The Not So Sexy Reality of Entrepreneurship – Reflection, Challenges & Tips from a Mummy Entrepreneur
2019 has been both challenging and fruitful at the same time, in fact, it’s the most eventful year for me.
It’s the year I planned to expand into a new market and launch the HER Malaysia Summit. But it was also the year we planned to have a 2nd baby.
I could have chosen to delay market expansion for this personal reason but I chose to stick to the plan and worked till the last day of pregnancy.
I went ahead with my milestones, set targets and hired people to get this going.
I’ve decided to document my experience this year and also share with fellow mummy entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs starting a family or entrepreneurs-to-be on the potential challenges you might face and some of the tips to overcome it.
Personal and business milestones this 2019:
We celebrated our 3rd HER anniversary and launched the HER LearnXNetwork.
I was honoured to be invited to speak at AIME (The Asia Pacific Incentives Meeting) in Melbourne in February. I was about 3 months pregnant then and I was thankful my hubby tagged along for this short work & leisure trip. (It could have been a fun trip except that I was throwing up the entire day during the leisure tour.)
Launched HER Virtual Summit with worldwide speakers.
Met other fellow entrepreneurs regionally through several conferences and platforms where I spoke.
I was honoured to be invited to speak at E.P.I.C’s when I was about to pop. Thanks to the organisers for having faith in me as I might not be able to turn up.
Gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in August.
Revamped a traditional shipping business in brand transformation successfully and the client and his clients were impressed.
We were one of the 43 SMEs being conferred the BrandsforGood Award and were featured in The Business Times.
We produced the 4th Annual HER Asia Summit in October (I was a little spaced out then due to the lack of sleep preparing for the event and nursing the little one through the night)
We launched our HER Community App for our summit attendees.
Launched the Inaugural HER Malaysia Summit in November. (You could imagine, not much break for me after birth. I fell sick during the preparation for the Malaysia Summit in KL. Had to look all pumped up during the actual day when I was having a serious headache.)
The final December LearnXNetwork series was a blast. We were expecting a lean crowd due to the holiday season, but it was full-house with on-site sign ups.
I finally got to spend valuable time with the kids end December when it’s lull period.
There were really difficult moments amidst all these excitements. From talent management, time management, cross-border liaising, liaising with tech providers to super multi-tasking throughout the pregnancy and right after birth.
What I planned for manpower also did not turn out the way I wanted. It was a moment of mind over body, as giving up was so easy to justify. I was drained, was physically still recuperating, but I had to take over tasks that cannot be fulfilled by others immediately. Confinement wasn’t exactly the way it should. There were several occasions where I had to multi-task with a baby on one arm, while typing with the other hand. Entertaining the older son, while nursing the baby, and at the same time getting work done. Working late hours while everyone’s asleep became a norm.
I told myself, things will get better after our milestones are completed and I will take a break. Decided to grit my teeth and get going.
For the ladies out there who would like to strike out on your own, here are some of the common challenges that you might face as an entrepreneur, and the tips and advice to overcome them.
Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey as the people around you may not understand what you are going through or not understand why you chose this path. They may question your decision, so do know your WHY.
We have created HER Entrepreneur to inspire, educate, empower and connect entrepreneurs, leaders, government and investors across Asia through online content, monthly LearnXNetwork sessions, and the yearly summits. Join in the community if you would like to meet like-minded individuals. www.herentrepreneur.com
You need to manage the important stakeholders in your life not just work. We need their blessings in our entrepreneurial journey as they will likely be involved in assisting us in our personal life or at work some way or another, directly or indirectly.
Aligning life & biz milestones
You may intend to get married, start a family or have other plans in life, and you may need to make some sacrifices when running a business. Do your best to plan, however, do not procrastinate too long for everything to be aligned before executing your plans. This applies to life and business. Stars will never be aligned, just as the traffic lights will never turn green at the same time.So do what you got to do and adjust as you go along.
Do not give up your life’s missions for business and vice versa. Strike a balance and work it out for a more sustainable holistic life.
Expect to multi-task as you manage your own business. For a start, you might have to do most things yourself, while managing home matters. When you start to hire, do not think that problem is solved. You might have to take over an absent staff’s work for urgent projects or matters too. Be ready to wear several hats and be nimble all the time.
