An award-winning HR Tech entrepreneur and champion of female entrepreneurship from Birmingham, UK

It’s not all successes in nice dresses

Last month I attended the inaugural West Midlands Tech Awards – I was shortlisted for the Woman in Tech Award! It was my first-ever awards evening, and I was over the moon to have made it on the shortlist of three successful women leading the way in our region. On went my new Karen Millen dress, and feeling that confident about the evening ahead, I opted for my bold, bright red shoes and handbag.

Inside, I was bubbling with excitement as my husband and business partner proudly accompanied me to the evening ceremony at the ICC in Birmingham. We had a hotel booked, and my parents were looking after our boys so that we could enjoy a rare evening out together.

Entertainment and networking preceded us, taking our seats for television presenter Ortis Deley to present the awards. By the time we got to the Woman in Tech category, I couldn’t contain myself as I watched the showreel on each of the three of us shortlisted.

After the videos had finished, Ortis announced the winner of our category.

It wasn’t my name that he announced, and my excitement instantly turned into a sinking feeling in my stomach. My husband (who doesn’t often show affection) immediately grabbed my hand and squeezed it before I put my hands together for the worthy winner, Cerys Johnson, who took the stage.

“Didn’t win 🙁 ” was the Whatsapp message I sent to my Mum at the end of the award ceremony. “Ah never mind, least u were put forward for selection which is really good well done 😊 xxx”, came her immediate reply (and attempt at text talk).

As is often the case, my Mum was right. Only in that moment, whether I wanted to or not, my brain had registered this as a failure. It had delivered a heavy dose of disappointment and even a sense of embarrassment as I suddenly felt grateful that I hadn’t invited other family and friends to the occasion. Despite the wonderful evening the Reach PLC Group hosted, I still walked away feeling gutted.

A month on, and I have gotten over the disappointment, recognised that the competitive and ambitious streak in me that has led to my success might also make the not winning harder to swallow, and can see rationally that this was my very first endeavour into the world of awards and that there are hundreds of other incredibly talented people who will and should be recognised.

However, it has left me thinking: do we show the realities of being an entrepreneur enough? In this vain, I felt it was important to share my experience publicly. Whether success stories in the press or glamorous photos of lives on Instagram, it’s often just the best bits that are shared and the good news that makes it into the trade publications and tabloids. This, in my view, creates an unrealistic and unobtainable view of the life of an entrepreneur. While some adults may be critical enough to know that despite the positive front, most business owners will face challenges, I wonder if the younger generation are being sold an illusion of the ‘life of an entrepreneur’ with the presentation of absolute and unwavering success. Perhaps we owe more to them than that?

My children are too young to be affected by this. Still, it struck me upon chatting with my cousin, mainly when he told me that his 13-year-old daughter saw me as a ‘role model’ as a result of following me on social media, that perhaps I haven’t been sharing the whole picture, the realities and even the disappointments that often come alongside being an entrepreneur and business owner. Being aware that these realities are likely to feature in any entrepreneur’s journey will make them much easier to handle when they do for the next generation of enthusiastic business owners. Similarly, understanding that it is often the ‘dips’ or the ‘downs’ that allow you to make progress and appreciate the ‘highs’ is a valuable lesson that perhaps we could all do to share a bit more prominently.

So, if you’re an entrepreneur, no matter where you are in your stage of business, please join me in sharing your real journey to inspire others to have a more realistic and healthier view of entrepreneur life. I’d love to hear about your #RealEntrepreneurJourney!

I’ll undoubtedly apply again for the West Midlands Tech Awards 2019! It’s great to see what’s happening in Tech isn’t just about what’s happening in our capital! You can count on me for a real view, no matter the outcome.

If you do want the glossy bits behind West Midlands Tech Awards 2018 on BirminghamLive, here you go, but don’t forget each business/person shortlisted has been on a journey behind their success story, and two out of the three shortlisted for each award category didn’t take an award home:

Revealed – finalists of our inaugural West Midlands Tech Awards

Drinks reception for West Midlands Tech Awards finalists and sponsors

Gadget show star revealed as presenter for our inaugural West Midlands Tech Awards

If you’ve not yet entered business awards, you might enjoy my post covering three reasons you should enter business awards.

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