For Women’s Month we are profiling inspiring women who are making a difference in Africa. In keeping with the theme of #makeithappen we’re bringing you one woman a day for the entire month –innovators, creatives, entrepreneurs and influencers.
Sarah Diouf grew up in the Ivory Coast, but now lives in Paris, she’s a creative powerhouse, founder and editor of Ghubar magazine
Tell us about your first job.
I got my first job when I was 16 when my parents both lost theirs. I worked in sales at Le Bon Marché (the French equivalent for Bergdorf Goodman). It was a part-time job, every Saturday. I was really proud because I landed it by myself, but also because it marked the beginning of my financial independence.
Let’s talk about your current role and your journey in becoming a creative entrepreneur.
I started my first magazine – Ghubar – six years ago, which led me to develop skills in project management and master visual production and digital marketing. It was surprising for some people to see what I could do being so young and with no finances. Then, a lot of emerging and established brands asked me to work with them –producing visuals, campaigns, editorial content and websites. This led to the launch of my own agency: sarahdioufstudios. I always had a clear vision of the big picture when I started all of this, my dream was to build an African media group, with diverse publications and a joint production department. So this is my company now – Ifren Media Group. We have Ghubar online, NOIR, a first print issue coming this autumn/winter, and the creative/production company. It’s still a start up, but with a strong portfolio to date, and I will give all I have to take it where I dream it to be.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
I stretch, drink a glass of hot water with lemon, and go for a 20 minute run.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually have a to-do list for each day of the week, and I set three tasks to be done by the end of the day. Mostly I end up emailing (a lot), building presentations, and creating mood-boards. I try to set up one meeting a day with potential partners and fellow entrepreneurs. I like to exchange with people that are at a higher stage than me. It’s great, very stimulating, and I usually learn a lot from them.
What’s the biggest challenge/s you’ve faced in your career?
To trust people, to delegate work, and be constant.
There is an African quote that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together,” and this is a good work ethic because no-one can do it all alone, you need others to build a village. Know that no-one is perfect, there will always be mistakes, so you just have to learn to let it go.
I have learned that success lies in hard work and being constant. Working out and having a healthier lifestyle has had an amazing impact on my balance and consistency.
Best moment in your career so far?
I won a Cosmopolitan award in 2010 for best online initiative with Ghubar, and I was nominated for the Women4AfricaAwards last year in the International Media Women category. It was an honour for me to have my work recognized and appreciated amongst all those great women I look up to.
Do you have any mentors?
My brother Moriké. He started his engineering company seven years ago, then they were only two and and today he’s employing nineteen people, with a €1.5M annual turn-over. He started right after obtaining his diploma and he has always been a great supporter of my endeavors. I talk to him about all aspects and difficulties of my journey, especially turning a project into business, and he’s always guided me properly.
How do you measure success and how do you stay motivated?
When I look back to six years ago and look at myself in the mirror today, I am proud of the person I have become and what I have achieved so far. I think we shouldn’t be ashamed of being or wanting to be successful. But it should always be and come from within. You do fight for you first. Not to prove anything to anyone. Yet, my projects and I are not where I want them to be yet, and that is my motivation.
Any advice you can give to women trying to start their own business and wanting to become their own bosses?
Start in your bedroom if that’s where you have to, and don’t listen to the people who will try to talk you out of it. Be ready for sleepless nights, tears and doubts, but keep your eyes on the prize, always.
Being female in Africa means…
…holding the key to change.
If you could send one tweet for women’s month, what would it say?
Women are the architects of our society, them rising doesn’t mean the fall of men, but a step towards a global social, political and economic equality.
The theme for women’s month is #makeithappen, what does that mean to you?
To go after your dreams, always…
Image: Julien Cozzolino