Entrepreneur Miisa Mink is the co-owner of the Nordic Bakeries chain of cafes, has published a cookery book and has also co-founded Driven Woman, a network for ambitious women who long to launch their own venture. Miisa is living proof that you can make a new venture work if you have the right support system in place. Here she reveals what she has learnt from launching her businesses and gives advice on how you too can make that business dream a reality…
It’s exciting to think that any smart woman with a great idea, guts and heaps of passion can launch her own business and carve out a niche for herself. Watching your ideas fly gives you a huge buzz, and hitting your targets makes all the brainstorming and planning and networking worthwhile. But what if it’s not a success? Sadly for many female entrepreneurs things can soon go wrong for their best-laid plans, and all the hard work and late nights in the world won’t make a difference. This is not due to a lack of commitment, but through crucial gaps in their knowledge. In spite of positive progress, only 29 per cent of entrepreneurs in the UK are women. Yet, say the Federation of Small Businesses, “If more women were championed as entrepreneurs and the same rate of start-ups were set up by women as there are men, 150,000 businesses could be created”. Having launched a number of businesses I feel well versed in the art of getting your entrepreneurial ideas up and running – and with staying power. Here is what I have learnt…
Prepare to get it wrong before you get it right
It often takes a few goes, a few incarnations, before we get a crystal-clear picture of how to succeed. In the past three years I’ve gone up so many blind alleys, like the holiday rental business that that I had to ditch at the planning stage, the book I never finished writing and the website I wanted to launch for postcard lovers (yes, really!). All of these seemingly unsuccessful paths have taught me something valuable and introduced me to useful people, like the woman with whom I founded www.drivenwoman.co.uk, a network for women with ideas and ambition.
Be ready to learn a lot of new skills
When I launched my first business I spent every night reading inspiring business books or exploring the Internet to find interesting people to follow and blogs to read. I researched new ways of earning a solid income that weren’t office-based. I was determined not to be left behind by the digital revolution. In spite of finding it daunting at first I’m now quite capable in the world of Twitter and have even created a couple of websites.
Step outside of your comfort zone
It’s your attitude and mindset that is going to make a difference, so commit to exploring and growing your knowledge. Do a business course and watch inspiring TED Talks. Network with useful people and actively pursue new business relationships and collaborations. Everything you experience every day can lead to ideas and ‘aha’ moments. Keep your eyes open and your notebook handy.
Create new habits
We all know that new habits are only formed through regular repetition. I realised I needed to constantly condition myself to get results. But with two young children, how could I protect my time and ‘secure’ more of it for my project and myself every day? I came up with an idea of extended ‘me-time’, almost like going to brush my teeth but not coming out of the bathroom for two hours. Women often have to hide – literally – in order to get their projects finished. I now work uninterruptedon my most ambitious projects for two hours a day, five days a week. But not in the bathroom!
Learn to say ‘no’
You have to fiercely protect your immediate goals. Switch off phone and email. Don’t let people talk to you and lock yourself up in a meeting room or go to a cafe if you have to. Don’t let yourself be lured into phone calls or social media discussions; assign a separate time period for social interaction. Unless the house is burning down, don’t let yourself be distracted.
Fear of the unknown is a major barrier of entry for women considering starting their own business. Girls are very good at school and are praised for their grades and for being predictable. If boys behave recklessly people say, “Well boys will be boys”. Women need to learn to adopt a little of that recklessness and try painting with a bigger brush, even though the end result is often far from perfect. Stop trying to colour inside the lines – a little splashing and a lot of mess is part of the process!
Surround yourself with people who believe in you
Dream projects can’t happen in isolation – we need advice, ideas, support and input from likeminded people – and not having this is holding women back. People around us don’t necessarily always understand our ambitions. We feel shy of telling friends and colleagues whereas partners can’t fathom why we don’t just get on with it. Which is why I co-launched Driven Woman, a network for women with big ideas and plans they long to make happen. At monthly meetings we share our progress and discuss next steps and how to tackle obstacles. Having your own group of cheerleaders, who are rooting for you and understand exactly what you are up against, spurs you on to succeed and helps fill in those knowledge gaps.
Miisa Mink is a branding consultant and entrepreneur who has launched several businesses including women’s ‘lifeworking’ network DrivenWoman, www.drivenwoman.co.uk. Her book, the Nordic Bakery Cookbook, is published by Ryland Peters & Small.