Five truths behind what it takes to be an entrepreneur
A Women’s Entrepreneurship Day series
This week we celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED), a day started by social entrepreneur and humanitarian Wendy Diamond, to empower, celebrate, and support women in business worldwide.
The WED Organisation tells us that women account for 85 percent of consumer purchases and control $20 trillion in global spending. At the same time, we perform 66 percent of the world’s work (both paid and unpaid) yet only earn 10 percent of the world’s income.
While we celebrate female founders, business owners and freelancers every day, this week gives us the opportunity to highlight the great achievements of so many clever entrepreneurs who set wonderful examples for our future female leaders, the little ladies in our lives.
We had a chat to just a few of those clever ladies to ask what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in an environment not necessarily built for our success.
We’ll release an interview each day this week, starting with our friend and bold branding coach Suz Chadwick, followed by Freelancing Gems current Entrepreneur in Residence Kelly Jamieson, co-founder of Edible Blooms. Next up is Naby Mariyam, CEO & Founder of Coverhero. And to complete this fabulous list of impressive entrepreneurs, QLD Chief Entrepreneur and Everledger CEO Leanne Kemp, and Freelancing Gems very own CEO, Fleur Madden.
1. Were you destined to be an entrepreneur, or how did your entrepreneurial journey start?
Suz: My Dad had his own business, but I was focused on climbing the corporate ladder. I knew that I wanted to be a CEO and from a young age in the corporate world that was what I was working toward. So, after living in London for eight years and coming home to Melbourne, I found that the desire to stay in the corporate world was shifting. I was exploring other things I was seeing and when I stumbled into the entrepreneurial world, I realised that I could be a CEO but on my own terms and in a way that fits my life. I was building a branding business in the corporate company I was working in and I started to build a business & brand coaching business on the side at the same time. I gradually went part-time and worked less days as my business grew and when I was ready, I jumped, and it’s been great!
Kelly: Great question! I think I always wanted to control my own destiny (I’m a Virgo – we like to be organised!) and when I started Edible Blooms in 2005 my dream was to be a ‘business owner’. The word entrepreneur wasn’t a title I contemplated but I love that it has in recent times made the startup economy something that a lot of people want to be part of.
Every new adventure starts step by step and in my case, I set the goal to build a national business from day one and then worked back the steps to make it a reality. With the idea of creating the ‘Edible Blooms’ business which was a very unique concept at the time, I did an old school ‘SWOT’ as part of a business plan template that I downloaded from a Federal Government website. This exercise identified that I had no idea about:
- being a florist
- setting up an ecommerce store
- the legal requirements of food safety
- anything about accounting and finance.
These are all pretty substantial elements to the success of Edible Blooms as we know it today! Perhaps for some it might turn them off getting started but I was so passionate about my idea that I ticked off each of these hurdles one at a time. For example, I was too impatient to study a Certificate in Floristry so I contacted the Brisbane Floristry School and asked if I could pay for one on one tuition to learn the essential skills I needed to later employ qualified florists (my first employee was an amazing florist and she is now our business partner in New Zealand 15 years later!). I found other experts in ecommerce and MYOB who helped me build these skills and at nights read the inch thick guidelines from Brisbane City Council on what was required to set up a food safe premise. And the rest, as they say, is history. Three months after writing an exciting business plan I opened our colourful doors in an outer suburb of Brisbane.
Naby: I don’t know if it was my destiny, but I was always in leadership positions from a young age –school captain etc, and held powerful leadership positions in the corporate world. At 27 I had an existential crisis and quit my academic leadership role and started my own business.
Leanne: I started out like many entrepreneurs and innovators do…with a simple question: why? Why is it like that? Why can’t we try another way? Why hasn’t anyone done this before? Why?
Looking back I was probably one of those annoying kids who was never satisfied with the status quo. But now, asking why is becoming the norm. Innovators may be the first to ask it, but increasingly we are all questioning various systems and processes.
