It’s 7.40 in the morning of International Women’s Day and I am on an express Virgin train heading north to Wolverhampton. Flip me the 5.45 wakeup call was a bit of a shock and even the fur-babies were confused as to why I was awake while it was still dark! What also came as a bit of a shock was that although it’s very speedy, this train is incredible ‘leany’ – is that a word?! Either way I am feeling a teeny bit queasy, despite my spur-of the minute choice to upgrade to First Class – thank you MoD rail card! The No.2 perk of marrying a pilot after the uniform!
So, I am off to Wolverhampton for a Supporting the Unsung Hero refresher day for past delegates.
The Supporting the Unsung Hero Business Start-Up Course is a yearlong business programme for military dependants, spouses and veterans who would like to start their own business. Made possible through LIBOR funding and the hard work of the University of Wolverhampton and Forces Enterprise Network it provides the tools needed to start your own business and a wealth of support from a vast network of businesses run by the military community. With over 70% of these start-up businesses still running profitably in their 2nd year (the UK average is only 40%) the course has been a massive success and well received by both the military community and the MoD.
Past delegates had been invited for a day of sharing, networking and learning about the budget news! By 10am we were in full business mode, sharing our greatest wins and what we had learnt from our biggest business mistakes. We shared openly and honestly and I gained so many new tips and tricks from our new business buddies!
My five best take-aways from the day are…
Learning to say ‘no’ to the wrong type of client or deal
Attracting your star clients makes it not only easier to create products and services for them – it also means that you’re a happy business owner. When you work with like-minded people you can achieve so much more and be happier while you are doing it. You are allowed to say ‘no’ to clients when you feel that they aren’t a good fit for your business – how refreshing!
Moving on from the disappointment of a client saying ‘no’
On the other side of the spectrum is when a client says no to you and how to get over the heartbreak. I am reminded of a great quote from Mark on Day 2 of the business course back in 2012 that I have always kept in the front of my mind. Imagine that you’re a little girl again and you want an ice-cream before dinner. You ask your mum, she says ‘no’, Dad takes a little longer to think about it but his answer is also ‘no’, so you head to Grandpa, who gives you the ice-cream. As a little girl, you didn’t care about where the ice-cream was coming from, you weren’t disheartened by the ‘no’s’ and you didn’t give up, you just kept going. That’s how we should see business. Just, in the words of Elsa – ‘Let it go’.
Taking a leap of faith and upscaling isn’t as scary as it seems
All the delegates are at different stages of their business journey. Some had just finished the course and some of the ‘oldies’ like me were on the very first cohorts, but what was clear to see is how much we have grown and developed over the years. Back in 2012 I was almost afraid of my own shadow and even missed the last day of the course so I wouldn’t have to do the ‘elevator pitch’ – oh how that has changed! We were a room full of confident and approachable business women and we rocked! That scary business leap of faith has turned us into new and exciting women and although we are probably swanning (calm on the surface and paddling like crazy underneath) we have the courage to create amazing things.
You get FREE food and drink in First-Class on Virgin trains! Who knew! ….moving swiftly on…
Having a strong community of business owners just like you is the greatest asset you can have.
It’s a lonely life as a female entrepreneur; add that to the role of ‘military wife’ and you’ve got yourself one challenging life! I have always known that the SUH course had an amazing online community but now that I have met a few more of us in ‘real’ life I have a new realisation that I am not alone, that there is a whole group of other military ‘dependants’ also on this crazy road and that they are pretty ace! I have a support network who understand me and are happy to help me.
Yes, Wolverhampton is a long way to go for the day, especially on the queazy ‘leany’ train from Euston but I have gained so much and look forward to many more refresher days.
If you are a military ‘dependant’, veteran, spouse or all of the above and are considering starting your own business I couldn’t recommend the SUH course more. Thank you to the University, FEN and the mentors for a wonderful thing.
And to the lovely women that made my International Women’s Day so fab, in the (slightly amended) words of Marianne Williamson. When we let our own light shine we give other women permission to do the same. Shine Bright. Shine Brilliantly.