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#75: Ignite Your Inner Lioness with Thembi Bheka

Key Takeaways

  • Opening: the state of women's entrepreneurship. Things are going well in some areas, in other areas we can do better
  • Guest Thembi Bheka wants to help 1 million women by 2025
  • She discusses her transition from immigrant to 7-figure business owner
  • She's building a network of virtual assistants in Zimbabwe 
  • Thembi helps women ignite their inner lioness, meaning they are resilient and think beyond their immediate needs

Are you a lioness ready to roar? Why we all need to take care of ourselves and our cubs. #podcast #passion #business

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Thembi Bheka Lioness

Meet Thembi Bheka

Thembi Bheka is the founder of She Breaks Thru. She believes in helping women reignite their passion, gain more clarity, and reconnect with their bigger purpose. Thembi is heavily involved in empowering women in Africa. As a result, she trains African women to work online as virtual assistants. She is on a mission to empower 1 million women by 2025.

Thembi was voted the Launch Club (Jeff Walker’s community) Spokesperson for the year by 1000 entrepreneurs. Thembi has inspired others at live events including PLF Live 2019, LaunchCon 2018, REIN, African High Tea, and the upcoming Inbound 2019.

She has featured on top-rated podcasts including Cashflow Ninja and Her Success Radio that have also featured top entrepreneurs that include Kim Kiyosaki, Kevin Harrington, Ali Brown and Marie Forleo, to name a few.

When Thembi isn’t busy helping women reconnect with their passion and grow their businesses, she enjoys spending time with her two children and traveling on road trips. She also is a volunteer with Kelowna Community Resources- a government organization that helps new immigrants settle in Canada. Thembi lives between beautiful Kelowna, Canada, and Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.

Contact Thembi

Jen McFarland Jen McFarland Consulting Third paddle

About Host Jen McFarland

Jen McFarland ditched her comfy C-suite tech project management job in pursuit of freedom. Jen’s goal is to help business leaders like you vet ideas, take ownership of their projects, and incorporate digital marketing from day one.

If growing your business feels like rocket science, let’s fix that with these free business resources.

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Ignite Your Inner Lioness

Transcript: Ignite Your Inner Lioness with Thembi Bheka

[music] my name is Jen McFarland. I help business owners like you lead, plan, and execute their projects for maximum impact. Women-led businesses receive less funding yet our businesses are more successful. As consumers, we hold the purse strings. It's time for us to take on the business world. Welcome to Women Conquer Business. [music] Welcome to Women Conquer Business.

To open the show I wanted to share with you something I've been thinking about quite a bit which is the state of women's entrepreneurship.

It's so easy for us to be stuck in our heads or only thinking about our own communities that we don't realize the bigger picture or at least that's the case for me sometimes. So I thought I would share just kind of what's going on out there among women's entrepreneurship in general.

Women-owned businesses employ 9.2 million people in the US. Together they generated $1.8 trillion in revenue last year. That's amazing. That's so much. We're also growing. Women-owned enterprises increased 45%. That's five times faster than the national average from 2007 to 2016. That's so amazing. Here's the thing that I want to dig into a little bit more though. Modern female entrepreneurs lead from feminine strengths like effective networking, empathy, and an inclusive holistic mindset. Huh, that sounds a lot like what we talk about here on Women Conquer Business.

That means that women lead differently. It means that we are looking at entrepreneurship through a different lens and we lead from a place of authenticity and connection rather than trying to bend ourselves to fit what has traditionally been a male framework for what it means to be a business owner. Today we're going to meet Thembi Bheka who is bringing entrepreneurship to women in Africa because you see women are conquering business not just in the US but all around the world. In fact, in several other nations including the Philippines and Mexico, they actually have higher rates of female business ownership than in the US. 

Globally, 2018 continued a decade-long trend of narrowing the gap between male and female entrepreneurs. Also, in 2018 163 million women started a new business. That's amazing. 163 million women started a new business. If you're one of those people congratulations because you're awesome and you're doing it. Here's the problem though. Women are doing it with less. It's just not all rosy.

Women continue to fall behind when it comes to funding. We need to find ways to support organizations like Backstage Cap which works to close the gap on venture capital money going only to men by funding, women, people of color, the LGBTQ community. You see startups founded by women receive only 2% of all VC funding at least that was the case last year which meant 98% of VC funding went to men. I've gotten into conversations around this topic mostly on Twitter which I don't like Twitter but it is a good way to kind of test the pulse of what's going on out there I think over half of all venture capitalists attended two ivy league schools. I can't remember what percentage are white, and they're almost entirely all male.

