Continuing our series of profiles of successful women of colour in business, leadership and work. Flavilla Fongang is Managing Director of www.3coloursrule.com a creative branding agency and online fashion styling academy. She set up the business ten years ago.
What drove you to start your own business?
3 Colours Rule was originally born as a fashion styling consultancy. I used to work in the oil & gas sector which allowed me to travel around the world. I met interesting people through my business travels and I came to the realisation I needed to do something meaningful which would have a positive impact on individuals. That’s how I decided to follow my interest in fashion, studied through self-teaching and launched my career as a fashion stylist a few years later.
My career swiftly led me to run big fashion projects with well-known brands. I started to meet a lot of individuals who wanted to do the same thing as me. I could ignore them and this was a great opportunity to help individuals on a worldwide scale. So, I decided to transform my fashion stylist knowledge and expertise as a fashion styling training where aspiring fashion stylists around the world could follow their dreams too.
I then needed a new challenge and realised that my knowledge in understanding how to improve people’s personal brand could easily be applied to business by helping business develop great brands. This is how 3 Colours Rule was then reborn as a creative branding agency. It was a natural progression that worked out well.
What was your career path prior to starting your business?
I came from Paris through the Erasmus programme, the most well-known student exchange programme. I did a double degree: a BA in Economics & Law and simultaneously a BA in marketing & communications. After that, I decided to carry on my studies and obtained an MA in International business. Then I had to decide if I would go back to Paris or stay in London. You can guess what I decided to do!
I struggled to find a job after finishing my studies. I was overly qualified but didn’t have sufficient experience. I did several jobs from translation work, retail to door to door sales. It was very hard as I had to deal with a lot of rejection. I do like a challenge and realised I had to take a different approach. So, I joined an event company as a receptionist where I could see a potential for a career evolution. Within 2 years I was managing my own department. My team grew as the business grew. After successfully developing the team I left . I took the leap of faith and became an entrepreneur.
Tell us about the business planning stage
This may sound crazy, but it’s only in the last couple of years that I started writing my business plan. I think I found writing a business plan a painful experience so I avoided it. So, I tried a lot of things that didn’t work out and failed many times. But this was important as it allowed me to improve every time.
Success has nothing to do with luck but consistency and constancy. In order to improve my results, I needed to have a clear vision so I could attract the right team, a mission to understand how we could achieve our goals and work every day towards them.
How far ahead do you plan and what keeps you on track and motivated?
I have a 10, 5, 3, 1 and 90-day plan and clearly now where we are heading and what we need to do to get there.
Can you describe a typical working day?
A typical day starts reviewing daily goals/tasks based on weekly goals to achieve that month’s plan. We then review as a group our progress on each client project and conduct a strategy or creative brainstorm exercise if needed. I network regularly as relationships matter and no business deals can happen if I stay seated behind my laptop.
I love to read business books, so I will read a chapter first thing in the morning or in the evening. Educating should be progressive to stay ahead of the game.
What has been the most amazing day of your entrepreneurial life so far?
There have been so many amazing days but one was going from being a one-woman band working at home to having an office with a team who work with the same passion. It’s important to have a solid team to achieve anything you want and that was certainly a great achievement for me.
What has been your scariest moment?
Leaving a well-paid job to follow my dreams not knowing if I would make it or not. I had to take the leap of faith, embrace my fears and just do it.
How do you work on making your business grow?
Setting long-term and short-term goals with a clear action plan and reviewing it constantly has allowed me to grow. There is no guessing in what we do. I trust the process and follow it meticulously.
What is the best thing about being your own boss?
I’m sure many have said that but for me, the best thing about being my own boss is having full control of my destiny and being able to transform my dreams into reality. I have so many I want to achieve. But also, being able to have a positive impact on other individuals is a great reward.
What are the challenges of working for yourself and how do you tackle them?
I guess the challenges of working for yourself is that everyone is looking at you to pay the bills. LOL! You have to make the tough decisions and owning the responsibilities no matter what.
Who do you admire or look to for inspiration as a business owner?
I find inspiration from many people wherever they are business owners or not. I’m inspired by individuals, their stories, aspirations and how they overcome adversity. I always knew how to conceptualise ideas into products. So, there isn’t a business owner that stands out more than thousands of business owners I have met in my life.
What piece of advice has had the most impact on your business? And who was it from?
The best business advice I received was this “Develop your brand process and only focus on selling one product. Keep your focus (your energy) on one product and up sell when you have won the client.” Darren Shirlaw, a fantastic business mathematician and a humble millionaire.
What are the three books, websites or resources (professional or personal) that you would recommend to other business owners?
- The best books I have read are Traction by Gino Wickman( A must read)
- Sell or be sold by Grant Gardonne – Crazy and amazing sales guy who helped me not being afraid of selling
- Think & Grow Rich by Napolean Hill, which needs no introduction
- For creatives – Adweek is great
What other passions do you have away from your business? How do you relax?
I love fashion and attending fashion shows. I love travelling and discovering new cultures. I love how music transports me to the universe of a singer. Food is life, I am moving gradually towards veganism and learning so much about seeing food as medicine.
Connect with Flavilla: