With this in mind it was fascinating to watch the fabulous Laura Tenison, founder of the hugely successful JoJo Maman Bébé, being interviewed on BBC 2 by entrepreneur and Dragon’s Den investor, Peter Jones, about the story of her success.
A market leader in maternity and children’s fashion Laura’s first shop was perfectly located to appeal to the Yummy Mummies of Clapham – or ‘Nappy Valley’ as it’s otherwise known. Her success is largely down to a good concept done well – beautifully crafted clothing with a Gallic influence, marketed to aspirational and affluent parents. But where gazillions of others have failed, Laura has prevailed, and this she puts down to a blinding conviction in her business model, combined with the courage to challenge, or ignore the naysayers.
It transpired that Laura’s determination to succeed boils down to a desire to prove her worth to her mother. No major revelation there … wanting to make our parents proud is a trait instilled in many of us. Conversely, many people set out to shake off their parents’ expectations or do something in the opposite direction. The point is, the spirit of entrepreneurship must be nurtured at a young age, as we begin to formulate ideas about our own capabilities and the future person we will become. The importance of learning to pick oneself up after a fall, gaining valuable experience from mistakes and taking risks, are other vital traits for business success.
“It’s not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It’s because we dare not venture that they are difficult.”
― Lucius Annaeus Seneca
But Laura’s success came at a price, right? Peter duly probed Laura about what she’d sacrificed to achieve such heady business heights. She conceded that she often brought her babies into the office and the interview cut to a scene of Laura whipping up the kids’ tea whilst asking them about their school day. But in reality, how many tea-times and sports days has she missed due to meetings or work issues requiring her input?
I’ve ruminated about this for a few days and wonder if I’ve really got what it takes to be an entrepreneur and still achieve work-life balance?
The next step will be to get down to the nuts and bolts of developing a business plan. With this in mind, it was timely to see that Yasmina Siadatan, former Apprentice winner, has been promoting Start Up Loans via Mumsnet earlier this week. Great, I thought, advice tailored to women entrepreneuers – until I realised that at 40 years of age I do not meet the criteria!
So, lots more research for me on the horizon and for now this project will run parallel to my ‘bread and butter’ freelance PR and writing work.
In the meantime, I’m delighted to see that a report recently published by the Women’s Business Council (WBC) is promoting the notion that women should be given better information and guidance on how to pursue entrepreneurial ventures. In particular it stresses that there should be a broader definition of what an enterprise is and ensure marketing of support services is inclusive, in recognition of the differences between men and women entrepreneurs.
A recent report by Dell revealed that the UK only ranks 6th place in a study of 17 countries and support for female entrepreneurs – with America leading the way. I applaud Laura Tenison for being such an inspirational role model in the UK, but the government and employers would do well to heed the WBC report if they are to give more budding female entrepreneurs the support and encouragement we deserve.