LinkedIn’s If I were 22 project saw corporate leaders, banking presidents and the most formidable entrepreneurs of our time share what they wish they could tell their younger selves.
But what about those rising stars, who already have a wealth of experience worth taking notice of? At everywoman, our Awards categories recognise the achievements of young women making huge leaps forward in business. Four past winners – all honoured at the Natwest everywoman Awards when they were under 25 – share the benefits of their early career experiences and how these are shaping ambitious and challenging goals.
In 2009, aged just 23, Francesca Stokes won our seventh annual Natwest everywoman Award in the youngest category. At that time she was two years into running Revitalize Hair & Beauty Spa in Lancashire, co-founded with her sister. Fast forward to 2015 and Revitalize is thriving – though the years between have not been without their challenges. Here, Francesca explains how finding the path through has enabled her to focus with clarity and determination on achieving her future goals.
When we started Revitalize in 2007, we took the opportunity to build our own salon to our exact specifications, allowing us to create the country’s only totally ‘green’ salon using renewable and sustainable energy – something I feel very strongly about.
When my sister and co-founder left in 2014 to live in America it was a difficult and emotional time.
It was a key period for the business and I found myself having to reassess everything we’d built. But the process taught me a lot about myself and what I wanted out of my career.
Eventually I decided to give a loyal member of staff the opportunity to take over the beauty side of the business that had previously been my sister’s focus, with me playing the roles of investor and mentor. Making this change gave me huge confidence, and I took the added decision to bring our accounts in-house; they’d previously been outsourced and I felt I needed to get more involved in order to gain a better understanding of our finances.
The brand extension I’d envisioned from the start is already underway. Summer 2015 sees Revitalize team up with a local podiatrist to expand into the healthcare market. I’m also looking at ways we can rent some of our space to complementary businesses, which will help subsidise expansion costs. Growing a business can be risky so it’s important we take each step only when we’re financially viable.
Achieving these goals is important to me on a personal level, but what ultimately motivates me to keep pursuing them is having happy employees who benefit from the new opportunities I can give them. My team allows me to grow too; I don’t think you ever stop learning when employing people.
Jessica Rose, Founder of London Jewellery School and Jewelry From Home struggled through school due to her dyslexia, and never imagined she could achieve success in business. Even after being nominated for a 2012 Natwest everywoman Award, she was so convinced she couldn’t possibly win that she made a bet with a friend – a decision which cost her £100! Here she tells us what the Award meant to her and how it’s inspired bigger and bolder goals.
The Natwest everywoman Awards are great on so many levels because they really inspire the business leader to forge ahead, as well as building confidence among investors and customers. Ultimately they lead to more successful businesses with sustainable futures.
My key business goal today is a sizable one: I want to develop our online content and distance learning courses in order to make it easier for more people all over the world to access our world-class jewellery making training.
Like in any business, I test on a small scale before investing time and money on a larger scale.
Last year we launched our small online training platform, allowing anyone anywhere to make professional quality jewellery from their kitchen tables. I take the successful elements of these ‘growth hacking’ experiments and – together with my talented team – look to pursue them on a larger scale.
Whenever motivation becomes an issue I gain inspiration from the great business leaders of today like Arianna Huffington and Sheryl Sandberg, as well as from our students, who remain at the heart of every decision we make. I once heard a quote I love: “If you don’t give up, you will get there by mistake.” I have found that to be true in my business; so long as I keep at it and am adaptable to change, there is always a way forward.
The main goal for me in the next three years is to build on my listing in Tesco and Ocado, becoming the only UK superfood company stocked in all of the major UK supermarkets. Achieving this will mean that the brand has successfully bridged the divide between truly healthy products and the mainstream market.
In order to do this, I need to take on more staff members, improve brand awareness, and further push up sales. I already know that my product is ready for the mass market because sales are increasing month on month, but I will need to keep the brand fresh and update the range with exciting new products.
The biggest challenge will come in finding the right buyers in the right categories at the right time!
I already know that perseverance is the answer here, as well as personality. Buyers don’t respond to email communication, they want to talk to you and buy into you as a person, so it will mean hours on the phone and continuing to network at great events like the Natwest everywoman Awards, where essential contacts can be made.
What motivates me? The feeling of walking into Tesco and picking up a tub of Creative Nature Cacao Powder is unbelievable, and this feeling will only increase when I can walk into any supermarket and find my product on the shelves.
Alexandra Tamasan became our 2013 winner in the youngest category at the Natwest everywoman Awards just two years after she co-founded online business petshopbowl.co.uk, providing a low cost pet food subscription service. Her goals for the business have changed drastically since then. Here she shares how they’ve evolved and how she plans to achieve them.
We founded PetShopBowl in 2011, when I was only 22. Our main short-term aim on starting up was to achieve our thousandth order in our first year of trading. Four years on, the business is on track to achieve £4 million in revenue in 2015, and our goals are very different.
Today’s goal is for the business to expand into selling veterinary foods and meds. This, coupled with our growing customer base, should enable us to reach £10 million in revenue by 2018.
Our market research has indicated that pet owners prefer buying vet products from a more clinically branded website, as opposed to the friendly, humorous tone we have on our existing website. We have therefore decided to create a whole new website dedicated to catering for these consumers’ needs – vetshop.co.uk. Because we’ve already experienced the launch of a website, we have experience around search engine optimisation and online marketing, which means we don’t have to spend money working out how to do that from scratch. Affordable marketing is key, and we plan to utilise social media extensively to spread the word.
One key challenge is our understanding of the products.
As they are pharmaceutical products, I envision it will be more difficult to create content around them. We plan on bringing a vet on board to help with that.
I do thrive on the early stages of a project and I am very excited about this new chapter in our business. I am sure it will be a success!