Belinda spent the first six years of her career working in the recruitment industry in both Scotland and London before beginning her solo career delivering soft skills, sales and management training throughout the UK.
She launched Winning Entrepreneurs in October 2008 addressing a gap in the market for a professional organisation exclusive to business owners & founders enabling collaboration with like-minded individuals.
With the theme of this month’s issue being ENTREPRENEURS this is the perfect time to chat to Belinda.
What is your business/ entrepreneurial background?
I worked in recruitment in Edinburgh & then moved to London where I worked in the City, recruiting temporary linguistic staff. When I returned to Scotland, I managed the Sales & Marketing teams for Search Consultancy in Edinburgh & Glasgow. I became involved in training whilst Search was going through Investors In People accreditation & latterly set-up as a self-employed trainer in the recruitment industry. I subsequently set-up a soft skills, sales & management training company working in a diverse range of industry sectors which I sold after 4 years. I continued working in training & consultancy for a period & after some time out, I recognised a gap in the market for a collaboration organisation for business owners & founders (initially in Edinburgh) & established my current business, Winning Entrepreneurs.
What made you start Winning Entrepreneurs and when?
Having been bitten by the entrepreneurial ‘bug’, I wanted to start another business outwith the training sector & saw a gap in the market for a collaboration organisation for entrepreneurs in 2008. Being an entrepreneur can, at times, be
lonely & I felt that having an established network of like-minded individuals to share ideas, knowledge & experiences could only be of benefit to the entrepreneurial community in Scotland.
What is Winning Entrepreneurs mission and vision?
Our mission is ‘sharing the power of knowledge’. We bring together some ofScotland’s most successful & emerging high growth entrepreneurs. By encouraging innovation & working together, we foster & encourage true entrepreneurial spirit. We support the growth of our members’ businesses by facilitating introductions as well as organising relevant, informative & professional events.
Our vision is to develop long-term, beneficial relationships with our members as they do with one another. Built on trust, these relationships reflect our ethos & spirit of collaboration.
What, in your opinion, are the challenges facing women entrepreneurs?
There are many challenges facing entrepreneurs regardless of whether they are male or female. The most obvious challenge for many is juggling family life & business & I greatly admire the many inspirational women who manage this. The days of women in business being less respected than their male counterparts are thankfully long gone, however, we still need more women in the boardrooms of corporate organisations.
Are the pressures/opportunities different for women?
I think the pressures & opportunities are the same regardless of whether one is male or female. Being an entrepreneur is often pressured, however, it would be foolhardy of anyone establishing their own business to think it would be any other way. In my opinion, entrepreneurs succeed due their tenacity, vision, creativity, drive & learning from mistakes they make along the way. I firmly believe that people create a lot of their own opportunities & women can do this just as well as men. Recognising these opportunities & acting upon them takes skill & determination. I find it interesting that many more women now have established businesses & are enjoying success in what were traditionally maledominated
sectors such as technology & emerging sectors such as renewables & biotechnology.
What is next for Winning Entrepreneurs?
Our member numbers are growing on a weekly basis & we have launched an ‘Out of Country’ membership for ex-pat Scottish entrepreneurs & global entrepreneurs wishing to do business in Scotland. We see considerable demand for this & members based outwith the UK benefit from being able to be in contact with Scottish entrepreneurs via our members online forum in addition to attending our events when they are in Scotland.
We will continue to support our members to achieve the maximum growth potential of their businesses. We also will be forging strong relationships with public bodies & making our voices heard to support both this & future generations of entrepreneurs.
What is next for you?
In addition to growing Winning Entrepreneurs, I am in the process of launching a new business, The Networking Coach, which will provide coaching in both on & offline networking. Many business people aren’t comfortable with networking & wrongly see it as a sales activity when in actual fact, it is about building relationships & trust. We will work with our clients to dispel the fears & trepidation which so often accompany networking & enable them to reap the benefits of becoming more comfortable with, & more effective in, their networking ability.
We will also coach clients through the myriad of online tools which are available to help build their network of contacts, as well as offering them guidance on the most appropriate networking organisations to join according to their industry sector & position.
I will continue with my Non-Executive Directorships which I thoroughly enjoy & I will also maintain my ongoing support to the two charities of which I am a Director, Young Enterprise Scotland & Dreamz4u.
Young Enterprise Scotland which runs the highly successful Business Programme in schools & young offenders institutions. YES has recently launched the innovative INSPIRE programme which will help Scottish youngsters aged 16 -20 to find their own road to success. Funded by The Scottish Government, the programme is tailor-made to suit the needs of school leavers who would like to develop their business skills. The programme, which runs for nine months, offers 60 places to young people across the central belt & offers a ‘hands on’ business approach. The INSPIRE course will develop their skills & knowledge through a solid framework consisting of a structured work placement & experience of a live working environment. The course will cover knowledge, information & practical guidance on market testing & business start-up as well as advice on business application, from concepts & ideas
to reality, all provided by experienced mentors. The programme is SQA accredited & delivered by YES in partnership with the Princes’ Scottish Youth Trust & other major entrepreneurial bodies, with a focus on targeting areas where there are higher number of school leavers.
This is a very exciting development for future generations of ‘would-be’ entrepreneurs & offers young people in Scotland a tremendously worthwhile alternative to further education.