Hey everybody, a very big welcome to a brand new episode of the Elevated Entrepreneur podcast and today’s topic is one of my personal favorites is the magic for thinking big and I’m having this conversation with a phenomenal person named Jen Glados, who is the living example of this very idea of thinking big because everything that she has achieved is because of that very superpower.
Jen is also a Canadian but has worked all around the world, and initially started her career in PR and communications for trade disputes and mergers in the EU and the World Trade Organization. But she soon found her love in entrepreneurship.
In 2003, she created a PR agency that spanned across London, Brussels in Dubai, and then followed that up with the communications-focused training company here in the UAE, as well as London in 2020. She fell in love with entrepreneurship all over again, and began supporting and helping women setup run and grow their businesses.
Today, she owns and manages Female Fusion, the UAE is largest community for women entrepreneurs with more than 20,000 members. Jen is a phenomenal lady that I’ve had a great conversation with about the magic of thinking big and how she’s achieved, what she’s achieved.
And if this is the kind of stuff that you want to dive deeper into, then I can’t wait to get started. So grab your headphones, grab a cup of coffee, if you’re going for a drive, turn up the volume and help me cue the music.
You’re listening to the Elevated Entrepreneur podcast, a podcast designed to help retailers restauranteurs and entrepreneurs simplify business operations and use modern technology to elevate their business. Here’s your host, Dhiren Bhatia. J
en, a very big welcome to the Elevated Entrepreneur podcast. It is such a pleasure to have you here.
Thank you so much for having me.
Thank you, Jen. And look, I know you are super busy and you got you have so much on your hands. I know just off air, we were talking about this amazing launch that I want to get into. But before I do that, I’d like for you to please introduce yourself to the audience. And tell us more about yourself.
Sure, I am Jen Blandos, I own and I run Female Fusion, Female Fusion is the UAE’s largest community for women owned businesses and we say that we’re really here to be able to help women, no matter where they are on their journey, as a business owner, whether they’re just getting started, maybe they’re starting to build a business, or if they’re looking to grow or really looking to scale.
So is anywhere I’d have an idea. I would like to be an entrepreneur all the way to I’ve owned a business for 10, 20 years and have hundreds of employees working for me. We are a community that supports our women in business.
And Jen, I know I’ve sneaked into the group a little a few times now. Is it only for women in the UAE and Dubai? or is it open to women all over the world?
So interesting that you ask that at the moment, our focus has been women in the UAE and our priorities been helping women business owners who want to have a business in the UAE. But we are very shortly looking at how we can expand that to be global, because business is global and we want to be able to give our business owners opportunities globally to be able to grow their businesses.
Oh, fantastic. and I know today’s theme really is about the magic of thinking because you’ve done such an amazing job at thinking big and actually seeing that happen in reality, can’t wait to get into all of that. But do you have a date in mind as to when this is going to be opened up globally? Any plans that you could share?
Yep, so it will be before the end of this year. We are changing and building and growing things really quickly. But before we add on the global membership, another thing that we’re doing as well as we’re also going to add a membership for women who are in business.
So corporate members, we’re getting a number of requests from companies to be able to provide what we’re doing for entrepreneurs, but women in business, and you know what better way to be able to support all women, but then also when we can connect women who are working in businesses, with the entrepreneurs, that that also increases opportunities for them as business owners as well. So I think it’s win win for everybody there.
Absolutely. I heard this once people will always pay for access. It’s all about connecting people to other and having that access, and being able to access that network, as you say, so powerful and I just love this idea that you’re you’re constantly striving to build this. Now I want to come back to Female Fusion but what I want to do before that is I know you’re a big PR lady, you’ve run a big PR business all the way back in 2003. Tell me a little bit about that.
So I first started in business back in 2003. I my original background is PR and communications around trade this We had some mergers with the European Commission and the World Trade Organization. So kind of the big brain stuff. And I really enjoyed that.
And I lived and worked all over Europe. And in 2003, I ended up back in the UK. And I tried to find a job, I thought that it would be no problem because I had had very senior roles within Europe.
And I couldn’t find a job in London and the response that I kept getting back was, you don’t have a British accent and you don’t have London experience. I was like, but I need a job and I’m really experienced, and I have this international experience and back then, that wasn’t really interesting for them. They wanted very specific UK or London focused experience. So I needed a job.
So I set up the company and initially, I set up that business, I thought I was just going to freelance for a little while until I found a job. But I found 18 months after I set up that business, I was running a seven figure business and had 15 people working for me. So it kind of took me by surprise but it was really interesting as well. I was very blessed with that.
And if I can ask what was the secret sauce? What was that one secret ingredient that made you get such success in such short time?
You know, I’ve thought a lot about this and I think probably, for me, it’s resilience, right? And I think this links in with thinking big as well is that we’re always going to have rejection, whether it’s in life, whether it’s in business or anything else, and you’re going to be told no, you’re going to be told that it’s not possible that you can’t do that.
And for whatever reason for me personally, if I want to do something, I’m like, oh, okay, so if that doesn’t work, Could I try this? Could I maybe try this? What about that? And you know, as a character trait is a child, very frustrating for my parents. But I think in adulthood that it’s maybe served me quite well, because I don’t give up.
And I love the fact that you said resilience and rejection, because both go hand in hand, not only externally, but also internally. I know we talked about this affair as well, that too many of us as entrepreneurs, tend to have this negative self talk going on in our head constantly, right? Hey, I don’t think I can do that.
Hey, I don’t think I can do that but you’ve obviously bucked the trend and you’ve built something so successful such early on? Was that ever a problem for you? negative self-talk?
I think as human beings are human beings have negative self-talk at some point, right? But it’s whether you keep having that negative self-talk, or if you say, Okay, right. I might think this, but if I keep thinking this, I’m not going to go anywhere and so you know, of course, do I doubt myself sometimes did I doubt myself? Absolutely.
