Jenni is the Founder of Impakt It; born in South Africa, she emigrated to Australia before coming to the UK to study. Jenni worked in management consulting and M&A deals before moving in-house to a listed company to lead its transformation. After great success, she left this role to pursue her personal dream and passion project in Africa, starting a social enterprise focused on employment creation.
Impakt It kicked off in 2021. Its aim is to re-imagine the broken market of business transformations and strategy where 84% fail and cost over $2Trn a year. It also aims to support organisations and teams undergoing transformations or wanting to deliver key strategies, and for consultancies and implementation partners who support their customers in delivering them. There are two market groups including medium and large organisations and it is now being used by SMEs and scaleups (as they expand internationally).
Impakt It is a smart software delivering successful Business Transformation and other team strategies. Unlike other tools that only address a small component of a transformation, such as project management, idea management or change management, Impakt It synthesise all elements into a single point of truth, focusing on powering the actual technical execution and upskilling the workforce in the process. It is underpinned by a real-time calculator of all benefits and ROI, and delivered through a simplified, easy to understand story-telling approach with engagement hooks. It connects into a number of other popular tools already in use, such Slack and Jira. Impakt It is the creator of MVT™ (Minimum Viable Transformation) which means low upfront investment, measurable return and fast scaling of successful transformation and strategies. It has been named a Top 50 Game Changer.
What is your background? What made you decide to get involved in supporting entrepreneurs?
Growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa highlighted the vast disparity between elements that function as first world and those of total disrepair, contrasting the experience of privilege vs poverty, all in a single heart-breaking yet hopeful canvas. These polarities highlighted the desperate need for innovation to solve problems and the relentless reminder of the urgency, coupled with the inspiration of countless individuals who, despite every obstacle of poverty and restrictions, rise everyday with resourcefulness, resilience and the ability to transcend their reality. Entrepreneurship nurtures the attributes and values of the desire to create more value than there was yesterday, and on a personal level, the insatiable pursuit of always growing and learning so that one can be part of the solution to the problems around one.
With a technical background that covers nine qualifications ranging from Chartered Accountant, math, law, innovation, project management, performing arts and teaching, coupled with the privilege of having worked in top-tier professional services firms and listed companies, there was a still missing piece. I wanted to create a different kind of value and nurture the lessons of the environment I grew up in so that I could become part of the solution to problems around me. If people with far less can do it, I can certainly at least try!
What is your definition of entrepreneurship?
The paradoxical epicentre of inspiration and dissatisfaction, that drives an insatiable desire to continuously try to create boundary pushing value and innovation.
How and when did you know your idea was good enough to develop it?
We are still learning if it is good enough! There are two things along the journey that validated components. First was when running a transformation in-house, and due to limited resources and other factors, I built some automated tools. A large consultancy that was being considered for extra resource wanted to know how we managed to get certain key components done and delivered and with such limited resource and accuracy, and wanted to see the tools used. The second was when working on the social enterprise and navigating how to get new innovation into existing supply chains, we kept being pulled back into the business transformation world. This, together with COVID-19 accelerating the number of organisations now needing to transform (more than 70%), and the high spend where 84% fail, highlighted that it was becoming a much bigger problem.
What would you say are the top 3 skills that are needed to be a successful entrepreneur? Why?
1. Resilience: It is a continuous process often navigated within great uncertainty, repeatedly met with dead ends, requiring endless resourcefulness, and a positive mind-set to persevere. Resilience underpins ability to make level-headed decisions under high pressure and challenging decisions that transcend emotional investment and subjectivity.
2. An authentic lifelong learner: needing often to wear many hats requires needing to upskill very quickly within a diverse range of areas. To remain at a point of being able to push boundaries to innovate relies on knowledge of multiple areas and their continuous progress.
