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 am Rosemary Ikpeme, the creator and founder of MYnd Map, the ultimate mindfulness, gratitude, and goals planning journals, planners, and agendas to build positive and healthy habits that will help you navigate through life and challenges with awareness, focus, and balance, making sure that self-care, emotional, mental and physical health, and wellbeing are made a priority.
I studied law and quickly realised I was on the wrong path. I stuck it out for three years eventually leaving to pursue a career in the media and broadcast industry. I worked my way up the corporate ladder and got to work with global corporations such as National Geographic Channel, Fox International Channel, BBC Worldwide, AMC International and CNN International. Three years ago, I decided to jump ship and follow my passion, a calling I couldn’t resist, to start MYnd Map. I am a plant lover, and I love being active, dancing and eating lots and lots.
Tell us about your business, how did you come up with the idea?
About five years ago, I was going through a period of racial discrimination at a job I loved. I was the only black female at that seniority level with no higher level to look up. The situation left me mentally and physically broken. Out of adversity, they say you find opportunity. I wondered how many other women like me, women of colour, had similar experiences with nowhere to turn or no way of knowing how to navigate challenges and pivot in the right direction. I decided to create a product that could stand as a single piece of resource full of all the lessons and strategies that I gathered and used in my daily life through to difficult times to regain strength and regain some control over my life. And this is how MYnd Map’s story began. I want to empower individuals, organisations, and business owners to become more effective, efficient, and successful in achieving results and creating a life they love, based on their values and purpose doing so with balance. I not only want to give people the tools but to demonstrate and help other women, especially women of colour, that if I could create a life that fulfils me with simple but effective strategies, that they can too.
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.
As I was trying to regain some control of my life, I decided to create a vision board of what I wanted my life to feel and be going forward. After watching a Ted talk called Draw your future by Patti Dobrowolski – I was terrible at drawing – I wished there was a workbook that also had all the personal development and productivity tools, all in one place. Because there was none, I decided to create one for myself. I realised that this idea was much bigger than me and that I had to give it a go and see what comes of it. I started by hiring an illustrator to design colouring-in sheets that could inspire personal and professional goals. I created a website and called it Colouring in Dreams, which grew and turned into what MYnd Map is now.
What were the initial challenges you came up against and how did you overcome them?
First, self-doubt, and then, thinking after investing years in building my career in the corporate world that my idea and I would be perceive as ‘woo-woo’. I had to dig deep and remind myself that these tools work, I have seen the benefits and results, and there is a science to back the strategies. World leaders, successful business owners and the most successful athletes use these strategies. I also held steadfast to my ‘WHYs’. Why I started the business, who I wanted to help, and how important representation is for me and will be for others. I understood that often the biggest challenges we face in life, especially when starting a business is the mental challenge and negative self-talk. So, I made sure to surround myself with the right people who could support my vision and be a sounding board to my ideas; I looked for accountability partners, mentors, and coaches.
What was the first win that made you feel you were onto something?
When Virgin StartUp accepted my application and offered me the loan. This was a business validation I wanted. Then was when the 1st MY Journal batch was printed, it sold out almost 1000 copies in less than 6 weeks. I had to wait 3 months to get the next print batch, as I did not expect it to sell out so quickly. I had the confirmation I needed that there is a market and a need for my products.
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?
I decided to take up a Virgin StartUp loan for various reasons. I needed no money as I wanted to build a bootstrap business, but I knew it would be a great way to validate my business idea. They offered support in drafting a business plan. Once you have the loan, you also get a mentor. I liked the idea of potentially being able to tap into the Virgin ecosystem once my business was up and running. After I received the funding and had a prototype of my flagship product, the MY Journal, I decided to use Kickstarter to fund the first print batch. Again, I used Kickstarter as a way to validate the product without having to spend money to print the journals and not knowing if anyone who would buy them. On Kickstarter, customers could pre-order the MY Journal based on the prototype. Once I reached the fund goal, I received the money from Kickstarter to print the journals. It was also a great way to market the business and product.
What has been your best investment?
I would say myself – I have spent money and time to reading, learning, attending retreats and workshops, all those activities and habits that allowed me to share my knowledge in a simple to digest, creative, and fun way so that users can get the benefits.
Have you made any mistakes or faux pas? If so, can you share with us?
I have made 100 plus mistakes, but I believe all of them were very crucial to learning, growing, and pivoting in the right direction. As you play many roles in your business or Startup, I would recommend you hire professionals/experts to do what they are good at and always ask questions, never assume. I assumed that I could spend all the company profit replenishing stock levels, without leaving any for tax. I then got hit with a large tax bill after I had spent all the money on the new stock. So always ask questions and do not assume anything.
What’s your experience of being a woman in the start-up ecosystem and what in your mind needs to change?
This question can be very intersectional as my experience is not just being a woman in the wellness industry but being a black woman. There are many wellness conferences, retreats, yet I find they lack diversity. The summer of 2020 has highlighted to some extent, the trauma black people experience. It is, therefore, paramount to craft and make space for black women to feel safe, welcomed, supported and seen, so they can find a safe environment where they can heal, recover, recharge, and grow. And this is my mission, to craft out such a space.
What’s been the greatest lesson you’ve learnt since starting your own business?
Find a way not to be the bottleneck of your business. That way, it is far easier to create a balanced life.
Have you had any role models or mentors along the way?
Yes, I have always made sure I had accountabilities partners, mentors and coaches. I surrounded myself with people who inspired me like Oprah and Michelle Obama, by reading about them, listening, and watching them. You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
With the future in mind, where would you like to be/where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I see myself as having scaled MYnd Map across to the US and supported over 250,000+ people (including business) with our products, workshops, programs and events. Working with and mentoring other women (women of colour) who are starting their businesses. I also have another business idea I would love to launch and grow within the next five years.
What’s your biggest learning from 2020 so far?
Always strive to add more value and give more to your customers, even when things are not going that great. Do the work (sometimes the hard and necessary work), then let go and trust in the process.
What can our community do to support your business?
I would appreciate any recommendations or introductions to any business, companies looking to incorporate wellbeing as part of their company mission. Any podcaster who would like to have a conversation on mindfulness, mental health, wellbeing, and productivity. Therapist, coaches, who will find MYnd Map a fit for their clients. And, of course, please share and tell friends and families about MYnd Map.
What books, podcasts or resources would you recommend?
When I started on my entrepreneurial journey, I used to listen to these podcasts every day:
Some of the books I read were:
- The Miracle Morning – By Hal Elrod
- Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time – by Brian Tracy
- Think and Grow Rich – by Napoleon Hill
- The 4-hour workweek – by Tim Ferriss
- You are the placebo – by Joe Dispenza
And of course I recommend our MYnd Map MY Journals and planners.
What advice would you give anyone about to start a business?
Know your WHYs, why you want to do what you want to do? What drives you? Is it bigger than you? Because your reasons and purpose are what keeps you going when you come across hurdles and challenges along the way. Your “Why” will be your anchor and your lighthouse on your journey.
Where can we find you?
MyND Map Socials
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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