When I attended Enterprise Nation’s Festival of Female Entrepreneurs in 2018, I felt out of my depth. I was new to the full-time working world, I was new to my industry and I had never been to a networking event, let alone one with a couple of hundred fantastic entrepreneurial women.
However, by the end of the day, I knew I would be returning the following year. Not only did I leaving the event glowing with inspiration, the community and kindness of the women there that day was truly warming.
This year’s event, once again, filled me with such enthusiasm, and my new found self-confidence made it even better. With the encouragement of my boss and a further year of experience under my belt, I felt comfortable to mingle and put myself out there.
With a host of great speakers this year, including Nisha Katona, Founder of Mowgli Street Food; Dame Stephanie Shirley, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist; Nimisha Raja, Fouder of Nim’s Fruit Crisps and Ruby Lee, Founder of Studio 77, came a wealth of learnings that I endeavour to take back into the workplace, to my clients and into my personal life.
“To have a job that you love is the greatest privilege” – Nisha Katona, Mowgli Street Food
There are times in life where the jobs we do may not be our first choice but, those bills simply won’t pay themselves. However, once you get the chance to pursue that path you’ve always dreamed of, grab it by both hands and don’t let go. Of course, our dreams don’t come without challenges, but imagine the reward.
I think what Nisha got across so well during her talk was that no matter what you’re doing now, however old or young you are, there’s no time like the present to start a job that doesn’t make you hate waking up in the morning. As a barrister first, Nisha wanted to do something that kept her passion of Indian cooking, family and tradition alight; Mowgli was born as a chance to achieve fulfilment and self-worth, it wasn’t just another job.
“Risk is personal” – Nimisha Raja, Nim’s Fruit Crisps
No business venture will be without risk; even if you aren’t an entrepreneur, entering a business can be risky, simply because no one can predict the future. But, the stakes for your own businesses may feel a lot higher – it’s not just a job, it’s your life.
Some people are simply more risk averse and whilst there’s nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution, too much wariness can create barriers between you and your end goal and ,in some cases, it can cause cease fire. If you have passion and have taken time to forward-think about any potential issues that may arise along with feasible solutions, all that’s left to do is believe in yourself and your product and take the plunge; no one knows your business better than you, trust yourself.
“Resilience makes for entrepreneurial success” – Dame Stephanie Shirley
We can also view risk as a help, rather than a hindrance. It can push you out of your comfort zone and you can begin to think outside the box. There’s never only one to solution to a problem; however, it can take a period of uncertainty to make you realise it.
“Educate yourself, take ownership of your learning” – Emma Alexander, Motherbran
More so now than ever, technology is at the very heart of most businesses; without it, 99% of them wouldn’t be able to function. Even the simple things like a malfunctioning laptop can bring things to a halt.
It can be daunting, trying to keep up with the latest updates, the newest way to boost SEO, the hottest phone or the fastest WiFi; it’s no wonder so many people simply put it off. But whilst advancements in technology are being created everyday, so are hundreds of helpful guides and tutorials. The key is to take the bull by the horns and take charge of your learning. A few hours may be all you need to grasp the basics.
“Just bloody do it!” – Ruby Lee, Studio 77
Simple videos on YouTube or easy-to-read help guides can be found all over the internet. I have recently become quite the expert in B2B cut through for Black Friday and the latest updates on the IAB regulations. This is all thanks to Google.
“I measured not in terms of profit, but in terms of the number of women I could employ” – Dame Stephanie Shirley
Business can be many things; it can be rewarding, challenging and exciting, but it can also be lonely, absorbing and in some cases, cut-throat. Burnout and stress-related illness is one of the top causes for sick days in the UK; many struggle to achieve that work-life balance. When you run your own business, especially on your own, knowing how to offload your worries can be difficult.
Whether you have a team of 2 people or a team of 200, make plans to look after each other. That could be as simple as weekly coffee catch-ups, a working lunch every so often, or a dedicated support officer. Instil a work culture that promotes kindness and honesty, and work together to get through those harder times. There is no shame in leaning on one another for support – it’s called teamwork after all.
“I wanted to create somewhere that my children, your children would want to work” – Nisha Katona, Mowgli
For those in a team of one, no man is an island. Whilst you may feel that you must keep work and life separate, use those people around you who love you. Ask them for advice, explain your frustrations and share your successes. Also, ensure you practice self-compassion; enjoy breaks with a cup of tea and a biscuit or go on walks at lunchtime. Feel proud of your achievements and be kind to yourself when things don’t go to plan.
“In investment, a pound for a man is still only a penny for a woman” – Jenny Tooth MBE, UK Business Angels Association
Thinking back to Dame Shirley’s talk this year, the outrage that rippled through the room as she told her story of hardship in the 1960’s as a working woman, a successful working woman, was moving. She changed her name to Steve to be taken seriously by her male counterparts and constantly battled for equal pay while men undermined her. Even when she sold her business for £3 billion.
Even now, I can’t put my hand on my heart and say that businesswomen have got it good now. The equal pay fight is still ongoing. 52% of women face sexual harassment at work while 4 out of 5 of them feel they can’t report it; we also only have six female CEOs in the FTSE 100 who earn half of what the men do.
Women still have a way to go, but the baby steps taken over the years are beginning to mount up. We are making our voices heard more often and the workplace is using our skills and intelligence for good. Most importantly, we’re no longer afraid to stand at the front and fight for what we believe in.
See just some of the brilliant businesswomen who have inspired us here, in our International Women’s Day celebration post and hear more about author, Steph.