HRU Global (HerRiseUp PTY LTD), is the business brainchild of Mercy and Letisia, born out of witnessing the struggles of women deprived of opportunities, and aspiring to empower and promote female entrepreneurship.
I sat down with Mercy and Letisia to answer some questions about their inspiration, their friendship, and their motivation.
Name your most influential business mogul? What facet of their career made them so influential?
Mercy: I really admire Michelle Obama, her education background in law and the career woman that she is. Additionally, I am also inspired by her consulting work, and the coaching that she does through this is inspirational.
The second person that comes to mind is Oprah. I saw an old interview with her, where she spoke about being fired from a news station. This is something that I’ve also experienced, but I really like how she’s gone on to build her own show and even her OWN channel. She has still managed to be very successful in an industry that didn’t see her value. She’s also generous, especially to young girls, which is something that I’ve wanted to do in my professional life, to always give to others.
Letisia: Jeff Besos, the one element I like about his career is how he’s always trying to meet customer’s needs with Amazon. He sought out the pressure points and changed his model to meet his customer expectations. I like that his business model is driven by people’s needs, but if I had his immense wealth, I would donate half to charities.
How would you each describe your relationship with the other? How does your working relationship differ?
M: We met as friends doing our MBA at the University of Adelaide. Letisia would say I gave her attitude when we first met, and we always have this rivalry because we come from two countries that are similar, but different. Me being from Kenya, and her being from Uganda (I’d like to say Kenya is better). We’ve lived through similar experiences, growing up in multiple countries.
Now we work together professionally, we know not to take each other’s criticism personally, because things always work out. We trust we can work in our own areas and rely on one another when necessary.
L: When we met, we didn’t hit it off right away, despite me being excited there was another African woman in my program. Then we started connecting, when we found out we have similar backgrounds, religious beliefs, and a shared passion for improving the lives of women where we’re from. We also have the whole Kenya-Uganda feud (I’d like to say Uganda won). We have similar goals, which is empowering women to discover their potential. I also come from a STEM field, and I was surprised I was one of only a handful of girls in my IT class, and I want to get more women involved in STEM.
We created HRU, which has involved a lot of iterations of our model to meet the needs of our target audience, women entrepreneurs in Australia and beyond.
What business strengths do you believe the other possesses?
M: I pay a lot of attention to detail, and Letisia looks at it and says, ‘It’s 80% done, let’s get it out there, let’s finalise it.’
With the business, I can be a perfectionist, which in terms of getting things done with a start-up, you’re never going to get the project out there. But having someone there to say, ‘Let’s launch it, let’s test it, let’s figure out the problems as we go”, that’s a really good strength that Letisia has.
L: Our backgrounds complement each other, because we’ve studied together, we’ve also learned a lot about the other’s fields. Our skills complement each other, she’s from an accounting background, I’m from an IT background. I’m a logical thinker, she’s a creative thinker, a lot of those skills fill in my blind spots. With our gaps in knowledge we try and get our network involved as well.
As women entrepreneurs yourselves, what specific instance in your life led you to see the importance of assisting others similar?
M: When I visited Kenya in my early twenties, after moving to Canada when I was 12, nine years had passed. My country had changed, and things had progressed, but not for girls and women. Education, women’s health, opportunities for females had yet to advance despite Kenya progressing so much since I lived there. Visiting my cousins in the village, a lot of them became mothers, taking away their potential to be career-driven.
That propelled me to think about initiatives that can be set up to impact women and girls. In my current job outside of HRU Global, I work to make a difference in the lives of women and girls, so it’s something I love doing.
L: My upbringing and the women who raised me have really influenced me. On my mum’s side there’s single mothers who studied. My grandmother was someone I always looked up to, she was a schoolteacher and a single mother of 12. On my dad’s side, he was from more of a poorer background where women are treated like second class citizens, they lacked education and work opportunities. They would work as farmers to support their children, while the men spend their earnings on themselves. I thought, why not educate these women, because through that they can uplift their family.
A lot of women are interested in STEM fields, they are interested in making money, but they don’t have the opportunity to do so, and we want to do that at HRU Global.