Girl Power Talk interviews Harriet Khataba, the Founder of Her Story Matters, on her journey as a woman entrepreneur and a voice of women in leadership.
“People don’t know what to do with a woman who is powerful or a woman in her power.”
My business journey and interest started unknowingly observing my mother who worked in a bank and had several businesses. I saw her travel to India to buy fabrics and clothes which she sold and often listened to her speak about her own aspirations and story. She is my inspiration and I would not have been so driven if I didn’t see it modeled for me. Seeing that growing up imprinted in me the desire to own my own businesses. Besides it seemed like so much fun.
After completing my studies in London, I started working in the corporate world. The long hours, pressure and environment were agonizing, so I left it after a few years. This is when my actual journey began. At first, I worked in retail and trained to become a dancer. I started a dance company and trained in photography. I was doing a lot at the time. I didn’t know about self care and no one spoke of it either, I fell sick and had to take a lot of time off, which led to financial difficulty and this was my first lesson as an Entrepreneur. Build processes to ensure your business can run without you.
During that time, a friend asked me to help with a beauty pageant. That sparked a series of happenstance that eventually led me to working in media, and I was asked to host TV shows. While hosting, I realized I was a great communicator and conversationalist, I was having a lot of fun with media and eventually started producing business and politics focused content.
The journey in my career was one filled with great adventure , a real rollercoaster , and experiences. It gave me insight on society’s perception on how women who are driven and ambitious are seen in a negative light, which is not the case with men. I decided to create a platform where women can talk, share, stand up for each other, and not feel isolated. I started talking about social injustice, an uncomfortable subject for many people. This took me on a journey where I worked with so many different organizations dealing with difficult social subjects, like FGM and domestic violence. I ran different campaigns; some of them were so successful that I missed some opportunities because I did not prepare for the success and how to navigate it. Weirdly enough this caused me to go into hiding for 6 months trying to get a grip of what I had.
In 2016 I launched 2 initiatives, Women in leadership and Her Story magazine to support women economically. Leadership and to share stories of women in their fullness without judgement, sharing their journeys and success and most importantly who they are versus how society expects them to look. I have just been appointed as Vice president of Innovation for Africa Chamber of Digital Commerce which is a new exciting chapter for myself but also for the work I do.
Her story matters is preparing it’s official Launch in the US and we are bringing in more collaborations such as Brunel University London. The partnerships and collaborations are teaching me so much and stretching me in ways I never phanthomed but most importantly the stories shared by many women remind me of our human connection that humanity seems to have lost touch with.
I have observed men connect and network at the slightest opportunity, I think that women don’t do it enough. This could be due to traditional upbringings or societal expectations and norms where men are encouraged to grasp opportunities as opposed to women.
Men just go for it and women overthink and second guess themselves especially if they don’t have all the listed qualifications sought.
I think the best way to encourage diversity is to invite more men to be allies and encourage women to be comfortable with speaking about their achievements and expertise.
Growing up in Kenya gave me an ironic balance. My parents were strict and the normal restrictions such as not staying out late or not hanging out with boys were the norm. Despite that, there was a lot of freedom in our household, my mother had conversations with us regarding what careers we wanted and we had freedom to choose . I grew up seeing black doctors and a black president, so it was not hard picturing myself in those positions. However, it’s not the case with the west because of systematic racism and more ethnic minority children need to see that modelled to them. Contrary to popular belief, I did not witness discrimination against women while growing up, I saw it when I came to the West, and this got me analyzing the half-truths we have heard. Societal injustice is not a developing world issue, it’s a global issue.
As a passionate humanitarian and a giver, I had to learn to strike a balance the hard way. You cannot give from an empty vessel. I keep Fridays for myself and weekends for my family. Many find it strange that I work only four days a week, but I think it is about finding a balance and being organized. My source of happiness is myself. It’s the little things I indulge in that make me happy. My inspiration comes from very unique places. I am inspired by everything and everyone because I believe everything was created to make an impact and inspire us, including death.
I do not live by just one mantra. Over the years I have gathered lots of sayings from my mother, Gandhi, and even the Bible. One that encompasses all is “I am Love.” This sums me up as a person. I do everything from a place of love, from helping others to correcting others.
Looking back on my younger self, I wouldn’t want to change anything because I was always so curious. My curiosity is one of the things that helped me learn and get many opportunities I would have missed had I stayed quiet. My advice to the youths is to stay curious because it will help you in the long run.