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Stéphanie Tumba: “As a thought leader, you are the press officer of your company”

Thought leadership can certainly help your business to grow. Advertising costs are reduced as social media influencers and your audience share your links, through a medium, such as on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, driving easy traffic to your website. In the print or online media, some recognised thought leaders are invited as guest editors or […]

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Thought leadership can certainly help your business to grow. Advertising costs are reduced as social media influencers and your audience share your links, through a medium, such as on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, driving easy traffic to your website. In the print or online media, some recognised thought leaders are invited as guest editors or even have their own section. Or even have your own talks or speeches in a medium such as TEDx.


As part of our series about how to become known as a thought leader in your industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stéphanie Tumba. Stéphanie is a multi-award-winning investor, author and founder of Sté Tumba Capital. She helps, through her company, entrepreneurs and start-ups to realise their dream by investing in small and early-stage firms with high growth potential. Sté Tumba Capital is very hands-on and is really interested in all sorts of entrepreneurial adventures, from hi-tech to high-end hotels and hospitality. She sits on the Board of the Global Malnutrition Programme for Save the Children in London, a nonprofit international organisation that provides food, resources and support for children suffering from malnutrition. Sté Tumba Capital just created an European women’s mentoring programme called ‘Passion First, Business Second’, which offers both a grant and a year of mentorship to help female founders realise her dreams.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

THANK YOU! I am really honoured and grateful to be interviewed by Thrive Global and to inspire and make a difference to your readers’ lives.

Well, the path that led me here was not straight but winding, and sometimes, I felt like I had different lives.

I have always been focussed and determined. So, at 16, I worked as a door-to-door representative selling arts and antiques to individuals in order to buy my first real estate contribution in Paris (where I was born). I had no fixed salary but the commissions were mega-high and pushed me to go the extra mile to hit my personal targets. This is how I started my journey in real estate contribution.

Then, I went to university to study International Business Management and learned the ropes of entrepreneurship . AFter I graduated, I was in in charge of the marketing development and business management for a variety of big luxury brands at L’Oréal Group and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy.

In 2015, I found myself in a different industry, which was another turn in the road. My story as an entrepreneur really started when I was homeless and jobless, after being sacked from a job that I hated in the entertainment industry, where I was bullied for being too “slim”. From that setback, I had the good fortune to work for an contribution fund where my new boss taught me the ropes of angel contribution and became both my mentor and friend. In 2016, I made my first angel contribution in the hospitality industry, which I sold the following year for twice the original valuation. Since then, my portfolio has grown to include a little bit less than 20 contribution and additional real estate acquisitions. It is now valued at 3 million British pounds.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are an authority about the topic of thought leadership?

I firmly believe that a thought leader is meant to share their knowledge and inspire future leaders

They communicate vehemently and authentically and talk about their work passionately through a personal blog or podcast, social media, speeches, seminars and conferences, books, media, as well as awards.

And this is exactly what I do. I am being invited to seminars, conferences and other events around the world to share my experience, to mentor and inspire future investors and start-ups.

I have lived in countries on 3 continents and speak 5 different languages. I am an international asset with an extensive professional network, from Los Angeles to Sydney via Paris. Today, I use my extensive knowledge of real estate and seed & series A contribution to educate and inspire.

At every opportunity, I endeavour to act as a role model to the world but, more importantly, to unprivileged women. I want to inspire people to be action-orientated and to see beyond what is before their eyes.

In addition, only 2% of the people who work in my field are women. I want to encourage women to do what I do, and show them that it’s fun. Investing in an idea is fun, and sitting down at a board meeting and participating in the marketing strategy is fun too. It’s both interesting and rewarding. We travel, we meet people, and learn about diverse industries. This job is exciting, varied, and it never gets boring.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

One of the interesting developments in my career was when I started to travel around the world, investing in international companies.

I started to acquire intercultural skills and knowledge by discovering different cultures, languages and histories; discoveries that differ enormously from those of a tourist. In this sense, it allows me to learn new perspectives in my field of expertise and to cooperate with partners who use different approaches.

