What's your dream?
A question we should never stop asking, and a concept which underpins my entire business vision.
It's been a whirlwind six years. I was 16 when I founded my business, Living the Dream Performing Arts Company, back in 2006. I'd been offered a place at the National Youth Theatre and, unfortunately (or not so, with hindsight!) I didn't have the means to fund my own course fees. A few weeks and some serious brainstorming later, I decided that the best way to subsidize my course fees would be to create my own performing arts company. What better way to raise money than to produce shows to provide a spotlight for young people to showcase their talent?
And the rest is history, I suppose... Six years down the line and the company has grown beyond my wildest dreams, now made up of over 750 young performers, a number which I am striving to grow as I continue to develop Living the Dream.
Meeting HRH Princess Anne at last year's Women of the Future Awards
I've been lucky enough to be awarded for my work, including last year where I was named Woman of the Future in Arts, Media and Culture; a huge honour. A year on, and with this year's Women of the Future Awards now calling for entries, I've learned an incredible amount in a short space of time.
Underpinning my entire work ethic is the importance of supporting and encouraging all those to live their dream. With that in mind, here are nine crucial points for anyone looking to start up their own business...
1. Do the right thing. No matter what the costs of doing the right thing might be. Your integrity and reputation are all you have in business and in life - it's forever. If you always choose to do the right thing, it won't matter what the outcome is because you will be successful as a human being, which is true success.
2. Do some good. I've learned from Richard Branson's business philosophy, "Have fun, do good and the business will come". I sincerely endorse his view that every business has a moral obligation to make a significant positive difference in today's world. The key is to help others selflessly in any way you can, and the karma will return to you when you need it most.
3. Network! The key to making things happen is getting out there and talking to anyone and everyone. It's not just about promoting your business, it's about building and developing relationships with people and looking for opportunities to help and connect people - and although they might not be able to return the favour, unexpected opportunities may come from unexpected people. I have been fortunate to be nominated for several awards, including the Woman of the Future Award last year, which has been down to the opportunities that have come from my network.
4. Ask for help when you need it. Have the confidence to ask for advice or potential contacts, you never know, their help or connections could be invaluable. Listen to family and friends and have the confidence to contact people that inspire you and ask them for advice too! When I first launched Living the Dream, I wrote to a hundred celebrities and ended up having lunch with Alan Rickman, aka "Severus Snape" from Harry Potter! His advice was invaluable and we still stay in contact.
5. Set goals. I don't believe that the goals we set ourselves need to be "realistic" and "achievable". Dreaming big and being unlimited in your thinking is necessary!
6. Remember how important the little things are. Random acts of generosity and kindness, under promising and over delivering with little extras has given us both loyal customers and a dedicated staff team.
7. It's okay to fail. Entrepreneurs will typically fail three times before hitting success. Unfortunately, women, unlike men, externalise their success and tend to internalize failure and struggle with recovering and moving on. In other words, they blame themselves for everything that goes wrong. I have learned that failure is an inherent part of the process. The key is to recognise the lessons learned, regroup and then move forward as a stronger and wiser leader.
8. Hire the best people. Believe in them, listen to their ideas, coach them to unlock their potential and empower them through generating awareness, ownership and responsibility. And most importantly, reward them and celebrate successes with them.
9. Live your dream. You have to dream and believe you're doing something unique and that you're going to change the world. Unless you are focused on a dream that you are passionate about, it won't work. The belief you have in yourself and your business idea is your most precious commodity and communicating your passion about your business will make people remember you. Stay passionate and inspired and remember that when you were a child, you imagined that anything was possible. It still is.
Zoe Jackson is a former winner of the Women of The Future Awards.
Closing date for 2012 entries is Friday 21 September. To nominate click here.
The awards ceremony will take place on Tuesday 20 November and is hosted by Real Business in association with Shell.