Was I worried about failing? Absolutely. Have I failed? All the time but I think it’s more looking at that and saying, I know where I want to go to and so what am I going to have to do to go and get there and that has always been my drive, ever since I was a small child, actually, that I’ve always thought big and thought about things that I wanted to do and thought about steps that I could do to get there.
Yeah, and I think that’s pretty much sort of the foundational steps we all need to follow. I want to go back to your career for a little bit. You mentioned you started that PR agency. And I know then you also moved into a public speaking and training company. Tell me about that.
Yeah, so I what I found is the PR agency was interesting, but that was quite a crowded space. But what I was being asked more and more from my clients at that time was to show them how to do things. So to show them how to write press releases, how to do a communication strategy.
And so I took that and turned it into training business and eventually I turned that training business into one of the world’s largest training businesses. I had an office in London and office in Brussels, one in Dubai, and one in Abu Dhabi and so it very quickly went from being this small little London focus business to being one that went international.
And that was where not having a British accent, not having London experience work for me because people looked at that and they were like, Oh, you’re not British, but you live in London, and you’ve lived all over the world, and you speak different languages and so you get us.
And that was something that I realized that I could use to my advantage, my love for being international and traveling and working around the world, that I could use that as a skill to be able to help other people and also understand their culture and where they were coming from because the way we communicate, kind of like the way we run our businesses varies depending upon the markets that we’re in.
And you’ve got to adapt to those markets and being multicultural. Being able to address the gaps in culture is such a big part of that and what year was this when you started the training in Medius public speaking company
Quite soon afterwards. So I set up the PR agency in 2003. And very, probably within two, three months of that I added on the training, and was doing both businesses in parallel, and then realize that the training was really where the focus was and what the demand was that I was getting from the clients and very soon on, after I set up that business as well, I found out that I was pregnant with my first son and so I had the new business.
And I was also pregnant at the same time. And so my entrepreneurial journey started kind of around the same time that my first son was born as well, which is very fun and he’s almost my team now.
Wow, you talk about having your hands full, you know, newborn and a new business. That’s crazy. Now, I know that you’ve acquired Female Fusion not too long ago, why? And how did you make the jump from PR training and all the way into a Facebook group called Female Fusion?
Yes, so the Facebook group was created by someone else. And she did a beautiful job. She lived in the UAE a number of years ago, I think back in 2010, and had set up this Facebook community as a way to kind of be connected with other women who were still working in the UAE and it went from being a group of friends, to a community of 1000s of women who all worked in business.
So in the pandemic, she spoke with me and said, Hey, would you like to maybe help me take this Facebook group and turn it into a business? And I was like, Okay, I’m free, you know, I’m, well had spare time in the pandemic and I thought, you know, what a beautiful way of giving back, and so, license the business and turned it into a membership community. And initially, you know, it started quite small.
We lodged with, you know, and didn’t know what we were doing, like anything, you know, when you you set up a business was like, yeah, let’s have a membership, you know, and created what we thought would be good.
And it’s funny, when I see what it was back in 2020, compared to what it is, now, it’s, you wouldn’t even recognize it. But back then, you know, it was like, well, let’s do something that’s try. And so we’d launched and we had about 50 members, and then by the end of the year, about 100.
And that went along quite nicely and initially, it was kind of, we’re gonna do this community, well, I’m running my other business, then I realized that there was more and more demand and power for community, right, and the need for women to come together and support each other and so in 2021, we made the decision that my business partner had always lived in the UK and I was in the UAE and it just, she had other things she was working on and so I bought her out the business.
And so I’m, I’m the owner of the business now. And she’s working on a number of other wonderful ventures herself, and yeah, it’s gone from being something that was initially an idea, community that will help other women to really, I’ve really recognized the power of what we can do to bring everybody together and really focused on growing that business.
So at the moment, the membership has grown a lot. And we do have, the way that we as a business make money is that we have a membership, and it’s a membership that you pay for either monthly or annually and you get a number of benefits as being part of that membership. And the growth that our members are experiencing and how they are benefiting from the membership is just so beautiful. And I feel like it’s such an honor to be part of that journey and to play a role to be able to help other women and business in the country.
Indeed, and I said this just a little while earlier, creating a community is not something that everybody wants to these days, it’s the buzzword. But it’s incredibly tough and like you’ve done a phenomenal job of taking it from a Facebook group creating a membership, and now having corporate memberships.
It’s such an interesting niche to be in. I want to ask, Was this something that you envision doing when you took over the business? Or was it something that you just then thought about later? Like, how did that idea come about?
I always think big, right? And so for me, there’s a lot of other bigger plans that I have for Female Fusion. And so there’s a number of different areas that I was looking at, and I’m still sort of working on. But it became very clear to me, especially from the beginning of this year, that there’s so much power in that community, both not only in the UAE but globally.
And being able to harness that community to benefit others and to help other women grow their businesses is just such a powerful tool and for us to be able to do that and give back to the community. It’s good for women who own businesses, it’s good for the economy, it helps the economy grow and if we can play a part in that, I feel very honoured to be able to do that.
Yeah and as you were saying earlier, it needs to be a win win. It is a win win and this is where members are gladly paying for that membership, Jen. I wanted to ask you, I know a lot of us entrepreneurs these days, think about building communities, it’s the buzzword, everybody wants to build one. What sort of advice would you give to someone who’s keen to build a community similar to yours, like a paid membership?
I get asked this a lot, actually. Because we also have members who have different sorts of businesses that think, oh, yeah, I’d like to have a community, maybe I’m going to do that.
So the first thing is that I would always say is, do you have the time, because sometimes I come across people who want to build a community or a membership, but then plan on only spending two or three hours a month in that and think that a membership is an easy way to make money and a membership is not an easy way to make money.