We tend to support people who look like us. We tend to help people who look like us. And I think there's definitely some lines that we can make between 98% of VC money going to men. And many of those men also, probably not coincidentally, also attended the same ivy league schools as the venture capitalists themselves. You see, women who do secure funding, raise much smaller rounds than their male counterparts, averaging 5 million versus 12 million. There's a really big gap when we go to the outliers in venture capitalist. The largest deal won by women founders was 165 million dollars last year. That sounds like an amazing amount of money, right? Until you consider the largest award given to male founders was 3 billion dollars. You see, in the VC industry, male investors outnumber women by a scale of 5 to 1, meaning only 20% of all venture capitalists are women.

And again, those women tend to go to the same ivy league schools. But see, it doesn't just end with venture capital either. I've had some friends recently go into banks trying to get funding and it's hard for women to even get a conventional loan. Of the total dollars in conventional small business loans, women receive 4.4%. We have to start learning how we can support each other more, how we can fund our business, and how we can help each other raise more and do more.

There's so many times when I'm in social media groups and it seems like women are always trying to get a deal from each other. And I get it. If we're doing more with less, then we want to get more with less. But see, if we're not willing to pay full price to each other, then how do we rise together? If we are always expecting a deal from each other, we are not really helping each other. Because I don't care what people say, getting a shout out isn't the same as paying for a mortgage, having food to pack in my kids' lunches. We have to help each other do more. We have to help each other be more. Okay. I'm going to get off that crazy soapbox now because I do want to point out that women of color are totally rocking business. It's amazing.

Last year, the number of businesses owned by women of color grew by 163%. That's almost three times the overall growth rate for women-owned businesses. Women of color now make up 47% of all female founders. I think that's fantastic. The more female founders can reflect culture as a whole, the better. And again, we have to continue to support each other. There are more than 5.8 million businesses owned by women of color. They employ 2.3 million people and yield 3 $186.6 billion in revenue. Women of color are doing it. Women are doing it. Now we have to find ways to get more money in the coffers so that we can keep doing it so we can keep building bigger and bigger businesses so we can support one another so we can have everything that we dream of. And we're going to talk to somebody, Thembi Bheka, who is helping so many women in Africa close the gap, feed their families and change their lives. In fact, her goal is to serve one million women by 2025. And she is off to a good start. And we're going to talk to her right after this.


I really do hope you love Women Conquer Business. Did you know that you can actually get paid just for listening to this podcast? I know it sounds insane, but it's true. I just discovered this free new app called Podcoin. And it literally pays you to listen to podcasts. And more than 60% of their listeners are women. Super cool, right? So here's how it works. You listen to podcasts and you earn Podcoin while you listen. Then you turn that Podcoin in for gift cards at places like Amazon or Starbucks. Or, if you're a super good person, you could even donate that Podcoin to charity. The more you listen, the more you earn. So here's what you do. Download the app right now on iPhone or Android and I have a special code for you. Simply use our code business and you'll get 300 Podcoin just for signing up. And if you listen to enough of us on there, you can get a cappuccino at Starbucks or an Amazon gift card on us. So go ahead. Go listen to this podcast or virtually any podcast on Podcoin and sign up with the promo code business. I swear it'll change the way you listen to podcasts.


Hey, guys. It's Jen. As a heart-centered entrepreneur, I not only believe in holistic leadership, but also in connecting with my health holistically. For me, that means yoga, movement, massage, and more. When I'm curious about things like what it means to be an empath, I listen to the Holistic Healing Connection podcast with my friend and colleague, Amber Cook. Amber provides business support and networking for the unique needs of holistic healing professionals through her organization, HealingWaze. To learn more about Amber, the Holistic Healing Connection podcast and HealingWaze, go to www.healingwaze.com. That's Waze, spelled W-A-Z-E.


Thembi Bheka is the founder of She Breaks Through. She believes in helping women reignite their passion, gain more clarity, and reconnect with their bigger purpose. Thembi is heavily involved in empowering women in Africa. As a result, she trains African women to work online as virtual assistants. She's on a mission to empower one million women by 2025. As a member of Jeff Walker's community Launch Club, Thembi was voted spokesperson of the year by 1,000 entrepreneurs. Thembi has inspired others at live events, including PLF Live 2019, LaunchCon 2018, REIN, African High Tea, and the upcoming Inbound 2019. She has been featured on top-rated podcasts, including Cashflow Ninja and Her Success Radio. When Thembi isn't busy helping reconnect women with heir passion and grow their businesses, she enjoys spending time with her two children and traveling on road trips. Thembi lives in both Canada and Zimbabwe. Please welcome Thembi Bheka to the show. So Thembi, welcome to the show.


