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Start-up Memoires: Your Worth & The Absolute Fabulousness of Start-ups

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I started a business. It made me want to drink copious quantities, smoke myself into oblivion and hit my head against a brick wall. Instead I wrote a blog.

Site Launch Day: 32
User Count: 48
Going right: Bang on forecast for user count. Man, am a mean financial forecaster.
Going wrong: Tired, Tired, Tired.
Comment: Was never this tired in the first pregnancy. Might be a great financial forecaster, but did not predict this.

I've been reading something that makes me feel very uncomfortable. It doesn't contain any mental or emotional abuse. Nor does it contain violence. Nor even any type of perverted sexual acts. And definitely no swearing (although you might have noticed, that wouldn't bother me). The author - Karen Adamedes - is a contact of mine (we Greeks do like to stick together) and her book Hot tips for Career Chicks is accessible, funny and cool. In fact it's everything I like in a book. But today's subject is about negotiating what you're worth in the workplace (or indeed in life), and it makes me squirm. Why?

Because it teaches you to negotiate in a man's world. It accepts that this is the status quo. It even goes as far as to explain a breakdown of male actions and how they're more successful in the workplace and how we - as women - can adopt them. But isn't that useful? I hear you ask. Certainly for some. Perhaps many. Not for me - because I am not that person - and ironically as Karen points out, many women aren't. I will not accept the status quo. Let me explain.

Everywhere on LinkedIn there are femtrepreneur groups, women in management groups, working mum groups. They include heated discussions on positive discrimination, women on the board and glass ceilings (I started that one myself). Nowadays it's all about how to get ahead in the corporate world, how to catch up for lost time and how to get the equal rights we deserve. Yay! Well done us. Big pat on the back.

And yet, how far do many of us get in corporate life before we have to make the inevitable choice that having a womb dictates? Yes, hellooo, we have a womb. Hell, it even defines us "womb-man". Sure, we are equal but being equal does not mean the same. For those women who choose not to have children to concentrate on career - I applaud you, as I applaud free choice. May you get every raise in salary you can. You utterly deserve it. But it's useless to deny that having children changes your perspective on work life. Those life or death deadlines for pointless presentations simply don't matter in the same way. Would I ever work again til 3am for 2 months to get a company audit finished? Not a chance in hell. Would any amount of money persuade me to travel @ 75% away from my home? Stuff it up your ass.

Corporate life in a capitalist society is not built with me in mind and I would venture to say not built with many woman in mind. It's a patriarchal dinosaur from the time that division of labor in a family was commonplace.

So even though the chapter I am reading in Karen's book is excellent, I won't be adopting her strategies any time soon. It's certainly my lack of confidence and my mother's pernicious influence which dissuade me from being able to put a monetary value on my so-called services(!) But over and above this, I don't want to act like a man. Because I am a woman. Who's creating a new online flexible way of working which caters to family oriented people, both men and woman. It has a price - that's on the website. And an inestimable value for me. And that's non-negotiable.

Site Launch Day: 33
User Count: 51
Going right: Close of first month of business nigh; reflective mood
Going wrong: Internet keeps cutting out. Huge dependency on internet when running online business
Comment: How did I not take this into consideration? Just assumed that everywhere in the western world was really well connected. #fail

Back in the early 90s my best friend and I were budding women, teenagers going on 30 - out at clubs, experimenting with life, alcohol and the power - that only young English girls growing up in Cyprus could hold - between our legs. (More about that conflict of ideologies another time). We called each other Eddy and Patsy - and meant it as a compliment. Their lives were apparently fabulous and this is how they portrayed it.



(Talking about losing their virginity)

Edina: Do you remember your first time?
Patsy: Y'know it's all a blank with me until 1968.
Edina: Oh, yea... God, I remember mine.
Patsy: What did you feel?
Edina: Well, just grateful, really, y'know.
Patsy: Why?
Edina: 'Cause you were always on my back!
Patsy: You'd think I'd remember that...



Fabulous. This morning I see "Absolutely Fabulous To Make Anniversary Return" to the BBC 20 years on and can hardly believe that time has gone by so fast. I look back at those times with mixed feelings - a mother and an analyst. A sad smile and heavy shudder. I wonder quite frankly how on earth we made it out of our youth alive. Cliff jumping, motorcycles without helmets, unprotected sex and as many drinks as young Cypriot males - and older ones too - wanted to buy us.

The beauty of Absolutely Fabulous is of course the underlying irony of the car crash on television and how Absolutely Tragic it is; it's characters' desperate attempts to gain recognition and validation through whatever means possible, the selfish unhappiness of unfulfilled lives drowned in drugs and alcohol. Much like ours was back then (no admissions here - but then again am never going to be a politician).

Perhaps it is because my life is so wonderfully blessed now that in contrasting and comparing with my past I find myself extraordinarily grateful. And not only to be alive (although that's a big plus). Not only is it possible to be fabulously happy in the present (without the alcohol and drugs) whilst remaining positive about an uncertain future, but when starting up a business it's also Absolutely Necessary.

With a start-up there is always a big risk of failure. My sensitivity analyses may have allowed me to mitigate the risks as far as possible but it takes far more than a decent (oh ok, Fabulous) financial model to make a success of a business. If my happiness depended on my future success then my decisions would be clouded with emotional bias, my PR efforts tinged with an off-putting desperation.

The challenge of disassociating your happiness from financial security is one of the biggest I have ever faced. Because lack of financial security causes worry and anxiety which insidiously eats away at the fabric of your life. It has helped living here on Brännö, where there are no shops, no cafes and no competition between the Mums for the best buggy (as other Mums will testify, buggy envy is rife in the UK).

My reminders to myself and advice for today is for those ladies wanting to start their own business.

If like Edina & Patsy your happiness depends on:

Manicures, pedicures, waxing, threading, expensive hair cuts, deluxe restaurants (or indeed any restaurants for a while), shopping, taxis, those lovely organic nibbles sold at Waitrose, Moet, or any of the fabulous-ness that costs money, you will never be in the right situation to start a business (unless of course you're already loaded).

If your happiness depends on:

The flexibility to work around your family, the achievement of tangible output through hard work, making countless mistakes, the triumphs in small but hard won successes and the excitement of a huge challenge then you should go for it ASAP. You'll never find a business opportunity quite as rewarding.

If you want a peek at the business that's driving me insane you can click here.