And I have a team of three and a half behind me helping me run and manage that community, it is not something that is just Jen and I think sometimes people, because we do so much planning behind it that people think that it might just be Jen or a few other people that there’s not that much work, because they do such a great job that they make it look so easy.
But it requires a lot of work. It requires a lot of planning, a lot of forward-thinking and strategizing as well and being consistent, and you need to show up, and you need to show up a lot. And you need to be available to support members along their journey. And not only that, too, and this is one of the things that we’re working on, it’s growing the business is that I’m trying to find a way to step back a little bit, of course, you know, I want to be there for the members and to be able to support them.
But for me to be able to support them even more, I need to step back so I can have the meetings with the other organizations that will be able to help them along the way. So for example, to be negotiating really great deals with potential partners that can give them discounts on, you know, shipping or credit card rates or speaking with different government bodies about licensing, we’re banks.
And that’s not something which is like a 20 minute meeting, that is something that requires lots of meetings, relationship building, doing all of those things as well and so it’s a lot of work building a community, especially a successful one.
Yeah, absolutely. You’re so right. I love the conversation of time, for sure. I think a lot of entrepreneurs think that building a community is easy. You start a either a Facebook group or something like a circle, membership community these days, and then you let it self survive but I think time and showing up in those community in that community is really, really important.
I have lots of questions about the community but before I dive into that, I want to ask you, Jen, are you able to share some numbers about Female Fusion? I know the female fusion group itself has 20,000 members, which is no joke. But how does the paid membership look like? And what are your some of your plans for that?
Yeah, so we have a Facebook community, it’s close to 21,000 members, which is just a free Facebook group, and that was the original Facebook group but we’re finding that the value now is in the paid membership. Because you know, for us to be able to do everything, it costs money, we’re a licensed business, and to be a licensed business that costs money and to run a business and to to have the team so we have that free community.
But then we have the paid membership and the paid membership has 700 business owners in that. So it’s it’s a beautiful community, which honestly, every time we have an event or we do something online, I am absolutely blown away by all of the businesses that women create in this country. I’ve never seen anything like it. And I feel so honoured that they trust us and put that trust in us to be able to help them and provide that platform to help them grow their businesses.
It’s amazing to hear that, especially in this part of the world. You know, the Middle East is not very favourably thought of, especially when a woman thinks about starting a business. And I think your group sort of takes that point and throws it out of the window and makes it sound like this place is really good for and conducive for women to start a business.
Jen, the question I have next for you is the female fusion group. It has a Facebook group. It has a paid community. And you talked earlier about showing up can you give me an example or a few of how you show up as the CEO of the
group. Yeah, so I show up a lot, because that’s really important. So We have a number of touch points with our members and also with the entrepreneurial community as a whole. So with our members, for me personally, so we have a separate Facebook group for the Fusion circle, which is what our membership is called. I’m in the fusion circle Facebook group.
Once a week, we’ve just changed this, because so many people are asking to have time the gym, that, you know, I can’t be available for all 700 members. And so weekly, I’m going to be doing live sessions within our Facebook community and answering any questions that people have every week.
And that will be first thing every Monday morning. So by the time this airs, I’ll have already been doing that several times. So every Monday morning, I’ll be showing up at the same time with the team, we also have a number of masterclasses every month that I’m available on.
I also run something every month called Office Hours, where I make myself available for a couple of hours for members come with any problems that they’re having related to their business and if I can’t answer it, I will connect them with people who will be able to support them, you know, I don’t have the answer for everything.
I am also at all of our events and I host all of our events as well and so we have one to two events, events a week, both online and face to face and so and that’s both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi now as well. So I am, I’m working really hard to show up and to be able to support those those women in business,
You know, as you’re saying this, all I’m envisioning is you sitting in the back of a car and just working out of your car non stop, like you’re pretty much I can imagine you just being on your laptop shuttling between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Is that really how this is? Or do you actually have time for you and your kids?
Well, I do work a lot and especially I think this is one of the myths that people think that if you are an entrepreneur, that you’re able to work three hours a week, and you can lie on the beach, and you can take your laptop and go different thing, go to different places when you want and that’s not reality.
That if you want a business and you want a business to do well, especially in the beginning, you need to work very hard and so we’re just coming off of a launch where we ended our founding member, right and so that was for the past 10 days, pretty much 18 hour days, every single day doing lives on social media, doing master classes being available for members, you know, sitting on YouTube, we set up a YouTube channel over that and we were like, Oh, everybody likes us on YouTube, I guess we need to be on YouTube, we’re doing all of these sorts of things.
So in some ways, I have two kids, and my husband who is phenomenal and so, so supportive. And you know, my kids are older. So they’re 18 and 13. And so they know nothing but Mum working and you know, my son was born when mum had her company. So for them, it’s kind of they expect that. But then also as well, sometimes they’ll be like mum, you’re working too much, we need to spend some time with each other and I really appreciate that my I have so much gratitude for them because they know what I’m working towards. And it hasn’t always been easy.
I was a single mum for a number of years as well and so my kids know that, even when it was just the three of us that, you know, I was always working and trying to provide for them and to be able to make things work. So it’s unfortunate. My kids and my husband are very supportive.
I completely get that. I think for an entrepreneur, having that support system through through spouses, family, friends, is such an important thing. And I know from what you said earlier that you put some amazing big plans for for funeral funeral and I’m going to come back to that.
But I want to actually dive into that this whole idea of thinking big, like owning a PR agency, then a speaking public speaking coaching, then moving to Facebook group, taking the Facebook group from you know, from where it was to where it is today. 20,000 21,000 members, now having a community of 700 paid members. What’s the secret? Like when you say, I have big plans? How does someone an entrepreneur think big?
I think it’s different for every person. And you know, I think a lot about this because so many times I think that we are brought up and told to not think so big and I was thinking about this a while ago and I remember the first time when I was a child that I thought big and I was told don’t think so big. I think you need to be realistic.