Thank you. Thank you for having me.


Thank you so much. So one of the things that I wanted to start off with, you have such an interesting story. And in looking at your website, it even says, "From an immigrant with $5 to a multimillion-dollar business." I usually ask my guests, "How did you get here [laughter]?" But with you, I really, really want to know. How did you get here [laughter]?


Yeah. It's been a journey. I moved as a refugee to Canada many years ago, actually. It's not like it's been yesterday. It's been 20 years almost. 18 years, to be specific. And when I came here, obviously like every other immigrant, all you see is opportunity. And what I saw in Canada was the opportunity to change my life, to change the lives of other people. And that kind of started for me as a registered nurse. I went into school. I was able to train to become an RN. And from there, I started investing in real estate. And that real estate journey is really what created [inaudible] to the millions. That's really where that story came from.
That's so amazing. What I love about watching you talk about your background is how you came to Canada and said, "I knew that I was destined to change the world."
Yes. Yes, you know, my leaving Zimbabwe, yes, there was also the political situation and the financial and the economic situation. But really, it mainly, I felt like leaving for a purpose. There was a bigger purpose for me to be able for a girl like me from such a poor family to be able to board on a plane and go to Canada and whilst everybody else is still stuck in their situation or in their life. So for me, I always believe that there is always a bigger purpose for everything that happens in your life. And that purpose was to change other people's lives. And that's really when I started. And it wasn't an easy process like everybody else, when you're starting a new life and a new journey, there is a lot of segues. There's a lot of little streams that get you off your main path. But eventually, you get back to the main path and you keep going and you just put your head and you put the blinkers on and you just keep going for it.


Absolutely. A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how there's no such thing as an overnight success, how that's a myth. How do you feel about that because you've been in Canada for 20 years and today you're really successful?


There is no overnight success. And success depends on who defines it. And really, you've noticed that, right now, there is times where I have sleepless nights. Two weeks ago, I had a sleepless night. And I was so stressed and I was so worried. I was like, "Oh my God. I'm going to go bankrupt." And that's the life of an entrepreneur. One day, you're on a high, and the other day, you're on a low. And I think that there is nothing like, "Oh, I've got it. It's all sorted. My life--" Even the big entrepreneurs like Elon Musk and all that, they go through those up and downs, up and downs. And no, there is no overnight success. It's just the wave which you are riding. You just have to ride the wave.


I totally agree. And I think that probably in your work and just in your journey, you've discovered what I have, which is over time, you become more resilient and you're able to recover from the chaos much quicker.


Yes. And you have to  I think the most important thing is to surround yourself with people like you, people who are going to help you overcome and become resilient because it's so easy to just shut down and go into that mode where you're oh my God, I might as well just go back into nursing school, I might as well go back and become an RN again. Yet, when you surround yourself with people like you who are going on the same journey like you are, it becomes easier to stand up and to keep going.


I totally agree and so who are some of the people that you surround yourself with? Do you look for people who are more accomplished than you? Or who's part of your circle?


Yeah, definitely. I surround myself with people who are definitely smarter than me and I'm a part of a community, Jeff Holcomb people might know him as the father of online marketing, I'm a part of his community and basically the reason why I am because there are so many people who are smarter than me, and Jeff is always smarter than me and that's really what helps me and keeps me going. And I'm a part of a few masterminds as well, but those masterminds just help me keep going and keep me focused on the end results.


Absolutely, because you help people rediscover the lioness within. Can you speak about that a little bit? What does it mean to you to be a lioness?


I believe a lioness has so much strength and they are resilient. Being a lioness is being resilient, it's being able to think beyond the everyday needs, it's being able to think-- when you think of a lion it's really when you think of a lion they care about their young ones, they care about their children-- what are they called in lion language, the children? I'll just call them the children [laughter].


Are they cubs? I don't know.


Cubs, that's the word, cubs [laughter]. Lion language [laughter]. Anyways, they care about their cubs and not only do they become so protective over their cubs and over what they care about, they fight in a rage out there, and that's really what I believe an entrepreneur should be. You should fight and rage for your [papers?] or for what you believe in and for your clients and for your students. So when I say rediscover your lioness within most women, and this is really mainly for women, most women you find that they have no passion at all. They're waking up in their business and they're just doing it for financial reason. A lioness doesn't do that. A lioness is driven, a lioness is passionate, a lioness is on fire to get results and to achieve them in a better way.
Well, you came to the right place. This is the Women Conquer Business podcast.
Awesome [laughter].
I think we're all here to help rediscover our lioness and keep that fire alive and I really appreciate you mentioned the cubs because a lioness is absolutely about family and protection, and I think that's definitely true of women entrepreneurs. I also think that as women we feel that we need to take on so much and I'm wondering if that is part of what dulls maybe some of that passion?


