ME ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BUSINESS. WHAT ARE YOU DOING EXACTLY?
I run an online lifestyle magazine for people living with chronic illness or disability called Uncomfortable Revolution It’s quirky and humorous and we don’t focus on medical advice. Instead, we focus on the social/emotional aspects of living with illness or disability. For example, you’re more likely to see an article on how to tell your Tinder date you wear a colostomy bag, or what sex is like with chronic pain. Our current project is a Kickstarter campaign for a quirky book of illustrations that bring a fresh take on how to talk about cancer.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BUSINESS IDEA?
I live with depression and my husband has leukaemia. So together, we both struggle with shifting between caregiver and “patient”, which is hard. On top of that, we laughed and sometimes got irritated at the insensitive things people would say to us – especially people at work. We figured there must be good resources out there on the awkward conversations that come up around chronic illness or disability. What we found though, is that there are lots of great websites/platforms that give clinical information, but there were few spaces out there where people could just relax and be open about these seemingly awkward things that affect their bodies. We felt like people shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of the differences in their bodies, as it is natural.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE THIS, AND IS THIS YOUR FIRST BUSINESS?
I’d been working at the United Nations Refugee Agency in Geneva, Switzerland. There I worked primarily on strategies to communicate and engage with staff, refugees, and partners on innovating the many ways we protect and assist refugees. It was a wonderful experience in many ways, but I also learned very quickly that it wasn’t the work culture or environment for me and that I really needed to “go it alone”. So I quit my job, did a one-year MBA at MIT and then started my first business in May of this year, one month before graduation.
WHAT SPECIFIC ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG WOMEN WHO WOULD LIKE TO BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR?
I’d say go for something you know, something you’re good at and allows you to be you. I struggled with this a lot. My undergraduate degree is in Music, and I’d worked as a musician and artist for many years. But I’d had other ideas about the types of businesses I wanted to run. While these were great business ideas, it took me a while to realize that I couldn’t build anything I didn’t have any skills or knowledge about. What I like about my business is it incorporates all sides of me, and liberated the artist I’d hidden away for years.
MY GREATEST OBSTACLE AND HOW I DEALT WITH IT:
I think I’m my biggest obstacle, for many reasons. I do have the mind of an artist, which doesn’t always make for a good CEO. I’m still working on it. The one thing that turned things around for me was the decision to no longer fight my natural tendencies but to swim with the current and make it work.
MY PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT:
Having the guts to leave what (for many) is a prestigious job at the UN with a great salary in order to stick to my values.
HOW I BLEND LIFE AND WORK TO CREATE THE LIFE I WANT:
Luckily, because we run an online magazine, we have the freedom to work from wherever we want once there is good wifi. So we’ve settled in Barcelona, where we work from home on a schedule that works for us. Of course, there are always deadlines, but I get to work with my own body clock and take downtime when I need it without seeking permission. We take trips and bring our work with us as well. So when we do take days off, we’re in another location and can go exploring. We have more time for ourselves, our friends, our families.
I AM INSPIRED BY:
Right now, I’m inspired by the city I live in. A walk in Barcelona is filled with the most amazing visuals, sounds, tastes. There is always some small moment to keep me inspired. I’m really aesthetically minded; I love beauty, things that look nice. Living here is like a feast of the mind for me.
WHY I CHOSE THIS CAREER:
I have all these sides to me, that for years felt incongruous. It didn’t make sense to me that I had a bachelors degree in Music, but I was working in refugee camps around the world looking at innovation. Before that, I was a Marketing Director. It didn’t make sense that I had all this design capability but somehow spent a huge chunk of change on an MBA. This career lets all those sides live and work in balance. I find myself using all my diverse skill sets now, especially the ones I enjoy doing and could do for hours without taking a break.
HOW I PREPARE FOR SUCCESS:
I first define it, very specifically. I feel like, for a long time, I chased a very nebulous idea of “success”. It was and still is, a destination everyone is trying to get to, but it’s not the same place for everyone. And few of us really spend the time thinking about what it really looks like. If you don’t know what it looks like, how will you know when you get there? So, for me, preparing for success starts with defining it, and knowing what it looks like. That way, I know what I need for the journey towards that very specific destination I’ve created in my mind.
DID YOU WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN? WAS IT AN EFFECTIVE TOOL FOR YOU?
Not really. I used a couple tools and frameworks from my lecturers at MIT Sloan School of Management, but in terms of a formal business plan, definitely not.
ARE THERE SPECIFIC ADVANTAGES, DISADVANTAGES TO BEING A WOMEN BUSINESS OWNER?
I suppose there would be as there are in life 🙂 Having my husband as a business partner, I definitely see the difference in how he’s treated versus me, even though I’m the CEO. As a man, he definitely receives more “trust” in his capabilities compared to me. It also doesn’t help that I’m physically small and look much younger than I really am. I do feel like now, because gender parity in the corporate world is such a huge point of discourse, that being a woman business owner carries some advantages. There are investors looking for women-owned businesses, exclusive funding opportunities and resources for women business owners etc.
MY FAVOURITE BUSINESS TOOL IS…
Livescribe. They make an amazing pen and paper that feel and work just like a standard notebook, except everything is digested and synced to your phone. I love writing in a notebook during meetings while waiting…anywhere. But I lose notebooks, and there’s the inconvenience of having to keep all your notebooks as the years go by. I love the Livescribe because it gives me the paper and pen world I love so much but also the convenience of digital notes and archives of my notes.
THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE I HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN IS…
Don’t take yourself too seriously.