A recent study by KPMG has shown that only 43% of women are willing to take a big risk to advance their careers. At the same time, we are seeing more and more courageous women taking larger risks, and finding that those risks are leading them to greater success.
At Superscript, we want to see more women taking risks and moving forward into leadership roles. As part of our International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020 series, we had a chat with six fearless women about the biggest risks they’ve taken in their careers and what it was like diving into the realm of startups.
Annabel Mekelenkamp | Co-founder of Superscript
The biggest risk I took was leaving my secure bank job in the Netherlands and coming to London just to see what would happen. There is a Dutch phrase - “A flying bird always catches something”. I was at a picnic in London, where I met Ben Rose and it led me to joining Superscript. That was 5 years ago, and what an amazing journey it’s been!
There was nothing wrong with my old job - I liked the business and my colleagues. However, if I compare it to my life now, where I make a real difference in a business with daily decisions and enormous responsibility, I can never imagine going back.
One of the really rewarding things is to see the growth in the business. I remember setting up payroll for our first employee (and back then, we weren’t even paying ourselves - this was the first person to get a salary). The other day, I was paying 24 people and I thought, “We’ve come such a long way!“. It’s amazing to see such growth.
Audrey Manlot | Founder of Mamlok Illustrations
For me, it was leaving my full-time job to set up my illustration studio called Mamlok. I was scared about what it would do to my financial stability.
I’m really happy I’ve done it, as I was really boxed in at my previous jobs. I got to learn all about the different aspects of the business and now, I can express myself creatively much more. I like the relationship I have with my customers, as it’s much more personal.
Haleh Blake | Entrepreneur
The biggest risk I have taken has been on myself - starting a new business on the side of my 9-5. Working out of hours, over weekends and holidays, I have lost some days.
Though it is early in the journey, I can already see it paying off. I have become more confident to face the challenges that have and will come my way. Besides, once I put myself out there, I have opened a lot of doors and was presented with a multitude of opportunities, while the support from my network has been amazing.
Tracey Stapleton | Founder of The Spa PR Company
Undoubtedly, my biggest risk was when I took out a 5-year lease on our first London office for The Spa PR Company. This was years ago, so there wasn’t the range of rental options there is today. It was a big commitment, considering I had a brand new company.
Although looking back, at the time, I didn’t see it as a risk - more as an opportunity to grow the business. Making that investment made me realise I absolutely had to make the business a success, and there was no going back. Even though I only had a moderate cash flow at the time, I believed that everything would work out - and it certainly did.
16 years later, we’re built a successful business which generates a healthy profit each year. As for me, I’ve kept that mindset of always thinking ahead and having confidence in what I’m doing, so that I can take all opportunities available to keep moving the business forward.
Katrina Larkin | Co-founder of Fora
The biggest risk I’ve taken would definitely be launching my first business while I was pregnant with my first child. It was my first time as a mum, which can be pretty scary, and it was my first time starting a business - again, scary!
I’m really pleased to say the risk paid off - it enabled me to have a very good work-life balance and the flexibility which I would never get, had I gone looking for employment at the time.
It made me happier, and fortunately, by taking my business one step at a time, based around me and my daughter, it became a huge success.
Heather Bolton | Head of Psychology at Unmind
The biggest risk I took was leaving the safety and predictability of the NHS and joining a startup. I was used to working in a large, very structured institution, in a very clearly-defined role, so when the CEO of Unmind (Nick) approached me about a job, I initially said “No”. Unmind’s mission blew me away, but startup life felt like a real unknown compared to what I was used to.
After finding out more about the company and meeting some of the team, I decided to take the plunge and join Unmind as the Head of Psychology. Now, having been here almost 2 years, I can safely say it was the best decision I ever made. I have so much creativity and autonomy in my job, and though I loved what I did back at the NHS, I feel like I really belong here at Unmind. It’s definitely a risk I’m glad I took.”
Though they had completely different experiences, these women have one thing in common: no regrets. Whether it was stability or opportunities they’ve given up for their ventures, the risks were reportedly worth it. If you’re looking for a sign to take the plunge and begin your own journey, this is it.
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