“What makes an entrepreneur different is that we don’t just stop with the question. We find the answers. We solve the problems. We see the solutions and we act on it.” – Leanne Kemp
Fleur: I was destined to be a leader, it is part of my personality but this could have manifested in different ways. Entrepreneurship was the path I took and it did come naturally – but I have also spent 20 years working on myself as a leader, a CEO and levelling up. Just because you are a natural leader does not mean you will be a great CEO, that comes down to experience, training, development over many years. I started my first business The Red Republic at 23 because I saw a gap in the market and I went for it. Being an entrepreneur means taking the risk and taking a path many wouldn’t choose as it is paved with many MANY highs and lows.
2. What does it take to become an entrepreneur, is there a secret sauce?
Suz: I don’t think there is a ‘secret sauce’. I think you can learn what it takes to run a business. What I do think you need to be an entrepreneur is that you have to be okay with imperfect action, taking risks, not having the answer, working things out as you go, and I think you have to be tenacious to go after the things you really want. If you’re okay with the uncertainty, to a point, then entrepreneurship is great.
Kelly: I think that the two key ingredients of an entrepreneur are a little bit of crazy and a lot of ‘can-do’.
“I think that the two key ingredients of an entrepreneur are a little bit of crazy and a lot of ‘can-do’” – Kelly Jamieson
Starting up to prove your concept you have to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and work harder than you ever have before. You have to wear a lot of hats and juggle a lot of balls. Fearless optimism is required too because you make plenty of mistakes and the ability to pick yourself up and move forward is key. This is where the ‘crazy’ ingredient comes in – you have to be so passionate about solving your problem that you sometimes ignore traditional and sage advice!
One of the other ‘secret sauces’ to my own personal adventure with Edible Blooms in the early days was a healthy dose of naivety. You have to make bold choices and back yourself and your idea when others don’t believe in you and when I reflect, it was not knowing all of the potential risks at times that enabled me to push harder and faster in the early days.
I really like that Freelancing Gems can help people starting up to access agile expertise that they need, on a project basis. This kind of depth of resource would have been incredibly useful to me in the startup phase.
Naby: Discipline, hard work and a LOT of self-belief. Also a really good network.
Leanne: I’m not sure that there is a special sauce to be an entrepreneur, but I do think there is something special about being an entrepreneur. To me, being an entrepreneur brings a great sense of freedom – a way to create the rules of the game that suit my strengths. It can be scary to work without a safety net but it’s also exciting! Entrepreneurs often work with a great sense of ambiguity and uncertainty. I think if there is a special sauce, it’s in being able to work in that realm and still be certain in the face of uncertainty, to back yourself and know the right choice is the one you make.
Fleur: Being a successful entrepreneur means being an equal parts creative visionary and being a leader that can execute that vision. Many amazing ideas have failed because of execution so being able to see it through and go the distance even when times get tough…and they will…is my secret sauce. A business woman friend said to me many years ago “No one is coming to save you,” I’ve never forgotten it. So true of entrepreneurship.
3. Is there a time in your journey that you wish you had been more courageous? Or when you were brave and it paid off?
Suz: There have been a lot of times that I wish I had more courage. I want to be a bold and powerful voice in my industry, and I think that takes courage. I do brave things often, but I think there is always more I could do. There’s more I could say. I wish I had said more during the Black Lives Matter movement, but I also had to educate myself about what was going on here in Australia and I continue to do that. When you know better, you do better!
From a business perspective something that I did a year or more now was cull about 80% of my business because there was too much going on and I couldn’t focus my efforts. When I made the cut, I saw my revenue triple. Sometimes we hold onto things because it’s hard to let go, but that exactly what you have to do to grow. Now I regularly look at my business and think – what do I have to prune for my business to grow and be healthier in the next 12 months?
Kelly: I was definitely bolder and braver in my startup phase and I’m really grateful for that. I know that our growth and my courage was challenged around the time I got married and had children. Suddenly with the responsibility of babies and a mortgage, without even realising it, my ability to take risks changed overnight. Because of this, I really admire women who start new businesses as Mum’s. There are even more balls to juggle and priorities to assess in this time of your life and I think they are truly incredible humans.