And you know, I still remember that conversation and it was with my mum. My mum doesn’t remember the conversation, but I do because it was a really poignant moment in my life and I remember she picked me up from school one day, and I said to her, I said I’m going to be the Prime Minister of Canada one day and my mum looked at me and laughed, and she said, Jenny, don’t you think you should be more realistic with what you want?
You know, maybe you should think about something that is achievable, that you could do being Prime Minister isn’t realistic. And I remember saying to her, why not? Like, why can’t I be Prime Minister, if I want to be Prime Minister and run the country? Why not? And it’s interesting that I had been my whole life surrounded by people telling me that I couldn’t do things that I was thinking too big that it wasn’t achievable.
And I was always thought, why not? And maybe, maybe in a way, that that’s one of the things that spurs me on is that, you know, don’t tell me, I can’t do something, because I’m going to show you what can be done. And I’ll do twice as much of what you told me, I couldn’t do. And it’s hard, because I hear from our business owners, a lot of times that people is well tell them to be realistic.
And you know, don’t think so big. And it’s more than that. It’s not that they’re being mean, we’re trying to disparage them in any way but I think it’s this fear of failure, and they don’t want them to get hurt. So I had one of our members come into the office the other day, and she said to me, she said, You know, I was talking to some family members, and they told me that my plans were too ambitious and then I wasn’t going to be able to do it.
And so maybe I’m thinking about redoing my business plan, because maybe I just can’t do this and I was like, no, no. Do they own businesses? Are they entrepreneurs, you know, come on, like, let’s, you know, thinking big, but then also being a bit realistic, right? You know, like, I can’t say, I’m thinking big, and that I’m going to build a business, that’s going to make $10 billion in a year.
But you know, I could, and unless you know, it’s some sort of magic formula, but I can’t take it and say, Well, I can build a business, that’s going to reach a million dollars a year, in the next year or, and so it’s having a bit of reality, but also going, I’m going to do this, I’m going to have like this big, hairy, audacious goal. And I’m going to do it, or I’m going to try to do it and learn from that. And what are the next steps that I can do to get there?
Yeah, absolutely a nd I want to unpack that a little bit, because there was so much good stuff in there. First one is what you listen to what we all as people as kids listen to growing up from friends and families.
Oh, you know, don’t think so big. Now, I was gonna ask, Do you think that’s a cultural thing? Like, I feel as a I was born into an Indian family by descent, and I’m Indian by descent? Do you think that? Is it just the European and South Asian cultures that do this? Or do you think it’s more widespread? I want to hear your thoughts on it.
I think it’s just human nature. Right? That? I don’t know if I would say it’s any particular culture or, or nationality, I think just sometimes, you know, the people who love us don’t want us to be hurt.
And I think sometimes that they don’t think it through by saying, you know, maybe you should be more realistic, the, the hurt and the frustration that you must feel. Because it is, you know, sometimes, you know, because I even had my husband and I had a disagreement a while ago when I told him about one of the things I wanted to do with the business and he said to me, he’s like, Well, that’s too much, no, why are you doing that?
And he’s not an entrepreneur, right? He’s a brilliant consultant who works in tech, and IT and that’s kind of his space and so he’s, he’s not involved in entrepreneurship, and we got into a fight. And I was like, you know, you don’t believe in me, like, I’m gonna do this and his perspective was like, What are you talking about?
He’s like, I’m your biggest champion is like, but I don’t want to see you burn out, I don’t want to see you lose money. I don’t want to see you get hurt, because I know how much you’re going to put into this. And I’m thinking about you. But when you have this entrepreneurial spirit, you’re like, what he’s saying, I can’t do this. No, I want I want to achieve this. So I’m going to achieve this.
And so I think as well that we have to believe in ourselves. And I’ve gotten better over the years saying, okay, you know, cool, if you say that fine, and not listening to all of the noise that’s around me and to be able to trust myself and my intuition and to also surround myself with other entrepreneurs, who I can have as a sounding board.
So they get it, you know, I have my close group of entrepreneurs, who are my friends, and they’re at a similar level to me. And so they’re my sounding board. So when I have somebody in my family say the be realistic. I’ll talk to one of my friends. And she’d be like, What are you talking about? No, you should be like 10 times more. And you should be thinking this. You know, that’s why it’s so great to surround yourself with other entrepreneurs that will get it.
Yeah, and I think Female Fusion, the Fusion circle is the answer to that. I will also talk about two words that you said at the very beginning of this interview. One was resilience and the second was rejection and tell me a little bit but about those two words,
Look I’ve spent my life having rejection and being told that I couldn’t do things and I realized very early on that I can either take that rejection, and feel sorry for myself and say, everybody’s picking on me, and I’m never going to be good at anything. Or I can take it and go, Okay, so what can I learn from this? Or how can I do things better, and Rejection hurts, right? Like I’ve been rejected.
So many times in my life, like, even just from business, or people said things to me saying, you know, oh, you’re not good enough, or you can’t do this, or you can’t do that and it hurts and maybe sometimes, I’ll take a bit of time, and maybe shed a few tears, or feel really upset or angry, but then go, okay, so how can I learn from this?
And how can I learn from this to be better, and every single thing that I’ve had happen in my life, I have looked at it as a learning experience and you know, that’s everything from, you know, being rejected for contracts, and losing money in business, to having cancer and dealing with all of that to going through divorce to, you know, losing money in business to people telling me I can’t do things that every single time that’s happened, I’ve looked at that and said, What can I learn? How can I become better? What can I learn from that to do something better?
Wow, that’s powerful and those are major setbacks that anybody could face and to see you strive for that is is a testament to the vote of resilience right. I think that’s, I think you epitomise that word resilience, by keeping pushing by pushing through. That’s amazing.
