The second installment of Bonded saw the first public UK screening of Dream Girl – an inspiring documentary based on female entrepreneurs. Traditionally corporations have championed males at the top of its organizational structure, but as the female economy rises and their role in and out of business continues to grow – it’s time to broaden the discussion of women in business. The panel brought together Sharmadean Reid, founder of Wah Nails and Pip Black, co-founder of Frame to discuss where we are as the leading females of today and tomorrow.
Drawing on their personal experiences, we sought to challenge some of the issues successful women face while celebrating their achievements. Sharmadean Reid lives and works in London and is a creative consultant and founder of WAH Nails and Pip Black is the co-founder of FRAME, unique fitness and health brands with studios located across London.
In the US it is said females hold 85% of the purchasing power and have 80% of the buying power here in the UK. From a period of growth, from 2005 starting as WAH fanzine and to present day in 2016 where WAH Nails is an international brand within the beauty sector, I asked Sharmadean Reid when she realised the potential to expand the brand and what made her decide to branch out? Sharmadean surprisingly says she “didn’t have a plan for WAH at all…” but continues “there’s like this niggling thing that if only that existed, the world would be a better place and I’m the only person who can possibly do it.”
When it comes to the question of Female empowerment, I asked how Sharmadean saw herself when looking at Wah as a business, “This could be my economic empowerment. I don’t think there is a thing such as female or male empowerment, economic empowerment is the only thing that matters…. If you have the power of money to do the thing you really wanna do that is really true power and that’s not to say I am going to buy more handbags and shoes, what I choose to do with my money is only decided by me.”
Connecting with female buyers in comparison to other brands in the same sector comes down to one thing, personal experience of raving and knowing that “hip hop girls love getting their nails done”
Hip hop girls love getting their nails done – Sharmadean Reid
Connecting with women as the face of the brand, Sharmadean found the reason came about because “I seem pretty normal and that’s an easy connection.” what makes that connection works is “You want to be aspirational but still accessible and because I am from Wolverhampton I will never forget that…that’s a massive difference to people born and bred in London or New York, because you’re actually quite spoiled and take it for granted that whatever you think your big idea is, if my 16 year old sister in Wolverhampton doesn’t know what your product is, it ain’t big. I think the first time I saw a WAH design in a Vietnamese nail board in Wolverhampton I knew I made it….Accessibility and aspiration is important for women because you don’t want to be too lofty…my background in fashion and clubbing like raving our graphics are completely different.”
Seeking funding as female entrepreneurs may seem daunting when looking at the figures where only 2.7% of companies that receive venture capital have a women CEO. What it comes down to funding, in the end it’s all about knowing your business, Pip explains “Every hour of every evening after our days jobs, we were writing a business plan so when we went to the bank even though we were young women (girls) we actually did have something to back up what we were thinking that showed we thought through every scenario how much money we would bring, what our costs were and show it is viable business.” When it came to sitting across the table from men, Pip didn’t see the disadvantages, “I don’t actually think being a female is necessarily a negative and sometimes it can help you when you are dealing with a lot middle aged men because you can flirt and you can kind of get a little bit more than potentially what somebody else in that same situation…”
Never underestimate actually knowing all your figures – Pip Black
A lot of the brands aimed at females are managed by men, I asked how this impacts the female economy and if there’s a disconnect because of this. Sharmadean responds acutely by saying, “I’ve always found it weird when men are telling me what 16 year old girls want when they’ve never been a 16 year old girl before…those industries you’ve mentioned in particular (fashion, health, beauty) they are extremely emotional industries and complex industries…you’re buying out of fear like you don’t want to be excluded or left out, you’re buying because of emotion or social aspects.” Ultimately it comes right back down to basics when it comes to women’s lifestyle needs, “This is like my main mission in life if you are consuming the product you should be building it, the same way I got my nails done every week if I am consuming it why don’t I own it.”
Both Sharmadean and Pip tapped into the future female economy successfully and I ask what we can do over the next 5 years to encourage the growth of the female economy? Sharmadean points out, “It’s less about looking at the back industries and dinosaurs like a Topshop for instance when we could be looking at the next future thing that is ever-lasting without the overheads. Social media is such a massive part of the next millennial trend…instead of just taking the picture, figure out how it was constructed.”
