Here at Antwerp Avenue, we’re all about women empowering women, so Elizabeth Ogabi is the perfect person to feature in this series. Elizabeth is the founder of For Working Ladies, a London-based community connecting and inspiring female founders and those who want to rise from mid-level to senior roles. For Working Ladies features an online media platform jam-packed with inspiring work-related articles, and Elizabeth also hosts offline events to connect women IRL. The brand has collaborated with Bumble for events, and has even been featured in Forbes. Read on to hear Elizabeth’s story, and find out how she got around her biggest challenge when creating her media brand.
Hi! Let’s start off with you introducing yourself to our Antwerp Avenue babes.
From a very young age, before I even knew what feminism was, I was already a feminist, passionate about advancing women and girls. I could already see that women weren’t at the forefront, women weren’t in the role of CEOs. I was very fortunate to have a mum who was always taking up the role of leadership and I think that was something that inspired me, and showed me that I could one day become a leader and create change. My mum was very much like that, even though I wasn’t seeing it in the media and in the workplace.
As a result, I founded For Working Ladies, which is a community for working women, predominantly for female founders and women in the workplace who are trying to move from mid-level roles into senior roles. Also side hustlers and innovators – basically any ambitious woman. Outside of that, I’m also a communications consultant. I’ve worked across a few industries like the finance sector and FMCG, when I worked at Unilever, and I’ve also worked at a few non-profits. One that I really loved was Girls Not Brides, which was focused on young girls who were survivors of child marriage. I’m currently working on growing FWL, setting up our podcast and working our next big product.
Cool! When you were setting up FWL, what were some of the hurdles you faced in your business journey? How did you go about solving those challenges?
The difficulty was that I didn’t know anybody who writes. I literally went on LinkedIn, typed in journalist or writer, and pitched my idea. I would contact these women and people who were studying journalism, and sell them my vision. The website wasn’t even up yet – it was just a page where you could put in your email address. Through doing that and through asking a few friends, I was able to put together about 20 to 30 writers before the website actually launched.
I didn’t have a journalism background, so I had to figure out how it could work. I had a blog since 2009, so I knew a bit about that world, but I was just blogging for fun. It was a good avenue for me to get some experience. You have to sell people your vision. You have to get across to them how your vision can impact them.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you started?
Don’t do things at scale. Don’t do the big things – do the small things. Instead of taking on 20 writers, I should have taken on 5 to 10 writers and created a good process. When you bring people on board, then you can start thinking about scaling up. We think so big in the beginning, we don’t realise we need to take that big dream and break it down into tiny blocks. We try and do the really big things and then end up crashing, basically. It doesn’t go as planned.
Where do you get inspiration from when you want to create a new product or new arm to your business?
Various things. It’s listening to our audience experiences and what they’re struggling with. Also, following other platform that target similar audiences. I just try and solve my own problems, knowing that they’re quite similar to the audience’s.
How do you structure your day? What tips would you give to someone who also does a bunch of different tasks and needs to balance them?
This is something that I’m just learning. I used to have a very long to-do list, and at the end of each day I wasn’t always able to cross everything off. One thing I’m learning is to have set days for set tasks. Yesterday, I said to myself, “I’m going to have a day where I just sit down and learn things.” I sometimes go down the dark hole of trying to learn stuff at the same time as trying to implement, as well as balancing all my other stuff. Have days that focus on set things. If I know that I have to create content, I find a day where I solely focus on that. If I need to also do admin, I do it for a set number of hours each day. Put things into compartments, and that will help you be more structured. It will never be perfect, but it will help.
I’d also suggest bullet journalling. You can create your own, with your own format. For mine, I have compartments for the day: morning, afternoon and evening. I set different things for each time, and then also have calls and emails. It’s not just a long to do list, it’s more organised which really helps.
Ah, that’s a great tip! To round us off, could you share a book or podcast recommendation with our readers?
Sure! If you really want to learn about business, How I Built This by Guy Raz is great. What’s great about that is that it has a good mix of storytelling and learning lessons. You get to hear from so many different businesses.
In terms of books, there’s a few that I love. There’s one called How to Own the Room. As a founder and as a business person, you have to learn how to own the room, especially when you’re talking to investors or to your customers. You don’t have to become a public speaker, but you do have to know how to own the room. Also, the Magic of Thinking Big. It’s really good – it’s about fear and conquering fear with action. A lot of people say, “oh, you’re scared, you’ll get over it.” But the reality is, you won’t actually get over it without action. Think about what scares you, and then think about what actions you can take to reduce the fear or to eliminate the fear.