Friday
Feb012013

EIGHT STEPS TO STARTING A BUSINESS

February 1, 2013

Deepali's latest blog on the Working Mum's website.  Please click on the link to view it.

http://www.workingmums.co.uk/working-mums-magazine/top-story/6666823/eight-steps-to-starting-your-own-business.thtml 

Friday
Aug172012

Our Turn

August 9, 2012

I met Alpesh Patel, author of “Our Turn – The Ultimate Start-Up Guide for Female Entrepreneurs” at WE’s launch event.  He was introduced as having written a great book on female entrepreneurship and I was intrigued.  I walked up to him and sparked a conversation by saying that we share the same last name (my married name - figuring it “might” buy me an in!).  I blog about successful women but I wondered if I could put Alpesh in it.  I don’t often meet men who care about what it feels like to be in a woman’s world!  I asked him for a few words and despite his very busy schedule, he very kindly obliged.  Here’s the Q&A that followed:  

On his background …….

Born and raised in Leeds, Yorkshire, Alpesh trained as a barrister.  He runs his own asset management firm and trades in derivatives.  He is also a co-presenter on CNBC, BBC and Reuters.  Alpesh’s grandfather served in the British army and his father worked very hard to get Alpesh a good education.

and what prompted him to write a book on female entrepreneurship? 

Atypical of most Indian families, Alpesh was raised by his mother and grandmother who were very involved in his upbringing, but also very integral in the family business.  They were inspirational women and instrumental in his decision to write the book.  His fundamental belief that ultimately led him to write – he was a lawyer by training and needed to do justice to an area that needs much help.

On how he lives up to what he promotes in print?

The male-female ratio at his company is 50-50.  Additionally, only a few minutes after we spoke, Alpesh tweeted about me, promoted me in his blog (http://thedealdaddy.me/2012/07/24/mumpreneurs/) and also mentioned Empower in his column in the Asian Voice.

On the day he stepped into a woman’s shoes…………..

…….At his book launch, when there was him and a room full of estrogen.  While presenting to 200 women, he realized what it might feel like to be a woman on a daily basis at the workplace and in the business world!!! 

His view on how women are different than men?

They are on the whole much better decision makers given they are less reckless.  They therefore make better traders. 

What he thinks we should change about ourselves?

STOP UNDERVALUING OUR WORK. 

On whether he is going to write another book……

Yes this time on whether India can save the world.

…….On where you can find him next?

Alpesh Patel will be keynote speaker at the Women Empowered Entrepreneurship Event, September 26th, 7pm at Bright Courtyard, Baker Street.  See attached link for tickets - http://www.womenempowered.co.uk/entrepreneurship_event.html.

 

 

Alpesh Patel is founder of Praefinium Partners, an asset management company.  He is also co-author of “Our Turn” – The Ultimate Start-up Guide for Female Entrepreneurs (with co-authors Nikki Royston and Nishika Patel) published in conjunction with HBOS.  The book (I am half-way through it) is encyclopedic in nature and has many tips on topics relevant to start-up entrepreneurs ranging from business plan writing, media, networking and lots of advice from women who have been successful.  He is also co-founder of TIE (The Indus Entrepreneur). 

“Our Turn” is available on Amazon and a must-read. 


Sunday
Jul082012

Elixir of Life

July 6, 2012:

Geeta Sidhu-Robb, a mother of three, is CEO of Nosh, a company promoting health and wellbeing through nutritional programs.  Geeta has an extremely supportive partner and her oldest, twenty-three year-old manages Nosh’s social media.  Geeta is warm and extremely approachable.  She can be reached on www.noshdetox.com. 

I met up with Geeta Sidhu-Robb at Pret A Manger.  I had sent her an email asking if I could have a telephonic chat with her so that I could tell my audience her story.  I thought it would inspire many a woman out there.  She replied generously saying she would be happy to meet for a coffee.  Geeta was as warm and personable in the real world as she had sounded virtually.  In customary fashion, we exchanged business cards.  It was the first of its kind I had seen – a little pouch almost like a lotion sample.  It had her details on the front – Geeta Sidhu-Robb, CEO, Nosh.  On the back, it said, “Nosh Superfood Formula – a natural, immune boosting food, powder packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes to help boost you and energize you.  Take one a day, before 6pm.”  I found myself thinking.  Had Geeta just handed me the “Elixir of Life” often referred to as the Ras, the substance referred to, in the Hindu scriptures, as believed to maintain life indefinitely.  The Hindu Scriptures also ironically called the Gita. 

Geeta is Indian from Africa, quite different to the Indian Indians.  For one they have less of a connection to India and second, most of them have a twang which is quite different to the Indian accent (no offence to the readers, my husband is one too).  Geeta definitely confessed to the former and I can say for a fact she does not have the latter!  She grew up in Malawi and came to London at fifteen to live with her aunt.  She went on to university and trained to be a corporate lawyer.  Her husband and she worked together and were successful enough to afford all the luxuries she could have ever dreamed of.  Geeta stood for Parliament and was the first Asian woman in the Tory party.  She left politics since it was too political and also too invading to her private life.  She also left an unhappy marriage and walked out the door with three children in private school and two hundred pounds in her back pocket.  Also atypically Indian, she took with her some jewellery, she thought she could fall back on.  Geeta had not a penny to her name and also had nowhere to go.  A good friend took her on and let them use her couch while she tried to figure out her life.