Jen, I wanted to ask you, look, we talk a lot about everybody talks a lot about thinking big and I will admit, I’m the first person that will say that, but internally, I’m like, I can’t do that and no, that’s not possible but I know that I’m shooting myself in the foot by saying that myself that that self talk, how do you overcome that self talk? Because I think that also is a very big part of thinking big. So how do you manage that part?
That’s a good question. Right? And I think some days are better than others and some days, I might have that little voice, because there is always and I think within all of us, there is always that little voice, especially, you know, when you were a kid, you were told you could do things that you’ve kind of like maybe doubt yourself and go, Oh, maybe I’m not good maybe I don’t know this well enough and then I have to have that self talk with myself and go, What are you talking about, you know, you’ve got a business, you’ve achieved this, you’ve done like X, Y, Z, you can do this, you can do this,
or if I’m really struggling, and we all have days that we’re struggling sometimes is I have my friends who are entrepreneurs, who I will consult, and I will say, you know, I’m really struggling with this, or I’m stuck with this. Like, I don’t know if this is right and it’s not that I’m looking for them to solve my problems.
But it’s more for them to go and say, What are you talking about, you know, like, Come on, girl, like, pull yourself together, you can do this do X Y Z and I do this for my friends as well, that no matter how incredible somebody is, and how much you look up to them, everybody has that doubt and I would say the biggest thing is you have to have the self talk yourself, but then to surround yourself with people who are going to be your biggest fans and cheerleaders as you grow, because that’s so key to have those people around you.
Very, very important one to have have a group of friends who can always pull you out of that dark place that we tend to go off go into often. That’s, I think one of the best pieces of advice and I think, also to add to the fact I think entrepreneurship is a very lonely game to begin with, and surrounding yourself with a few certain select people that can pull you out of that dark place, I think really, really important to continue to keep thinking big in that theme of thinking big. You mentioned earlier that you’ve got some big plans for Female Fusion church. Tell us what’s coming up.
Yeah, well, I think by the time the episode is aired, that hopefully news will be out giving away too much. But one of the first things that we’re doing in the next couple of weeks is relaunching awards for micro businesses that are owned by women. It’s the first time that this has been done in the UAE, and it’s really important for us that, as you know, the largest community, for women on business in the UAE, that we need to have another channel that we can help celebrate that and promote that and so we’re launching these awards for micro businesses, because so often, there’s so many awards in this in this country.
But the problem is, is that the categories of what they consider a small business, the turnover is quite high. So oftentimes, the businesses that win these 100%, they deserve to win them. But the thing is, is that this small businesses that micro businesses can’t even compete, because oftentimes, they’re told, you need to have a minimum turnover of 5 million dirhams to compete, or you have to done X, Y, and Zed and they could be running an absolutely brilliant business but, they just don’t meet that criteria.
So what we’re looking at doing, because female vision, mainly not all of our businesses, but a lot of our businesses fall more into the micro-business category of SMEs. And so those are typically the businesses that are doing under about seven, 8 million dirhams per year, some, you know, right up near the top, some lower, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to be celebrated and supported Business Awards are one of those first things that can really help that.
So we both will be launching that in the next couple of weeks and we’ll be having a conference for a full day conference for entrepreneurs at the end of September and then that evening, we’ll be having the award ceremony as well. So that’s something that we’re really looking forward to because nothing like that exists.
Yeah, it’s like, I presume it being called Female Fusion con, like, you know, this thing about doing conferences, and having something like that right here in this part of the world is really interesting.
With that as well, we would like to open that up to be a bit more international as well. So I have a number of contacts with also as well, because I’ve lived and worked around the world and I know a lot of business owners in different countries around the world and I’m always getting asked, When is female fishing coming here, when can I join, I want a membership.
I’ve even had businesses who I know who are not doing business here who have bought memberships and Female Fusion. Because then like, it’s so amazing that we want to be part of this and we want to get this knowledge to be able to build and grow our business and so we’ll be looking at how we can attract international micro women and micro businesses to come to conferences as well.
So it will really help with creating more relationships and partnerships and collaborations for women in business around the world and around the region.
Amazing. I got to ask where do you come up as the sole founder as the sole CEO? Where do you come up with these ideas? Like how would you even dream up of an awards ceremony.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Myers Briggs at all, but I am what’s called an ENFP. So I I’m an extrovert, and I’m very creative and I’m continuously coming up with ideas now and I had brilliant team as well and so oftentimes, we love to have that creativity time, where, you know, we sit down in the office, and you should see our even the way we design our offices designed to be like a real creative space, we’ve got kind of like big tables for collaboration, lots of windows glass everywhere and we have this flip chart paper that you can stick up on the walls and so we’re always writing Ideas and brainstorming and going, oh, this is a problem that we noticed that this is a challenge that we have and so then we’ll just sit there and we’ll brainstorm and go, what about this?
What about that? How about that? And we’re always listening to our members. So our members will sometimes say to us, Hey, we have a problem with this, or, you know, how do we do this? and then we’ll go, okay, so how can we come up with a way to help? and what could we do? And so it’s always just listening, coming up with ideas, you know, we might not always get it right.
As I said to, you know, part of being an entrepreneur, you’re gonna make mistakes, you’re gonna fail, but then it’s taking that learning. So the Micro Business Awards idea has come from recognizing and seeing so many businesses want to enter awards, but they just don’t have those opportunities to enter them and the awards that sometimes they do get pitched, are the fake awards, or the not really good awards and I’m sure you know about those as well.
You pay and you show up and you got to pay for your spot. There’s a lot of that.
And if you don’t know you don’t know, right? And so we’re trying to create something which is going to be so powerful and that if you win an award, you’re really going to deserve the award and we’re working with a couple of our members as well for artists and so we’re designing the award so It’s going to be more of like a work of art rather than a cheap, typical trophy, and said that the custom-designed eco-friendly, sustainable kind of in line with what our values as a business are as well.
