Jamila Bannister: “Because there are unique issues that women face and only women founders could create the products and services to fulfil those needs”

Because there are unique issues that women face and only women founders could create the products and services to fulfil those needs. Men just won’t get it..ha! I also think that women founders serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration to those women who can’t easily find motivation intrinsically. The representation of women starting […]

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Because there are unique issues that women face and only women founders could create the products and services to fulfil those needs. Men just won’t get it..ha! I also think that women founders serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration to those women who can’t easily find motivation intrinsically. The representation of women starting and leading companies is just hat some people need to stop playing small and really go after the goals they have had in their heads forever.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jamila Bannister.

Jamila Bannister is Personal Branding Strategist and Coach from Trinidad & Tobago. She works with entrepreneurs who want to market their businesses by leading from the front with thought leadership and personal branding.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Sure! I’ve always worked in the area of branding and communications, but my personal branding journey started in 2016. I was on the job market and just could not land a job. It was a very frustrating time for me because I felt powerless. I felt I had so much to offer, but no one would give me a chance. It was at this point I started creating content on LinkedIn and on Instagram and started talking about branding and marketing and putting yourself out there in hopes that I would catch the attention of a potential employer. Instead I caught the attention of other people who were encouraged by my words and took my advice. Five years and many mistakes later now I help entrepreneurs, who want to refine their message, position themselves as experts and amplify their voice and market their solutions to their ideal audience

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I remember going to a job interview at a company where one of my friends worked and I remember her giving me some advice before going into the interview room. She told me I should try not to appear “smarter” than the person conducting the interview; that I should smile, be chirpy and be pleasant. I shouldn’t be “too much of myself”. Now I know my friend was just trying to help, after all she knows the culture of the company and the goal was to get the job. But it really blew my mind just how much women and especially women of African descent, are required to squeeze ourselves into tiny boxes or apply dimmer buttons to ourselves just to accommodate other people’s insecurities. This isn’t to be confused with being obnoxious, rude or inappropriate, but being intelligent, being a leader and being influential. We can’t help it if we have presence, if people gravitate towards us or if we go to extra mile to produce high quality work. I know I certainly can’t and even if I wouldn’t

When I left that interview I’d broken a sweat because all of the extra smiling was like a workout. Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. However it was definitely one of the moments that made me realise that I had outgrown the corporate world. My goals and potential couldn’t fit into that box so instead of reducing my potential, I kicked the whole box away focused on growing my brand.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the funniest mistakes I made was sitting back thinking that things would sort of fall into my lap. It doesn’t seem funny on the surface, but I laugh at myself now because I wasn’t really doing anything to grow. I wasn’t prospecting, strategizing or being consistent with my messaging and I was convinced that most people were stupid for not seeing my value..haha! The thing is, I was busy but I wasn’t very productive.

I look myself in the mirror now and say, “girl what were you expecting to happen? You weren’t doing any work.” Coming from the world of employment, it doesn’t immediately click that you actually have to go out there and look for your money, it doesn’t just come to you like your salary did. The epiphany I got the day I realised I had to do more, shifted my entire mindset and approach to doing business.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had so many people support me along the way aside from the obvious like my family and friends 3 women come to mind. The first is my former VP and friend Adlyne, she was and continues to be a sage of wisdom and centre of support. Always giving me advice and a few self-affirming mantras to recite. The second is my current mentor Tamara. When I first met Tamara I was looking for a job because the entrepreneurship game had brought me to my proverbial knees. A year after meeting her and working with her I had written a book, hosted a successful online summit , created a few products and booked my first high ticket client. Needless to say she was crucial in whipping me into shape and providing a lot of clarity and guidance without which I’d still be stuck. Third is my podcast cohost and friend Carla. As a fellow expert in the marketing and PR space she is always a good sounding board for ideas and someone to who I can vent and I guess I am the same for her.. ha!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Though I have grown so much since reading it, Gary V’s Crushing it was really instrumental in me changing my mindset and seeing just how powerful the online space can be for growing your business. The stories of other people grinding and making it to their dream was important for me to see and absorb at that time. As someone from a small island nation I had a lot of doubt as to whether or not I could have impact, reach as many people and earn like all of the people I’d follow. Reading that book caused a shift in me that anything was possible regardless of where I was in the world and through many attempts I’m seeing the fruits of my labour.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I always think about Jim Rohn’s quote of you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with because I have seen time and time again how having the right people in my network and circle has influenced my mindset and opened opportunities for sales and partnerships for me. I believe in the constant duration and management of your social circle as a key element of one’s success

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

One of things I value a lot is mentorship and support, so I use a lot of my time to mentor the people who work with me. This has nothing to do with any work they produce for me, but work the want to pursue on their own. I share my advice and experiences in hopes they don’t make the mistakes I made. It may seem counter intuitive to some to “train people to leave” but I don’t expect anyone to stay with me if they have dreams of their own. I want them to go off and pursue their passions and I want them to be prepared for the journey.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

Let me just say that there is no shortage of brilliant women who are capable of starting and running businesses. However, in my experience, I realise that women doubt themselves and underestimate just how capable they are of leading. We have to know that we don’t need to be like men, we need to carve out our own leadership styles and own our spaces. I’m a firm believer in maintaining my femininity in leadership. It doesn’t mean I need to be a pushover; I can be sharp, intelligent, assertive and compassionate. We have to know that strong leadership and being female are not mutually exclusive.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

As a personal branding coach a large portion of what I do is helping my clients, who are primarily women, hack confidence. Helping them move from being social introverts who are unsure of themselves into entrepreneurs who are ready to take initiative, communicate, negotiate for what they want and pitch themselves and the value the bring to the table. Equipping these women to move from a buried seed with potential to fully blooming and carving out a space for their voice, their style and their brand is crucial to their success in becoming founders and leaders. It’s really a pleasure to see that manifest.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Because there are unique issues that women face and only women founders could create the products and services to fulfil those needs. Men just won’t get it..ha! I also think that women founders serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration to those women who can’t easily find motivation intrinsically. The representation of women starting and leading companies is just hat some people need to stop playing small and really go after the goals they have had in their heads forever.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

More men need to stand up and support us as partners and equals in the business world. Sometimes the door we need opened to use requires an advocate, sponsor or ally to help us break through.

Woman need to take full advantage of every programme, scheme or support system there is out there set up to help us grow

More women should serve as mentors to less experienced women and show them how it’s done. Having a mentor myself, I can tell you this helped tremendously in helping me gain clarity and just being accountable.

More women should partner and work together in reaching their goals. You will always get more done with a team.

Women should start being more aggressive in pursuing their own dreams and asking for the support of others. Many of us make major sacrifices for family and others. While that is admirable, have something that’s yours and just yours to enjoy and embrace. You’ve supported everyone, now it’s time that you request that same support you gave.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amounts of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It would probably be a programme that funds mentorship in personal and professional development for youth. I think there is so much untapped potential out there just waiting for the right type of influence to come into its space. Solid young people lead to solid and exemplary adults. You can never have enough upstanding citizens around.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I know you asked for one but it would have to be two. The first is Chris Do, CEO of the Futur. I admire his leadership style a lot. He’s calm, compassionate and brilliant. As a branding professional, I totally enjoy listening to anything he puts out. My second will be the Queen Bey(once). Her work other is insane and she has managed to have a family and massive empire all at the same time. I sure it required immense sacrifice, so getting a peak into her world as she makes it happen would be a treat!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn by searching Jamila Bannister. On YouTube by searching Jamila Bannister, on Clubhouse by following @jamilabannister and via my website www.jbannisterbranding.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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