iWoman is our favourite kind of business. A business built by women, for women. There are three branches to the business: iWoman Media, iWoman Academy and iWoman Radio. Each branch of the social enterprise is all about entertaining, inspiring and empowering women. We could all use some more of that in our lives, right?
Without further ado, let’s get into our interview with iWoman’s ‘force of nature’ founder – Ngunan Adamu.
1. Why did you start your business? What spurred you on?
I started my own business after being with the BBC for nine years. I had survived three lots of job cuts and had seen the effect they had on colleagues, especially female colleagues, and I decided that I needed a backup plan. My main drive towards starting a business was that I wanted to leave a positive legacy for my son. I kept asking myself, ‘what type of world do I want my son to grow up in?’. As a newly single mother of a two-year-old, there were so many clashing negative and positive thoughts in my head. I felt that if I could make changes to my career, then hopefully everything else would fall into place. I decided to go back to university and study a PGCE in further education and training. During my time studying I was successful in getting onto the School of Social Entrepreneurs Start-Up programme and joined The Women’s Organisation.
2. What are the unique challenges that you have faced as a female founder?
It’s hard to say. I’m a black northern woman from Liverpool who decided to start her own business and there aren’t that many of us. There were times I felt like I wasn’t being taken seriously. Walking into networking events, you had two sets of people; those who were curious to see what a black woman was doing at these events and those who assumed they knew what your business was about and were patronising towards you.
I learnt to be confident and take control of conversations but I constantly felt that I had to prove myself and regurgitate my CV at every given moment.
Another challenge was the lack of access to funding. I applied for two separate loans that were meant for start-ups, including people with bad credit, and I was knocked back both times. But how could I prove that it was because of my very African sounding name?
Balancing being a single mum, working, going to the gym, having a social life and trying to start a business has definitely been my biggest challenge. I had to build a strong support network around me and if it wasn’t for my mum I wouldn’t be where I am right now.
I believe that Liverpool was the best place for me to become an entrepreneur and the challenges that I faced were minimised because of the opportunities that the city had to offer.
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3. What were the 3 steepest learning curves in your first year in business?
Learning that I didn’t have to work 24 hours a day to be successful. I was so obsessed with building my business that I was constantly exhausted and my son was not getting the best of me. I didn’t have time to see my friends and my conversations at home were limited. I realised I was missing out on key opportunities due to overworking myself. I decided to stop opening my laptop once I picked up my child from school and any emails I needed to send could wait until morning. I’ve since become more successful and have gained many more opportunities in my first year.
Another learning curve was that I didn’t have a clue about legal structures or accounting. I counted on other people to tell me what they thought my legal structure should be. Because of this, I ended up learning the biggest lesson of my entrepreneur journey: within a year I had to close my business down and pay a hefty fine, but this was the best lesson I could have learnt, as I was then able to take full control of iWoman Academy and iWoman Media.
My confidence grew from failure
I never understood funding and where to get funding from, but through conversations with friends and contacts, I was able to figure it out.
I know we said three but my fourth is getting paid on time! No one told me how hard it was to get an invoice paid. Constantly chasing people and companies once the work starts coming in seems to be an extra job. I would advise anyone to have savings that you can dip into just in case you don’t get paid within 30 days.
4. What is your favourite thing about founding your own company?
The best thing about having my company is the confidence and validation that I get from it. For a long time, although I was confident, I would second guess myself because of the industry I was in. I love being in control of how fast or slow I want the company to grow, but when those opportunities come knocking, it’s hard to say no!
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5. What is the best business advice you have been given by someone else?
I’ve had some great advice which I would love to share! The first piece of advice was when starting a business, you need to always have in mind if it can run without you and if the answer is no, then you and the business won’t grow. And the second piece of advice was don’t be scared to talk money, know your worth so others will value you.
6. Do you ever suffer from Imposter Syndrome? If so, how do you tackle it and move forward?
I still suffer from Imposter Syndrome, which is crazy. I always think – are they asking for the right person? Is it really me they want? Am I in the right place? Do people really want to hear me talk? But I remind myself of my journey and what I’ve done to get this far. I’ve worked hard to be who I am and to be where I am. And I constantly have to tell myself that.
7. What’s the best book on business you’ve read?
I don’t really read many business books. The first business book I read was Starting a Business for Dummies, which was very informative. But most of my knowledge and confidence came from reading books like Slay in Your Lane, The Secret, The Alchemist, Seven Spiritual Laws to Success and Awaken The Giant Within.
8. Tell us about another brilliant businesswoman that you think our readers should know about
Jacqui Johnston Lynch – set up the Brink and Tom Harrison house
Naomi Mwasambili – Co-Founder of Chanua Health
Simone Roche – Northern Power Woman
Charlene Mohamed – KC Dainty
9. What advice would you give to yourself if you were starting your business now?
Be confident in your skills, listen to your gut instincts and have fun! The business can only grow if you still love and enjoy what you’re doing. Also, don’t be so hard on yourself. You only have one life and if something goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world.
10. If you had a marketing budget of £1,000 what would you spend the money on?
I would use it to make digital videos for online marketing. If your business is not on the internet you don’t exist, so they say.
Wanna read about more badass businesswomen?
We hope you enjoyed reading Ngunan’s story! If you wanna read about more female founders, head to the J&R Journal to get your female empowerment fix. Why not check out some other local Liverpool ladies? We recently interviewed Natalie Shilton from The Nakery and Maggie O’Carroll from The Women’s Organisation.