Amazing. Jen, I want to ask you, I don’t want to ask I think more more importantly, just go back to that question that I asked you. How do you build a community like this and I think one of the things that I want to add to that is apart from the time and the showing up is something that you’ve just highlighted, so well, is listening to your members, it’s so important to keep asking for feedback from your customers from your members, because you’re building for them.
I think oftentimes, we forget that. Is that something that you guys do through like a series of asked me anything? So how do you guys ask for feedback from your members.
So we do it all the time and we do it in a number of different ways we do it when we’re meeting with our members and we talk to them and we just we ask, we have the Facebook community for efficient circle members and we’ll put like little surveys or q&a s in there, sometimes we’ll do something more detailed, like we’ll have a type form, we love type form here, we’re always using type form and creating different surveys and so we’ll ask for people’s feedback there.
And it’s just really listening and identifying if there’s problems and so we’re always listening about what’s going on, and where people need help and where people need support and for us and Female Fusion and it’s, it’s not only me, it’s also my whole team, as well as that we’re really coming to this business as a place of service and feel really privileged that we can serve and that we can support these businesses and the difference where everybody on the team is so invested in impact and making a difference and helping people and that is the best kind of business that you can be and I feel like it’s such a privilege that we had the opportunity to be able to help people in that way,
Serving your audience and your customers in such a way to think about it.
Yeah, it is an absolute honour to be able to do that in our businesses, you know, one of the secrets of success for our community and one of the things that I learned very early on is you can think about this community and like, Oh, I’m going to have this, I’m going to create this portal, I’m going to create this training course, I’m going to have these downloads, I’m gonna have this framework.
But really what it is, is it’s the people, and it’s providing that environment where they feel like safe, empowered, respected, supported. And we really push that, like, we don’t have favourites for any business. Like it’s not like, we’ll support one business or another business that we’re very much. If you were part of the fusion circle, we’re here to help you grow and one of the things that we created that I’m I’m so proud of as well is that we created a verified women owned business directory, first that I know of in the region, because at the end of the day, what do people want out of their businesses, they want to make money, right?
You know, they might not want to make millions and millions, but they want to be able to make enough money, some even more, but like to pay their bills to pay their mortgage, to pay their school fees, to have a nice life to not have that pressure that they had of maybe having a job to work on something that they’re passionate about. So how can we as a collective, help them do that and help them make money.
So one of the first things that we identified is that women and businesses globally, not only in the region, but globally are not getting their fair share of access to opportunities. And globally, from like a procurement point of view. These businesses are getting one to 2% of procurement opportunities, which is really shocking.
Within the UAE the number is that about 5%. But still, if you think that only 5% of procurement opportunities are going to businesses that are owned by women. There’s a problem when we have 50% of the population and there are so many businesses that are owned by women.
So we created this directory. So when I have somebody who runs procurement in a company said, well, we don’t know where to find these businesses or when you have somebody say, Oh, I’d like to hire a small business. Okay, you want to hire an accountant, you go on to the business to record we’ve got 15 accountants listed. They’re all verified. We check their trade license, and we confirm that their trade license says that their license to be an accountant.
That is so important. That said that’s helping them grow their business and getting access to extra opportunities as well. So we’re always looking at what can we do to help them grow, to get more money to get more contracts, more clients, more customers? And so this is where It’s so fun to be creative to think about, well, what else can we do to help them come up with more business or to get more exposure.
And as a group, we have a lot of contacts, even with things like journalists. So we will introduce our members to journalists, when they’re writing stories, or they’re doing something on the radio, or we’re always looking for opportunities for our members.
That’s amazing and now I can understand why it’s about serving the community. Because everything that you’re doing is really focused on on that one thing is how can we help our members grow business? How can we help our female business owners grow their business, and I think when you come at it, when you come at any business from that angle, it just changes the equation that changes the game and all of these ideas can then start flowing.
Absolutely. I wanted to ask you look, when you have such a powerful community, and for so many suggestions coming in, you’ve got so many ideas flowing. How do you maintain direction, because I know one of the things that entrepreneurs all over the world suffer from as this terrible disease called Shiny Object Syndrome and I want to ask you, with so many ideas in the table, how do you maintain that discipline to put forward in one direction.
Systems and operations are incredibly important for a business like this? And so I could have all the crazy ideas, and I carry notebooks with me everywhere. I’m always writing down ideas. But this is where, you know, me, playing on my 20 years of experience as a business owner is really helpful that I’ll look at that and go right. Is that achievable? How long is that going to take me to do?
And is it going to have impact. And so the way we run our business, and I’ve been very clear about this, from the beginning with my team is that we have to be really heavy on systems and how the business operates. So for example, today, my team had been working that kind of turned off their communication for three or four hours and they’re reworking a different system on how we can keep all of our member information updated.
And so it makes it easier for them to communicate with members and support members, if we have failed payments and all of these things and finding a way that they can automate it because I think where entrepreneurs struggle a lot of times is that they don’t have systems in place to run their business and it’s very difficult to stay focused.
So how I stay focused is that we have very clear objectives that we need to meet, and those objectives need to be met and those activities and deliverables need to be met before we go off and do other things because at the end of the day, if you’re running a membership, if you’re dealing with members, the single most important thing for that is you need to be consistent. Because if you know, they don’t know when they’re getting emails that they don’t know, when they’re getting information, if they don’t know how to go about doing things, they’re gonna leave your membership.
So we’re very fortunate that we have 700 people in our membership. But for me, my biggest priority and with our team is that we have to keep this 700 members happy and we need to serve them and support them and help them understand how efficient circle membership benefits them, and to show them how they can use that membership.
