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Female Founders: Vanessa Bird On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

You can succeed at this. Taking that first step is so difficult. It’s exhausting thinking of all the ‘worst case scenarios’ and ‘what ifs’, so much so they really do delay you making the leap and founding your own company. Believe you can succeed and focus on that. It took a lot of people giving me a much-needed pep talk to remind me that I can bring something to the table AND be successful.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing The Aesthetic Consultant®️ Vanessa Bird.

Vanessa understands the challenges faced by successful aesthetic practitioners , businesses and clinics and coaches them to succeed in a competitive market. Vanessa builds world-class Luxury Patient Experiences, dramatically increases revenue for her clients and enhances their positioning and reputation in the aesthetic medical arena. Visit www.theaestheticconsultant.co.uk to find out more.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I side-stepped from working in FMCG sales into capital equipment sales, specialising in selling non-surgical devices to doctors, surgeons and clinics wanting to perform anti-ageing aesthetic procedures. Working in this fast-moving sector was exciting and I absorbed everything I learned from others in industry, identifying the most effective ways to generate business, how best to create a luxury patient journey, ways to promote treatments and also how to teach clinic staff selling skills After 11 years success in aesthetic medicine sales I set up my own consultancy business 2 years ago specifically to help medical professionals build successful clinics, sharing my knowledge and experience with my clients to ensure they reach their full potential.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

There are so many interesting things that happened to me since I founded my company, however the stand-out one was the pandemic! I was 5 months into running my new business before it hit, closing down all my clients’ clinics and leaving me (and many others) with a stressful time ahead. Through one of my connections I was invited to be part of a weekly business webinar service, providing information free of charge to any of the people in our industry who had their clinics closed down. By working hard to come up with new content every week for months and sharing my information freely this opened up many doors. These included speaker opportunities at conferences when we reopened society, new business, referrals, magazine articles and collaborations. This interesting plot twist of a pandemic (!) has shaped my business in a way I could never have envisioned and for that I am grateful.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Pricing! I was used to selling something physical in the shape of capital equipment and when I started my consultancy business I offered my skills and services ‘for sale’ instead. I had no real idea how long a project may take, or how to price my time so I found myself working long hours for weeks for pennies! This was my own fault for not thinking through the timings and pricing but when I look back and think of the months of coaching I did for one particular client when now I would charge 7 times the amount I just have to laugh or I would cry. I learned the value of my time and expertise pretty quickly after that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

It would be unfair to name just one person as I have so much gratitude for so many people. Whether they guided me, offered support, gave pep talks when I was down or even made a throwaway comment that triggered a lightbulb moment, I am grateful to every single one of them. I’m lucky to work in an industry full of generous, supportive people.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

History, upbringing, education and society all play a role in holding back women from founding companies. Are we really encouraged in the way men are? Sadly not. Maybe there is no one factor that stands out but when you have history books filled with men who started companies, families who saw the father as the main breadwinner when the mother stayed at home to raise the family, a slightly biased education system that unconsciously encourages women to select more ‘female friendly’ subjects and a society that almost expects women to be the caring supportive role, is there any surprise when all these things combined result in less women even considering starting a company as an option? Has it even crossed their minds to do it?

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

Remove any limiting beliefs we may have that consciously or unconsciously pass down to women around us. Do we ask our male colleagues when they plan on starting a family or whether they have kids? Not in the same way we ask women we meet. Are we genuinely surprised if we meet a woman who runs a company compared to how we react when we meet a male company boss? Stop and check yourself and see how many beliefs and expectations you hold when it comes to the typical roles for men and women and let’s try and open up possibility to everyone.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

The cliche that we multi-task? That’s true. So when you’re first starting out as a woman you will be able to multi-task and wear many hats as you grow your company rather than relying on hiring in help. We are naturally more empathic and this gives us an edge in business as it allows us to understand how a customer or competitor may be feeling and the reasons behind their actions and adjust our approach accordingly.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

One big myth is that’s a lonely life. It really isn’t! If you surround yourself with good people who support you and look out for you then you’ll never feel alone.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

I may be biased as sales is my background, but I do believe sales people have the drive and self-discipline to be a successful founder. We spend years planning our time to be most efficient, networking with people, growing business relationships, working well under stress and ‘selling’ ourselves as well as the brand we represent. It’s almost like Founder Training! However if you have no real desire or motivation to get out of bed in the morning, need to be told what to do or wait for sales to come to you then you’d be better off working for someone else.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. You can succeed at this. Taking that first step is so difficult. It’s exhausting thinking of all the ‘worst case scenarios’ and ‘what ifs’, so much so they really do delay you making the leap and founding your own company. Believe you can succeed and focus on that. It took a lot of people giving me a much-needed pep talk to remind me that I can bring something to the table AND be successful.
  2. You are better than you think. When you are good at what you do, your reputation grows as does your confidence. When I worked in sales I was at the top of my game, the best rep in the company and super-confident I could deliver. Yet when I started my own company doubt crept in. All of a sudden I worried that nobody would hire me or that they would be disappointed in the quality of services I offered, even though they were equal to if not better than the services I provided alongside every device sale I did as a sales rep. You eventually build back your confidence yet every now and then it pops back up, usually when you introduce a new service. Believe in yourself.
  3. Taking a holiday may well be more stressful than going without. When I worked in sales I used to schedule in holidays around times when I was ahead of target. I thought that once I ran my own business I would be able to go away at the drop of a hat. Wow, how wrong was I? If anything I am less able to go away simply because the workload does not accommodate it, and when I am not working I am not earning. Based on those facts alone, holidays can really stress me out. I’ve since learned to make time for a holiday and force myself to switch off completely as nobody wants a burned out business consultant!
  4. Don’t under-value what you offer. Price accordingly. It’s easy to price low to begin with as you want to attract customers but you’ll soon learn the value of respecting your own skills, experience and talent and price yourself where you belong. You have identified a gap in the market and you’ve launched your business to meet that gap, so why offer your skills and services for peanuts? Price low and people expect a poor service. Price high and they will respect your services and time more.
  5. Don’t take on every single project, client or opportunity. It may feel counterproductive to say no to a job but trust your instincts. Some clients or projects really are bad news and no amount of money is worth the hassle, stress and time. I won’t name names but there are certainly a few clients I worked with that I probably should have said no to.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I hope that by unlocking the potential in my clients that I do in some way make the world a better place simply because I helped them improve their businesses. I also make an effort to support small businesses now I am a founder compared to before when I was an employee. I understand what they are going through and if I can get what I need from them over a big corporate then I will do that time and time again.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would create a Networking Group, not just for business opportunities but for support too. It’s nice to be nice and sometimes it’s all about what you can do for someone rather than going to network simply because you want something. If there were more networking groups that encouraged a more supportive viewpoint I think that would really help a huge number of people

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I follow Jade Dunkerton, founder of clothing brand Holland Cooper on instagram and she really is incredibly motivating and inspirational. She is hugely supportive of women in business, shares business knowledge with her followers and really knows how to build a brand and run a successful business. She doesn’t pretend it’s all easy and she works hard for her success. I would just soak up any advice, tips and words of wisdom she may have over lunch. If you’re not following her already then I recommend doing so. @jadehollandcopper

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

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Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.