Maintaining a work/life balance and staying motivated are just some of the hurdles women entrepreneurs, who often have other obligations, face. But to be considered great entrepreneurs and role models, do they need to do something more, and inspire others?
With their busy lives, it’s not often that these women are available to provide advice from the inside, but this was made possible at a recent London event that saw a panel of successful entrepreneurial women give their insights to the next generation.
Part of the Future Female Entrepreneur (FFE) programme established by egg-white brand Two Chicks Co-founders Alla Ouvarova and Anna Richey that sees young women aged 18-24 spend time with a women entrepreneur mentor, the event saw FFE delegates hear from a panel of women who have disrupted markets and beat their personal struggles.
The panellists included the Two Chicks Co-founder, Alla Ouvarova, luxury blow dry bar chain Duck and Dry Founder, Yulia Rorstrom, Julia Kessler, Co-founder of natural fruit drink brand, Nix & Kix, Lilien Hornung-Mary, Co-founder of fashion, cosmetics and lifestyle products delivery service Vite and Board Member at The NFT Gallery, and conservative MP, Caroline Dinenage.
What makes a good entrepreneur?
Starting with what led them to their entrepreneurial careers, the panellists agreed that a “hunger” to learn and experiment was key in forging their businesses as well as embracing chaos, adapting to uncertainty, and being ok with failing.
They also advised delegates that self-motivation, especially at the start of a business journey when you’re likely to have few or no team members around to support you, is essential.
Dinenage told a story about when she stood for local elections as a young woman, where being told she couldn’t do it due to her age and gender made her want to do it more, and was a great motivator. She had started a business in her teens, and said that failure was a key part of the entrepreneurial experience and that learning from mistakes was good, but she advised the audience of young women never to make the same mistake twice.
Is there a right time to start a business?
While the panel included women who had started their business straight after university, Rorstrom, who had previously worked as a management consultant, said there is never a right or wrong answer about when to start a business. They felt their corporate job has aided their entrepreneurial life, helping them build their confidence and speak to people “above their pay grade.”
Hornung-Mary, who had recently graduated from a fashion university in London and has set up an NFT art gallery, said she wanted all her entrepreneurial projects to have an impact on women. Having grown up as the only girl in a family dominated by brothers who knew a lot about finance and tech, she felt left out. “I don’t want any other female to ever feel like this,” she said. She wants her companies to act as a voice of empowerment to “help other females to not be the ones not knowing how investment works, to not be the ones not knowing how tech works” and to know that “there is space for women in tech.”
Questions from the audience
The panel then opened up questions to the floor:
How do you know when you have found your business?
Yulia Rorstrom said: “It’s okay not to have the idea. You’re not in a rush. We all started businesses in different phases of our lives. So I would say experience the world, travel, meet people in jobs. From my perspective, it’s better to live a little and don’t rush. When you search really hard for something, sometimes the idea might not come, it’s usually by chance. I went to New York, and loved the idea [of blow dry bars] then came back to London and saw there was nothing like this here.
“People think that the business has to be a brand new idea, something that doesn’t exist, that you have to come up with this brilliant brand new concept. Very often I don’t think that is the case, it’s about taking what already exists and making it better, different, and cheaper. So I think it’s another way of looking at it.”
How do you balance your work and personal life?
Dinenage said: “I think the starting point is you have to be kind to yourself because it’s so easy to put so many demands on yourself to be the best possible entrepreneur. I think you need to take a step back from that and go, look, I’m still doing the best I can. My kids are now 19 and 14. I got elected when one was eleven and the other was two. I wasn’t there a lot and it was hellish. I said to my 19-year-old recently, that’s terrible the fact that when you were little, I wasn’t always there. I said do you think it has impacted your life? And he said, mum, I don’t because actually, I think it’s about when you’re around being present, isn’t it? It’s about making the quality, not quantity.”
What advice would you give to a small business founder?
Hornung-Mary said: “You don’t have to have a social life all the time, you just need to surround yourself with a bubble of support. You don’t need 5 million friends, as we see on Instagram and social media generally, especially in a generation where everything always seems so glamorous, just do what feels authentic for you”.
Ouvarova said: “Obviously, you will have the DNA of the idea, which is very often the initial idea. But if something sells and something doesn’t, go ahead and keep an open mind, don’t get too stuck on your initial idea”.
Rorstrom said: “Invest in your customers and really understand why they like you, and what keeps them coming back. Because there may be others and then it’s just a matter of identifying where they are. And then you can target them, especially if it’s a data-driven economy, and really get into the mind of the consumer.”
To find out more about the Future Female Entrepreneur programme, click here.