So they’re gonna stay in the membership and so that’s where you get the system. So we could sometimes I have shiny object syndrome about like software or tools, and I get really excited about that, because it saves me time, it saves me money but you know, we go back to, you know, probably single handedly the most important stuff is one, the platform that we run our business on, it’s amazing and everything kind of runs through that we use apart from cod Kajabi and it’s, you know, our membership is on there, our courses are on there, our email system, our payment collection system, everything runs through there. S
o that’s kind of that makes it a bit easier. And then we use a project management system called monday.com, and monday.com is where everything is kept in project managed and my team runs it and has missions and everything is run that way.
Amazing, and I think that is really important to keep that sense of direction and not lose sight of the next immediate goal or the next one after that. Because like I said, it’s very easy to get attracted by the shiny object syndrome.
Yeah. So really our rule is we have to get the existing stuff done first, and then we need to add in, then we can add in the other crazy stuff and we do sometimes we’re like, oh my goodness, we need to like slow down because it’s like Ideas Central.
And you know, it is it is cool that people come into our office sometimes and they’re like, what are you guys doing? There’s so many ideas on this board and it is It’s nice to be able to do that and have goals and have ideas about things we’re going to do in the future. But it needs to make business sense. And we have to remember, you’re running a business
100%. And it’s about serving that audience. So do do what is needed the most to serve that audience and everything that will fall in place. I know a couple of more questions, and then we’ll start to wrap up. In terms of tech. Jen, you’ve talked about using Facebook groups, and you’ve talked about Kajabi. Have you considered any other platforms? Or do you feel that this is enough for someone who’s looking to start a membership group?
Well, we’re very tech heavy in our business and for us, if we can automate it, we will automate it because it saves us time and money. So we’re always kind of looking at ways that we can do that for us for the membership. Kajabi is number one, we love Kajabi, we want change from Kajabi and you know, I’ve had a few people say, Oh, why don’t you get a custom built system?
And I’m like, why? You know, why do we need to do that? Because could Kajabi there? Why would I take money and waste it? You know, because a custom build system is going to cost you like 150,000 dirhams, 200,000 dirhams for what we need easy, if not more, so why am I going to spend that when Kajabi is already there and I think sometimes as entrepreneurs that, you know, we want to be, we want to be innovative and we want to have something that’s like the first of different or creative.
But for things like this, you don’t need to do that, and save your money on something else, you know, our Kajabi costs are quite high, because we have the highest level package with Kajabi. But it does everything it does our email, it does like our, you know, it collects the payments from PayPal, we have an integration with stripe who we use. But you know, other than that, it’s all there.
So I would say you want to find a platform that you’re going to run it on and, you know, different people have different views on this. But my so I always I always reverse engineer things, right? We’re all look and say, What are my plans for the business? What are my plans for the membership? So if I want to be here with the membership in a year, or two years or three years, what do I need to have in place now.
So oftentimes, mistakes that people make is they’ll go for like a really cheap platform, because they’re like, Well, I don’t know, you know, it’s gonna cost me money, I don’t want to spend $120 a month, you know, I’m gonna go with this option, which is $20 a month or whatever. But then what you find out very early on, as you start to grow it, that that system isn’t fit for purpose, and you’re gonna have to redo it and rebuild it and so I really believe in investing in your business and making that financial investment. So it makes it easy for you
Absolutely do it, do it early on in the business so that you can build on it as a foundation, rather than keep reinventing the wheel.
So for us, even if we go back, let’s say for example, we were to go from 700 members to 5000 members, our platform is still like, we can still handle that. But you know, we might need to do, of course, I would need to hire additional staff and everything else. But in terms of a platform who would still need to do that.
When it comes to things like managing the community and letting people chat. There’s different platforms that you can do it on nut the one argument that I say to people, especially because I hear people say no, you know, Facebook is terrible, you should do it on like circle, which is another platform that people use, or mighty networks, or even just Kajabi itself has a form.
But the thing that I I always say to people is you have to meet your customers where they’re at, don’t make them go on to something that they don’t want to be on. So many people and especially in this region, and especially like our age group on Facebook, you know, okay, my kids age, my kids, like wouldn’t be caught dead on Facebook, because they think Facebook is for old people like me but for you know, people who are entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs are using Facebook.
So if I were to go and say, hey, we’ve got this new thing, we’re gonna have this community and it’s going to be on mighty networks, or it’s going to be on circle, my engagement rates are gonna go way down. So I’m not going to do that. So we really need to meet, you need to understand who your members are, and you need to meet them where they’re at. Don’t force them to go somewhere that they’re not already.
I love that. One last question about membership and especially from I would love for your thoughts on this because you’ve done this successfully. How do you take a membership group full of free people have free not free people but free members and upsell them a membership? What would be three rules that you think are important for that?
So that’s a really good question. And this was something that was hard to tackle in the beginning and And I think the first thing that you have to remember, if you have a free Facebook group is not to over service your members too much.
Because the problem is, is if you’re used to giving them if they’re used to having everything for free, they look at it, like, why would I pay for it? You know, like, you’re giving me everything? Why would I give you money when you’re already given it to me and so I think the very first thing, and as a business owner, if you’re looking at starting a community that you need to think about that about, okay, I’m creating this Facebook group, and I’m eventually going to charge people, you need to be careful about how much stuff you give away for free.
Because if you give everything away for free, it’s going to be very difficult for people to see what the value is. So one of the first things that I’ve really focused on with that, because historically the group did that, that was what we had, as people were like, why I’m not paying why get for free, you promote my business, I find business I like, I don’t need it is my team, stop giving away all of that stuff for free.
So any of the free stuff went into the Fusion circle, because they were the ones that were paying, you know, you have to serve your paying customers. So that free group became much more of a place for people to, you know, you still want to, we still want to be able to serve, and we still want to be able to help our business owners, right?
