It’s in the Nurture, not the genes! — Lionesses of Africa

By Lionesses of Africa Operations Department

We have been looking back at the incredible Lionesses who have previously graced the cover of our Lioness Weekender Magazine recently, and amongst the many fascinating questions posed to these inspirational leaders by Melanie in their interviews, there is always one asking how they got the entrepreneurial bug. More often than not the answer includes the fact that one or both of their parents were an entrepreneur. This got us wondering – is there any correlation to this or was it just luck (some who enjoy the 9-5 stability and simply do not understand the drive of a late night entrepreneur struggling with cash flow and supply bottlenecks, might argue ‘bad luck’ of course), that creates the entrepreneurial drive.

Unsurprisingly to us (given the above sample and our knowledge of our >1.5 million membership) according to a paper ‘Why Do Entrepreneurial Parents Have Entrepreneurial Children?’ by Lindquist, Sol and Van Praag (here), it turns out that “The single strongest predicator of entrepreneurship is parental entrepreneurship. Having an entrepreneur for a parent increases the probability that own birth children become entrepreneurs by 60%.” – Good grief – as if we don’t have enough pressures already!

Any difference between nature or nurture? Do ‘own birth’ or ‘adoptive’ have any different effects? “Our…exercise with adopted children reveals that both biological and adoptive parents make significant contributions. [However] The effect of post-birth factors (i.e., the effect of adoptive parents) is approximately twice as large as the effect of pre-birth factors (i.e., the effect of biological parents).” So although genes have a lot to do with it, the real impact is through nurture, the impressions we subconsciously leave with our children as they grow up (again – such pressure!).

Perhaps this is because the kids move into the family firm?

The data available doesn’t agree – in fact “[I]nheritance can only explain a small fraction of this intergenerational association…In our data, only 2.2% of all entrepreneurs enter for the first time in the same industry as their parent and in the same year as their parent exits entrepreneurship. If we broaden this measure to include offspring that become an entrepreneur one year before or after their parent’s exit, then this number rises to 4.4%.” So, incredibly small, that surprised us, but looking again at the inspirational Lionesses interviewed by Melanie, none (that we can remember) were on the cover because they had been part of the ‘Lucky Gene Club’ as Warren Buffet calls inheritors of the family business, so their data agrees with ours.

What about having the bank of Mom and Pop on tap and with doors that open with a single glance from those ‘puppy eyes’? Surely rich parents would encourage a desire to start one’s own business, turn that hobby into a US$ printing machine? – Think again – “…in our analysis, neither parental income nor parental wealth explain the intergenerational transfer of entrepreneurship.” On our side we would suggest (although do not have the data) that the ATM of our parents has had a larger impact as we are a community that has been forced to bootstrap, where raising money from ‘Friends and Family’ are first, second and third in the queue (and there is ample data on that as across the globe female owned and run business have a minuscule amount of success with banks, VC and PE firms). However that is an impact on the business, not a reason…

There are other issues at play as well “Environmental factors include peer effects (Nanda and Sørensen 2010), and regional influences (Reynolds, Storey, and Westhead 1994). Several heritable traits, such as risk aversion (Cesarini et al. 2009a), extraversion (Bouchard and Loehlin 2001), and overconfidence (Cesarini et al. 2009b), [that all] relate to the choice for entrepreneurship”.

So where does that leave us?

Having to tread carefully with our kids, we would suggest!

Clearly we have a far greater influence on our children’s future role in life than we ever thought possible (gone are the days when we could order one to be a Doctor, one a Lawyer, one a…), this is subconscious influence. This creates a large responsibility and we would suggest that here is where our thoughts over ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) can guide.

If our children have a higher than normal chance of becoming an entrepreneur, then we have a responsibility through our actions, to show the way. Obviously just telling our kids to do ‘x’ will not have an impact (when has it ever!), this is subconscious nurture, it’s the actions, the kindness, the drive in our parents that we remember and what guides us years later, like a muscle memory in sports. Our parents didn’t just tell us, they lived it. We did a quick poll. “Always say good morning to Farmers, they’ve earned the respect”; “Let small business vans first, they are in more of a hurry than you”; “Pay small businesses first” (good one that one), were the quick memories that flowed from our team.

ESG sadly is coming under a bit of pressure these days with ‘Greenwashing’, ‘ESG-washing’ and so on. As companies are compelled by laws in the US, EU and elsewhere to report on such things, so the fees they pay to accountants increase. If one ignores the fact that we are never ones to worry about generalisations getting in the way of a good story [indeed – Ed.], this is perhaps why now more than ever the ‘G’ in ESG is so important. The Governance part – zero fraud, absolute refusal to play any part in corruption (which spreads through businesses and countries like a cancer), well conducted audits, and so on are so essential.

Live the Green in Environmental – really live it. At home split the plastics, the recyclables and ensure they get to the right place. Food waste and scraps – into the compost they go. Grow your own vegetables if you have space, if not – herbs (we have huge problems with our Coriander, plant in separate tubs otherwise when one ‘shoots’ they all go – clearly soul mates!).

And Social – our ability to live together peacefully and equally is first and foremost the essential factor in this part. We live this already in the way in which our inspirational membership treat their employees with kindness, empathy and fairness (fairness being such an essential leadership quality). Whenever we visit a Lioness’ company (these days more often via zoom sadly) and when we see instagram posts, there are the smiling and happy faces of the employees in the background – not because the Lioness is ‘soft’ on them, but because they are being treated with kindness, empathy and fairness within a safe and healthy environment. It is one of the main impacts recognised that businesswomen the world over also have a greater positive impact in their communities. When your kids have a ‘take your Daughter to work’, also take yours out into the community, they will see your happy and easy interaction with complete strangers and be inspired.

All of these ESG parts are not for the tick box, but actually good business. This is what we as Lionesses do well, but can also be subconsciously passed on to the next generation.

Finally, be positive and have high energy. That is not to say we paint everything rosy, we are realistic, but can still be positive.

As Melanie wrote in one of her recent GML Blogs (here)

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking to over 200 women entrepreneurs at one of our regular, inspirational webinars. I love these events, it’s like getting a big boost of adrenalin and can-do spirit, and supports my belief that if you put enough women entrepreneurs in a room, great things happen. As always, I was struck by the incredible positivity and high energy levels in the audience. It was wonderful to see and hear, and it got me thinking about the importance of having a positive mindset as entrepreneurs. As women shared their stories and experiences, what came across loud and clear was that if you are constantly looking for positive outcomes in life and business, you are more likely to achieve them. It’s that classic approach of choosing to look at life and business as a glass half full, not half empty. Yes, there will be challenges, and lots of them. Yes, there will be mistakes made, sometimes expensive ones, and it will feel like success is a long way away. But if we have a positive mindset, we look at every experience as a learning opportunity. We make the most of every situation we find ourselves in, and we work hard to get the best and most positive result from it. That’s a positive mindset, and it can be a real asset to us in business and in life.” 

Your children will thank you.

Stay safe.

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