You know what? I believe that we don't have to take on so much, but I believe that the reason why people end up feeling like they need to take on too much is because they are listening to everybody's advice out there. One of the things I believe in is as a woman you have to do what works for you. Do you and let them do themselves. Because there's so much business advice we get out there and some of them to geared towards men, it's geared towards a masculine industry which doesn't work for us if I've got three kids running around and you can hear-- you can hear in my background my son is coughing right now, he's sick, he's staying at home. If you've got those kids running some of this advice doesn't work for you. And, I think, when you stop doing that and you just start doing what works for you and what aligns with your purpose. I'm all about purpose alignment. What works for me and is it in alignment with my purpose, with my big why, with what I want to achieve at the end? You will take away all that overwhelm.


I think it's also about, not only just listening to advice from one person, but it's a lot about listening to yourself.


Yes, listening to yourself. Yeah. And your body and what your body is saying.
Yeah, I think that that gets forgotten. And I don't know why everything is so masculine. I guess because we haven't always been involved in the business. But I do think that it's time for us to start reinventing business for women so that it really resonates with us. And I think then we will stand in our passion a lot more.
I agree. I agree. And I think there are a lot of thought leaders out there who are trying to do that. And you are doing that, Jane. Like in your business, Women Conquer Business. You think there's a lot of people like you who are trying to do that and try to teach you and help you do this aligned with women and not just a business strategy. But something which is aligned with you as a female entrepreneur.


And I know that you are doing that too. I know that you are so passionate about empowering women so that they have more choices. So I was wondering if you would like to talk a little bit about the work that you're doing in Africa?


Absolutely. Absolutely. I'll just kind of give your audience a little background. When I left Zimbabwe, I was also in a marriage, which definitely was not an ideal marriage. I was a third wife and my husband had five children. At that moment, when I left, I just wanted to change the lives for women. I told myself I was going to change the lives for women in Africa and for women around the world. Because I don't believe that a woman should be stuck in a relationship because of money, and that was my situation when I was in that relationship. It honestly had nothing to do with love but more to do with money. I told myself I was going to do that. And so, I took the steps and went back, actually moved back to Zimbabwe, and I found a way to start helping women. And I said, "How can I empower these women so that they are not in the same situation I was however many years ago?" And I started training them on how to be virtual assistants. And I trained, so far as I'm speaking today, we've had over 84 people go through this training this year alone. And so, we train women how to be virtual assistants, and we connect them with employers in North America.
I just think that that is so fantastic. I think that it's giving people hope when maybe they didn't have it before.


Yeah. I think it's also giving other people an opportunity to fulfill purpose and employers in the western world to hire with purpose. Because most of the time it's employers, who just hire because that's the person available or that's somebody who passed the interview. But studies have shown that when you hire with purpose when you-- purpose for hiring, your business increases. You have a higher chance of a successful business than somebody who just hires. So this is an opportunity for everyone, for these women to be empowered, and for an entrepreneur here in North America to also hire with purpose.


Absolutely. Your website is fantastic, talking about how everything is kind of setup. You make it, I think, very easy for people in North America to hire somebody.
Yes, we do. If you just go to our website, the current website that you saw. But we have another one coming up, Jen, which is specifically just for hiring. It's called, hirewithpurpose.tech. And you can just get onto that, hirewithpurpose.tech, and you can find somebody in all these women who you are hiring, these are women who are currently ending up at [5,200?][inaudible] dollars a month. So when you hire somebody from Africa this is the difference. I have hired from across the globe and what I've noticed is when I'm hiring people from those kind of countries where they're getting 50 dollars [inaudible] a month, not only are they committed to doing the work, they go the extra mile. They don't want to lose this job. This is their life line. You have basically just given them food and they don't want to lose this job. They are working so hard and they are working extra. I just finished, just before this interview, speaking to one of my assistants. It's 11:00pm in Zimbabwe right now and she's still working and that's not abuse because this is voluntary. She chooses to do that. But when I hired in North America I found that when my 9:00 to 5:00 was done the employees just left the work. Whether I was finished or not, that was it, it was done. I've realized some resilience in these women because they've gone through so much and hard work and power just because they are so willing to change your life and to change your business.


