On Wednesday May 20th I had the pleasure of joining Samata Angel and the Make your Mark (MYM) team for a webcast called Take Control Today – Women Mean Business. People from all over the UK sent in questions which Samata and I answered as best we could. Feel free to continue the conversation in the comments box – we’d love to hear your thoughts and if you have any hints, tips, websites that you can point people to.
Hello and welcome to today’s chat. Julie and Samata are here now. So please send in your questions.
Samata: Hi this is Samata Angel live from the makeyourmark office in London with Julie, looking forward to answering your questions.
Julie: Hi, and thank you to makeyourmark for inviting me to be part of this webchat I hope I can answer your question and look forward to hearing the types of things you are interested in, and hope that we can help.
shelia e: Which are the best professions for women to start up in business?
Julie: What ever profession you want! There are no limits on the types of business a woman can start up. The only limits are the ones we create ourselves.
Leanne Leveaux: In regards to getting funds together to set up your business, if you don’t already have money saved would you say it would be best to get funding from an investor or a small business scheme at your local bank?
Julie: Put together your business plan and speak to Business Link. They will give you a place to start.
Samata: Depending on the amount you are seeking, a good place to start is also friends and family.
Sharpay: Just wanted to say I find the Women Unlimited wesbite really useful and inspiring. What does it mean to you?
Julie: Wow Sharpay … Thanks! Women Unlimited is all about making entrepreneurship accessible to women. I wanted to create a resource that helped women to realise their potential and also realise that they are not alone on this journey.
Nicola: Hi! Question to both of you….which came first? A desire to work for yourself or a great idea for a business?
Julie: Working for myself. Always knew I wanted to be entrepreneur.
Samata: I would say for me it was the idea.
Resa:Hi I am thinking of setting up my own buiness which may only cost £6,000. However, business loan interest rates are still high. Can you suggest ways I can get a grant or bursary please? Many thanks, Resa
Julie: Speak to a funding specialist such as Prevista. Actually business rates are lower then they have been in a long time.
Samata: Foremost, before you go that far make sure you are eligible for grants first .
Julie: Visit www.j4bgrants.co.uk
Sharpay: Do you keep your work and personal life totally separate? Or do you enjoy the blurring of these areas. It seems that lifestyles today demand ‘always working’ atttitude to get on.
Samata: To a degree I try to keep them separate, but I find that running your own business can be all consuming. And when you are extremely passionate about something you enjoy sharing it with those in your personal life as well. I find that talking to members of my family they give great advice, taking into consideration my personality and my goals and I think thats invaluable.
Julie: No! I’m frequently working between 5.30am-7am – mainly because it’s the quietest time in my house! I do try and switch off at least three nights a week but its challenging. Particularly for women I think its one of the biggest challenges we face because we have so many responsibilities outside our business.
Shevorn:Have you been watching the BBC2 programmes on Working Women? What did you think of it if so?It depresses me that women are still seen as unequal in terms of pay, and I don’t understand why this scandal continues. What do you think?
Julie: Yes watched it. I thought it was badly produced, full of clichés and didn’t support women in business at all.
Samata: I think its important for women that are successful and can be role models to others to be a thorn in the side. I think its important that we make it very clear that the problem wont go away and will persist until its addressed.
Lydia: Who are your main influences? Which one blog – other than your own – should I read?
Julie: Mashable, Copyblogger.com and SethGodin.com
Samata: Obviously, Make Your Mark blog is well worth a read and its constantly updated with really useful information. Pinkexpertise is a great website. For my industry I check Vogue.com and Fashion Capital as I need to be aware of whats going on in my field.
Fascinating Ada: How easy is it to scale your business? I am interested in working for myself, but am not sure I know how to grow a business organisation. What tips do you have on finding others who can maybe complement your skills?
Julie: Its challenging. You will almost certainly need a mentor – or five! You will need a good plan and you will probably need funding. Tips – Mike Harris, the founder of Egg has written a book called find your lightbulb which is all about creating a large business, I suggest you buy the book. His view is that you should never work with somebody you don’t know. So therefore look at your own network, or people that are closely connected to your network and see if they can support you. The London Technology Fund are supplying mentors until August for free – check them out!
Samata: I would say one of the biggest hurdles entrepreneurs face is mentally preparing to share something with someone else, ie. delegation. You become so protective of your idea, and your business.
Julie: I think women struggle sometimes find it difficutl to detach themselves emotionally from their business and the letting go can be very difficult.
Sharpay: THanks for answering – in part! What I mean is…what does it mean to you to be running your own business in terms of how you balance work and the rest of your life. Could you go back to working for others now?
Julie: It gives me the freedom to do the things I want when I want. As for going back to working for others – I am now unemployable!
Samata: Working with others, yes. Working for others, not necessarily. However I am open minded about the future. Given the right opportunity, perhaps. After all, I do work for MYM!
Helen: Does the recession frighten entrepreneurs, or spur them on?!
Julie: Spur them on. Its my view that entrepreneurs are eternal optimists. You have to be!
Samata: We don’t have a choice, we have to be! Its definitely a time of opportunity where you can negotiate and spot an opportunity in the market and take advantage of it.
