It has been a curvy road of experiences and self-discovery to get me to where I am today, a young entrepreneur running the business I always dreamed of, supporting the sustainable development of an Indigenous community and keeping an ancient art-form alive. Doing business with ‘meaning’ and ‘heart’ is an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience, it is also absolutely achievable for anyone wanting to go this way. Here are some lessons I have learned that I believe are transferable to any women wanting to turn their passions at hbusiness commeart into a reality.
1. Find your source of meaning and heart
Establishing a business where you can meet a cause close to your heart is incredibly fulfilling. To reach that point it is important to take the time to explore yourself, learn about what you love and what your strengths are. Essentially through a project you can call your own, you will be solving a problem or filling gap that you identified as empty.
For a lot of women, including myself, life and professional experiences are often the recipe that allows us to get to know ourselves and learn about what we love, and don’t love. The length of this exploration phase differs from person to person, and it more than likely will require a variety of experiences, from studying, to unpaid and paid roles, sometimes working in industries that might seem complete irrelevant at first. However, the skills you pick up along the way together with the ability to test your values and what you find as fulfilling or unfulfilling work is vital to give you a really good idea of what path you want to take.
2. Take your time to bring your business idea to life
Once you have placed your heart on a specific idea or project, it is extremely valuable to take the time to research this idea and develop it further to achieve consistency and congruency. Prepare yourself, research the industry and find similar businesses that can serve as sources of inspiration that help you in this process. Draw a big map of your personal vision and the great goals you want to achieve that are close to your heart.
This preliminary stage is crucial to help you solidify your story about the great work you will do or are doing through your business. Your story will need to be reflected at all points in the life of your business, from your trading name, to your logo, website…etc. It is therefore really important to take the necessary time to help your idea become a consistent reality.
3. Be ethical in your business
Placing your own meaning and heart into your business requires a level of responsibility and accountability. For business models working in the international development space or working for social causes, consultation and relationship building are crucial elements for your business to be truly ethical. It is really important to be aware of our own privilege and position of power; as everyone involved should be fairly benefited.
The golden ingredient to a thriving ethical business is respect and honest communication with the subjects it wishes to ‘support’. An ethical business should therefore promote self-sufficiency not dependency to the groups it supports directly or indirectly; and as much as possible give them means of participation or say in the trading process. When working with culturally diverse communities it is also important to be respectful and not misuse or appropriate cultural value for the agenda of our business.
Remember there are people and organisations out there watching who will ensure you are accountable to your statements, particularly about supporting aid and social causes.
4. Learn from the powerful women around you
Take the opportunity to connect with other inspiring women. We are stronger together than we are apart! As women in business we can understand the sacrifices we all make to be able to run our own projects, and the challenges that come with this. Women in business have a huge space of common ground that needs to be cherished.
Nurture a network of sisterhood around you. It is immensely helpful to approach other women and share ideas and if possible collaborate in some projects with them. You may choose to start from the women who are closer to you; your mother, sister, friend, and ask them about their motivations and resilience. Search a woman who inspires you on Linkedin and invite them out for a coffee. Research some local support groups for women in business and expand your network.
5. Trust the process
Establishing your own business is definitely a huge leap of faith. Although It can be incredibly gratifying when the results speak for themselves, it is a road of work and dedication. It is therefore important to trust the process; as long as you stay focused and remember the meaning that this business has for you, the rest will follow.
The meaning and heart of your business will always be the source of energy to get you going through the good and challenging times. Remember why you do what you do, and continue your journey. It is all learning. Don’t measure your success only on monetary gain, particularly in the early days. Getting our business known and connecting with others is just as important to ensure a longevity in your business.
Understanding and applying these 5 steps will truly get you well on your way of reaching business with meaning and heart. These are by no means the only ways to achieve a fulfilling business close to your heart. These are lessons I have learned along my journey that I want to share with all the entrepreneurial women working to achieve their autonomy and write their own stories.