Absolutely. I think people forget. Most people in the continent in the Africa speak english fluently. So it really is just a little bit about the time difference but that's easy to overcome. I lived overseas and that's manageable. If you're hiring a VA it seems really important, if english is your primary language, to communicate with somebody who also speaks English.


I'm so glad you brought that up because I've had that question, "Do they speak english", and I always make an example of one of our VAs who trained. She's an oncologist by training and she comes to conferences in North America to speak about oncologist studies. That is a VA. The reason why she is doing this is because she's not making enough money as an oncologist in Africa. We have lawyers. We have lawyers who are trained in South Africa and we have lawyers who are trained everywhere. A lot of people, especially in Zimbabwe and a lot of African countries, we are colonies so we are colonized by Britian. So we're British colonies so we speak english. Our exams are marked in Cambridge. We write what's called [UCI?], the University of Cambridge, local exam. That's what it says on my set of [inaudible]. So, yes, we speak english. You definitely have an opportunity to empower an African woman and also empower yourself as an employer by hiring with [inaudible].


With the VAs, do you find that it's transformative for them and their families as well?
Oh my god, where do I start. These girls lives have changed. These girls lives have changed. They have changed. I listen to what they say. Just imagine, somebody's getting paid $50 and now their income is maybe 10 times or 20 times or whatever it is. That's not only are they empowering themselves, they're empowering the village as well. Remember in Africa when you get money it's not just for you, especially for women, it's for everybody in your community. It's for your mom. It's for your dad. It's for your brothers and sisters and some are paying for their siblings to go to school now. Some are paying, there's one who's getting married and she's like, "I'm working hard and I'm just getting ready to get married and I wasn't even thinking I was going to make enough money to get married but because of this program I'm able to do that". So it's definitely changing lives.


So when you go back to Africa do you get to meet with all of your VAs? Do they get to interact with you?


I train them all. I'm the one who trains them. This is not just a VA who you find on Fivver who's self-taught. I basically train them. I have done some launches before, product launches, and I've done webinars. I literally trained them on each and every skill they know. So they know me and I know them. We have a relationship.
That's so fantastic. So you can also see first hand the impact that you're having on communities.


It's changing me. When I left I thought I was going to go, this is what I told myself, I'm going to Africa to empower women but instead I became empowered. That's one thing which really happens with this. I became so empowered and so inspired by what they do. It's just amazing the empowerment which came from me. That's one thing which I noticed also with the people who've hired through us. When they hear the stories of these girls they become more resilient and become so empowered. It's kind of the other way around. Instead of them empowering the girls, they are also empowered as well.


You work with VAs. You have a podcast. What else are you working on?


Right now I'm definitely working with VAs a lot and connecting them to employers, as I said, in North America but one other thing I do is I take women on a safari trip once a year. It's called the rediscover your lioness within and I'm actually doing the last one this year where basically I take you over 10 days. You go and you meet these women who have trained and you learn, as we already spoke here, that you become more empowered and you learn from these women and you learn how you can become more resilient and one thing which comes out of that is there's a lot of vulnerability which we go through and a lot of resliience which you end up coming out with.


That is so awesome. You said the last one, does that mean you're not going to do it anymore?


Yes, I am not going to do it again as of right now. It's just because of my business in the VA industry, I'm feeling like I need to train more girls and I feel like I need to commitments there than I do on the trips. So definitely changing that structure.
Dang, because I didn't know about that until I looked at your website and that sounds amazing.


It's not too late. You can come. It's in October, towards the end of October, so you can come with us. Definitely join us.


That is so cool. Do you want to share how people can reach you and everything. Tell us about your podcast. Tell us about how we can connect with you.


Yes, I love my podcast and Jen has been a guest. She was an amazing guest for our podcast. You can find out about the podcast on she breaks thru. It's -T-H-R-U so it's not the big through, it's the shortcut. Too lazy to spell that one. shebreaksthru.com. You can find out more about the podcast. There's a little bit of information about hiring our VAs there but the best site for working with our women and to find out more about them is hirewith[inaudible].tech, hirewith[inaudible].T-E-C-H.
That's fantastic. You've got to take care of that kid who's coughing in the background.


He just started coughing and just came out of the woods where he was hiding so I have to take care of him. I'm sorry about that.


It's part of being a lioness. These things happen. We have to take care of our cubs. Thank you so much for taking time of your day to talk. Man, I really want to stay in touch with you because you're doing so many great things.


Thank you so much, Jen, and thank you for having me on this podcast. I'm so glad and it was lovely connecting with you all the time.

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