These types of experiences are something that cannot be learned by reading a book, being a tourist, or even researching online. They are simply priceless.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my career, not all of them were funny, believe me, but I learned from them all. A couple of years ago, I had an interview with a big brand in London that I am not going to mention here but I arrived slightly early. So being, slightly nervous, I decided to get a coffee in the nearest coffee shop. I ordered my takeaway and was heading to Hyde Park to get a bit of sun when a man banged into me and hit me hard, staining my white without even apologising. Annoyed, I barked at him in French, saying: “Can’t you even apologise, you idiot.” He looked at me like he could not care less. I bought a new shirt and headed to the interview, only to find out that the “annoying idiot” was my interviewer and future manager, and the icing on the cake was that he could speak French and understood the “insult”. Well, I didn’t get the job. Ever since then I have always done my due diligence and Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook have become my best allies.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define what a ‘Thought Leader’ is. How is a thought leader different than a typical leader? How is a thought leader different than an influencer?

Thought leaders, for me, are those who are recognised as experts in a community of followers, a business network, industry, or by the public. This is due to their knowledge, education, special talents, insights, and experience. Their philosophies and opinions can influence the thoughts, opinions, and attitudes of others.

The major difference for me is that while leaders get things done, thought leaders get minds won. Thought leadership is the process of combining your professional and personal experiences to explain a personal idea that would inspire new ways of thinking and behaving. A thought leader is independent and expresses a sincere and genuine opinion and will, in principle, never be paid to advertise a product.

Someone can be a leader without being a thought leader. He or she may lead and manage the company’s operations well by virtue of their interpersonal skills, knowledge, experience, expertise, job title authority, on so on. The goal of a leader is to get his team of individuals to think and act in ways that accomplish the goals of the organisation.

Finally, an influencer — as we would describe them in the context of social media — loves something, but a thought leader lives it and shakes things up. When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone he clearly showed his thought leadership, but when a social media influencer recommends the same iPhone, he will demonstrate that he or she loves it and wants to recommend the product, which may influence others by virtue of their celebrity, charisma, or other qualities. Influencers are followers of big trends that are created by thought leaders.

Can you talk to our readers a bit about the benefits of becoming a thought leader. Why do you think it is worthwhile to invest resources and energy into this?

As a thought leader, you are the press officer of your company.

Investing resources and energy in it allows you to increase the reputation of your brand, reach a very targeted audience, build a close relationship of trust with its audience; it also improves your organic. But, it is also low-cost advertising, saving the money and time it would have taken to design and create the relevant advertising.

As a result, thought leaders sell their products and services almost effortlessly, as social media influencers line up to test them for exclusivity, helping your business to grow and creating lucrative opportunities.

Let’s talk about business opportunities specifically. Can you share a few examples of how thought leadership can help a business grow or create lucrative opportunities?

Thought leadership can certainly help your business to grow. Advertising costs are reduced as social media influencers and your audience share your links, through a medium, such as on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, driving easy traffic to your website.

In the print or online media, some recognised thought leaders are invited as guest editors or even have their own section.

Or even have your own talks or speeches in a medium such as TEDx.

Ok. Now that we have that behind us, we’d love to hear your thoughts about how to eventually become a thought leader. Can you share 5 strategies that a person should implement to become known as a thought leader in their industry.

Well, one should know that thought leader status is not just a “prestigious” status, it comes with big responsibilities. You must be there for your audience, to motivate them and reach out to them when things are not going well. It is your role and to become a thought leader, I would recommend that you:

1/ Choose your niche. To be a thought leader in your industry, you need to determine a specific area and niche. Building an authority from scratch in a saturated industry can be complicated and will take a lot of time. I chose to inspire women to be entrepreneurs and to work in contribution and finance. We are still not represented enough in the industry, i.e. just 2%.