Necessity is the mother of invention they say.  A lawyer by training but an entrepreneur at heart, Geeta innovated right from the start.  Geeta started teaching children yoga at schools.  Geeta worked in television.  Geeta worked for a pharmaceutical company where she negotiated a pay-cut such that the company could assist her with a lease on a flat.  Geeta also pawned her jewellery.  Geeta did what she could to keep her children in school.  That was the only thing on her mind.  During this time, Geeta launched the first incarnation of Nosh; delivering healthy lunches to schools.  Things turned sour again and soon after she lost her job and with it, the lease on her flat.  She picked up the pieces again and using her training in law this time, went on to negotiate telecom licenses in Africa.  It helped her get her children a roof again and she decided to try her hand at re-inventing Nosh.    

NOSH as it stands today, stands for Natural, Organic, Safe and Healthy.  It is a company, which focuses on health and wellbeing by prescribing nutritional programs, supplements and therapies.  It is the same company that as I write (and you read), is in the process of bringing the first raw smoothie to supermarkets in the UK.  Her philosophy at Nosh is to hire young people and nurture them.  She spares no expense when it comes to training her employees and also personally mentors three to five women at any one time.  She is a big supporter of female entrepreneurs and believes they are where the future lies.  She personally supports the Kids Company (www.kidsco.org), a charity providing educational and emotional support to vulnerable, inner city children and a percentage of the proceeds from juices sold at Nosh also goes to Kids Co.. 

Geeta’s two goals for the next few years are:  firstly, to be one of the five richest women in the world and secondly, to raise one million pounds for the Kids Company over the next five years.  “Making money goes hand in hand with helping people”, she says.  Her advice to women out there who are trying to make it on their own is “ if you can see it and believe it, you can surely achieve it”.

Geeta might or might not have handed me the “Elixir of Life” but she has definitely handed me many pearls of wisdom, not dissimilar to what is written in the Gita.  “Find a cause bigger than yourself, never give up and the world is your oyster”, she says.  “Each person is born with a different fingerprint and it is time to leave yours.”  Our legacy remains for years to come, creating for us, an indefinite life. 

Thanks Geeta for that much needed boost of vitamins, minerals and enzymes - your warmth, your wisdom and your wonderful words.   

Tuesday
Jun192012

Alice in Wonderland

June 19, 2012:

I met jewellry designer Alice Cicolini a few weeks ago. She was showcasing her wonders at an event. As she moved to open up the glass cabinet where her jewellry was on display, I felt my heart skip a beat. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love my jewels and it was like she was about to unlock Pandora’s box for me. I was a little girl in a candy store, all over again.

Born and raised in North London, Alice grew up in a very creative home. Her parents taught history; her mother wrote poetry and also painted as a hobby. The walls of her home were adorned with William Morris wallpaper. William Morris (1834-1896), for those who don’t know him, was a leading member of the arts and crafts movement in the 1800s. He massively opposed the mass production of items in a factory. It led to what he believed to be the alienation of design from production, resulting in a lack of individuality. He was definitely not a big fan, in fact not a fan at all, of the Industrial Revolution.

Alice began her career with a degree in costume and design. She worked in public relations, which she believed to be fundamentally soul-less. She went on to work with furniture designer Tom Dixon who was Head of Design at Habitat and that was where Alice soon made her new home. Co-incidentally, soon after she met Emily Campbell, the British Council’s first Head of Design & Architecture at the Milan Furniture Fair, a connection which ultimately led Alice to India and to being Head of Arts & Culture at the British Council in New Delhi.

India, which for little Alice had been the Far Pavilion, full of danger, intrigue and romance, was where she lived for the next four years. During this time, she worked on a mentoring project for creative entrepreneurs, amongst many others, and also spearheaded a production of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s dream in multiple different languages, all at the same time. The production brought together many different artists from many different regions across the country and was something original that had never been staged previously. During her stay in India, she also completed the second year of a two-year jewellry design programme, which she convinced Central Saint Martin’s to let her do via distance learning. She graduated with a Masters in jewellry design in 2009.

Soon after, Alice began creating her jewels – bold and beautiful, bright and colourful. She decided to revive a dying, heritage craft and work with one of the last remaining meenakari artisans in Jaipur, Rajasthan. Meenakari is a 200-year-old Indian enamel craft tradition with its origins in Persia. It has been passed down from father to son and very few remaining artisans are now proficient in the trade. During this time, Alice also had a baby girl, forging another connection which she shares with the country that she now owns a business in.

Alice has since relocated back to London and runs her business from afar. She has not only managed to bring a historic tradition in Indian jewellry to a Western audience, which would otherwise have limited access to this specialised product; in reverse and even more laudably, she has created a passage for an artisan who lives in a small city in India to a world he would have never been able to dream of selling to. She has magnified his world a zillion fold.

