This interview series features inspiring female entrepreneurs who have launched and run successful businesses. Through our peers’ experiences, we can learn practical lessons and insights to empower us on our entrepreneurial paths. Crucially, storytelling de-risks entrepreneurship so we believe it is an essential pillar in closing the opportunity gap for female founders.
Firstly, tell us a bit about you.
I live and working Sydenham, South East London and am the founder of Becoming Women. Since the beginning of this year I have started work in as a coach and mentor for young girls and last year I setup a podcast (under the same name).
Prior to starting my own business, I used to work for a world leading auction house for approx 8 years in a variety of different roles, I began my career there as an administrator and before I went on maternity leave worked as an operations project coordinator. My day job now looks very different! In August 2018 I had my daughter, so time is spent juggling full-time childcare, home life, work and everything in between! When I had a little bit more free time I used to be up at around 5am everyday training for triathlons and duathlons as I used to compete as a GB Age-Grouper.
Tell us about your business, how did you come up with the idea?
While I was on maternity leave, I felt lucky to have a little bit of space from my career and to have some time to reflect on what I had been doing up until that point and what that looked like now as a mother. For a very long time I had often been saying to myself and people who knew me well that I wanted to do something where I helped people. I had scratched the itch on a few occasions by volunteering but that was never enough.
In Jan/Feb last year I started working with a careers coach and quite early on, through a brilliant visualisation exercise, I realised I wanted to help support young women (children and teenagers). The visualisation was so clear I had to explore it and took some time to consider what that was, what did that look like, etc. The idea for Becoming Women was born. At this stage I knew I potentially wanted to train and become a counsellor (this is the long-term goal) but start off as a coach and mentor. As this was a completely new industry for me, I thought starting with a podcast would give me credibility in this area and show it was more than just a passion project.
What was the moment that everything changed for you? Describe that moment when you decided to fully commit to your idea and the first few steps you took to make it possible.
I would have to say there have been two. The birth of my daughter meant everything shifted. My mentality, my outlook, the person I was before had all morphed into something else. I was very aware of this from the beginning so knew quite early on my career as it had been to date was going to change.
The second is the visualisation exercise I experienced, it meant that somewhere in my subconscious I had known all the time what I wanted to do with my life, and what my purpose in the world of “work” looked like. From this point I started to research what it is that I could do within the field of working with adolescent girls and what my priorities were. Then it was down to deciding on the name and securing the domain. I could then relax and go back to researching and planning for the podcast and considering what the big picture looked like for Becoming Women.
What were the initial challenges you came up against and how did you overcome them?
I think for me it has been time; what that looks like for me now, how much of it I have, and how to manage it as it constantly changes and fluctuates week to week or month to month. I can constantly feel torn between how much time I have to give to Becoming Women vs the time I want to spend with my daughter. I think also confidence has been a challenging one, you have to have extra buckets of confidence to go it alone and be your own cheerleader to keep the motivation for what you’re doing going. Some days you just don’t have it!
In overcoming these things I’d say I’m learning to be patient with myself. I am my own boss so I can make the decisions and change them as and when I need to. I’m trying to be less hard on myself and have a sense of reality that I don’t need to be doing everything at once.
What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something?
I would have to say there have been two, no three. Recording the first episode of the podcast really felt like a “this is it” moment and that I was finally starting the journey I was meant to be on. Secondly, it has to be the first time I worked with a coaching client. I had serious “Imposter Syndrome” right before the coaching call but afterwards I felt so happy, exciting, buzzing for the beginning and what I was trying to do. Then lastly, I recently completed a Level 2 Award Counselling with Children course. This was my first proper exposure to the further afield goal and what everything so far has been built towards. Being on the course really validated to me that I was on the right path.
Did you take the investment route for your business or are you self-funded? Can you share some insights on your decision and the process?
Everything so far has been self-funded and to date I’ve not started an income from my work. I considered finding investment in my plans or sourcing sponsorship through public donations for my work but it felt like this would only slow down the process or wasn’t a priority when there were other deadlines to meet (like podcast episodes!). The equipment, marketing, branding and courses I go on have come out of personal savings. This has been challenging and I hope one day soon this will change.
What has been your best investment?
Working with a careers coach, branding for the business and podcast, and my microphone for recording. Oh, and my recent counselling course.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?
Yes, absolutely! And I probably still am making some (or a lot of them!). In the beginning with the podcast I don’t think I really realised how much work it would take to get everything setup, especially if you are doing it all yourself, and I definitely didn’t allow enough time for the processes that I was doing for the first time. So, if you’re a budding entrepreneur or are starting something new for the first time definitely allow for mistakes, mishaps and delays!
What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?
I recently saw a statistic that stated that only 33% of the podcast industry are women. While many of the podcasts I listen to are hosted by women I was shocked that we have a small presence in this industry in comparison to men. If there are so many of us why aren’t we creating a community or group to share ideas and network together?!
What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learned since starting your own business?
To be patient with myself and to not put myself under too much pressure. It is quite easy to get overwhelmed and feel like you aren’t achieving enough. Social media can also give the impression that everyone is “succeeding”, so learning how to silence that noise has been very important.
Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?
Yes, definitely. One of my closest friends was one of my inspirations for breaking the mould and going it alone with my own business. I often speak with her about the direction of my work and any general confusion I have as Google can feel like a rabbit warren! Working with my careers coach has provided me with thoughts to consider and ask questions. I also work with a supervisor who I discuss my coaching and mentoring work with, these are really valuable sessions for my personal development and keeping in touch with current topics in counselling.
All of the female guests on the podcast have been an inspiration for me. I have learnt so much from each of them and respect their bravery for talking so openly about their personal experiences growing up.
With the future in mind, where would you like to be/where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I would like to be continuing the next steps and my studies towards becoming an accredited counsellor for young girls. To be working in partnership with schools and events with my coaching, mentoring, and workshop events. It is also a dream of mine to organise a personal endurance event somewhere in the UK and raise money for a couple of charities and raise awareness around young women’s mental health and the challenges girls’ can face in sport. And to hopefully have a sibling for my daughter. So not a lot!!!
Can you tell us one of your goals for 2020?
To successfully host my first workshop for a group of teenage girls and start a regular series of workshops locally.
What can our readers do to support your business?
Get in touch and say hello! If you know of a young girl aged 7-18 years old who you think would benefit from some 1:1 coaching, please share my details with them or their parents. I’m really passionate about empowering young girls with techniques to up-skill and educate themselves, building awareness for life.
And, listening to the podcast (subscribing, ratings, reviews all help) and share it with someone you know who you think would enjoy it (a parent of a teenager, an auntie, a sister).
What books, podcasts or resources would you recommend? (Please include hyperlinks)
Reading Emma Gannon’s ‘The Multi-Hyphen Method’ was a game changer for me. It really opened my eyes to a different way of working, one that I was really yearning for and didn’t really know it. ‘Grit‘ by Angela Duckworth is also brilliant.
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
To believe in your vision and go for it. That it is ok to have bad days or feel downbeat or frustrated by any challenges you face, and on those days remind yourself of the reason behind it all and keep going.
You can find more about Ella and her mission here.
Leah Williams is the Blog Editor for Found & Flourish, working with Founder Lara Sheldrake to ensure every piece of published content is empowering, inspiring and well presented, just like the women we work with.