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Women in Business: My Experience

25 November 2020

Sarah Damani, local business owner, female entrepreneur and former Growth Hub Business Adviser started her own virtual assistant business in January 2020.

Sarah has shared her insight into being a woman in business.

 

 

Tell me a little bit about your business?

So, we’re a team of virtual assistants working with loads of different small businesses, supporting them with all of their different admin needs. From diary management to document creation, or proof-reading to project management, plus everything in between really.

What I love about my business is that I know that I can make a real difference to our client’s businesses.  Everyone that we work with is really good at what they do but running a business in an organised way isn’t always their strong point. This is why we fit into their business so well.

Over the years, what has been the biggest challenge you have faced as a woman in business?

The biggest challenge I’ve personally faced as a woman in business was when I was employed and I was pregnant, I applied for a promotion and was not successful because of my pregnancy.

But, to be honest, challenges like that have spurred me on to starting my own business. I’m not at the mercy of an employer to decide if I’m good enough for a pay rise or promotion. I can create my own destiny and enjoy a flexible work life balance.

Why do you think it’s important for women to support each other throughout their endeavours?

I think it’s not only really important to support each other, but by supporting each other we also inspire one another. As women, society puts a lot of pressure on us to be amazing mothers and successful in our careers. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible to do both without putting yourself under extreme pressure. As women, we understand more than most about those pressures.

That’s exactly again, why I started my own business – to create flexible working opportunities for mums just like me.

How have you benefited from being connected to a network of female business owners?

From the point of starting my own business, I joined the Athena group, a female networking group. We get together on a monthly basis to learn more about one another’s businesses and pass business support between the group.

It’s extremely empowering learning about each other’s successes, challenges and business ambitions. It gives you an opportunity to reflect on your own business. It’s so important to take time out of your business, to really work on your business.

It’s great to be surrounded by those women who’ve often faced the same challenges and can offer valuable advice and solutions to you.

The Rose Review found greater risk awareness was one of the key barriers that are leading to lower rates of entrepreneurship amongst women. Has this impacted your business or how you went about starting it?

I’m not sure that in my experience it was a factor in my journey. I’ve always wanted to start my own business, but for me, it was always about timing.

It also wasn’t a huge financial risk starting up my VA business, because it’s a franchised model. As a VA, I don’t need stock etc., I just need a good laptop. And, because I was buying a franchise, I knew it was a proven business model, so I guess the risk lowered.

For me, the barrier to starting my business was timing. My youngest was starting school last September and that was really the line in the sand for starting my own business.

Reflecting on that question, people around me have been risk-averse, which has impacted my decision making, making me more risk-averse.

But I think I’m one of those people, like most entrepreneurs are, once you’ve got a gut feeling about something and have made a decision you tend to stick to it. I’m very much a believer in that we can only regret the things that we didn’t do.

What are your business ambitions for the future?

My business ambition is to continue to grow both the team and the client base. We’re moving into our new offices in the next couple of weeks, which will be really exciting to have our own dedicated workspace.

To continue to achieve and maintain a really good work life balance. Ideally, I want to be working a four-day week during school hours, I want school holidays off to spend a lot more time with the kids.

The beauty of being a virtual assistant is that I can work virtually anywhere in the world. I’d love to take the opportunity to travel around with the kids in the school holidays.

I think it’s about creating a better work life balance which, for me, is what the corporate world didn’t offer.

What advice would you give to other female entrepreneurs?

I think the biggest message I would give is “don’t wait for the perfect time, because there is no perfect time.” Start today, if it’s something you’re really passionate about, make it work.

And, I think almost as important is surrounding yourself with inspirational people that will keep you on track. Look at other women in business and what they’re doing.

Creating good habits, exercising well, eating well. Creating those good habits will really get you disciplined in your work ethic as well.

 

To connect women in business across the South East Midlands, SEMLEP’s Growth Hub and NatWest have teamed up for a one-hour virtual event.

Join local women in business at 10.30 AM on Tuesday 1 December to hear from female business owners about their experiences and to discuss the common challenges that female-led businesses often face.

Reserve your place here.

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