Whether they pay or not that I feel that as a moral obligation that we want to be able to help women in business by giving them access to information and being able to find things because it is it is tough sometimes. But there’s also a limit, you know, you can’t give everything for free.
And like you in business, you know, everybody’s in business, that you’re not going to work for free. So we provide a certain amount of content, as support, allow people to do posts to ask for information, or where can I find this? Or where can I find that. But after that, that stops, and everything else goes to the paid community.
So I think deciding what your Facebook group is going to look like, and what you offer for free and what you offer as a membership for what you charge people for, even if it’s like a low ticket webinar or a masterclass and you’re charging, even like 50 dirhams or 100 deras, that you need to be able to charge people, because it costs you time to go and build that and to share that knowledge as well.
So I would say don’t be afraid to talk about money and to charge people for that and not to over service it.
I think that’s so refreshing because you know, these days, it’s everybody’s shouting from the rooftops, provide value, provide value, give value for free and here you’re talking about, it’s okay to give value, but be mindful of not giving away too much. You don’t want to give the shop away either. I think that’s really important.
I’ve always there to help people, and I want to be able to do to help people and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you also need to have boundaries as well, that, you know, and I have had some people contact me saying, oh, you know, I need to help them this, can I come and have a free one hour consultation with you?
No, you know, I’m sorry, I can’t do that and I’m not a business coach, even though I’m certified to do that. That’s not my focus. I don’t want to be providing coaching or consultancy that very much.
My focus is the community and I think in a way, that’s good, because sometimes these communities as well, that you have people who will create communities, but it’s kind of a way that they’re selling like their, you know, their coaching package, their high value coaching package and stuff like that, you know, yeah,
We’ll sell you stuff but it’s things like access to events, access to, you know, other master classes, and it’s not things that we’re going to say, oh, but if you want that, you know, well, you need to be on this 12 week coaching program. That’s not what we do.
I think that’s some really, really good advice and I also think that nothing wrong with selling coaching services or anything of that sort. But be very clear about that. In this right in the beginning, when you start to create this community. Why are you doing this community? What are you going to be doing? And where do you draw the line? So I think those are some really great pieces of advice.
Yeah and you know, I think that I’m supportive of every woman in business, every entrepreneur and to be able to have ideas and to be able to see how that works and there’s an opportunity for a lot of people to be able to create communities around what it is that they do.
But I think just don’t think that a community is going to be easy, because it’s not and it is really powerful to be able to provide that support as a community, but it is a big investment. And oftentimes it won’t just be you will need to hire other people to support you and work on that as well. So where I’ve really started to see the growth harasses when I’ve been able to hand things over to other people to manage some of the day to day so I can work on the more strategic stuff to be able to grow the business and add more value to the business as well.
Yeah, and I think a lot of people like you rightly said, think of community as this bolt on add on way to make money. But I think creating a community is a business in itself these days, not only just a small part, but it’s a very big piece of work. And for that you need to hire people, you need to create systems, you need to have tech operations. It’s a whole business model in itself these
Yeah, you know, I have a team of three and a half working on the community plus me. So it’s a lot of work and they put so much into it, and they love it and they love being able to support women, but it’s it’s hard work and my team work really, really, really hard and I’m so grateful for them because they do such an incredible job.
I love it. And now as we start to wrap up, Jen, I got one question for you. Because you know, the Elevated Entrepreneur podcast, I love asking this question to my guests. What do you does it mean, to be an elevated entrepreneur,
From my perspective, I think it is work for me, I think is to be a connector, and to be able to use my knowledge, my experience, my background, to be a connector, and to help other people and to help other people grow.
You know, because I think also, if we’re givers, and we give to people, so much comes back as well and it’s never, I never do it with an expectation that people do things for me, I don’t operate that way but I feel that if I can use my 25 years of experience and knowledge and expertise to be that connector, and that knowledge helps other people, that that in a way makes me an Elevated Entrepreneur that I can use that to support other people to grow.
I love that that’s the first time I’ve heard that as a definition, to be a connector, and to be a connector, you need to be a giver. So I love that,
Yeah, the values that I’ve really pushed within the community and it’s really beautiful to see that so many people embrace that they realize that when they give, and it’s not saying you know, work for people for free, but like to make yourself available for some people, you know, if you see somebody struggling, reach out, and you know, offer a hand where if they need something, you might not be able to help them but introduce them to someone who will.
And it’s that that whole idea of support and kindness that really perseveres within our community that makes me feel really proud about what we’ve achieved, because it’s, it’s a community of the nicest, most supportive women that you will ever come across and I feel really proud that we’ve been able to create that community,
I heard this somewhere Your vibe attracts your tribe. So I think what you’ve created is purely because of the vibe you bring and I think that’s a big part of this success of female fusion. So a tip of the hat and I wish you the best of luck, Jen,
Thank you so much. Thank you so much.
So let me ask you, then, Jen, before we wrap up, and before I give you back to Mike, to close this podcast out, I just want to ask you, where can people find you,
They can find this online. Our website is femalefusionnetwork.com, and on there is information about the fusion circle and you can also find the business directory on that website as well or we are on Instagram, as well as female fusion works. You can find us on youtube bashing female patients, and also make them and Facebook as well. Were everywhere.
I love that. And back to you know, just if you wanted to say something to close out this conversation.
Yeah, I think I would just really love to give a shout out to say thanks to all of our members that are part of Female Fusion and the Fusion circle because without them, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing and it’s they’re the ones who have created this community which is so powerful and so special, because, you know, they are a community of givers and their community of supporters and they are so passionate about their businesses, and about sharing that knowledge with other business owners as well that I feel very grateful to be given that privilege to be able to support them and to be able to create that framework that helps them build, grow and scale their businesses.
What a wonderful way to end this beautiful conversation. Thank you, Jen so much for being on the Elevated Entrepreneur podcast. I really had a great time.
Thank you so much. much.
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