Grace Owen is the Director of Grace Owen Solutions, a London based leadership consultancy committed to developing global leaders.
Founded in 2003, Grace Owen Solutions has worked with over one hundred organizations, developing thousands of leaders from across four continents.
In addition to running her consultancy, Grace is a published author and the founder of African Diaspora Kids, an initiative designed to develop the next generation of African Diaspora leaders.
In 2014 Grace was selected by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce as one of their African Diaspora Changemakers in the United Kingdom.
So Grace, what have you been working on since we last interviewed you back in 2010?
A lot has happened since then and it has been a very useful exercise to reflect through this interview, so thank you!
I’m now a leadership development advisor to organisations and institutions, a facilitator of groups and teams, and a mentor coach to individuals, most of whom are senior women leaders.
I am a British Ghanaian and after a number of defining moments in 2012, I made a decision to be more actively involved in philanthropic work that specifically benefits Africa.
I also signed up for a short course in memoir storytelling in order to hone my writing skills, I loved it and I am working on a novel in addition to other writing projects.
What inspired you to launch African Diaspora Kids?
African Diaspora Kids launched in May this year. I was inspired to start it in 2014 when thirty pan African Diaspora leaders were brought together by Comic Relief, Unbound Philanthropy, and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and Common Purpose.
All of these leaders, who are passionate about the development and future of Africa, asked the question, “how can our skills, talents and experience benefit the continent of Africa?” Unsurprisingly we discussed education, youth, culture and leadership.
During these conversations the seeds of an idea came to me. I’ve been working with children and young people as a volunteer since 2006 and imagined what it would be like to form an online community who would collectively nurture the social, cultural and leadership potential of 5-11 year old children from the African Diaspora.
My research showed a lack of London and U.K. based online communities for primary school aged children and families of African descent. So, African Diaspora Kids was born!
What strategies did you adopt to grow Grace Owen Solutions?
I have always relied on word of mouth from satisfied customers and direct contact with potential clients via email or post. I use networking, on a one to one or group basis, to extend my professional relationships and mentors to help me break into new industries.
I share complimentary copies of my book and a covering letter to clients I’d like to work with and campaign driven PR.
My business was established prior to the social media explosion so I’ve not had to use it extensively. That will change with this new phase of my business!
What has been your stand out highlight as an entrepreneur so far?
Achieving and exceeding the personal and professional goals that I set back in 2003 has been my stand out highlight.
It has been a rollercoaster experience and although with hindsight I would have done some things differently, overall the experience has made me who I am today.
As a mentor for women in leadership, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs who feel stuck or isolated?
Feeling stuck can occur for many reasons. One common reason is having a vision that is unrealistic, untested or irrelevant.
Entrepreneurs are driven to innovate, improve and implement. If you are not doing any of these things go back to the drawing board, rediscover what motivates you and set a vision and new goals around that.
We all need help. A peer, coach, mentor or a counsellor may be what you to need to become unstuck. It is highly likely that you will need to pay for this help but my belief and experience has shown that this investment will be paid back in time.
To avoid being isolated it is absolutely essential to find your tribe or inner circle. We are shaped by the people we are surrounded by. Find people who share your core interests, beliefs and values but who can offer a different perspective based on their experience so that you are both supported and challenged to develop and grow.
I have found this tribe over the years. What I look for in others is something that resonates deeply with me, spiritually, emotionally and mentally. I am not interested in being surrounded by “yes” people.
As a lifelong learner I have realized that learning comes from doing listening to dissenters, doing something new, taking risks and moving on even though it can be difficult letting go of relationships, even those that are no longer working! I have around ten people that I meet and talk with regularly each year.
How do you approach maintaining a work/life balance with your various roles?
I am strict about how I use my time, which I believe is my most valuable asset followed by my talents, my relationships and my resources.
I have monthly personal and professional goals and plan each week and each day. I have a retreat day once every three months and take creative outings at least once a month. I know what energizes me and as I grow older it seems to be solitude!
If you could have dinner with any entrepreneur, who would it be and why?
It would be with the founders of What If? an innovation company. I think creativity makes the world go round and they are some of the masters.
Who are the up and coming black female entrepreneurs we should have on our radar?
As a non-executive director of Camfed, I have to mention their incredible alumni network – Cama – which currently stands at over 33,100 women who are changing Africa for the better. In a few years the number will grow to over 130,000.
We need to be watching out for these women, some are already on the world stage. I am super excited about what they are doing at a community, national and global level I look forward to reading about them on the Twenty Ten Club website!
What‘s next? What goals are you working towards?
I’m three years into a ten year plan and God willing I’ll have many ten year plans after that! I have developed some new leadership development services and products so over the next couple of years I will be launching and promoting these.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I’d like to encourage every Twenty Ten Club reader to make the most of every moment doing the things that they love and helping make the world a better place. This is true leadership.
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