Three things I learned in my first year as a female founder
Starting a business is tough but incredibly rewarding, particularly when you complete your first year and reflect on how far you’ve come.
I founded Knight Transaction Services in June 2021, after the pandemic prompted me to reassess my career and life goals. I wanted to change the way the financial services industry operated, particularly in terms of making it more accessible for women to work in a typically male-dominated sector.
Here are three things I learned during the crucial first year in business, which I hope will help and inspire other women to take the leap.
1) Maximise your network
One of the nicest surprises I had when first founding Knight TS was seeing how much everyone around me wanted the business to succeed just as much as I did. Former colleagues and clients were happy to spread the word about my new venture and to lend their services and advice.
If you are in the early stages of launching a business, I’d highly recommend sharing the news on your social channels and through word of mouth. This kind of self-promotion might feel a little unnatural at first, but the rewards far outweigh any discomfort, and it can open up conversations that could transform your business and boost its growth in those crucial early days.
Consider what kind of clients you want to work with too, and where there might be a gap in the market. Before founding Knight TS I’d worked in global corporate organisations, but I knew my passion was in helping SME businesses to grow. I
decided to address this gap in the market by targeting these businesses where I could add real value. This kind of client knows how invested we are in their success, and they appreciate that we’re founders too,understanding the entrepreneurial risk. Our values align and that has been crucial to our successful first year.
2) Build the right team
Recruitment has been one of my biggest challenges in our first year and something that I hadn’t considered previously. We have grown far quicker than we expected, therefore the team has expanded sooner than originally planned. Finding the right people to join in the early days is an important part in building our culture as a business.
Rather than hiring for experience, my focus is on recruiting people who share our vision and values. Our model is to grow from the bottom, seeking out people who have just qualified or are about to qualify, so we can train them up in our own way.
We make sure that any content we put on our social channels attracts people who share our mindset and appeals to proactive people who are prepared to push themselves and help us to shape the business. In return, we offer rewards and opportunities that are far greater than the benefits you get when starting your career in one of the bigger firms.
3) Remember how far you have come
The first year of business can pass by in a blur, so it is important to schedule in time for reflection. Reminding yourself of where it all began also helps to counteract signs of imposter syndrome. It is easy to forget small victories when you are focussing on the bigger picture.
I like to use a website called FutureMe to schedule messages to be delivered to myself at a later date. These might be letters that I write to myself and schedule to deliver while I’m on holiday, reminding me to enjoy the break and to switch off from work so that I can return feeling refreshed.
Or they could be short messages of inspiration that I schedule to open on days when I know I will need a confidence boost. I’d highly recommend trying this yourself, along with keeping a log of victories – no matter how small – so you can revisit these little wins during tricky times.
And finally, remember to give back and pay it forward by mentoring and networking with people in your local area. There are so many women out there who would benefit from hearing your story. You never know when a small word of reassurance could make the difference and act as the final push someone needs to start a life-changing new venture.
Hayley Brightmore is the founder of Knight Transaction Services.