Meet Deborah. Founder of The Women’s Association, a social enterprise set up to help create a world where women believe they can be whoever they want to be. This is done by creating forums for conversation, bringing girls in education and professional women together to redefine stereotypes that have been imposed on women for decades. Deborah has worked with women for nearly 5 years, helping to navigate girls through education and into the workplace by providing information and access to the professional industry. This in turn gives the young women the ability to take control of their own life and dreams. Over the past five years Deborah has worked with over 2000 women from the ages of 16-35 – mentoring young ladies and working with schools across London.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I was in my final year of my first degree doing my dissertation on women in management positions. Admittedly I was quite naïve as I made the assumption that it was going to be a dissertation highlighting how far women have come and how amazing the growth has been, but I quickly found out that my assumptions were far from the truth. I began interviewing women in managerial positions to understand their take on the issue . One of the common trends from all the interviews of many of the women who had worked professionally for several years was that, if they knew, in their teems, what they know now, their journey could’ve been a lot smoother. So, hearing this I decided to do just that as part of a project called ‘Women in Leadership’. With this project I worked with schools and colleges, inviting female professionals to come in and share their stories with the young ladies, giving them a practical but inspirational idea on what it is like to work across a number of industries as a woman.
Who has been your stand out business mentor?
My stand out business mentor is Fiona Clutterbuck – Chairwoman of Paragon Bank!
What advice would you give to a promising entrepreneur?
Understand why you want to create a business because in the toughest moments, when everything isn’t going to plan, or when you plan an event for 100 people and only 10 people turn up on the day, understanding why you started will keep you going. Running a business seems cool to say and sounds fun but there are hard times, especially if you start something without cash injection, make sure your belief in what you are starting is strong.
How would you define your leadership style?
My leadership style is mostly, laid back but to the point.
How can businesswomen support other businesswomen?
By investing time and money (where necessary) to engage in other women’s businesses. Put collaboration above competition and appreciate that the more women that are pioneering and leading, the better, especially when it comes to the next generation and their perceptions on who they can be and what they can do.
“Failure is part of becoming successful” – what has been your most memorable failure and what did you learn from it?
I planned an event in partnership with a large bank and had 20 girls set to come to an intimate event with some of their female leaders and everyone, but 1 person cancelled on the day. This could’ve been down to the really bad weather or the fact that it was around exam time. Events generally can be a bit risky, especially when it’s free, so what I learnt was that events for students should be within a certain time period and for events with large corporates I should charge a fee even if it’s refundable because they paid for food which was wasted and doesn’t look great for my business that no one turned up in the end.
What three things do you absolutely need to help you through your toughest work days?
- Conversations with close friends/ family
- Food (lool)
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