Be more persistent. Don’t give up too soon. If you don’t get what you want straight away, or if you hear ‘No’, then that is not necessarily a signal that you were not meant to do this. Keep going. Understand what has triggered the negative response and then address what needs to be fixed. Sometimes you’ll discover that your marketing message needs a tweak. Sometimes it’s your product or offer that needs an upgrade. Sometimes you’ll find there’s a skill gap to be filled. And sometimes you are simply pitching to the wrong person. Take every ‘no’ as the next step in learning what it will take to get a ‘yes’. Business is a journey, not a sprint.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melitta Campbell.
Melitta is a Business Coach focused on helping women turn their expertise and experience into a thriving purpose-driven business. Her expertise comes from 25 years in Marketing, Communications and Leadership, including as more than a decade of building her own businesses. Through her podcast, the Driven Female Entrepreneur, she aims to inspire and support more women to become successful founders.
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?
I loved my 15-year corporate career in marketing, communication and leadership, but when my first daughter was born my priorities changed. I didn’t have access to childcare and I wanted more flexibility to be the Mum I wanted to be. I decided that starting out on my own was the best option. I had no clue if I could succeed, but I knew I had to at least try.
I started with what I knew best, and offered communications consultancy to corporate and UN leaders, as well as small business owners. I soon built a solid reputation and extensive client list but, as the years went by, I realised that while my business was a financial success, it didn’t give me enough scope to grow and have an impact in ways that aligned with my purpose. As a result, came to close to a burn-out and took a step back to reassess my options.
While in Corporate, I’d started a women’s network, and I loved seeing others grow and succeed through the programs and opportunities I created. When I started my first business, I wanted to continue working to empower women but, at that time, I didn’t know how to make that work, so I stuck with what I knew.
As I started to mull over that idea, I became aware that the other female business owners around me were often struggling to build a solid business. They had the talent, ambition and got amazing results for their clients, but often lacked the business skills and confidence necessary to build a sustainable sales pipeline, and own and communicate their true value. This was exactly where I could help. Almost overnight I pivoted my business. I set to work developing a model that would teach women how to profitably attract the right clients, while not compromising their integrity or desire flexibility. That how my Dream Clients Blueprint business coaching program was born.
Guiding women through this program has enabled me to bring together all of my strategic marketing and communication knowledge, with my experiences of building a successful business around a young family. It’s the perfect business for me, and I haven’t looked back since I pivoted six-years ago.
It’s so true when they say that entrepreneurship is a journey. I’ve learned that where you start in business is rarely where you end up; building your business is really a process of learning and self-discovery. That is the true gift of entrepreneurship, on whichever scale you experience it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Growing up labelled ‘the shy girl’, and carrying that belief with me throughout most of my twenties, perhaps the most interesting thing that has happened is that I have spoken on stages across Europe and have been invited to be a speaker coach for both TEDxLausanne and TEDxSwansea.
When building the women’s network mentioned above, I started reading all about the challenges women face that hold them back from attaining leadership positions. In one book ‘Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office’ really got me thinking. It’s a fantastic read, and prompted me to start speaking up more at work.
To help me build my speaking confidence, I started attending Toastmasters meetings and asked to attend a leadership program my company was running (a tip I learned from the book, ask for what you want!). As I began to speak up for what I believed in, my credibility grow and I received three promotions in just over 12-months. I ended up reporting directly to the CEO.
Seeing just how quickly we can build influence once we start to speak about what we feel is important, and openly share our knowledge and experiences with others, has not only sparked my speaking career, but has also helped me to finally rid myself of my inner ‘shy girl’ (most of the time, anyway).
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?
I’m not sure is this is funny per se, but certainly an experience I’d like to share with other female founders or those considering that path.
It’s a story about the biggest fear I had when I started out. At the time, I was fresh from my corporate experience where I’d seen women with children (falsely) deemed to be less dedicated to their work. Knowing that my daughter was just five-months-old when I started my business, I prepared myself to justify how I planned to serve my clients while working around such a young baby. But in 13-years, not one client has ever asked about my family situation!
