Valuable lessons from the S.H.E summit

Call me crazy but I honestly get the same entertainment value from reading about Kim Kardashian’s latest escapades on Balleralert as I do reading an article on Entrepreneur about Arianna Huffington’s daily routine. The ’turn up’ is the same whether I’m listening to ‘trap music’ or a podcast that interviews Amanda Steinberg and gives us a glimpse of her business process and how she started out.

Bottom line I believe in investing in personal development in all its forms and staying on top of trends, be it in entertainment or the business world. You can draw inspiration from almost anything but its also important to me to strike a balance.  So aside from all the frivolous stuff, I live on a daily dose of podcasts, TEDx talks and books. To stay at the top of your game you have to invest in your personal development because degrees are great but unfortunately some of the knowledge you gain in university expires and since the world is rapidly changing.

I also try to attend a conference or do an executive education course at least once a year.

This year I had the privilege of attending the S.H.E summit in New York.  S.H.E stands for ‘she helps empower’.  The summit is a global women’s leadership and empowerment conference that showcases leading role model models their empowerment stories and strategies. The 2- day event promises to propel your next phase of personal and professional success, shift you into your most empowered state of self, Realign you with authentic goals and add significant relationships to your network. The conference boasted speakers like Deepak Chopra, Ali Brown, Sallie Krawcheck, Shiza Shahid and Jessica Herrin.

My Journey to the S.H.E Summit…

It all began with this meme believe it or not.

IMG_1300 (1)

I found it on twitter. There was just something about what it said that rang true to me and my curiosity lead to me doing a quick Google search to figure out who this Ali Brown person was and what other wise words she had to offer. I found two things. She was a marketing expert who had built a 7-figure business and had started her business online before starting an online business meant anything meaningful to the rest of us. She had also launched a podcast called Glambition radio.  Lets just say I listened to one episode and was hooked because it opened up a new world for me, just listening to interviews about the kind of businesses women were starting on the other side of the world, many of which were not recognizable names because they weren’t talked about often in the type of main stream media that reached Nigeria. One of the interviews that struck a cord with me was Claudia Chan. Listening to her story, her passion for the S.H.E revolution and her vision for building the type of Media Company that inspired young women to step up and stand out by showcasing the journeys of women who were making it happen in several industries.

After listening to that episode, I set the intention by putting it on my goal list for 2015 as one of the conferences I’d like to attend. 2015 has been a tough year because of the status of the Nigerian economy and at some point I wasn’t sure how feasible it would be. However, the stars aligned and I got nominated to the board of the Nigerian Higher Education Foundation and the inaugural board meeting was in their offices in New York, so I could effectively kill two birds with one stone.

Highlights from the S.H.E summit…

On my way to the S.H.E summit, this guy thought he was so funny photobombing me…LOL!!!

So it’s the morning of the S.H.E summit, I’m pumped! I wake up super early put on my purple jumpsuit (which was a tad too short because it had been altered and I packed it without trying it on lol!) beat my face and I’m ready to learn and be inspired but truth be told I was nervous. In fact I start to panic a little on my way to the venue. Silly I know but let me explain! I was attending this conference by myself, I didn’t know anyone else who was going to be there and the speakers were people I had only read about or seen and heard online.  I was a little freaked out! That bout of ‘imposter syndrome’ that hits once in a while, the negative voice in your head that whispers you are not good enough, or they won’t like you because you don’t fit in, the shyness or fear that cajoles you to retreat into your comfort zone when opportunities like this arise and threatens to stop you from making any meaningful connections. Yeah that one! But I refused to be overwhelmed. Instead I gave myself a pep talk that went a little like this!

 ‘ Arese, you came from Lagos, Nigeria for this, you are not allowed to be shy or fearful! You will not just sit there and say nothing, you will learn, you will engage and interact with other people, you will introduce yourself and initiate conversation with as many people as possible because you are not a ghost, when its over they will know you were here.’

Guess what my first lesson from the summit was?

Even the most successful women struggle with self- doubt but they learn to get over it.

Fear is a very real part of our journey to success. Whether you are at the top of your game or at the start of your career, everyone has some element of fear and self -doubt. The difference between the people who are successful and the people who aren’t is whether you allow your self-limiting beliefs stop you from taking action. At the summit, Sharon Lechter said ‘to worry is to pray for what you do not want’. Claudia Chan suggested that when you are feeling self-doubt allow yourself to give power to the angel on your shoulder that’s telling you to be the best you can be as opposed to listening to the negative voice and that one way to defy your demons is spending time, energy and thoughts on the best version of yourself.. Kathy Caprins also suggested that we do the thing that scares you beyond recognition everyday.

Bottom line… We have to silence the voice that tells we aren’t ready for prime time!

Sharon Lechter ( co-Author of think and Grow rich for women, Rich dad poor dad and Financial literacy champion in both the Bush and Obama administrations), Arese Ugwu and Ingrid Vanderveldt
Sharon Lechter ( co-Author of think and Grow rich for women, Rich dad poor dad and Financial literacy champion in both the Bush and Obama administrations), Arese Ugwu and Ingrid Vanderveldt (founder and chairman, Empowering a billion women by 2020)


Arese Ugwu and Ingrid Vanderveldt (founder and chairman, Empowering a billion women by 2020)
Arese Ugwu and Ingrid Vanderveldt (founder and chairman, Empowering a billion women by 2020)


Claudia Chan and Arese Ugwu
Claudia Chan (Founder of S.H.E Summit) and Arese Ugwu

Women need to think bigger and be more resilient

When you operate in a developing country, there’s a tendency to think that your problems are bigger than everyone else’s but I listened to women like Sallie Krawcheck, (who at one point was famously dubbed ‘the first lady of wall street’) talk about being unceremoniously and publicly fired, not once but twice as the head of banks like Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney, something that would cripple most people.

