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A twitter prize win
My biggest prize claim to date was a set of tea plates in a harvest festival village raffle, oooo over twenty years ago. Imagine my shock when Direct Line Business Insurance contacted me to say that I'd won their twitter competition bagging a prize for travel, accommodation and two tickets to the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs, an event run by Enterprise Nation. Move over teaplates.
The competition asked you to tweet your most inspirational quote, and for me, this was it:
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” - That line was so powerful I didn’t need to read the book. It’s been my motto ever since I first spotted it on my dad’s bookshelf as a teen. Reminds me we all get imposter syndrome. So don’t let it stop you.— Nathalie (@she_codes) September 13, 2018
That's how I came to find myself at #FFE18 with my co-founder Tracey, and what a conference it turned out to be. The timing was perfect. Now I'm settled in at my day job, I'm all set to continue where we left off with our startup TreatOut. So with my startup hat on, here's my pick of best takeaways from the day.
Jaya Chakrabarti MBE gave the opening keynote and wow, what a talk it was. Entitled "Doing Good While Doing Business" she spoke of her work tackling modern slavery using tech. Her story illustrated the true power of "lighting up the world with good, transparent data" and we the audience could only sit, listen and gasp through the challenges and hostile resistance she's faced where her work with open data has challenged the status quo. She made it clear that her talk was not about the good guys versus the bad guys, but about us versus establishment behaviour.
"It's a behaviour that we need when things are good, to keep thing good. But when things start to go bad, we need the rebel alliance."
Jaya's closing words were for us to understand that no matter how small, we all have 'enormous latent power' within us, a voice that we can use to be heard. If you are told that you can't, don't let that stop you from doing something good. To find out more about her transparency work, you can join her anti-slavery ‘rebel alliance' at tiscreport.org.
Money and mentors
Next up was a discussion about access to money and mentors. Katie Massey-Taylor is co-founder of parent-tech app Mush which has secured £2m in funding. Her advice was to make LinkedIn your best friend when starting to fundraise and to expect to have to kiss a lot of frogs along the way. She stressed the importance of understanding what information each potential investor will want to know, as they will all be different. I particularly liked her method of mobilising their users as ambassadors of the product, creating Ambassador Packs to facilitate this. If you can get your audience on side and they believe in your purpose, they will promote your product. There's nothing more powerful than word of mouth and first hand recommendations to grow your user base.
Bev Jones is a high profile business mentor and talked about her working relationship with Joe Wicks, The Body Coach. The question was raised about whether you should pay for a mentor. Of those in the audience who currently have a mentor, it was a 50/50 split between those who are paying for mentorship services and those receiving mentorship free of charge.
When Joe Wicks first approached Bev Jones he couldn't afford to pay but through persistence in offering his services in return, Bev agreed to work with him. Joe did eventually reach a position where he was able to pay for mentorship and that working relationship has blossomed and grown. Bev has become his agent and continues to work with him through what is now a successful career, a result of all the hard work that he has put in before the visible success that we've witnessed.
Bev commented on mentors -
"Some you will have for a season, others you'll have for a lifetime."
Having taken part in a mentoring programme myself through the work of Rav Bumbra, I know how worthwhile personal mentoring and business coaching can be. I was fortunate enough to work with two mentors and remain in touch with one, along with my fellow mentees from our group. That support was invaluable. So much so, that I'm currently looking for a suitable mentor to help me through the next phase of my startup journey.
Emma Bridgewater's talk was just a delight to listen to. She shared her experiences warts and all, discussing issues around founders grit, burnout and taking stock of what's important in life. She talked about how it's tough being an entrepreneur and the sacrifices that are made along the way in business and in friendships.
"As an entrepreneur you need to be tough, you have to let go of people, you have to decide if your project is more important than some very important things - you need steel in you."
Emma is such an inspiration and received a well deserved standing ovation.
A role model for older women
I recently tried to find older women who like me had moved across into tech, but unfortunately my quest is still an ongoing search. In fact, I was one of only two women in the room who could code. One name that stood out from the agenda was Angela Laws from TrustedHousesitter. In charge of social media, community and PR, at 70 years of age, Angela makes a fantastic role model for older women. She came out of retirement to work for the start-up, TrustedHousesitter. Starting out as a team of three the company now employs 58 people with a global membership of over half a million, all from their base in Brighton.
For Angela it's all about her passion for pets who are at the heart of TrustedHousesitter. She stressed the importance of knowing the community that you're serving, and the community you want to build. She is the end consumer, she is one of the community they are serving. She understands all their problems, because they are her problems too.
Angela warned of the dangers of being on too many social media platforms. "You can't be everything to everybody all at once."
Whilst social media allows you to reach out to large numbers of people very quickly, it's not about the numbers.
"Organic is not about trying to sell your product. That's not what people look out for in their news feed, they want to be engaged, entertained and informed."
Vanity metrics are not what's important, it's the engagement that counts and this does take time to nuture. One example is a paid ad they have running which has seven million views and six thousand comments. Every single comment has been answered because Angela knows that it's conversation and keeping it social that matters.
One thing I've learnt to tap into as a founder is the wealth of knowledge held by your peers. I do believe in exchanging that knowledge, we can all provide mentorship support to each other at any stage. The energy and flow of conversation in the room was incredible and this event provided plenty of opportunity to network with fellow entrepreneurs. I've made new friends and have already begun plans to meet up and share advice and support over the coming months. That's exciting, it makes you accountable and does wonders for keeping the motivation high. I will definitely be booking a ticket for next year's event.