Through long-distance travel and the use of modern technology, Alice is able to manage her business from many miles away. The artisan she works with has now set up an email and a Skype account in order to communicate with her and now also has a Facebook account in order to share his works with the rest of the world. Alice continues to market him with pride.

William Morris not only penetrated Alice’s parental walls as a child, but also had an impact on her psyche and philosophy, leading to what she has managed to create today – jewellry, which is truly individual, designed, crafted and one-of-a-kind. She has created her own true wonderland.

Thursday
May312012

Of Women and Politics: Be the Change

May 31, 2012:

I was at networking event listening to success stories by inspiring women.  Stories, that one would call page-turners and tearjerkers.  I sat next to a lady on a table of four.  She looked pretty ordinary to me.  All I could see was that her badge had many letters and salutations on it.  At the end of the speeches, I introduced myself to her.  I told her what I did.  I asked her what she did.  I am Cabinet Member at Chiltern and I am also the Mayor of Amersham, she said.  And that’s how I met Councillor Mrs. Mimi Harker OBE, someone who looked pretty ordinary to me but had an extra-ordinary story that I had to tell. 

While I am passionate about the community that I live in, I do not claim to actively follow political leaders and their agendas.  It is also pretty funny that my horoscope charted out by Indian astrologers claims quite the opposite.  It says that I will hold a very senior government position, something my husband and I have often laughed about.  I have never had the opportunity to vote in my whole entire life.  I left India at 18 and then could never vote in the US or the UK given that the only time I have thought of giving up my Indian passport has been when I have needed to travel and given my citizenship status have had to apply for a visa.  All Indian passport holders around the world will share my feelings.  However, each time after getting a visa, that feeling quickly subsides and the patriotic Indian me re-emerges!   Alas, I remain Indian and unable to vote.  The same day that I spoke to Mimi, my friend Chetan happened to send me an article titled – “Are women their own worst enemies when it comes to the top jobs?” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18127469)  The article amongst other things claimed that even Rwanda, Afghanistan and Iraq far outshine the UK for women in positions of political power, a statistic most people would find quite surprising.

Mimi, on the other hand is part of this statistic.  She is the first Asian woman to ever be Mayor of Amersham.  She has also received the OBE (Officer of the British Empire) for services to women, in particular minorities in the public sector from none other than the Lady with the Handbag, the Queen herself.  She is also one of the 149 women with an ethnic background to be elected in the UK.  This is out of 20,000 elected members in the last set of elections and out of 4.9 million ethnic minorities living in the UK according to the 2001 census.  For those of us who are parents, Mimi is also the lady behind the 12-A (whether or not a movie is suitable for viewing by under 12’s) classification.  It happened as a result of her son who was eight and wanting to watch Spiderman in the cinema.  Given his age she wasn’t allowed to take him to see it but after watching the movie figured there was no content that a child his age could not have been exposed to.  She lobbied the film board, cinemas and district council and was borne 12-A.

Mimi, I asked, "how and why politics"?  Her parents were Bengali from India.  Her mother, the most fabulous cook and hostess ever she says, even went back to India to give birth to Mimi and her sister in the tea estates of Darjeeling.  Her father, a Chatterjee, who was an engineer by training was recruited by GKN and brought to the UK.  Her parents had a traditional arranged marriage and while her father worked as an engineer, her mother worked as PA to one of the Directors of Lambeth Council.  Mimi was always shy she said.  She was the older of two girls and always wanted to be a journalist or an actress.  She worked in marketing and advertising and thought politicians were horrible people.  When she got married she chose to stay home and be a mother to her two children.  A property related dispute entailing her (and a neighbors) backyard is what led her to engage the community that she lived in to fight for justice.  She lobbied ferociously to get a petition signed (even borrowed her children’s little people furniture to sit in the middle of the road to ensure it happened), fought tooth and nail and brought the developer to justice.  Even the newspapers wrote about her case every week for four and a half years!  She ultimately won.  Post the victory, her MP came to visit her community and asked her if she wanted to stand for the local elections.  After giving it much thought she agreed.

She is now Councillor for Women, Children and Young People, communities she is very passionate about.  A day in the life of Councillor Mimi Harker begins as early as 8am with council meetings and ends normally around 10:30pm.  She was recently seen planting bulbs with children who designed an Olympic scene flowerbed and was also seen in front of Tesco for eighteen hours fund-raising for the new Adizone playground that she is planning to build.   It is a hard and tough schedule but at least her two children are now older.  It was harder when they were younger but she chose to manage her work life around their schedule. 

To all the women who are reading this article, Mimi wants you to know that being a woman brings another element to our professions.  Being a mom brings an even more different perspective.  Mimi’s son could have been Spiderman himself given the Spiderman pyjamas he lived in, the Spiderman cup he drank from and the Spiderman duvet he slept in.  He was devastated when his mother couldn’t take him to the cinema.  Little did Spiderman know that he ended up with Superwoman for a mother who changed the world of cinema not only for him but also for every other child out there!  “You just have to have a passion and you can do anything you want”, Mimi says. 

Mimi might have wanted to be an actress or a journalist but not only does she have the voice and the pen, but she also has the vote to change the world.  And she is doing it!