7 lessons learned: Emma Watkinson, CEO of SilkFred

Emma Watkinson, CEO of online retail brand SilkFred, looks at the seven things she has learned since starting her business, with the benefit of hindsight.

SilkFred is the online retail brand with a difference. Providing women with unique fashion SilkFred has styles you will not find anywhere else. Emma Watkinson, CEO and founder tells us what she has learnt on her business journey with SilkFred.

1. Be resilient

No one can prepare you for what it feels like to start and run a business. Resilience is key; the ability to stay self motivated, keep going when it’s tough and still approach every day with drive and commitment to succeed is going to make all the difference.

2. Find a mentor

You’re going to find yourself in situations where it’s difficult to make decisions and you’re tackling the problem blindly. Having a mentor that has experience in building a successful business (even better if they are industry specific), will help you sound out ideas, reflect and offer advice learned from experience.

3. Sell the story & vision

You need to become an expert at telling the story behind your business and selling people on the vision. I didn’t pay too much attention to this in the beginning and I learnt the hard way that unless you get this pitch perfect, people don’t connect with your concept. Rehearse mini pitches for what your business is about; 30 seconds, 2 minutes and 5 minutes and don’t switch it up for anyone. Keep it consistent for investors, press, the person you just met at a networking event, your family, your best friend.

4. Have empathy

SilkFred EmmaThere is the misconception that to be a leader you have to be ruthless and uncaring. I’ve found this to not be the case. When you’re building a team of superstars who are going to work day and night to make your business a success, it’s vital that you listen to them, take an interest in their personal lives, ask questions about how they feel at work. Ideally, you want them to come to you the minute they have a problem and feel comfortable talking to you about it. It means you can address it quickly and hopefully resolve it. The alternative is that they don’t produce their best work and eventually they quit.

5. Connect with other founders

Your experience of running your own business is quite a lonely one. Your teammates, partner, family or friends (unless they are also entrepreneurs) are not going to be able to relate to what you’re going through. Make friends with other entrepreneurs as they will be the best people to share your troubles with. They know your struggle because it’s there’s too and having that extra support network is so valuable.

6. Be fearless

You have to be prepared to go so far out of your comfort zone, you don’t even know yourself. This means you have to be prepared to approach investors and pitch them confidently, show up at people’s offices if they won’t give you a meeting, be willing to put yourself out there for judgment and let people know that you’re strong, committed and nothing is going to get in the way of you making your business a success.

7. Give ideas away

It might seem counter intuitive to share your ideas with people (What if they copy me? What if they go and make a load of money with ideas?), but I’ve found when you give away knowledge and share experience, so much more comes back to you in terms of opportunity. When people remember you as someone who is helpful and good at what you do, they call you first the minute they have an amazing opportunity that is perfect for you.