Naby: Every day there are still things that scare me – entrepreneurship is an ongoing journey and you always have to up the ante. Every next step is scarier than the last.
“Entrepreneurship is an ongoing journey and you always have to up the ante. Every next step is scarier than the last.” – Naby Mariyam
Leanne: Absolutely! I’ve learnt many things over the course of my life and when I look back at my younger self there were definitely times in hindsight I could’ve been more forthright and outgoing. Having said that, I think experience is the greatest teacher and I’m a big believer in: right time, right place. Sometimes we put ourselves in the hands of serendipity and have to trust in the training and lead up to that point to get us there.
Starting my company Everledger in 2015 was a time I was brave. It was a bold move to create a tech company based in emerging technologies like blockchain and IoT. Has it paid off? It’s too soon to tell perhaps but I am certainly happy to have stepped up and given it my all!
Fleur: I have always been okay with taking the risk because I back myself. As I have gotten older I take more calculated risks however and there are of course moments of doubt, but then I put on my big girl pants and move on. I believe starting a new business during a global pandemic was courageous, but the time was now, for sure.
4. So many people ask successful women how they ‘do it all’ but we all know that we don’t. What does your support network look like now and what support do you wish you had access to in the early days/on those tough days?
Suz: I definitely don’t ‘do it all’ and I don’t want to do it all.
- My husband does about 80% more housework than I do. He cleans, does the clothes washing (because apparently, I don’t separate clothes properly! haha).
- We have a cleaner that comes in every Monday for 2-3 hours.
- I have an online business manager who supports all the things that I don’t want to do in my business, and she does it better than I do anyway!
- I have an Ads manager that runs my FB and IG ads.
- I have an accountant that does my BAS and end of year accounts.
If I had to do all of that I would go crazy and it’s also not how I want to live my life or run my business. I said to one of my client’s the other day when she was stressing about hiring an assistant – CEO’s hire. I also think that you have to say ‘No’ a lot!
“You have to realise that you can’t do it all and you can’t go far on your own.” – Suz Chadwick
When I first started, I wish I had focused more on my marketing and building what I had earlier than I did. I think that was a missed opportunity. But as far as support went, I already had a cleaner when I started, and I also had a VA early in my business which was great! I think you should get a VA or assistant as early as you can because it frees your time up to focus on revenue and brand-building activities which is the lifeblood of your business growth.
Kelly: Absolutely! I have an amazing support network that starts with my husband Andrew who is without a doubt my biggest fan, and I am his. We live in a regional town in South Australia so we have a very unique lifestyle where we alternate days, between commuting to our Head Office in Adelaide (a one hour drive each way), and working from home. It works for us but it’s not easy! We both get a chance to do drop off and pick up at school each week, and I find my days working from my home office super productive and critical to keeping on top of our growing business. We are also super fortunate to have our family close by and my parents do a lot for us and the children, they are worth their weight in gold.
I am also fortunate to own and run Edible Blooms with my sister Abbey who co-founded the business with me by opening our second location in Adelaide in 2006. We work incredibly well together and bring different strengths to the business. Having a trusted business partner has been key to our growth and we always have each other’s back.
It’s important that women starting their own business have a great support network around them. It’s critical that you have cheerleaders (positive thinkers!) and a structure that enables you to roll your sleeves up and get your important work done. Open conversations with your partner and family about your needs, and also making sure you appreciate their support, make the process much smoother. The Mum network I have at my children’s school is also invaluable and a great support when we are all juggling various work and study commitments – we help each other out and make the juggle a little easier on one another.
I also endorse delegating tasks to great freelancers that help increase your productivity.
Naby: Early days I wish my friends understood what I was doing, they were all in the corporate space and didn’t understand and believe in what I was doing, so I lost my friends network. I wish there was less judgement and more connection.
Leanne: If I’m being honest, I actually don’t “do it all” and that’s a conscious decision I’ve made in the last five years as I’ve built and scaled Everledger, while also being the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur. My incredible support network knows when to step back and let me dive into work and be in a singularly focused zone. But I’m extraordinarily lucky that they are always there with Netflix, a good book, a day at the beach and a home-cooked meal when I’m ready to resurface.
