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Embrace honesty and reflect – Charlotte Pearce on being a female entrepreneur

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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By Charlotte Pearce, the founder and CEO of Inkpact, a million pound British business, helping brands engage customers through personalised, handwritten notes. She has been named in the Forbes 30 under 30, Maserati 100 and Young Entrepreneurs list.

My journey as an entrepreneur started from around age of 14 where I would simply buy makeup in bulk and sell it on eBay for a profit. It’s here where I fell in love with the concept of business, but it wasn’t until I was at university, and ended up leading a social enterprise called Enactus Southampton, that my passion for business really began. 

I was the CEO of the social enterprise; we had 13 businesses ranging from sanitary towels and toilets in Africa to helping ex-military in the UK. This was where I realised the true power of business is not only making money but also creating something that changes people’s lives at the same time. We built and scaled a toilet in Africa that was built from recycled materials such as rubbish from the streets. My big ‘aha’ moment was if you can make money out of rubbish from the streets whilst changing people’s lives, the possibilities for good business are endless. 

It’s this notion of human based, impactful businesses that lit a spark in me, and I vowed to only ever build and create businesses that had that at its core. My love for impactful businesses, my passion for people, my curiosity for psychology and my love of spirituality and wellness really makes me who I am today, and has allowed me to create the company that I have.

Rise up 

The number of women starting their own businesses is on the rise. Most recently, seizing upon a  “pandemic related opportunity” was the biggest reason for women starting new businesses. 

The pandemic has been an eye opener for many women. Priorities have shifted, people have had time to slow down and think about what’s really important to them and why. This shift has seen many people leaving their comfort zone to venture out on their own to bring personal goals and passions to life. 

I believe women are innately powerful and they bring a fresh, much needed empathetic approach to business and marketing – something that a lot of businesses could do with more of. With the rise of female entrepreneurship, we’re going to see a shift in how businesses market to their customers; and businesses will benefit, as will the planet and society as a whole. 

Entrepreneurial mentorship

“You are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with” is my favourite and longest standing quote. Bettering yourself is the most important investment you can make, and education and mentorship is in my opinion the number one key to success. 

It’s important to show up for; give back t; and teach young girls not only is it possible to be a leader, but the ability is already inside of a lot of them. The mindset goes beyond a notebook or mug that says ‘Girl boss’ – it all comes down to access to education and mentorship and seeing strong female leaders in the world. 

Mentorship is a passion of mine, I am incredibly fortunate to have incredible mentors, it’s them I owe a lot of my life to; so passing it on, doesn’t just feel like something I must do, it’s something that is a privilege to do. I love spending my time doing talks, meeting with young girls and teaching them the basics on leadership, confidence and resilience.

Encouraging our leaders of tomorrow and mentoring them is something I encourage all entrepreneurs to do. We get so much from giving, and we create a positive spiral of support.

Gender bias and representation in business 

The sad truth is that I have experienced challenges solely based on my gender in my journey. During the earlier days of my business I was spoken over, talked down to, patronised. I was messed around with by my investors who thought I was naive. Even to this day I get asked questions about my personal and family life, questions which my male co-founder never gets asked. There is a lot of work to be done here, and the only tool I’ve found that can create immediate impact is calling it out and having honest conversations. This is what I’d ask all women and men to do, it’s the only way people can stop and think to address their conscious and unconscious bias. 

We do need to see a fundamental shift in gender bias in our industry. Other than speaking out, my advice to young girls and women in particular is to also use it, build resilience but seek opportunities. I urge all women to show and champion their skills and qualities as powerful women. We can use the challenges and adversity to become better, bolder and more resilient leaders, rather than becoming victims and letting that hinder our success. 

Embracing vulnerability

One of the best qualities of an entrepreneur is the ability to embrace total honesty and vulnerability. This is the secret to building incredible teams. This quality and value needs to be led from the top down. The more your team can see you embracing vulnerability, the more empowered they’ll feel to do the same. And in return you get a team that you can trust. 

Entrepreneurs and leaders often find it hard to ask for help, and women find it even harder because asking for help often is correlated with a sign of weakness. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get. So, ask for help, ask for that funding, ask to brainstorm with someone, ask the tough questions, and don’t be afraid of the word “no”. 

I genuinely put a lot of my business success down to asking for help, advice, surrounding myself with amazing people and not being afraid if they disagree with me. Businesses aren’t successful solely down to one person to build. As they say – “it takes a village.”

Running a business also means being a leader that people want to follow. Embracing challenges and reflecting on the journey I’ve been on, there has been a lot that has shaped me into the type of leader I am today. 

For me, it’s all about not being afraid to fail, embracing honesty and having a mindful approach to leadership. Self reflection has also been key in building the type of leader I am. The world we live in is very fast-paced, but you have to slow down; spend some time reflecting and taking on feedback. Slowing down from time to time and surrounding yourself with people who support yet challenge you are key to becoming a successful leader.