Finding and retaining good talent can be challenging, you may need to buffer in some time for hiring good people while/before running the business.
Set your own SOPs, guidelines, and training structure to train and guide your staff. You are the best person to QC/QA your service/products. The senior staff will then apply the same teachings for the new staff.
Plans may not actualise
There’s no guarantee in anything no matter how much you plan & how hard you try. Staff may leave anytime, partners don’t work out, or vendors may screw up your plans, etc. Be prepared to take it at your own stride and work towards a better tomorrow. It will be important to have Plan A, B, C.
Surprises in new markets
As you expand to new regions, do expect the unexpected in new markets, such as differences in regulations, consumer behaviour, buying behaviour, price points, cultural differences, talent, their level of SOPs, etc.
Always test the market first before going in full force, unless you have secured investments for market expansion and could afford to do so.
Investors’ relation akin to courtship
I have heard entrepreneurs lament that they find it difficult to attract investors for their businesses even when they have gained traction and revenue. Some mentioned, why investors invest it a certain profile of founders and their businesses may not have necessarily proven success.
I have also heard from several women entrepreneurs that they experienced challenges when fund raising or pitching for investments. Many questions from the panel of investors varied from what were asked to male founders, such as personal questions about their life transitions. Some experimented with having a male presenter during the pitching session and experienced a different outcome.
In my point of view, investors’ relation is very much like courtship. It’s not about changing oneself to fit in. It’s about finding the right kind of investor who is aligned to your goals and believe in what you do. They may or may not be the typical investors out there but you have to keep a lookout and at the same time be selective who you work with. What you see on media about the success of startups in fundraising may not be as glamorous as what it really is on the inside.
Don’t despair if you feel you aren’t attracting the investors you want even after meeting their so-called criteria.
Remember, you have limited time. It might be more fruitful to build a sustainable business that could support yourself & the team, than to spend too much time pitching for money & fear getting rejected.
Tips to overcome the challenges
Be positive in whatever that you set out to do. There will be situations or people that will bring you down to your lowest, so be focused on achieving your goals.
Plan ahead, not just about the present. Plan your roadmap and growth in the next 1 to 5 years.
Acknowledge physical & mental limitations
If you go through a life transition, such as pregnancy, birth, or a life crisis, do acknowledge your own physical and mental limitations. You may not be able to function the same way as before. So do pace yourself accordingly and reset your goals so that they can be reasonably achieved.
Motivating & empowering others
As the boss, you may have the tendency to want to take charge of everything. However, do gradually empower and train your staff so that they are able to take on important responsibilities on your behalf whenever you are unable to. You definitely don’t wish that work stagnates because you are not around.
P&L vs lost opportunity
Sometimes P&L is not everything. I used to think like a corporate professional when I first started, but entrepreneurship is a very different ball game altogether. Some corporate practices can be applied, but not everything. When you are new in business, your brand and business is unknown. There are inevitable investments and networking opportunities that you would have to leverage on to be known in the market. So do factor in such time/money investments that will help you gain visibility.
A past corporate experience may not be indicative of what’s to be done as an entrepreneur. In a corporate environment, a decision you make may be a very small part of the whole business. In your business, a decision you make will affect or impact your business entirely. You may be in a dilemma to make some tough decisions, but do consider holistically.
Understand your limitation while you stretch yourself to unleash your potential.
Do not be pressured to conform, focus on what you need to do.
Prioritise life & work plans. There’s time for different activities, spend them wisely.
Sacrifice short term for a foreseeable long term gain.
What you have achieved today is for you to do better & greater things tomorrow. It’s not for you to admire your own achievements & take the back seat.
Do not change yourself so as to be part of The Herd/Clan. Instead, be yourself & attract those who are aligned with you & enjoy supporting & hanging around you.
Resolution for 2020
My resolution would be to:
Explore & grow the Asian markets for our HER Entrepreneur platform.
Help more businesses transform their brands & implement strategic marketing activities to meet their business objectives.
Connect with potential strategic partners in various markets to grow together.
Regain better health and fitness.
Time is limited, there’s no best time for everything.
Stars will never be aligned just like the traffic lights will not turn green at the same time. When the going gets tough, do remember that the plane flies against the wind, not with it.
Article written by Renee Tan, Founder, Rendeur, HER Entrepreneur