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Monday, 17 July 2017 08:34

Mentor Spotlight: Margaret O’Connor

Margaret O’Connor, Endeavor Mentor, takes her place in the spotlight this month. With 25 years’ worth of experience in the international marketing and business development, this expert has worked in Africa, Asia, the US and the UK focusing on catalysing ECD innovation and commercialising fintech. Margaret has been an Endeavor South Africa Mentor for three years. Get to know her…

1. How long have you served as an Endeavor mentor?

Three years. I became an Endeavor Mentor soon after meeting Endeavor SA board member, Hlumelo Biko. Having “grown up” as an entrpeneur in the US and Asia, I knew of Linda Rottenberg and Endeavor’s work. Meeting Hlumelo Biko prompted me to connect the dots in Johannesburg.

2. How does the mentoring experience benefit you?

Reliving the start-up to scale-up experience with high-potential entrepreneurs fuels my inventiveness and validates the years of sweat I’ve invested growing businesses internationally. Participating in an Endeavor ISP in San Francisco rekindled connections with Silicon Valley VCs and allies that invested in me as a young business owner.

3. What have you come to learn about yourself since becoming a mentor?

Listening is a critical skill that requires constant cultivation. I have much to learn about financial analysis from my fellow mentors and mentees. And my global operating experience is useful to South African entrepreneurs wishing to explore cross-border expansion opportunities.

4. What do you enjoy most about the role you play in the lives of the entrepreneurs you interact with?

The passionate business interrogation, discussions about managing work that consumes your life, and the laughter during prep for pitches and post-mortems.

5. What do you think of Endeavor and its impact on entrepreneurs?

It is a world-class knowledge and talent network of which I’m proud to belong to.

6. What motivates you every day?

Three things:

  1. The urgent need to promote sustainable job creation and positive role models for new ways of working.
  2. Curiosity about the fast-changing world in which we live.
  3. The desire to have fun and be fun at work, at home, and at play.

7. What are you currently reading?

A whacky satire about China’s economic growth, “The Explosion Chronicles” by Yan Lianke; a book to exercise my left brain, “Dark Matter and Dinosaurs”, by Lisa Randall; and my 11-year-old son’s creative writing.

8. As a mentor, what advice do you have for entrepreneurs trying to catch their big break?

PERSISTENCE pays off. Growing a successful business requires Comrades-like training and discipline. Hard to sustain over years. But it gets easier with daily practice.

Relationships matter! Cultivate trust with people that challenge your world view, complement your skill set, and provide empathy and tough love in times of need. The Personal Boardroom (www.personalboardroom.com) virtual networking platform is a good way to help plug the gaps globally.