ANNABEL KARMEL ADVICE FOR WOMEN
WOMEN ARE a match for any man. We can put our hand to anything, absolutely anything, with the right mix of passion, determination and self-belief.
These were my words at the Cheltenham Literary Festival last week where I spoke about my new book
Mumpreneur and how women can better succeed in business. The key, I said, is not to mimic how a man might deal with things, but to show your emotions and sensitivities as these are powerful attributes. Don’t be seduced into thinking and behaving like a man as that’s not how we’re built.
Be yourself and believe in yourself, that was my message. The more we believe in ourselves, the more chance we have of succeeding in our goals. And don’t let being knocked back or criticised — like I’ve been over this past week — dull your ambitions. The way that some of my advice was misinterpreted was incredibly hurtful. But I’ve dealt with it. You have to as a role model for the modern female entrepreneur.
Another point that the Cheltenham cynics misconstrued is: choose your path wisely. Not because women can’t take on men at their own game but because a career lasts a lifetime and you have to do what you enjoy.
The press had a field day when I spoke about dissuading my 25-yearold daughter from going into city trading as my 26-year-old son has done. What they failed to report was that I warned her off because I know her personality and I know she wouldn’t thrive in such an environment. Not because she is female. If my son had possessed the same personality traits, I would have warned him off too.
OK, so we might not yet have achieved complete parity but women have proved themselves as adept as men at most things; we will succeed by being women — not by pretending to be men and so winning according to the rules they set.
Utilising our instincts for what families want and need, being able to solve problems by thinking in more lateral and creative ways, working twice as hard because we know that’s what it takes to get to the top of a very crowded, sharplysuited tree. But we’ve got to get there on our own terms.
I’m the first to concede that it can be hard getting to the top, or even running your own business as a woman. I’ve had stand-offs with suppliers and knock-backs from retailers and plenty of failures. But it’s a myth to say women can’t cope with failure. We simply react to it in a different way — often with more emotion and passion. But that’s an asset, not a fault. And it is emotion that pushes us to face our failures and learn from them.
The publishing world was a male-dominated industry back in the 1980s and I faced 15 rejections from publishers for my Complete Baby and Toddler Meal Planner. But I battled on until a book packager saw my vision and took me on. I felt emotionally battered and bruised but signing on that dotted line was a euphoric moment.
Being told by a room full of sharply-suited businessmen that my idea for chilled toddler meals would never catch on was a blow, too. But the negative whispers only made me more determined, resulting in a 10-strong range now thriv- ing in major retailers. I might be sensitive, but I’m strong.
Succeeding in business doesn’t come without hard graft. But I’ve never really known anything different. When I was a child, my mother had to become the major breadwinner when my father lost his business making shoe soles. After 10 years of being a housewife, she reverted to her pre-baby career as an architect.
I remember her working incredibly long hours to put food on the table. It was hard but it was something she was passionate about.
Being raised by a strong mother, it never occurred to me I couldn’t do what a man does. And let’s look around us — some of the UK’s most successful businesses have been set up by women — Chrissie Rucker of The White Company, Chloe Macintosh of MADE.com, and so forth.
In fact, I’ve spent months interviewing a host of leading businesswomen (many self-made without any formal business qualifications) for Mumpreneur, and here are some of the key pieces of advice for getting ahead.
Firstly, confidence is just as important as competence. The more you believe in yourself and in your chances of succeeding, the more likely you are to do just that.
Second, put those transferable skills into action. Women are hardwired to be masters of multitasking. And, let’s face it, appeasing an insistent baby or toddler on the verge of meltdown requires patience, diplomacy and creativity of the highest order. Troubleshooting is our forte.
An important one: don’t succumb to guilt. Children know they have an amazing ability to pull on your heart-strings. Feeling guilty is a waste of energy and mental capacity.
Next, embrace failure. If you seldom fail, there is a good chance you’re playing too safe. It’s how you deal and learn from failure that matters.
The opposite of success isn’t failure, it is not trying.
Finally, don’t give up. Apple’s Steve Jobs said; “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
NO. 1 JEWISH NEWSPAPER
Inspiring: Annabel Karmel is now a mentor for young mothers