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?

My name is Isabel and I am a creative producer, public speaker & podcast host with over 15 years of experience in arts, culture & entertainment, passionate about bringing diverse talent into the creative industry – from artists to art managers.

Prior to my move to London I  created and sold an award-winning cultural agency, based in Brazil, producing over 50 events a year including international tours, and managing a roster of artists and a theatre company.

Last year I founded I LIKE NETWORKING: a social enterprise dedicated to supporting a more diverse creative workforce.

Tell us about your business, how did you come up with the idea?

I lost my job due to Covid in April 2020. After a few weeks of Netflix & Crying I decided to use my experience to do something, because the industry was really suffering. I was having conversations with friends and colleagues and someone told me  “how am I going to get a job now? Networking is essential and I hate it. I’d pay someone to do it for me”.

To what I said: you know, I actually Like Networking, maybe I can help. 

What is your main inspiration and driver for your business? 

I wanted to make the creative industries easier to navigate, with less barriers and also make the whole idea of networking nicer for everyone. Our main aim is to support women and non-binary professionals looking for a career in the creative and cultural industry and those who already work in the field but feel stuck.

I noticed that a lot of career development programmes are just for young people and that is a massive issue for women who, around the late 20’s and early 30’s – tend to drop out of the workforce if they want to start a family.

There are also barriers due to a long-standing sexism in all sectors so fewer women get to the top of institutions as directors etc.

I wanted to create something that really offered EVERYONE some support, at whatever stage they are and promoted our ethos of collaboration over competition. 

A lot of mentoring programs are focused on building your own company and while that is great being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. We also believe in the power of connection and how that opens doors to professionals’ lives and also personal growth. In a moment where borders tend to close more and more, we want to push them open, so the mentors will also help mentees in expanding their networks with a solid and individual approach.

What was the moment that everything changed for you? 

I don’t know if there was one moment. Essentially what happened is I launched the mentoring scheme last year as a volunteer programme but we received such overwhelming demand for it that a seed was planted on my head. But I think I am still coming to the terms with all of that! 

What were the initial challenges you came up against and how did you overcome them?

The first one was deciding on a system to select all candidates because I hadn’t expected that many people, so I called an advisory board to support me to make the best process ever and that has been essential. It can be super lonely to do things yourself so having a group of people invested in it makes a huge difference. 

After that was figuring out if there was a way to make this sustainable, so I slowly started to test out ideas for revenue streams and we are at this stage now of figuring out how to optimise that. 

What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something? 

The number of applications in itself and the audience feedback was amazing but I think a BIG win was when we were mentioned on the New York Times  as a pandemic silver-lining!

What has been your best investment?

My time!!! Now I need to figure out a way to expand the team so I can have more of that!

Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?

So many. A big one to me was the platform we used for the first programme. It did NOT work well at all. This time we’re sponsored by UnderPinned and their platform has been amazing for our programme. 

What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?

There’s a lack of investment, pure and simple. People talk a big talk of wanting to support women at work but there’s NOT enough action at all to demonstrate that. We need massive policy change in my opinion. This is why we need more women doing it because we can hopefully put more pressure. 

What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?

That my path has been and probably will always be one of purpose. I didn’t come to this world for a 9-5 job. 

Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?

Yes! Lots of informal mentors that really supported me at different stages of my life, men and lots of women. Which is why I believe that we should ALWAYS bring people up with us on our journey. 

What was your biggest learning of 2020?

Everything can change fast. Let go of control. 

With the future in mind, where would you like to be/where do you see yourself in the next five years?

I don’t usually make these plans. But one year on I’d like to see I LIKE NETWORKING financially stable and maybe doubling it’s impact.

What books, podcasts or resources would you recommend?

I like to listen/read things from different worlds, so here are a few:

And BOOKS, lots of books. I am currently reading Mariana Mazzucato’s MISSION ECONOMY.

What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?

If you can test it fast and cheaply, there’s no reason not to try.

But make sure you have:

  • Time (lots of time)
  • A support system

Where you can find me

 I LIKE NETWORKING Website | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter

Leah Williams

Leah Williams

About your author

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.

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