Dynamic Duo: breaking down barriers for women

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Alison Valenti and Sophie Musumeci

Alison Valenti and Sophie Musumeci are two Sydney-based women who are breaking down barriers for women in small business. They witnessed a movement building. A movement where women were searching for different careers or starting their very own small business. These women are focused on wanting to be available for their families without sacrificing their professional dreams. Starting your own business and being a mum involves strength and courage and requires a support network both personally and professionally.

Real Entrepreneur Mums is a community where women have the support, inspiration and encouragement to make the dreams a reality. Sophie and Alison formed this business for women who want to grow their business through referrals, increase their profile and help others in the same boat.

Q. How does Real Entrepreneur Mums work?
We are a business referral networking group. We create fun, local, supportive communities for women who run their own business. Being an entrepreneur can at times be isolating, having a group of women who’ve got your back and genuinely want to help you succeed is very motivating.

We focus on building strong relationships and experiencing each other’s business through deep dive sessions where we get to understand what’s unique about their business and who their ideal clients are. This builds trust. Once we know, like and trust each other we can’t help but be raving fans for their businesses, telling everyone we know about them – and the referrals flow in and the businesses reputation and bottom line grows as a result.

Having only one business type per Community eliminates any competitive culture, creating a safe and supportive environment for everyone to flourish.

Q. Why did you start?
Well given our corporate backgrounds and personal experiences we knew there was momentum building where women, who after starting a family want flexible working options and are starting their own business. Alison and I met a few years ago at a networking event for our own businesses and realised we had the same mission, “To build a global business that inspired women to go after their dreams and smash their goals.”

Whilst there are some great networking opportunities out there, we realised there was a need for inspiring, supportive opportunities that could raise the members profiles, and increase business revenue through referrals. We tapped 18 awesome business women on the shoulder and shared our vision with them. They jumped in on the spot telling us it was exactly what they were looking for. Their response gave us all the proof we needed to get started.

We also started a Facebook group so any entrepreneur woman can get support, ask questions and celebrate each other’s wins.

It’s hard for women to juggle a family and running a business. How do you run a successful business that is flexible enough to fit your children in? Knowing that other mums are in the same boat and it’s not just them, is a relief for our members.

We believe that when you surrounded yourself with the right people, you can achieve anything. When you are passionate about it too, it doesn’t feel like work. Real Entrepreneur Mums is unique and we know that we are absolutely on the right track.

“No one else is doing what we are doing” – Alison

Q. What were you both doing before Real Entrepreneur Mums?
I (Sophie) have worked in change management, training and leadership for quite some time. And Alison has over 10 years’ of experience coaching and training professionals wanting to exceed in both personal and business.

Q. How did you finance it?
We were very smart with our model. We started with a low membership fee for the first 18 members explaining to them that we were going to use them as a test and learn phase to ensure we had the right structure and value add for our members before expanding into new locations. They were happy to pay up front and we used that money to fund our website and photoshoots. Hiring meeting rooms and printing documents tend to be of a lower cost.

Our model is to reinvest everything for the first 12 months back into the business to ensure we grow each Community to 30 members. We also are a big believer in giving back and donate 10% of our membership fees to a local charity

Q. Did you face any difficulty when you started out?
Absolutely! As I’m sure every entrepreneur can relate working long hours on something that you’re not drawing a wage from, in the beginning can add some financial challenges. I personally had to tighten up on my spending and cut back on the additional extras like my cleaner to help during this initial phase. I also took a part-time corporate contracting role to help reduce the pressure on my husband. You just have to do what you have to do to make it happen.

Another factor was time. Having to fit so much in into a short period of time. I have two children and Alison has three, so we are super busy. But we have been very fortunate to have a really solid business partnership where we pick up the slack for each other when things get tough.

Q. What are some obstacles you have faced?
For us, expanding outside our network relied heavily on advertising and marketing. We had to identify the right medium, the best return-on-investment approach. At the moment, our model is based around establishing meetings twice a month where everyone can meet. The only problem with that is we aren’t able to be present at every meeting when we start expanding interstate and internationally. So we are working through that obstacle right now.

In our current communities we have identified industry leaders who are so amazing. They are natural connecters and genuinely want to help others succeed. They embody all of our energy and values, and they have joined us as our Community Leaders. We provide them with world class leadership training and create additional opportunities for them to raise their profiles including guest presenting on our Podcast channel, speaking at conferences and retreats, and more. We just have to build trust with them first.

But the issue is how do we build trust with people who live on the other side of the world?

 

“We are real people with real experiences” – Sophie

Q. How would you like small business to be supported in Australia?
There are grants for small business but no one really understands how to apply for them. They could make them simpler to apply for. We have to find them and shuffle through all of them to identify which ones we are most aligned with.

Q. What is your best piece of advice?
Say yes and figure it out along the way. You don’t have to have all the answers right away. All you got to do is just get started. And surround yourself with people who are going to support you and inspire you and make you a better individual.

If you are looking for a business partner, make sure to choose wisely. Most people don’t have a supportive partner. Leaving your career to start your own small business with no support is very difficult.

Q. What is the future for Real Entrepreneur Mums?
Well right now we are Sydney based with seven, soon to be 15 Communities. We have already made plans to expand nationally and internationally next year. We have 10 communities in NSW and SA with 150 members. Our highly engaged Facebook community group is expanding daily and we are nearing 1500 members in just a year.

Next year (if not sooner) we are opening in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and New Zealand and then focusing on getting our brand across the globe.

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