Although the proportion of women starting businesses is increasing, there is potential for even more growth. There are many women with great entrepreneurial ideas but need the support to help their businesses succeed.
Starting a business can be intimidating, starting in a business aboard even more. In this article Digital Nomad and business owner Dinah Cook answers some questions in hope to inspire and support women who want to start a business abroad.
Tell us about yourself
My passport says French but I consider myself a world citizen. Born in France and raised in both France and Canada, I have a multi-cultural background and speak 4 languages.
I studied International Trade and started working for a big transport company at the age of 25 in Milan. I then moved to Cape Town and opened up the first organic Spa in South Africa. One year ago, at the age of 31, I decided to sell it and move to a more nomadic lifestyle, choosing Barcelona as a base. I am currently in Medellin Colombia, working part time remotely for an Australian company and on my new project: a travel agency specialized in tours for women, and growing a community of women nomads and travelers.
How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
When pursuing your dreams, you need to surround yourself with good people. I am very lucky to have a large group of supportive and understanding friends. My family is also very encouraging and always pushes me to believe in myself and go beyond the average.
I met a few people along the way that believed in me and gave me great opportunities that I ceased whole heartedly and tried to deliver more than what was expected.
At first, it was really hard because I had no clue of how to run a business but I tried to learn as much as I could from my mistakes. It gets easier with time though when you start seeing the results of all your hard work or receive positive feedback and motivation from other people.
Was there ever a time when things didn’t go the way you wanted– like a promotion you wanted and didn’t get, or a project that didn’t turn out how you had hoped?
I started a second business in import/export with a friend of mine just after opening my first business. We were just not meant to work together and I had not taken in consideration that I was in a country (South Africa) with a volatile exchange rate.
Well, 3 months in the business, the currency dropped 25% in the space of 2 weeks which meant that I did not have a competitive advantage in the market anymore and I was about to lose a friend.
Rather than pursue and invest more money, I liquidated my stock on hand the best I could and rather tried to save my friendship. It all worked out in the end, we can joke about it today!
Do you think women should feel intimidated in business?
No. The women I have encountered are actually very confident when it comes to business. I remember walking through the streets of Tunis looking to purchase some handcrafts at a local market. Everyone was trying to sell me something but the women crafters actually got me to purchase way more than I was planning to. Their assertive sales style and calm yet persuasive skills impressed me.
It is a misconception that women feel intimidated. I think business is still a male dominated field and people like to think that we are intimidated ☺
How do you achieve work-life-travel balance?
That is the hardest part of living a nomadic lifestyle. I am often questioning whether I should go and visit a new place and get pictures for content, work more on my marketing plan, or simply hang out with this awesome new group of people I just met.
Nevertheless, I think I am very anxious when it comes to seeing results – I don´t like to see things stagnant, I always want things to be moving and improving. So, if I allow myself 1 day of downtime, possibly Sunday, I make sure the next couple of days will be intense.
Networking and taking pictures is part of the job description I made for myself but it is also something I love doing- so, it does not feel like work. I guess I just try to alternate between tasks and go with what my environment at that time allows me to.
What has been the role of luck in running a successful business?
As a recreational poker player, I know that without any luck, you won´t make it to the end of the tournament. In terms of business- it is a combination of luck and other factors. You have to measure yours risk, analyze the market and the culture of the country you are in, and blend in.
I´ve met people along the way that don´t really care about ethics and that made money overnight. But in my opinion, if you want your business to be long-lasting and contribute to the growth of a country, you have to give extra attention to benefiting the local communities and have a respectful, yet understanding approach.
Luck resides in the people you meet along the way that will add value to your project, and in the timing and economic situation of your environment. If that is in your favor, then hard work and a couple of good skills will do the trick.
What advice would you give to young women who want to start a business abroad?
Preparation is key. Study the details of your environment. Why did you choose this destination? If it´s because of it’s amazing climate it´s just not enough. You have to want to make a difference and to understand the culture. You need to want to settle down and keep your options open for changes.
Watch your back. The idea of having a business abroad is appealing to many sharks and fake-friends that will want to support you in order to get something back. Choose your partners carefully and make the rules clear from the start. A contract can help, but it might not be enough if a situation turns sour.
Give it all you have, but don´t over stay your welcome. If after 1 year, you don´t have a reliable set of clients or see the results you want then re-arrange your project or location or think about cutting your losses. They say profits usually come in after the 3rd year, but you need to be realistic about whether it´s on its way or not.
Love what you do! Chose people/staff members you like to work with and share your successes with. Owning a business is hardly ever a one-man show, it is an amazing and beautiful experience and the personal rewards often exceed the financial return on investment.
If you have any questions or need support in starting your own business abroad please contact Dinah on Dinah@wowtravelers.com