On Tuesday 30th May, General Assembly London hosted a free event called ‘How She Got There’ with a panel of four successful female entrepreneurs – notably three of the women were #NOILadies! Facilitated by Lora Schellenberg, co-founder of Circle, the panel comprised was comprised as follows:
- Natasha Tiwari, founder of Xarii and Elevare London
- Adela Hussain, founder of Style Lyrical
- Anisah Osman Britton, founder of 23 Code Street
- Emma Sexton, founder of Make Your Words Work, co-founder of Flock Global, and co-host of the Badass Women’s Hour radio show & podcast!
The event started with a quick show of hands from the audience, to gather whether there were fully functioning founders or curious bystanders in attendance (I noticed I struggled to call myself a founder, despite creating ToGetHer Further over a year ago, so that’s some information for me to work with!)
The event took the form of structured interview style questions from the facilitator, but with plenty of time for the panelists to elaborate on their answers with their personal experiences.
When asked about the need to have an idea to become a founder, Adela recommended we find a problem and fix it. Natasha also advised that once you have one idea to make money, then more will come as you get into an entrepreneurial flow!
Emma said she had always wanted to be a founder, but didn’t know exactly what that would look like. She highlighted the common fear of a lack of job security in people’s reticence to set up their own business, but pointed out that actually founders are in a much more secure place because no one can make you redundant!
When asked about the traits to become a founder, Natasha shared a helpful list of positive skills that will help to facilitate your success:
- Be resilient
- Have some appetite for risk
- Cultivate optimism
- Develop your ability to build relationships
However Anisah was quick to clarify that there is no one personality type that makes you a founder. In fact, as Emma pointed out, there is not enough narrative around the psychology of running a business – in mastering your mind and self. And that often it is only a lack of confidence that is holding us back.
Adela encouraged us to take on a growth mindset – to get used to selling and find opportunities every day to keep pitching your business. Although, as Emma and Natasha mentioned, with this comes rejection, so it’s important to toughen up that muscle to be resilient and not take it personally.
Anisha shared a great tip, which I’ve already started implementing, whereby you use a third party to validate your business idea – “my boss/friend/colleague loves what I’m doing…” In my case, my friend Katie thinks ToGetHer Further is brilliant, so that keeps me motivated and inspired to keep learning and improving!
When asked about how the women began developing their business – whether full-time or as a side hustle, Adela spoke of her time in the Escape Start Up Tribe. Emma mentioned taking a job that allowed her to work 4 days a week, enabling her to develop her business on the side.
On the topic of raising investment funding, Anisah advised us not to seek money too early – encouraging us to “Do it for yourself, then raise money when you need it.”
Emma recommended reading Million Dollar Women by Julia Pimsleur for more guidance on how to develop your idea into a million-dollar business.
Adela shared advice she had been given in focusing on getting 1000 amazing fans for your service and you’re in better negotiating power for VCs. She also advised that having a low budget forces you to think carefully about where you spend your money. She further recommended that we consider what kind of company we’re trying to build – is it fit in with the lifestyle we want, or is it to make a big financial return?
The topic of work/life balance brought about a varied response from the founders. Natasha took the view that given the level of work involved, then as long as you find work you love then it’s worth it. She recommended we look at how we want our lives to look, then reverse engineer ourselves back to plan how to get us there.
Adela shared her company’s plan for gradual growth, at a healthy, balanced place. She also recommended we work out who our support networks are, and use them! She shared a practical tip for staying productive and energised – setting herself 5 work goals and 5 personal goals that she knows will nourish her each week, giving herself an opportunity for reflection and monitoring progress.
Emma advised the balance for her is more between work and burnout, because her work is her life, and that she is motivated and energised by the fact that she’s building what she wants to create, and can see in her mind.
Referring to her own personal life or death scenario, Anisah shared her experience of reflecting on her life from her sick bed, and wanting to change her story to reflect the legacy she wanted to leave behind. She encouraged us to find that thing we love, and do it.
One key piece of wisdom that really resonated for me was Natasha’s advice around pacing ourselves… She told us that when you’re excited about a new idea, you are so productive and full of energy but you can crash easily. She advised us to pace ourselves without going overboard. Very important advice for impatient, overachievers like myself!
I also appreciated her method for tackling procrastination – using a combination of the Pomodoro technique, as well as having Accountability Buddies, and choosing to frame blockers productively, by explaining to yourself why you need to do that thing! Genius!
Emma recommended that we focus on the smaller tasks and to try not to think too much about the bigger picture as it can be overwhelming.
Anisah mentioned the importance of eating healthily, referring to Gut by Giulia Enders, encouraging us to find ways to do so on a budget as it will benefit both our physical and mental health.
To finish the session, the panelists shared their own experiences of managing employees and implementing more flexible policies. One thing Emma said about this at an event last year really resonated with me, and has stayed with me ever since – she said the way we work was not designed for us. It was designed over a 100 years ago entirely for men, without any women in mind, and now it doesn’t work for modern men, and it definitely doesn’t work for women! Instead, she said her company does not have an office, and uses an unlimited holiday policy, with complete transparency of the company’s finances, and profit sharing at the end of the year! She does this to challenge assumptions and prove it can be done, and clearly it can!
Although the session was opened up to Q&A from the floor, I felt a mild panic attack coming over and didn’t feel able to ask a question until right at the end when it was unfortunately too late! I did however manage to talk to Adela and Emma after the session (as fellow NOI ladies!), and left feeling very inspired and motivated to keep going with ToGetHer Further, albeit maybe a little slower in order to pace myself…
Siobhán Kangataran is a writer, facilitator and the founder of ToGetHer Further – you can connect with her via the ToGetHer Further Facebook group, or read more of her personal writing at www.siobhankangataran.com.
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