We are at the pointy end of the year, and it's without doubt my most reflective period. It's 10 years since I registered the Marketing Eye business name, and it's been a long, arduous journey, but one that I don't regret.
Marketing Eye started with investment money. The first few years, we had some tweaking to do, which was stressful, because I wasn't just playing with my money. Bringing a new model into a mature market is just a case of rolling the dice, seeing how they fall and hoping for the best. But I believed in it with all of my heart. I thought I knew something that others didn't and that was that all small businesses need to manage cash flow with no surprises and they all need marketing. This is a formidable combination, capable of allowing small to medium sized businesses the freedom to do what they do, without being held to their next invoice.
There were changes that needed to occur in the business model, but the day we got it right we never looked back. In the time leading up to this moment, I doubted myself, cried myself to sleep because I felt like a failure and constantly put myself in situations where I was uncomfortable. I was stressed off my head and didn't know how to deal with it. No one taught me how to do this.
Often, a simple thing that would go wrong, would seem to me like the end of the world. Once, some hackers hacked into our bank accounts and emptied them. I had a public speaking engagement only an hour later. Instead of dealing with it later, I cancelled the engagement. I didn't know what to do and I didn't have the hindsight to know that it could wait an hour or two. It was the wrong choice and something that I now realize was not how an entrepreneur acts. They are supposed to suck it up, put on their good shoes and show the world how things are done.I am not a born entrepreneur.
In fact, I am anything but. I am more like a person who has an idea and just wants to see it through. It's like finishing a mathematics equation. I wish I could say that I had undying passion for business, but instead, I feel gratitude that I am able to provide myself with a great life, as well as the ability to employ people and provide them with a secure income and an opportunity to see themselves shine.
Being a woman should never be a disadvantage and I am the last to hang my hat on the entire equality equation. I believe in 'the best person for the job'
regardless of gender. But being a woman is hard. Being a single woman in her early forties who hasn't had a family yet, is even harder.
You are placed in a category by people with a certain distain for you. It makes people feel sorry for you. It makes people think that there must be something wrong with you. If you haven't done it at all at least once, there must be something wrong with you mustn't there? I am speaking from first hand experience.
I am that girl. I am that woman. I am that sister. And I am that daughter. What went wrong? Was she so career-obsessed that she thought it would be around forever; that looks, availability, men and a never ending line up would stay around forever? Or is she just plain hard work? Having done a lot of soul searching, I have found the answer:
I forgot to stop and smell the roses and keep myself open to possibility.
In my case, my 30's were spent building a business -- this business, Marketing Eye. And it was spent being in love with two men and not looking elsewhere. Two that just kept the carrot dangling enough so that while I was so busy working, I had no time to look for anyone else. Instead, I had someone when I needed them and I had my business that I could dedicate my time to. One was during my early 30's, the other in my late 30's. They were narcissistic men who knew how to manipulate. I was vulnerable and weak. They were both the wrong men and twice I made the same choices. If nothing changes, nothing changes. You would think a smart woman like me would know better. I woke up one month ago.
I realized that growing a business is hard work and I have given my heart and soul to it. I also become acutely aware that I have been played by people smarter than me because I am easy prey. I am that career woman who has a dream and has so many moving parts that she will never have time to open herself up for possibility. Instead, when she catches her breath, she just wants the person who is most comfortable to her. I am telling a story that most women would be afraid to tell.
The story of how we miss things because to run a business, we not only have a vision and a plan, but we have to have the guts, determination and fearless ability to pick ourselves up off the ground over and over again when no one, and I mean no one is going to give us a hand. We may have family who love us;
but they too think something is wrong. They can't quite figure out how we don't 'have it all'.
I am someone's daughter and someone's sister. They love me like no one else is ever going to love me - unconditionally.
But they too look at me and wonder what went wrong.
Every single time that I think that everything is going to work out fine and things are falling into place - something falls apart. And it's never small.
It's big. It brings me to my knees and it is excruciating. Worse still, I am dealing with this by myself, internalizing the pain, the hurt and the disappointment. I know tomorrow that I have to get up and do it all over again and I have no one who is going to do it for me. I mean no one.
Being a woman in business, whether you have five children and a loving husband, or you are like me - single and not sure where you fit in the world - is challenging.
Next time you look at that female entrepreneur that walks into the room in her designer outfit, head held high, navigating her next move; spare a thought for the fact that she has a role to play and she is doing it to the best of her ability. She will fall down, make the wrong choices and come across as if her world is perfect - but she is human, and the truth of the matter is that it isn't easy being her. It isn't easy being me.