Chrissy and Heather: We are both teachers of ICT and Business Studies, the percentage of girls taking these subjects is still very low, how can we inspire them to take these subjects, and what percentage of women get to Senior Management positions. Thanks
Samata: You have to get in at that grass roots level when their mind is open to the idea of setting up their own business. I am a huge advocated of getting people into schools to speak. Otherwise its just a textbook, you are teaching them but they cant actually see. I recently did a guest speaking opportunity with Baroness Scotland and Margaret Mourtford and Ruth Badger from the Apprentice. And you could see the girls sitting up and paying attention because it was real.
Emma : hello! if you had to offer just one piece of advice to someone who is thinking of starting up their own business, what would it be?
Julie: To follow your passion. Starting a business can be difficult and you will need to have a lot of drive and energy to put behind it to succeed. So it needs to be something that you feel strongly about and passionate about to take you through the ups and down that are inevitable with every business start up.
Samata: I would also say that’s its extremely important to plan. I think the success of any business to rely heavily on a well researched plan. The reason I feel this way is that from my experience, when I wrote my own business plan it highlighted opportunities I hadn’t thought about before, threats I hadn’t considered. Putting something on paper helps you see how viable your business will be.
Jennifer Johnson: How difficult would it be for someone with no fashion industry experience to start a business within the fashion industry
Samata: I would say lacking experience isn’t a huge barrier. I would say lacking passion and interest is. At the same time, experience is necessary before you even consider starting a business. In the fashion industry there are a number of areas in which you learn as you go along, as with any industry. But to start a business, I would say it’s crucial to have experience in some of the key fields, such as fashion PR, fashion journalism, fashion design and then understanding the entire manufacturing process as well. So in conclusion, I would say, you would be making it more difficult than it would need to be. I would rather suggest getting some form of experience such as a placement or apprenticeship to give you the confidence you would need.
Julie: However, there are some people in the fashion industry, such as Violet May London that was created by Claire Collins. She had a lot of business experience but no fashion experience and has created a very successful luxury business accessory brand. A large part of that success is down to bringing outside expertise into her business in the form of PR and financial management.
Lois: Hi Ladies, Thank you very much for taking the time to do this fantastic webchat-I think it’s such a good idea. I’m looking to set up a youth enterprise academy and am looking for great ideas. I want to know if you have any tips with regards to events for young people to get them interested in enterprise. Many thanks
Samata: Essentially that’s what Make Your Mark is about, encouraging an active interest for young people into enterprise. As an ambassador I would say one of things ive been involved in is guest speaking in events, I think what made events exciting and interesting to the young people was the combination of the difference guest speakers from a range of different business backgrounds and of different ages. I think seeing someone such as myself, who went to university and graduated in a different subject and crossed over into the fashion industry to set up a business, alongside someone who didn’t necessarily finish their A-levels or go to university making the same decision can make the idea of going into enterprise more appealing and relatable to young people.
Julie: I would suggest you join the community of Make Your Mark who are your target audience, put up questions in the forum and ask people what they want. If you’ve got an opportunity to engage with your customers that is going to generate that best information for you. Also, have a look at the Prince’s Trust as see what events they hold. See if you can find a group of Facebook, such as Girl Guide, Scouts Groups.
Samata: A good tip would be offer a work placement through a competition. MYM run some great competitions with the prize being an offer of work experience of placement, offering a day in the life of. Julie: There are some business games out there, such as Robert Kiyosaki’s that run over a long period of time and would be a fun thing to do as it teaches you about business in a non threatening way.
Anon: I think the female candidates in the apprentice are stronger than the male ones this year? What do you think? And do shows like this really encourage entrepreneurship
Julie: I agree! I think particularly Kate and Yasmina are strong this year. The men seem to be too driven by ego to succeed and don’t listen. And when you are working in a team you have to be willing to listen to other people’s opinions and assess them rather than dismissing them without consideration. This type of programme ABSOLUTELY encourages entrepreneurship! I had a conversation with Simon Woodroofe, founder of Yo! Sushi and his view was that these types of programmes get kids talking about business ownership in the playgrounds and that has to be a good thing. And I agree completely.
nina jones: hi samata, how did u become a fashion designer?
Samata: I have always had a passion for fashion design. However I studied economics finance and management because my interest in business was at an equal level. I used the opportunity of being in university in London to get on the British London fashion scene. I would assist backshow at fashion shows and I worked in boutiques whilst studying. As soon as I graduated I was offered a position as head of marketing for a Japan fashion label, followed by Head of PR for a Chelsea boutique. It was these experiences that made me see the possibilities of setting up a clothing label of my own. And I was lucky enough to find mentors in the field of fashion design.
j.stokes: what support systems aer in place for female entrepreneurs? Both financial and general support
Julie: Business Link have a women’s area. Girl’s Make Your Mark. Check out the events on Women Unlimited and you will see the latest events going on. There are general funding organisations that will help you find the best funding solution. This isn’t just about being female it may also be about the types of business and your office location. An organisation that will help you find the right types of funding for your business is Prevista.
Samata: There is Global Womens’ Innovators and Inventors Network (GWIIN). I love the boost in confidence this sites gives female enterprise with its coverage. Julie: Also check out the British Library.
host: Unfortunately that is all the time for today. If you would like to continue chatting please make your way over to the Make Your Mark forums.
Julie: Thanks for the questions. Its been interesting. If you would like to find out more please check out women-unlimited.co.uk
Samata: Its been great to be here. You have put some good questions forward and its great fun for Julie and I to try and help you.