Breaking through the barriers

Michelle, tell Gurls Talk a bit about yourself…

I’ve been in business for several years and currently run an enterprise agency aimed at helping businesses from start-up stage grow into long term sustainable businesses.

I grew up nearby to West Ham Football Ground in Newham.  Although I was brought up in an area recognised as deprived where aspirations were generally low there was a good community spirit, most people knew and spoke to each other and it was generally an alright place to grow up. I went to Brampton Manor which was a local comprehensive school. My parents chose the closest school to the house and were not concerned about how it was performing. Their view was that at school you just did well wherever you went.

Whilst at school I didn’t wear the latest brands, as many of the other kids did.  They made you feel second class just because of the clothes and trainers you wore, the country your parents were from and the colour of your skin. Apart from dealing with these identity challenges,  the aspirations amongst my peers at the time of growing up were generally low around me.  My local environment became rougher and direr, and as I approached my late teens I was lead down the path to becoming a typical stereotype of the young people in my area, just another statistic. I was being strongly influenced by friends around me but from a young age, I had a strong desire within me to not continue in this limiting environment and not to accept a life of mediocre as many of my peers had chosen but I was determined to set a new standard for my life and make a difference. This proved hard because what I was feeling inside was so different from what I was seeing around me.

Then there came a time when I couldn’t take the pain and frustration of how my life was going. My friends who I walked to school with were addicted to drugs or ended up in prison. I made a decision to change everything, my environment and to stop making excuses about my circumstances. On the outside everything said that I was limited, I was at a disadvantage and I didn’t have a future. It would have been easy for me to settle where I was, I had a good excuse to accept a mediocre life, by focusing on being at a disadvantage and all the odds being stacked against me. But I made a choice and a commitment to myself not to accept it, since then I began dreaming and visualising how I wanted my life to be. I created goals, used journals, designed an action plan and took a leap of faith and took baby steps to implement and achieve what I felt inside, despite what I was seeing around me. I was determined not to settle for the status quo but to set a new standard and be a change maker. As I kept moving forward, doors soon began to open, and the opportunities came through.

2) How did you get into business?

After leaving University, I started in the private sector to pursue a career in Marketing working in large corporations. However, after many years in the industry, I was disheartened with the restrictiveness of employment, the length of time if took to make decisions, the glass ceiling and lack of freedom. I also had the same burning instinct inside from my younger years to go out alone and start my own business. I eventually approached the Princes Trust for help who mentored me to eventually help launch my business. Starting small from my bedroom with a PC, the business grew into office premises and recruited a small team to deliver quality consultancy services to businesses. Since launching, our work has been recognised over the years by receiving several awards including Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year by IOD and most recently being named as one of the top 50 business advisors in the UK by Enterprise Nation and the Dept of Business, Industry and Skills

3) Tell us a bit more about your business?

Timewise UK is an enterprise agency focused on growing clients through each stage of their business cycle from start-up through to development and growth maturity. Growth is developed by creating business, marketing plans, implementing robust systems, processes and maximising their business model to enable long term business sustainability.  TimeWise UK has worked with a range of clients ranging from independent professionals, small businesses and successfully secured contracts with public sector organisations.

Ultimately TimeWise exists to help businesses grow and sustain through to longevity. We are long term specialists who will do our upmost to ensure our clients businesses will be around to leave a legacy for decades to come.

4) What are your future plans?

I still have big dreams that I want to fulfil in all areas of my life. As well as continually growing the business, most importantly, I am focused and passionate about giving back, transforming communities, encouraging and inspiring the next generation which is through delivering workshops with the Princes Trust for young entrepreneurs especially women, providing one-to-one mentoring to support their businesses.

I also am involved with and manage a community project for young secondary students who are struggling and disengaging with school for behavioural, emotional or social reasons. This project intervention gives young people the opportunity to see their unique value and dream about what kind of future they might have. The young students are encouraged to understand their identity and purpose through informal teaching sessions and also visit a range of businesses to help raise their aspirations. The mission of the community project is to inspire young people to develop their identity and purpose. The vision is to create a society where ALL young people, regardless of race or gender reach their full potential.

5) Do you have any advice for young girls wanting to get started?

When you have a dream or a vision and you feel it strong inside, I believe it is because that’s your purpose and mission in life to fulfil. Try your best to step out in faith and take baby steps every day, one step at a time to achieve your dream. To help you, stay away from people who keep putting you in your old box and only see you for who you used to be and not for who you are about to be. Be around people who encourage you and see the potential in you. A mentor will also help you stay on track.

To summarise…

– Dream your vision

– Break it down in to a plan

– Take baby steps to do something every day towards achieving your dream

– Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and not limit you

– Get a mentor to help you stay on track

Where you start is not important, where you finish is what matters!

To book a FREE hour coffee session with Michelle to discuss and explore your aspirations, ideas or your current business DM her @MichelleSafoUK

Image: Pintrest