Monthly Archives: March 2016

Heidi Sternberg – Homewares & accessories

Owner of polkadots & blooms

I grew up in a small town in Germany  and left school when I just turned 16. I put myself through university as a mature student and worked for different blue chip companies eventually becomming a project manger with a FTSE 100 company working on global, multimillion £ projects and completing an MBA part time. I then took the leap to start my own company which I am still running today: Polkadots & blooms, an online homewares and accessories business specialising in handcrafted vintage style products designed by myself. My designs are inspired by vintage fabrics and from childhood summers spent running free in forests and fields in Sweden & Norway.

If you did any training after leaving school, how was it relevant to what you’re doing now?

I am a strong believer in lifelong learning and personal development if I did not have have the right skills set or qualifications for a particular job, I have made sure I took relevant courses to bridge the gap. Many skills are transferable, such as customer service skills, using spreadsheets or project planning, so I still use skills I learned 10 years ago for a job that was completely different to what I am doing now.

How did the idea for your business come about?

I looked at my skill set and those things I really love to do my business slowly grew from there.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?

  • Look for a strong support network around you, this might be your family or friends but if these are not supportive or don’t get what you are trying to achieve look elsewhere. There are some fantastic organisations out there to support small businesses such as enterprise nation, the small business network at the british library and more industry specific support networks with lots of free information or additional information for a small annual fee.
  • Learn from mistakes and don’t be afraid to make changes when things don’t work.
  • Turnover is vanity cashflow is sanity. Never forget this saying. You always need to watch your financial position and plan ahead. You don’t want to be in a position to run out of money and cannot pay suppliers despite having a full order book!

What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?

  • Resilience
  • Focus
  • Strong work ethic

Did you have a big break in your career or was it a more gradual build-up to get to where you are now?

Definitely a gradual build up with successes along the way.

If you could go back and tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Just go for it even if feels really scary.

What was the most useful thing you learned at school for the life you live now?

Dealing and communicating with different people.

Looking back, what question would you ask your younger self?

What do you really want to do if money, skills, marks would be no objections.

What has been most surprising on your journey?

How many opportunities there are if you just look for them.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made? And how did things turn out afterwards?

Not listening to my intuition. I ended up in some jobs that were not really meant for me and did not add anything to my development.

What are the best and worst aspects about running your own business?

Best – freedom to do what you want to do. It does not get boring!

Worst – it is hard to switch off and you have to be very disciplined not to neglect yourself and the people you love, no monthly pay cheque, you are responsible for everything.

How does what you’re doing now compare with the career you hoped you’d have when you were at school?

I was not very confident when I left school and did not have a real path mapped out for myself, running my own business is more than I ever could have imagined when leaving school.

What attributes do you think women can bring to business?

Intuition, natural networkers and good in building relationships, passion

How important is education when it comes to building a career?

School education gives you a solid foundation on which you can build on. However, if you want to grow as a person and your career, you can never stop learning.

What was your career path? 

My career path was not quite straight forward. I was not very good at school and left school when I just turned 16. I completed a couple of apprenticeships but knew that I could do better. Working part time I did my A levels and put myself through university as a mature student. Afterwards I took on various positions with different blue chip companies working myself up to project manger with a FTSE 100 company working on global, multimillion £ projects and completing an MBA part time. I then took the leap to start my own company which I am still running today.

What was the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?

Dream big, don’t sweat the small stuff and never give up. Take daily action and enjoy the journey.

Why are more women needed in business?

Approximately half of the population are women. Women in business are needed to represent this population not just from an equality point of view but it makes economic sense. Furthermore, there are not enough female role models.

What was the most frightening meeting you’ve had in your business life and how did you deal with it?

There have been many meetings but managing and sitting in an all male steering committee of heads of businesses of a FTSE 100 company was probably one of the scariest meetings. I was always super prepared for these meetings and actioned any points and actions raised promptly, seeking guidance when I got stuck.

Why you are involved in this project?

I am absolutely passionate about empowering young women to achieve their full potential.

How important have good employees been to your success?

To be truly successful you need to have a good team around you, there is just no way you can get there on your own.

Who are your role models or mentors?

For me there are two categories the super achievers such as Oprah Winfrey who are inspirational on a higher level and then there are the mentors who help me more on a day to day basis, such Marie Forleo or Patricia van der Akker of the Design Trust.

Who were the women who inspired and helped you at school and college, and why?

I wish I had women that inspired me earlier on in my life, the few that existed when I grew up, in Germany, just seemed too far away from where I was.

 
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Dawn – HR

Dawn – Hope Place HR

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?

Get as much experience as you can in your chosen field and remain teachable.

If you could go back and tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

You can do anything anyone can.

What has been most surprising on your journey?

The people who have come alongside to help me.  My company accounts are done by one of the big 4 and as a result I have had access to marketing that I would never have dreamed of.

What are the best and worst aspects about running your own business?

Creative freedom to create services and products.  The worst aspect for me was the accounts but lately its been getting everything done that I need to.  But I will soon be dedicating 2 working days per month just working on the business rather than in it.
Why are more women needed in business?
Because they are skilled enough to be in business and like most if not everything in life – we need balance.

Why you are involved in this project?

I am happy to pass on what I have learnt.

Who are your role models or mentors?

Judy Parkinson, a housewife and Bishop TD Jakes.

 

Who were the women who inspired and helped you at school and college, and why?

Mrs Amos – she championed the well being of her students and she never limited me.

 

Ehi Esezobo – Beauty/relaxation

Ehi Esezobo

Owner of Mothers Inc

image4Hi, my name is Ehi and I started a business called Mothers inc. about 6 years ago. I started along Lordship lane, just doing it as events in Heal studios the last Thursday and Sunday of the month where mums get treatments, eat and socialise while their little people get looked after.

I soon decided to take the leap of faith and open my own shop. I decided to do this because as corny as it may sound, becoming a mother changed my life and perspective on things and in order for them to feel like they can be whatever they want to be in life, I kind of had to take my own advice (gulp). I worked for a loan company  beforehand (big yawn) and it was simply NOT ME.

How did the idea of your business come about?

I came about the idea of Mothers inc. nearly 6 years ago when I was pregnant with my second child. I didn’t think it was fair that there were not many places set out for a mothers relaxation and I wanted to change that. I wanted to create an environment where mums like myself would feel comfortable in.

What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?

1) Be confident with your idea

2) If you never try, you never know

3) Never give up

Did you have a big break in your career or was it a more gradual build-up to get to where you are now?

Most definitely a gradual build-up

What has been most surprising on your journey?

The willingness of people who hardly know me but want to help where they can. Good people do exist!

If you could go back and tell your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Be more confident! There is only one me, and that is good enough.

How important have good employees been to your success?

At the moment, Mothers inc. is a small business with a small team and I have found that having good employees has really helped me in this journey, their skills and knowledge of the business has helped build and add to the whole learning and growing experince, they are a fantastic bunch.