3. Love being wrong: making progress relies on creating value desired by users/customers. They are the market participants who validate value and inform (albeit indirectly) what is needed, which often means accepting your assumptions were invalid. Pushing boundaries relies on embracing the unknown to discover what is valid, and both of these processes mean embracing being wrong, because these processes of learning are key ingredients in discovering what is right, and what will continue to change over time.
What is your favourite part of being an entrepreneur?
So many parts! I love Monday mornings – it is privilege to spend my day doing something I want to wake up to do! The privilege of always meeting new inspiring people, who teach one new things and open one’s mind to new perspectives and ideas that one would never have thought of or contemplated. The generosity and willingness of people who will give of their time, help and advice. Going to bed feeling that during each day a mountain was climbed.
What individual, company or organization inspires you most? Why?
Thomas Edison (GE), who transcended the status quo, innovated but also applied his innovations to create value for the masses and did so with great clarity and foresight.
If you had 5 minutes with the above individual/ company/organization, what would you want to ask or discuss?
I’d ask Thomas Edison how he would use digital/technological capabilities to develop his next project. I’d ask for his views on future energy sources (blockchain and sustainability, etc.). How he would organise the mass data being generated and how best to use it to create value?
What would you say have been some of your mistakes, failures or lessons learned as an entrepreneur?
So many… The fear to ask for help. Thinking that those who choose to dismiss you are a reflection of your idea’s value – keep persisting, and someone will say yes! Have the difficult conversations upfront, such as expectations, remunerations, etc., so that everyone is on the same page from the start. Managing the paradox of when to learn and take something on board, and when not to let it derail focus. Making time for downtime!
How have you funded your ideas?
We have bootstrapped trying to find innovative ways to monetise the growth strategy rather than paying for growth. Grants and competitions can also be helpful. However, no doubt there will be other avenues explored going forward.
Are there any sector-specific awards/grants/competitions that have helped you?
Being named a Top 50 Game Changer grew our network. Being part of Tech Nation which welcomed us into a community of authentic entrepreneurs, who desire one another to succeed and support where they can.
What is good about being an entrepreneur in Oxfordshire? Bad?
It is great to have hubs of dedicated resources and programmes specifically designed to nurture innovation. The university has, over almost a millennium, built a world-renowned reputation which benefits us all in credibility. This is a valuable anchor when starting an entrepreneurial journey. It would be great for there to be a centralised location which consolidated all the options for a number of reasons. Everyone could benefit from a synthesised and broader network which could be achieved by bringing the different areas together. Where there is spend on duplication (and there is a lot), this could be rechannelled to an area for development. A sharing of best practice and a point where entrepreneurs could have a reliable overview of the different options and pathways to explore along their journey.
If a new entrepreneur or startup came to you looking for entrepreneurship resources, where would you send them?
• Steve Blank, father of modern-day entrepreneurship and the Customer Development methodology has a great free short course, delivered by himself on Udacity.
• The Lean Startup by Eric Reis (which expands on a component of Steve Blank).
• Monetizing Innovation by Madhavan Ramanujam & Georg Tacke.
• Hooked by Nir Ayal.
• Where To Play online resources.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman entrepreneur? If so, how have you overcome them?
There are sub-conscious biases (totally unintentional) in certain spheres such as Venture Capital funding, and C-suite (chief and senior level) decision making.
How could institutions such as the University of Oxford better support women entrepreneurs?
It would be useful to see female seed or VC funds which could be approached within a meritocracy, so that the content of events and interactions are synonymous in many ways with any other fund, and not focused on articulating that they are there to address the inequality for woman. This detracts from the merit of the entrepreneur and can inadvertently perpetuates any bias that the institution may be trying to address.
Any last words of advice?
• Choose a vision that authentically resonates with you, because that is often the ingredient that fuels resilience and passion.
• Give back, ask what one can do to help someone else. Help other entrepreneurs if you can; offer to make the connections and introductions; and be the cheerleader who wants to see others succeed.
• Take every opportunity to network and meet new people but do this with sincerity to genuinely build relationships.