I try not to dwell on the past, I try to think what is it I can do right now to help the future – Sharmadean Reid
When it came to the fitness industry, Pip found something was missing, “In our industry it is very obvious which gyms and studio are run by men the messaging does tend to be more aggressive, tends to use more body imagery, half naked women or a six-pack, whereas our mission has always been to take it away from that. To make it about what is going on in your mind and making you feel better.”
Juggling your own business and motherhood, has it’s challenges especially when it comes to finding time to dedicate to yourself and finding a balance. “Frame was put on Earth to make sure keeping fit and healthy never feels like a chore.” There is this difficulty especially amongst females to dedicate time to self-care whether that be relaxation or fitness, I asked if it’s been difficult to create a work/life balance and how Pip takes time out for self-care? “It took me until the point where I had my son who is now 2 years old… I was working 20 hour days but also going out and partying and then not sleeping and then working those days because I didn’t want to miss out of that part of my life. I was teaching 4/5 classes and putting my body through hell at the same time. Having a son made me actually start thinking about this…”
Sharmadean as a young mother found that self-care matters most, “Looking after yourself is important because you have to think of yourself like an army general and if you can’t have the physical energy or the mental clarity to lead your troops into battle you’re going to lose.” Self care needs need to be scheduled as Sharmadean continued, “For me my treat is nature, like going to the park…make a calendar of things that bring me pleasure like facetiming my cousin because she makes me laugh…going to cinema by myself in Southbank and I just plot them in like they’re meetings…so I know I’m going to get the mental well-being.”
When it comes to starting businesses…you should know your shit! – Sharmadean Reid
Business modelling is a key aspect of thinking ahead and looking for the opportunities, Sharmadean made an important observation, “Business modelling is something people completely ignore… ultimately how are you going to make money?…having a vision is one thing… that vision can be executed in several different iterations.”
So I asked what changes can we make in order to promote a more positive mind-set and encourage female confidence in business? Sharmadean as the solo founder of Wah Nails, “Found it very lonely, I go through waves of doubt but then I really know what I want to achieve so how can I get it wrong?” Letting feelings flow is empowering in itself, as Sharmadean continues “Self-doubt I embrace it sometimes…I don’t think there is anything wrong in wallowing, I wallow a lot actually, if I’m feeling emotional I don’t fight it I just accept the emotion and work through it in my mind and if I’m so depressed today I just text my COO and say I am too sad to come in today…”
Let it absorb and not be like I’m going to try and be superwoman and face the day that’s not going to help, every type of feeling you have is a reaction to something – Sharmadean Reid
Pip believes the environment is key to emotional health, “Surround yourself with positive people whether that’s your staff, or whether that’s you friend’s or family or if you have a mentor…surrounding yourself with different people who are going to give you different things.
Statistics show women implement vulnerable, caring and thought in business processes. Frame aims to have fun environments for its users, I ask Pip if she felt there was room for vulnerability in business? Pip responds, “it’s quite a negative word in a way you can be out of your depth or in a position you don’t feel comfortable with but I would never class that as vulnerable because that’s just saying you’re a bit weak and unable to deal with it…”
Taking into account the subject of vulnerability in the film, Sharmadean commented about how the word made her wince, “Vulnerability I just don’t understand it because why on earth would I put myself up to be broken through…growing up on a council estate in Wolverhampton, one of four kids is going to make you not that wishy-washy emo…I don’t see why I would ever want to put myself in a postion where I don’t feel like I can own or control a situation.”
Closing the Q&A I asked Pip, how she saw the future for female entrepreneurs and what one piece of advice she would give women from her own experience? Pip was upbeat, “I think the future’s really bright there are so many exciting things going on right now. Things like today… we as female entrepreneurs need to get behind these kind of initiatives offering ourselves up as mentors. A lot of youngsters that probably need to be advised they do need to work when they’re older not just putting pictures up on social media…if it continues as it has been going the future for women is extremely bright..it will be interesting to see different types of women up at the top.”
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