My Business Journey – Talk for SINC Female Founders
I was recently asked to speak at the Sussex Innovation Centre’s Female Founders Open Morning. This was a networking breakfast organised by SINC which brought together numerous women who had recently or were planning to set up their business. Included in the morning were 1-2-1 mentoring sessions with the SINC innovation advisers on how to establish and grow the business.
SINC asked me to speak to share my story, with details of my business journey, challenges and achievements. It was lovely to be back at the University of Sussex, where I did my 1st degree. However, I was not able to share many of the stories of living on campus at the time!
My story begins with me, aged 10, sitting on the floor in front of the TV watching the wonderful David Attenborough’s Life on Earth. This series was so inspirational to me, seeing the beautiful world around us, its diversity & fragility. It helped me develop my ideas for what I wanted to do with my life. Fast forward quite a few years, and I have set up the award-winning environmental management consultancy Eshcon.
I then shared my business journey. My early career was all about full-time jobs – these ranged from Communications Officer for an environmental charity to running a local authority’s Environment Unit. With any job, I was always learning, looking for new experiences. It doesn’t matter where I worked, as long as it was a challenge. And what greater challenge than running your business – you have to be good on the service delivery, but also learn about the other aspects: marketing, sales, finances, taxes!
In 2006 I established the business – this was initially part-time, continuing to work four days a week at the normal job. This was my risk management approach. It was scary setting up a business, realising you still had to support your family and pay the mortgage.
Two years later, in 2008, I was planning to go full time with Eshcon, when I was headhunted by a carbon consultancy up in London. I decided to take that job (again part time, allowing one day a week for Eshcon). This new job allowed further learning, helping me develop services and make wider contacts.
In 2012, I finally took the plunge going full-time with Eshcon – and I haven’t looked back since.
To improve the business, particularly from a marketing and sales point of view, I’ve focused on building good solid partnerships. I’ve also ensured that I diversified (in both services and clients). And I understand the cycles of business, particularly with the legislation and the services needed by my clients.
There have been obstacles, of course, but it’s been exciting, challenging and fun!
To help the female founders, I wanted to share three key points I’ve learnt from setting up and running the business.
1. Know Your Why
It is crucial that you know yourself & what you want to achieve – you’ll enjoy it far more & likely to bring success.
I often refer to the Simon Sinek book “Know Your Why” – indeed it has helped me define my mission (to make environmental management of the business norm) and I use this in the core of my marketing strategy, building trust with contacts and clients.
And it’s clear that I love what I do!
2. Be Part of the Business Community
It is important to network well and really be part of the business community.
I am chairman of Gatwick Diamond Business and I make great use of this organisation, both in raising my profile and building contacts.
But it’s important to use your connections well – don’t just try to sell to people, think about how you can help them. That builds better, trusted relationships. Most of my work comes from referrals, after all.
I also advise get a business mentor – having somebody to bounce ideas off, who can give you unbiased advice. It’s been really important for me.
3. Believe in Yourself
I have been an ambassador for women in business and promoting female entrepreneurs for over 15 years. One of the things I see over and over again is that women can lack the self-belief that they can set up a successful business.
So I say beat that imposter syndrome! OK, we all make mistakes, that’s part of the learning process. Move on, improve and thrive.
Also acknowledge that perfection is the enemy of completion. Don’t waste time trying to make everything absolutely perfect – get out there and go for it.
And lastly celebrate your successes. Promote yourself, enter awards, shout about your achievements – it’s great for marketing and it’s great for you!
I hope my brief talk helps the women who came to the Female Founders event. It’s always useful to hear other people’s stories, their challenges, how they overcome them, and their achievements.
I look forward to meeting these new entrepreneurs again soon.
See my slides here: My Business Journey talk to SINC
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