01 Dec Business lessons learned in 2021
As the year slowly draws to a close, we turn to members of our SHE community to reflect on lessons learned in the hope that we can inspire others to learn from our collective experiences.
1. On accepting help ..
Sarah Borg Barthet – Founder at Dukes Avenue
2021 has been a year of so many business lessons that I don’t even know where to start. The biggest and most prevalent of those lessons has been to accept help where it is available – accept help wherever you can get it.
Friends and family are a great place to start, but what’s even better is to take advantage of the help offered to businesses by way of schemes and grants available, both from the government and EU funding.
This year, I have been able to grow my team thanks to JobsPlus schemes and, most recently, was approved for a Malta Enterprise grant. My employees have had a hugely positive impact on the business overall, and I’m excited to see where things go next year with the help of Malta Enterprise funding.
All it took was a little perseverance and a lot of research, and between my husband and I alone, we were able to make things happen. I would encourage anyone who wants to grow their business to look into the funding and grants available to them – you don’t need to have an overly complicated business plan or hire expensive service providers to help, just a vision, pro-activeness and faith in your business.
2. On perseverance ..
Vanessa Grech – Founder at The Minimal Stories
I packed up my desk and quit my career as an accountant in December 2020 to launch my business just three months later. The very act of taking this unsteady leap taught me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because discomfort is the path to growth. In turn, growth leads to happiness. As scary as it is, when diving into something new, your brain will reward you with endorphins and a few other happiness hormones – no matter the outcome. You’ll get this once you experience it, and I’ll guarantee you’ll never go back.
Right from the get-go, I’ve also learnt to expect the unexpected. Plans might not work out as anticipated, and things go wrong. I’ve learnt to plan yet remain flexible and keep on pushing forward through difficult times.
Lastly, I’ve realised that forming part of a community is a necessity rather than a luxury. It’s not only an effective way of increasing brand awareness and growing your business, but thanks to SHE, I also get to constantly be inspired by and connect with incredible, like-minded women.
Although becoming a business owner has by no means been easy, I couldn’t be happier with my decision. Seeing the joy that my creations bring to people’s lives is extremely rewarding and keeps me going every single day. This is just the beginning, and I’m so excited to keep on growing as a person and business owner.
3. On feeling the fear and doing it anyway …
Karyn Bonett – founder at Your Nutritional Journey
Starting a business on your own can be very daunting, but with each fear you face and overcome, you gain confidence and growth.
I officially launched my business in early 2021. There were lots of times when I was out of my depth and had to learn new skills and open myself to new experiences. This was exciting, but also very frightening to me. Things got easier as I got the hang of it and some experiences boosted my confidence.
Stepping out of my comfort zone was a big thing for me in 2021. I have always been petrified of public speaking (still am), but two opportunities came about where I had to speak to a small audience. The days/months that led to these events, were filled with anxiety and fear of failing. The fear grew as the days approached. The feeling of accomplishment following these events was so fulfilling. Overcoming my fear of failure helped me gain more confidence, but it also made me grow.
I have learnt the importance of not avoiding or missing out on opportunities, however much we fear them, as these are the occasions that make us grow and learn and which sometimes also open up new opportunities.
2021 also brought some major disappointments, but although it was hard to move forward sometimes, it is very important to move on and to learn from such experiences. The universe has ways of making things right and I feel very blessed and lucky to have friends who reached out to offer their help when, unknown to them, I was almost giving up. Learning and growth are part of living, without them we remain stagnant.
“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly” – Erin Hanson
4. On purpose and positivity …
Alison Gauci – Founder at Music by Ali
Music has been with me from as long as I can remember. Dad played Johnny Cash, The Beatles, Queen and when I turned 7 I was taken to my first music lesson. Years rolled by and I was always keen to teach piano to my siblings, which always ended up in arguments! However I persisted and flew out to the UK to get Certified as a Music Teacher by ABRSM, following a course with the late Mark Ray.
I never looked back. Music lessons kept me engaged during my college years, served as a good break from my various jobs and always gave me a dose of positivity in hard times.
It’s been my saving grace during the past couple of years. There was not much work, no events to organise, very low marketing budgets but music kept me going. I taught virtually for a while and then as soon as I could get my students back to my studio, it was very satisfying and rewarding for all of us.
