I recently discovered a new network, one that feels more like a tribe than any other I have previously come across – and that is saying something for someone who constantly seeks out opportunities to broaden and strengthen her network. This ‘tribe’, made up of strong female founders has its HQ at The Allbright in London, a private members club where women come together to collaborate, create, and thrive in an environment where words like ‘support’, ‘challenge’, ‘growth’ and ‘drive’ are like a musical backdrop to daily life.
I came across this particular group through the course of finding a framework to help me launch and grow my own business, and I have to say, I am hooked. I am hooked on the vibe, the drive, the intensity with which these women charge ahead with their businesses and careers, and in turn support me in mine.
Most recently the ‘red threads’ running through The Allbright have come together in the shape of the #FoundHER festival, a 5 day program of events over three cities, celebrating women, the businesses they create, and the glass ceilings they can smash! I was lucky enough to attend two days, in two cities, London and Glasgow, taking part in such a variety of conversations that my mind is still spinning with all the great tips, tricks, mantras, affirmations, and advice that flowed through and from all the participants.
A few thoughts that keep floating back to the surface concern topics including purpose, funding, and mental health and wellbeing – a topic particularly close to my heart. Distilling these thoughts down and I’m left with something like this:
FINDING PURPOSE – I want it, purpose with a little ‘p’ and with a big ‘P’. I want to feel like I am working towards a larger goal, that I and my business might make just one person’s life a little better through alleviating the loneliness and frustration that those with no fixed office abode can sometimes feel – this is the big ‘P’. As for little ‘p’, I want to live my life purposefully, every day I want to feel like I am working for and in a business that holds true to its core values, that treats its employees and customers well and that, like Ronseal, does exactly what it says on the tin.
It’s not surprising that ‘purpose’ has sprung up to fill a perceived trust deficit, to address sustainability imperatives and to give us something to hold on to as we try to tackle the threats and opportunities presented by the digitization of everything. But we cannot have purpose without profit. Businesses must make money and so it is important for purpose-driven entrepreneurs like myself to make sure we have one eye always on the profit, and not over-correct thinking that the two are mutually exclusive. Hold true to your purpose yes, but the more profit, the more power you have to amplify your purpose and drive its impact. Purpose ultimately should be seen as a holistic set of behaviours and execution that drives profit in a way that can, and does, have a positive impact on everyone the business comes into contact with – at least that is the idea.
MONEY TALKS – here’s an interesting fact for you – women start businesses with typically 1/3 of the amount of capital than men do. We also ask for less when going out and seeking funding. We’ve all heard the soundbites that women value themselves less in job negotiations resulting in a chronic and perpetuating pay-gap, but it seems the same is also true when we go out and seek investment for our businesses. Remember, an idea is not worth anything – but the execution is, and so learning how to value the ability to MAKE SHIT HAPPEN is, ironically, invaluable. I am self-funding my business and quite wary of the day when I might need to go out there and convince someone to give me money to scale it since relinquishing control is not something I am historically very good at. BUT, I now have the advice of a wonderful Angel investor ringing in my ear:
1. Keep it simple,
2. Demonstrate you can solve a problem other people are willing to pay you to solve,
3. Demonstrate your ROI,
This advice came bookended with some fabulous tips from female founders who had run the funding gauntlet already; always ask for more, make sure you are not under-capitalized, fund to your plan….and then double it, and find the smart money. While no less nervous about this part of my journey to come, thanks to the stories from the FoundHER tribe I am no longer terrified by it and as long as I know the numbers and draw on the experiences of my fellow entrepreneurs I too can run this gauntlet and survive.
STAY MENTALLY HEALTHY – more and more we hear horror stories of burnout, stress, and general malaise with the state of the working world. Since we spend more than half our lives ‘at work’ it is so important we understand what it is doing to us, how it makes us feel, and how in this time of constant connection we can put ourselves first. Honestly, deep down we know that if we take care of ourselves, we flourish at work and everyone wins. So why is this so hard to do? Words like presenteeism are so well known but actually tackling them seems a bit of a joke… we all know it happening but we are doing nothing to change it.
Enter FoundHer session ‘Running on Empty’ where we began with a 10 minute mindfulness meditation. Now hold on a minute… don’t switch off immediately, I too was mindfully skeptical for a while, but as I realized that I was actually experiencing burn-out instead of just thinking of it as something that afflicted others I began to tune in more to my mind and body and guess what… positive results ensued. So, I am totally drinking the coolaid and will be making sure that as my business grows we have a culture that actively promotes ‘mental fitness’ rather than just paying lip service to ‘mental illness’. We may even borrow a trick from Wire (Glasgow based Digital Agency) who have monthly Professional, Emotional, Physical talks, or PEP for short. Who doesn’t love a good PEP talk?.
So, when all is said and done what advice will I give myself as I continue down this slightly rocky, but promising entrepreneurial path?
1. Run a GOOD business with GOOD VALUES,
2. Understand what your investment requirement is and ASK FOR IT when you need it, and
3. Don’t live in the past, or the future, be in the PRESENT and every now and then and give yourself an ‘internal cuddle’…