Dear Female Founder,
My name is Michelle Chen and I’m a digital-mum. What’s that you might ask? Well, I’m training to be a social media manager with an innovative training programme created and run by the social enterprise, Digital Mums. My background is in online content and broadcast production. But after four years at home with my kids, I’m now on the road back in to flexible work as a social media manager.
Hence I’m managing a social media campaign for Blooming Founders. But in order for this to work, mums like me have to be matched with real clients like Lu Li and Blooming Founders. I wanted to find out why Lu decided to get involved with Digital Mums, what her business network The Inner Circle is all about and what advice she has for other would-be founders.
Lu, first of all, why did you choose to work with Digital Mums?
As a female founder I think it’s important to support women. I loved the idea and was curious about the benefits of the programme. Being a solo founder, I get so busy in my day-to-day operations that I often don't have the bandwidth to manage social media, so I was keen to get another brain to help me.
You’ve established a social business network for women called The Inner Circle. Can you tell us more about it and why people should join?
Typically, women don’t have a great business network when they start out. But every business person will tell you how important it is to meet like-minded people and get emotional support. The Inner Circle is an environment where people can ask for feedback and guidance, and meet suitable people to collaborate with. It’s a network for female founders and freelancers where the emphasis is on helping each other, not selling your services or products.
What professional advice can you offer women who join The Inner Circle?
The Inner Circle offers the benefit of the collective experience of its members, whether it’s marketing, finance, design or whatever. You can reach out to the group and it’s likely someone will know the answer to your question, or if not, they will know someone who does.
Do you think women experience different challenges to men when it comes to establishing and running their own businesses?
Yes, I do. Initially, the challenges often come from women themselves. Sometimes it’s a lack of self-confidence, or feeling intimidated about the thought of raising investment. I’ve found that women seem to have a harder time of letting go of control of their businesses, and inevitably, when you involve outside investors you do lose some degree of control. I think women can perhaps be a bit more cautious than men when establishing their own businesses.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in your industry?
I’m building a network, so I would say if you’re doing that, be prepared for it to take a long time. And this is especially the case if you’re starting from the ground up. I moved to London about two years ago and I had zero professional network. I spent last year building my audience and make a name for myself. Things take longer to monetise than if you have a product that’s ready to launch.
With the benefit of hindsight what might you do differently?
I would think about a product I could develop, if the demand is there and what the needs of the customers might be. I would think about products rather than services. However, products can initially take longer to get to the launch stage than services.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve had to do as an entrepreneur?
Hmmm. I think it might have been when I found myself guiding Chinese tourists around Selfridges showing them where to buy Burberry. That wasn’t quite what I had in mind when I started my travel consultancy!
Who are your role models?
I guess I would say Diane Von Furstenberg and Beyoncé. Diane Von Furstenberg left everything behind, to start her business in America. She’s always done what she’s wanted without being apologetic. And Beyoncé has an incredible work ethic. She also uses her name in a positive way.
Finally, when you’re not organising numerous events, a social business network and writing a book, what do you do to relax?
I hang out with my friends. I seem to spend a lot of money on drinks and brunches! (Sounds good to me!)
Thank you Lu, I look forward to working with you!
Why not apply to join The Inner Circle? Membership is free.
About Digital Mums
With their innovative, live learning courses, Digital Mums take the natural talents of mothers and train them to be capable social media managers. Armed with their up-to-date skills and experience, mums can then work flexibly and remotely, without the costs, hassle and logistics associated with childcare and commuting.
You can read more about Digital Mums and their training programmes on their website: http://digitalmums.com