“The lessons I’ve learned from setting up a business”

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  • 61% of women are considering a complete career pivot as a result of the pandemic. If you're one of them, this advice from entrepreneur Elissa Corrigan, might come in useful...

    The number of women setting up their own businesses is on the rise and according to research from AllBright, 61% of women say they’re considering a complete career pivot as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. But men are still twice as likely to be entrepreneurs than women. In a recent survey, more than 6 in 10 women surveyed named confidence – or a lack of – as one of the biggest barriers to starting a business, above even financial support. Here, Elissa Corrigan, founder of Elle Sera supplements, talks us through the best business advice she’s been given and what she’s learned along the way…

    See everything as an opportunity to learn 

    In 2019 I spent five weeks living on a desert island as part of TV show, Treasure Island with Bear Grylls. It meant I saw firsthand the amount of plastic waste and pollution which had reached that tiny remote island in Panama. I saw how rubbish ruined the landscape and marine life become entangled in the debris. And heartbreakingly, how the birds mistook the plastic as food and gave it to their young. When I returned home, upset from what I’d witnessed, I began researching what I could do to help. It meant that when I began setting up my business, I was determined to be sustainable as possible. A lot of brands think about sustainability as an afterthought. But with 90% of the world’s plastic never getting recycled and the ocean currently flooded with plastic waste, I knew we had to integrate sustainable packaging from the very beginning.

    Accept that sacrifices are non-negotiable 

    It’s easy to be attracted to the perks of running a business (e.g. what we post on Instagram). But the reality is, my social life is almost non-existent. I gave up drinking in 2019 because I can’t afford two-day hangovers as a business owner – I’ve had to prioritise what’s really important. After all, if I don’t show up everyday, who will? I had to think very seriously about what I wanted and what I was willing to give up. I said goodbye to things like expensive clothes, holidays and lie-ins in order to fully commit to the business. While that doesn’t mean stressing yourself out to the point of ill health, success does mean sacrificing anything that pulls back your progression. There’ll be plenty of time for parties later, anyway.

    Be careful whose opinions you listen to 

    One of the best pieces of advice I’ve been given was to listen to the people in the ring, not the spectators. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rolled my eyes at ‘mindset/business coaches’ on social media, selling their coaching services to budding entrepreneurs. I’m sure some are great, but the large majority don’t offer practical advice on running a profitable business. There’s an enormous difference between being a spectator and being in the ring yourself. You can’t teach someone how to practically deal with situations if you have never experienced them. Don’t listen to people who haven’t been where you’re going. Instead, seek advice from people who have been on the lonely, meandering and emotional path of entrepreneurialism themselves. I have two trusted people who mentor me – both are self-made and extremely successful in their own fields. Find yours and stick to them like glue!

    Embrace pain to discover your strength 

    Some people think I’m crazy because I voluntarily put myself in painful positions. But I truly believe the sharpest sword is the one that has been in the fire and hammered the most. The more difficult the situation, the more resilient you will be. Emotional fortitude is a skill no-one’s born with, but it can be gained if you’re willing to try. If failure, fear of shame or ridicule could potentially derail you emotionally, your progress will falter. By choosing to seek out and embrace painful situations, I’m able to deal with anything that gets flung my way. This is why I chose to live on a desert island for five weeks. It’s why I volunteered for Europe’s toughest military bootcamp. And ran a 10k on the streets of Manchester with no shoes on. Knowing I’m strong enough to handle that makes me feel invincible in business, too.

    Never settle for mediocre

    From inception to execution, I knew I didn’t just want to make a ‘good’ supplement. I wanted to make a great supplement, with a brilliant ethos that delivered a strong impact on the world. Before launching a business, make sure it’s something you’re really passionate about. Is it the sort of thing you’d talk about and share excitedly with everyone you meet? Do you feel inclined to talk about it with pride and have a genuine interest in the field? If not, ask yourself why you’re doing it. Is there something else you could invest your time into? After all, if you can’t wholeheartedly promote it, how can you expect anybody else to?

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