Believe in yourself, listen to your gut and do what you love - Dylan Lauren
I've just sat down at my desk after a full-on day at an amazing course I've enrolled on and it has made me EXTREMELY excited for what's in store over the next 4 months - and beyond. Might be worth explaining what the course is all about and why/how I enrolled? So very quickly...
A few months ago, a very lovely lady came in to get a shellac manicure after receiving a gift voucher from one of my regular clients. Also a fellow local entrepreneur, we began talking about some of the challenges we were facing as business owners and the feeling of loneliness and not knowing where or who to turn to seemed to be the main issue. Hannah advised me to look up Female Founders Accelerator programme which is a part of Hatch Enterprise and mentioned that there was a course coming up soon which would run for 4 months and help female entrepreneurs to take their business to the next level. Great! I thought. I must apply! I looked up the course and immediately felt like it would be beneficial for someone like me with so many business ideas and not much idea about how to execute them all.
Fast forward a few months and I received a call from one of the facilitators who said I was accepted on the course! As I applied quite late however, I had already booked my holiday to Iceland which clashed with the first day of the course which means that technically this Day 2 I will be speaking about is in fact my Day 1 but Day 2 of the course. Ok now that's all cleared up...
Today was simply amazing! It started with checking in on everybody and seeing how everybody was doing since the last session (workshop every other Friday). This was a chance for me to get to know the group also and hearing about everybody's business which was very impressive and geared me up for the rest of the day.
The second stage of the day was having guest speaker, founder of creative marketing consultancy company 'Make Happy' Jonathan Bannister getting us to really think about stress testing so many different aspects of our businesses by using a great business model first developed by Alexander Osterwalder which pretty much covers all the essential areas of business one needs to look at in order to see how the business flows and interlinks. Jonathan talked through one of the several adaptions of the 'Business Model Canvas' which was the 'Social Business Canvas' which at first I thought might not fit well with how Bella Lash Brow works at the moment but which 'Make Happy' believes can work with non-social businesses also.
Within about 45minutes of Jonathan talking and demonstrating the business model using a real life example of a company called We Walk the Line who "employ people who need a break, young people at risk of dropping out of education or the disadvantaged who need a second chance". They then "coach (our) employees and teach them on the job how to run their own coffee cart. Coaching them over one year to become self-sufficient business people, equipping them with both business and barista skills." No joke, something happened inside of me at this point. It was so similar to the feeling I got when it was time to quit my day job and throw myself into starting Bella Lash Brow. I simply cannot ignore this feeling which even as I think about it, am typing really fast and struggling to stay calm!
As some of my family, friends and even clients already know, starting a Training Academy has always been the dream after seeing first hand what it's like to work in the beauty industry and essentially 'earning my stripes'. However, the business plan has always said that this would be the 5 then 3 then 18month plan but now? Oh now it's looking likely to happen within the next year! I too want to give people the opportunity to learn some new skills and become self sufficient business people. I want to be able to coach and mentor them and give them the support I would have wanted when I started. Although originally trained in China, I have trained in various programmes here in the UK and have done some research on how most of these 'fast-track' lash or brow training courses work. The problem I have found is that many of these courses are offering practical training and nothing else! Women are being certified and congratulated for learning a new skill but then are simply left on their own with absolutely no idea on how to actually start their business.
Similar to 'We Walk the Line', my training academy would first teach students the practical lash/brow skills needed and within the same programme I would also coach them over a longer period of time so they can become confident in being great entrepreneurs on their own. As a female entrepreneur myself and a strong believer in the idea that more women need to be seen as equal to men in the workforce/ business world, I have always said that this course will be targeted to women (even if a man did want to learn the skills of lashes and brows!)
When I close my eyes and visualise me training others, I see young women. I see young women that may not have had the opportunity to start up their own business if it wasn't for my training academy. Whether this targeted group of women be ex-offenders, single mothers or ethnic minorities, I really want to target vulnerable groups of women mainly because I find myself naturally motivating women in similar groups on a daily basis anyway! I find it frustrating that so many women have given up on their dream and will often be stuck at a dead end job they hate or simply don't strive for employment at all because they've been made to feel like they do not/ cannot have the skills needed. I just want to scream "BE YOUR OWN GOD DAMN BOSS!" I have always tried to inspire others whether through my social media or simply when meeting people and I really believe I am someone young women can relate to as a determined and ambitious 27 year old entrepreneur. This obviously means funding is needed which I've now realised has been my biggest worry. Like how do I possibly dedicate the time and energy needed with no funding? Just not possible. But how and where do I start? Who do I talk to? What does a typical training programme look like? Is a year in business enough for me to even think about this yet?
All these questions are questions I've finally realised I can get answers to if I just dedicated some time to it. Going back to the class, we then were given the chance to close our eyes and visualise where it is we see ourselves in 1 year which then we had to draw on paper. The theme throughout the group was definitely us realising the need to take a step back and finding out how to offload tasks to other people so we can focus on doing what we love! This was definitely the most important insight for me. Although we all know that doing what you love is key for any business, it's about really focusing on understanding what aspects of my business I really love and always going back to why I started the business which in turn keeps me in touch with what I love and not losing sight of that is very important.
We then ended the day with a panel with 5 female founders joining us as guest speakers to speak about their journey and answered any questions we had. This was amazing for us to hear successful female founders echoing some of the issues we had highlighted during the course of the day and were so open and honest about how to run a successful business. The main points of advice were: "Look after yourself, don't worry about going against the grain, remembering why you started the business, trust your journey and be open to new outside adventures like walking through a forest!"
If this is how I feel after just one session, and there is still networking events, weekly coach/mentor sessions and more workshops coming up then bring on the future! I'm ready to venture on to a new idea and the steps towards it start now! - Actually no scratch that - I've already started walking.