Mamatribe turns 2 on International Women's Day 2019
At the start of March, I was invited to share my business story at the Mamatribe second birthday celebration meet up at the Shop, Drink, Do Cafe in London. Falling on International Women's Day I didn't want it to be all about me and the business, but more about what I've learned to date and to give an honest overview of my business in the hope it helped others feel they are doing just fine.
With the constant barrage of social media and curated feeds, it's easy to feel like you're missing something, that everyone else is soaring whilst you're flapping madly to gain altitude. Even with all the #honestfaceof tags out there where influencers share the downs, the fails and the struggles, when you see their bad days getting hundreds, sometimes thousands of likes, it can just add to overwhelm and sinking feeling.
That's definitely how I feel a LOT. And when sales are slow, sometimes non-existent, it's hard to put your best insta-face forward and keep ploughing on, especially if you are a one person business.
So when Danni invited me to speak, it actually presented me with a great opportunity to look back and reflect on the past 24 months with an honest lens. When I started in earnest in March 2018 (I sort of wrote off the first year due to moving countries and literally just getting products off the ground) I was a bit of a gibbering mess. Talking to new people, sharing my business and my products made me feel physically sick. Speaking to one stranger let alone a room full left me physically shaking so much you could hear it in my voice and see it in my hands. After a particularly big meltdown one day, I was ready to give up. But after a grand old pep-talk from my husband we decided that I just had to try lots of things to see what would work for me.
So I took a deep breath and repeating my new mantra 'the worst that can happen is I don't like it and never have to go back' I set out to 'say yes' to as many things as I could. Events, meet ups, networking, awards and showcases. If it vaguely fit what I was doing I was there. Got an invite, I RSVP'd deffo. And so the year went on.
If I really scrutinise what went down in 2018, then amazing things happened. Slowly I learned how to talk about my business to strangers. How to turn up to stuff and not feel as nervous, to actually believe in myself as much as I do my products. To understand what it means to have the right mindset and use it to your advantage and not to mention understanding how important other people are in this journey of mine.
The year panned out pretty nicely as it happens. Saying yes led me from crying in the toilets at Social Media Week for feeling so out of my depth, to pitching on stage at the Festival of Female Entrepreneurs to win Female Startup of the Year 2018.
But you know what, for all that success, I don't sell very much at the moment. I don't make a salary or anywhere near a living. I freelance on the side to earn some extra cash whilst also caring for our little boy whilst my husband is the breadwinner working stupid hours to keep a roof over our heads. Some days I still want to jack it in and just can't fathom how to drive more sales. And I still have a phone-phobia and hate picking up to call someone to find more retail opportunities. Selling is not my forte.
I'm pretty sure if I'd asked every person in that room they'd have similar stories, similar lives to some degree, depending on how long their business has been going. And that's OK. What's more, it's important to know that no one is alone in this. What ever your challenge or feeling of failure is, its probably the same as the person sat next to you, and although there's no right formula for success, you have to make it your own way, there are lots of cross overs and similarities in the paths well trodden.
So after sharing my highs and lows and my tactics for 'faking it 'til I make it' I wanted to sum up a few points that my fellow mama's might take with them that day.
1. Don't measure success purely on the numbers. It's mega important to balance the books, be honest with yourself about viability and future growth but it's not the be all and end all. If I only looked at the numbers I would have quit months ago. Celebrate all the wins, no matter how big or small and make sure you value all the other ways your business success can be measured. Whether its an award, a pitch, a speaking event, more likes, more engagement or even just keeping on going. Value it all and look at success as a big picture. For me, the things I won in 2018 validated my business to me, it made me feel that I had something real, not just a hobby or a side gig.
2. Find your people, community is everything. Like-minded folk who you can share your ups and downs with, tap into for tips and support and can lift you up on those darker days. Plus being able to support others will also show you how far you've come and how much knowledge and expertise you have to share. Personally nothing makes me feel better than when something I've tried can also help a fellow business woman. And it's ok to have different communities for different things. I have groups I go to for advice, ones who cheer me up, ones who allow me to breathe and just take a step back and ones where I can freely rant!
3. Just try saying yes. Swallow the fears and the nerves and just try lots and lots of things and see what sticks. It's amazing that the more you raise your hand, the more great things happen. You become someone who can be relied on for showing up and giving things a go and you'll be amazed at how many more opportunities will come your way with that positive, yes please hat on.
Phew, so that was a long post and if you're still with me, I salute you! I was worried when I said yes to speaking on 8th March that I wouldn't have anything to say, but as it turns out I have tons to say and you can't get me to stop! Reflection is a fantastic exercise in acknowledging how far you have come on a personal and professional journey. That day I was surrounded by inspiring, interesting and amazing women all doing their own thing and working incredibly hard at it.
Women especially aren't that great at celebrating their achievements and successes, telling themselves and others how bloomin' amazing they are.
I wouldn't say I am any different, in that I can't admit I'm all that great. But I would go as far to say I am doing all right. In the grand scheme of things I've packed a lot into those 2 years and I am proud of how I have grown and pushed myself way out of my comfort zone.
So, Mamatribe, thanks for having me. Who knew it would be such an eye opening exercise!
Pictured left to right: Danni McCabe, Founder Mamatribe, Natalia Sanders, Founder Clear Desk VA, Maxine Kerley Founder Digital Bon Bons, Ruth Bradford (me!) Founder The Little Black & White Book Project
Learn more about how Mamatribe supports women in business and discover some amazing small brands and services at www.mamatribe.uk