Vanessa Sanyauke is CEO of Girls Talk London, a social enterprise that connects young girls and women with senior women and men in various professions through informal events, programmes, an interactive website and online TV channel.
Their aim is to increase the number of young girls and women entering competitive industries and to ensure they are equipped with advice and the skills to progress into senior roles within their chosen professions.
What drove you to start your own business?
I saw a problem that there were not enough women leading Britain’s top businesses or starting their own. I wanted to fix this problem and I felt very passionate about the lack of opportunities for women to be successful in business and life.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I started a social enterprise at university called The Rafiki Network. It ran it for five years and it failed. So I got my Masters in Sustainability and Management, learned from my mistakes, gained more industry experience and then started my current social enterprise Girls Talk London in 2013.
Tell us about the business planning stage
I really hate business plans, but I think I had to write one for my business bank account which I have never looked at till this day! However, I do write down my goals and create strategies for marketing, social media, income generation etc. I believe in writing down plans and setting milestones and goals, but I am not a fan of business plans-I feel they are too rigid and wonder if they actually work?
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I try to plan my income targets for the year and I think that is as far as you can go really. I don’t really have a three-year plan or vision to be honest, because life and situations change so much every day.
What keeps me motivated is the fact that I have bills and responsibilities and no one is going to make them happen but me. When you have a business, you can only rely on your own hard work to succeed. However, when I am feeling unmotivated I watch interviews or shows with , because they inspire me and seeing them at work or watching their interviews motivates me to do better and keep going.
Can you describe a typical working day?
If I am working from home I usually get up at 7.30am and the first thing I do is make a cup of coffee (good proper filtered coffee) I am at my home office desk by 8:00am and I spend about 30 mins reading the news online (bbc.co.uk, cnn.com and the guardian) and then I read my favourite motivational blogs to get me ready for the day such as inc.com or fastcompany.com.
If I am working from my London office I get in at 10am as I hate getting stuck in the traffic from Kent to London. I finish work very late around 8pm and some days I may have networking events to attend.
I would say the Q & A events that we host for women every month really put things into perspective as to why I do what I do. Seeing and speaking with ambitious women and actually helping change their lives is the most amazing thing on earth, so when I get to meet them every month is the best day for me.
What has been your scariest moment?
Leaving my job in February 2016 to run my business full-time with very little savings and only two contracts!
How do you work on making your business grow?
It takes a long time and a lot of effort and lots of small steps. I take each day at a time and try to stay focused on income generation, because that is ultimately how I can grow my team and pay people.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
Being in control of your time even though it is limited! I am able to work from Ghana about 25% of the year because I work for myself so that is the best thing. I like choosing my hours and not having to rush into the office for 9am just so someone can see my bum on a desk!
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them
Money, money, money! LOL. The challenge is the infrequency of income. When you have a job you know that every month you will get a certain amount in your bank account. However, when you work for yourself, you get payments in large chunks and are constantly waiting to hear back about other bids and proposals. You have to plan six months in advance and save cash in your account, this makes cashflow slightly easier.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
I look to my friends who also run their own businesses, as they understand what I am going through. Seeing them be successful keeps me going.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
There have been many and I am not sure who they are from but the best advice from a few entrepreneur friends of mine have been not to worry about contracts or how things will pan out because every SME business owner is going through the same challenges and you are not alone so if you experience tough times keep going as lots of people are in the same boat as you.
My BFF Natalie has been in business for years and she always deals with rejection so well and says that they are crazy LOL and she is fabulous and bad-ass. That is a great way to live, to always believe in yourself no matter what.
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
I love to travel and experience different cultures and meet new people. I also love watching documentaries and hosting my own talk show ‘Girls Talk’ which is in its third series right now. Also, books are a huge passion of mine. I am constantly reading and learning from other people’s stories.
Connect with Vanessa
Snapchat: GirlsTalk London and VanessaSanyauke