- A global pandemic and multiple waves of social movements, 2020 has proved to be an eventful year.
- So how does an entrepreneur respond to this? “Let yourself dream again,” says Lauren Dallas, the cofounder and CEO of Future Females.
- As we head to 2021, Lauren says: “I think, make that time, make that space just to feel again and see and dream. Just think about the possibilities.”
This time last year you probably were thinking about what you would want to achieve in 2020, what you’d like to do different or improve on. Looking at the shiny new year that would come held the promise of all kinds of possibilities and dreams waiting to come true.
We now know what this year turned out to be – we’ve been complaining about it since March. So, what do we do about it? “Let yourself dream again,” says Lauren Dallas, the cofounder and CEO of Future Females, as the year ends and as 2021 approaches. Future Females is a global community that aims to increase the number of successful women entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.
Start that business, enrol for that degree or course – at least that’s how the affirmations for aspiring entrepreneurs go. But how do you do it mid-pandemic, when the world has been shocked to its core?
Lauren, who leads Future Females – the Instagram-savvy and internationally-present community of budding entrepreneurs, is championing a message of continuing to build your vision and inspiring their 12 000 members in 22 chapters globally to do the same.
“I think that this year has obviously been crazy and so challenging and emotionally draining and financially draining and people are just tired. But I also think that now we need to just draw that line in the sand and step over it and be like ‘okay, I’m going to leave that behind me and take a whole new energy into December actually and not just into next year’,” says Lauren.
“Just let yourself dream again, dream about what you want, unashamedly, all of the things that you want. Whether it’s having a positive impact or having private jets, I don’t know. Just explore and have fun with it and play and bring back all of the joyful aspects of life and channel that into your journey.”
She says when she started Future Females with her cofounder Cerina Bezuidenhout in 2017, they didn’t have a plan or a strategy for it on day one, “but we dreamt”.
After being awarded $30 000 (about R450 000) in funding by Facebook’s Community Accelerator programme, Future Females has been ploughing this back into its entrepreneur network to grow it further in Africa and the rest of the world and are already planning for the new year.
Lauren recalls the first-ever physical Future Females event in Woodstock, Cape Town, “Even at our first event we had butchers paper all around the walls, we post it, and we asked our members what is it that you need and everything that we’ve built is grounded in that feedback and additional feedback till now. We did, of course, dream – what are the things we could do, like crazy dream – and it’s really cool to see a lot of them have come to life”.
Leading with their community-driven vision, three years on, they continue to help increase the number of women entrepreneurs and help support their success.
Even as we flesh our dreams and aspirations, however, we are compelled to realise how much the world is constantly changing. Sometimes the change is gradual and other times it's fast and merciless. For entrepreneurs, it means adapting to not only economic and market-related changes but social, cultural and global health shifts as well. The dreaded year of 2020 has shown us that through the pandemic but through the Black Lives Matter movement and other social events that took place in between.
As a women-centric business, Lauren reflects on how Future Females responds to the different waves of calls for equality at multiple levels.
“We literally are in the business of empowering women so it’s very central to everything we do. For us, inclusion and diversity though is definitely not just about women it’s about encouraging all groups, facets, experiences, people from different contexts to be able to come together to connect, to share to learn. Going back to our core values, which guide everything that we do, is inclusive,” she says.
And adds, “I think that as long as the vision is clear and we operate in line with our values we rather just empower people who understand the unique challenges of the women around them to serve them in the best way that they can.”
Lauren says Future Females has certainly evolved from when it started and now encompasses the energy of its 100 ambassadors around the world and it will “continue to live on and be guided by new people and their energy and their vision. They’ll pivot it as is needed as the world continues”.
She adds, “I guess what’s important is that the real work is being done. We don’t just want to have the fluffy community where you come to an event and be inspired and then not do anything. If that is all that we’re achieving, then I would stop. We want to solve real problems and have real conversations and give people not the glamourised version of entrepreneurship and laptop lifestyle, although obviously once you’re successful there can be some glamour, but just show people it’s freaking hard and it’s okay not to be okay in this journey and that’s what we’re here for.”
As the year draws to a close, we can all agree it’s been difficult. Among the many challenges we have faced, the economic impact has been among those that are central but we can acknowledge that the pandemic did not neutralise the spirit of entrepreneurship. Or at least, should not do so going forward.
“I think that, make that time, make that space just to feel again and see and dream. Just think about the possibilities,” says Lauren.