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?
You are so right. In my first business I didn’t ask for help when I needed it. As a result I found myself staring a burn-out in the face. When I moved into business coaching, however, the first thing I did was get the help I needed.
I asked my friends and family for help when I needed it. I got a cleaner and part-time nanny. And, having seen its power towards the end of my first business, I got myself a coach. In fact, for the last six-years I haven’t been without a coach. I think it’s an essential investment for all business owners — even coaches. You’ll grow so much faster and keep things in balance far better, once you have someone in your corner who’s there to support and challenge you as you grow.
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?
I’m a complete book and self-development addict and typically read at least a dozen business books a year. So it’s hard to pinpoint just one book. But I love Mindset by Carol Dweck, and feel it’s an essential read for everyone with an ambition to grow. I also enjoy The Success Principles by Jack Canfield. It’s packed with short-sharp advice, so it’s a good one to dip in and out of. I’ve probably read it four times now, but each time I reflect on the lessons in a new way.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Again, it’s so hard to choose just one! I love quotes and how they can succinctly express an idea. But, if I were to pick just one it would have to be this one from Sir Richard Branson: “If it’s no longer fun, stop doing it”.
I found this quote when I was considering if I could really quit my communication consultancy and do something different. It helped me to draw the line under my old business and start over.
I think we often get caught up in the work we are doing and forget that it also has to be fun, otherwise what’s the point? You may as well have a job!
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
I’m grateful that through my experience of building my women’s network, I learned how important contribution is to personal growth and fulfilment; my definition of success.
I believe that my life’s purpose is to teach meaningful marketing and help women to bring about positive change through their communications. As well as building my business around this, I also volunteer my time to causes and events that support these areas, including the Geneva Communicators Network, Lean-In Vevey, TEDxLausanne and TEDxSwansea, and the monthly Entnest ‘Perfecting your Pitch’ sessions and ‘Women’s Business Brunch’ events.
I believe the conversations I have with other successful women on my Driven Female Entrepreneur podcast, are also help making the world a better place. They inspire more women to dream bigger and achieve more.
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?
There are definitely biases out there that hamper female founders. However, I believe there is a lot within our control that can improve our chances too.
Women bring some amazing natural strengths to their business: creativity, empathy, nurturing, open communication and a desire to collaborate. These are key business and leadership skills. But, as we’ve touched on already, no one succeeds alone. We all need help. However, too many women try and do it all and fail to invest in the support and education they need to turn their ‘little idea’ into more than just a hobby business. So that’s one area that we can improve upon.
Those that do dare to step up and push the boundaries of their comfort zone enjoy extraordinary success. I’ve rarely come across a female founder who doesn’t already have the skills, passion and determination needed to succeed, they just lack some of the self-belief needed to dream bigger and go for it.
There are a couple of things that can really make a difference here. Investing in a coach can be invaluable. But it’s just as important to surround yourself with inspiring and supportive women who will encourage and support you as you build and grow — and for whom you are willing to do the same. Also, seek out role models to follow. I’ve noticed that women gain a lot of insight and courage from the successes of other women.
Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?
As well as the volunteer work I do. My business, and my Dream Clients Blueprint program in particular, is all about helping women build a profitable business that plays to their strengths and gives them the balanced lifestyle they desire. I offer a highly personal approach to business coaching and help women grow into confident leaders in the process of building their dream business.
Knowing, however, that not all women are ready or able to invest in a business coach, I started two initiatives to help more women entrepreneurs, founders and freelancers. The Driven Female Entrepreneur Club, is a Facebook group offering a safe space for women to get answers to their business-building questions.
I also host the Driven Female Entrepreneur podcast, to give women access to inspiring role-models whilst also showcasing the range of businesses women are building. I’ve been blown-away by how open and generous all my guests have been in sharing their experiences and advice. I’m consistently receiving stories and feedback from my listeners about how the show is helping them to dream bigger and achieve more and, importantly, to believe in their feminine approach to business.