Music by Ali gave me purpose and a sense of belonging. The happy students’ faces are the motivation I needed to get to where I am today, despite the numerous challenges.
Thank you SHE for being an additional backbone to Music by Ali in so many ways. Having the opportunity to mingle with other women entrepreneurs and hustlers has also been an immense support. Keep going!
5. On adaptability and creativity ..
Donna Cardona – Founder at My Mama
For the MyMama team adaptability was key to navigate the 2021 uncertainty – we learned (of course, the hard way) how having a plan B and plan C made our clients trust us and remain loyal. As we braved a partial move to in-person courses and services, we continued to confirm that online is here to stay.
Parents and parents-to-be have so much on their plate with the added pandemic realities, which is why we had to become as flexible as they need us to be – so we delivered courses in person while live-streaming them, recorded live webinars for busy parents to watch on-demand, brought dedicated experts to their home, and focused on a personalised approach for pregnancy and parenthood education and support in a world where one-size-fits-all doesn’t always cut it.
Perhaps our plans for MyMama took a different approach than originally planned for our first year in business, yet as an entrepreneur I’m grateful for the baptism of fire that 2021 has been, and for giving me the confidence to tap into my creativity to tweak and perfect our services so that they deliver what we set out to do – being an easy-to-access point of reference for growing families.
6. On balancing tact and seizing opportunity …
Sarah Abela Porsella Flores – Brand Manager at Bump & Me
New year, new job! And what a leap of faith it was, leaving my legal background behind and delving into a whole new world – brand managing an online local family concept store, Bump & Me. And may I add, I couldn’t be happier!
It is of no surprise that many, many lessons were learnt over the past months. However, those which struck a chord most were undoubtedly perseverance and finding the right balance between taking the plunge and treading with insight and caution.
One of the first major jobs I undertook in my new role as brand manager was putting together a corporate presentation to sell ourselves to potential major foreign suppliers. The task seemed terribly daunting at first but there was no option other than to roll up my sleeves and make the most of it. And that is just what I did! I must say I was very pleased with the result, perseverance is key.
Although I risk sounding cliché, yes, not all that glitters is gold. At times it is very easy to simply jump at what seems to be a tantalising opportunity, only to realise that it is not anything close to what you made it out to be in the beginning. Hence the need to strike a balance between acting with tact and grabbing the opportunity. Absolutely no regrets, simply an invaluable lesson learnt!
7. On the power of community ..
Charlene Cassar – Co-Founder at OMG Food Malta
2021 has been quite an interesting year for us at OMGFoodMalta. Being a small team of two on such a project is always a challenge and this year was no different. Through OMGFoodMalta, we look into the food scene in Malta by promoting great places on our social media pages (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest) and through our website where we publish reviews, articles and recipes. We also take care of social media pages for some of our clients.
After a very enjoyable but overwhelming 2020, we approached 2021 very differently.
We accepted that we needed to be around like-minded people and reach out to communities of entrepreneurs. Personally, not only did it help me reach out when I felt I needed help, but it also helped me learn from other people’s mistakes, experiences, and ideas. We were able to exchange tips of the trade thus helping us figure out new ways of approaching challenges whilst making very valuable connections. You never know, that new connection might become a valuable contact for your business!
The best part is that we all help each other grow within our communities, feel emotionally invested in each other’s success and share our business skills.
8. On leading from the heart, teamwork and self-care …
Cher Engerer – Founder at Polaris Consultancy
I’ve learnt that it’s OK to lead from the heart. I relate to my employees and team as if they are family. I feel a genuine love and care for them, and all my business manuals and coaches have told me it’s a big no no… But I don’t know any other way and I like the relatedness we create together. The synergy is beautiful, and so much more worthwhile than having a regiment of employees who only cooperate out of fear, intimidation or subjugation. I want my team to feel equal to me, and work with me not for me.
I’ve learnt the true value of teamwork. During Covid lockdown, when I was paralysed in bed with depressive thoughts that the business was doomed, the team came together and I realised I was not alone. I became aware that the business was not a building: our factory – but we were a real team; a family.
In the meantime, these last few months have been about self- care. It’s been a huge uphill climb. I’m tired and some days I lose hope and motivation, but I know I’ve created something worthwhile and I’ll keep trudging on. With my amazing business partner by my side, I need to now figure out how to keep our clients happy, our employees content, whilst still caring for ourselves.