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Women in Charge: Meet Lauren Dallas, founder of Future Females

Lauren Dallas is passionate about women and business. More specifically, she wants to see women succeed and thrive in the entrepreneurial space.

But instead of instead of just envisioning, she put this idea into practice, and in 2017, founded Future Females – a global, community-based platform that provides women with the resources they need to succeed in business.

More than that, Future Females is a space where women can connect with each other on an emotional level, forging meaningful relationships and building a supportive network of likeminded individuals.

“Entrepreneurship is a team sport,” says Lauren. And we already that as women, we are stronger when we are together. Future Females brings these two notions together, cultivating ‘holistic entrepreneurship’ that allows women to level up in their careers and at the same time, balance their many roles of being a homemaker, nurturer, caregiver, and more.

In light of Women’s Day, we chatted to Lauren about Future Females, her aspirations for the progress of women in South Africa, and how women can overcome the emotional and structural battles that hinder our growth.

What inspired you to start Future Females?

When I first moved to South Africa six years ago, I was looking to tap into a network of women “like me” – who were excited about business, about technology, and who were taking action to create the future they wanted to live in!

I secured a job working for a tech accelerator on a program in Cape Town (where I met my Co-Founder Cerina) but out of the 10 participating businesses there was not ONE female Founder. These two things – struggling to find a community that I could fit into, and seeing the massive lack of women taking up space in the startup ecosystem, lit a fire in me and Cerina, and we launched Future Females the very next day.

What are some of the core values of this platform?

Future Females is a movement. We exist to increase the number of female entrepreneurs globally, and to support them to build more successful and profitable businesses.

Since launching five years ago, we’ve grown to over 100 000 members with a physical presence in 56 cities! Future Females are diverse in background, but are united by our five common values:

  • Inclusive: Of all women, from all walks of life
  • Collaborative: We celebrate men as allies, and know we can only close the gap to gender parity if we all work together
  • Give First: Give to the community, with no expectation of return
  • Community-Driven: Future Females is governed by the community, and the programs and products we make are all because the community has asked for them
  • Take Action: Your business is not going to build itself.

What are some of the biggest and most common roadblocks you see women face when trying to start a business?

As a woman in business, our biggest enabler but also our biggest blocker is always our own mindset – whether it is fear of failure, fear of success, fear of embarrassment or fear of standing out against the stereotypical role of what a woman “should be” – it is the stories we tell ourselves that can either hold us back, or propel us forwards.

What are some challenges unique to women in business that men don’t have to experience?

One of the most significant challenges facing women in business (and not men) is access to finance – with just 2.% of VC funding globally going to female-Founded businesses in 2021 (the lowest since 2016).

While bootstrapping a business is viable for many business models (Future Females itself is bootstrapped – we’ve never had external funding), it is of course a valuable resource for fast growth, without which women are at a disadvantage and have a greater tendency to run a ‘smaller’ ‘lifestyle’ business, than their male counterparts.

Another challenge facing women, because of the significantly fewer women historically in entrepreneurship, is a lack of visibility of successful female role models (in fact just 37% of women in our 2021 survey said they could name another successful female Founder from their context). Often this leads to women ‘self-excluding’, or believing that a particular entrepreneurship path is ‘not for them’.

Then of course, women have the privilege but also the challenge of becoming mothers, and balancing this role with their role as a Founder. Despite recent moves to more equitable parenting, juggling these responsibilities is not something that male Founders have to deal with to the same extent.

How is it possible to overcome these challenges?

I have started five businesses, and closed three. One of my biggest learnings through this roller coaster journey is that ‘entrepreneurship is a team sport’. One of the best ways to overcome challenges – whether mindset, juggling responsibilities, or gaining access to controlled resources like funding, is to tap into a support structure of other women, who are already doing what you want to do. I always equate this to a game of tennis – where you want to be surrounded by players who lift your game – this is the role that a community of peers, coaches, mentors, funders, and successful Founders, enables for you – and this is what we do at Future Females.

What type of skills and support does Future Females provide to women entrepreneurs?

In 2022, Future Females is launching our new platform – a space where women can access courses from world-renowned Founders, to help them level up in their businesses and in their lives. These courses go deep into revenue generating strategies like Facebook & Instagram advertising, and effective sales & partnerships, but also other topics such as an Introduction to Blockchain, and how this can benefit you as a business owner, or as an individual investor.

We know that entrepreneurship is not a job, it is a way of life, and so we cater to the ‘holistic entrepreneur’ through this platform – providing robust skills, community forums where you can build your network and seek support, challenges supporting you to take action and keep you accountable, and also a community fund – where a proportion of membership is awarded back to a community member, as seed funding for their business.

You can jump on the waitlist for our new platform, here.

What are some of your tips for female entrepreneurs to overcome issues such as insecurity, self-doubt, negative self-talk, and limiting beliefs?

One thing I swear by is affirmations and manifestation. I read my purpose statement multiple times daily. It is a short paragraph that describes WHY I am building the business I am, and setting the vision for how the business will evolve. This purpose statement grounds me in the fact that the work I’m doing is not about me, it is my about my responsibility to deliver the value that I can, to the world. This reminder removes myself from any internal negative self-talk, to focus instead on taking action, and the outcome.

The second is a simple mantra “instead of fear of failure, embrace a healthy fear of regret”. Whenever I feel stuck in self-doubt, I ask myself “what would 90 year old Lauren say looking back at you now?”

What is the plight of women in South Africa today? How would you like to see female entrepreneurship progress in the country going forward?

The reality in South Africa is that unemployment is a record high. Women are being forced into entrepreneurship as a means of supporting themselves and their families, but without the skills or support structures needed to build profitable and sustainable businesses. Too much focus is being put on equipping women with skills for jobs that just don’t exist, instead of training them emotionally and practically, to become successful business owners.

I would like to see greater governmental support for grass roots organisations (like Future Females) that both support female entrepreneurs, and have the opportunity to create impact at a massive scale. We need to stop considering initiatives that help 5, 10, or 20 women at a time, and collaborate to generate ideas and deliver programs that can support South African women in the millions. This is the only way that we will move the needle towards gender parity, and stimulate the local economy in the process.

On an individual level, I would like to see every woman KNOWING that they have the power to change their own life – through entrepreneurship. That they can generate their own source of income, invest in the causes that are important to them, and build a brighter future for themselves and for generations to come.

What is your vision for Future Females going forward?

Our vision for Future Females is to reach every woman that needs us – to welcome every woman with an idea, with unfulfilled potential, and to support them to shine.

We are so excited to scale the Future Females platform that is launching later in 2022 – connecting a global ecosystem of women, taking action together to build world-class businesses, and live the life of their dreams.

In light of Women’s Month, do you have any pearls of wisdom to share or motivational mantras that you live by?

When I coach female entrepreneurs who are just starting out, I always say design the life you want to live, and then build the business that can deliver it for you. Your business needs to work for you, not the other way around.

And then my personal mantra? Fearlessly pursue your own joy. Whatever truly sets your soul on fire, that’s what you should spend your time on. When you are operating in your joy, in purpose and on purpose, the money will always come

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