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First Women Summit: “Growing a serious business takes your whole life”

Building a business is like getting pregnant and falling in love even if it’s an ugly baby. At least, that’s what Sofia Fenichell, CEO and founder of Wonder Place said at the First Women Summit. Becoming an entrepreneur is all about having the confidence to transform ideas and let go when you know it’s a sinking ship, something which the panel agreed on.
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Nowadays it’s never been easier to become an entrepreneur, but this is perhaps one of the reasons why so many businesses never make it past the first few years.

“It’s never easy to start a business from scratch on a kitchen table, but by having some self-confidence you can transform an idea into a reality,” suggested Fenichell. “It is an important topic that most neglect. I’ve already gone through the process twice before and its hard to do it again. There are so many questions that need answering: Is it the right idea? Are you wasting your time? The latter is a scary thought. No one wants to sink their whole heart into something that turns out to be a bad idea. But that’s why the beginning process is so important, because you’ll end up loving your business and supporting it even if it’s no good.

“The key is not to rush the process or yourself. You need to do it right and have the utmost confidence in it. After all, this is the safest part of the process you’ll ever be in, so take your time to finesse it.”

Brynne Herbert, founder and CEO of MOVE Guides, went on to suggest that one of the greatest confidence boosters was having a support system.

“Entrepreneurship is quite the journey,” she said. “It’s a leviathan of obstacles and it’s hard to keep yourself together all the time. It’s a pretty emotional process, which is why it’s essential to have people that support you, be it friends, family or a partner.

“You also need to build an external support network. Keep in contact wit people who have done it before, get a mentor or go to networking events. This is something we should be looking to do more of in the UK – creating a closer knit entrepreneurship community.”

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But even if you make it, the culture may not be for you, suggested Mubaloo MD Sarah Weller. “Some do better in corporate culture. Sometimes a business just attracts a certain personality, so it doesn’t end up working out for everyone. It’s all about understanding the good and bad of working with a small business. It’s often better to start off working for one and learn from the mistakes they’re willing to share before you start one.”

It just comes to show that entrepreneurship isn’t as easy as it looks.

“We go out there and tell women they can have it all, but it’s not true,” said Buddi founder Sara Murray. “There are numerous sacrifices you need to make. If you want to grow a serious business it takes your whole life. It’s like having a family and those that tell you differently are lying. By going to schools and telling women these things it can only create disappointment.

“People need to realise that starting a business is a career and not a way to make a quick buck. 20 years ago, if you told someone you were an entrepreneur, they would have looked at you and thought you just couldn’t find a job. Nowadays everyone is an entrepreneur. Of course it’s a welcoming thing, but if their ideas don’t work then we have disappointed people all over again.

“But I have got to agree. The gap is in our confidence. Women are better entrepreneurs, but we tend to hide under a bushel. Let’s face it, if I was a bloke I would be going around telling everyone who I am and what why achievements have been.”

It seems that women need to get out of their comfort zone.

“It’s a tricky thing,” said Fenichell. “You step out of your zone a little and you’ll be a success. But if you step out too much you’re in a zone of decay. Just do your thing. Take it a step at a time and you’ll surely get in the game. And if you can’t make big bucks, affect social change, it’s a lot more valuable than money.”

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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