Taking the leap: How I set my business up at 38 and how you can too.
Thursday 15 December 2022
By Davina Gordon, Founder of Naissance Marketing.
The hardest thing is to jump.
Fear is the biggest thing you will have to contend with when thinking about setting up your own business.
It was a thought that I entertained as a young woman but never took too seriously. There were too many (some self-imposed) barriers. How could I run a business? It’s too risky, too scary, it’s too much work. Not that I wasn’t a hard worker - I was - but I kept hitting the proverbial glass ceiling. My dad said to me as a child, “don’t reach for the ceiling, reach for the stars, so that way you won’t bump your head on your way to the top”.
As whimsical as that may have sounded to me as a young woman, it has taken on so much more meaning. I think we subconsciously put ourselves into glass boxes. We resign ourselves to accepting the limitations placed on us. We absorb what people tell us. But, at 42, I can confidently say, the biggest battle you will ever have to face is the one with yourself.
I was never academic. I was and am a dreamer, an idealist. Despite my dreams of becoming a hotshot lawyer, inspired by Aly McBeal (!) that was never my destiny. At school, I excelled at art, science and english. I won a poetry competition when I was 15. I realised at that young age that I could make people feel things with my words. Now, as a digital marketer, I make a difference with my words. After all, marketing is all about words and storytelling.
I have always wanted more in life. I was always ambitious and driven, but I was pigeon-holed - by others and myself. I naively succumbed to the stereotypes that were thrust upon me. But I knew, I had (and still do) have so much more to give. My mum always told me I could do whatever I wanted to do. I loved that idea but now I know it to be true.
For me, having a baby changed everything. Shortly after returning to my sub-editor job after maternity leave, I was informed that I was selected for redundancy. It was a body blow delivered to me via a phone call on a Friday evening. I sobbed in my husband’s arms. How were we going to cope financially? We had a new baby and only one wage. My husband told me, “It will be OK”. I trusted him at that moment and he was right.
Thankfully, I was lucky to be able to take some time to think about what I wanted to do. I knew then that I had to leap. But it wasn’t so much of a leap but a tiptoe forward. I posted on Linkedin that I was seeking new opportunities.
I received a phone call from someone who would become my first client - and it changed my life. I began freelancing as a copywriter and soon was asked to manage their social media. It was something I loved using but not professionally. The company (my first client) kindly funded my training in digital marketing and I fell in love.
I’ve always loved making a difference and eliciting emotion is something that I particularly liked. I care about people and I want to see them thrive. Social media can be used for so much good.
If I can have a successful and profitable business, so can you. I am a creative soul and not a natural businesswoman. But you can learn as I am learning, every single day.
Running your own business is hard but it is worth it. Being a mother makes it harder. I’m lucky to have met so many amazing women who are also mothers, making it work. My son is a daily inspiration to make his life as good as it can be. For me to be the best mum that I can be, I know that I need to follow my path.
As a journalist, one of my favourite interviews was with Kelly Cutrone, an American publicist, and author. As the editor of a local start-up magazine, I secured 20 minutes with Kelly. I can’t remember how I did it, but I will always remember what she said to me as she strode to a meeting in New York.
“We’ll walk and talk,” she said somewhat brusquely as I introduced myself on a call (no Zoom then). During the interview, she said something that I’ll always remember. “When you are living your dream, you are also living your nightmare.”
There will always be a push and pull. There will always be.
Here are my tips for succeeding in business.
You cannot do it by yourself. Have the grace to accept help. Seek out business support available in your area. I have been really lucky to receive amazing and transformational assistance from my local council in the form of mentoring which has been so valuable. There is also an incredible community of working women on social media.
Look after yourself. As a business owner of over three years, it is vitally important that you pay as much attention to yourself as you do your business. Yes, it is hard, especially when you are building. But you cannot neglect the engine room. Look after yourself and find a way to relax, whatever that is for you. Look inside and preserve what you need to propel you forward.
Network. This is one of the most important things that you can do. No woman is an island! You cannot succeed alone. Collaborate and work with other women who inspire you, give you energy and make you want to do better.
Feel the fear (and do it anyway). The only limitations are the ones that you place on yourself. Don’t be afraid to knock on doors or DM someone you really admire. Social media has made the world much smaller. I recently connected with Steven Bartlett, someone I really admire on Linkedin. I told him about my business and how much I wanted to grow it. He said (and gave me permission to share): ‘Running a business without a good team is sometimes burdensome giving you limited time to solve high managerial challenges.’
Having a team around you, be that people who collaborate with you, celebrate you, or work for you is so important.
No matter what your business is, there will come a time when you will need people to help you grow. You cannot do it all yourself. You can do anything, but not everything.
Yes. The hardest thing is to jump. But can you afford not to?
Connect with Davina on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Thursday 15 December 2022