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?
My definition of success is having the opportunity to live your purpose in ways that enable you to contribute to a better future, for you and for the wider community, and to enjoy consistent personal growth. There are few better ways to achieve this than through your own business.
While I had a very successful corporate career 13 years ago, I don’t think I could have ever imagined myself doing (and enjoying!) half of the things I’m now able to do. The best part is, that through my business I’m able to pass all my lessons and experience on to other women too, in ways that get lasting results. There is no greater feeling than seeing your clients succeed beyond their expectations.
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.
If I may, I’d like to look at what women can do for themselves to increase their chances of success. I always like to focus on what we can change and control. And I’ve seen women quickly change their outcomes once they master or over come these five things:
1) Learn to communicate your value and pitch
I believe that being able to communicate your value with confidence and consistency is the number one skill for all founders. No one is going to invest in you, your business or your offer until you can do this. It’s crucial to take the time and make effort to get this right.
It’s not easy however. Few of us are taught how to communicate clearly and sell ourselves in meaningful ways. But without these two skills, no business leader can get far. It’s why I agreed to give up my time to support entrepreneurs as co-host of the monthly ‘Perfecting Your Pitch’ sessions.
2) Ask for help
Women are notoriously bad at doing this. But unless you learn to ask for help, invest in the right support and delegate, you will seriously hamper your ability to grow. Worse still, you’ll burn out. Once you start asking for help, you’ll start to see just how many people are eager to help you on your mission and have the skills to free up your time and support your business success.
3) Be more persistent
Don’t give up too soon. If you don’t get what you want straight away, or if you hear ‘No’, then that is not necessarily a signal that you were not meant to do this. Keep going. Understand what has triggered the negative response and then address what needs to be fixed. Sometimes you’ll discover that your marketing message needs a tweak. Sometimes it’s your product or offer that needs an upgrade. Sometimes you’ll find there’s a skill gap to be filled. And sometimes you are simply pitching to the wrong person. Take every ‘no’ as the next step in learning what it will take to get a ‘yes’. Business is a journey, not a sprint.
4) Give yourself permission
I often see women worrying over whether or not they are allowed to do something. Or which decision is the right one to make. If you feel this way, it’s important to recognize that you are the boss now. Nothing is out of bounds for you (unless it is illegal or endangers others of course). If you feel yourself holding back, explore that feeling. What are your emotions really telling you? I also recommend working on your entrepreneurial mindset, so you can start to enjoy feeling limitless.
5) Believe in yourself and trust your intuition
For women, our emotions and intuition are our superpowers. These aren’t always recognized in a corporate setting, so many of us have lost connection with our inner wisdom. Start to tap into this again and trust your gut. After all, it’s not some kind of magic, but the culmination of all your experiences and knowledge, so a powerful source of wisdom and direction.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’d love to find a way to tackle the loneliness aspect of entrepreneurship. Isolation is particularly acute for those women who are building a business from home around a family. Their time is already so fragmented, it can be hard to find the space to network and connect with others as much as they’d benefit from. This often keeps them playing too small. Access to social media helps, but I feel there must be a more concrete solution.
With my Driven Female Entrepreneurs Club and podcast, and Women’s Business Brunch that I’ve recently launched with Entnest, I’m trying to start some conversations that could help spark a solution, but I’d welcome anyone else with ideas so reach out.
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.
There are so many inspiring women that I look up to. And if I’m honest, there are few women that don’t inspire me in some way. But if pushed to choose, then lunch with Brené Brown, Carol Dweck, Mel Robbins, Glennon Doyle or Dorie Clark would be awesome.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
One of the wonderful things about having an unusual name in this digital era is that I’m very easy to find. Type ‘Melitta Campbell’ into any search engine or social media platform and you’ll find me. Or search for the Driven Female Entrepreneur podcast.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.