I will say this: know your limits. Don’t push yourself so far that you collapse. Keep your nearest and dearest close but also give yourself the freedom to soar if you want to.
Fleur: We definitely don’t do it all. Having that support network is imperative to my success. I have an incredibly supportive husband who shares the parenting duties with me 50/50 – who you choose as your life partner is incredibly important to your success. We have help at home, I have family support and I have an amazing team that I work with every day where we hold ourselves accountable for the success of the business.
5. #choosewomen is the social campaign started by the WED organisation to support women in business. How do you #choosewomen and how can we all support this campaign?
Suz: My whole business is focused around what #choosewomen stands for. My purpose in my business is to support women to become bold and powerful voices in their industry and claim their space with confidence. I talk about it all the time. All my products and services, events, coaching, speaking, charities we support – it’s all focused on fulfilling that purpose.
“I believe that the more money women make, the more we’ll see things change in the world.” – Suz Chadwick
Kelly: Edible Blooms has naturally grown as a female fierce employer with two female founders and a heavily female team (we sit at around 80% women in our team). We celebrate when we employ men in our company because they add diversity and that makes us all better as a team. I have also been fortunate to be part of the Telstra Women’s Awards Program and we have an alumni in South Australia where we look out for one another. If we #choosewomen, we all make a difference and give females the boost that they need to balance the scales.
Recently I was an advocate for Christine Holgate at Australia Post in social media and particularly on LinkedIn.
“When I see another woman in business that I admire being treated badly it’s important to speak up and be a voice in awareness” – Kelly Jamieson
I would like to see more women actively support one another, we have a duty to build one another up and lead positively. I admit that I did feel a little nervous making my first post about Christine but was very pleased because the commentary was engaging and positive. Any negative comments were actually addressed by others in the discussion which truly showed the strength of ‘doing the right thing’ and the power of social media for us all to have a voice.
Naby: I’m a big advocate for women, and mentor lots of ladies. The biggest challenge for women is lack of network. So my advice is always to open your network, make introductions – it doesn’t cost anything and will make all the difference in your success.
“Be conscious. Choice is conscious and the decisions we make reflect who we are. Choose wisely.”
Fleur: At Freelancing Gems we choose women every day. Our business’s mission is to help women find meaningful work and to get back to work sooner.
“On this day I would ask all employers who are looking at recruiting for any contract, project, part time, freelancer position that they ensure they make diversity part of their policy and #choosewomen.” – Fleur Madden
Suz Chadwick has over 10 years of experience as a brand consultant working with global brands and solopreneurs. She works with savvy women in businesses to create confidently bold brands & profitable businesses without the burnout. Suz is also the author of Play Big, Brand Bold, host of popular Brand Builder’s Lab podcast and the creator of Brand Builder’s Academy, The Bold Speaker’s Collective & Brand Leader’s Lounge.
Kelly Jamieson is the global MD and co-founder of gifting company Edible Blooms. She is an award-winning businesswoman who started making chocolate bouquets with her sister and has since grown the business into a gifting powerhouse that has expanded across Australia, New Zealand and to the UK!
Naby Mariyam is the Founder and CEO at insurtech platform Coverhero and Hustlecover. She is also a key note speaker, host of #hustlechat podcast, and a lover of salsa dancing and poetry. Coverhero is an insurtech startup focusing on disrupting insurance services to meet the needs of Millenials and GenZ in the gig economy.
Leanne Kemp is Founder and CEO of Everledger and Queensland’s third Chief Entrepreneur. She is a highly regarded leader in many fields including technology and insurance, and well-known for her innovations using Blockchain technology to track high-value assets such as diamonds, art and wine. Leanne works on a global scale to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation and is an advocate of sustainability in business.
Leanne is an expert advisor to the World Economic Forum, the Global Blockchain Business Council, the World Trade Board’s Sustainable Trade Action Group and the IBM Blockchain Platform Board of Advisors. She is also an Adjunct Professor in the Institute for Future Environment at the Queensland University of Technology. Leanne has won many awards including Innovator of the Year twice.