I always wanted to create a brand that would reflect who I am, my personality and my values. I built my career as a branding consultant advising companies how they should express their brand and values, and one day I was simply tired of telling others what to do. As an adviser you are always standing on the outside, not really calling the shots. So I decided to taste my own medicine and see what kind of brand I would be able to grow based on what I believe in.
I had always followed people who had put their whole personality into play in their business. Jamie Oliver, Bethanny Frankel and Martha Stewart are people who I admire in that regard.
So I knew what I wanted but I didn’t have any idea where to start. What would be my product? Would I have the guts to do it? Would I have the personality? I had built two successful businesses before, but it’s a totally different ball game when you put your own values on the line. It is very daunting to think you’d build a brand based on who you really are. In fact, it was terrifying. And it was all down to my self belief, or the lack of! Who was I to think I could create such a brand.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the past three years building DrivenWoman. Follow these 5 steps to building self belief as an entrepreneur.
Find a soulmate
The way to my self discovery was to brainstorm with a new friend who also become my co-founder. We decided to hold a ‘zero meeting’, a session without an agenda (other than self discovery).
We said to ourselves “What would we create if we were to build something based on our own personality, values and capabilities?”
We discovered we were both big ‘doers’, enthusiastic to take action and get things done. Women’s empowerment was close to our hearts and we were both outspoken and ready to step up and stand out. And there it was, the ‘aha moment’ when DrivenWoman was born. (I still get goose bumps when I remember that afternoon in March three years ago.)
Even if you don’t end up getting a co-founder, it’s a good idea to find someone to bounce ideas with. We all need a sounding board or someone who will remind us that our idea might actually work. Even one person who encourages you can build your self confidence.
If you have an idea that excites you, an idea that keeps you up at night (in a good way), an idea you can’t get out of your head – take immediate action. Do something right away to take the first step. Don’t wait. Don’t validate it. Don’t discuss it with people who will shoot it down. Just put something out there to move towards your dream.
I had the DrivenWoman blog up in two weeks. I was terrified when I posted the first post. And I’m sure it wasn’t very good and the message wasn’t so clear.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew I had to take the first step. I didn’t know what the final service would look like but most important thing was to show commitment to myself and not let the idea fizzle out.
Creation is much more difficult than improving. If you have a burning desire, concentrate on the first step only. Do something quickly that makes your idea come alive. Don’t over analyse. Don’t over-craft. You can improve it later.
Remember, action builds confidence.
Forget the end results
You need to have a vision, but your business will never look exactly like you envisioned it from the start. It’s best to commit to the actual work than be attached to a specific outcome. Enjoy the progress you make every day and celebrate all the little wins. Be proud of what you have achieved and don’t beat yourself up when things don’t workout perfectly.
I was very much attached to my growth plans in the beginning but soon realised that if I didn’t focus on the here and now, giving my best to the small number of members we had at a time, I would fail.
Someone told me that people generally expect too much from what they can achieve in one year and underestimate where they can be in three. Be grateful about all the progress you make to build self belief.
Try to get feedback from your first clients as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and hear their honest views. Your clients will help you develop your product and make your business successful. The more openly you accept feedback and the fact that not all your ideas are great, the faster you can adjust your product to meet the demand.
At DrivenWoman I used to run a customer survey after every group session. This gave our clients a chance to reflect on what they liked or didn’t like about the service. As a side product I collected customer quotes I then used on my website and social media.
But you must be ready to adjust your product based on the feedback you get. This doesn’t mean you’d do exactly what you read in the feedback forms but you can adjust and still keep moving towards your vision.
Get through setbacks
One of the hardest things about setting up a business or becoming a solo entrepreneur are the moments when nothing seems to be going your way. Clients will cancel their orders, people won’t show up, suppliers don’t want to deliver and you are running out of money. Especially the first two years can be tough, and if things aren’t going smoothly it can be difficult to evaluate if it’s your idea that’s not working, your execution or if you just have to wait a little longer.
I’ve always learned much more about my business and about myself from failures than successes. So don’t give up.
It’s important to surround yourself with people who can help you get through setbacks. Positive people who believe in you are your greatest protection against giving up. They can give you perspective and encouragement when going gets tough.
Remember that it’s the mindset that counts. All the information you need is available, great ideas always get financing and you can find the right people to work with you. But if you don’t have the right frame of mind to get through obstacles you won’t succeed.
DrivenWoman is on a mission to support women who want to build that stamina and self confidence to succeed as entrepreneurs. If you are looking for a network of positive, like-minded women to support you, find out more here or sign up to our newsletter.