2/ Be a follower before being a leader. Being a follower is seen as something pejorative, but it is actually an essential quality in order to move forward. Do not be ashamed to follow and get your inspiration from someone else. There has not been a single leader in the world that has become a leader without the help and guidance of other leaders. All the great heroes of our time have been mentors who have changed all their lives. Arnold Schwarzenegger had Reg Park and Muhammad Ali, Naomi Osaka has Serena Williams, and as far as I am concerned, I admire people such as Peter Jones, Richard Branson, and Joanne Wilson inspired me.

3/ Learn more and more. Read, read, read! Follow the news of your niche and industry. I read a book per week and many magazines.

4/ Be passionate about your vision. One of the most remarkable things about people like Martin Luther King is the passion he put into each of his speeches. He was animated and lived every word he uttered. He believed in his fight, he believed in God, in the power of the black people. He was not pretending.

5 / Bring solutions to the problems you lifted. Women like Lady Diana and Mother Theresa criticised and denounced social inequalities in the world. But they did not stop there. They brought solutions and gave a lot of their time to help the most deprived and disadvantaged. That’s what made them amazing thought leaders.

Today, I inspire women to be entrepreneurs and believe in themselves through a women’s mentoring programme called ‘Passion First, Business Second’, which offers both a grant and a year of mentorship to help a female founder realise her dreams.

In your opinion, who is an example of someone who has has done a fantastic job as a thought leader? Which specific things have impressed you about that person? What lessons can we learn from this person’s approach.

Nelson Mandela denounced the racial inequalities in South Africa and that’s what made him a revolutionary, like Che Guevara. He was instrumental in improving the conditions of black people in his country, having a clear political agenda, campaigning for the registration of black people on electoral lists, and so many other rights. When he was liberated from jail, Nelson Mandela shared, with love and compassion, his desire to unite his country rather than divide it and seek revenge. He inspired the world with speeches about wisdom, as well as inspirational quotes, such as “Courageous people do not fear forgiving for the sake of peace.” He impressed me for his determination, his humility and his wisdom.

I have seen some discussion that the term “thought leader” is trite, overused, and should be avoided. What is your feeling about this?

I just think it should be used properly. I understand and agree that the term is overused, as most people tend to misuse it and use this term for everything, including leaders and social media influencers. We must make a distinction between thought leadership and leadership. Someone can be a leader without being a thought leader. Whilst thought leaders will influence their audience with their knowledge, social media influencers may influence others by virtue of their celebrity, charisma, or other qualities.

What advice would you give to other leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

There are 3 important boxes in everybody’s life: career, family & friends, and YOU. One should dedicate some time for each of these boxes. The proportion is up to you, but we need a balance. YOUR OWN balance. The balance that makes you happy and keeps you happy.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to start a movement called the Pursuit of Happiness where people will learn to love themselves and others, find and learn their true selves, make peace with themselves and their past. But, more importantly, make peace with others who have hurt them in the past, learn the art of forgiveness, share your feelings, and let it go. Give love, receive love and keep smiling to the world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Being a young woman in the financial industry, you can easily be hit by the feeling of “not deserving” or the imposter syndrome. I used to be afraid of what I could not do or excel at and, as such, turned down a lot of opportunities. Then, I read Richard Branson’s book Screw It, Let’s Do It, and this was my epiphany! Whatever your goal is you will never succeed unless you let go of your fears and just do it, even when most people say it can’t be done.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oh my god, there are so many… But because I live in the United Kingdom, I will go with a local and pick Richard Branson (a very close second comes Peter Jones). I have read a few of his books and ‘Screw It, Let’s Do It’ literally changed my life. He is my inspiration behind ‘Passion First, Business Second’. As he mentions in his book, “As soon as something stops being fun, I think it’s time to move on. Life is too short to be unhappy. Waking up stressed and miserable is not a good way to live.” As a result, I make sure that I only do things that I love and want to do.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Your readers can, preferably, follow me on Instagram, @stephtumba, where I share a tiny bit of my personal life, a lot of my business life, and a lot of lessons from my experiences. I would be happy to respond on there to any entrepreneurial question that your readers may have. See you there and thank you again for this fantastic interview.

Thank you so much for your insights. This was very insightful and meaningful.

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