisis. Although we will be the ones to make a difference, this places a huge weight on an employer’s shoulders. What has helped is my EO network and forum and together we have navigated this crisis as best possible, knowing our decision making sound and rational rather than emotional and based on sound business principles rather than fear. We have leaned into the network to share the numerous challenges and also many opportunities which have certainly helped,” she says.
EO is a global, peer-to-peer network of more than 14 000 influential business owners with 193 chapters in 60 countries and is open to entrepreneurs with businesses that turnover more than US$1 million.
Since its launch in 1987, EO remains the only global network that encourages entrepreneurs to grow by expanding interests and learning leadership skills from fellow members who challenge their perspectives and question their presuppositions. EO encourages both personal and professional growth through connections to experts, mentoring and networking.
Although many of the challenges which entrepreneurs are now navigating have not been experienced in the world of business before or been addressed as priorities, Mehta is confident that business leaders will be stronger as they stand together – an opinion that is echoed by the outgoing president, Grant Gavin.
“Entrepreneurship is lonely, and especially so during times like these. When there is no playbook or set of instructions to follow on how to make it through a global pandemic, the ability to learn from the experiences of entrepreneurs who are facing similar challenges becomes hugely valuable. In my experience as a leader during the lockdown, the ability to nurture, protect and build relationships amidst all the chaos has been key. Relationships and empathy are massive characteristic strengths of women and, as such, a major reason why women entrepreneurs are well equipped to stand tall during these times,” he points out.
Mehta sees one of her key roles as president as growing EO’s Durban Chapter, especially when it comes to adding more women entrepreneurs to the mix. Right now, local membership stands at approximately 20%, a step above the organisation’s global average of 14%.
“My biggest goal is to ensure the EO Durban chapter remains stable and healthy during this time and it continues to be a platform for our members to learn and grow and be an invaluable resource for our members. We would also like to continue to grow the organisation’s membership base and create a platform for entrepreneurs to lean in during this difficult time. EO Durban chapter, is in a strong, healthy and well-run organisation and I would like to leave it stronger and cement its position it as the leading organisations in South Africa for entrepreneurs to learn and grow,” she says.
Gavin adds that Mehta’s decision to stand as the EO Durban Chapter’s first female president is hugely positive at a time when strong female leaders and entrepreneurs are needed. “Our Durban chapter is recognised as a leader in the global EO network, and I know that Shilpa is going to take us to new levels of success.”