However, she went on to launch successful projects like Ellevate and Ellevest, which has raised $10 million in series A funding. I listened to Kathryn Minshew of talk about her fundraising experience, approaching 150 investors to pitch her idea and getting 148 rejections and 2 eventual Yeses. What was particularly interesting was that with every No she received, instead of giving up on her idea, she asked why and used their feedback to refine her pitch for the next time.

I sat there thinking first of all, how many entrepreneurs in Nigeria even have access to 150 investors to pitch to? And even if they did, how many people, especially women, would give up on their idea after they had pitched the 4th or 5th time?

We need to trust ourselves to believe that we can execute the big ideas and that even when it gets hard, the same obstacles can breed opportunities if we are resilient and creative in our thinking.

Arese Ugwu and Sallie Krawcheck
Arese Ugwu and Sallie Krawcheck, Wall Street’s most powerful woman (former President of Meryll Lynch Wealth Management) now Chairman of Ellevate and Ellevest.

We need to OWN who we are as women.

The Summit was phenomenal! It introduced me to women who were disrupting industries like finance and technology in ways we hadn’t even begun to think about in Nigeria. I was in awe of them all but one woman stood out to me as the most fascinating speaker, Joanna Weidenmiller, the founder of and I’m officially obsessed with her lol!

First of all, she caught my eye because at most of the conferences I go to the female speakers are usually wearing very serious business suits. This woman was speaking on the ‘fundraising to exit strategy, the female founders breakdown’ panel and wearing a short white dress, a statement necklace and had blonde hair. She looked awesome and her message was even more intriguing.

Kathryn Minshew, Joanna Weidenmiller and Anu Duggall
Kathryn Minshew, Joanna Weidenmiller and Anu Duggall

She shared her fundraising  experience of working the conference circuit, introducing herself to investors, getting tons of rejections but still going ahead because she believed in the service she was trying to offer and the impact it would have. She said she stalked each investor, knew what they looked like, the kind of companies they invested in, their interests etc so she was adequately prepared to pitch before she met them at the conference.  However many times she would get asked   with raised eyebrows a ‘are you really wearing that to pitch?’ and she would say ‘why not’? She said that women had to learn to embrace their feminity because often times, especially women who worked in male dominated industries felt that they had to dumb down the way they dressed, so they could fit in. she said that the more confident she became about the service she was offering and the impact it would create, the less willing she was to dumb down her blondness, makeup or dress sense to fit in or let herself be pushed around.  She even developed a policy of walking out of meetings if a potential investor was more than 20 minutes late to a meeting because her time was valuable. At one point an investor who was late quipped that did she realize he could pull his money and she said please do! I’ll even pay you double what your shares are worth. And she said she honestly meant it because she was confident about what she was bringing to the table.

In 2014, at the age of 32, instead of raising more Venture capital money Joanna went on to be the first silicon valley company to list on the Australian stock exchange and her company 1-page is set to be worth about $100 million.

The S.H.E summit inspired me to think bigger and be ballsy in the pursuit of what I want no matter what that looks like to other people. I hope this article in turn inspires other African women.








Arese Ugwu at the S.H.E summit



  1. Very inspiring. I read every word and I especially loved the tweet- U dont believe in ur talents If u don’t see that u are gifted, that you are important.. U waste so much time #SHESummit #SHE2030

    4:17 PM – 6 Oct 2015
    Thank you for sharing

  2. This has left me inspired! And thanks for mentioning Glambition Radio and sharing all about this phenomenal women to look out for! AH…the struggle is real! The fear, the inner voice that says you are not good enough even when you know you are…lol…its good to know that even women we admire can relate…will def keep believing, think big and reach higher!

    Please be kind and share links to the podcasts, books and talks you listen to. Thanks!

  3. Dear Arese

    Thank you so much for this post. You just made me feel more certain about my beliefs on who I should be as a woman.

    I work in the media industry here in Nigeria, precisely TV/Film production and it can be frustrating when people especially the male folk try to rub their male ego/ dominance on me not because they are right but because they are men.

    I am currently reading Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and I realize that God deposited so much strength in me as a woman.

    I can do this and I can do better.

    Please I will like to ask if there are conferences like in Nigeria that are dedicated to women development most especially women in media.

    I gently await your response.


  4. Been following for a while! You’re everything and so is your adorable daughter Zikora! I’m the current Miss Africa USA and will be in Nigeria this December – still trying to conjure up a way for us to possibly work together! And trust me, when I do I’ll be reaching out appropriately!

    Keep doing what you do!

    – Frances Udukwu

  5. Thanks for Sharing Arese. Glambition is a podcast i enjoy as well. You are very inspiring. Keep believing in your self and you are half way there.
    Fear of rejection is not uncommon in women including me but i believe the moment we find that momemtum, the world will see what we have to offer.

  6. Arese, you have done it again and again! Well written, well said and well done! Truly inspiration. I love our generation of #strongwomen who realize that the sky is their starting point and self-doubt plaques us all, but we have to push through it in order to reach our full potential….and more.

    Kudos dear!



  7. Thank you for sharing Arese. I have stalked you for a while and I can say that you are a strong woman. I struggle with self doubt all the time, trying to work my way through it.


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