Founder of the London Vegan Business Network
I started my business venture almost 5 years ago.
Tell us about the venture/ business/ initiative you have started...
I’ve been vegan for nearly 22 years. Although, there are a lot of vegan skincare brands out there. None of them ticked all the boxes in the same way as this brand in terms of not only being vegan, but also natural, harsh chemical-free, eco-friendly, and cruelty-free.
As a result of running my business, I have had the opportunity to give talks about veganism, chemical-free living and entrepreneurship to a wide range of audiences, including university students.
3 years ago, I also took over running the London Vegan Business Network. We are a network of over 600 vegan business owners, self-employed traders, start-ups, vegan events organisers, and budding entrepreneurs. I organize regular networking meetings.
What is your definition of success? What advice would you give to your younger self about "success"?
When I was very young, I wanted to become an actress, model and even work for NASA. I never pursued any of those things. The advice I would give to my younger self is don’t let yourself get distracted, focus on one thing at a time, and just go for it. Even if you don’t succeed, at least you won’t regret not trying. It’s the things that we don’t do or don’t try that we end up regretting the most.
What challenges have you encountered on your journey and how have you overcome them? Is this a common challenge in your industry? How can we tackle it?
There is also the challenge of juggling all the different tasks that need to be done; finding, booking and preparing for events; social media content; marketing, promoting and selling; admin and accounts; recruiting, supporting and mentoring team members. One thing I haven’t tried yet, which should make things easier, is email marketing and sending out regular newsletters.
In regard to doing events, initially the challenge was getting people to try the products, as it was an unknown brand. However, now that the brand is bigger, the challenge is for people to buy from me and not from another distributor or from Head Office.
Since I started the business, a lot of people thought that it’s a pyramid scheme, and it’s been a challenge to convince them to try the products because of that reason. It is a common challenge in the industry. However, most companies are pyramid shaped in that there is a CEO at the top, then a few directors underneath, then a number of managers under them, and lastly mostly employees on the first rung of the ladder. The way that it can be tackled in the industry I am in is to have a fairer system, where it’s not just the executives that get given leads by Head Office. It would also be better if rewards were given in terms of longevity and other achievements, not just on sales and recruitment.
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome? If so, are there any examples you can give and tips you can share with other women on how to overcome it?
Are there women you look up to? Who are they and why are they inspirational to you?
What are your thoughts on work-life balance? Do you apply any techniques to achieve work-life balance?
How did you know it was the right time to start your own venture/ initiative? How would you advise someone who is just starting out with a project outside of their regular 9-5 job?
I would advise anyone to just keep at it, while doing your regular 9-5 job, until you have reached a point where you can go full-time. It’s a lot of hard work, and there will be days when you’ll feel like it’s such a struggle. What you need to keep in mind is your why did you start your venture/initiative in the first place and use that to motivate you to achieve your goals and vision.
What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
I’ve also learnt that there are skills that you can learn as an entrepreneur, but you also need to listen to your gut instinct. There will be a lot of time wasters, so it’s about spotting them quickly and sifting those out so that you are not wasting hours of your time on activity that is fruitless or unproductive.
In regard to mentoring others, how you can motivate them is key to their and your own success. There is a quote by Joel Osteen, which encapsulates this very well:
“Being successful doesn’t necessarily make you great. What makes you great is when you reach back and help somebody else become great”.
What mistakes do you see people make when they first start their own venture/ intiative/ business and what advice would you give to women so that they can avoid making these mistakes?
Ensure that you have done a business plan, even if you are not looking for funding, and look at your business plan on a regular basis to check if you are meeting your goals and targets.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help and support. Don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself. You can outsource a lot of the tasks, which can free up your time. For example, hiring a bookkeeper, virtual assistant or PR/marketing expert.
Are there any resources/ books you would like to recommend for the women who read your #AspiringWomen article?
Reading 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan Peterson
Researching Tiny Habits method : www.tinyhabits.com
Utilising the Anki programme (or Evernote/Trello/Pocket apps) for organising and remembering things
Reading the book Getting to Yes – negotiation techniques
Using the Eisenhower technique – time and task management
Reading the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Using the pomodoro technique to make decisions
Reading Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
Reading Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy